Ritual specialists among the Pumi


In Lanping County

Among the Pumi of Lanping there are two kinds of ritual specialists. One is called shibidai or big sorcerer. He acts as a psychopomp, accompanies the souls in the afterlife and presides the ceremony of giving a sheep to the dead (to guide his/her soul to the land of the ancestors), and the ceremony of opening the way (for the soul to return to the land of the ancestors).

The shibigece is considered inferior in rank. He usually performs divination to heal illness, worships gods and spirits, dances with spirits, expels and beats spirits, and goes in search of the soul. Usually they don't wear any special dress though in some ceremonies they can wear a yellow dress. He usually carries some magical instruments, as knife, drum, cymbals and a branch of a peach tree.

In Weixi and Lijiang the Pumi people call their priest dongba (due to Naxi nationality's influence) and their sorcerers, shibi. The dongba perform the afterlife ceremonies, as the shibidai in Lanping, though their ritual dress and instruments reflect Naxi's influences). The shibi performs the same ceremonies than the shibigece.

In Ninlang County

In Ninlang, Muli and Yanyuan the Pumi call their sorcerer hangui, that means the "parrot of beautiful words", because they dress with red clothes and a green headdress during their ceremonies, and they are good praying and singing. The Pumi worship parrots because they think that after dead, the parrots can guide the souls to the land of the ancestors. Parrots, as their sorcerers, are natural intermediaries between the human and magical realms.

These hangui always are male. They are more related with the Tibetan religion (most of them study in Tibetan areas) than to the religious specialists of the Yi, Naxi or Moso. They know both the Pumi's original religion and the Tibetan Buddhism. They are called haba in Tibetan, and are held in great esteem by the people. They perform a variety of ceremonies to the Pumi people, as heal illness, divinations, expel the spirits, and carry on funerals, marriages and feasts to the ancestors. They solve some conflicts among the members of the community.

They have also some lesser ritual specialists called hasibi and bizha. They are helpers who assist the hangui in the ceremonies.

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