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Raising the Dead: Medicine Women Who Revive and Retrieve Souls II Woman Shaman: the Ancients
Raising the Dead: Medicine Women and Soul Retrieval, III
by VELEDA on APRIL 7, 2013 · NO COMMENTS
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Nishan Shaman This traditional Manchu longpoem was eventually written down, with some Confucian editorializing. It gives a view from within Manchu culture of the female shaman* Teteke who was considered the most powerful of all shamans, so potent that she could bring a boy back from the dead. This story is a classic example of [...]
Nishan Shaman This traditional Manchu longpoem was eventually written down, with some Confucian editorializing. It gives a view from within Manchu culture of the female shaman* Teteke who was considered the most powerful of all shamans, so potent that she could bring a boy back from the dead. This story is a classic example of soul-retrieval from the underworld, by a shaman who chants and drum, goes into an ecstasy so deep that she falls as if dead, makes her journey in the spirit, and must be revived by her assistant. During the Ming dynasty, the only son of a rich official died. The distraught family mourned him with a lavish funeral. An old hunchback came and said, Are you just going to let your son go? Why not send for a skilled shaman to bring him back to life? The family replied that the shamans around there weren’t much good, and asked for a recommendation. “Rich sir, how could you not know? There is a shaman by the name of Teteke who lives on the banks of the Nisihai River not far from here. This shaman has great power; she can revive the dead. Why don’t you go ask her?” Then the old man left and ascended on a fivecolored cloud (like a Taoist immortal or Buddhist arhat; the implication is that the family’s piety and good deeds were being rewarded).
Back of Numinchen shaman’s robes
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So the father went in search of the great shaman. He asked a woman hanging clothes where the Nishan shaman lived.
She smiled and told them that she lived on the opposite bank (the first of several times that the story shows this shaman as a trickster). The father came to find out that the laundress was in fact the shaman herself, and returned. She demurred at his request, saying that she was only a novice and that they should seek out other, more capable shamans. The tearful father begged her to take the case, and she finally relented. The Nishan shaman washed her face, set out an incense table, and threw round Go pieces into the water (performing a divination). She sat on a stool in the middle of the room, grasped her hand drum and drumstick, and drumming, “she began to entreat.” Chanting hobage and deyanku , “she implored in a chant, and the spirit permeated her body.” She began to sing a prophecy that
and snakes slithered. bells and skirts. her body fell as if lifeless while she began her otherworld journey. “Having uttered this. and then began to drum. but their accompaniment was out of harmony with the chant. “has been filial and obedient. and small bells ringing. stood in it. They set up the spirit placings. (This prophetic description of the situation at hand recurs in innumerable shamanic tales around the world. “Traveling like a whirlwind she arrived at the bank of a river. III described all the relevant happenings leading up to the son’s death. she was thrown down and immediately her appearance began to change. and called to a lame boatman to take her across so that she could meet her dead relatives. As she went. and the cap with feathers or horns. and robes with leather streamers http://www. The assistant came and laid her down. a striped dog. and many offerings of bean paste and paper bundles as offerings for the underworld gatekeepers. Then the shaman came to the Red river. She threw her drum in the water. and the shaman ate. I do not require a lot of instruction!” And he sat down. she agreed to come to his house to do a ceremony. She named her father and mother. and the father affirmed that everything she had said was true. The incantation continued as she instructed her assistant to prepare a rooster. Then she put away the tambourine and drumstick. middle and lower — that the Manchu have in common with the Mongols and other North Asian peoples). lined up the offerings next to her. cap waving. Leading the rooster and dog and carrying the offerings. She paid him with bean paste and paper. and crossed the river “like a whirlwind. In the same manner she went through all the underworld gates and gave offerings to their guardians. strange Nishan shaman. The other shamans of the village came. Nishan shaman humorously asked him to harmonize beautifully with the tune. (These represent the creatures of the three worlds — upper. (Drum as boat. ate. the river snake and eight pythons. the 70-year-old Nari Fiyanngo who. so is the shaman’s coat adorned with bells.) She asked for confirmation. and he ferried her over. This time there was no boat. I will beat your buttocks with a wet drumstick made of cherry wood!” Nari Fiyanngo laughed and replied.” After more imploring from the official and another demurral from the shaman.” again leaving behind bean paste