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India – On Tuesday Visit the Shaman

Several times a week, in a small isolated village outside Puri in the Indian state of Orissa, Hindu shaman priests provoke a trance state by means of hallucinogens. They work from twin temples to Shiva & Parvati that are just a short walk through villages a few kilometers outside Puri.   The temples are situated in the midst of a giant banyan tree. The shamans emerge from the sanctum sanctorum of the Shiva temple, accompanied by drums and other musical instruments, clanging bells and much smoke.

Hindu shaman priests swallow fire
Hindu shaman priests swallow fire
Hindu shaman priests swallow fire
Hindu shaman priests swallow fire
Hindu shaman priests fortell the future
Hindu shaman priests fortell the future

 

Hindu shaman priests swallow fire
Hindu shaman priests swallow fire
Hindu shaman priests swallow fire
Hindu shaman priests swallow fire
Hindu shaman priests swallow fire
Hindu shaman priests swallow fire
Montage - India - Temples, Gods and Goddesses
Montage – India – Temples, Gods and Goddesses

When they emerge from the Parvati temple sanctum sanctorum, the priests are escorted to the large tiger statues flanking the entrance. They clamber a bit drunkenly onto the statues, then balance astride them. Temple guardians hand them flaming dried flowers or small bunches of smoldering leaves which they take into their mouths, quashing the flame. The shamans then toss the smoldering leaf into the crowd. If someone catches the embers they can ask a question. Speeding the process, sometimes, the shaman proceeds to tell them the answer to their question before they can even form the question. Sometimes the answers are brief; other times they are elaborate constructions in another language, so there is a delay while one of the other temple priests gives a translation.

Hindu shaman priests swallow fire
Hindu shaman priests swallow fire
Hindu shaman priests swallow fire
Hindu shaman priests swallow fire
Hindu shaman priests fortell the future
Hindu shaman priests fortell the future

The crowd is lively and pays attention to everyone’s readings. Eventually the shamans tire, and retreat into the temple interior and the crowd disperses until the next opportunity.