Song 2 Dabaɣa dabaqu “Crossing the Pass(es)”

In: Qorčin Mongol Shamans and Their Songs
Elisabetta Chiodo
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This song was sung by the shaman Mendübayar (1910-1989) of east Küčütü Village, in Küriye Banner.

Mendübayar was a 13-generations shaman, and his ancestors migrated to Küriye Banner from what is now Kökeqota. Mendübayar could list the names of his ancestors. One of them was a qondan who was believed to be a grandson of Tngri (tngri-yin ači küü), and to have the ability to fly across the sky. Mendübayar underwent initiation at the age of 25, and he was one of the most renowned and gifted shamans of his generation.109

Master spirits of the nine passes,110
Nine dun-coloured horses,
Master spirits of armour and helmet,111
Light yellow112 horses,
Follow my armour and whirl around it,113
Be the masters114 of my whole body.
Abodes of the Mother Pass,115
Master spirits with multicoloured robes,116
Line up along the flap of my robe,
Take full charge117 of the place where you turn around.
Master spirits of the knife blades,118
Four heroes119 who came,
Be the masters of the knife blades,
Eliminate all sufferings.120
Master spirits of armour and instruments,121
Follow my armour and circle around it,
Take full charge of everything
Do away with injury and harm.122
Stepping on the iron ploughshare,123
Standing over sharp knives,124
One should not step back.
To be freed from injury and harm,
To be freed from evil spirits,
One should not have fear.
To be freed from epidemic,
One should not be afraid and confused.

We have an example of a song associated with the rituals of initiation of the shamans. In it, the shaman Mendübayar stresses that the shamans who have undergone initiation possess the abilities to free people from epidemic and evil spirits.125 He asks for the protection of the spirits of the dead shamans who in the past underwent the tests of the nine passes and came to be revered as the “master spirits of the nine passes” (yisün dabaγan-u eǰed-üd).126 The shamans believe that they reside in the “lone tree of the [shamans’] history” (šastir-un γaγča modo), which they also invoke as “mother tree” (eke modo) or “transformation tree” (qubilγan modo).127 In Mendübayar’s song the master spirits of the nine passes arrive riding “nine dun-coloured horses” (yisün saral morid-ud), and the master spirits of armour and helmet come riding “light-yellow horses” (qulusun sirγa morid-ud).

It is also significant that Mendübayar calls his ritual robe and headdress “armour and helmet” (quyaɣ duγulγa). Although nowadays the Qorčin shamans rarely call their ritual robe and headdress armour and helmet, there are still shamans who continue to do so. A good example of this can be found in a song sung by the female shaman Erdeniküü.128

The fact that the shamans assign great power to their ritual robe can be seen in a song sung by the shaman Madai (1918-1990), a native of Darqan Banner who lived in Küriye Banner.129 In it, Madai mentions that, when in ritual performance the “master spirits of armour and helmet” (quyaɣ duγulγa-yin eǰed) enter his robe, the robe becomes a “weapon” (ǰebseg) with the power to suppress evil spirits.130 Madai also designates his ritual robe as “my armour of strong warriors” (baɣatur ideten-ü quyaɣ mini).131 He also describes his nine brass mirrors worn around his waist as having the “voice of a cuckoo” (kököge-yin daγuu), with the ability to scare away evil spirits.132 Madai also used a mirror to make divination to find lost animals.133 With regard to the “drum” (kenggerge), there was a time when the Qorčin shamans regarded the drum as their “steed” (külüg). This idea of the drum is preserved in legends about the shaman Qoboɣtu, which narrate how Qoboɣtu had the ability to fly across the sky sitting on his two-sided red drum.134

The significance of the ritual robe was mentioned above. We should now pay attention to the importance of the multicoloured streamers, which hang from the waist of the shaman’s robe. The streamers are called “wings” (dalabči), and when, in ritual performance, the spirits enter them, the “wings” take the shaman aloft, as the shaman Mendübayar narrates in “Invocation for Incorporating the Bird ongγod” (Sibaɣun ongɣod orosiqu daɣudalɣa).135 Mendübayar summons the bird ongγod and other spirits, then he is lifted up to the realm of birds, searching for a bird which has brought illness to a man. The following verses taken from the invocation are significant.

