Shamanic ritual as a symbolic journey through the universe

Spirits of various ranks were symbolized by zoomorphic and anthropomorphic images drawn on the drum, carved on its handle, or attached as pendants to the drum and the costume. Some of these images were interpreted as master spirits of the corresponding cosmic zones, while others were considered spirit helpers, who would enter their images during the ritual and help the shaman in his journey. When the shaman entered a particular sphere during the ritual, where the corresponding spirits dwell, these belief characters would come to life and get involved in the happening action.
The moon pulls out a shaman in trouble by the strap
The moon pulls out a shaman in trouble by the strap

Shamanic drum as a means of transportation

The belief that the drum is an animal used by the shaman for travel is widespread among almost all the peoples of Siberia. The Nenets consider the drum to be a shaman's deer, carrying him to the upper world. For the Ket people, the handle of the drum is seen as the spine of a deer; vertical iron suspensions, located seven on each side of the handle, are seen as ribs; resonators on the frame are perceived as hooves; individual suspensions symbolize the movement and breathing of a deer.

During the ritual, the drum can be not only a shaman's animal for transportation, but also any means of movement: if the shaman has to sail across a river during the action, the drum represents a boat, and the drumstick is seen as a paddle; accordingly, its individual parts are also interpreted: the drumhead is seen as the "bottom" of the boat, while the frame is seen as its "sides".

Since the shaman's journey to the spirits is dangerous and he often has to deal with hostile beings and engage in battles, the drum is also considered a shaman's combat equipment: a bow, armor, and shield. Many metal parts and suspensions are interpreted as swords, arrows, or sabers.

The image of a shaman escorting a deceased relative to the world of the dead

1 - the abandoned tent of a deceased relative;
2 - funeral platform; near it hang items accompanying the deceased to the world of the dead;
3 - shamanic tent, erected for the ritual of escorting the deceased;
4 - the shaman takes the soul of the deceased to the underworld;
5 - mythical ancestral river;
6 - shamanic spirit-larch clears the way for the shaman;
7 - shamanic spirit-loon shows the shaman the way;
8 - shamanic drum as a boat;
9 - shamanic guardian spirits;
10 - the soul of the deceased follows the shaman on his funeral platform-raft;
11 - the dwelling of mythical ancestral old women - road mistresses to the underworld, whom the shaman interrogates about the way to the village of the dead;
12 - shamanic island in the middle of the path to the underworld, where the shaman rests with the old woman - the mistress of the ancestral river and consults about the further path;
13 - river rapids where the trap built by the shaman from spirits stands;
14 - final dwelling of mythical ancestral old women - road mistresses to the underworld; the shaman, approaching the shore, shouts across the bay to the village of the dead to take the brought soul of the deceased relative;
15 - shamanic drum serving as a boat;
16 - the soul brought by the shaman;
17 - sacrificial deer;
18 - shamanic spirit-loon, floating ahead of the shaman as a guide;
19 - bay at the mouth of the mythical ancestral river, beyond which the underworld begins;
20 - settlement of deceased relatives;
21 - dwelling place of deceased relatives;
22 - deceased women sitting near the fire and engaging in various household chores;
23 - nine shamanic lands: the spirits of the shaman's ancestors live on eight of them, and the largest one is the ruler of the underworld, Mangi;
24 - deceased men engage in hunting;
25 - deceased male relatives build fish weirs on the river.

An Evenk drawing depicting a shaman who escorts a deceased relative to the world of the dead
An Evenk drawing depicting a shaman who escorts a deceased relative to the world of the dead
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