Dark Tent and Light Tent

Two Ways of Travelling in the Invisible

In: Inner Asia

Abstract

Humans have a unique ability to coordinate their imaginations and together explore virtual spaces. Shamanic traditions have cultivated this ability and developed powerful techniques to share mental travels. This article discusses two basic types of shamanic seance spread among indigenous peoples in North Asia and partly in North America and explores the relational and sensory-cognitive contrasts between these ritual techniques. One is carried out in the dark and the audience is more focused on hearing, while in the other the tent is light and watching the shaman’s act is a central part of the participants’ experience. This article describes the geographical distribution of these rituals and analyses the different ways in which they divide cognitive labour.

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