My flap [of the robe] of multicoloured streamers
Spread feathered wings.
My two eyes to see
Gazed down to the dead.
My flap [of the robe] of multicoloured streamers
Lifted me up embracing the air.
My two hazel eyes
Looked far into the distance.
At twilight I made enquires
I was shown the direction by an owl.
I lost my way on the southern slope of a rugged mountain,
I was guided by an eagle.
Eriyen labri-yin136 qormoi mini
Ödön ǰigür delgejei
Üǰekü qoyar nidü mini
Egüle dalda137 önggöyiǰei.
Alaγ labri-yin qormoi mini
Aγar teberin ergüǰei
Alaγ qoyar nidü mini
Alus čaγana-yi baralaǰai.
Sira bürüi-dü möskiǰei
Sira sibaγun dokiγulǰai
Berke-yin138 engger-tü tögeriǰei
Bürgüd sibaγun ǰamčilaγulǰai.139

A short biography of the shaman Mendübayar is found in Kürelša et al., Qorčin böge mörgöl-ün sudulul, p. 214. More recently, a longer biography, which mainly describes how Mendübayar excelled at dancing and singing, is included in Kürelša, Küriye böge mörgöl-ün tobčiya, pp. 179-181. The rituals to Tngri performed by a qondan were mentioned in the Introduction, note 54. The meaning of qondan remains a matter of conjecture.


Page 1:1 has eǰed-üd, the double plural of eǰen “master, owner”. The use of the double plural is a peculiarity of the Qorčin and Küriye dialects. See also morid-ud in the next line. Many examples of the use of the double plural in the Qorčin dialect are found in Bayančoɣtu, Qorčin aman ayalɣun-u sudulul, pp. 172-175. The Qorčin shamans use the plural form eǰed as a sign of respect to address the spirit of an ancestor, as in eǰed ebüge “ancestral spirit”. For this, see Qan Duγu, Qorčin böge-yin soyol-un degeǰi, p. 259. The double plural occasionally occurs in older Mongolian language. See načidut (načid-ud), meaning “(gold) brocades)”, in de Rachewiltz, The Secret History of the Mongols, vol. 2, § 238, p. 848, and p. 1007. See also sayid ačige (=ečige) “good (deceased) father” in Mostaert and Cleaves, Les Lettres de 1289 et 1305 des ilkhan Arγun et Ölǰeitü à Philippe le Bel, pp. 56-57. Finally, see qad-ud in Chiodo, The Mongolian Manuscripts on Birch Bark from Xarbuxyn Balgas, part 1, p. 32.


Page 2:1 has quyaɣ duɣulɣa which means “armour and helmet”, for which see the commentary below.


Page 2:2 has qulusun. For qulusun öngge “light yellow colour”, see Mongɣol kitad toli, p. 680. The word sirɣa, which follows, means “light bay”; qulusun saral mori is one of the ongγod of the Qorčin shamans, as stated by Kürelša et al. in Qorčin böge mörgöl-ün sudulul, p. 230. According to Načinšongqor, shamans appeal to the mori ongγod in cases of serious illness (Böge mörgöl-ün <ongγod>-un tuqai edüi tedüi oyilaburi, p. 17).


Page 2:3 has the verb quyiγaqu (?), which is an error for quyilaraǰai viz. quyilaraǰu bei. For quyilara- “to rotate, to turn around, to whirl around”, see Mongɣol kitad toli, p. 669.


Page 2:4 has eǰeleǰei should be taken as eǰeleǰü bei.


Page 2:5 has eke dabaγa “Mother Pass”, which was mentioned above.


Page 2:6 has the expression eriyen debeltei eǰed-üd, meaning “master spirits with multicoloured robes”. The shaman, at this point, invokes the spirits of the dead shamans who wear multicoloured robes.


