“Spirit-Charged” Humans in Siberia: Interrelations between the Notions of the Individual (“Spirit Charge” and “Active Imprint”) and (Ritual) Action

Alexandra Lavrillier


This paper shows how a society imagines human individuals and their power to act upon spirits both ritually and materially. Based on the author’s fieldwork (from 1994 to 2019), it analyzes the emic concept onnir, which is omnipresent in the daily activities and the past and present collective/individual rituals of Siberian Evenki and Even. Each human owns a specific fluctuating “charge made of spirits” and an “active imprint” that empowers the human to act, perform rituals, develop talents, and create. Even after death, this “imprint” affects everything and everyone a human ever touched. Onnir defines the interrelations between the individual, the spirits of his or her own “charge,” and the spirits of the universe in an “active agent”-“patient” relationship. This paper contributes to studies of the notions of the individual, “playing” as a ritual means, the acceptance/rejection of neoshamans, neorituals, and the (ritual) agency of ordinary individuals.

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