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Limbu of eastern Nepal

deities & their holy communions

p. goddess
12 "Na is the hereafter, the other world; hang, power. Nahangma is a warrior goddess. Hangma ... means ... a mighty woman."
"Nahangma can appear in dreams. She is a very beautiful woman. She is armed with a bow, a sword, a shield, perhaps a helmet. {cf. [Hellenic] Athene, [Aiguptian] Neith, etc.} ... she sits in a bright and elevated place, east of the Other World, co lung, atop a snowy mountain ... On the edge of her kingdom [queendom], there are springs of great purity, different ones for priests and for laymen, which come together at one point, sum lamdoma. There are also huge stretches of flowers. Each flower stands for a human destiny. It is a life’s ‘vegetal-twin,’ the external soul – ‘flower-soul’, phung sam".
13 Ritual performed twice annually during daylight by the phedanma (‘village-priest’), facing the river, at altars erected in a terraced field :- "He starts by offering leftovers to the monkey spirit. Then he invokes the Buzzard and the Wild Cat ... Lastly, he offers an egg ... to each of the great masters of virgin lands : the Master of the Forest (Tampungma), the Master of the Ridges (Toksongba), the Master of the Waters (Warokma) [warok ‘sea’ (p. 387, n. 12)] ... At the end, the altars are destroyed." ("all these spirits are ... requested to stay where they belong ... so that they ... should not come and disturb" the ensuing main ritual to be enacted during the night.) During the ensuing night, at the house :- "The priest offers incense to Yuma. ... A very beautiful invocation ... summons ... : ‘To the north, the yak’s baby has fallen asleep, the marmot has fallen asleep ...’ The priest sings about ... the Ten ‘Kings’, Eight warriors and Two Priests, ... in front of Nahangma’s altar first. He remains seated throughout, cross-legged.
14 He next takes up his place in front of Manguenna’s altar. In the same manner, he sings of the migrations of the Ten ‘Kings’ on the Tibetan plateau. ... Back in front of Nahangma’s altar, the priest starts his journey to the Other World. He carries with him the soul, mukuma sam, of the sacrificer, ‘as a yak carries its load’. The long voyage begins at the centre post. {the Siberian shaman’s journey, however, hath its ending at a hitching-post.} It leads to the Junction of Three Roads, at the meeting of the Three Springs, sum landoma [spelled lamdoma on p. 12], where the fields of flowers stretch endlessly. ... Several divinations are carried out : the tossing of stones which either burst or do not; the examination of the flower-soul, phung sam, symbolizing life [one’s life-token] in the Other World : is it faded or is it withered? {a corresponding flower-examination is Daoist; it is also practiced in Borneo – in both instances skrying by the shaman on behalf of a client, during soul-travel.} Which way does the chicken go when it is released ... in front of the altar? Will it go left, or right like a priest? Or straight ahead, like a warrior? "There are many people at the co lung. ... The chicken pecks at the people’s feet so that they should move aside. If you cannot make your place at the co lung, you die.’ ... With the point of his sword, the priest traces a circle around him [the sacrificer] on the earth. The head of the house then ... jumps up and down, stamps, whirls around several times." {jumping, stamping, and whirling are involved in Siberian shamanic performances.}
15 "The chicken is disembowelled. Again the inspection of the entrails involves divination. The offal [internal organs?] is roasted and shared among those present, beginning with the head of the house. This is the first communion meal. {cf. Spartan communal eating of cooked internal organs of animals} ... the priest concludes the ritual of Manguenna." [Mangenna (spelled "Manguenna" in French) ‘daughter’ (p. 387, n. 6) is "the clan spirit a woman brings with her to her husband’s house when she marries. From that day on, the woman’s clan god is worshipped twice a year by her husband’s household, and the god dwells on the husband’s left shoulder. Similar to the Tibetan ... mo-lha" (p. 431)] "Another interval leads the completion of the cult of Nahangma ... The priest slips one of the chicken’s feathers between the folds {cf. Zen books which "fit comfortably in the folds of one’s kimono." (ZS, p. ix)} : this is the ‘pennant’ nisan {cf. the NISAN shamaness}, the stamp of power. ... The chicken is cooked. ... Everyone takes their meal together. This is another communion. {cf. the holy communion of pihta (‘dove’s flesh’) among the Manda<} As for the gods, they receive ‘the smoke of the meat’, sa mikhu."


