Reviews

Jean During and Sultonali Khudoberdiev give an anthropological study of the figure of the bakhshi, and more largely of Shamanism and correlated practices in Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.  They explore rituals in order to account for not only the “content of Shamanic experience,” but also the referential structures of these still understudied practices.  The book is composed of two parts.  The first deals systematically with officiants of shamanic rituals, their hierarchy and specificities.  A general presentation of bakhshis and of their powers is followed by a dense chapter on different forms of ceremonies.  The practices of healers (kinachi, emgar, qoshnâjchi and sadqâqchi), of forecasters (fâlbin), and bakhshi (including the ritual cycle of koch) are successively analysed.  Accurate and lively descriptions of shamans, of rituals and of invocated spirits are completed by transcriptions and translations of texts, and by restitution of used melodies and rhythms.  The book’s second part, by Jean During, is more analytic and puts all these practices into perspective, from a psychological as well as from a therapeutic and a religious viewpoints.  The first chapter gets back to “Shamanic experiences” and seeks for the undersides of the ritual in order to understand the mechanisms of effectiveness.  From the analysis of the dhikr and of its place in Shamanic rituals, the author gradually comes to the issue of religion and the sacred, devoting his second chapter to exorcism practices.  Figureheads of dâmla and jahrchi (exorcists in Boysun region) are here presented, the latter analysed in detail through descriptions and life stories.  Finally these data are confronted with the mullah’s viewpoint, which allows a comparison between “religious science” and “Shamanic therapeutic”.  The book ends with a synthesis on the bakhshi’s methods, on the Sufi component of these rituals, and Turkic and Iranian elements in them.  The richness of this work is first due to its ethnographic and above all philological data—the rituals’ integral texts being transcribed, translated and commented by Jean During.  Besides, the author’s distanced and comparative approach enables to view the bakhshi’s Shamanism within a regional spiritual and religious framework, bring a significant contribution to the permanent reassessment of the modes of religious behaviour and spirituality in modern-day Central Asia.

Ariane Zevaco, French Institute of Research in Iran, Tehran
CER: I-5.3.D-470