bells in Northeast Asia
Maria C. Czaplicka's
Shamanism in Siberia
Excerpts from Aboriginal
chapter Accessories of the shaman there are several quotes
from various authors on the use and meaning of brass bells in the
costume and attributes. The term tiger bell is not used, and
a distinction between jingle bells and clapper bells is not always
made but in some cases we can infer that the bells mentioned are tiger
On the shaman's costume
The whole costume
with its appurtenances used during shamanistic performances
throughout Siberia has, according to Mikhailowski a
1. The shaman wishes to make a profound impression on the
eyes of the people by the eccentricity of his costume.
2. The ringing of the bells and the noise of the drum
impress their sense of hearing.
3. Finally, a symbolic meaning is attached to these accessories
and adornments, a meaning known only to believers, especially
to the shamans, and closely connected with the religious conceptions
M.A. Czaplicka adds:
Mikhailowski. But this interpretation does not bring out the
whole importance of the relation of these objects to the spiritual
world. They are of great importance, for the spirits will not
hear the voice of the shaman unless the right dress and implements
are used, and the drum beaten; they are sacred because of their
contact with a supernatural and often dangerous power.
Being sacred, these accessories must not be used by any one
but a shaman, otherwise they are impotent to produce any result.
It is only a good shaman, a real one, who can possess the full
On the girdle in the
costume of the Gilyak:
most important accessories are the drum, kas, and the
shaman's girdle, yangpa. Schrenck gives us the
following description of them: 'One night when I was sitting
in a tent in the village of Yrri, they brought in two shamans'
drums and other accessories, and at my request they allowed
me to be present at the preparation for the ceremony, First
of all the drum was heated by the fire, to make the hide taut,
so that the sound might be more sonorous. The drum was made
of the skin of a goat or reindeer, and whilst it was being prepared
the shaman made ready. He took off his outer garment, put on
the so-called koska, a short apron, and tied round his
head a band of grass, the end of which hung over his shoulders
like a tress of hair. Then he took the shaman's leather girdle,
with many iron plates, copper hoops, and other metal pendants,
which produce a loud clanking noise during the shamanistic dances.'
This girdle is called in Olcha dialect yangpa. Its chief
pendant is a large copper disk with a small handle ornamented
in relief, showing Manchu influence; this circle, called
tole, makes the most important sound. There are also many
iron links called tasso, and many irregular pieces of
iron called kyire, which make a very loud noise; a few
rolled iron plates called kongoro, and, finally, some
small copper bells without tongues, called kongokto.
When the girdle is put on all these objects hang together at
the back. This shamanistic girdle is of considerable weight.
On the coat ornamentation
of the Yakut shamans:
quotes from Sieroszewski who gives us an account of the
meaning of the shaman's coat ornamentation which he heard
from an old Yakut shaman. Number 5 in his list of essential
copper bells without tongues, suspended below the collar; like
a crow's egg in size and shape and having on the tipper part
a drawing of a fish head . They are tied to the leather
straps or to the metal loops. (bold by author)
Because of the size and the shape (a crow's egg, appr. 3,5 x
4 cm.) and the description, a fish head, this could very well
be a type A tiger bell.
On the Yakut drum
M.C. Czaplicka quotes Sieroszewski:
drum is always egg-shaped, and is covered with the hide of a
young bull. Its longest diameter is 53 cm., the width of the
rim 11 cm., and the length of the stick 32 cm. The wider part
of the stick is covered with cowhide. According to Jochelson,
there are twelve raised representations of horns on the drum.
Sieroszewski  says that they are always found in odd numbers,
7, 9, or 11. The cross inside is attached to the rim by means
of straps. Little bells, jingling trinkets, and
other rattles of iron and bone are attached inside round the
rim, especially in the places where the straps are fastened.
On the costume of the
Altai M.C. Czaplicak quotes Potanin::
The collar is
trimmed with owl's feathers. One kam (shaman) had,
according to Potanin, seven little dolls on his collar, which,
Potanin was told, were heavenly maidens...
A few bells are sewed on here and there; the more prosperous
shamans have as many as nine. The ringing of the bells,
a kam told Potanin, is the voice of the seven maidens whose
symbols are sewed to the collar calling to the spirits to
descend to them.
shaman's costume was first described by Pallas. It belonged
to a female shaman, who was accompanied by her husband and
two other Buryat, each of them holding a magical drum. She
herself held in her hand two sticks, ornamented at the top
end with a carving of a horse's head surrounded by small
bells. [This implement is called by recent travelers 'horse-staves'.]
From the back of the shoulders reaching to the ground hung
about thirty snakes, made of white and black skin, in such
a way that the snakes seem to be composed of white and black
rings. One of the snakes was divided into three at the end,
and was accounted indispensable to each Buryat female shaman.
The cap was covered with an iron casque having horns with
three branches, projecting on both sides like those of a deer.
The front of
the coat is covered with metal figures of horses, fishes,
birds, &c. The back is covered with twisted iron representing
snakes, -with rattles hanging from them (shamshorgo), together
with a whole row of little bells and tambourine bells.
are in use by the Buryat of Baikal. They are made of wood
or of iron. A wooden horse-stave is 80 cm. long; the upper
part is bent and has a horse-head carved on it; the middle
part of the stick forms the knee-joints of the horse, and
the lower end is fashioned into a hoof. Little bells,
one of which is larger than the rest, are tied to the horse-staves.
Likewise small conical weights of iron, khoubokho, or kholbogo,
blue, white, yellow and red-coloured ribbons, and strips of
ermine and squirrel fur.
The Olkhon Buryat,
say Agapitoff and Khangaloff, have one other property, called
shire. It is a box three and a half feet long and one foot
deep, standing on four legs, each two feet high. On the box
are hung ribbons, bells, strips of skin, and on one
of the long sides different figures are carved or painted
in red. Usually on the right side is represented the sun,
and on the left, the moon. The sun is depicted as a wheel,
and in the middle of the moon there is a human figure holding
a tree in one hand. In the middle of the long side there are
three images of secondary gods, one woman and two men, in
whose honour wine is sprinkled several times a year. There
are also war implements-bow and quiver and sword, and under
each human figure there is a horse. The shire is used to hold
horse-staves, drums, and other ritual implements.
the Buryat shaman has also a whip
with bells, but generally all these implements tend to
disappear in modern times.
On the shaman's head
cover of the Samoyed and the Ob-Ostyak:
certain places the tadibey (Samoyed shaman) uses a cap
with a visor, and over the leather coat jingling trinkets and
little bells and strips of cloth of various shades are hung.
In this ornamentation the number seven plays an important role.
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