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ATIM Die alttürkischen Inschriften der Mongolei. Spb.

ISFOu Journal de la Société finno-ougrienne. Helsinki.

MSFOu Mémoir de la Société finno-ougrienne. Helsinki.

RHR Revue de lhistoire des religions. Paris.

 


 

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This book is the first one to investigate the Altaian Shamanism, an early and specific form of religion, which had developed gradually and naturally, without any personal founder, on the basis of an archaic dualistic outlook of the world, by worshiping and personifying Nature. The religion spread among Turkic and Mongol-language nomads of Central Asia as early as the beginning of A.D. and already had its own history.

 

The study was based on different historical sources, such as written ancient and medieval, ethnography, linguistics, archaeology, etc: with the predominance of ethnographical material. The latter were mainly represented by field material, collected by the author during half-century of systematic research of the Turkic peoples of the Altai-Sayan mountains and several regions of Central Asia. Of the great scientific significance is the information given by the professional shamans themselves, which eventually disappeared from the Altai region since the 1930s. This makes the data received from them unique. A personal check-list of professional shamans indicating their ethnic group clan and place of residence is given.

 

The information given by the shamans, its discussion, verification and crosschecking with each of them gave new reliable evidence defining the Altaian Shamanism as a religion. It became clear that many researches had not come to this conclusion because their scientific interest was generally concentrated on the figure of the shaman himself, his drum and his ritual clothes. The difficulty of the problem can also be explained by the absence of shamans sacred books or any other written regulations and commandments; of permanent shrines; of any confessional organization; of instruction in cult practice; of missionaries or any preaching of the shamans religion. The field material, in combination with the other sources, were of a great significance for studying the essence of this religion, which was an absolute belief that a mans fate and his every day life wholly depended on the will of Divinities arid Spirits inhabiting all zones of the Universe. It became possible to define the religions dogmas and canons, which appeared to be ciphered in symbols and semantics; in rites and in most significant sacred objects the drum and the shamans ritual dress.

 

The existence of this unwritten religion had been maintained for many centuries with the help of oral tradition and by means of symbolic encoding of its basics and principles in drawings on the drum; in wood-carving and sculptures on its vertical handle; in various forms of soft sculpture such as dolls symbolizing spirits; pendants and ribbons on the shamans clothes, etc. The stability of symbolism, semantics and sacred lexics and the names of the divinities is proved by their relationships, which can be traced from the ancient-Turic times.

 

An outstanding role in the maintenance of the religion was played by the professional shamans, who were believed to inherit their sacred power. They were considered the most powerful and proficient. The author was convinced of their qualification when he studied the shamans drum with the assistance of its owner. Thus, he managed to define a Drum as a major sacred object. It was impossible to become a shaman without a Drum. It served in shamanising by concentrating symbols reflecting theological and cult elements of Altaian Shamanism. During the Shamanising act the Drum symbolized either a riding animal for the shamans journey to some divinity or spirit through all zones of the Universe (the shaman could move from one zone to another a peculiarity of Altaian Shamanism) or the Drum could play the role of a boat in case the shaman had to cross a river. It could be also used as a weapon. The horizontal iron stick in a drum was named a bow-string and the pendants attached to that switch were called arrows. It was very important that a Drum symbolized a mobile shrine with some elements of its properties. The scheme of the Universe with its three vertical zones was painted on the leather cover of a drum. The planets and the stars which, according to the shamans reports, helped them to find their bearings

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during the journey in the supernormal world, were placed in the upper sky zone. The middle ground zone was represented by several drawings of animals and birds, and one or two trees; the shamans spiritsassistants are iconographically portrayed there as well. The lowest, underground zone was symbolized by the drawings of snakes, frogs and water monsters, etc.

 

The author managed to obtain from professional shamans themselves the explanations about their sacred power and the mechanism of their journeys in the spiritual world. Their assistance was also used for studying and verifying of the shamans sacred duties, one of the most common being the diagnosing and healing of the sick. This function was based on the conception that the origin of sickness was due to the invasion by some disease-spirit or by the loss of persons soul. The current destinations and all other functions known from Altaian Shamans has been previously described in ancient and medieval written sources of Turic-language nomads. This was additional evidence for the ancient-Turic roots of Altaian Shamanism.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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