There was the head man of a village. I do not know exactly whether it was a village of Yukaghir or of the Yakut clan. 1 This head man used to gather tribute among his clansmen. Then he carried it southward to the town of Yakutsk on the river Aldan. On the Aldan lived the tribute chief of their tribe. 2 One time this Kolyma head man came to the Aldan tribute chief. The wife of the latter was suffering very much from one day to the next and they were afraid she might die. The Kolyma head man, seeing her condition said to the tribute chief, "Have no care about my dinner, I will go elsewhere." The tribute chief answered, "You were my guest in times of good fortune. Will you go away in these evil hours?" So the Kolyma head man entered, and saw sitting there in the house around a table, seven people, all quite unknown to him. He asked the tribute chief, "Who are these people--your workmen or your guests?"--"Oh,
oh!", said the tribute chief, "what are you thinking of! These people are no workmen, nor are they simple guests. They are shamans, all seven of them. They have come here for nine days, and they practise their art all the while; but we do not see any help. My wife is getting worse and worse. O friend! Your Kolyma country is renowned for its shamans and magicians; and you too, come from a country far distant, and you select your assistant from the whole community without doubt with great care. I am sure that you pay attention also to this (i. e., to magic). Can you not ask your assistant? Perhaps he knows enough to get for us at least temporary relief, even if for only a couple of hours."--"I cannot tell. Indeed, as a young man, he suffered from fits, 1 and perhaps he really is able to practise the art of shamanism, though I do not know whether for himself only or also in behalf of other people. However, we may call him here, and see what he can do. Where is he? Go and call him."
They brought the assistant. He was a small fellow, quite young, with only one eye. The house master asked him, "Here, you, of Kolyma birth, perhaps you have some knowledge of this matter, some shamanistic power or magical force. Have a look at my wife, and try to help her somehow!"--"All right!" said the fellow. "If I were in my own place, or if I had at least my own shamanistic garment, I might try to do something." To this the tribute chief answered, "If you only will try, I will procure the necessary garment and all appurtenances." The man was silent for a while. Then he said, "I will try to practise, as far as I may and know. But if she should die, do not be angry with me!"--"Oh, no! surely not! Do whatever you like. Before the beginning, however, give me a few hours only. Let me have one more look at her, though she is suffering." They brought the shamanistic garment and arrayed him in it. The garment was too large for him. He looked in it just like a stump in an overcoat. The owner of the garment said, "Tie him up with a girdle. He will tear off all the tassels." One man went up to him and said, "Let me gird you up!"--"Wait a while," said the Kolyma shaman, "then you may gird me. I will give you a signal." So he began to practise. He croaked three times like a raven; then he roared three times like a bear; then he howled three times like a wolf. After that he stood up. His head pierced the roof, and the garment burst between the shoulders. Then the door flew open, and the seven shamans were hurled
out of the house like seven shreds of skin. They died on the spot. He began to practise. After some time he went to the patient, and cut her body into small pieces. Each piece he took into his hands and put into his mouth, sucked it all around, and then blew on it. He put them together, and blew upon them three times. They joined again, and were covered with a new skin. He blew three times more, and the body breathed. After that he stepped toward the entrance and sang for an hour, then for another hour. At the beginning of the third hour, the woman came to herself, and turned over on the other side. She even asked for a little piece of meat to be put into her mouth. So he went back to her from the door, and asked her, "How do you feel?"--"I feel numb all over!" He resumed his singing and performed until dawn. Then he stopped and ordered all the people to lie down to sleep. When they awoke, the woman awoke with them, and asked for food and drink. They put another piece of meat into her mouth. From this time on she recovered rapidly, and after three days she was able to take food and drink without assistance.
After that the tribute chief took his best horse, renowned in that region for its swiftness. He put on it a saddle of silver, a bridle of steel inlaid with silver, and a saddle cloth embroidered with silk. To the saddle he tied a pouch containing two hundred rubles in cash. Then he took the horse to the Kolyma shaman, but the shaman refused to accept anything. So the tribute chief felt greatly afraid, and with much insistence and almost in tears, begged him to take something. At last, the shaman consented. He took the horse; but the bridle and the saddle, together with the saddle cloth, he took off and gave them back to the master. He also took thirty rubles only, and those not in silver, but in paper money. He rolled them up and tucked them into the horse's left ear. Then he blew upon the horse and struck it with his staff; and the horse soared up on high, flew away, and vanished. They asked him, "Where did you send it?"--"I sent it to my mother and sister. This will last them until my return."
Told by Nicholas Kusakoff, a Russian creole, in the village of the Pokhotsk, in the Kolyma country, summer of 1896.
76:1 For the last hundred years, the northern Miatushski clan has been living on the Great Anui River, in the Lower Kolyma country. This clan has been superficially Russianized. Their way of living is quite Russo-Yukaghir. They have no cattle, and catch their fish not in the lakes, but in the Great Anui and Kolyma rivers--W. B.
76:2 This indicates that they were probably Yakut. The tribute chief in local Russian is голова (literally, "head"). This chief was elected by several clans related to one another and forming together one tribal branch.--W. B.
77:1 Fits of shamanistic hysteria (Cf. Bogoras,---The Chukchee "). Among the Russian creoles and Russianized natives, both on the Anadyr and the Kolyma, women often have so-called "fits" (припадки, without any adjective). The patient, during the fit, sings improvised tunes, and even pronounces words of an unknown language. When coming to herself, she pretends not to remember what she has done. Such singing is also called shamanistic, and probably all this really represents the remnants of a more ancient shamanistic practice.--W. B.