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Dialogues posthumes…

Being an assistant to a shaman

An autobiographical essay
Être l’assistant d’un chamane : un essai autobiographique
Tanka Subba


Cet article est un récit autobiographique qui repose sur l’expérience de l’auteur comme assistant d’un chamane. Il aborde la pauvreté, la croyance aux mauvais esprits et les pratiques chamaniques dans un hameau limbu de la région de Kalimpong, située entre le Sikkim et le Bhoutan. Après avoir brièvement discuté l’état de chamane, l’auteur raconte comment il est devenu assistant du chamane qu’il avait dû quérir pour soigner son frère malade. L’auteur souligne également que les chamanes, ou phedaṅgmā en langue limbu, deviennent rares, car pour devenir chamane il ne suffit pas de le désirer ou de suivre une formation auprès d’un maître. C’est un destin, dont les signes se manifestent très tôt dans l’enfance, sous forme d’un comportement anormal à des moments clés du calendrier et par la consommation de certains aliments. Au final, l’auteur s’inquiète du devenir du chamanisme, qui semble perdre du terrain face aux religions organisées comme l’hindouisme, le bouddhisme et le christianisme.

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Entrées d’index

Mots-clés :

Limbu, chamane, phedaṅgmā, transe

Géographique :

Kalimpong, Inde
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Texte intégral

  • 1 I am indebted to Dr. Melanie Vandenhelsken for reading an early draft of this paper and giving valu (...)

1Who is a shaman? No one seems to have provided a universally acceptable definition. I agree with Pharo (2011: 6) that the main difficulty in this regard stems from “translating concepts from one cognitive-linguistic system to another”. For instance, a prominent scholar in the field of shamanism (Sidky, 2010b) draws elaborate distinctions between jhā̃krī and dhāmī in Nepal on the basis of ethnographic data collected between 1999 and 2008 to argue that all religious intercessors are not shamans. According to him, a shaman “is a socially recognized part-time ritual intercessor, a healer, problem-solver, and interpreter of the world whose calling is involuntary and involves a transformative initiatory crisis” (2010b: 231). Pharo (2011: 6) also argues that “the fundamental spatial feature which distinguishes shamans from other categories of religious specialists is their unique command of ritual techniques that enable them to move between human and preternatural space, e.g., from the mundane world to the supernatural one and back again”1.

2Mircea Eliade, a pioneer in the field of shamanistic studies, defines a shaman as “the great master of ecstasy” (1964: 4). The word “ecstasy”, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, means “a state of extreme happiness or pleasure”. The shaman I assisted for several years during my childhood was not a shaman in this sense, as he never showed ecstasy in anything he did. On the contrary, his voice, while in trance, always gave me the sense of pain, agony, and fear. Rather, he fitted well with the definition of shaman given by Mary MacDonald (2002: 60): “A religious practitioner who having undergone a series of initiatory trials claims to have the ability to communicate with other worlds, to heal the sick, to rescue lost souls, and to escort souls to the abode of the dead.”

3Was the shaman the first priest of mankind all over the world? Sidky (2010a) does not seem to agree with this general belief, due, according to him, to the lack of conclusive evidence to support the same. The shaman might not be the first priest of mankind, but he certainly took care of the spiritual needs of people everywhere in the world till they slowly embraced organised religions.

4Kværne (2009) does not agree with the general assumption about bonpos, or the pre-Buddhist priests of Tibet, that they are shamans, and says that, unlike shamans, bonpos were “highly specialized ritual experts belonging to a cult centering on the person of the king or his court” (2009: 23).

5It appears from the above that scholars do not share a common imagery of shamans. While for Sidky shamans are more accomplished among the religious intercessors, for Kværne they are ritually not great experts. But for Sagant, such variations were not important, as they all were part of a single, coherent system. Shamanism certainly had variations, spread as it was across the world, including Africa, although Eliade seems to have been ignorant about this continent (see Eliade, 1961). Even Sagant, who provides one of the most exhaustive definitions of shamans (1988: 32–36), not only differs with Eliade on the distinction between a “sacrificing priest” and a “medium”, but also claims that Eliade was incapable of seeing “the closeness of the tie between the shaman and society” (1988: 35).


