Balancing the Universe: Shamanism In Nepal

Nepal is home to many ethnic groups and religious traditions including Hinduism and Buddhism. Shamanism combines these religions with the worship of nature and natural phenomenon. There is a unique village, called “Lugum”, in Western Nepal whose only inhabitants, at the time of this writing, are 126 shaman – 18 of whom are women. In addition to their role as healers and intermediaries between the mortal and spiritual worlds, is a duty to protect the larger community around them from witches and harmful spirits, whose evil doings wreak havoc if not managed. It is the shaman’s roll to keep everything in balance to maintain the natural order of life. Scroll for images and captions of all the Nepal pieces from our “Balancing The Universe” exhibition. 9/10 – 12/3/17

Shaman Nepal

Damaru with Chopin (2 sided drum with sash), late 19th and early 20th c, Wood, Hide, Fabric
This power drum, associated with Shiva, is used for tantric rituals and is played with a twisting motion so the two beaters – attached by cords, hit the drum heads simultaneously. It produces a rhythmic and spiritual sound by which the universe was created and is regulated. The Chopin (sash) is typically embroidered with the colors of the tantric elements and waves its colors as the drum is played. It is used to attract and dispel negative energy.
(large) 32” x 11 ¼” x 4 ½”; $700.; (small) 2” x 5 ¼” x 3” [case 6” x 5” x 3”] $500.

Not meant for stabbing or causing harm to humans, it is used to attract and dispel negative energy. After collecting the demons or evil spirits into the phurba, the shaman pierces the ground with the dagger dispersing or redirecting the harmful energy by releasing them from whatever was causing them to be evil. Still used by Buddhists and shamans in Nepal, Tibet and the Himalayas, these magical daggers date back to at least the 7th or 8th century.
Phurba – Ritual Daggers, Early 20th c, Wood / Metal.

Not meant for stabbing or causing harm to humans, it is used to attract and dispel negative energy. After collecting the demons or evil spirits into the phurba, the shaman pierces the ground with the dagger dispersing or redirecting the harmful energy by releasing them from whatever was causing them to be evil.
Still used by Buddhists and shamans in Nepal, Tibet and the Himalayas, these magical daggers date back to at least the 7th or 8th century. (please see previous ‘Phurba’ blog entry for full history and information on individual details)

Snake Vertebrae Necklace Early 20th c. Snake Vertebrae, Rudraksha seeds Invokes snake gods to protect shaman during healing rituals
Snake Vertabrae and Rudraksha Bead Naga Mala Necklace; Early 20th c; Bone, Rudraksha Seeds

Snake vertebrae prayer bead necklace, worn by shaman to invoke snake gods to protect themselves during healing rituals. From 18″ to 33″; $290 to 370. (see detail image below)

Snake Vertebrae Necklace Early 20th c. Snake Vertebrae, Rudraksha seeds Invokes snake gods to protect shaman during healing rituals. Snake Vertebrae Necklace Early 20th c. Snake Vertebrae, Rudraksha seeds Invokes snake gods to protect shaman during healing rituals
Detail of Naga Mala necklace of snake vertebrae and rudraksha beads, early 20th c

The Naga Mala are primarily used in healing ceremonies for protection against harmful spirits and to connect the shaman with the sacred snake gods and goddesses who help inform their work. The preparation of the snake bones, and of creating the necklace itself, involves an intricate sacred ritual to properly empower them. Rudraksha, meaning ‘Enlightened’, seeds symbolize divine wisdom and are traditionally used as prayer beads.                    

