The Sun Rises: A Shaman's Chant, Ritual Exchange and Fertility in the Apatani Valley by Stuart Blackburn (Brill's Tibetan Studies Library: Brill Academic) At the centre of this study is a shaman's chant performed during a three-week long feast in the eastern Himalayas. The book includes a translation of this 12-hour text chanted in Apatani, a Tibeto-Burman language, and a description of the events that surround it, especially ritual exchanges with ceremonial friends, in which fertility is celebrated. The shaman's social role, performance and ritual language are also described. Although complex feasts, like this one among Apatanis, have been described in northeast India and upland Southeast Asia for more than a century, this is the first book to present a full translation of the accompanying chant and to integrate it into the interpretation of the social significance of the total event.
Excerpt: I first saw these events of a Murung festival in 2001, and again several times during the next five years. While I spent a lot of time studying Apatani oral tradition and documenting rituals, I was always drawn back to this festival, especially to the long recitation on the first day. As the most public, prominent and prestigious performance, the recitation of the Subu Heniin occupies a unique place in local culture. Other oral texts are also important, and some are more widely-known, especially those of the culture hero.' The Subu Heniin, however, is the most complete expression of Apatani culture and sets out the larger world in which these other stories are possible.
Beginning at the beginning, this long chant describes the birth of the sun, of water, the elements, plants and animals. It recites the genealogies of spirits and humans, explains how humans and mithuns separated, describes a magical bamboo that travels through the cosmology and follows the nyibu as he descends to the land of the dead. The Subu Heniin is also an encyclopaedic text that names dozens of mountains, streams, forests and fields. In it, the nyibu recites the names of about sixty spirits and more than a hundred ancestors, inviting them to the feast in order to ensure fertility and prosperity for the sponsor's family and clan.
This oral chant is the centrepiece of this book. At the same time, it forms a triptych with its context and the man who performs it. My attempts, over several years, to grasp the complexity of this text-ritualperformer relationship ran a bumpy road. Frequently I was thrown off course when I saw something new or heard yet another explanation. Over time, however, the details began to form patterns, partly visible against the background of similar yet different texts, rituals and performers documented elsewhere. When I felt blocked, I turned back to the text itself, and its performance, looking for an image or a word that might illumine a new dimension of the whole. More than once I found what I was looking for.
For example, the Subu Heniin is the only Apatani text that articulates two cosmologies: a series of realms on earth and the descent to the underworld. The chanted text also led me, along with comparative reading, to appreciate something I had missed in my earlier book on Apatani culture and oral tradition. Even in early drafts of this book I had managed to ignore the role of fertility in the Subu Heniin chant and Murung festival. It was staring me in the face the line-up of married women, rice powder and rice beer sprinkled on sacrificial animals, hundreds of baskets of rice exchanged between women, rice seeds tossed into nursery beds, rituals timed to coincide with the growth of seedlings in those beds—but I kept looking away. Christoph von Fürer-Haimendorf, who lived in the Apatani valley in the 1940s, had called the Murung a 'fertility rite,' but that phrase seemed imprecise and antiquated. After all, James George Frazer's magisterial but flawed interpretation of the rites in the Nemi grove had concluded that fertility was the basis of all religion.
My dismissal of Fürer-Haimendorf's observation was a mistake. As this book will show, there is little doubt that fertility, as sign of prosperity, is central to a Murung. What finally convinced me of its significance, however, is its prominence in the Subu Heniin chant: the recurring images of birth, the repeated emergence of the natural world from a procreative female body and the irrepressible growth of the expanding bamboo. All this became clear only after gaining a reasonable grasp of the language of the chant, and that took the best part of three years.
Although the three strands of this book—Subu Heniin chant, Murung festival and nyibu performer--are described in separate chapters, I have also tried to integrate them at various points. For one thing, they come together in a single event, when the nyibu stands on the lapang and chants. That is why I have begun the book with that image and why I will return to it more than once. The three topics also coalesce at times in the analyses in separate chapters. Interpretations of both chant and festival, for instance, will identify the same key ideas and practices. Similarly, as summarised in the final chapter, the distinctive features of the text, the nyibu's role and the Murung are consistent with each other.