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6Initially I assisted the shaman I fetched home almost every evening because there would usually be no one around to do this errand for my family, but later the shaman himself began to seek my assistance. Those days I lived with my mother and two younger siblings in one part of the house of my grandparents in a village called Tanek in the Kalimpong District of West Bengal. The walls were made of clay and stone and the roof was thatched with wild grass. During the rainy season the roof leaked almost everywhere, and I remember trying to prevent such water from wetting our beds or the wooden floor by placing utensils of different shapes and sizes wherever the water leaked from the roof. The sound of the water dropping on such utensils at different intervals sounds romantic to me now, but it was irritating then, as it kept me awake longer than I would have preferred to stay awake. I could not keep my lantern on beyond 7 pm, even during my examinations, as that would disturb the sleep of my grandparents, who lived in one of the rooms of the house and who went to sleep very early. We were all scared of our grandmother, who was like a real matriarch. There was no ceiling in the house. Hence, if our part of the house had a lantern on, the whole house would be bright to some extent. In another room lived my youngest paternal uncle, his wife, and three children. On our side of the house slept, in addition to my mother, brother, sister and myself, the family members of one of my classificatory aunts, who was a widow and who felt scared to sleep in her own house at night with two of her mentally handicapped children.

7My younger brother used to be seriously ill most of the time. So I had to go and call the local shaman almost every evening after I returned home from school. I had to walk about five miles from school to arrive home; it took me about two hours to walk and in the winters it used to get dark when I arrived home. The return walk was mostly downhill but it was not less tiring. My bare feet would scorch on the motorable road but there were a few narrow footpaths that provided short-cuts to my destination and succour to my feet. A shaman, called phedaṅgmā in the Limbu language (see Sagant, 1988, 1996 for details on Limbu shamans), lived about 150 metres from our home with his wife, a son who was of my age, and a younger daughter of my sister’s age. The two children could never go to school due to poverty. All of them lived in a one-room thatched house with bamboo wicker as walls. There was a small opening facing the roadside and there was no door. Except for an earthen jar in one corner, a few aluminium vessels near the hearth and a few straw mats on the floor, there was literally nothing in his house. A few clothes would be hung on a rope made out of tender bamboo skin alongside the wall opposite the hearth. I do not remember him sitting upright ever except when he was required to do so. Generally, he used to lie down sideways wherever possible, with one leg over the other and his right hand serving as a pillow. His wife often had nothing to cook in the evenings for him, her, and their two minor children, but he never complained about his poverty, nor did he ever beg anyone for food. He himself rarely ate any rice. Whoever invited him for ritual work offered him some fried egg, meat, and a tongba (bamboo filled with fermented millet to be sipped with the help of a bamboo pipe with holes at the bottom), which was all he needed for the evening, and the next day was never a worry for him. He did not charge any money for his services nor did he ever act pricey when someone came to call him. His wife came to my mother for a handful of rice to cook in the evening whenever she had nothing to cook, which actually was quite often. She helped us with agricultural work in lieu of the rice she took from us. We ourselves did not always have rice to cook and I remember going to sleep without food sometimes, but my mother never went to anyone to borrow rice, not even to my grandparents living in the same house, who had plenty of paddy and maize.

8As I understood later, my brother had Down’s syndrome and he used to be seriously ill most of the time till he grew to about seven or eight years of age. He might also have been attacked by meningitis during early childhood, going by certain symptoms he had, but I am not sure. He suffered from very high fever and he used to appear unconscious in the dim light of a kerosene lamp or the flickering light of firewood burning in the hearth. He was born when my mother was well past forty years of age and a smoker of local tobacco wrapped in paper or corn husks. She generally kept poor health but had to work very hard to bring up her three children all by herself and with a little cash from selling milk to a local dairy and later to a Marwari family in Kalimpong town. Besides taking care of my brother, she had to go to the forest every morning to collect grass for the cow. During vacations and holidays, I helped her with her daily chores, including collecting fodder and firewood from the forest.

9My father used to teach in a school in eastern Bhutan and would be away from home for the whole year except for one month during the winter vacation. There was no way he could keep in touch with us on a regular basis except through letters that took more than a month to reach us. He did not get his salary regularly and at times the salary would be paid to him in kind. When he got some money, he would send a money order to me, but that was not possible more than a couple of times a year. So my mother managed the expenses by borrowing against her gold ornaments that were almost always mortgaged with a Marwari in Kalimpong town, except briefly in winter when my father came and cleared the mortgage, only to be re-mortgaged a few months after he left. His vacation would become shorter, as he needed seven days to come home and eight days to go back to school, and going was all the way an uphill walk across several rivers and mountains. He crossed the Manas Wildlife Sanctuary in Assam on a bullock cart, after which it was all the way to his school on foot. It was a lot of hardship but, being located in a remote place, he could save almost every rupee he got from the Bhutanese government. His expenses were virtually zero. Although it was only a primary school, the schoolboys were grown up and some of them were even married. They collected vegetables from the kitchen garden or nearby forest, eggs from villagers, and fish from the river close by. They cooked food for my father and for themselves. Meat was rare, as the killing of animals was forbidden in Bhutan, but it was available once in a while, especially when a high-level official visited the village.