Shaman Yak Bell Hat Strap Nepal Bells - mid to late 19th c. Mid 20th century; some bells up to 150 years old Plant fiber, brass, cloth Worn as a chin strap to hold the shaman’s hat in place Cotton cloth covered woven fiber collar with conical and crotal bells Used in rituals to protect shaman and villagers from witches and other evil beings. Also worn for healing rituals. Some of the bells are old, hand forged iron bells; some are newer cast bronze. 18 ⅓” x 4 ½” x 1 ⅗” $395
Yak Bell Hat Strap, mid 2oth c (some bells up to 150 years old), Plant Fiber, Indgo Cloth, Brass, Iron

Worn over the head piece and under the chin to secure the shaman’s ‘hat’; Indigo dyed cotton cloth covering a woven fiber band with attached conical and crotal bells. Used in healing rituals and to protect the shaman and the villagers from witches and other evil beings. Some of the bells are newer case brass, some are old hand forged iron.
18 ⅓” x 4 ½” x 1 ⅗”; $395.

Hand carved wooden Shaman Cuff Bracelet, worn to protect the shaman from witches and harmful spirits during rituals and ceremonies. mid 19th c, wood, 3 ¼” x 4 ¼” x 5 ¼”, $120.
Shaman Cuff Bracelet, Mid 19th c, Wood

Worn by shaman during rituals and ceremonies to protect themselves from witches and harmful spirits. Hand carved wood,  3 ¼” x 4 ¼” x 5 ¼”, $120.

Naga Mala Shaman Necklace Nepal Late 19th c. Snake bone, rudraksha seeds, Himalayan goat horn, old European handmade glass trade beads, Brass crotal bells The Naga Mala are primarily used in healing ceremonies for protection and to connect the shaman with the sacred snake gods and goddesses who help inform their work. The preparation of the snake bones and necklace has an intricate sacred ritual to properly empower them. The Rudraksha (enlightened) seeds symbolize divine wisdom and are traditionally used as prayer beads. The bells make a sound that evoke ancestor spirits and helps the shaman transition into a trance state for ceremonies. 22” x 7” x 1 ¾” $750
Naga Mala ritual necklace, late 19th c, bone, Himalayan goat horn, Rudraksha seeds, old European glass trade beads, iron beads, brass crotal bells

The Naga Mala are primarily used in healing ceremonies for protection and to connect the shaman with the sacred snake gods and goddesses who help inform their work. The preparation of the snake bones and of the necklace itself, involves an intricate sacred ritual to properly empower them. The Rudraksha (enlightened) seeds symbolize divine wisdom and are traditionally used as prayer beads. The bells make a sound that evoke ancestor spirits and helps the shaman transition into a trance state for ceremonies., 22” x 7” x 1 ¾”, $750.

Sacred Ritual Drum, Nepal, Mid to late 19th c., Skin stretched over wood, iron, shaman bells and amulets, To facilitate entering and maintaining a trance state necessary for the shaman to perform rituals 17 ½” x 8” x 8” (plus 7” bell chains), $1400.
Sacred Ritual Drum with Bells, Mid to late 19th c, wood, hide, iron

The Yak bells and amulets facilitate entering and maintaining a trance state necessary for the shaman to perform rituals, 17 ½” x 8” x 8” (plus 7” bell chains), $1400.

Shaman Wand is a powerful shaman tool. Held in one hand while chanting, it is shaken with short, quick jerks then tapped to the ground to cleanse the area from harmful spirits.
Shaman Wand, Early 19th c., wood, metal, cotton cord, pigment

This Wand from Northwestern Nepal (near Lake Jumla) is a powerful shaman tool. Held in one hand while chanting, the shaman shakes it with short, quick jerks then taps it to the ground to cleanse the area from harmful spirits. 
28” x 11” x 3 ¼”, $650.

Hand Carved Wooden Ceremonial Shaman Stools, from the late 19th to mid 20th century, Wood, Used for meditation and for ritual ceremonies. 12" to 14", $185. to $320.
Shaman Ceremonial Stools; Late 19th to mid 20th c; wood

Hand carved wood. They are used to sit slightly elevated off the ground for meditation and for ritual ceremonies.
12″ to 14″, $185. to $320.

Hand Carved Wooden Ceremonial Shaman Stools, from the late 19th to mid 20th century, Wood, Used for meditation and for ritual ceremonies, Mid 19th to early 20th century, 8" to 14", $95. to $190.
Shaman Stools, late 19th to mid 20th c, Wood

Hand Carved Wooden Ceremonial Shaman Stools. They are used to sit slightly elevated off the ground for meditation and for ritual ceremonies, Mid 19th to early 20th century, 8″ to 14″, $95. to $190.

