We’re listening to the chanting of a Siberian shaman, a traditional healer recorded one hundred years ago. I’m Jim Metzner, and this is the Pulse of the Planet, presented by the American Museum of Natural History. Today, a glimpse at what a shamanic healing ritual was really like.
“Typically, a shaman would come to a household, if there were a sick person, and first, for many hours, he would apparently do very little, to our eyes. There would be a long period of several hours of sitting by the fire, smoking, drinking, tuning the drum. This served to get the participants in the mood, to create an atmosphere. Eventually, this would lead into a more ritualized performance involving singing drumming, dancing, chanting. Broken up at intervals by seeming periods of rest, involving more smoking and drinking, perhaps eating, or just sitting.”
Thomas Ross Miller is a guest curator with the American Museum of Natural History. He explains that the Siberian shaman often had an assistant, who would take over the drumming during critical periods of the ritual healing. It’s thought that when the shaman was in a trance, he was contacting spirits in other worlds to help cure the sick person.
“Typically, the shaman had a long chain attached to the back of his coat. His assistant would hold the other end of this chain while the shaman danced and drummed. This was so that the shaman was sure to come back to this world from the other world, because it was possible that he might get stuck there, and not be able to return.”
ambience: shaman chanting
More on Siberian shamans in future programs. Pulse of the Planet is presented by the American Museum of Natural History. I’m Jim Metzner.