I. Emma Borjigid Bohm

Power, Rule and Social Order in a Society Without Fathers and Orphans

I. Emma Borjigid Bohm

Xiamen University, Xiamen


Abstract: In Na (Mo-so) society there are no orphans. Parenting is shared amongst all members of the extended mother's family/Clan. Power is a motherly potency of giving life, nurturing, sustaining, harmonising, tending to life. It comes from the centre of the Hearth, symbol of the heart and the earth, connection between earth and sky, in the Dabu’s room, where all the family and the guests eat, together with Zambalà, the Spirit of the Hearth. If in patriarchy power has a pyramidal structure made to exploit those below, in Na society, power is still a circle through which every decision is shared and all family members are looked after.

The Dabu, leader of the family, with the womb-shaped stupa and fire burning therein, is not necessarily the eldest in physical age. She is chosen by the prior Dabu as the most caring who, as mother who gives birth at the risk of her life, and as a Grandmother who has demonstrated to be the most dedicated to the well-being of the family as a whole, thus the one who is most likely to make choices from the heart, for the wellbeing of all. In this paper I analyse the ways in which power is handled and expressed in this “gylanic” society, with regard to the Anglo-italic etymology of the term "power" as connected to the term Potnia, the primeval “Mother-Father” Goddess apateira, and from there I make some interesting considerations which may reveal the original meaning of this term.

Social order in Na society comes from peace within the mother clan/extended family. For this reason, it is considered a “House society”. It’s the peace that comes from the fact individual needs are not only fulfilled but held sacred, as to the demonization of need typical of the societies of capitalism. In traditional Na society no-one is left homeless, without food, care, company or affection, just like parenting responsibilities are shared by the whole extended family. If the natural parents of a child die, the rest of family will look after the child. If an adult loses their entire family, another family needing an extra member will adopt the “orphan” even as an adult or elderly person. If a family doesn’t have enough members, someone from a more numerous family of the closer blood relations, will be come and join the household. This paper is an attempt to show how Na traditional “mothering” lifestyle could effectively upturn Western capitalist paradigms based on an entirely incorrect notion of power, control and order.

Vocabulary: in Na Abu means father, whereas the word D-abu designates the “boss of the house”, which in Na culture is Grandmother, the most caring, the embodiment of the Ancestress. Curiously it is composed by the letter D plus abu, father, though women only are the head of the house.

The word Aba means mother in Sichuan Na (Ama in the Yunnan side), whereas D-aba means “priest”. Curiously it is composed by the letter D plus aba, mother, though men only can officiate rituals.

The meaning of “D” as a suffix of the word should be investigated but it may be conjectured that it invests the following particle of the word with a leadership meaning. For example “head father” for Dabu. And “head mother” (Grand Mother in fact) for the word Daba. It does raise questions though that the Dabu is a female and the Daba a male instead.

In my opinion this may well reflect the time in which through the centuries the Na culture witnessed the overlap of matrilineal and patrilineal society, as proved by the fact in Labei the Na live under patrilineal model and that in Yonging matrilineal perdures[1]


The Na people (摩梭人, Mósuō Ren)are an ethnic minority living in South Western China across the North of Yunnan and Sichuan borders, under the Himalayan chains. Even though not all researchers agree Naxi and Na to share common roots,[2] since 1950 with Naxi independence as national minority, the Na (also called Na/Naru inhabiting the region of Yunnan), have been classified as an hybrid branch of the Naxi (Naxisu-zhi) ethnic group, ranging around 270.000, including Na people who are about 40000. It must be noted however, that the Na living in the Sichuan region were classified as branch of the Mongolians (Menggu zu). Only in 1997 the Na Yongning (in Yunnan), obtained at a provincial level the designation of "Na people" (Na ren).[3] Na and Naxi currently differ from one another in family structure and descent, customs, traditions, religions and language.

The origins of these two populations are shrouded in mystery. They may both descend from Tibetans populations established in North Yunnan about 2000 years ago or be the result of the mixtures of different peoples who occupied the region. According to the anthropologist Christine Mathieu,[4] the comparison of historical sources, oral tradition and linguistic analysis shows that the origin of these two populations cannot be traced back to a single tribe nor two distinct tribes, but to different populations such as Qiang, Tibetans and Mongols and other peoples who at different times have arrived in Yunnan and that through war and assimilation gave life to the people we now call Naxi and Na .[5]

Even linguistic analysis supports the hypothesis of the common origin of the Naxi and Na since both languages belong to the Sino-Tibetan and Lolo-Burmese language family.[6] As the Naxi occupy the Western region of the river Yangtze corresponding to the Lijiang region, the Na start in Labei in the Ninlang district next to the river an extend down to the plane of Yongning beyond the Lugu lake at 2700 m up to Suchuan otherwise occupied by Mongols (before 1253).[7] Since then the Na divide in various under groups speaking different dialects. This territory is not only inhabited by Na , but also by the other ethnic groups Norzu, Yi, Pumi and Tibetan. In Lijiang for instance there are 22 diverse ethnic groups, the major being Naxi who are the majority followed by the Yu, the Liu, the Bai, the Pumi, the Miao, the Tibetans and the Zhang.[8]

Viability of the term ‘matriarchal’

I am one of the researchers favorable to the term matriarchy in academic research. An entire chapter of my dissertation has been dedicated to it and its usage. As far as the debate around it is concerned, extensively discussed by Hutton in Triumph of the Moon,[9] I plan to go deeper into it throughout my dissertation to defend the viability of this term with every instrument within my reach and my area of expertise.

In this paper however, I shall limit myself to citing Professor Abendroth:

The wave of popular and academic interest in non-patriarchal social models has inspired the coinage of new terms. Why then insisting on the term "matriarchy", when so problematic? Recovering this term means claiming the economic, political, social and cultural knowledge of societies created by women. The long history of these cultures has been carried on by women and men who have contributed in equal measure to keep them alive and to pass them on to future generations. (...) Matriarchies are authentic egalitarian gender societies; the social collaboration of the two sexes is based on this principle and, in spite of women’s centrality, it regulates society as well as the freedom of both genders. Matriarchal societies must absolutely not be considered mirror images of patriarchal ones, because women have never needed such hierarchical structures. Patriarchal domination —a minority emerging from wars of conquest and replacing an entire culture— derives its power from impositive structures, private property, colonial rule and religious conversion. These patriarchal structures of power represent a historically recent development, since they started appearing around 4000-3000 BC. (and in many parts of the world even later), strengthening with the subsequent spread of patriarchy.

