bells in Northeast Asia
bells are of the A type, and of an alternative
type based on the classic A type.
indication of the location of these groups, see the Distribution
Tungus (or Ewenk); East Siberia, Stanovoi Mountains
Four tiger bells, on
the back of a shaman costume. In the collection of the Musée
de l'Homme, Paris (France). In the description that came with
the photographs, the bells are described as: Grelot, tête
de tigre en laiton, accroché au dos du costume chamanique.
Dimension en coupe longitudinale: 3,7 cm. (Religion / magique) Toungouse,
USSR - Siberie Orientale - Monts Stanovoi. (transl. Crotal bell,
tiger's head, made of brass, tied on the back of a shaman's costume.
Dimension in diameter: 3,7 cm. (Religion, magic). Tungus, USSR -
Oriental Siberia, Stanovoi mountains.).No year of collection is
Four tiger bells, together with ordinary
bells, and other metal objects
One of the tiger bells; photographs:
Courtesy Musée de l'Homme, Paris
with the help from Drs. Ingrid Groenen
Reported in 1975, in the exhibited collection of the Musée
de l'Homme in Paris (Fr). Seen again in 2009 in the
Musée Quay Branly, Paris, France.
Twelve tiger bells, on a shaman's costume. In the collection of
the St. Petersburg Museum of Ethnology; exhibited in the Tropen
Museum, Amsterdam during the exhibition 'From shaman to cyber
Detail of the costume. Photographs
courtesy Tropen Museum, Amsterdam
coat, in the Russian Ethnographic Museum,
St. Petersburg; detail from the front, with at least 25 tiger
The same shaman's coat, detail from the back, with at least
two tiger bells.
Pictures are details from photographs published in Art of
Valentina Gorbachova and Marina Federova (2008),
courtesy Parkstone Press Int. New York USA
Manjagir are a subgroup of the Ewenk, a large
Tungusic speaking ethnic group in East Siberia. For examples
of complete costumes such as these, see above
and in NE China.
An Ewenk shaman
Note the toli and the rows of bells;
almost certainly all these bells are tiger bells
Nanay (Amur river)
Sixteen tiger bells on a shaman tree; a drawing made by a
shaman named Inka, in Materialy po izobrazitel'nomu
iskusstvu narodov sibiri by S.V. Ivanov (Materials on the
fine arts of the Siberian people, in the 19th and early 20th century;
page 247 - 248). Description:
bark of the tree consists of crawling animals, the roots are formed
by giant snakes; the leaves are formed by toli (bronze
mirrors); the flowers are formed by jingle bells soeroeotsja
or kongokto; the tree's crown has many metal horns. The
horns, toli and kongokto were (..) an intriguing
part of every ritual shaman costume.
Toli are worn by the shamans on the chest. They believed
the toli could protect the shaman from good and bad acts
by humans; that they gave access to the truth and at the same
time protect the shaman's body against enemy arrows.
meaning of the kongokto is not entirely clear. One shaman
explained that the bell that was tied to the head dress of a shaman
houses the ajami: the protector spirit, the soul, and the
Such objects as copper toli and bells are surely from the
Nanay. They came into the area from Northeast China.
Translation of caption (courtesy
Elise Fafié, St. Hilaire-en-Morvan, Fr.):
117: Shamanic tree. After a drawing made by
a Nanay shaman. Amur Museum of Ethnography (?)
Collection of I.I. Kosminsky
original shape of the bells [in the drawing by the shaman Inka]
is interesting. The division of the bells with a vertical line
between two circles surrounded by arcs, are no coincidence and
not made up by the shaman. They represent in a simple way the
bells from Mancuria and China. On these bells we find representations
of eyes, nose and a big mouth, composed of two combined halves
of one bell. On illustration nr 118 (see below) two bells are
shown for comparison: left a drawing by a Nanaj; right: an original
bell from the museum in Amur. Copper bells of this type decorated
the head dresses of the shamans from Mancuria. (Translation:
courtesy Mrs. Veldhuys, Deventer, Neth.; bold by author)
of caption (courtesy Elise Fafié, St. Hilaire-en-Morvan,
Drawing 118. Bells
1: after a drawing by a Nanay shaman,
2. after an object in the exhibition of the Amur Museum
of Ethnography (?)
Thirteen tiger bells, on the girdle of a shaman's costume. In
the collection of the St. Petersburg Museum of Ethnology; exhibited
in the Tropen Museum, Amsterdam during the exhibition 'From
shaman to cyber space', 1998.