Another integrating dimension of this book is that it considers each of its three strands in comparative perspective. The local meanings of a text or ritual, I believe, stand out most clearly when silhouetted against parallels in other societies. We will see that the Apatani chant, festival and ritual specialist (and his speech) have counterparts elsewhere, mostly in the extended eastern Himalayas, and yet that each has localised features.' In short, this book demonstrates the paradox that in order to understand a local culture, we must look beyond what is local.
Unfortunately, comparative data for the three topics of this book are scarce. Few good descriptions of feasts like the Murung, for example, are found after the 1950s. It was dispiriting to learn that most of the reported feasts in the Naga Hills, Chin Hills, Chittagong Hills, upland Southeast Asia and southwest China have been either abandoned or radically transformed. For the Subu Heniin chant, I was surprised to find the closest parallels not in the extended eastern Himalayas but in eastern Indonesia. Although similar recitations are reported in Nepal, they describe a cosmology and mythology influenced by Indian traditions and recognisably different to Apatani traditions. Fortunately, the documentation of ritual specialists, again especially in Nepal, is extensive, so we can more or less accurately place the Apatani nyibu within that category.
In central Arunachal Pradesh, published details on these feasts, specialists and their chants are scant, and the time may have passed when they can be adequately documented. The available material suggests that parallels might exist, but only future research can confirm this. And if that research is not done soon, an opportunity will be lost since these extended ritual recitations are among the first speech varieties to be lost when languages decline.
That is why, although a good translation of the Subu Heniin is one of my goals, I also want to document the Murung feast and the role of the nyibu in it before they change beyond recognition. Through descriptions and analyses, as well as translation, this book should contribute to a comparative study of ritual and mythology in the extended eastern Himalayas. While some populations in this area practice forms of Hinduism, Buddhism and now Christianity, as well as combinations of these, many tribal groups follow what is typically called 'indigenous religion,' `local cosmology,' `shamanism' or 'animism.' As this imprecise and fluctuating terminology reveals, we simply do not know what to call this religious system, or even know if it is a 'system,' because we do not have adequate knowledge of its ideas, practices and stories. Although such a comparative description is not an aim of this book, I hope it will advance that project.
Chapter 2: Apatani valley
This book begins, in the next chapter, by describing the Apatani valley and its influence on local life, especially the three topics of the book. We will see, for instance, that settlement pattern, food production, house and family size can all be seen as adaptations to the physical limitations of a landscape eight kilometres long and four kilometres wide. I will also explain how the physical boundaries of the valley play a role in the formation of Apatani cosmology and ethnic identity.
Chapter 2 then describes how the fertility and relative isolation of the valley were factors in local history. At 1,500 metres and surrounded by higher mountains, the valley left Apatanis more or less outside the expanding trade networks and political structures that began to move into the hills after the British colonial state entered Assam in the early nineteenth century. Once colonial contact had been made, at the end of the century, however, these paddy fields in the mid-Himalayas made a strong impression on European visitors. Here, they thought, was an excellent location for a government outpost, which became an increasing necessity during the first half of the twentieth century as Britain squared up first to Tibet and then the Japanese. Flat and fertile, the Apatani valley would provide food for a whole garrison. Today, the Apatani valley is indeed an administrative headquarters and a not insignificant node in New Delhi's military/security network in northeast India. Finally, the colonial narrative of a moral landscape—a green and prosperous valley worked by a settled and civilised people—is a story told by Apatanis, too.
Chapter 3: Text
A fertile land is, for instance, one of the main themes of the Subu Heniin text, described in Chapter 3. As we will see, while the sequence of nineteen episodes in this all-day chant do not tell a connected narrative, they do cohere in their consistent emphasis on birth, growth and maturation. Beginning in the cold darkness, the chant soon welcomes the light of the sun, which illumines the mountains and rivers, forests and fields that surround the valley. The nyibu then describes the birth of the sun from a woman. This image of the world emerging from a protean woman's body recurs throughout the text and is especially important when the nyibu names the spirits who share in the sacrifice.
A second image of fecundity is an expanding bamboo (a species known as tajer). Planted in a garden, this special bamboo grows and grows like Jack's beanstalk—to engulf the entire house and then stretches out through the realms of the Apatani horizontal cosmology in order to call the ancestors and spirits to the sacrifice. This tajer bamboo has a presence outside the chant, too. It is worn in the nyibu's headdress, held in his hand and later kept in his house as a memento of his performance.
