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Q1. Although shamans themselves are known for their use of verbal art as an important tool of their trade, one form of narrative that is important in shamanic traditions is the relating of stories about shamans by other members of the community. These tales may be told by friends, enemies, neighbors or clients.


These tales take on a legendary, epic nature. In communities that continue the shamanic traditions, narratives with shamanic protagonists serve to establish a communal code of conduct, providing a narrative model of idealized and stigmatized shamanic behaviors. They constitute a native discourse on the nature, efficacy, and dangers of shamanic practices. A practitioner's power can be described and also enhanced by such tales. Examples of such narratives can be found in Knud Ramussen's (1921) Eskimo Folk Tales. One typical story is that of Kuniseq who sets out on a spirit journey to the land of the dead with a spirit helper. The landscape is described as a slippery reef, changing into a field of heather, providing visual imagery for a better understanding of the nature of the spirit world. Kuniseq meets some children and his mother who tries to kiss him and offers him berries which he refuses, as one should never eat in the land of the dead if one intends to remain with the living. In general, the tale provides a comforting representation of the land of the dead and the supporting role of the spirit helper. When Kuniseq dies soon after this journey, it is to be happily reunited with his deceased kin. The tale illustrates the shaman's familiarity with the spirit world, emphasizing his competence and also provides information on the other world of interest to listeners. ...
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