Tropen Museum, Amsterdam
by Arnoud van Haaft in March 2008:
the exhibition in the National museum in Kyzyl, capital of Tuva,
we have seen such bells on shaman costumes; unfortunately no photographs.'
of the A type, and of an alternative type based on the A
type and possibly recently made.
shaman's coat, with more than 60 classic type A tiger bells,
now in the Danish National Museum in Copenhagen, belonged
to the Solon shaman Delger Bugu. He had inherited the costume
from his father, a Buryat from Zabaikal district. This is the only
report of classic type A tiger bells with the Buryat.
SHAMAN'S RITUAL BLESSING WHIP (Bardag) ( (item No: Bardag 01)
Origin: Northern Mongolia (or Southern Siberia, Buryatiya)
Age: 45 - 25 years
Length: 600 mm approx.
Price: 198 English Pounds
very rare object, this shaman's ritual blessing whip or bardag
was used both to bless people and objects, and for the purification
of people and objects.
It is not a particularly old example, but is a genuine
used item, complete with its ritual metal work of tiger bells
and old iron cones. The old iron cones are far older than
the bardag, and probably came of a very old shaman's costume
or other ritual objects. It is also decorated with colored
woolen threads in the traditional way, which are tied to the
like these are held by shamans while they sing to their spirits,
and then when the spirits have taken them over and they are
in trance, they touch those gathered for the ceremony with the
bardag to bless and purify them.
The shaman holds the antler part, which is traditionally
the antler of a three year old stag. The shaman's hand would
be put through the blue silk ribbon attached to the antler
like a horse rider would put their hand through the strap
of a ridding crop.
of bardag have small models of the tools of the blacksmith
tied to them (hammers, anvils etc.) as well as weapons such
as small iron bows and arrows, the spirit of these the shaman
would use while in trance if they needed to battle hostile
spirits, or escape from them. Sometimes even model boats are
attached to bardags, should the shaman need to make
a hasty escape by water while in the spirit worlds.
the bardag ; right: detail with four of the tiger bells
close up of two of the tiger bells ; Right: a Buryat shaman from
Southern Siberia relaxing inside a yurt. He wears his ritual costume
including a metal shaman's mirror around his neck, and a bardag
resting on the floor, it's strap going around his right wrist.
Photographs: courtesy 3Worlds - The Shamanism Website
look at the design of the bells shows us that they are clearly tiger
bells. The square hoop is there and the face is present. However
the lines around the eyes (that in other bells form the line around
the eyes and the nose) are reduced to curved lines around the eyes
that start from the 'mouth'. This is not seen in other tiger bells
and makes these bells alternatives. The shaman with the whip on
the photograph is a Buryat. However it is not clear if the bells
on his whip are tiger bells. My impression is that these tiger bells
are recently made.
In M. A. Czaplicka's
Shamanism in Siberia, excerpts from Aboriginal Siberia
(1914), the chapter Accessories of the shaman, we find
several quotes from various authors on the use and meaning of
brass bells in the costume and paraphernalia. 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 bells. To read
the quotes, go to Quotes from Shamanism
M. Shirokogoroff is a well known authority on Tungus (or Ewenki)
shamanism. In his study The psychomental complex of the Tungus
shaman he describes several costumes. Shirokogoroff dates
the emergence of the Tungus shamanism complex in he 11th century.
of the Vienna Ethnological Museum, Austria: a photograph of two
shamans with costumes more or less similar to the Solon
costume from Inner Mongolia (with more than 60 tiger bells).
Two shamans. Note the toli's (round mirrors) and the
rows of bells.
It is almost certain that all these bells are tiger bells.
Photograph: courtesy Vienna Ethnological Museum
the Teyler's Museum in Haarlem (Neth.) a copy of the
book The costume of the Russian Empire by W. Miller
(published in London, 1803) is on display. One of the 73 engravings
shows a Mongol
female shaman in her ritual costume. We see bronze mirrors (toli)
and metal objects,, and on the lower rim of the costume, six crotal
bells. Possibly the row of bells continues at the back of the costume.
The color yellow indicates that the toli and the bells are made
of bronze. The bells are quite large but that is possibly the result
of an unintended exaggeration by the engraver. On
the bells' surface there is an indication of a design. The pages
of the book were displayed in an interactive media presentation
on a computer screen so it was impossible to get a more detailed
image of the design. It is however very well possible that these
bells are tiger bells. The entire costume is remarkably similar
to the costumes we know from the end of the 19th and the beginning
of the 20th century. That fact too makes it likely that the bells
are tiger bells.
The pictures were taken from the monitor screen;
courtesy: Teyler's Museum, Haarlem (The Neth.)
in April 2014
and photographs are copyrighted,
for information, please contact
F. de Jager
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