The expanding bamboo also introduces the theme of the ritual journey. Although fewer and less prominent among Apatanis than other Tibeto-Burman speakers in the extended eastern Himalayas, the two ritual journeys in the Subu Heniin trace local cosmologies. The path of the tajer bamboo follows a sequence of horizontal realms on earth and tells us which ancestors are found in each realm. The other ritual journey is the nyibu's vertical descent to the land of the dead and return to the living. As detailed in the final third of the Subu Heniin chant, the ritual specialist leads the mithuns and cows (actually their souls) to the underworld along a maze of dangerous paths, over the sprawling body of a huge beast, across a deep river and finally to Neli, where the animals are offered to the spirits.'
Throughout these final sections of the chant, the nyibu describes gift-giving in the land of the dead, listing the places where the spirits receive meat, where they reside and where they are asked to return favours to humans. This is an instance of the double-layering that appears more than once in this book. Gifts in the land of the dead ensure prosperity among the living; mithuns are killed on earth while their souls are taken to the underworld; their meat is given to spirits below and to humans above. These exchanges lead us to the next chapter, which describes the Murung festival.
Chapter 4: Ritual
It is difficult to exaggerate the importance of the Murung to Apatani culture. Although Apatanis celebrate two other major festivals, they are both calendrical, obligatory and hosted either by a village or by the entire Apatani population. One of these, the Myoko festival, is held every year in March–April, when a village or group of villages plays host to the rest of the Apatani population. During its four weeks, there is a great deal of feasting and gift-giving, playing and drinking, since every Apatani is involved either as host or guest. Clan and family membership are reaffirmed through a pig sacrifice, a major form of ceremonial friendship is activated and new births are celebrated.
Dree, the other major festival, is quite different. It is celebrated each summer largely as a social event in the administrative centre of Hapoli, not in villages. Nyibus chant to avert disease or bad weather, which would harm the paddy fields blazing bright green in July, and there are minor animal sacrifices. Most of the attention, however, is given to the football matches and dance competitions held in the large public ground in Hapoli. Once a minor agricultural rite, conducted by individual families when and where they liked, Dree is now (and since 1967) packed into a single day in one location. Separate celebrations on other days in other locations are banned because they would undermine the single, community-wide event.
In contrast to both these festivals, Murung is voluntary and sponsored by one man and his clan. No one is obligated to perform a Murung some years in some villages none is held—but everyone is eligible, as long as the divinations are favourable. Precisely because it is voluntary, the festival is the most prominent arena (after politics) in which individuals and groups can display wealth, earn prestige and gain influence. A defining characteristic of a Murung is exchange: it activates thirteen different types of gift-giving, mostly between ceremonial friends. Small surprise then that Murungs sponsored more than a hundred years ago are still part of social memory, or that the time of the festival is called `Murung month/moon' (murung pulo).
The three weeks of a Murung are a complex sequence of ritual events (summarised in Appendix A). As an entry point into this labyrinth of detail, I will first describe the various forms of the festival and then discuss the social significance of the Murung, highlighting ambivalent perceptions of this display of wealth. The next section presents the three key days of the festival, in part through my personal experiences. These three days illustrate the key themes of fertility and exchange as well as provide details that are drawn on in later discussions. Picking up the thread of comparative analysis, this chapter also considers the Murung as a 'feast of merit.' After surveying the published material on these feasts, especially in upland Southeast Asia, we will see that, although the Apatani ritual belongs in this category, it diverges from the standard profile in practices and ideas. These differences lead to the conclusions that a Murung generates more cohesion than competition and that it increases clan status as much as individual prestige.
Chapter 5: Performer
The Apatani ritual specialist who performs the Subu Heniin is the
third strand of this book and the topic of chapter 5. My description of the nyibu will make little reference to psychological states since Apatanis rarely speak of these things. On the other hand, they have a good deal to say about the spirits, ancestors, souls and 'ghosts' with whom the nyibu interacts. I begin the chapter with these elements of the local religious system and then compare the Apatani ritual specialist with others, often called 'shamans,' in the extended eastern Himalayas and elsewhere. Again, like the Murung and feasts of merit, while the Apatani specialist resembles his counterparts, the differences are more revealing. My description of the nyibu is supplemented by an autobiographical statement (Appendix E) from the man who chanted the Subu Heniin text translated in this book.
