Examples of the Rituals against nosto

In what follows, I describe three different examples of ongkar or nosto, in order to provide a more precise impression of the actual ritual sequences and their diversity. The rituals are not necessarily directed exclusively against one of the causes I have described. A ritual may thus simultaneously combat the negative influence of ongkar (jontor, tarpa), the dead, and the demons (soni rau). The first example describes a case of this kind, in which the immediate trigger for the rituals was fever. In the second example, the rituals were directed against ongkar aimed at damaging the millet harvest. The third example is a case in which the affected individual’s body was attacked directly.

First Case: Nosto against House and Inhabitants

In May 2000, Sadep, the roughly fifteen-year-old son of Mangla Kirsani, died, from a medical perspective probably from cerebral malaria. The fever came on suddenly, while the youth, like many others at the time, was occupied in the hills with the cashew harvest. Neither a dissari nor the gurumai was to be found in the village, and on the next day, the youth seemed to have recovered to some extent. A day later, the fever reappeared in severe form, and I was sent to fetch the Punjabi to the village on my motorcycle, but as soon as he saw the youth, he declined to intervene, saying that there was nothing more that he could do.[1] A jeep was organized to bring the youth to the Christian hospital, where he died the same day. A Sisa - that is, a tsorubai of the Kirsani - carried him back to the village, a walk of around eight kilometers, and the cremation was prepared the next morning. The women mourned in front of the house, calling the deceased youth’s name over and over and asking soni why he had taken him.

A few days after his death, his elder sister also came down with a fever, and her father turned to a well-known (male) gurumai in a neighboring village to find out the reason for his son’s death and his daughter’s illness. The gurumai determined that Mangla’s son had been seized in the hills by rau (in the form of a wind) and finally killed by him. Mangla should not have brought the youth to the hospital, according to the gurumai, since they are powerless against rau there. In addition, the gurumai determined that the demon had not attacked the youth on his own initiative, but instead, people in the village were practicing

nosto against his house, which was also the reason that his daughter had become ill.

The gurumai in Gudapada (also male) confirmed the findings of the outside gurumai and learned with help of the rice oracle about multiple harmful magical objects (jontor) in Mangla’s house. Shortly thereafter, this gurumai, together with a village dissari, conducted a ritual intended to make the jontor harmless and ward off other possible destructive influences. As the ritual actions will show, the specialists did not rule out the possibility that the duma of the recently deceased youth was also a cause of his sister’s illness.

The ritual activities began in the evening at Mangla’s house and continued at the ritual village boundary (bejorna) and the cremation site. Along with Mangla, his wife, and his children, a number of other men were present who assisted the specialists. The preparations began at Mangla’s house after sunset. The specialists made a miniature bamboo mat and two figurines (mosnia) of kendu wood, which they wrapped with cloth and on the heads of which they fastened hair.[2] [3] In addition, a forked stick was wrapped with cloth and so made into a torch, and nine holes were made in a new clay pot (jakor handi), into each of which a wick was introduced; the pot was later painted white. The use of a pot of this kind is another indication that the presumed illness, the fever, is considered a consequence of nosto. The pot was later broken, so that “fever and illness go away” (jor bemar jau). The specialists made murat and crushed various thorny twigs to a paste with which they filled iron pegs (kuti). Small pieces of a thorny type of bamboo (katabouns) were also prepared as kuti. The specialists scraped small bits off of many different roots and then dissolved all the particles with water in a small brass pot.

The dissari began to draw the sacrificial pattern in red and black in the big room of the house, and the gurumai added additional lines with white powder. Next to the pattern, the dissari drew a bier, on which the mosnia was later placed, and a mirror was laid on the ground, the reflecting side down, and integrated into the pattern. Finally, coins were set out on the pattern as pajor for soni rau and the duma2

With this, the preparations were completed, and Mangla’s sick daughter took her place behind the pattern, opposite the dissari, who began the invocation, standing with a crab for the duma in one hand and his jupan in the other. He asked the help of the gods (maphru mangbar) to support him in the fight against malicious powers. He let the crab “eat” a few grains of rice on the platform and then placed it on its back on the pattern previously drawn. The animal remained motionless as if hypnotized, a sign of the dissari’s power, often also demonstrated in this way on chickens. Without interrupting the invocation, he picked up the next sacrificial animal, a grasshopper (sitka).29 The gurumai now came to stand next to the dissari and began an invocation of her own, while - taking turns with the dissari - she had a red, a white, and a black chick peck rice from the sacrificial pattern and from the girl's hand. The animals each did their part without delay and were therefore immediately killed by another man of the village (a Sisa) in front of the sacrificial site.30 The blood was let drip on all the ritual objects: the medicine, murat, jupan, and kuti. The gurumai and dissari drank liquor in the house, while other helpers went around the outside of the house, hammered kuti into the ground at the four corners, and sprinkled murat on them.