and paper bundles for the river spirit. antlered headdress.net/veleda/?p=648[08/11/2013 23:36:34] . “Powerful. escaping / Hoge yage from the stone pit Hoge yage please descend quickly / Hoge yage… And the shaman began to go into ecstasy. The shaman put on her garments.” When he arrived. I.Raising the Dead: Medicine Women and Soul Retrieval. and began to drum and chant in support of her spirit voyage. “and put the nine-bird cap on her head. raised it up. She invoked the great eagle and the silver wagtail. as horse or other conveyance in the spirit realms is a common theme in North Asia. Hoge yage I am going to pursue a soul Hoge yage into a dark place Hoge yage I will go to the land of the dead Hoge yage I am going to raise Hoge yage a fallen soul. and revived. animals ran. Nishan shaman said she would not be able to travel to the underworld that way. then gave a long list of matrilineal relatives (a theme that is repeated further on). your younger brother know this. She began beseeching her spirits: Hoge yage Please come. So they sent for her assistant. after which: “The shaman grasped a stick of incense.sourcememory.” Her body began to wave like a willow and shook with her chanting. Nishan Shaman instructs her assistant to help her return by reviving her by throwing buckets of water around her face.” In other words. she comments. They loaded up her cabinets of spirit receptacles and brought her on a sedan chair. “If you do not harmonize with the chanting and murmuring. the shaman started off for the land of the dead. birds flew. mirrors and pendant amulets.) “With skirt bells shaking.” She looked around for a way to cross. The Nishan Shaman with drum. The text underlines that she was entranced during the ceremony.
“Shaman. the underworld king confronted his underling. and they replied. elder sister. The spirit of her long-dead husband confronted her beside the road. with the shaman piled up more years of long life.” Finally she confronted a lord of the underworld who had carried away the son. the soul-that-precedes. all the spirits rose up in flight and became like clouds and fog. at last she called on a great crane to come and fling him into Fungtu City (Taoist world of the dead). who replied that it must have been the Nishan shaman who did this. since he had made great efforts to bring him there and was in trouble now. Making no headway. Getting no satisfaction from him. wait a moment. “When she finished. calling out. which can travel during dreams or soul-loss. he asked for the rooster and dog. and the external soul. The shaman made a long invocation to dozens of animal powers to enter the city and bring out the child spirit. since the king of the dead has neither. A long bargaining session ensues. whose city walls were tightly locked. She added more. but said that she will make offerings at his grave and take care of his mother. Then she sang an anthem of female independence and nonconformity that affirms the old. He pursued her. she led the boy quickly through the underworld.sourcememory. and thus everyone would be satisfied. The deal is done. Numinchen shaman’s robes with brass mirros and bell pendants http://www. once departed. She asked them who lived there. and demanded that she bring him back too. and the spirit throwing in good health and progeny. and which the goddess gives to another person after death. causes death. who causes the leaves to unfurl and the roots to spread properly. but only on condition that he lengthen the child’s life. Now they came to a beautiful. She answered that it was not possible.” Omosi-mama is the Manchu goddess who gives life to all beings.Raising the Dead: Medicine Women and Soul Retrieval. III the Nishan shaman was making her voice clang like metal. and the shaman leaves. since his tendons and flesh were rotted. saying that it was not right to take the boy away without paying a fee. but he protested that it was not enough. majestic tower surrounded by five-colored clouds and guarded by two gods in gold armor.” A great bird snatched up the boy and brought him to the shaman. the shaman offered him bean paste and paper bundles. They negotiated. which returns to the god of the underworld after death (probably the physical body-soul). pre-Chinese matrilineal traditions of the Manchu: Deyanku deyanku Without a husband Deyanku deyanku I shall live happily Deyanku deyanku Without a man Deyanku deyanku I shall live proudly Deyanku deyanku Among mother’s relatives Deyanku deyanku I shall live enjoyably Deyanku deyanku Facing the years Deyanku deyanku I shall live on Deyanku deyanku Without children Deyanku deyanku I shall live on Deyanku deyanku Without a family Deyanku deyanku I shall live lovingly Deyanku deyanku Pursuing my own youth Deyanku deyanku I shall live as a guest Deyanku deyanku After singing this. and yet she had cared for his mother all these years. She agrees. Infuriated.net/veleda/?p=648[08/11/2013 23:36:34] . She endows human beings with three souls: the true soul. she went to the higher lord of the underworld.” He appealed to her. He became enraged and started to reproach her with old marital disputes. which is the lifeforce that. She retorted that he had left her with nothing. “Omosi-mama. But Teteke had one more obstacle to confront. but still it was not enough.