As we will see, the nyibu is a male, clan-based specialist who receives no formal training or initiation and enjoys no special privileges outside ritual events. He does not go into trance or become possessed, gain mastery of spirits or have a 'familiar. Nor are his actions locally attributed to the control of spirits or to an unusual state of consciousness.
On the other hand, his role as a healer who contacts spirits through attributed powers of sight, vision and speech is similar to that of specialists elsewhere.
He is atypical in one important respect. Although he sometimes has an assistant, although senior men often help him, and although a few women perform minor rituals, he is the only recognised ritual specialist among Apatanis. With these exceptions, he alone is responsible for all the ritual work among this population of about 35,000 people. A single ritual specialist is unusual in Asian societies, in which two or three (or more) are common.
In local terms, the nyibu is defined primarily by his ability to use ritual speech. All Apatani ritual texts are chanted in this special speech, which distinguishes them from other texts spoken in ordinary speech. After explaining this local system of oral genres, and the place of the Subu Heniin within it, I will describe Apatani ritual speech. For all its local specificity, the nyibu's speech belongs to a linguistic variety widespread not only in Tibeto-Burman languages in the extended eastern Himalayas but further afield, especially in Austronesian languages. A comparison of Apatani ritual speech with these examples reveals a common feature of parallelism, although in a distinct form. Apatani ritual speech is dominated by what I call 'noun-pairs.' This distinctive feature reduces the semantic range in ritual speech, and thus, as with the sole specialist, contributes to the overall sense of cohesion in Apatani society. The chapter ends by considering the claim that authoritative ritual speech has the capacity to influence social realities.
Chapter 6: Translation
Following these chapters of description, comparison and analysis, chapter 6 presents the Subu Heniin in translation. The translation is a chapter and not an appendix because it is integral to the book as a whole. Instead of an appendage to be consulted after the fact, the translation is the culmination of a sequence of topics, leading from text to context to performer and, finally, to the chant itself.
A full (or reasonably complete) version of the Subu Heniin has never before been published, either in romanised Apatani or translation. An Apatani writer presented several hundred lines in romanised Apatani, which he summarised in English, and an Indian research officer paraphrased a few lines.4 The version published here is not canonical, and others will surely appear in years to come, but it is representative of how the Subu Heniin is performed in the first decade of the twenty-first century.
The first thing to say about the translation is that it is not based on a performance recorded during a Murung. I did record several samples of chanting at festivals, and those recordings helped me to identify variations between recitations by different nyibus and to recapture, while in London, some of the atmosphere of the event. The main reason for not recording an entire performance on the lapang is that it would not have been sufficiently clear. The chatter of the men gathered there, plus the occasional shouts of others nearby, would have made the nyibu's already low voice inaudible.
The text translated in this book was recorded on an inexpensive cassette tape recorder in May 2004, in the house of the nyibu who recited it. The recording was done by Hage Komo, a young man who was my research assistant. The performer was Mudan Pai, a nyibu about 55 years old. Over the course of a week, he chanted for about three hours (with brief breaks) on each of four days. Listening to the tapes, I was struck by one thing: during the twelve hours, he never interrupted himself or attempted to revise what he had chanted. Once he began, he continued to chant until the session was completed, as he would during a normal performance. Only later, when I twice went over the entire recording with him, did he correct himself and add a few lines here and there. The only 'flaw' in the recording that would not have occurred during a normal performance is that one of the nineteen textual sections was chanted in the wrong place because he forgot where he had stopped chanting on the previous day.
Having completed the recording in 2004, Hage Komo spent several months writing a rough draft transcription and translation. The transcription was typed into a computer in Itanagar and sent to me by email. The translation arrived by post, and I entered it into my computer. Then I began to revise both texts.
The emailed transcription, however, turned out to be riddled with errors, hardly surprising since the person who typed it was not an Apatani and was reading a handwritten copy. Equally important, the original transcription itself used variant spellings for many words.
Romanisation of Apatani has no accepted set of rules. Most confusing are the vowels, particularly a high, central unrounded sound, which has four transcriptions (see Note on Orthography). In order to standardise the transcription and improve the translation, I began to work with Komo, communicating by telephone and email. He, in turn, consulted with Pai, and by the end of 2004 we had both the Apatani and English texts in rough form.