10Back home in Kalimpong, my two elder half-sisters were married off quite early to men from Pudung, a village located on the other side of the Kalimpong ridge at a distance of about 12 miles from my village. My younger sister was too young to do the errands. Although the shaman’s house was very near, I had to cross two haunted places to reach his house. One was just next to our home. I had grown up hearing stories of ghosts appearing near the big banyan and papal trees next to our home. The other haunted place was near the house of the shaman himself. I used to feel scared but I had to do this errand, as the only thing that my mother knew to deal with my brother’s illness was to call the phedaṅgmā, who to us was like what Sagant calls a “family shaman” (1988: 23). My mother and I slept very little most of the nights because of my brother’s illness. Naturally, I dozed off in my classes the next day, especially if the classes were boring, which they usually were.

A phedaṅgmā shaman (Nepal)

A phedaṅgmā shaman (Nepal)

Photo Philippe Sagant, 1971; source: LESC_FPS_7.1.8, film 9.26

11The shaman never gave any excuses not to come with me, unlike Pirtung, the difficult-to-approach shaman described by Sagant. On arrival, he would first lie down sideways, with one leg on the other and his head resting on the grinding stone in the corner of our kitchen. He would then ask for a pinch of husked rice on a brass plate and start the divination. I saw him pairing off all the rice grains on the plate three times and sometimes five times with full concentration and chanting some mantras (incantations) softly. This is also how Pirtung did the divination (Sagant, 1988: 11). But sometimes the shaman from my village drew some lines on the mud floor of our kitchen with his khukuri (Nepali sword). After that, he told us to get certain things ready, such as an egg or a black cock, a brass jar filled with water and some broomstick leaves in it, some rice, some burning coal to burn the incense leaves, etc. By the time I got all that ready, it was often late in the evening. I would not know the time, as there was no clock or watch in our house. Nor was there electricity in the village. So when he completed the ritual it would perhaps be midnight sometimes. Luckily for me, he never asked me to accompany him back to his house at night, or else I would have had a scary return home at midnight, which is the time for the ghosts to rise from the graves and become active, or so I had heard from childhood days.

12One of the attractions the small rituals he performed had for me was that once the rituals were over, I would break the egg on a small container made of banana leaf and roast it on fire and eat it. If a cock was to be killed, it was even more attractive, as I got all the entrails to clean, roast in the fire, and eat. My mother ate very little, my sister would be long asleep, and my brother would hardly be conscious to eat anything for days.

13This happened at least once or twice in a week. There was no doctor or nurse in the village and my mother had no money to hire a jeep to take my brother to a doctor in town or pay the doctor’s fees. If my brother’s health did not improve after those small rituals, the shaman tried something bigger, which at times lasted the whole night. Such rituals required greater preparations and relatives came forth to assist us with the preparations as well as the expenses attached to the same. Someone brought the leaves of a sacred tree and broomsticks, others collected reeds for preparing the temporary altar, and yet others attended to other things. A makeshift structure, small but very elaborate in design and in a way quite attractive in appearance, would be created in the courtyard facing north; it would be given final touches by the shaman. While I assisted him at every step, I did many things myself. When everything was ready, the shaman would go to the kitchen, take a few deep sips from his tongba, and be ready for the ritual. He asked for two brass plates, one for himself and another for me or some other boy present there to beat with a stick to his rhythm and to his dance. He did not dance alone. Someone needed to accompany him, beating the plate and dancing around the make-shift altar. The dancing movement would be clockwise as well as anti-clockwise, but perhaps more clockwise than anti-clockwise. Most of the steps were on one leg, changing the legs with every three beats; we were on both legs only when we needed to turn around. The shaman decided when we both turned around, and that would be without prior notice, which sometimes led to a funny situation because if the assistant was not very alert, he (never she) certainly bumped into the shaman. One of my paternal uncles, who was of the same age as I, often volunteered for the dance, but since he did not always turn around at the right moment he was not a favourite for the shaman. Hence, I had to be his assistant most of the time at our house, and, at times, even in the houses of other nearby relatives in the village whenever the shaman was invited. As he approached the moment for trance, the beat would be faster and faster, and just before the trance he would sit and beat the plate very fast but softly for about a minute and then stop but continue to shake vigorously. After a few seconds, the shaman would start speaking in the voice and language of the spirit that possessed him and facilitated the elderly persons assembled to interact with the spirit. The shaman would be shaking during the entire period of trance. When the trance was over, he would sound tired and would not speak for a while. Then he would advise what to do and what not to do on the basis of what the spirit of the dead person had said.