Once the misunderstanding on the word "matriarchy" has been revealed, it is now necessary to consider more its linguistic background. The current (…) preconception according to which matriarchy means "women's government" or "domination of mothers" may be challenged, since such definitions are based on the assumption that matriarchy is parallel to patriarchy, with the difference that at the lead there is another gender. The fact that the two terms appear to be parallel has nourished the idea that the social models should be so as well. As a matter of fact, the Greek word "arché" does not mean only "dominion", but also "beginning", oldest meaning of the word. The two concepts are distinct and should not be confused. Even in Italian they are clearly different: you would never translate "archetype" with "dominator-type" and you would not understand what "archeology" means if it were translated as "study of domination". Those who believe in the myth of the universal patriarchy present this relatively recent form of society as if it existed all over the world. Hundreds of falsehoods of this type have been propagated by patriarchal orientation theorists. First of all, they are not able to see matriarchy except through the lens of the dominating model. Starting from this misunderstanding, they look far and wide for the testimony of a matriarchy founded on domination; then finding no evidence of a culture conform to their patriarchal hypothesis of a female domination, they proceed by stating that matriarchies do not exist and have never existed. They invent a phantom culture and then go in search of an example for it. When they fail to find it, they are pleased to proclaim that it was really a chimera. This circular reasoning is not only illogical, but it is also a shameful waste of science. According to the most ancient meaning of "arché", matriarchy means "at beginning the mothers" alluding with this both to the fact that women generate the beginning of life through childbirth, both to the cultural datum that the beginning of civilization was created by them. Patriarchy too could be translated as "the dominion of the fathers" or "at the beginning the fathers". However, this pretentiousness leads to the domination of fathers, because, lacking any natural right to claim a role at the "beginning", they were forced since the origins of the patriarchy to emphasize it and then to impose it with domination. On the contrary, precisely because of the fact that mothers give rise to the group, to the future generation and therefore to society, they are clearly the beginning; (…) [and] do not need to impose their role with domination.[10]

Indo-European etymologies and Greek/Asian mythological parallelisms

When invited to discuss the concept of power, rule and social order, I would initiate my disquisition by digressing shortly on the etymologic meaning of such terms, both in the language I am writing in, merely to clarify what I am actually discussing, and, whether possible in the language/s of the culture/s taken into exam in order to place those topics into context. In Na ‘power’ is ‘hrhasuò[11], rule is delou[12] and ‘order’ is shu.[13] Yet, being the etymology of Na language a widely unknown academic matter worthwhile a dissertation of its own, and while being at the final stages of my research, I am well far from being able to discuss the etymology of these terms in Na language. I will thus limit myself to a brief analysis of these terms in English just so to clarify and focus on what I am actually going to discuss in the following pages through the obvious filters of the language and culture of my educational background.


The Anglo-Mediterranean etymology of this term is very interesting when discussing matriarchal societies anywhere as it shall be discussed below. Its Middle English form comes from Anglo-Norman French poeir, modern French pouvoir, a surrogating of Latin posse (‘be able to’),[14] which stands for pot-se, contracted from potis-esse= which in turn comes from the Latin verb poteret, standing for posset, potrebbe, potemus and for possumus, possiamo (‘we can’) [;] which takes its meaning from potis, ‘that who can’ and more properly ‘that who dominates’, from which the comparative potior, ‘that who can more’, and potiri, ‘to become master/mistress, possessor, owner, leader’[;] padrone in modern Italian [the closest Neo-Latin language to Latin] from the root pa- which holds concept of ‘protecting’, ‘dominating’ [;] (…) in Sanskrit पत्यते patyate to ‘dominate’, pa-ti ‘to protect’, palas ‘sovereign’, pàyù ‘guardian’, pàtis ‘master’, ‘husband’, pàtni ‘mistress’, ‘wife’, from which also the Greek pào-mai[15] ‘purchase’, i.e. to enter in possession of [;] pater ‘father’, ‘master of the house’ Bohemian pàn, and in Lithuanian ponas, husband, gothic faths, ‘master’, which the obscured root in-po is found in the Greek pòsis ‘husband’, or master of the wife, pòtnia, mistress. (…)[16]

The Pòtnia and the Goddess of the mountain

This is very interesting the light of the fact that such an etymology appears to suggest that the concept of power comes either from the idea of possessing/of being master/husband of the Pòtnia (ancient Greek Goddess as we shall see), thus the idea of drawing power from her, or, even more, from the ability capacity (‘that who can’) of the Pòtnia herself (‘that who dominates’). In fact, the term Pòtnia in its historical origin is actually alien and opposite to that of ‘wife’ and rather more realistically synonymous of ‘that who dominates’. This is because the Pòtnia was the hermaphrodite Goddess apateira [17] (‘fatherless’) and ‘virgin’ in the sense of ‘indomitable’ and ‘free from the yoke of marriage’, ‘without husband and master’.[18] She was venerated widely in Greece and all over the Middle East, particularly in Crete where her worship left profound cultural, archaeological and historical traces, up to the invasions of the patrilineal Achaean tribes. [19] The latter split her into various Goddesses (with various names and roles functional to the new Achaean male-dominated society dictated by the invaders) and married her in her fragmented forms to several male Gods, thus introducing the idea of marriage, previously absent in Crete[20], in turn giving birth to the classical Greek pantheon of Gods and Goddesses led by Zeus. [21]

Before the Achaean invasions, it was around the traditional religious and philosophical concept of Pòtnia that revolved that power (or ‘potency’ better still) as it shall be further discussed below. It should be anticipated at this regard, that the Cretan Pòtnia and Mistress of the snakes appears to share the same cultural and symbolical significance of the various Asian manifestations of the Goddess of the mountain and of the animals, as widely demonstrated in Pagan Traces.[22] Amongst these, we may well include Na Gammu, as we shall see shortly.