Page 2:7 has daɣačila-, which means “to be responsible for an assigned task until it is fulfilled”. See Mongɣol kitad toli, p. 1138.


Page 2:9 has mör for mörö or möri “the back of a knife”. See Lessing, Mongolian-English Dictionary, p. 549. As Mr. Nima suggests, this word simply means “knife” in this particular context.


Page 2:10 has the words dörben baγatur “four heroes”, probably referring to the warriors of the Chinese army who drowned in a river, as narrated in the legends of the origin of “ten thousand ongγod”, (tümen ongγod), for which see Song 14 below in this book. The names of the four heroes are mentioned in the song prayer Tümen ongγod-tu daγadqaqu “Imploring the ten thousand ongγod”. They are: Duγui Qara, Taγtaγ (?) Qara, Sürtei Qara, Artai Qara. See γarudi and Čoγǰu, Qorčin böge mörgöl-ün aya ayalγu kiged iraγu nayiraγ, p. 55.


Page 2:12 has the word üile, a word covering a wide range of meanings. It is often used in combination with ǰobalang. See Bayančoγtu, Qorčin aman ayalɣun-u sudulul, p. 569. For üile as a single word meaning “misfortune, suffering, misery, hardship, disaster”, see Mongɣol kitad toli, p. 298.


Page 3:1 has quyaγ ǰebseg. The word ǰebseg means “weapon, instrument, implement”. It refers to the paraphernalia of the shaman.


Page 3:4 has the word damusiγ, which is a spelling error for damsiɣ. With regard to qoorlal damsiγ, it could be a compound expression, meaning “harm, evil”. The word qoorlal means “harm caused to others”, while damsiɣ means “harm or trouble which gradually arise from a bad action”. See Norǰin, Mongɣol kelen-ü toli, pp. 1376, 2533, respectively. According to Mongɣol kitad toli, qoorlal means “damage, injury, harm, disaster”, while damsiɣ means “mixed, confused, turbid”, see pp. 242, 642, respectively. For qouralal, Lessing gives the meanings “harm, detriment, evil, hate, torment” (Mongolian-English Dictionary, p. 974). See damsiɣ “evil” in Rasidongrub, Orčin čaγ-un mongγol kelen-ü tobči toli, p. 1112.


Page 3:5 has the word qosiɣun in isolation. It should be understood as anǰisun qosiɣun, or anǰisun-u qosiɣun “ploughshare”. The “pass of the plough-shares” was described above. Mansang describes the disciple shaman (šabi böge) stepping on a red-hot ploughshare as part of the initiation ceremony in his book Mongɣol böge mörgöl, p. 36. See also Chen Yongchun, Ke’erqin saman shenge shenmei yanjiu, p. 298, and Bao Long, Mongɣol samanism-un önggeregsen ba odo, pp. 29, 31. For anǰisun-u qosiɣun meaning “ploughshare”, see Norǰin, Mongɣol kelen-ü toli, p. 25, Mongɣol kitad toli, 653, and Lessing, Mongolian-English Dictionary (“plowshare”) (p. 47).


Page 2:5: has the word ǰadao, or ǰadoo from the Chinese zhadao 铡 刀 “long knife for cutting fodder” (Mathews, Mathews’ Chinese-English Dictionary, p. 10). Kitad mongɣol toli gives these meanings: “chopper, cleaver, chopping knife” (p. 2032). The text refers to the “pass of the chopper” (ǰadoo-yin dabaɣa), or the “pass of the ladder” (šatu-yin dabaɣa), for which see the description above.


This is also mentioned by Kürelša et al. in Qorčin böge mörgöl-ün sudulul, p. 244, and by Buyanbatu in Mongγolčud-un modon-u sitülge, p. 58, note 14. In their book Shamans and Elders, Humphrey and Onon quote the account provided by a Japanese scholar, who related how, feeling unwell, he visited the Daur shaman Pingguo, in 1935. During the healing performance, we learn, the shaman Pingguo licked a red-hot iron. Humphrey and Onon also quote the account by the Daur scholar Mendüsürüng, according to which the shaman stepped on a red-hot iron ploughshare (pp. 228-229 and note 75 on p. 257).