14The shaman had a wonderful voice and, while performing the ritual, he rarely spoke in Nepali except sometimes to ask me for something, as I knew very little of my language. While in trance he spoke in what is called the “Old Limbu” language which, I was told, was not too difficult to understand by those who knew the Limbu language well, but was not commonly spoken by Limbus anywhere in the region. Some words were not understood even by those who knew the language well, but that did not matter much because they could easily guess the meaning on the basis of the context.

15Actually, I was quite fluent in the Limbu language until I was about eight years old, but after I started going to schools away from home, I had very limited opportunities to speak in my language with my grandparents, who always spoke Limbu between them. And whenever they spoke Nepali with us, their pronunciation was so bad that we laughed and corrected their pronunciation. My parents knew the Limbu language well but they never spoke it between them, or with us children. In those days, it was also considered to be a rustic—or worse still a cannibalistic—thing to speak in the Limbu language and a prestigious thing to be able to speak in Nepali. So we all spoke in Nepali for convenience, as well as to show that we were not rustic or cannibals. The respect and pride for the Limbu language is still not there among the younger generation of the Limbus of Darjeeling and Kalimpong, which may be one of the reasons why not many Limbus there can speak their language well.

16I considered it lucky for me to have a shaman nearby. There are scores of villages in the Darjeeling-Sikkim Himalayas where shamans have become extinct, unlike what Sidky mentions about Nepal (2010b). The problem was further compounded because not every shaman could preside over every critical life and death ritual of Limbus. Hence, no matter how far one had to travel to fetch a shaman, they had to get one with the necessary knowledge to perform a ritual, especially a death ritual. For instance, when my grandmother died, someone had to go and fetch a shaman from Sikkim because the village shaman was not alive anymore. For some minor ailments believed to be generally caused by the wrath of household, clan, or forest deities, or spirits of ancestors, my grandfather and his two younger brothers knew what to do and what to chant. Once I was also taken to an old man called Yakkha Baje who lived about three kilometres from my home to treat my frozen neck, as my own grandfather’s efforts to treat me proved futile. He first scolded me for stealing something from someone’s kitchen garden, which he said was guarded by a certain spirit and hence the frozen neck. I was aware of spirits guarding crops, but at that age the drive to steal fruit, sugarcane, etc. was so strong that I did not bother about the consequences. Such spirits or deities were all called “god”, indicated by the word Samang (also Sam in short) in the Limbu language, such as Asek Samang (Snake God), Saba Samang (Monkey God), Pung Samang (Hunter’s God), Maya Samang (Eagle God), and Kudhap Samang (Forest God). The names of some other gods, however, did not have the word Samang, such as Chokhoba (Sun God) and Tutulima (Wind God) (for details, see Subba, 1999). After scolding me, he uttered some sacred words, scattered some ashes here and there, touched a certain part of my neck, and asked me to straighten it. To my pleasant surprise, my neck became normal.

17Sagant describes (1988: 20–21) a similar story in which a person called Pipunem was not able to stretch the arm that he had used for killing a goat that had strayed into his field and feasted on his tomatoes. The goat unfortunately belonged to Pirtung, the dreaded Limbu shaman. His arm became alright only after Pirtung was placated with local drinks and agreed to treat his arm.

