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July 2021

Soc Sci Med. 1987 ; 24(12): 1085-93.

Behind shamanism: changing voices of Siberian Khanty cosmology and politics.

Balzer MM.

Siberian shamanism has roots in hunting traditions, kinship organization and soul beliefs which have changed under Soviet rule. Aspects of shamanic epistemology and curing survive, although native medical logic sometimes clashes with modern positivist medicine. Assumptions behind Siberian, particularly Khanty, shamanism are examined through analysis of training, seances and cosmology. The changing social context of shamanism is explored in a framework of Soviet pressure to reject shamanic 'superstitution' and 'exploration.' Shamans themselves have adapted their politics, diagnoses and symbolic actions to an increasingly cold social climate. Data results from ethno-historical and field research, including a summer 1975 trip to the Ob-Ugrian Khanty (Ostiak).

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