This English term comes from French ordre, from Latin òrdo, ordinem in the accusative declination, which according to Corssen and Georges, is composed by the root AR- and OR-, found in nòr-ior ‘I am born’, ordior, ‘I start’, and the Greek or-nymi ‘I make go’, in Sanskrit rnômi, standing for ar-nômi ‘I am starting movement’, ‘I stir’ (…) post-desinence found in dulcè-dolcezza (‘sweet’-‘sweetness’), cupi-do [from cupĕre ‘bramare’ in Italian, ‘to covet’, ‘to yearn for’][23] cupidità [‘lust’] [24]etc., even though the D is not a simple elongation of the root: so that order would appear to be a ‘fashion of going’, of ‘proceeding’ and the like. The disposition of each thing in its place; series and disposition of things or ideas, according to a concept. Grade or citizens’ class, according to their capacity or condition; militias’ disposition; and thus ‘line’, ‘ranks’, ‘body of organized people’ in various grades and dignity.

‘Sacred Order’, ‘priests’ grade of priesthood’, ‘chivalry order’ (…), ‘monastic order’, ‘religious congregation’.

‘Order’ is also the disposition of things in the world given by Nature and Law, thus Rule, Normative, Command disposing any given matter. (…) disposition of things in the place that is rightful to it (…) Order in the sense of some task that must be completed, is different from ‘Commission’ or ‘Mandate’ because in the second and third the action by it required may not be necessarily be enacted, which in the first is compulsory. [25]


This term comes from French regle (…) and Romanian regula (…) Catalan rella, Spanish raja vomero, French règle, (…) Portuguese regra from Latin règula, diminutive of the obsolete form règa, from règere ‘to guide directly’, ‘to govern’ to rule’ (…) it is also the little lath [‘ruler] to draw lines, and metaphorically ‘norm’, ‘way’ measure’; ‘principle’, ‘law’ of a art. Principle, Law of a kind of art, of a discipline; Statute of a religious order. Derivation of ‘régolo’ and righello, [‘ruler’][26]

The Goddess of the Mountain, Power, rule and social order.

In the light of the above, returning to the etymological root of power and the Pòtnia, it can be stated that from her descended rule, thus social order. Such an idea may surely be extended in my anthropological and historical observations to Na society, in spite of the absence of any proven linguistic direct links to Na language, in virtue of the cultural and historical link between the Pòtnia and Na Gammu, here to be taken into exam. Firstly, it should be underlined the presence of a shared linguistic heritage in the etymology of power with the Sanskrit language as noted above.[27] This linguistic connection reflects onto cultural and symbolical and mythological significances in relation to the Pòtnia’s archetypical symbolism as the primeval Goddess of the Snakes, the animals and the mountains, from whom according to the cosmogenesis to her connected, the world originates in all forms (thus power is released, as her ability to generate), and whose traces are first found in India, interestingly enough. In fact the Mediterranean Pòtnia of the snakes of Cretan civilization[28] descends from a much older divine archetype that is the Lady of the Mountain and of the animals also connected to the snakes (in Na mythology she is found associated both to fish and snakes as we shall see further on) found in India far before we have trace of her in Greece, as widely discussed in Pagan Traces.[29] Her symbolism reached Greece from India (and later Europe) by way of Thrace. Daniélou claimed that the Proto-Australoids represent the oldest race in India and show affinities with the Neanderthal man, the other two main races being the Aryans and the Dravidians. The latter, of unknown origin, are said to have appeared in India in the Neolithic Age, their religion being Shivaism. The influence of their language and culture, still present in Southern India, is believed to have travelled to the Mediterranean before the Aryan invasions (ca. 1700 to 1300 BC).[30] Linguistic traces of its influences (in the “Georgian, Basque, Peuhl, Guanche and the dialects of Baluchistan”[31]) still survived in peripheral zones which are said to have acted as intermediary for the diffusion of primeval Shivaism.[32] Furthermore, the Pelasgians, Etruscans and Eteocretans are claimed to share the same linguistic traits/roots.[33] It is further claimed that during the New Stone Age, Indian civilization used wood, and it hardly left a trace behind, hence why it is problematic to formally establish earlier Shivaistic activities since the first genuine Shivaistic remains are found at Çatalhöyük in Anatolia, dating from about 6000 B.C.[34]. It is from around 6000 B.C that Shivaism is believed to have travelled towards Europe, South Asia and Africa, with all its related symbols (phallus, horned God, bull, ram, snake, Lady of the Mountains, the young God wearing a horned mask, the bull with human head or vice versa, the man with bull’s head), leaving traces at “all stages of Ancient Europe, from Proto-Sesklo and Starcevo (sixth millennium) to Dimini and the Vinca period”[35]. Crete in particular emerges in Daniélou’s studies as the intermediary between Eastern and Greek, hence Western civilization, since religious Minoan elements undoubtedly mirrored Shivaistic ones. Clear examples are the Goddess of the Mountain, the bull and the Minotaur, the snakes, the young resurrecting God and the he-goat.[36]

The lady of the Mountain and animals is an archetypical Goddess figure present widely in Europe and Asia, including China as demonstrated by Gammu herself, in Na culture, Goddess of the mountain also connected with snakes and fish, the aquatic version of snakes as we shall see. In Sichuan Museum there is a representation of the first woman who allegedly found salt[37] depicted in an interestingly similar fashion reminding of the Cow Goddess of the Mountain was in Greece and India, with a cow and a kind of snake like thyrsus in her hand. [38]

