Origin of Shaman and the Metamorphosis of Spirits

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Let us dive a little further into the Mill…

Every era has invented its own ballads, romances, songs and fables to entertain it. That is another matter. But none of that truly concerns the ancient poet.

The word poet means vates, which are a prophet and seer. When it comes to knowledge and law, it is referred to as poesia seriosa, i.e. “serious poetry.” It is this context that Aristotle refers respectfully to “the grave testimony of the early poets.”

The very first written documents of Mankind hold something in common: the ancients, instead of indulging on whims and fancies with a childlike freedom, behaved like worried and doubting commentators. Even worse, they admit they are only half sure of what the technical terms and what they were saying. While we babble and wonder what the ancient Greeks and Egyptians were saying, they were babbling and wondering what their ancients were saying. These ancient ancients, who spoke in these strange technical terms, are those of the Mill. My label for them, to separate them from the ancients we are familiar with, and since they possessed no writing but only oral transmission, is the word precursors. While the first writings of Mankind talked about these terms the precursors used, their words were already ‘tottering with age’ and would soon vanish from our species. Long before poetry began, there were generations of strange scholiasts.

You might ask, “Pook, what were these very ancient texts about? What terms did they talk about from those precursors?” This question just opens up a Pandora’s box of mysteries which would destroy archeology and even our definitions of civilization to the core.

They were full of stars. S. Schott, dealing with the early star lists of Egypt, points to the complexity of later generations concerning the names of the constellations even those of the “greatest gods of the Decands, Prion and Sothis, who in Ancient Egyptian are called by the names of old hieroglyphs, without anybody knowing, in historical times, what these hieroglyphs had meant, once upon a time. During the whole long history of these names we meet attempts at interpretation.” This last sentence is applied to all the most ancient texts of Mankind. There is no end of commentaries on the Pyramid Texts, the Coffin Texts and the Book of the Dead, on the Rigveda, the I-Ging, just as on the Old Testament. W von Soden regrets that we depend on the documents of the “Renaissance of Sumerian culture” (2100 B.C.) instead of having the real material at our disposal.

The ancients had no idea how to understand the precursors. Sumerian was the language of the educated Babylonian and Assyrian. There were many Sumerian-Akkadian “dictionaries” and the numerous translations of the Gilgamesh epic betray the activity of several academies responsible for the ‘officially recognized’ text edition. But that is the Old World. On the New World, it was the same. In Mexico, of Chimalpahin’s Memorial Breve we find notes such as “In the year ‘5- house’ certain old men explained some pictographs to the effect that king Hueymac of Tollan (the mythological Golden Age city) had died.” This took place before the coming of the Spaniards.

The Greek “Renaissance,” no less than those of the previous millennia in the Near East, was the result of such an antiquarian effort. Hesiod still has the mark of it.

The editors of the Kalevala described the background as “shamanistic” (oh, that word!) by which they simply understood some kind of primitive ‘religion.’ It corresponded to their minds to primeval, instinctive magic, to be found in all five continents, associated with the tribal “medicine man.” Shamanism has remained a catchword for all those uncertain things specialists have no idea what is going on. It is irresponsible and troubling for history if someone would reduce shamanism to memories of Eskimo angekoks or to a “technique of induced ecstasy,” or to derive such acts from the Asiatic North where such things were fostered. Our grand ‘culture’ teachers do not, and cannot, pin down the ‘Shaman’ question (and often go in a bizarre Camille Paglia sexual-Freud way).

“Shaman” is a Tungusian word. The problem with Shamanism is that it is so complex that neither psychologists nor sociologists can understand it. Shamans are elected by ‘spirits’ which means he cannot choose his profession (the mentally unhinged are the prime candidates!). Once elected, the future shaman goes to “school.” Older shamans teach him his trade, and only after the concluding ceremony is when he is accepted. But the real world of shamanistic initiation of the soul happens in the world of spirits- while his body lies unconscious in his tent for days- who dismember the candidate in the most thorough and drastic manner and sew him together afterwards with iron wire, or reforge him, so that he becomes a new being capable of feats which go beyond the human.

The shaman’s duties is to heal diseases which are caused by hostile spirits who have entered the body of the patient, or which occur because the soul has left the body and cannot find its way back. Often the shaman is responsible for guiding the souls of the deceased to the abode of the dead, as he also escorts the souls of sacrificed animals to the sky. His help is needed when the hunting season is bad (he must know where the game are) and to find out all the things which he is expected to know, the shaman has to ascend to the highest sky to get the information from his god- or go into the underworld.

Scholars like Paglia among others say the West was unique in that only it had messengers between those on Earth and Heaven via angels. But angels are beings of heaven that come down to Earth. The East, as well as the precursor West, had the equivalent of angels through shamans. Whereas the angel was heavenly and came down like Mercury, the shaman was earthly and ascended up.

On the shaman’s path through heaven and earth, he had to fight hostile spirits or rival shamans. Tremendous duels were fought with both combatants having with them their helping spirits in animal form with much shape-shifting taking place. These fantastic duels form the bulk of shamanistic stories. The last echoes are the so-called “magic-flights” in fairy tales. The shaman’s soul ascends to the sky when he is in a state of ecstasy; in order to get into this state, he needs his drum which serves him as a “horse,” the drumstick as a “whip.” This world conception of Ural- Altaic shamanism has been successfully traced back to India (under Hinduistic and Buddhistic aspects, including Tibetan Lamaism and Bon-po) as well as to Iran.

This world conception, with its three ‘domains,’ has seven or nine skies, one above the other, and with corresponding ‘underworlds’ with the ‘world-pillar’ running through the center of the whole system, crowned by the “north Nail,” or “World Nail” (Polaris), goes farther back than Indian and Iranian ‘culture,’ namely to the most ancient Near East, where India and Iran derived their idea of a ‘cosmos’- a cosmos being in itself by no means an obvious assumption. The shaman climbs the “stairs” or notches of his post or tree, pretending that his soul ascends at the same time to the highest sky, does the very same thing as the Mespotamian priest did when mounting to the top of his seven-storied pyramid, the ziqqurat, representing the planetary spheres. (“So how’d they get nine if they were using planetary spheres, Pook?” Simple, they put heads and tails on them.)

Uno Holmberg says, “This pattern of seven levels can hardly be imagined as the invention of Turko-Tatar populations. To the investigator, the origin of the Gods ruling those various levels is no mystery, for they point clearly to the planetary gods of Babylon, which already in their far- away point of origin, ruled over seven superposed starry circles.” This conclusion is also the same as Paul Mus. To take the conception of several skies and underworlds as natural, primitive, was a HUGE blunder which distorted the historical outlook of these ancients trying to emulate their precursors. It stems from the fact that philologists and Orientalists have lost all contact with astronomical imagination, or even the fundamentals of astronomy. When they find something which savors undeniably of astronomical lore, they find a way to label it under “prelogical thought” or such.

Now, you have a better take on shamans and the origin of the idea of ‘metamorphosis’ of their fantastic shape-shifting duels. “What good does this do, Pook? Why bother talking about shamans?”

As I’ve said before, I do not believe in the idea of “culture.” From the above, it is apparent that the ancients were studying the precursors and precursors used technical knowledge of the Mill… the first ‘culture’ (I hate that word) was literally stars. And it was not just spread out on the Old World but on the New World as well. It is the greatest irony that archeologists dig deeper into the ground to discover the ‘culture’ but never looking up, as those ancients and precursors did. It is not a coincidence that the Great Pyramid, for example, points at the Orion belt when it was built. And there is a pattern of the first written documents of Mankind speaking worriedly about stars and strange terms no one understands… even back then.