In early 2005, I went back to the Apatani valley and worked on the texts with Komo and Pai. We went over the transcription line by line, correcting words and adding a few lines that Pai pointed out he had forgotten to recite during the recording. Our work went slowly because we found that the transcription was still strewn with inconsistencies and errors. The translation proceeded at a snail's pace, too, but for a different reason. The Subu Heniin, like all Apatani ritual texts, is chanted in a ritual speech largely unintelligible to people who are not nyibus. As with many types of oral poetry, it suggests rather than states, alludes rather than explains, and contains characters, events and places that are not common knowledge. Fortunately, although Komo had only a shadowy idea of this ritual vocabulary, his curiosity and intelligence brought him a reasonable command of it.
Despite his growing competence, Komo was not a nyibu and could only second guess the meaning of many passages. As a result, the translation work required two phases. First, Pai translated Apatani ritual speech into conversational Apatani. Even here the elusive nature of ritual speech meant that he explained more than translated. Sometimes he admitted that words or phrases were not entirely clear to him or could not be expressed in ordinary Apatani speech. When Komo and I asked for the 'meaning' of a phrase, Pai often replied with a story, or related information, such as the genealogy of a spirit or the origin of an animal. The concept of translation, in other words, was never fully translated.
The second phase of the translation work—from conversational Apatani to English—was more standard. My conversational Apatani was reasonably good but not sufficient to grasp details of ritual or mythology, so Komo and I spoke mostly in English. Komo, in turn, faced a problem when he tried to express these complex ideas in English. I was able to speak with Pai in Apatani, which sometimes cut out the intermediary, but without Komo I would have been lost. Back and forth we went, three voices and three kinds of language, but eventually we reached what seemed to be an accurate understanding.
We repeated this exercise when I visited again in January 2006, and by the end of that month we had what I thought were a correct transcription and a good translation. When I got back to London, however, I realised that many problems remained. More work, telephone calls and emails resolved some but not all, so I made a final trip in 2008. This time the three of us gathered in a quiet place in Assam, away from Komo's and Pai's family and professional obligations, which would normally interrupt our work. We sat together for five days, starting before breakfast and continuing, with short breaks, until after dinner. Again we went over every line and did not move on to the next until the meaning was clear. By now, Pai took a more active role. 'Are you sure you understand?' he would ask as I leaned over to turn the page of our working document. He often saw our confusion before we did, and we got lost more than once trying to follow the maze of paths that lead to and from the land of the dead.
Back in London, I again reworked what we had collectively arrived at during those days in Assam. I tightened transitions between episodes, clarified genealogical relationships and omitted many repeated lines. The final version, published here, is, I believe, accurate. It does not, however, carry the full spectrum of meanings suggested by the original Apatani. That is something we could never achieve since, as Pai himself explained, some allusions and metaphors are intentionally ambiguous.
Slippage is part of any translation, even between speech varieties of the same language. In our case, the gap between original and translation is greater than usual because there are few reference points to guide the reader. An oral chant, in esoteric speech, from an unwritten language and a culture whose beliefs and practices are unfamiliar, does not easily become intelligible as a written English text. This is not a new problem, nor an uncommon one, and it remains intractable.
Here and there, the translation is paraphrase and occasionally educated guesswork. This is far from ideal, but I take some consolation from one of the few persons to attempt this kind of translation in central Arunachal Pradesh. Tumpak Ete, a Galo scholar, admitted that he had difficulty in gaining access to the ritual texts of a Galo priest because '[t]he "real things" he keeps back.' Ete also explained that even if those texts were recorded exactly as recited during per formance, interpretation would remain a 'serious problem' since it requires 'full knowledge ... of the archaic idiom.'
Like those Galo ritual specialists, Mudan Pai was reluctant to chant the most powerful texts, especially healing chants (cicing). He had no reservations, however, about the Subu Heniin because it is a tiigo text, even though chanting the paths to the land of the dead carries risks. I had little trouble choosing him as the nyibu to record this chant, having worked with him off and on since 2001, recording other ritual texts, including samples of the Subu Heniin. He was first recommended to me by a friend, and several others praised his 'clear' voice and extensive knowledge. Komo also knew him, which facilitated our working together. Over the years, I learned to appreciate his personal qualities. He was even-tempered and never demonstrative or self-promoting. Although enthusiastic, he did not promise more than he could deliver. He liked a good laugh but never drank rice beer, which is unusual among nyibus. He was also reliable and cooperative, dedicated to his work and patient with everyone.