The subject is dealt with by Bao Long in Mongγol samanism-un önggeregsen ba odo, p. 28. In an interview, the shaman Tegsi of Darqan Banner told the researcher Chen Yongchun how he worships the spirits of the shaman predecessors who have undergone the tests of the nine passes. See her book Ke’erqin samam shenge shenmei yanjiu, p. 231.


This is how the female shaman Erdeniküü invokes the “lone tree” in the song prayer Dabaγan eǰed-tü daγadqaqu. The text is unpublished. It was recorded by Mr. Čoγǰu, who most kindly put at my disposal his field material. According to the unpublished field material I obtained from Mr. Načinšongqor of Küriye Banner in December 2001, the “lone tree of the shamans’ history” is also designated as “Mother Tree” (in Načinšongqor, Böge mörgöl-ün <ongγod>-un tuqai edüi tedüi oyilaburi, p. 9). For the significance of the lone tree of the [shamans’] history in the sacred landscape inhabited by the spirits of the shaman ancestors, see Chiodo, Songs of Khorchin Shamans to Jayagachi, pp. 92-93.


γarudi and Čoγǰu, Qorčin böge mörgöl-ün aya ayalγu kiged iraγu nayiraγ, p. 99. In his book Mongol böögijn šašin Pürėv states that the Qorčin shamans no longer designate their ritual robe as “armour” (p. 216). Pürėv’s statement is not entirely correct. For the use of the expression “to wear armour” or “to wear the ritual dress” (quyaɣla-) among the Qorčin shamans, see Mansang, Mongɣol böge mörgöl, p. 45. On the shaman’s ritual robe (quyaɣ), see also Heissig, “Schamanen und Geisterbeschwörer im Küriye-Banner”, p. 8. The Buryat and Tuvan shamans also call their ritual robe “armour”. For this, see Chiodo, Songs of Khorchin Shamans to Jayagachi, note 37, pp. 20-21, and the references cited there. For the Darxad shamans, who also call their ritual dress “armour”, see Badamxatan, Xövsgölijn darxad yastan, p. 202.


A short but interesting biography of the shaman Madai is found in Kürelša, Küriye böge mörgöl-ün tobčiya, p. 203. In it, we read that Madai possessed magic powers which frightened people who would not dare to approach him. Although he came to Küriye from a “foreign land” (qari γaǰar), people respected him throughout his life.


Vajnštejn tells us how among the Tuvan shamans the caftan of the shaman served first of all to protect them from the evil spirits and was called kujak “armour”. See his “Shamanism in Tuva at the Turn of the 20th Century”, p. 364.


As Humphrey and Onon observe, the shamanic performance was above all a trial of strength, or a battle. For this, see Shamans and Elders, p. 190.


See Kürelša, Küriye böge mörgöl-ün tobčiya, p. 389.


Kürelša, ibid., p. 203.


Kürelša et al., Qorčin böge mörgöl-ün sudulul, p. 181.


Kürelša et al., ibid., pp. 551-557.


On labri “coloured streamers used as ornament”, see Norǰin, Mongγol kelen-ü toli, p. 1768, and Mongγol kitad toli, p. 846.


Egüle dalda (bol-) “to become hidden by the clouds” is a euphemism for “die”, which is currently in use among the Mongols. On egüle(n) daldaqu “durch Wolken verborgen werden (resp., von Lamas gesagt)”, see Sagaster and Haltod, “Über einige Ausdrücke für <sterben> im Mongolischen”, p. 26.


On berke “a mountain difficult to cross, full of natural obstacles”, see Mongγol kitad toli, p. 456. Berke also describes an impenetrable forest.


For these verses, see Kürelša et al., Qorčin böge mörgöl-ün sudulul, pp. 553-554.

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