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attached to their predictions. Both Ostiaks and Russians, of all religious sects, frequently consult them about what is to happen to them in the most important proceedings of life, and such applicants are said to have been invariably satisfied, and never to have doubted, even for a moment, the truth of the revelations made to them.
The Shamans keep up this reputation by making as sparing a use as possible of their faculty of soothsaying. It is not at everybody's call that they prophesy; and when they do, it is after the most earnest and repeated solicitations; besides, they must be liberally remunerated. No revelation of the future can be obtained from them at a lower price than the value of a reindeer, which is equivalent to five rubles, and is an amount which such poor people as the Ostiaks cannot well afford. Hence it is very rarely, and only in extraordinary cases, that the Shamans are applied to, and it may be chiefly owing to this policy that their character as soothsayers is held in such a high respect.*
* Shamanism—the most flagitious system of imposture ever practised upon mankind—is founded on the alleged
This policy indeed operates as a charm on the mass of the people, and they are not able to agency of evil spirits, and, under a threat of their haunting them in this world and in the next, the priests terrify their followers into everything they desire. According to Cottrell, the only boast of the Shamans is their power
of doing mischief, and by this they extort from the credulous Mongols everything that a person under the influence of fear can perform. They are by their own desire buried in cross-roads, or some conspicuous spot, in order, as they assert, to have the greater power after death of tormenting the ill-fated population. They act as physicians, exorcists, and judges in cases of crime, among the northern tribes who hold their faith. Both men and women are initiated into what
be called a compound of sorcery and conjuring, rather than religion. In case of illness, they make use of incan. tations and sacrifices to drive out the evil spirits, as everything is attributed to their agency. They are supposed to be driven from the person diseased into some animal, which the Shaman designates. This process is attended by the most absurd ceremonies, accompanied with frequent and deep potations of the intoxicating kumiss. Spells and prayers, and a most unintelligible jargon, are employed to divine the fate of the person labouring under any illness for which they are called in. If the patient recover, the credit is theirs ; if not, they excuse the failure by discovering that the sacrifice was not acceptable to the evil spirit.
dispel it. In proof of this, I need only refer to one case, mentioned to me by a Russian ecclesiastic, as having occurred to himself; and he was, I must say, in other respects clear-sighted enough, possessing intellectual powers far in advance of his flock. On one occasion, when on his tour of visitation to the parishes placed under his jurisdiction, he happened to be overtaken by a sudden snow-storm, and was obliged to seek shelter in a Ostiak yourta, situated a short distance from the road. "He met with an hospitable reception, and shortly afterwards was informed by his guides that a celebrated Shaman of the country was just at that time under the same roof.
As the snow-storm continued with unabated violence, the Russian prelate was compelled to remain in this company for several days; and to beguile the time, rather than from any feeling of curiosity, he conceived the idea of requiring the Shaman to tell him his fortune. The latter, however, aware of the rank and functions of his fellow-guest, and perhaps fearing to excite persecution, had no inclination to accede to his wishes. But getting more intimate, the prelate succeeded in gaining his confidence,
and the Shaman was at last induced to grant his request.
His prediction, I could observe, had produced a fearful impression on the prelate's mind; and though many years had elapsed, he could not, when relating it to me, suppress the horror he felt at it. He most solemnly assured me that, in addition to the incidents of his previous life, which the soothsayer had recounted to him exactly as they had happened, he foretold the change that was then approaching in his situation; and predicted the death of his son, a most hopeful youth, as well as the marriage and subsequent death of his daughter.
“Everything happened just as the Shaman predicted,” added the prelate, in a mournful tone. “I was transferred from my former place to another, an event I could not even have dreamt of; soon afterwards I lost my son; and my daughter married and is now dead. In short, everything, in its minutest particulars, was fulfilled as he had said it would occur. Nothing now is left to me but to wait calmly for the accomplishment of what still remains—and that
is my hour of death, which will not be long coming."
The emotion by which he was agitated in relating all this, failed not, as if by contagion, to communicate itself to me. I saw that his imagination was full of it; and in order to dispel the train of melancholy associations it had conjured up, I said :
“ It was unpardonable in the Ostiak Shaman to disseminate such prophecies, for although they must be false, they cause painful impressions.'
“ The fault was mine, not his," replied the prelate. “He long refused to gratify my curiosity, but being strongly pressed, he said: “The first appearance of a grey hair on thy head shall be the signal for thy departure from this world.'»
Whereupon I saw him smooth with his hand his long glossy beard and hair, both yet ravenblack.
“I am presently treading on the threshold of fifty,” said he, “and yet, against all order of nature, not a single hair of my head has turned silvery. Manifestly, it has pleased God in His