18When I was a child it was common for many of us in my village to fall ill. But when we suffered from illnesses like acute chest pain, stomach-ache, a burning sensation in the chest, losing consciousness, turning pale, loss of appetite, etc., we first approached our grandfather for treatment. There were also a few other elderly men in the village, like the two younger brothers of my grandfather, or his first two sons, who knew what to do in such situations. Only if there was no tangible result would we call the shaman. We also wanted to avoid calling him because it was essential to serve tongba whenever he came. Although we always kept fermented millet, rice or wheat in large earthen jars in the corner of our kitchen, perhaps to maintain a certain temperature, as I understand now, at times the stock ran dry or the fermentation was not good enough to be offered to the shaman. Of course, we never threw away even the badly fermented grains but fed them to our cows, goats, and pigs. The pigs were particularly fed with such food for about a month before they were killed during the Dussehra festival.

19At some point of time in my childhood, I, like many children of our village, was quite captivated by the shaman and I guess I wanted to become one like him. I once asked him if I could become a shaman. In reply, he said, “No matter what class you pass, you can never become a phedaṅgmā, as you do not have any symptoms of becoming one. You have to be born to be one and, by this age, you should have started showing symptoms of becoming a phedaṅgmā.” As I learned later, one of the most important reasons why shamans had become rare everywhere was because they could not be trained like the priests in organised religions. It was also believed that the shamans did not share their knowledge with anyone because that would make their performance less effective than if they did not share. Hence, I have difficulty in accepting the claim of Sidky that there is a “thriving and dynamic shamanistic tradition in Nepal”, as my fieldwork in the early 1990s in East Nepal showed that shamans had started becoming rare (Subba, 1999).

20Becoming a shaman, as I realised over time, happens not by training but by destiny. A shaman begins to show some abnormal behaviour from childhood. He begins to shake vigorously or fall sick during full moon and new moon, or when he takes a certain food, or visits a certain sacred place, and so on. The most powerful shamans are those who are believed to be taken away by a jungle man deep into the forest or high up in the mountains and are kept atop a tree for a year or so, fed with insects and larvae, and are trained to handle the world of spirits, to identify the characteristics of various spirits, to know when they are angry and when they are not, and to know how to placate them with sacrifices of animals and birds, or simply with the offerings of water and flowers, or with burning of dry pine leaves, or to drive them away by burning dry chillies. In short, a shaman is trained to communicate with the spirits of dead persons as well as other wandering spirits. During rituals, he first seeks the blessings of his guardian deity before he begins to shake vigorously and goes into a trance, uttering words that he does not say or remember when he is back to a normal state. It is believed that he can see and speak to the spirits of dead persons, which common people cannot do. He can persuade the spirits not to bother a sick person and be content with the offerings made to them. He can tell them to go back to the place where the spirits of dead persons live instead of wandering around wanting to take some of their relatives to their world. There are elaborate rituals and sacrifices to prevent the death of family members who are wanted by the spirits, and if the rituals are not performed, people believe that the spirits of the dead persons will take them away to the world of the dead.

21In more senses than one, the make-shift altar becomes symbolic of the shaman establishing contact with the spirits, and after the communication is over he starts to disentangle himself slowly from the world of the spirits. Once the trance is over and the spirit has spoken through him, he gradually starts to cut apart all the knots made with white thread on the altar, one by one, uttering sacred words. Finally, the whole altar is dismantled and thrown into some clean place, leaving no trace of the altar. The untying of the knots is apparently symbolic of the untying of his relationship with the spirits.

22Death rituals are serious matters and hence more elaborate arrangements are made, and only accomplished shamans are called upon to preside over such rituals because they alone can guide the spirit of the dead person all the way to the land of the dead, which is located somewhere high up in the Himalayas. At first, the spirit of the dead person does not agree to leave its near and dear ones, prompting the shaman to placate it by making all kinds of offerings, and if that does not work he even reprimands the spirit. He helps the spirit travel to the ultimate land and it is believed that it takes several days to reach there. He takes a break when he reaches a certain destination and resumes travel with the spirit again till they reach the final destination. The elderly men and women who would have gathered for the occasion also try and encourage the spirit to leave the world of living human beings.

23I still do not have any rational explanation about one incident related to the shaman who was brought from Sikkim for the death ritual of my grandmother. It was quite late in the evening when the shaman arrived from Sikkim and started the ritual after a brief rest. The altar was already prepared under the supervision of my grandfather. While some village boys were busy playing carom or cards in the courtyard and the girls were busy serving tea to them, I was with a group of elderly women assembled around the place where the makeshift altar was erected for the ritual. After a while, the shaman started calling the spirit of my grandmother. At first, she refused to come. After some persuasion and enticement by the shaman, she finally came, and, when that happened, the shaman went into a trance and his voice changed into a woman’s voice. She—the spirit of my grandmother—then started telling us which cow to give to which daughter. It was impossible for anyone from outside the family to know the names of the three milk cows she was distributing. Then she said that she had hidden some silver coins in her wooden almirah (wardrobe) and she also said that there were 89 of them. I got the key from my grandfather, rushed to their room with two other boys, and found the coins there exactly in the same number as the female voice said. If my grandfather did not know about it there was no way the shaman, who lived a day’s travel away, could have known about it.