Furthermore much of the mythology connected with the Na local Land deity Gammu, the Goddess of the homonymous Mountain, has parallelisms of significance with a great deal of folkloristic and mythological shamanistic symbolism connected to the Pòtnia, the Life Giver from which the concept of power appears to originate in the glottological analysis above. Such concept seems clearly to connect to her primary ability/ies: i.e. constant generation and regeneration of life from the primordial chaos/death, as well as nutrition.[39] At this regard, the symbolical parallelisms between myths in various parts of China and Europe can be explained through the role of India. As widely demonstrated in Pagan traces[40] much of Indian Goddess’ related symbolism have reached Europe by way of Thrace and Greece. [41] On the other hand, as far as connections between India, Tibetan Buddhism and Na culture go, these are immediately evident. As it is unquestionable that the latter has for centuries been impregnated by Tibetan Buddhism, it is also a widely known fact the connection between India and Buddhist Tibetan Monks.[42] I myself have met and talked to tens of Tibetan Monks in Lugu Lake who have lived in India as part of their training. As a result, symbols have travelled from a region to the other as they travelled from previous religions to the next,[43] the parallelisms between Na , Indian and Middle Eastern/European Goddess’ related symbolism are explained. An interesting example can be found in the Na myth of the fish[44] told to my friend and researcher Francesca Freeman by a local guide about the origin of Lugu Lake which Na people call Shinami (literally, ‘Lake Mother’). [45] According to the tale, a long time ago the inhabitant of the region were poor and poorly nourished. A young man that every day used to take the yaks to the mountains dreamt that a great fish[46] offered him a portion of its flesh to calm his hunger. When he woke up he went to look[47] for the fish[48] and found it in a cave,[49] so he cut a portion of his flesh. The following day he noticed how the flesh of the fish had regenerated itself. The fish, very recurrent in Na (and Naxi for that matter) iconography as it can be observed in Na Sichuan and Daluoshui museum as well as in the houses and traditional paintings all over Lugu Lake; must be associated to the snake, as it is clearly visible in many paintings where fish and snakes or water snakes can hardly be told apart.[50]

In Pagan Traces I have widely discussed the snake symbolism[51] in relation to female generative areas with regard to Hinduistic left hand Tantra and its strong parallelisms with medieval and pre-modern alchemy where the awakening of the red (male) and white (female) snakes (Kundalini) along the spine (=alchemic caduceus)[52] is found only slightly disguised in the myths of running Maenads with their Thyrsis around which coil snakes, and found again in Egyptian and European Alchemy up to the early modern period in Hermes Trismegistus’ Caduceus with the same coiling snakes, still common logo of pharmacies (and thus symbol of healing) in Italy and Germany for instance, often in association to fountains or round containers of eternal youth water.[53] This in turn strongly reminds of the Celtic cauldron[54] to which, according to numerous legends is the place where endless warriors could find nourishment and healing even from mortal wounds.[55] It also reminds of other female related shamanistic practices where snakes’ awakening, represented by the drum stick or rattle as well as by the Bacchantes’ Thyrsis and Witches’ scepter or the Lady of the Game’s rod,[56] are likewise described as a means of ecstatic flight.

The fish tale clearly reminds of those of cauldron that never became empty from which innumerable warriors could feed and find healing in Celtic cultures, able even to resuscitate as recounted in the Mabinogion and witches’ confessions, as widely discussed in Pagan Traces[57] in the dedicated chapter with reference to the female regenerative and sexual body parts, to be intended physically, as physical organs, and metaphysically, in terms of religious and magical Goddess’ symbolism. [58]

In the light of the above it may thus not be hazardous to advance hypothesis regarding the fact that the term power, very likely to be linguistically connected the hermaphrodite Greek Potnia (in her various representations and parallelisms from India to China, Greece and Europe) appears in Na society to revolve around the religious archetype of a Goddess regulating society through myth and folk belief, just like any religion, patriarchal or matriarchal). If around this Motherly ever-nourishing and generative divine figure the idea itself of power revolves and ‘descends’ on earth, it can do so, in effect, only through actual living women, who after death (and possibly before birth as widely believed in societies believing in soul transmigration as in Buddhism), represent the nourishing ‘Ancestresses’. This means that power in Na society is not synonymous of force but rather of nourishment for all, hence of responsibility.[59] The Na Dabus call on the good influences of the spirits of Nature[60], as recounted to me by Dabus in Daloushui[61] walking around in clockwise direction[62] the womb-shaped stupa at dawn and sunset after lighting a fire in it.[63] Comparably, in the mentioned areas where the Pòtnia was adored, priestesses used to offer on the palm of their hands fruits cut in half to their Pòtnia, such apples, pomegranates, pears and figs, all symbolizing their generative sexual organs, receptacles of those of their Goddess and symbol of cosmic knowledge and love, a concept which in those religious and cultural contexts were synonymous.[64] As discussed in Pagan traces we find traces of female groups of priestesses all over the Middle East and Western Europe as well in Asia, all honoring everlasting fires in round temples and round cauldrons or temples, [65] representative of female generative organs as shown by the steatopygic statuettes discussed by Gimbutas.

This is indeed significant in regard to Na society in the light of the fact that in Na society the power and consequent social order revolves around the figures of the Dabu, the Grandmothers socially lived as embodiment of justice and of the Ancestresses, for the reason that not only are they the eldest (thus supposedly more knowledgeable) but also because they are described as the most caring, most responsible, most correct and most loving.[66] The Dabu in fact is not chosen based on the age of the daughters. The daughter who will succeed her mother in the role of Dabu of the house is not necessarily the eldest but is the most caring, most responsible, most considerate in protecting of everyone’s wellbeing and in taking into account every family’s members need justly.

It seems clear Na culture the justness and harmony in the matriarchal[67] family should be seen to represent the harmony more widely in society as a whole, just as in the I Ching harmony in the patriarchal family is the base upon which the harmony in the Empire is described to draw its strength.

Power, “Order” And “Rule” in social and family structure

The Dabu, the Grandmother is the head and most important member of the family, next to her is usually her brother (a wu, ‘maternal uncle’) although in some cases in more recent years there can be a male companion instead, as Han culture is gradually introducing the patriarchal concept of marriage and companionship.