and her assistant poured the buckets of water on her as she had instructed. but then exclaimed. The ferryman hailed her triumph in bringing back the son from the land of the dead. from palacedwellers to animals and worms. and how she fated destinies for all the souls who came from her realm. The shaman got up and began to chant an account of what she had done. Then she goes to pay her respects to Omosi-mama. and reporting the blessings of Omosi-mama: Kerani kerani When you serve Omosi-mama Kerani kerani with respect and purity Kerani kerani Omosi-mama’s flowers are good Kerani kerani Therefore do only good. She had her helpers show Teteke around so that she could see the flourishing forests whose willow branches were used to send forth souls who have not eaten horses or cattle. The old goddess did not recognize her at first. She reached his father’s house. Manchuria playfully brought you to life. She praised Nari Fiyanggo. tassels. and her teeth had become red-unpleasant to behold!” But however demonized by the storyteller. In another building all kinds of animals. her mouth was large. and where souls were judged for a long list of crimes. and censed again by her assistant. putting them into bags and taking their on their backs out the eastern door. women were bustling around making babies. Everyone laughed. Then the family loaded up wagons full of payments for the shaman and her assistant. the Nishan shaman retraced her steps. Then the shaman was thrown backward again.sourcememory. birds and fish were being created. I became annoyed with you because you absolutely refused to go. There was also a city where ghosts wept and lamented. her chin stuck out. Nishan shaman prostrated nine times before Omosi-mama. The father offered wine to the Nishan shaman and her assistant. and I placed a shaman’s cap on your head. After witnessing all this. because the shaman herself fanned the soul into the empty body of Sergudai Fiyanngo. her face long. as does the bodhisattva preaching and predicting the future rebirths of the various souls.” He asked for water and said he had been sleeping and dreaming for a long while. The graphic descriptions of punishments also show strong Buddhist overtones. modestly quoting a saying that if a shaman was worth three parts. singing an incantation praising her achievement and calling on various animal spirits to help her awaken. carrying children to be born. and embroidered tigers. But the final episode shows the social and political pressures on such a powerful woman at the time this old http://www. Around her. She encounters among the goddess’s attendants the deceased wife of her assistant and exchanges friendly greetings with her.net/veleda/?p=648[08/11/2013 23:36:34] . this Old Goddess remains the life-giver. an old woman with snow-white hair. and the sparse woods for those who have (in a bit of Buddhist editorializing against meat-eating). “Then. he suddenly came to. put a tambourine in your hand. she will not come back to life unless helped by an assistant of seven parts. Then he burned incense to revive her. III Here Nishan shaman negotiates again with various guardians. paying more fees to the various spirits and guardians so that she could return. bells.” Omosi-mama spoke of how she had ordained the future fame of the shaman. tied bells on your skirt. I Numinchen shaman’s collar with cowries. passing around yarn. giving them offerings. The family rejoiced as he sat up. “How could I have forgotten? When you were to be born. She is described as ugly (much like the spinner-faeries in early modern European lore): “her eyes protruded. and causing you to act as a shaman.Raising the Dead: Medicine Women and Soul Retrieval.