24During the dialogue with the spirit of my grandmother, she also said that she wanted to take her third daughter, who was married within the village, along with her. The crowd of elderly men and women told her not to do so, as her daughter had young children to look after. She said that she felt lonely and she wanted the company of her daughter, who was a widow anyway. Incidentally, her third daughter died within a year of my grandmother’s death, although rituals were performed, as advised by the shaman, to avoid such an eventuality.

25Even after more than three decades this incident is still vivid in my memory. It shows, among other things, that the shaman makes it possible for the common people to interact with spirits, a privilege that otherwise belongs exclusively to him. In other words, he temporarily transfers that special power of his to communicate with the spirits to the common people. This reminds me of what Sagant says about the link between social relationships and the shamanic intervention, or what he calls “the layman’s interpretation” (Sagant, 1988).


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26As I grew up, I became more and more occupied with my education, which included martial arts and music. I was also attracted to the communist ideology and, through that, the idea of atheism came to me early in life. The villager who organised music classes for us also organised classes on communist indoctrination every week. While I gave up music, martial arts, and active politics over time, the communist values and atheism have remained deeply ingrained in me. Yet, I was never disrespectful to shamans or the values my people attached to our traditional beliefs and practices.

27I often wonder about the future prospects of shamanism in the face of growing competition from organised religions like Hinduism, Buddhism, and Christianity, which seek to increase their clientele and gain dominance over other religions. There is an additional cause for worry, as religions in India are increasingly being drawn into politics. The prospect of shamanism in the future, in my view, will depend on whether or not an ecosystem of shamanism can be created and maintained. This would include the use of the vernacular language at home, in the community and in schools; state patronage; and, above all, the will of the people to protect this ancient and oral form of religion.

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Eliade, Mircea
1961 Recent works on shamanism: A review article,
History of Religions, 1 (1): 152–186; DOI: 10.1086/462442.

1964 Shamanism: Archaic Techniques of Ecstasy, trans. by Willard R. Trask (New York, Harper & Row).

Kværne, Per
2009 Bon and shamanism,
East and West, 59 (1-4): 19–24.

MacDonald, Mary N.
2002 Introduction: Shamans, scholars, and seekers, Journal of Ritual Studies, 16 (2): 60–62.

Pharo, Lars Kirkhusmo
2011 A methodology for a deconstruction and reconstruction of the concepts “shaman” and “shamanism”,
Numen, 58 (1): 6–70; DOI: 10.1163/156852711X540087.

Sagant, Philippe
1988 The shaman’s cure and the layman’s interpretation,
Kailash, XIV (1-2): 5–40.

1996 The Dozing Shaman: The Limbus of Eastern Nepal (Delhi, Oxford University Press).

Sidky, Homayun
2010a On the antiquity of shamanism and its role in human religiosity,
Method & Theory in the Study of Religion, 22 (1): 68–92; DOI: 10.1163/094330510X12604383550963.

2010b Ethnographic perspectives on differentiating shamans from other ritual intercessors, Asian Ethnology, 69 (2): 213–240.

Subba, Tanka B.
Politics of Culture: A Study of Three Kirata Communities in the Eastern Himalayas (Chennai, Orient Longman).

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1 I am indebted to Dr. Melanie Vandenhelsken for reading an early draft of this paper and giving valuable suggestions for improvement. I am also grateful to the three anonymous reviewers and Gisele Krauskopff, the editor of this issue of the journal, for helping me improve this paper considerably.

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Titre A phedaṅgmā shaman (Nepal)
Crédits Photo Philippe Sagant, 1971; source: LESC_FPS_7.1.8, film 9.26
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Tanka Subba, « Being an assistant to a shaman »Ateliers d’anthropologie [En ligne], 49 | 2021, mis en ligne le 11 janvier 2021, consulté le 29 novembre 2023. URL : ; DOI :

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Tanka Subba

Professor, North-Eastern Hill University

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