The dissari then began to locate the jontor. His jupan rustling, he raised the mirror from the sacrificial pattern far enough to be able to see into the darkness of the inner room with its help. He jumped up, let the mirror fall back, plunged into the house's inner room, threw himself down on the ground, and seized a jontor in his right fist. The others hurried to join him and poured medicine over his fist, in which he held the small packet, in order to “blunt” the jontor. As if the jontor caused him pain, he held his right lower arm with his left hand and let it fall into the vessel of medicine. He looked into the mirror again and found that there were no additional jontor in the house, a position he maintained even when the gurumai contradicted him. She had discerned several jontor in the rice oracle, but things were left with the one. To investigate the jontor, everyone went out into the yard, where the packet was opened and the contents viewed. The small piece of cloth held a piece of eggshell and something that no one could identify; the whole packet was burned.

girls and women of the village pajor on the occasion of the “great hunt” (boro bet), so that they will let them pass into the forest. In general, then, it can be said that pajor purchases the right to enter a protected area unhindered and unharmed. Pajor is never given on the occasion of sacrifices addressed to the village gods, so the payment appears to be necessary in the context described here in order to be able to enter the sphere of soni rau.

  • 29 At the same time that this was going on, the gurumai with the help of her jupan addressed montor to the iron cartridges (kuti) that she had placed in the brass container of medicine.
  • 30 An egg and a sorenda root, the crab, and the grasshopper had been sacrificed earlier.

Before a group of men[4] set out for the cremation site, the dissari and the gu- rumai hammered in or buried additional kuti in the center of the sacrificial drawing, at the threshold of the house, and at the exits from the yard. The men had another drink of liquor and then left the house. Where paths branched off from the route, the gurumai hammered more kuti into the ground, and at the bejorna - the village’s ritual boundary, where the duma linger - she turned around and urinated across the path. At that location, the wooden figures and the raffia mat were set down, and the painted clay pot was placed on the path with the opening down. The gurumai had possibly planned additional actions at this location, but the more senior and by now completely drunk dissari urged haste and paid no heed to all the gurumai’s protests. He smashed the clay pot under his foot as it lay on the path and continued straight on to the cremation site, to which the gurumai did not follow him, but some of the helpers did.

At the cremation site, the dissari threw himself down on the ashes remaining from Sadep’s cremation, rolled around in them, and finally lay motionless. The helpers sprinkled murat in his direction, hammered several kuti into the ground between his fingers and toes and at his head, and then slowly helped him back to his feet, after which they returned to the bejorna. There, meanwhile, the guru- mai had cast all the ritual implements to the side and lit on fire the ends of the cloth wrapping the forked stick, which she was now waving back and forth in the darkness while forcefully blowing out air in different directions. She placed a knife in the middle of the path, poured water over it, and was the first to step over it, followed by the others. This technique - also used by the pujari - is intended to see to it that no one other than the men can follow. On the way back to the house, they all had another drink of liquor, and at the house later, they consumed the meat of the sacrificial animals, prepared by Mangla’s wife.

Since the situation in the house did not improve in the days following the ritual, and Mangla's older son also became ill, it was supposed that nosto was still being practiced against him. Two additional rituals were conducted by different specialists, some of them from other villages, after which the situation eased.

  • [1] In no case, on the other hand, has it been my experience that a dissari failed to begin atreatment for this reason. They start work even in cases that appear entirely hopeless.
  • [2] These representations of the dead are generally brought to the bejorna or to the cremationsite in the course of a ritual. They are always used when attacks by duma have taken place or aresuspected or feared (cf. the funeral of Guru Sisa). Troisi (2000) describes similar techniquesamong the Santal. In healing rituals there, the specialists (“ojha”) mimic a patient’s funeral, inorder to deceive the gods (“bonga”) causing the illness through this “mock funeral” and inducethem to renounce their victim (212).
  • [3] As part of chait porbo, the young girls of the village demand pajor from all non-residents,who thereby obtain permission to use the village paths. In the same way, the hunters give the
  • [4] No one from the house accompanied the group, but a mamu (FZH) of the girl was present.
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