SIBERIAN SHAMANS: Roles

One hundred years ago, a team of anthropologists traveled to eastern Siberia to study the native cultures living there. They returned with numerous artifacts, photographs and some wax cylinder recordings such as the songs of the Siberian shaman that we are listening to now.

ambience: shaman chanting

I’m Jim Metzner, and this is the Pulse of the Planet, presented by the American Museum of Natural History.

“The shamans performed, they sang, they danced, they drummed, they played music, they administered medicines. They were a combination of all these different roles. Their main functions were to heal the afflicted and to foretell the future.”

Thomas Ross Miller is a guest curator with the American Museum of Natural History. He explains that the shaman’s traditional roles as healer and seer were accomplished through ritualized contact with the spirit world.

“There are nature spirits who inhabit worlds that humans do not live in, and the shamans role is to travel to these other worlds, make contact with these spirits, and when they contacted the spirit, the spirit would enter their body, and they would literally become the voice of the spirit, in order to communicate with humans.”

Elaborate ceremonies were conducted, where the shamans would enter trance-states to help channel the spirits.

“In fact, if the ceremony was effective and it did what it was supposed to do, the question what is and is not a trance becomes rather meaningless, because either the healing worked or it didn’t, and that depended on how well the shaman performed.”

More on Siberian shamans in future programs. Pulse of the Planet is presented by the American Museum of Natural History. I’m Jim Metzner.

SIBERIAN SHAMANS: Roles

Shamans were intermediaries between humans and the world of spirits.
Air Date:03/17/1998
Scientist:
Transcript:

One hundred years ago, a team of anthropologists traveled to eastern Siberia to study the native cultures living there. They returned with numerous artifacts, photographs and some wax cylinder recordings such as the songs of the Siberian shaman that we are listening to now.

ambience: shaman chanting

I'm Jim Metzner, and this is the Pulse of the Planet, presented by the American Museum of Natural History.

"The shamans performed, they sang, they danced, they drummed, they played music, they administered medicines. They were a combination of all these different roles. Their main functions were to heal the afflicted and to foretell the future."

Thomas Ross Miller is a guest curator with the American Museum of Natural History. He explains that the shaman's traditional roles as healer and seer were accomplished through ritualized contact with the spirit world.

"There are nature spirits who inhabit worlds that humans do not live in, and the shamans role is to travel to these other worlds, make contact with these spirits, and when they contacted the spirit, the spirit would enter their body, and they would literally become the voice of the spirit, in order to communicate with humans."

Elaborate ceremonies were conducted, where the shamans would enter trance-states to help channel the spirits.

"In fact, if the ceremony was effective and it did what it was supposed to do, the question what is and is not a trance becomes rather meaningless, because either the healing worked or it didn't, and that depended on how well the shaman performed."

More on Siberian shamans in future programs. Pulse of the Planet is presented by the American Museum of Natural History. I'm Jim Metzner.