Hage Komo played an equally essential role in the production of the Subu Heniin text and contributed to every aspect of this book. I first met Komo in 2002, when he and two friends had started a private tutorial service in Hapoli. My step-son, who had come to the Apatani valley that winter with my wife and me, met Komo and his friends in the bazaar, and soon we were all friends. By the following year, I had begun to employ Komo as a research assistant, and over the next few years, in addition to the Subu Heniin work, he recorded, transcribed and help to translate several oral stories.
Born in 1978, a high school graduate, Komo is now a middle-school teacher, married with one son. His father is a farmer, former trader and contractor, with small land holdings and modest assets. Their clan (Hage) is large, highly educated and widely respected in the valley. From our first meeting, Komo struck me as inquisitive, even studious by local standards. He likes to read and is eager to absorb information and facts. Not always as patient as Pai with the mistakes I made in comprehending, Apatani ritual texts, he was just as reliable and professional in completing this long-term project. Transcribing twelve hours of recording was a demanding task, as anyone who has transcribed even one hour will know. He is a modern Apatani man, fully literate in Hindi and competent in English, with motor bike and (recently) a computer, but without the facial tattoo and long hair common in his father's generation. Still, he lives within traditional patterns, participates in rituals and has ceremonial friendships. Working together for several years toward a goal that we both felt was important, we became more than friends. His friendship was one of my chief pleasures of doing research in the Apatani valley.
Chapter 7: Conclusions
The final chapter of this book looks first backward and then forward. I will first bring together the various observations made in separate chapters about the chanted text, its ritual context, the performer and his performance. This summary will highlight two or three conclusions of the book as a whole, about fertility, exchange and social cohesion. These conclusions, it should be said now, are not based on all Apatani ritual practices and texts, but only on the Subu Heniin and the Murung. This is important because they are a particular kind of chant and ritual that celebrate prosperity and involve exchange practices. In Apatani terms, they are tiigo as opposed to citing, or roughly `protective' rather than 'dangerous.' Another book focused on Apatani healing rituals and their chants might draw another portrait of the nyibu, uncover other themes and reach different conclusions about local society.
The second part of the final chapter takes up the issue of change. We are fortunate in that two different anthropologists wrote about and photographed parts of the Murung in the 1940s. However, although both Christoph von Fürer-Haimendorf and Ursula Betts (nee Graham Bower) described the public procession on the tenth day of the festival, neither saw the sacrifice and chant on the first day of a major Murung. In his extensive published and unpublished writings about Apatani society, Fürer-Haimendorf's reporting on these two key events extends to three sentences, and his outline of the Murung appears to be based on interviews. Betts, who saw at least as many Murung events as her predecessor, has even less to say about them. While she left us a vivid description of the procession, she offers no comment on its social significance and no description of any other part of the three-week festival.9
To be fair, both anthropologists had competing demands. Fürer-Haimendorf spent a good deal of his time resolving feuds between Apatanis and Nyishis, as well as between Apatanis, which meant tha he was often outside the valley. Similarly, Betts assisted her husband Colonel Tim Betts (who succeeded Furer-Haimendorf as administra tor of the Subansiri region), in negotiating those same feuds, payin porters and travelling beyond the valley. Despite these limitations, the documentation they produced provides a fascinating if incomplete pic ture of the Murung in the mid-twentieth century.
Looking at that material from the 1940s, in the light of my fieldwor] and the comparative literature, the Murung appears to be one of thy few feasts of merit still conducted much as it was sixty years ago. I may be the only one. Today, however, the Apatani feast and the role of the ritual specialist who chants the Subu Heniin are being change( by the same forces that are altering Apatani society at large. The future of this complex event, its text, ritual and performer, is uncen tam but not necessarily bleak. One of the dynamics of culture chang is that although some traditions disappear, others acquire enhanced symbolic value.
over Mind/a>: The Archaeology and Psychology of Spirit Possession by Morton
Klass (Rowman & Littlefield), written
by a professor of anthropology at
Klass became certain, early on, that what he witnessed
Aware of how important possession was in the lives of the
possessed as well as in their communities, he wanted to explore the
dissociative disorders found in other societies, which seem related in that they
are altered states of consciousness.