The brother of the Grandmother comes just after her in grade of importance. Apparently, every decision in the family is discussed amongst all members as to find an agreement suiting all, so it may be stated that Na people employ the “method of consensus”,[68] which has been argued to be a typical feature of matriarchal societies.[69] However not through imposition, the final decision is made by the Grandmother, who as discussed above is considered to be the most neutral, experienced, and loving, thus most just. [70]

With the Grandmother live her daughters and sons, or a part of her daughters and sons (also depending on the capacity of the house itself) and her daughter/s’ children. The idea is that the children live with the mother and are looked after by their mother and her brother, as well as –until they are alive— by their Grandmother and the brother of their Grandmother.

The father of the children may or may not be in a relationship with their mother. In any case, according to tradition, he does not live with them. He can see them as much as he wants though, and offer them gifts, but he is not socially obliged to be responsible—financially or emotionally— for them. He leaves the mother of his children at dawn to return to his sister’s family and is responsible for his sister’s children. This matrifocal family arrangement ensures a high degree of emotional stability which in turns reflects on social order and stability. This is because nobody in Moso society is left an orphan. Children are not subjected to the emotional instability of the romantic connection between her or his parents, and women are not forced to be the isolated cohesive element keeping the family together when all fails, as if often happens in patriarchal societies. These large strong Na families don’t leave anyone uncared for. No-one has to carry all the weight on her/his shoulders alone. All responsibilities are distributed and are not subject to romantic jolts. Adults are free to be devoted to their chosen partner for the rest of their lives, as it is not uncommon, or to break up when they feel their paths go in a different direction.

The Zou Hun, has been misinterpreted very often by Han and Westerners as a kind of open relationship. This is incorrect. The Zou Hun is a devoted and exclusive relationship. It is translatable in English as Walking Marriage as it expresses the idea of two people walking together until their feet walk the same direction. There is no promise of eternal love or to found on it the stability of the family which only lays its basis on unbreakable blood links, highly praised and valued by Na people[71] If the Zou Hun is broken for whatever reason, it is done so without arguments and fights, which are somewhat regarded as improper behaviour in Na society, just like jealousy, which is not part of the social understanding of romantic connection, based on mutual trust.

The children enjoy the stability and harmony of the mother family. If they are born of temporary relationships outside the official Zou Hun, such as Nana Sessé [72] they may not even know who the father is. This instance is however more and more rare nowadays as the Chinese Government requires for the marriage to be registered in order for the children to be able to attend school.

Traces of female shamanism and women’s religious role in social order

As far as religions have been recorded by history, they have been linked to social order, by creating a degree of shared values hence social discipline and norm amongst human members of a given society. Abramitic religions achieve such discipline usually through fear of hell in the afterlife and the idea of a so-called compassionate yet highly punishing God that on one hand will forgive anyone for committing any crime against other fellow humans—just so long as they ‘repented’— but on the other hand punish anyone in terrible ways if only they do not believe in his word and his unique supremacy above any other faith and God/dess. What is interesting about pre-Abramitic religions all over the world, including various forms of Buddhism spread around Asia, as well as various tribal animistic beliefs, is the fact they are largely based on respect and kindness towards all fellow human and non-human beings more inclusive of a sense of tolerance for the right to difference. This sense of respect seems to spring from a sense of fulfilment and wellbeing in this life with the certainty of the benevolence of both divine and human (family and society) levels rather than from fear of punishment (from God, or the authority representing him, father/feudal lord/husband etc.) in this life as well as in the afterlife (hell or purgatory).

The linguistic pretext with regard to the etymology of the term power and its connections with Sanskrit and Hinduism, hence with Asian Goddesses of the mountains such as Gammu by way of India has pointed in the direction of an idea of power that stems out of the nourishing/caring role of maternity rather than of male domination by force and disciplining authorities; thus from motherly and nourishing Goddess archetypes rather from punishing Gods. This in turn clearly points in the direction of female shamanism, hence the role of women, as mothers and most importantly as Grandmothers as inbetweeners (thus ‘shamans’) with the Ancestresses’ archetypes, as carriers of a nourishing generative power. Rule and order in the evident idea of it being something descending from “above” are just a consequence of everyone’s fulfillment.

In order to discuss female shamanism and its role in Na social order we need to quickly overview what local life as well as history can reveal of women’s every day ‘shamanic role’. This may reinforce the links evidenced between the western/eastern etymologies of the word power and the related Asian and Indo-European mythological parallelisms. Other than mythology, the remaining sources that we must look at are: historical archives; the Dongba pictograms and Na iconography; local language and vocabulary and anthropological evidence.

In the annals of Sui (AD 581-618) and Tang (618-907 d. C) there’s mention to a "kingdom of women" (nü guo) which was located north of Yongning and ruled by Queens side by side State Council formed by women ministers who gathered every five days.[73]. Fan Ye, in the chapter entitled "The Ethnic Groups of the Southwest" in Houhan shu, the Chinese annals of the years A.D. 2 5-2 20, relates: in Wenjiang, north of Sichuan, "women are superior, the family group is made up by members of the maternal lineage. When someone dies, the body is burned."[74]

In Yunnan zhilue (Yunnan monographic account), Li Jing, an author from the Yuan Dynasty (1279-1368) reported: The Mo-so ethnic group lives north of Dali, at Tibetan border and to the banks of the river Jingsha. The women wear their hair shaved to eyebrows level and wear woolen clothes instead of skirts. They are not ashamed to leave their sexual parts exposed. Once married, they no longer have any sexual taboos” [75]

These meager but significant bibliographic referrals show the women’s position characterizing the Na population has ancient origins in spite of the stratification of cultures and ethnicities through the centuries.


The Dongba Cultural Museum declares that there have never been female Dongbas. However, the iconographic studies conducted by Christine Mathieu and Stefano Zamblera on some of the pictograms of Dongba manuscript tradition let us suppose that female shamans exercised in the Lijiang region.

