The archaic Bisha shaman

 

In a short article entitled "Comparative research of the Daba and Dongba religion" Yang Xuezheng provided the first news about a kind of religious specialist that would be active among the Moso, the Naxi and other peoples of the so called Tibetan-Yi ethnic corridor, the region west of Liangshan prefecture and east of Ganzi prefecture supposed scenario of the migration of some Tibeto-Burman peoples.

After a short introduction that shows the reader some of the common features of Daba and Dongba religion, among them the emphasis in their cults to nature and ancestors spirits, the author concentrates in the less known bicha shamans, that usually acting as helpers of Dongba or Daba priests, in the areas where there are no Dogbas or Dabas priests, or when people is to poor to pay for the services of these ritualists, can perform the funeral ceremonies of leading the soul of the dead to the ancestors' land.

The bicha shamans worship the ancestors, specially the first ancestress of the Moso, Zehongjijimi, they are clearly related to their matriarchal clan society, with their range of action usually restricted to the clan they belong. The shaman of the clan is also characteristic of some of the Tungus peoples living in North China and Siberia.

These bicha shaman originally performing their rituals for the Moso people, are performing now also for the Naxi living in the eastern part of their territory and for the peoples living in the Zang-Yi corridor of western Sichuan. All these peoples preserve an original religion based in nature and ancestral cults full of similarities. Among them the bicha shaman are mainly performing the ritual to send the soul of the dead to the ancestors' land that is basically the same among these peoples, with variations occurring only in the place names that signal their former migrations, ending always in an undetermined land in the northwest.

Yang Xuezheng considers that the bicha shaman religion would be older than both Dongba and Daba religion. It would be the common religion of the ancestors of the Naxi and Moso peoples. Later, the social development of the Naxi and Moso will follow different roads, as can be seen in the older Dongba scriptures and Daba myths, that reflect the stages of the historical and social development of the Naxi and Moso.

External influences, philosophical and historical aspects, main ancestors and even the use of the pictographs are compared in this research to conclude that both Dongba and Daba religion share the same origin and character and that, among many similarities, at least there are these important differences:

The ancestors of Daba and Dongba religion are different.

The deities worshipped in both religions are different.

The gender of their worshipped ancestors is also different, the male Congrenlien for the Dongba and the female Ajiduolomi for the daba.

While the dongba religion put the emphasis in worshipping nature, Daba religion stresses the totemic and sexual cults of the Moso.

Its interesting to remark that in the 32 pictographic signs discovered by the author as used in Moso calendrical books, those related (depicting) the female sex are the first days of the year and at the same time specially auspicious.

Daba jiao he dongba jiao bijiao yanjiu (A comparative research of the Daba and Dongba religions). Yang Xuezheng. In Zhongjiao lunkao (Essays about religion) Yunnan Peoples Press. Kunming, 1986

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