ZS = Victor Sogen Hori : Zen Sand. U of HI Pr, Honolulu, 2003.

p. 18 goddess Na-han-ma

words for ‘power’ :- Limbu /han/
Chinese /wan/
Bodish /dban/
"Nahangma sits on top of a mountain, and, in ancient Tibet, ‘the sacred mountains are also war gods’."
"This mountain – the Limbus’ – is luminous, recalling the mountain of the first Tibetan king, ‘dissolving in light’."

pp. 18-19 deities ritually emplaced [nyasa in Skt.] on sites on one’s body (in Limbu scheme); or inhaerently located there (in Bodish scheme)

pp. 18-19 Bodish p. 19 Limbu
yul-lha land-god at top of head
dgra-lha war-god on right shoulder Nahangma (war-goddess) at top of head
pho-lha man’s god on [left] shoulder, or in right armpit god of man’s lineage on right shoulder
mo-lha in left armpit god of woman’s lineage on left shoulder
z`an-lha in heart

{any matching of shoulder on one side with armpit on other side may suggest the wearing of baldrick / bandelier}

p. 20 the flower-soul

"The first fields of flowers which the shaman meets during his travels to the Other World symbolize the lives of children, next come those of women, then of men, grouped ... by clans. During the marriage rituals, the priest bases his auguries on the appearance of the two newly-weds’ flower-souls."

{flower-souls are aequivalent to cakra-waterlilies in yoga}

p. 109 soul-journey

p. journey
109 "in the course of a ceremony called sam sama, the Limbu priest accompanies the deceased’s soul to Khema Phangphe, the village of the ancestors. Having called upon his master spirits, he sets out from the deceased’s house on his journey to the Other World. He crosses a certain river, he takes a certain path lined with a certain kind of tree, reaches a certain mountain. At last he comes to the ‘Junction of the Eight Roads’ (Yetlamdoma). From there he strikes out to the west {cf. Kemetian journey to the west by the dead} until he reaches a lake near the ‘Village of the Dead’, where he takes leave of the soul, whom the ancestors are awaiting on the other shore. He returns by the same route to the house."
109-110 "The ‘journey’ ... in the tongsing ritual, which concerns the living in this case" :- "From the house, the priest travels to the ‘Junction of the Eight Roads’. Up to this point, the path is identical to the one taken to accompany the soul of the deceased. But, from the eight Roads, the priest officiating for the living sets out to the east."
110 "In all rituals having to do with the dead (Lumaeppa, sam sama), the stopping-points within the house follow this sequence : the hearth, the flame, the smoke, the hook over the fire [of Nahen ‘hatred’ (p. 434)], the upper storey. On the contrary, for the living (Nahangma, tongsing), the starting point is the centre post in its various levels. The paths of the dead and the living cross only at the purlin."

p. 391, n. 37 "the Pae ritual ([B. Pigne`de : Les Gurung ... du Ne’pal. Mouton, Paris & the Hague,] 1966 : 35) : ‘The pucu conducts the soul of the deceased to the land of Kro. The pucu indicates clearly each stage in his journey with the soul to the land of the ancestors; then, when the soul arrives, the pucu indicates the stages of the return journey, back to the deceased’s house.’ "

p. 110 Yetlamdoma as compass-dial (locations of altars to deities, in house)

direction in house altar to deity, in house
east-front (ta-gan) Na-han-ma
west-back (e-gan) Luma-eppa
north-upper (tho) [Man-enna]
south-lower (yo) (entrance to house)

p. 114 the 3 paths

direction of lam (‘path’) for whom is lam (‘path’)
left-hand ya-ba (bijuwa)
centre tumiahan (layman)
right-hand phedanma

p. 122 mythic castles

"Once a year, each Limbu household makes a sacrifice to the deity Manguenna. The phedangma, whose soul journeys at this time to the Other World, conducts a chicken to the mythical castle called yok. The names of these castles vary from valley to valley, but in each case the clans sacrificing at one castle all descend from the same founding hero."

pp. 344-345 body-parts of bear

p. body-part is awarded to the __
344 head & skin Limbu leader of the area
344-5 "the ‘tooth’, that is, the penis" the hunter

goddess Yu-ma [‘grandmother’ (p. 446)]

p. Yu-ma
347 "Yuma does not usually attack so suddenly, she gives warning. There are dreams, the copper pots rattle about on the shelves at night, or the threads tangle on the loom, they keep breaking and the women are unable to weave."
379 "The Limbu calendar requires that every household make annual sacrifices, one in November and one in April, to the goddess Yuma".

p. 347 colors of chickens offered to spirits of topographic features

color spirit of __
red Toksonba ridge
black Koccoma (‘bitch’) valley-floor
white Tampunma forest

p. 349 rite to restrict Mande [‘curse’ (p. 431)]