Shaman Necklace (rare), Western Nepal, Late 19th c., Old European handmade glass trade beads, Brass crotal bells, snake bone, paint The pair of unusually large snake vertebrae are from a 20 foot anaconda. They have been painted green. The preparation of the snake bones and necklace has an intricate sacred ritual to properly empower them. The bell amulets make a sound that helps the shaman transition into a trance state in preparation for a ceremony., 13” x 3 ¾” 1 ½”, $875.
Ritual Necklace with Rare Large Anaconda Snake Bone, Western Nepal, Late 19th c, painted bone, brass, glass and quartz beads

This sacred shaman necklace is particularly rare because of the size of the snake vertebrae used. It is colorfully detailed with the old European handmade glass trade beads and old clear quartz beads, and the age and use worn small brass crotal bells. The pair of unusually large snake vertebrae are from a 20 foot anaconda. They have been painted green. The preparation of the snake bones and the necklace itself involves an intricate sacred ritual to properly empower them. The bell sound helps the shaman transition into a trance state in preparation for a ceremony and the snake bone connects them to ancestral spirits. 13” x 3 ¾” 1 ½”, $875.

Naga Mala Shaman Necklace, Nepal, Late 19th c., Rudraksha seeds, snake vertebrae, ribbed Himalayan goat horn, wild boar tusks, iron tube beads, crotal bells and old European glass trade beads, wooden beads The Naga Mala are primarily used in healing ceremonies for protection and to connect the shaman with the sacred snake gods and goddesses who help inform their work. The preparation of the snake bones and necklace has an intricate sacred ritual to properly empower them, The Rudraksha (enlightened) seeds symbolize divine wisdom and are traditionally used as prayer beads, 22” x 7 ½” x 1 ¼”, $690.
Naga Mala, Ritual Necklace, Late 19th c, Rudraksha seeds, snake vertebrae, Himalayan goat horn, wild boar tusks, iron, brass, glass trade beads, wood beads

The Naga Mala, primarily used in healing ceremonies, are for the shaman’s protection and to connect them with the  snake gods and goddesses who help inform their work. The preparation of the snake bones and the necklace itself involve an intricate sacred ritual to properly empower them., The Rudraksha, meaning ‘enlightened’, seeds symbolize divine wisdom and are traditionally used as prayer beads. 22” x 7 ½” x 1 ¼”, $690.

Dhyango with Phurba Handle Sacred Ritual Drum, Nepal Early 19th
Dhyango with Phurba Handle – Ritual 2 Sided Drum Drum, Early 19th c, Hide, Wood

Played by shaman (Jhakri), with a curved stick, to facilitate entering and maintaining the shaman’s trance state for their journey into the spirit world. A deity will often reside in the drum during the ritual. 26″ x 14″ x 6′, $900.

Shaman Ritual Apron Belt, Nepal, Early 20th c., (some bells up to 150 years old), Leather, iron chain and hand crafted crotal, and cylindrical bells and bangles, brass conical bells, cowrie shell, goat horn, wild boar tusk, (it is a waist belt with hanging bells and over the shoulder cross straps). Used in rituals to protect shaman, villagers and the area from witches and other evil beings. 58” x 32” x 3”, $3200
Ritual Apron Belt, Early 20th c, Leather, Iron, Brass, Horn, Tusk, Shell (some bells up to 150 years old)

This large belt is an essential part of all Nepalese shaman costumes. The belt, or apron, is heavy and loud with the many parts: hide leather, iron chain and hand crafted crotal, and cylindrical bells and bangles, and the brass conical bells. The cowrie shells, goat horn and wild boar tusk are all symbolic and spiritual tools. They are used in rituals to protect shaman, villagers and the area from witches and other evil beings. (it is a waist belt with hanging bells and over the shoulder cross straps). 58” x 32” x 3”, $3200.

