Shamans do not charge fees


Siberian traditions differ from Native Americans because we are a different people. Although shamans do not have set fees for doing their work, they are compensated by their community. Being a shaman is considered a full-time occupation.

In pre-Communist times, the community that the shaman served would tend to the shaman’s herds (reindeer, horses, etc). On top of this, when they needed spiritual help such as blessings, hunting magic, healings, etc., they paid the shaman. Currency was usually in the form of hides, meat, bricks of tea, and eagle feathers.

The shaman would tell them which animals of their herds must be sacrificed and the hides of the animals were given to the shaman as well as much of the meat. These sacrifices were for the shaman’s helper-spirits to help him in his work. Bolts of cloth and other goods were given to the shaman as well to thank the spirits. In fact, it was (and still is) believed that if the shaman’s spirits were not honoured in this way, they could abandon the shaman and disrupt the community.

During the past century, often a shaman’s clients lived in towns and did not raise livestock. Because of this, payments had to change as well. The tradition has evolved into gifting the shaman 3 things. One would be to supply the shaman with all the things he needed for the ceremony. This would include bottles of vodka to make arshaan out of as well as smudge material, travel expenses, etc. The second would be khadags (ceremonial scarves) for him to honour the spirits of his equipment with, the third would be a gift according to what the person could afford. Once again, the payment is to honour the spirits and not the shaman himself.

It is considered amoral for a shaman to set a specific price for a specific ceremony. Also, charging people to attend ceremonies is very taboo. Shamans would NEVER have paid workshops to teach people “how to be a shaman”.

I know that this system is not as romantic as people had hoped for. People often try to idealize tribal societies as some kind of Eden where everything is free and beautiful. However, life in Siberia is harsh. It is difficult to survive. How fair would it be to the shaman and his/her family if they sacrificed all their time to the community and then starved because they had no time to hunt or herd? The spirits that serve the shamans are often demanding. For their service, it is right to compensate them.