The Social Significance of the Shaman among the Chinese Reindeer-Evenki

Type de publication  Journal Article
Auteur(s)  Heyne,
Volume  58
Titre de la revue  Asian Folklore Studies
Année  1999
Pages  377-395
Mots-clés  Evenks de Chine

Today, approximately 200 Reindeer-Evenki live in the Greater Khingan Range of northeast China (Manchuria). Their ancestors, who around the end of the 1820s migrated from Siberia, already were nominally Russian Orthodox Christians before their immigration. Nevertheless, up to this date shamans have been playing an important role in religion and particularly in society. The Chinese Reindeer-Evenki are pure animists and believe that each thing has its soul. In their understanding, various spirits populate the whole universe. The shamans act as mediators between the world of humans and that of the spirits, and serve the members of their group as helpers in hunting, as healers and protectors, as keepers of tradition, and as guides for the departed on their journey to the land of the dead. They are a safety valve in every imaginable situation of mental stress, and are consulted even today in difficult and extraordinary situations, although they show signs of deterioration and suffer persecution. This study uses many examples in order to detail the very important social impact of the shaman on the society of the
Reindeer-Evenki living in the Chinese taiga. The difficult, and for the candidate also dangerous process, of becoming a shaman among the Reindeer-Evenki of the Great Amur Bend, as well as the shaman’s costume symbolizing a deer, is described briefly.


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