The Last of the Shor Shamans

Jan 11th, 2017 | By | Category: Articles, Books, Books for Shamans

shor-shamansThis book, The Last of the Shor Shamans, may be the only way the shamanic peoples of the Shor Mountain region of Siberia are remembered – now in their 80’s their legacy is expected to die with them. The authors Alexander Arbachakov and Lubov Arbachakova (Tudegesheva) were born within traditional communities in southern Siberia and are environmentalists.

Here’s an excerpt from the introduction:

During our time in Shor territory, Bill Pfeiffer and I sat in the kitchen of shaman Kirill Propkop’evich Chudekov who eyed us carefully as he ate from a bowl of raw garlic cloves. I’d become feverishly ill during the long, cold train journeys and, after determining our sincerity in seeking ceremony for me, Kirill agreed to perform kamlanie (shamanic ritual). His chanting was haunting and emotional. I felt as if ancient, ancestral spirits and those of the Shor lands were singing through him, piercing our ordinary reality with mysterious and hidden wisdom. Tears filled my eyes as I watched Kirill wave the worn dish towel he held in his hand as he chanted, his other hand meeting the towel with strong, brisk strokes as if beating an invisible drum. Religious oppression had broken the Shor tradition of passing and enlivening the drum and those shamanizing covertly during the Soviet period used dish towels or brooms in lieu of drums.

Several days later we met up with Evdokiya Gavrilovna Todyyakova whom we had tracked down a village away, because her house was unfit to live in during the cold months. During this time, she lived wherever she was welcomed often wandering from home to home. It was a cold, snowy night and the sharp smell of vodka saturated the car as she entered it. Evdokiya, whosat on my lap in the car, sang and laughed and I thought she was totally inebriated. Arriving at the home of our host after midnight, Evdokiya was given a cup of tea and told of our sincere interest in her shamanizing. We asked if she would do kamlanie for us. She looked at me intently without a trace of intoxication detectable; then said she’d do a pulse reading and simple cleansing. Evdokiya’s shamanizing was focused and effective despite the late hour, her chanting as piercing as Kirill’s.

Very little was known to the international public audience on the ancient history and spirituality of Siberia until the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. Many shamans braved death by practicing and teaching in secret during the years of repression throughout the Soviet reign. Prior to Perestroika, and as early as the 1700’s, shamanic peoples were persecuted by Russian Orthodox Christian missionaries who viewed indigenous ways as backward. Although shamanism has again become a vital part of the lives of many Siberians such as with the Tuvan people as well as the Buryat peoples near Lake Baikal – many ancient indigenous languages are endangered and shamanism as an oral and living tradition is dying, or has died out, within Siberia groups such as the Ob-Ugric, the Nganansan and the Shor.

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