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This is an explanation of the shamanic instruments of Hungarian shaman Joska Soos, in his own words.
The original text is in Dutch.
I translated it from the book Joska Soos, Ik Genees Niet, Ik Herstel de Harmonie into English(© copyright for the translation by Dirk Gillabel, 2014).
I have also added illustrations in the right column.
You are free to reproduce this text if used for non-profit, educational purposes, and you provide a link back to the URL of this page.
This article is also available in PDF format.
The most important
instrument of the shaman is the drum. The drum symbolizes the beating of
the heart, both of man and the earth, because the earth also is a living
organism. Beating of the drum gives the rhythm of the galloping horse
carrying the shaman to the underworld or the world of the gods. In many
traditions, the drum is called 'the horse'.
My drum is painted like every shaman drum. Horizontally, there are three areas, under the earth, on the earth and above the earth. At the lowest level, under the earth, and under the water, is the fire that is represented by the primeval atom, and instead of water, a water animal, a polyp, has been painted.
At the level of the earth are the people. I have made an ideogram of a man and a woman.
Above it is the sky, the sun is above the man and the moon is above the woman. The sky is really the superconscious, the subterranean is the subconscious and the middle plane is our human consciousness.
The highest levels are indicated by the Polaris star. The Polaris star represents the seventh chakra. Here you see a wheel in the form of a double swastika, one side turns from right to left, the other from left to right.
In the middle is a vertical axis that is the harmony, the backbone of man, and the line of his development. Because horizontal knowledge is infinite, but true knowledge is vertical, connecting with upstairs and downstairs. The vertical line is the axis, the harmony and the spine. On the religious level, it is the tree of life, and on the cosmic level it is the cosmic tree, which runs from the human to the Polaris star and then even further. In shamanism, the Polaris star was considered the great door to the divine.
We need to focus on only the sun and the moon, as you have a sun cult and a moon cult. Because there is also a higher cult, the cult of the stars and especially the Polaris star. That cult existed long ago and was forgotten later on.
The energy comes from both sides down, left and right, coming together in the sacrum and goes from there through the axis upwards. That is the cycle of the two wheels, and the three levels. That's why I always say that you must work on the total human: body, soul and mind, the conscious, subconscious and superconscious.
On the drum are also the five colors. On the left, the female side, is the color black, the symbol of the earth, on right side the white color of foamy waves, which is the male. Above is the blue color of the sky and below the red color of the fire. The fifth element is the yellow color of the mind or the sun, the power that makes everything experience.
The drum, as an instrument, is connected to the earth. The rattles are water. I have two rattles: a heavy one that symbolizes the heavenly water, the rain that falls down, the male water; and a light one that symbolizes the female, earthly water, the river and lakes.
The air is symbolized by the bells. Shamans often wore little bells on their clothing. The air is the realm of the spirits. With the sound of bells spirits were called, or scared away. The bells are in existence since the iron age. Therefore, the air was also symbolized by the flute. There are three kinds of flutes which represents different states of mind. When one hears a shepherd's flute, then this affect the first and second chakra, sometimes also the third and fourth. This is a sign that the human emotions and feelings are of order. The pan flute is the connection of the earth with heaven, because we know that Pan was a demigod. When someone hears this flute, and he is concerned with this connection. The third flute is the crystal flute, or the jade flute. Its sound reaches the highest spheres of the spirit, the sound of angels. That is why, in Christian iconography, the angels are depicted with trumpets. When someone hears this sound, he knows he is in connection with the highest spheres.
The element fire is represented by the sound of the ratchet. This is the sound of a fire. Shamans have been using it since time immemorial to frighten evil spirits, which are afraid of fire, just like the animals.
The fifth element is the human sound, symbolized by the conch shell. Blowing on a conch shell is the primal sound. At the same time it is the human breath, the spirit that vivifies everything. This can also be symbolized by the horn, as with the Tibetans, and with the Jews who blow on a ram's horn with certain rituals.
I also play the Tibetan singing bowls. Long time ago, before Buddhism came to Tibet, there was the bon-religion. This was a shamanistic and animalistic religion which used a lot of rituals and singing. When in the eighth century Buddhism came to Tibet, it fused with the original shamanic religion. That was a good connection, because shamanism was very extrovert, action oriented, and Buddhism was more meditative. They united into Lamaism. This gave a more total form to the human seeking towards harmony.
In this way the singing bowls are connected with shamanism. They are made from seven different metals. They contain gold for the sun, silver for the moon, mercury for Mercury, copper for Venus, iron for Mars, tin for Jupiter, and lead for Saturn. According to the teaching, each metal has seven kinds of sounds or vibrations. Therefore, each bowl contains seven multiplied by seven, 49 different sounds. One has to try to distinguish them, and to let them work on oneself.
One can simply listen, and hit them and listen. One can also rub a bowl with a stick by which the bowl starts 'singing'. You can also feel the bowl and absorb the vibrations this way; or hold your tong against a bowl to receive the vibration in a more intense way.
The purpose is that after a while you feel the vibration, even when you simply think of it; and that you can experience the sound in your mind independent of the instrument.
As long as you are not able to do that, it is good to have such a bowl, because that can save time and hasten the process.
The singing bowls are very old, they date back before Lamaism. Two years ago, there was a large exposition of Tibetan ritual objects in the British Museum. On display were two medium-sized bowls from an archaeological excavation in 1938, and which had been cleaned recently. The excavation had taken place nearby an ancient Bon temple. Scientific research showed that the bowls were from 2400 B.C. This shows that the bowls were already used in that time, in Tibet.
Only monks who especially used sound had those bowls. For the rest it was a secret, because they were not used in ordinary rituals. One day, when I asked a high ranking Tibetan lama if he knew these bowls were really used, he answered: "Maybe."
When the Chinese invaded Tibet, they destroyed almost all fourteen thousand monasteries, only seventeen were spared. The Chinese have taken away all valuables from these monasteries, and they sold it later in Shanghai and other places. In this way, the bowls arrived at antiquarians and collectors.
In Japan, they also use similar big bowls, but they only hit them and don't really play them. Although they are present in Zen Buddhism, they probably came from the much older Shinto religion, which also dates back to old shamanic rituals.
In many religions, sound has an important function. In the old temple at Jerusalem, Jews were singing day and night. Each hour, twelve Levites sang to praise god, and they would alternate.
It is said that in the monasteries on the mountain Athos, the Greek orthodox monks have been singing uninterrupted since the sixth century. In this way the harmony in the individual, but also on Earth is being maintained.