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This is the ancient religion (if religion it can be termed) of the Tartar and some of the other Asiatic tribes: it may be more properly denominated a belief in sorcery, and a propitiation of evil demons by sacrifices, frantic motions and gestures, and intolerable noises, rather than a worship of any kind. They have neither altars nor idols; and the more noise a Sseman, or priest, makes, the more intimately connected he is thought to be with the devil.
“The priests are men or women, married or single, and acquire their dignity easily enough. Whenever any individual wishes to be a Sseman, he pretends that the soul of a deceased priest has appeared to him in a dream, appointing him his successor. But previously to entering upon their business, they represent themselves for some time mad, assuming an alarmed and timid appearance. If the Ssemans are in function they wear a long robe of elk-skin, hung with small and large brass and iron bells, the weight of which is sometimes very considerable. Moreover, they carry staves, which are carved at the tops into the shape of horses' heads also hung with bells. With the assistance of these staves they leap to an extraordinary height. The respect they enjoy among their countrymen depends on the skill they possess in deceiving them.
“The followers of the Shaman religion have neither altars nor idols, but perform their sacrifices in a hut raised on an open space in a forest, or on a hill. There are no fixed periods for the performance of their ceremonies: births, marriages, and sickness are generally the occasions which call for them. The Sseman, or sometimes the donor, fixes upon the species, colour, and sex of the animal which is to be sacrificed. A horse, ox, sheep, or goat, is killed, its flesh eaten, and the skin and bones are suspended on a pole, Uncommon appearances in the atmosphere, or public calamities, call forth the most solemn sacrifices. Several persons having united for the purpose, they take a one year's colt, three sheep, and a male goat to the place fixed upon. The Sseman enters into the hut, and begins the ceremony by reading and chanting certain words, in the latter part of which he is joined by the audience. This being done, he sprinkles on all sides of the hut, and over the fire, spirits and milk, then coming forward, he commands the animals to be slaughtered, which is done by their hearts being torn out. The skin is stripped off in the shape of a bag, the head and feet remaining on it, and left suspended on poles. Whilst the flesh, with the exception of a few pieces which are thrown into the fire, is consumed by the audience. During all this time the Sseman continues repeating and chanting various words, and sprinkling about spirits and milk, in which he is occasionally supported by the congregation, which is generally more or less numerous according to the number of victims, of which they all partake.”
- AN APPENDIX
THE DEITIES AND MINOR DEITIES,
THE TERMS USED IN THE WORSHIP AND CEREMONIES, &c.
Acasanari, a manifestation of a deity in which he is heard but not seen. Acshava, the mystic syllable O'm. (See O'm, p. 136.) Acuti, a daughter of Swayambhuva. Aditi, one of the wives of Kasyapa, and the mother of the gods and suras. Adityas, the gods, the offspring of Aditi. Agastya, a pious and learned sage, translated to the heavens for his virtue, who reduced the monster Sanchanaga and carried him about in an earthen pot. He is said to have swallowed the sea and its contents. Agni, p. 115. Agnidra, a name of Agni. Agni Loka, the heaven of Agni. Agnipuri, a manifestation of a deity, in which a sound issues from fire or a meteor.
Ahilya, the wife of the rishi Gotama, seduced by Indra. (See Indra.) Aindra (Indra.) Aindri (Indrani.) Airavat, the elephant of Indra, produced at the churning of the ocean. Alaca, the residence or heaven of Kuvera. Alloo, a raw hide used by the Rajpoots, with which they cover themselves to assert their claim to a disputed property, p. 284. Amara Dasu, a leader of the Shikhs, p. 229. Ambha Matha, a Jaina Devi worshipped in Marwar and its neighbourhood. “The temples erected to her (the ruins of which possess great beauty,) are to be seen in the wildest parts of the high mountains with which Marwar abounds.” Ambea, the mother of the Curas (see Pandus, p. 248.)
Ambika, a name of Parvati.
Arjunu, one of the ten leaders of the Shikhs, p. 229. Arun, the son of Kasyapa and Vinata, the brother of Garuda, and the charioteer and harbinger of Surya. He is thus described as the dawn; and as a handsome youth without thighs or legs (see Surya), p. 127, Pl. 24. A'sa'purna, the Rajpoot goddess Hope. Asoca, a shrub sacred to Maha Deva; on particular ceremonies the buds of it are steeped in water, which is then drank. The flowers are very beautiful. Asuras (Asurs or Asoors), demons and giants, who, like the Titans, made war Sons of Diti.
Aswamedha, a sacrifice of a horse. The sanguinary part of this ceremony would, according to Mr. Colebrooke, appear, like that of the parushamedha, or human sacrifice, to be merely nominal, the horse, after certain ceremonies, being let loose. Mr. Ward, however, states that he is liberated only for a twelvemonth, when he is again taken, and being magnificently caparisoned, is, after various preliminary proceedings, slain by the hota or priest. He who offers a hundred sacrifices of a horse is entitled to the throne of Indra.
Aswini, a name of Parvati, who took the form of a mare, and was approached by Surya in the form of a horse. On their nostrils touching she was impregnated with sunbeams, and became the mother of the Aswini-Kumara, or twins of the Hindu
against the gods.
zodiac. Aswini-Kumara (see the foregoing article.) Atharva or Atharvana Veda, one of the
four Vedas. (See p. 137.)