Healing Failed Faith? Contemporary Siberian Shamanism



The agony of public and private changes in Russia (the Federation of Rossiia) has extended to indigenous peoples of Siberia. Focus on the Sakha Republic Yakutia) of the Far East enables analysis of diverse social, political, and spiritual transformations. Initial 1990s euphoria at the possibility of personal and community reform has yielded to confusion and soul searching. In such conditions, shamanic revitalization has become both popular and controversial in rural and urban contexts. Diverse shamanic activities and styles reveal a fragmentation of tradition. While disillusion with failed faith healers is rife, several nascent shamanic movements have attracted eclectic groups of followers. The two shamanic leaders featured here are attempting philosophical, social, and ecological reforms. Their movements and reputations transcend the personal healing of multicultural clients.

This article, inspired by the writing and example of Edith Turner, draws attention to the interrelationship between individual and community healing. Data, based on frequent fieldwork in the Far East since 1986, help augment and critique literature on revitalization movements, shamanism, gender, and nationalism.