Accepted Paper:

Beyond spirits? The new "materiality" of ritual intimacy in Tuvan Shamanism  

Author:

Ksenia Pimenova (Fonds de la recherche scientifique, Université Libre de Bruxelles)

Paper short abstract:

We explore the transformation of the notion of spirits as agents of ritual intimacy in the contemporary shamanic therapies among Tuvas of South Siberia, and study the new gestural and material means that make up for the weakening of this notion, long regarded as central for Shamanism.

Paper long abstract:

Our proposal focuses on the transformation of the notion of spirits, both as support of shamans' power and source of misfortunes, in the contemporary shamanic therapies among Tuvans. This South-Siberian population has witnessed since the 1990s the renewal of their "traditional" Shamanism. However, the sociological context in which shamans perform today has changed dramatically from the nomadic one of a century ago. Rituals are performed in collective and urban contexts, and shamans must deal with new kind of requests, which affect the place and role of spirits.

The "direct contact with the spirits" (Hamayon) has been systematically associated with Shamanism. Indeed, in Siberia "helping spirits" would act during the ritual "in place" of the shaman, while the harmful spirits would have to be destroyed or taken away from the body of the patient. Yet, in today's Tuva the growing influence of esoteric, Buddhist and scientific ideas modifies the representation of shaman's helping spirits, while the proliferation of discourses on witchcraft (Stépanoff; Buyandelgeriyn) makes the notion of harmful spirits rare and out-dated. Under these conditions, can we still consider spirits as agents of intimacy linking the shaman to his patient during the ritual? The presentation will show that the idea of "direct contact" subsists in Tuvan shamanism insofar as new gestural and material means are employed to provide "materiality" to the new entities that have taken the place of the spirits in the rituals of post-Soviet shamans.

Panel P073
Religious intimacy: collaboration, collusion and collision in ritual communication