This large belt is an essential part of all Nepalese shaman costumes. The belt/apron is heavy and loud with all its many parts: hide leather, iron chain and hand crafted crotal, and cylindrical bells and bangles and the brass conical bells. The yak hair and other amulets all are symbolic and spiritual tools. Used in rituals to protect shaman, villagers and the area from witches and other evil beings. (it is a waist belt with hanging bells and over the shoulder cross straps), 44” x 33” x 3”, $3200
Ritual Apron Belt, Early 20th c (some bells up to 150 years old), Leather, Iron, Brass, Yak hair

An essential part of Nepalese shaman costumes, this heavy apron belt is made of hide leather, iron chain and hand crafted cylindrical bells and bangles, brass conical and crotal bells. The yak tail, and other amulets which are attached, are powerful spiritual tools. They are worn during rituals and ceremonies to protect the shaman, the villagers, and the area from witches and other evil beings. (it is a waist belt with hanging bells and over the shoulder cross straps), 44” x 33” x 3”, $3200.

Shaman Bell and Amulet Necklace, Nepal, Early 20th c., Iron chain, brass conical bells, leather, cowrie shell The leather Amulet with the four cowrie shells is an addition to the bell necklace. Shamans wear them to facilitate entering a trance state. Makes a nice sound when worn or hung in the wind. The sound represents a caravan of yaks coming down a mountain creating a magical link to their ancestors who migrated over the Himalayas from Tibet to Nepal, 28 ½” x 3 ¼” x 1”, $295
Shaman Amulet and Bell Necklace, Early 20th c, Iron, Brass, Leather, Shell

This leather amulet with the four cowrie shells and brass conical bells on a chain, is a sacred ritual necklace is worn to facilitate entering a trance state. The bells make a nice sound when worn or hung in the wind, that represents a caravan of yaks coming down a mountain, creating a magical link to their ancestors who migrated over the Himalayas from Tibet to Nepal, 28 ½” x 3 ¼” x 1”, $295.

Shaman Bell and Amulet Necklace, Nepal, Early 20th c.,Shaman Bell and Amulet Necklace, Nepal, Early 20th c., Leather Amulet with the four cowrie shells and brass conical bells on a chain, is a sacred ritual necklace is worn to facilitate entering a trance state. The bells make a nice sound when worn or hung in the wind. The sound represents a caravan of yaks coming down a mountain creating a magical link to their ancestors who migrated over the Himalayas from Tibet to Nepal, 28 ½” x 3 ¼” x 1”, $295
Shaman Amulet and Bell Necklace, Early 20th c, Iron, Brass, Leather, Shell

This leather amulet with the four cowrie shells and brass conical bells on a chain, is a sacred ritual necklace is worn to facilitate entering a trance state. The bells make a nice sound when worn or hung in the wind, that represents a caravan of yaks coming down a mountain, creating a magical link to their ancestors who migrated over the Himalayas from Tibet to Nepal, 28 ½” x 3 ¼” x 1”,$295.

Shaman Yak Bell, Chain Necklace, Nepal, Early 20th c., Iron, brass Shamans wear them to facilitate entering a trance state necessary for their practice. Makes a nice sound when worn or hung in the wind. The sound represents a caravan of yaks coming down a mountain creating a magical link to their ancestors who migrated over the Himalayas from Tibet to Nepal, 15" to 21", $230. to 290.
Ritual Yak Bell, Chain Necklace, Early 20th c, Iron, Brass, Bronze

Shaman wear loud bells to facilitate entering a trance state necessary for their practice. Makes a nice sound when worn or hung in the wind, that represents a caravan of yaks coming down a mountain, creating a magical link to their ancestors who migrated over the Himalayas from Tibet to Nepal, 15″ to 21″, $230. to 290.

Ritual Chain (and Yak Bell) Necklace, Early 20th c, Iron, Brass

Part of the shaman’s costume worn during rituals and ceremonies to protect them from witches and harmful spirits. Bells and amulets are often attached to the chain. 15″ to 21″, $110. to $130.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *