Shamanism – critical concepts, 47



self-inflicted pain


[Caribou Athapaska] "All true wisdom is only found far from men, out in the great solitude, and it can be acquired only through suffering. Privations and suffering are the only things that can open a man’s mind to that which is hidden from others."


[Sioux Sun Dance rites] "self inflicted pain as another means"


"A shamanka of the Achomawi ... calls her guardians "pains"". {238, n. 14 "Achomawi damagomi, also the word for "pain"."}


[Achomawi shamanka] "My first damagomi came to find me and I still have it. It is a little black thing, and you can hardly see it. When it came the first time it made a great noise. It was night. It told me I must go see it in the mountains. So I went. ... Later I had others. I caught them."

"Lord of the Animals"




[Tungus] S^inken


the sacral bear : with honorifics, "master of the forest," "owner of the earth," "god of the mountains," "divine one who rules in the mountains," "wintersleeper".


[Yakut] Bird-of-Prey-Mother

p. 198 control of weather

[Netsilik Inuit] "shamans could control thunder and put down snowstorms ... Shamans could even stop the cracking of ice".

p. 198 dream-song of the Beaver Athapaska




"he follows the inner path, led on by a song he hears in his dreams to the point of death ..."


"The Beaver word for medicine is ma yine, his or its song, and the ... man’s medicine dream is a song given to him by his medicine animal ...

A man’s medicine bundle hanging above where he sleeps toward the rising sun is a focus for his dreaming ..."

shamanic initiatory dreams




"In Amerindian shamanism, ... Sinkyone, Wintu, and Shasta candidates all receive their vocations in dreams of dead relative".


"a Patvioso doctor met his nigouimes in a dream : ... "A tall slender man stood in front of me. He said : "You want to be a shaman. ... First get your eagle feathers ... The feather is to guide you. You can bring the souls of dead people back with it. ..." ... I learned my songs and how to cure the sick when this tall man came to me in dreams.""


"Another man dreamed three times he was a kangaroo; hence he became one of the kangaroo kindred, and might not eat any part of a kangaroo on which there was blood. [viz., raw blood, or raw meat] He might he cooked kangaroo; but if he were to eat the meat with the [raw] blood on it, the spirits would no longer take him up aloft." {The Torah, in prohibiting the eating of "blood", would likewise mean ‘raw blood’.}


"The Blackfeet men often went off by themselves to fast and dream for power. ... It was deemed essential that the place to which a man resorted for this purpose should be ... a place which tried the nerve ... Such situations were mountain peaks; ... or islands in lakes ... where ... a person might be seized and carried off by the Su-ye-tup-pi, or Underwater People; or places where the dead had been buried, and where there was much danger from ghosts."


"In some Californian tribes (Yurok, Sinkyone, Wintu, Shasta), a doctor receives his power after dreaming of a departed relative .... This sort of experience is widespread in western Amerindian lore, also occurring among the Atsugewi, Maidu, Crow, Arapaho, Gros Ventre ... among the Lilooet, whose "apprentices sleep on graves, sometimes for several years" ... And "sometimes (among the Tlingit, for example) ... the shaman spends the night with the dead shaman’s body.""

shamanic submarine journey




"The submarine journey seems apropos of coastal tribes, where it is often the typical form of ecstatic travel, as among the Netsilik, Chukchee, Tlingit, Haida, Lapps.

Thus, a Lapp may swim with whales and seals – in their shape, too;

a Tlingit may travel to the land of the Killer Whales

a Netsilik to the sea-bottom house of Sedna, Mother of Sea Creatures (... while the shaman combs out her disheveled hair, all tangled by infractions ... in the world above)." [p. 221 Iglulik list, for period of seal-butchering, of restrictions, including "Women must not comb their hair".]


"a Lapp noaide ... had taken the shape of his companion the whale to pursue a disease spirit in the shape of a seal".


"Australian account describe an initiatory journey underwater, bringing the apprentice to "a brightly lit cave in which two snakes, a male and a female, are mating," whereupon power in the form of the snake’s "child seeds" {attractions for souls needing to be re-incarnated?} enters the doctor’s soul ..."

netherworld deity




[Norse] "Snorri’s depiction of Loki’s daughter hel, whose face is half white and half black; ... the road to her gloomy dwelling takes the traveler downward and northward"


[Altaic] "Erlik Khan, King of the Underworld," seeth shaman "plumbing his dark depths" as a "black, stinking beetle".

p. 208 visionary dismemberment {cf. Bodish gCod}

"The Yakut apprentice is torn limb from limb by his Bird-of-Prey-Mother ..., who then shares out his body parts to disease spirits who, by devouring him, bestow the power to cure the illnesses they represent.

In Samoyed accounts, it is a demiurgic smith who dismembers, boils, and reassembles the apprentice’s skeleton."

skeletal shamans




"Iglulik initiation requires that ... the apprentice learn "to see himself as a skeleton". ...


[North Alaska] "by letting worms eat the meat from the body the shaman became "light and shining".

p. 220 rite for the dying

[Blackfoot priest, attired as a grizzly-bear] "His body and head were entirely covered with the skin of a yellow bear, the head of which (his own head being inside of it) served as a mask." {cf. antient Chinese bear-masked priest at caerimony for burial of the dead}

shamans’ mimicry of spirit-animals




[Tungus] "He imitates the cries and behavior of supernatural animals ... He crawls along the ground like a snake, roars and runs on all fours like a tiger, simulates the plummeting of a duck, or waves his arms as if they were a bird’s wings." ...


[KirGiz] "baqc,a ... "barks like a dog, sniffs at the audience, lows like an ox, bellows, ... bleats like a lamb, grunts like a pig, whinnies, coos, ... all of which greatly impresses his audience.""

praeternatural coldness




[Tungus] "Underground, in the realm of darkness, he is so cold that he shivers and quakes. He asks his mother’s spirit for a blanket."


[S^uar shaman, of Ecuador] "My tsentsak are like birds

And the wings and bodies are dreams. ...

My tsentsak are sitting all over me

And as I become cold I shall have power."

Andrei A. Znamenski : Shamanism. RoutledgeCurzon, London, 2004. 3 Vols.

Vol. III, pp. 186-242 = 47. Stephen O. Glosecki : "Defining the dream doctor".