"Each time, the assembly, including young children, would repeat in unison and throw rice on the altar to ‘beat’ Ma[n]gde, to ‘drive him away’. With his knife, the shaman guided Mangde along the thread, from the assembly to the pole, to the altar, to the goat. ... When the goat had thus been taxed with all the curses, ... its head was cut off. ... With his back to the precipice, the shaman kicked out behind him and sent the pole over the cliff."

deities to whom offerings are sometimes made

p. deity of __
352 Toksonba mountain ridges ["Toksongba is supposed to cause pneumonia" (p. 388, n. 16)]
S`ena valley floors
380 Misek spark
Mande smallpox

pp. 371-374 various deities (described in mandhum ‘myth’)

p. deity identity
371 Yuma goddess who gave the loom
Ninwa Phuma heavenly creator-god
Oama [Okwanama – p. 387, n. 5] supportress of the weight of the world
373 Lun-bun-ba spirits of stones (lun ‘stone – p. 388, n.13)
Kham-bun-ba spirits of the earth (kham ‘the ground’ – p. 388, n. 13)
Sin-bun-ba spirits of trees (sin ‘tree’ – p. 388, n. 13)
Mendoi Kokenamba deity of graves in cemetary
374 Porokmiba hero who created the wild animals

pp. 375-379 goddess Tampunma (tampun ‘forest’ – p. 373)

p. Tampunma
375 "Someone hears a rustling or a muffled creaking among the trees, or even stones rolling down the hillside, and the person become terror-struck. The fright which leaves him powerless is a sign of Tampungma’s attack."
376 "At night, no one whistles, for this would call Tampungma and the other jungle deities."
Tampunma may appear to people as "a hideous old woman with very white hair. Dressed only in a black skirt, she was naked from her waist up, and her breasts were shrivelled."
377 "Tampungma often wanders into the environs of the village, and it is usually at dawn and dusk that she is seen. She looks like an old and very dirty woman, and carries a small basket (thokse). It is impossible to make out the shape of her mouth."
388, n. 17 "Tampungma is supposed to have come into being after the animals"
388, n. 21 "Tampungma has a green head."

p. 380 methods of divination

"the priest uses a pile of rice grains from which he determines his answer according to whether the number of grains is even or odd. {likewise, the Kic^e` diviner determineth his answer according to whether the number or maize-grains is even or odd.}
Others may consult a book ..., opening the volume at random with the aid of a porcupine quill.
The phedangma performs another kind of divination when he enters a trance and travels through the spirit world. The geography of the spirit world is ... described in mythic texts, and the phedangma interprets signs associated with certain landmarks {cf. Chinese fen-s^ui, using landforms to determine fortunate grave-sites} which he encounters en route.
Yet another form of divination takes place during trances in which the deities voice their oracles through the yaba or yuma."

pp. 381-385 temporary abduction of straying souls by Tampunma

p. abduction
381 "From the time of burial, the soul (sam) of the deceased is believed to be wandering on the outskirts of the village. ... the phedangma places himself in the fire pit of the deceased’s house ... and repeatedly calls to the wandering soul. {this is a Chinese funebrial custom, to call out repeatedly "O! soul, come back"!} First he exhorts it to come out, wherever it is, and to return to its old home; to come and take its last meal. This call can go unheeded for some time. In this case, the phedangma assumes that Tampungma has waylaid the soul. He confronts the jungle deity, saying : ‘You, Tapungma, wherever you are ..., release the soul of the deceased. ...’ ...
383 When the goddess has responded to the priest’s rebukes, the soul can enter the house and have its last meal."
385 "The soul of the man who dreams ... or who is frozen in fear is said to be wandering in the ‘Other World’. ... Tampungma is often held to be responsible for these abductions. It is clear then why Limbus propitiate her not only for funeral rites ..., but also when they have had a bad dream or a frightening moment on a winding road ... During the sacrifice which then follows, ... Tampungma has consented to return the stolen soul. He [the phedanma] holds the soul in his armpits {cf. Bodish deities at one’s armpits?} and restores it to the ... man by blowing it through his ears."
391, n. 41 "In fact two souls are thought to be loose : Tok sam and Yong sam. The phedangma is said to receive them through his toes, from whence they travel up to his armpits, then to his hands."

p. 390, n. 36 Gurun (Pigne`de, 1966, p. 349) :- "A chicken is offered to the female spirit Sar o/ rhini in exchange for the soul she helps to locate".

Philippe Sagant (translated from the French by Nora B. Scott) : The Dozing Shaman. Delhi : Oxford U Pr, 1996.