+ The Naxi pictogram “pa” considerably more ancient than “do ba” represent the classical iconography of hair and female headdress both symbolizing the concept of female shaman;

+ Another pictogram “lu bu” pictogram appears to show some characteristics as “pa”. Apparently the “lu bu” shaman could be male and female in the past[76] though only men have been integrated in modern Dongba practices.[77]

+ The iconographic characters of fluctuant hair are a confirmed characteristics by the same manuscripts where “pa” and “lu bu” appear to describe divination powers such as those of talking to the dead, predicting the future, expelling undesired spirits and illnesses.[78]

* As a result of the study of pictograms researchers have supposed the coexistence possibly up to the mid 20 century of three typologies of shamans: the Pu, the Do ba, and the Lu bu.[79] They shared the same territory inhabited by the Pu, indigenous inhabitants of the Lijiang region, who were led by the female shamans, whilst the Naxi, from the Nord, led the region with their spiritual tradition with the “Do ba” and who according to the Chinese chronicles of the time were already mentioned by the name “Mo so”. [80]

Returning to the pictogram pa, another plausible hypothesis is that the pa pictogram refers to priestesses shamans of ancient tribal groups such as the Qiang, Tibetans and Mongols who, anthropologists identify as the common matrix of today Naxi and Na .

Between 1950 -1985 all practices Dongba and Lubu were declared illegal and disappeared from public scene. Since the 50’s the shamans disappeared formally and Dongbas have in reality replaced them. Today we give for granted the existence of male only Dongba but we cannot ignore the presence of female shamans still survived today in isolated figures.[81]

Na female shamanic symbols I have already identified which need investigation due to strong analogies with female shamanism in other parts of Asia and Europe are: the everlasting fire; the cauldron, the stupa, the praying wheel, the circumambulation around the stupa; Dabus’ retreats to the island and rituals.

Anthropological field work

In the morning and at sunset the Dabus go to the heart of the village where the stupa is. The stupa is a stone construction with the shape of a pregnant belly, just like the Mongol yurta, and has an oven inside, where herbs are burned to call the “Good Spirits of Nature”, I am told.[82] The significance of the fire in the stupa looked after by the Dabus as well as the fire that must always be lit in the Dabu’s room, the most important in the house, has a clear shamanic significance of connection between the dimensions, of which we find trace in a wide number of other cultures across time and space as widely discussed in Pagan Traces with regard to the female keepers of everlasting fires and demiurges of good fortune in their societies.[83] It is surely significant that this shamanic, demiurgic role revolving around the figure of the Grandmother, hence the archetype of the Ancestress, is a daily matter. Though a great portion of the social and personal wellbeing assigned to religion’s ability to answer to human needs is in the hands of male “inbetweeners” between human and divine,[84] the shamanistic role of everyday harmony is in the hands of the Dabus. On this simple daily harmony depends the order of Na society, which is in fact a reflection of family harmony.

The everyday ritualized routine establishing such harmony is in the hands of women, particularly the eldest and supposedly wisest. Likewise in their hands is the matrilineal family structure that ensures no human members of Na society is left without stability, without food, without shelter and without affections. It must be observed that is this very absence of “orphans” and unloved elements in Na society that ensures the absence of violence and unhappiness, thus social order. Rather than discipline and vertical power, coming from authority, we assist here to a power coming from below in vision of equality, thus we could say, symbolically, from deep inside the bowels of the earth represented by motherly womb, which is to say by the Grandmother’s wisdom and love taking care that each and every one in her family is listened to and looked after. It is thus not mere idealization to enable the statement that in Na society power springs out of wisdom and love, as well as a deep sense of equality in family and society, in spite of the presence of what I would define as “kind hierarchies”. In fact who becomes the next Dabu is not necessarily the eldest daughter but rather the one who demonstrates to be more unselfish and to have at heart the wellbeing of all her siblings and close family members.

Mother law and the respect for “other” and nature

It is easy to understand why the aforementioned Na traditional relationship with power as something sacred and deeply caring related to the motherly spiritual and emotional capacity of every human being to tend to the lives of others (not only of women but also of men and children), would respect the natural environment. The maternal clan has it as a forma mentis that of tending to the wellbeing of every form of life as it does towards every member of the maternal clan. It’s deeply rooted into these cultures of sharing as opposed to western individualism and inability to welcome the ‘alien’. It could be stated without hesitation from my life experience with the Na that they naturally have at heart the wellbeing of every form of life and they demonstrate it in rather extraordinary manners that differ greatly from my experiences as a researcher but also as a traveler in some forty countries of this wide planet. The care the Na have for every form of life it is something I only have seen in Mother-law based societies. In fact, in Na spiritual—hence social culture, as in Tibetan Buddhism, with which it is deeply intertwined in a complex spiritual-religious syncretism also involving Bon traditions,[85] there is a deeply matriarchal view of the other as self. Every form of life is respected as a form of self, and of divine embodied into matter. As in the nearby Bai culture, with whom the Na share innumerable aspects, from myth to Cosmogenesis, to spiritual tradition, everything old “enough” [86] is alive, everything has a spirit. Not only human beings and animals, not only the Lake, that is represented as part of Gammu herself, the Pregnant Sleeping Mountain, and not only the fire, and the wind, but also the Bridge, the womb-like Stupa and her steaming oven, the herbs donated to the oven, the old lanes that lead to the Stupa, or around the villages, the Altar to Zambalà, deity of the Fire. “Everything has God within”, as simply translated by my assistant, fluent translator and dear friend, Ms. Sadama Wang, who can’t either read or write for her family couldn’t afford sending her to school, but speaks English fluently after living in Lijiang with a non-native American couple for whom she worked as a teenager and from whom she was subsequently adopted for the seven years they spent together. In Sadama’s house, as future Dabu of her maternal Clan, I was immediately accepted as a member of the family already on my first days there in 2015 and hadn’t even made it to their house yet, when we had literally just met. This surpassed every expectation when I moved in with her family on my second trip to Lugu Lake in November 2016, ill and battered from a negative work experience in nearby Vietnam. On the first or second day I was already told that her home was my home too, and she explained as I had already heard from another Na woman, Ake Dama a year earlier, that in her culture no-one is left without family “even briefly” (to which she laughed loudly underlying the joke). Everyone “gets adopted by another who needs more people”. She warmly hugged me and said that my dogs would be welcome too if I wanted to bring them over. In the cold morning and evenings her mother pushed me to eat and would warm my hands in hers as they watched TV. In the morning her father would go fishing early or caught a bird to eat and then killed it in the garden, took of its feathers and cooked it in the wok or in a soup with vegetables. When we went to the fields to work, the women often sang, and my friend told me the Earth likes to hear the songs and laughter of the people more than She likes to hear their tears and grief. Sadama explained to me that they don’t take any life more than they need for food, and when it was the season of killing pigs, in early November, she suggested I could go for a walk, in virtue of the sensitivity westerners had previously displayed to such matters, and not knowing whether to treat me as a westerner or not given my hybrid cultural background. She then explained that they kill one pig only in the autumn, each ear it varies, for everything they do, in every aspect of life, is guided by the Daba, the holy man. Here I could open a long parenthesis in regard how certain linguistic details suggest that the Daba was originally a woman, but it would lead into an endless disquisition astray from the purposes of this paper. Sadama explained that her whole small clan is fed one year by that and by the vegetables, potatoes and roots they share with the rest of the extended maternal clan of Grandmother and aunts. Her clan now in 2020 is made up of her mother, father, brother, spouse “of the walking marriage” and baby boy but five years ago when our friendship spark along with the project of a library in her home to reunite matriarchal studies and stories to read by the fire, she lived in a apparently mononuclear family with her parents and brother. The Grandmother’s house was too little to accommodate everyone.

