A Saora Shamanin
[Bringing this over from an old website. It’s an account of a spirit-marriage tradition that I thought might be interesting to those exploring godspousery and other types of relationships. It more closely mirrors my own experiences than many contemporary dynamics, in that one of the primary purposes is spiritual tutelage rather than it being more like a regular marriage with an invisible partner.]
A Saora Shamanin
from an account by Verrier Elwin, a British anthropologist who lived among the Saora people of India (1955),
as quoted in the book Shamans Through Time:
“Every shamanin [female shaman] is called to her sacred duties at about the time of puberty as a result of a remarkable dream-experience….which results in her “marriage” to a tutelary from the Under World. This spiritual marriage is not generally a bar to marriage on earth….and the girl usually marries a human husband after a few years. But her dream-lord seems to be equally real to her; to hear a shamanin talking, it is not always easy to say which of her two husbands means more to her.
“This experience may follow or precede some formal training in divination. Sometimes a girl whose family has had no previous association may be called to it in a dream and the dream-husband himself may teach her the art. More commonly a girl belongs to a family where the shamanin tradition already exists; the mother or, as so often, the father’s sister is a shamanin and begins to prepare the little girl from an early age for her future life. The dream-experiences, therefore, are not unexpected….
“The dream which forces a girl into her profession and seals it with supernatural approval takes the form of visits of a suitor from the Under World who proposes marriage with all its ecstatic and numinous consequences. This “husband” is a Hindu, well-dressed and handsome, wealthy, and observant of many customs to which the Saoras are strangers. He comes, according to tradition, in the depth of night; when he enters the room the whole household is laid under a spell and sleeps like the dead.
“In nearly every case, the girl at first refuses, for the profession of shamanin is both arduous and beset with dangers. The result is that she begins to be plagued with nightmares: her divine lover carries her to the Under World or threatens her with a fall from a great height. She generally falls ill; she may even be out of her wits for a time, and wanders pathetically dishevelled in the fields and woods. The family then takes a hand. Since in most cases the girl has been having training for some time, everyone knows what she is in for, and even if she herself does not tell her parents what is happening they usually have a shrewd idea. But the proper thing is for the girl herself to confess to her parents that she has been “called,” that she has refused, and that she is now in danger. This immediately relieves her own mind of its burden of guilt and sets the parents free to act. They at once arrange the girl’s marriage with her tutelary….
“After the marriage, the shamanin’s spirit-husband visits her regularly and lies with her till dawn. He may even take her away into the jungle for days at a time, feeding her there on palm wine. In due course a child is born and the ghostly father brings it every night to be nursed by the girl. But the relationship is not primarily a sexual one; the important thing is that the tutelary husband should inspire and instruct his young wife in her dreams, and when she goes to perform her sacred duties he sits by her and tells her what to do.”