Massage within witch-doctor practice system of Izhem people of lower Ob (summary)

© 2012 E.E. Ermakova

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Key words: folk medicine, lower Ob, Komi-Izhem, massage

 Abstract: Basing on the materials of field research the author of the article analyzes the massage as an important part of Komi-Izhem of lower Ob region (nord of Tyumen) magical and medical knowledge. The accent is made on personal qualities of massage therapist, as well as on the massage hygiene, diagnostics, methods, forms and procedures. The pictures illustrating the moves of massage therapist help to visualize the practice.

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Izhem people of Lower Ob considered their witch-doctor complex an important part of their knowledge. It helped them to adapt ant to preserve their identity in new territory. Its elements were naturally caused by environmental, ethnic, cultural and social features of the society.

The most efficient and demanded type of medical treatment as well as precaution against various diseases has been massage. The article in question tells about methods, forms and ways of massage, personality of masseur, hygiene and diagnostics. Mostly Izhem used manual massage. In the course of action they could employ various items: clew, bottle, jar, stick, deer pole, etc.

Forms of massage included self-massage, general and local massage.

According to I. Iljina, Komi employed the following massage methods: stroking, rubbing and patting. We noticed more massage methods among Izhem of Lower Ob: middle-deep methods of stroking, rubbing and wringing and deep method of stretching, together with specific methods of raising and pressing. They could be used independently or at the same time.

In general massage as a way of precaution and treatment was very much in demand among local population. Its origin with Izhem, however, still remains unclear. Most likely, it absorbed parts of several systems, primarily Finno-Ugric and Slavonic (Russian). After accumulating methods of medical systems of various ethnic groups, Komi massage system developed on its own. Izhem of Lower Ob represent one of its local variants.

The aims of Izhem massage were to improve circulation of blood and lymph, and even more – to influence muscular and osseous systems of human body. Massage was rather deep and hard. Its purpose was to recreate lost health and to return a body to normal functional state after a heavy job. Thus, massage as a part of Izhem witch-doctor system was very efficient in medical treatment and recreation of exhausted body.

According to our informants, earlier every settlement had several masseurs at a time. Besides, many women (and rarely men) massaged only their family members, thus giving them necessary first aid (often it was also the last one). Now, you can hardly find masseurs who have clients outside their families. Many of those whom I talked to, only recall massage, but do not practice it themselves (meaning traditional massage system). Those who still practice, usually do only local massage of back and stomach. Massage methods are getting poorer. Today it is mostly manual massage; clew, bottle, jar, stick or deer pole massage are only memories. Te procedure itself is increasingly taking place at home, as it costs less trouble than specially preparing a bathhouse.

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