Page:Primitive Culture Vol 1.djvu/173

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155
SUPERNATURAL UNBINDING.

ment of Tomsk consists of the following hocus-pocus, a wonder to the Russians as well as to the Samoieds. The shaman sits down on the wrong side of a dry reindeer-hide spread in the middle of the floor. There he lets himself be bound hand and foot by the assistants. The shutters are closed, and the shaman begins to invoke his ministering spirits. All at once there arises a mysterious ghostliness in the dark space. Voices are heard from different parts, both within and without the yurt, while on the dry reindeer skin there is a rattling and drumming in regular time. Bears growl, snakes hiss, and squirrels leap about in the room. At last this uncanny work ceases, and the audience impatiently await the result of the game. A few moments pass in this expectation, and behold, the shaman walks in free and unbound from outside. No one doubts that it was the spirits who were drumming, growling, and hissing, who released the shaman from his bonds, and who carried him by secret ways out of the yurt.'[1]

On the whole, the ethnography of spiritualism bears on practical opinion somewhat in this manner. Beside the question of the absolute truth or falsity of the alleged possessions, names-oracles, doubles, brain-waves, furniture movings, and floatings in the air, there remains the history of spiritualistic belief as a matter of opinion. Hereby it appears that the received spiritualistic theory of the alleged phenomena belongs to the philosophy of savages. As to such matters as apparitions or possessions this is obvious, and it holds in more extreme cases. Suppose a wild North American Indian looking on at a spirit-séance in London. As to the presence of disembodied spirits, manifesting themselves by raps, noises, voices, and other

  1. Homer. Odyss. xiv. 345 (Worsley's Trans.); Beda, 'Historia Ecclesiastica,' iv. 22; Grimm, 'D. M.,' p. 1180 (an old German loosing-charm is given from the Merseburg MS.); J. Y. Simpson, in 'Proc. Ant. Soc. Scotland,' vol. iv.; Keating, 'Long's Exp. to St. Peter's River,' vol. ii. p. 159; Egede, 'Greenland,' p. 189; Cranz, 'Grönland,' p. 269; Castrén, 'Reiseberichte,' 1845-9, p,. 173.