they destroyed her shaman’s regalia and drums. 96] The Manchu kept their clan lists secret. III Dagur shaman with her drum.” that is significant here. when they were committed to writing by men determined to defuse them. and what is disapproved is that the widow has any love affair with anyone.” not “sister. children.sourcememory. People in the future must not imitate them. But this entire theme of transgression is another late interpolation tacked on at the end. The other two texts lack this sermonizing conclusion. She went to the capital and filed an official complaint. The mother was furious. [Nowak and Durrant. she and others wash their faces before the shamanizing begins. in the upper Amur river http://www. the persistence of maternal kinship terms led Shirokogoroff and other scholars to posit an original Manchu matrilineage.”  Teteke’s self-affirming chant to her dead husband is “a strong and surprising denial of all that a woman in Manchu culture should live for: husband.” Three different written versions of this story exist. However. having seen the punishments for sins in the underworld. Manchu kinship patterns moved toward patriarchal Chinese patterns. Her song places strong emphasis on the maternal relatives. Nishan Shaman brings these sacred receptacles with her for the ceremony. Nowak remarks on another interesting pattern in the poem: that water figures in passages between realms. and the first thing the revived boy does is ask for water. is that “she transcends social norms”and mediates between the worlds. At the same time. and frames the wrongfulness of the relationship as breaking clan taboos around sexual relationships. and even thrown him into Fungtu city after he threatened to boil her in oil. or in many cases a much broader concept of kinship. The epic ends with an tacked-on admonition similar to those added to other classics of orature.net/veleda/?p=648[08/11/2013 23:36:34] . and accused the shaman of killing her husband a second time.” Here Nowak takes the wording of “elder sister”/”younger brother” at face value. and Margaret Nowak suggests that it is “a plea for the old order. [101-2. implying that ancestral spirits were important for such rites. because she had not lied. Her mother-in-law heard that Nishan had refused to bring back her dead husband. husband’s clan. repression of shamanic ceremonies increased. and her testimony matched the mother’s. guarded in spirit receptacles. this kind of kinship language is a common Indigenous framing that does not necessarily indicate direct blood relationship. 107] Her cleaving to “mother’s relatives” stands in stark contrast to the Confucian norm that drives the story: the official has lost his only son. The original poem was performed in a broad-based Manchu oral tradition that was dissolving under Chinese influence. Toward the story’s end. So the officials condemned her as a disloyal wife. It is the “elder. her return to ordinary consciousness is accomplished by pouring water.” Nowak contrasts the patrilineage-preserving task of restoring the son to the shaman’s repudiation of marriage and motherhood. I disagree. Manchu clans were structured around shamanic spirits—both ancestors and animal guardian spirits. Here it functions to signal the shaman’s seniority over her assistant. such as the Icelandic Völuspá. Nishan shaman was arrested. They could have executed her for this but instead. One does not mention any destruction of the shaman’s power objects. The very reason offered for the shaman’s downfall was her disloyalty to patriarchy. the second. much more than Confucian or Buddhist officialdom’s disapproval of shamanic rites. descendants. 1931. as Nowak comments. epic was written down. In cyclic fashion life keeps appearing and Shaman in fringed robes riding on a deer: petroglyph in Olyonka Cave. she crosses rivers to the underworld. and thus his patrilineal posterity.Raising the Dead: Medicine Women and Soul Retrieval.) Nowak also makes an key observation on the realm of Omosimama “Here nothing new is ever added. The writer claims that the Manchu poem contains “evil teachings contrary to the great law. The real meaning of Nishan shaman. the other describes it in a single final sentence which also appears to be tacked-on. the shaman ends a love affair with her assistant and breaks from “all strange dissolute matters. The passages affirming maternal kin in the poem seem to bear out these older maternal loyalties. (Passage across the waters is also important in Korean ceremonies of the mudang. The shaman throws her divinatory Go pieces into water. From this time forward. nothing old totally disappears.
Attempts to read it as sha-man. http://www. Numinchen. It portrays Manchu beliefs about life. and a great Goddess who is both life-giver and fategiver. The second syllable -man has nothing to do with English “men. founding the Qing dynasty in the 17th century. the kind of incantations they sang. Dagur. © 2013 Max Dashu * Shaman is a word of the Tungusic languages. The Tale of the Nishan Shamaness: A Manchu Folk Epic. Share this article Veleda PAGES THE LATEST MORE © 2010 Veleda About Goddesses of the Kalasha One of the last peoples of western Asia to retain their aboriginal […] Thanks for dropping by! Feel free to join the discussion by leaving comments. and stay updated by subscribing to the RSS feed. It also repeats the theme of the greatest of all the shaman who is nevertheless modest and retiring. the Evenk and Even. death.” and oversees this endless process “significantly symbolized by the turning stone wheel. including Evenk. (They adopted a central Asian script from the Mongolians. are misinformed. III reappearing.Raising the Dead: Medicine Women and Soul Retrieval. (Seattle: University of Washington Press. and influenced as well by Mongolia on its western border.net/veleda/?p=648[08/11/2013 23:36:34] . followed by the Chinese after World War II.” Omosi mama is “autonomous. All quotes are taken from Margaret Nowak and Stephen Durrant. You are far less likely to read about many Indigenous groups such as the Orochen. and others who are culturally closer to their Siberian relatives. 1977) Manchuria was historically connected to Korea. to which Manchu belongs. even mentions the cabinets with ancestral regalia referred to by other sources.” [112-16] The epic illuminates the way Manchu shamans did their ceremonies.” and in fact the word is not sex-specific.sourcememory. that we have already seen with Pa Sini Jobu. and pluralize it as sha-men. The Manchu are best known for their own conquest of China.) In 1931 the Japanese invaded.
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