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Andrew Brown: The book Shamanic Worlds, recording the shamans of Siberia during Soviet Russia, had to pay lip service to the spirit of Marx
I have been reading about Siberian shamanism, which transports me to a world where fairytale horrors were still alive deep into the 20th century. One story collected in the 1980s tells of the shaman Khosogoi who was believed to "eat the souls of children". A suspicious guest places the shaman's own child in the cradle provided for hers: "In the night, as though dreaming, the guest saw Khosogoi wave his drum beater three times in the direction of the cradle and bring it to his lips, whereupon something resembling sour cream flowed into his mouth. After this, the woman again switched children.
"Early next morning, the household was awakened by a heartrending howl from the hosts' child. The child cried for a while and soon died. Khosogoi tried to vomit what he had swallowed in the night, but nothing came out. He then said: 'What has been eaten can never return. And my spirits have left me for ever, being angry that I fed them my own child.'"
The tale has the quick, undeviating cruelty of the Brothers Grimm but it takes place not in the long ago and far away world of witches, but in – as it might be – the yurt next door.
Another contrast with Grimm is that in their 19th-century fairytales of Germany, the constant theme is hunger. But in these Siberian folk tales, the overhanging dread is of disease. Children die; mothers die; tuberculosis and smallpox wipe out whole tribes. All these deaths are due to evil spirits. This explanation of disease and death is of course common to almost all preliterate religions, and survives even in literate ones. The shamanism of Siberia has hybridised in various places with Islam, Buddhism and Christianity, depending on the religion of the invaders of any particular region. In all these cases the rituals of drumming and singing in a darkened tent survived, even if the spirits invoked changed their names and characters.
The shaman, though he – or she – has dark powers, is necessary to the tribe because the spirits with whom they communicate are the only powers that can combat the evil ones that are imagined with startling vividness: "The Evén believed that the evil spirit of smallpox appeared on the migration routes of reindeer herders in the form of a woman with red hair like a European."
"The woman with red hair like a European" is not embedded in any worked-out system of mythology. That would demand the kind of tidying that can only emerge in literate religions. Even then, there will be a layer of unofficial folk beliefs that contradict official doctrine on almost every point. What matters is ritual, in which the meaning cannot be separated from the performance. The other really important thing about shamanism is that its purpose is not to explain the world, but to cure it. This is of course what Marx claimed for his own followers: "The philosophers up till now have tried to understand the world. The point, however, is to change it." That is another way in which Marxism resembled a religion more than a science.
The book I'm reading – Shamanic Worlds – is a translation of a volume originally published in Soviet Russia, so that the chapters make ritual obeisance to the spirits of Marx and Lenin. The authors, whatever their private views may have been, are obliged to pretend they are studying something that must disappear. "The extinction of religious vestiges is not a straightforward process. Under certain circumstances, they may revive, influencing some groups of people. But the general tendency of the development of society inevitably dooms them to gradual extinction."
It is pleasant to read this and reflect that there are almost certainly more shamanists than communists flourishing in Siberia today. Neither Marxism nor shamanism could cure the diseases they claimed to, but shamans had the better songs and made the world a little easier to endure.
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media 2013
Alloka

Alloka (37)

Alloka
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Somewhere, far away in Siberia until today live shamans and people, who believe in shamans. How else can you explain children's deaths, diseases and a hunger in a family or a village? Evil spirits cause misfortunes and deaths. Not only in Siberia people believe in Shamans. The hybridised shamanism exists almost in all pre-literate religions, Islam, Buddhism and Christianity. The author of this article compares shamanism with Marxism, which resemble a religion more than a science. The only difference is, Marxism is not exist in Siberia today, while shamanism is flourishing.

holmofrur

holmofrur

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Somewhere, far away in Siberia, up until today live shamans and people, who believe in shamans. How else can you explain children's deaths, diseases and a hunger in a family or a village? Evil spirits cause misfortunes and deaths. Not only in Siberia do people believe in Shamans. The hybridised shamanism exists almost in all pre-literate religions, Islam, Buddhism and Christianity. The author of this article compares shamanism with Marxism, which resemble a religion more than a science. The only difference is, Marxism does not exist in Siberia today, while shamanism is flourishing.

Brilliant, really good, advanced and intelligent writing. :-)) pleasure to read!

 

Alloka

Alloka (37)

Alloka
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Ah, you are too kind to me David.)) Thank you for your help!

muzykantov

muzykantov (33)

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Good. But what to you think about the article itself? )))

Alloka

Alloka (37)

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I forgot to write about my opinion! You are right, Muzykantov! It was interesting to read about an impression which made the soviet book about Siberian shamans on the author of article. He or she read it between the lines and was able to recognize soviet propaganda.

metoklhase

metoklhase (33)

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Somewhere, far away in Siberia until today live shamans and people, who believe in shamans. How else can you explain children's deaths, diseases and a hunger in a family or a village? Evil spirits cause misfortunes and deaths. Not only in Siberia people believe in Shamans. The hybridised shamanism exists almost in all pre-literate religions, Islam, Buddhism and Christianity. The author of this article compares shamanism with Marxism, which resemble a religion more than a science. The only difference is, Marxism is not exist in Siberia today, while shamanism is flourishing.

Although, it is interesting to read such a lively culture, which is able to servive the strong trend of materilism during the Marxism and the Lenism. However, it is wrong to project, this culture of Shamans is not good to compare it with modern materilism. Let this culture of Shamans at its own place, if it is not a cause of destruction to the beautiful world.

Alloka

Alloka (37)

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Maybe you are right, Metoklhase. But would you like to live in this world? It scares me...

jonmaz

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My goodness..   CONGRATULATIONS!   It i such a relief to see someone resist the urge to add "up" to every sentence.   Its overuse is quite annoying!

 

 

Dictionary reference.com lists the definition as follows:

up  [uhp] Show IPA adverb, preposition, adjective, noun, verb, upped, up⋅ping.

It's easy to understand up, meaning toward the sky or at the top of the list, but when we awaken in the morning, why do we wake up?

At a meeting, why does a topic come up ? Why do we speak up, and why are the officers up for election and why is it up to the secretary to write up a report? We call up our friends and brighten up a room,

We polish up the silver, warm up the leftovers and clean up the kitchen. We lock the house up and some guys fix up an old car.

At other times this little two-letter word has a real special meaning. People stir up trouble, line up for tickets, work up an appetite, and think up excuses.

To be dressed is one thing but to be dressed up is special.

Here is a conflicting use of the word up:

A drain must be opened up because it is stopped up or blocked up.

We open up a store in the morning but we close it up at night.

No wonder folks are so mixed up about the word up!

I invite you to look up the word up in as many online and printed dictionaries as you can find to see just how many uses and ways this little word is used. You will see that it takes up a quarter to a half of the page and I bet you find about 30 uses of the word. If you are really keen, you might even find 100 or more uses and ways to use the word up.

Here are some more:

When it threatens to rain, we say it is clouding up . When the sun comes out we say it is clearing up. When it rains, it wets up the earth. When it does not rain for awhile, things dry up. 

 

There are others but I guess I should shut up.   Ring me up or look me up online if you need to lift up your knowlege,   I shall be up to explaining it and clearing up misunderstandings so long as I have got up out of bed and sitting up at my computer.

 

Alloka

Alloka (37)

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Dear John, I am so up about all you have written above, that I have to think everything up untill I'll be completely fed up.))

jonmaz

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Cheer up.