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From: China Tibet Magazine 2005-02-24 16:37:00
by: Renqen Wanggyi
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Divination practices unique to the Bon Religion and related rituals

Talisman on a farmer's door in the Xigaze area.

Ritual chart used for divination.

People living in the remote mountainous areas in east Tibet still practice divination for good weather, with lettered masters called "Awu Gungba" and unlettered ones "Shiba". With the skills passed on orally from one generation to the next, they are very powerful.

"They are good enough to invite wind and rain, and disperse hail," locals say.

"A mere wave of the hand will cause ferocious dogs to flee and a locked door to open."

Practicing Divination by Examining Burnt Sheep Bones  
Leg bones of goat, sheep and such wild animals as river deer, deer, rock sheep and argali are used in divination. The bone should not bear even the faintest streak of flesh. Generally, such bones have to be kept at the home of the sorcerers, who practice divination for prolonged periods of time.

"Flint grass", growing in mountains dotted with pine trees above 2,000 meters elevation, are used as the wick. Such grass is green on the front and white on the back. Sorcerers smoke the grass over a fire. Local people use such smoked "flint grass" as flint, and some others use them in moxibustion along with acupuncture needles in medical treatment.

The sorcerer practices divination generally when all the stars have shown up in the sky for accuracy. People who need to ask questions must give their names and birth date.

With animal bones in his left hand, the sorcerer makes a ball of "flint grass". He rubs the grass ball against his teeth and sticks it onto the bone. He lights the grass ball with a burning piece of fire wood or charcoal, and says: "Ready, begin."

At this point of time, the bone is burnt. Putting the burnt bone in front of him, the sorcerer adds: "Should I make any mistake, it is not my fault. It is you who have not seen and listened to me carefully". "You" here means the sorcerer's forefathers.

Divination is not practiced until the burnt bone has cooled. The sorcerer turns it over. Holding the bone in his left hand, he puts his right thumb into his mouth and then cleans off the burnt "flint grass" to reveal the lines made by the burning, on which he makes his judgment. 
Practicing Divination by Examining Chicken Head  
In remote mountainous areas, many people can tell the future according by looking at a chicken head. Amateurs can tell whether there is something evil about a happen or a theft that is going to occur in the days ahead. Professionals, however, can detect 108 problems.

Visitors to village families that worship the Bon religion will be entertained with a chicken. Divination is practiced during the period from catching the chicken to slaughtering it. Both the hosts and guests can see auspicious or evil signs from the color of chicken blood and the direction in which it flows.

Intestines and liver and eggs will be examined before beginning to examine the chicken head.

Heads of cocks or hens, which should not be cut, are boiled in clean water. No salt should be added otherwise the bones will turn black, a bane for divination.

When the boiled chicken head is put in an empty bowl and brought out, the guests will first be invited to examine it. Humble guests, however, will tend to invite the oldest one present on the occasion to examine first.

The chicken head is skinned to see whether the top is smooth or has red or black spots, with red spots showing evil times ahead and black spots predicting death; whether the line on the head spreads smoothly, with the part to the left of the line foretelling the future of the hosts and the part to the right that of the guests. Whether disasters can be avoided depends on the magical power of the sorcerer.

Following the examination of the chicken head, the hosts and the guests examine the tongue to determine their position and financial power.

Eyes are the next to be examined to predict wealth or losses.

Chicken bills are also examined to determine whether the house foundations are good, and whether the house is in an auspicious place.
Telling Bone Fracture by Examining Live Chicken's Bones  
Villagers may suffer from a bone fracture while working in the mountains. To tell how serious the hurt is, the hosts will invite a sorcerer. For this purpose, a red cock is caught. The sorcerer sprays water over the cock, lights a cypress branch or a piece of sandalwood, and holds the cock over the smoke for a while. Having chanted spells, the sorcerer opens the cock's bill directing its breath at the injured person. Then he breaks its neck and takes off the flesh along the bones. Strangely enough, where the bone is damaged in the cock will be exactly the same place in the injured person. 
Dispelling the Evil by Beating Chicken  
This is very common with mountain people who believe in the Bon religion. It takes place generally at the beginning or at the end of a year, and all family members have to be present. Evils here refer to pains, illness, nightmares and inauspicious events.

Masters who are good at beating a chicken will be invited to worship the deity. Facing the open door, he grasps the chicken's feet and begins to chant spells for half an hour.

A professional will do this at dusk when all have returned home. He holds the chicken and examines it to see whether it is healthy and whether its claws are sharp. The chicken is then bathed in a bowl of water. Bon believers hold that both the animals and human beings carry invisible filthy things that are ghosts, or spirits in the shape of dirt, wood, water or stone. Smoking or spreading water over it will help dispel the evil. This takes place before or after attending a wedding party or funeral.

The sorcerer then holds the chicken' s feet in his left hand and spreads a handful of qingke barley or rice in the direction of the worshipped deities. Having told the deities his name and the year he was born, the sorcerer will say: "I may not be capable enough. I will depend on the magic power of my forefathers and all deities". At this point, the hosts present him with a bowl of wine. Dipping his ring finger into the wine and spreading it over his head and shoulders, he also takes several mouthfuls of wine before undertaking the second round of rituals.

Having both feet of the cock in his left hand, the sorcerer holds high a knife in the right hand. He beats the cock with the knife 50 cm long, which is normally hanging from his waist. The cock cries and the sorcerer will say:

"Though I am not powerful enough, I have God's support. You should not be an ordinary cock. You come from Heaven to divide day and night with crows. Your sharp bill should peck all enemies and demons, and your sharp claws should scratch all enemies and demons, too. In the past year, the host family failed to worship the deities properly, with the result that there are demons and problems present. Tonight, you should punish these spirits for me."

He keeps beating and repeating the words until the cock dies. At this point, the sorcerer will say:

"I have the magic power to wipe you out. What I have done is a warning to you. If you continue to harass the host family, I will give you more serious punishment."

Saying this, he throws the dead cock and knife toward the door. If the blade of the knife faces the outside and the body of the dead cock lies horizontally and its head and feet face the outside, too, this means the ritual has been successful. The hosts will cook the cock and everybody present on the occasion will be entertained with "the flesh of the spirits."

Heart, liver, head and wings of the cock will be burnt and used as sacrificial objects for the deities. The sorcerer eats them and gives judgment on the family fortunes in the year ahead according to what is seen in the leftover bones. At this point, the "flesh of the spirits" has been cooked and the party can begin to end the rituals.


[editor : ]
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