He noted that the three disciplines, psychology,
psychiatry, and anthropology, had all historically been greatly concerned with
the meaning of consciousness, yet each currently had a separate and somewhat
exclusive vocabulary dealing with the subject. This had not always been true. In
the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the three fields were not too
far apart in their basic assumptions about human conduct or in their goals,
which were to illuminate the sources and origins of human behavior and the
sources and extent of its variability. Indeed, a few visionary scholars, such as
Sigmund Freud, Franz Boas, and Augustus Pitt-Rivers, had bridged the nascent
disciplines. Probably, there would have been many mutually compatible
responses, in psychology, psychiatry, and anthropology, to larger questions
dealing with the meaning of science and the meaning of
consciousness. This is much less true today.
Klass was convinced that current specific and often exclusive terminological usage in each discipline, as well as lack of awareness and, often, lack of interest in what is transpiring in the other fields, leads to minimal understanding and serious consequences. Therefore, he resolved to challenge the boom of some big guns such as E. O. Wilson, who perfunctorily dismissed what he saw as the cant of cultural relativism as well as the thinking of most professional anthropologists.
I came to this project with no academic background concerning spirit possession, but I have learned much from editing the book. Even beyond my benefiting from Morts erudition, I discovered that in editing someone elses manuscript your thoughts are joined with his, your mind follows the paths of his mind, you inhabit his scholarly persona, you not only listen to but sometimes actually speak in his voice. What I did not expect when I began editing this book was that I would receive, with powerful sadness and also peculiar joy, some inkling of what it means to be spiritually possessed. Larry Wolff, cultural historian & editor of Mind over Mind
over Mind approaches possession and dissociation with care and explores
alternative terms in an effort to once again allow the sciences to fortify and
replenish one another in honest scholarly pursuit.
Shamanism and the Ancient Mind: A Cognitive Approach to Archaeology by James L. Pearson (Archaeology of Religion: Rowman & Littlefield) Pearson brings a cogent, well-argued case for the understanding of much prehistoric art as shamanistic practice. Using the theoretical premises of cognitive archaeology and a careful examination of rock art worldwide, Pearson is able to dismiss other theories of why ancient peoples produced art-totemism, art-for-art's sake, structuralism, hunting magic. Then examining both ethnographic and neuropsychological evidence, he makes a strong case for the use of shamanistic ritual and hallucinogenic substances as the genesis of much prehistoric art. Bolst ered with examples from contemporary cultures and archaeological sites around the world, Pearson's thesis should be of interest not only to archaeologists, but art historians, psychologists, cultural anthropologist, and the general public.
Encyclopedia of Native American Shamanism: Sacred Ceremonies of North America by William S. Lyon (ABC-CLIO) is designed to operate as a companion volume to "Encyclopedia of Native American Healing." It is the first book ever written that surveys the various manifestations of shamanic powers in Native North America as they have been recorded since the early 1600's. Readers of this volume will be astonished to learn of the far-reaching applications to which shamanic medicine powers have been applied by Native American shamans and the many different forms in which these powers manifested. This is a scholarly work that is designed to aid in research in which each entry contains bibliographical references to original sources for more intensive inquiry into any subject concerning Native American shamanism. However, the general reader interested in the magical feats of Native American shamans will find much here to discover.Contents: Illustrations Preface User's Guide Maps Encyclopedia of Native American Shamanism A-Z entries
500 Years on the Path to Knowledge
by Jeremy Narby and Francis Huxley (Tarcher/Putnam) A survey of five hundred
years of writings on the world's great shamans-the tricksters, sorcerers,
conjurers, and healers who have fascinated observers for centuries.
This collection of essays traces Western civilization's struggle to interpret and understand the ancient knowledge of cultures that revere magic men and women-individuals with the power to summon spirits. These writings by priests, explorers, adventurers, natural historians, and anthropologists express the wonder of strangers in new worlds. Who were these extraordinary people, men who imitated the sounds of animals in the night, or drank tobacco juice through funnels, or wore collars filled with stinging ants?
