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The beater
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The beater is a separate accessory: every drum has a beater but not every beater has a drum. The beater is always acquired before the drum, and may remain the shamanís main prop throughout his life. Unlike the drum, the beater is usually made by the shaman himself, before he is publicly invested with his function.
The Evenk word for beater is ìtalking object, forecasting objectî, the root of a whole series of terms related to divinatory speech in the Manchu-Tungus languages. It is usually made from the wood of a lightening-blasted tree. Sometimes the head is carved. The beater has two sides, one concave and the other convex. The convex side, b¸lge, is usually covered with fur or the velvet from antlers; this is the side that beats the drum and ìtranslatesî its answers to participantsí questions.

Symbolic functions and values of the beater
Generally authors agree that the beater is not simply designed to produce sound from a drum. Based on its name and use, most see it as the continuation of an animal foot (especially the bearís paw) to be used in divination.
And indeed it is often used on its own for divination: a unsymmetrical object, when tossed into the air by the shaman it can fall on its ìgoodî (convex) side or on its ìbadî (concave) side (Vasilevich 1969: 253, Lot-Falck 1974: 659, Beffa & Delaby 1999: 37ñ38). The shaman usually throws it up three times, and then as many times as there are requests for luck from the audience. If the beater falls convex side up, luck will come, the desires will be fulfilled. The shaman does not see the results of his toss, since the fringe of his headband hides his eyes. It is the participants who call out the result: tevetche ìcaught it!î if it is positive, if not etche ìno!î.

Author(s): R. Hamayon
Date created: 2003-09-09 - Date modified: 2004-04-14

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Moosehead-handled beater or drumstick


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