This article studies common spiritual representations about contemporary Tungus-Manchu “shamanising persons”. It analyses ethnographic material gathered by the authors between 1994 and 2020 among the Evenki, Even, and Nanai of Yakutia, the Amur region, Kamchatka, Novorossiysk, and Khabarovskii krai, as well as the relevant scholarly literature. Under Soviet anti-religious policies, the traditional shamans of these peoples went into significant decline: the last traditional shamans passed away in the 2010s, thus potentially disrupting the transmission of the shamanic function. Nevertheless, according to collective representations, the spirits are still active and continue elect people to become shamans. Our paper argues that these peoples are enduring “ritual wanderings”, wedged between a lack of individuals able to transmit the knowledge required to become a traditional shaman and the fact they reject urban/western neo-shamanism (in contrast to other Siberian peoples like the Buriat, Tuva, Yakut, and Altai). Through the analysis of a mosaic of case studies on shamanising persons who are neither traditional shamans nor neo-shamans, we reveal many relationships with the spirits, the ways these people deal with shamanic election, and the common core of the spiritual representations of the Tungus-Manchu. This paper contributes to the study of contemporary shamanism, Tungus-Manchu cultures, and human-nature relationships.
Keywords: mentality, collective spiritual representation, contemporary shamanising persons, Tungus-Manchus, gathering the spirits, methods of knowledge transmission
About the authors
Tatiana Yu. Sem – PhD (History), leading researcher at Russian Museum of Ethnography;