Another way in which the Na since early on expressed their respect for all forms of life, included humans outside their clan, is observable in the mentioned fact that everyone who is Na can stop in any Na household around the Lake and s/he will be given food and drink to honour the greater Spirit of their kin and kind. Yet this generosity culturally extends to strangers are celebrated as heavenly visitors. For instance, when I found myself invited into a the marriage of Luoushi’s Mayor’s daughter in March 2016, I was taken to the sacred room of the Dabu, that is held really as a sacred inner family space. There only the more intimate members of the maternal Clan can enter, even during a marriage, and in such circumstances only the elders. There the Mayor took me in and told me with my Han friend and interpreter that I was “a ray of sun breaking through the clouds of the heavens because in the olden day they held, the guests from afar arrived at a marriage or at a special occasions where seen as a holy sign from the Gods to bring extraordinary fortune and happiness to that marriage”.[87] Then I was explained every Elder would come to honor me by drinking to my happiness (Timba-jackà,[88] literally “to your happiness”). I was instructed I should get up for each member coming to salute me and drink the tiny glass of beer in one go, to show my truthfulness, by essentially getting absolutely drunk with them, a radical sharing of body and heart that of eating and drinking, which a respectful guest ought to accept. They each came in turn starting from the Dabu and followed by the eldest woman after, her. These absolute strangers and revered elder members of the maternal Clan at the lead of the village, in the heart and souls of their generous spiritual tradition, tapped their glasses against mine slightly lower or evenly to the tip of my own, as a symbolical sign of equality, and as “to bless the gift of the Gods who had sent a stranger with golden hair from oversea”, to use the Mayor’s poetic expressions. This is a true sign of matrifocal societies, the respect for the stranger as a messenger of the Gods or a God in disguise as human which was typical in ancient Greece but also found parallels in Ireland, in the respects and gifts of every kind that sacral Kings and Queens of the land gave to beggars who told them they were Queens who lost their reigns and demanded particular gifts upon their casual meeting. The Na respect for the sacred Guest went as far as allowing me to drink only a sip of beer for each Elder rather than an entire little glass, accepting I’m not used to drinking, which is normally seen as something deeply insincere in most parts of China I have visited except Xinjiang.

Turning now from the respect for ‘Other’ in human form, I have observed this respect extends to animals and to the natural elements. In fact the Na tend to leave cats and dogs free to wander quite happily in the villages e.g. Luoshui落水, the main touristic village with more cars, people with cars are careful about the animals in the streets, and dogs and cats are fed by the villages’ community as a whole when they are not owned, which is still generally uncommon. Sometimes a restaurant will give them food remains, sometimes the food shop’s owners. This behavior doesn’t resemble that of the Naxi and Han Chinese of the Yunnan countryside, (including the Lugu Hu area). While the first are starting to develop a pet-culture borrowed from the West but still have rather horrific practices against animals, the latters, I found, only kill animals for food and can often be entirely unsympathetic with their animals they keep. Mostly they tend to dogs in small cages or tied to chains all day and night long “for protection from thieves”,[89] just to have them bark at every stranger as thieves are most uncommon. In truthfulness in the long periods I spent living closely with these peoples for several weeks and months every year, more than six and seven months a year, I have never heard of a theft— nor witnessed to a fight for that matter; neither amongst the Na (Mo-so), nor amongst all neighboring populations, such as the Yi, the Pumi, the Tibetans, the Norzu, the Na Naxi and the Bai.

These local ethnic minorities, in spite of their varying relationships to the animal kingdom, which, if edible, is often found splattered in blood in the kitchens and hanging dry in the traditional courtyards of the houses, tend to be quite careful towards the natural surroundings and to treat it as something of the holy or even heavenly nature. For instance, during a walk under the stars with two Han friends in the forests near Luoushi by the sacred Mother Lake, we stumbled in the dark across two Yi women who lived in a hut hidden by the trees paid by the local government 800 RMB a month to look after the forest and the waters. Soon the five of us were chatting, laughing, sharing some food I made, some bread they made, some kind of hot slightly sweet wine, hot jasmine tea, a rarity, and sharing the songs of our lands and cultures. They then wanted to dress in their traditional clothes to show us these incredible textiles, and toward the end of the evening, when it was starting to be kind of late, they whispered something in Mandarin to my friends about the magical waters of the Lake, which wasn’t clearly translated to me, as an aura of mystery pervaded the conversation and the sudden silence. One of the women went to collect the water while the other entertained us and then gave us the water to drink cold as good as spring water. I didn’t want to drink it un-boiled (even though it’s no longer allowed to swim in the sacred lake) but did so out of respect for the way in which it was offered, as something sacred and almost of magical nature as I understood it, that would heal my body and soul, and “be good for me in everything”.[90]