Shamans Through Time is a rare chronicle of changing attitudes toward that which is strange and unfamiliar. With essays by such acclaimed thinkers as Claude Levi-Strauss, Black Elk, Carlos Castaneda, and Franz Boas, it provides an awesome glimpse into the incredible shamanic practices of cultures around the world.
Entering The Circle
Ancient Secrets of Siberian Wisdom Discovered by a Russian Psychiatrist
by Olga Kharitidi, M.D.
$21.00, hardcover; 224 pages
Audio tape Read by Olga Kharitidi, M.D.
$18.00, 2 cassettes, about 3 hours, abridged
Music: Olga Kharitidi, M.D, Jim Wilson
$15.98 for music CD #EC 4109-2; $9.98, cassette, # EC 4109-4, plus $2.50 shipping and handling
Olga Kharitidi with CD Producer Jim Wilson Photo: Triloka Records
audio edition: paper edition:
In this Soviet Psychiatrist's account of an occult civilization we are served another account of the shaman's journey with all the classic features of folklore in the guise on postmodern psyche. "There's no doubt that with its classic New Age elements--the skeptical protagonist turned believer, exotic locales and esoteric knowledge, suspense and synchronicity--this is a great read that should sell briskly." --Publishers Weekly
ENTERING THE CIRCLE: Ancient Secrets of Siberian Wisdom Discovered by a Russian Psychiatrist discloses the amazing tale of how Soviet psychiatrist Olga Kharatidi's struggle to cure a patient who heard voices, led her on a memorable journey into unwitting psychic and spiritual development. Eventually these experiences uncovered an ancient and unsuspected civilization in the mountains of Siberia.
As a young doctor in 1989, Dr. Kharitidi is on the staff of a huge state psychiatric hospital near the Siberian metropolis of Novosibirsk. The Russian psychiatrist relates working conditions as grim, overcrowded, gruel and tea for breakfast, patients beaten by orderlies. Not unlike some of our own State run mental hospitals. An out-patient named Nicolai maintains he is being attacked by the voice of his late uncle who had been a shaman in a remote village in the Altai Mountains of Siberia. Dr. Kharatidi uses a common method of hypnosis to get to the root of Nicolai's problem, but the results offer some intriguing problems for the young psychiatrist.
Seeking to understand, Dr. Kharatidi finds herself on a journey to the Altai, a remote and forbidding region where temperatures can fall to -75 degrees Fahrenheit. There she meets Umai, a female shaman who insists on passing her power to Kharatidi. The term "shaman" has become Russian and is commonly applied only to members of the indigenous tribes of Siberia and Central Asia.
Through her confrontations with Umai, the medically trained
author begins to unlock the door to a subliminal inner universe
the ancient shamans call Belovodia. The shamans tell of when the
Siberian climate was warm and favorable, and of an ancient
civilization of people far greater than ours in spiritual and
psychological insight. When Siberia turned cold and forbidding,
this civilization withdrew to an inner realm.
According to Siberian shamans, religious traditions as diverse as Zoroastrianism, Christianity, the Vedas, and the teachings of the Druids have sprung from this realm, known as Belovodia. Kharatidi likens Belovodia on an individual level to the "core self," the "ontological self," or the "Christ within." It is a transpersonal dimension to our being that few of us make contact with, but that can be useful in treating patients. Through hypnotically induced trance, this ontological self can be reached and its regulating power tapped. This vision should open the doors to endless sequels as more of this secret world is revealed.
The author's involvement with shamanism is fraught with danger, for in the Soviet Union, interest in the occult can lead to psychiatric commitment. But Kharatidi manages secretly to incorporate her new spiritual learning into her practice at the hospital. She learns of other scientists, particularly a Soviet physicist researching the nature of time, who is also investigating this ancient wisdom.
In ENTERING THE CIRCLE, Dr. Kharatidi shares the
powerful spiritual teachings that have lain hidden in
inaccessible Siberia for centuries.
This romance should capture the imagination of many and who knows? Even help start a flourishing tourist industry in the remoter regions of Siberia.
The abridged audio version is almost too abridged to enjoy the fuller shades of the adventure and story, though voice is haunting in its tones. The music has new age jazz feel with intriguing chants-songs that mimic Mongolian and Tibetan chant styles. It may offer entre to alternative states to the attentive listener.
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