Rudolf the Red Nose Reindeer & Shamanism

Rudolf the Red Nose Reindeer & Shamanism

Samten de Wet

Turin, 27th September 2012

Today there is a vogue for what is called ‘Shamanism’ in the West, in Europe, & elsewhere unconnected to the cultural roots from which this tradition originated. Obviously, a need is being expressed to return to some form of imagined authenticity. I would like to add a short observation. We would not imagine that our Christmas fables of Father Christmas and his Sleight would have anything to do with Shamanism, and especially Rudolf the Red Nose Reindeer. But in the Pazrik burials of the Alai Mountains, an area rich in Siberian Shamanism, the following was discovered:

´On the head of one of the horses was a mask made of leather, felt, fur and gold leaf in the shape of a reindeer’s head with horns of natural size.” [1]

Now my theory is that during the Ice Age, or at least throughout the vast snow and ice-bound vastness of the Siberian steppes, the horse would not be a functional more of transport, whereas the Reindeer would. So this Christmas myth contains memories of an earlier time. Anyhow it is just a theory. W. W. Malandra writes:

“The idea of reindeer that can fly through the air is indeed fantastic. We have already had occasion to see instances of such flights, particularly in the myths and tales. Without a doubt, the basic explanation of these events has been given by Eliade; the ability to fly above the earth expresses what was possible only in those wonderful times spoken of in the myths and tales. Now there are only a few people who still maintain a direct communication with all levels of the cosmos, and these people, the shamans, in a sense act out for all of mankind what was once open to everyone.” [2]

Sadly, much of the neo-Shamanistic vogue is totally devoid of any dedicated study and research. For example, how many Ne-Shamans have heard of the work of Prof. Manabu Waida?

Manabu Waida, Ph. D., trained in the History of Religions at the University of Chicago; Professor at the University of Alberta, Canada. Current research centres around myths, rituals, and shamanistic phenomena in Ryukyu Islands, Japan. – His publications include: Myths of the Origin of Death: the Central Asian Type? (Témenos 1982); Central Asian Mythology of the Origin of Death: A Comparative Analysis of Its Structure and History (Anthropos 1982); and Problems of Central Asian and Siberian Shamanism (Numen 1983); many articles on myths and symbols in the "Encyclopedia of Religion," ed. by Mircea Eliade (New York 1987).


Manabu Waida, Birds in the Mythology of Sacred Kingship, East and West, Vol. 28, No. 1/4 (December 1978), pp. 283-289

Manabu Waida, Central Asian Mythology of the Origin of Death: A Comparative Analysis of Its Structure and History, Anthropos, Bd. 77, H. 5./6. (1982), pp. 663-702

Manabu Waida, Problems of Central Asian and Siberian Shamanism, Numen, Vol. 30, Fasc. 2 (Dec., 1983), pp. 215-239

Manabu Waida, Symbolisms of the Moon and the Waters of Immortality, History of Religions, Vol. 16, No. 4, The Mythic Imagination (May, 1977), pp. 407-423

Manabu Waida, Symbolism of "Descent" in Tibetan Sacred Kingship and Some East Asian Parallels, Numen, Vol. 20, Fasc. 1 (Apr., 1973), pp. 60-78

Manabu Waida, The Flower Contest between Two Divine Rivals. A Study in Central and East Asian Mythology, Anthropos, Bd. 86, H. 1./3. (1991), pp. 87-109

Manabu Waida, The Patterns of Initiation in Japanese Shamanism, Anthropos, Bd. 89, H. 4./6. (1994), pp. 461-469

See also:

Marjorie Mandelstam Balzer, Flights of the Sacred: Symbolism and Theory in Siberian Shamanism, American Anthropologist, New Series, Vol. 98, No. 2 (Jun., 1996), pp. 305-318



[1] M. P. Griaznov, & Eugene A. Golomshtok,The Pazrik Burial of Altai, American Journal of Archaeology, 1933, pp. 31 ff.

[2] W. W. Malandra, The Concept of Movement in History of Religions: A Religio-Historical Study of Reindeer in the Spiritual Life of North Eurasian Peoples, Numen, Vol. 14, Fasc. 1 (Mar., 1967), p. 62.



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About arkanaroom

Researcher of Liminal Culture

Posted on September 27, 2012, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. Thanks for this Samten .. yes there does seem to be need for (return to) greater authenticity doesn’t there. So good to have your observations.
    I tried to leave a message for you on LinkedIn – but I don’t think it went through.Nothing to do with this post of yours.

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