Similar perception of the sacred in Nature are found amongst the sister ethnic group of the Na, the Bai, in the Shaxi areas, still in Yunnan, a few hundred km. south of Lijiang. There lies a sacred mountain, Shibaoshan, with grottoes of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. The eighth Grotto, towards the edge of the mountain hosted the final part of a mourning ritual later described briefly. The grotto represents a Vulva and is worshipped by the pregnant women and those who wish to become mothers, though a local woman Shaman suggested this in ancient times didn’t concern simply physical motherhood, without explaining further but letting me reflect on the motherly ways in which these people treat, or used to treat life traditionally, as sacred manifested. Next to the Vulva Grotto, is Guanyin worshipped by all.[91] I was exceptionally lucky at the time, when death hit my family, I found myself hosted in this beautiful temple for a week by Wuyunxin,[92] the chief guardian of the Temple. He invited me to a farewell ritual held in honor of my recently deceased family members, where an old holy woman and Shaman of the nearby village (Duanjiadeng) performed a traditional ritual with and for me, to let the two souls of the deceased depart in peace and free from sorrow, that as in many other esoteric traditions is believed to hold back the souls of the beloved from finding their ways, both living or dead. Here I received one of the greatest examples of divine honored in every form of life.

She and her two assistants, two other old women, made gifts and clothes of papers, for all the wandering spirits alive in the ether around us, and for all the Gods of the directions, for the rivers, for the sky, of the winds, of the mountains, of the trees, of the bridge, of all the nearby roads named one by one, because everything is holy to them and everything needs to be mentioned and included to give its alliance. She then told me to go out to call my sister’s name for she didn’t know how to pronounce it, and she told me to wait for the spirit of the animals to come to me. I followed her advice trustfully, respectful of the wisdom of her to me unknown tradition. When I called my sister’s name part of a herd of cows from the field directly opposite to Duanjiadeng mountain temple, came out ‘mooing’ quite wildly at me all of a sudden, until the whole herd was out in the mountain lane running towards the fields down below. The shaman’s assistants run to get me back into the temple and the shaman informed me through my Bai friend and English/French-speaking interpreter that these animals were closer to my sister now. This fact reveals therefore the presence, at present only residual, of a pre-existent “totemic” culture,[93] which reflects in the animals associations of their Gods; as well as still quite present animism. Both aspects show parallels with the Na both of the Sichuan and Yunnan side of Lugu Hu.

I can but remember at this regard, how the Na last Shaman in fact, who has remained a dear friend since my first longer visits told me through her daughter who speaks Mandarin and has a mobile phone, to remember to burn something, to burn in the fire that belongs to her, “for the Fire will rise her to the Lands of the Ancestors and the spirits of her animals will take her home there and release both of us from the sorrow”.[94] Furthermore Gammu, the Great Mother of Na people is a Lioness, as it is the Holy Mountain of which her very body is believed to be made. There are further, several, fantastical legends Na people have shared with me, of tragic divine loves between Goddesses and Gods in which they would turn into animals or be in the company of animals, as well as tales of Cosmogenesis, such as that connected to the fish that continued re-growing alive and whole every time it would be eaten, not unlike the Dagda’s Cauldron of Celtic myth, from which no-one left un-replenished or hungry, and able to heal every wound, bringing even the dead back to life.[95] Here again, both the fish and the Cauldrons are a symbol of the Mother generative organs and of the woman’s capacity to nourish and heal with her power as described above ‘a loving potency’. Both the Na fish coming back to life after sustaining life through its own flesh, and the Celtic Cauldron[96] is on the other hand also a reference to immortal Great Mother, as well as to the belief in transmigration and of the Ancestors and Ancestresses in particular returning to their original land in human form as keepers and revivers her sacred traditions, such as the Dabu themselves, that may well be considered a Na equivalent of the Celtic Goddesses or Ladies of the Land. This is to say in conclusion, that the spiritual and religious views upon questions of power and authority seen as loving care of service and sacrifice for the good of the community and the whole is to be seen as the historical root for the unusual respect for every form of life that the Na still today show towards life as something that can be honored only by sharing and inclusion.


In a society with no underlying social reason for unhappiness, since the concept of exclusion/alienation is absent and the identity of belonging together reigns, social ‘order’ is a clear consequence and that ‘rule’ is simply what allows matrilineal tradition to endure and maintain the old ways, which have kept the harmony of such a special ethnic group through the centuries. It is true however that as globalization takes over and traditional marriage is imposed to couples in order to be able to enroll children in public schools, Na society is gradually abandoning some of the most fundamental traditions revolving around the matrifocal families/matrilineal descent, and we assist to a slowly increasing number of romantic couples that are starting to live together taking over this structure. It is not possible for now to state if the family affections’ related balance ensuring social order so far will be left intact by the new ways, nor if such order will last after contemporary Dabus will pass away. In other words, it is impossible to know if their daughters will bring on the matrilineal tradition or abandon it, and what the latter possibility might cause on a psychological thus social level to the new generation. This surely part of a much more complex number of issues that cannot be discussed within the small scope of this paper.


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[1] Cai Hua, Une société sans père ni mari. Les Na De Chine (Paris: Puf, 2001), 20.[2] (Cai Hua 2001: 20)[3] (Radaelli 2009)[4] Christine Matthieu, History and Anthropological Study of the Ancient Kingdoms of Sino-Tibetan Borderland. Naxi and Moxo. (Wales: The Mellen Press, 2003). Francesca Rosati Freeman, Sur Les Rives du Lac Mère: un voyage aux confins du Tibet à la rencontre du peuple Moso. (Buc: Editions Tensing, 2015)[5] Ibid.[6] The Na Beyond the Myths of Matriarchy: Gender Transformation and Economic Development. Ph.D. dissertation, Temple University, 2001 Eileen Rose Walsh. accessed on 15th Jan 2017 http://www.worldcat.org/title/Na -beyond-the-myths-of-matriarchy-gender-transformation-and-economic-development/oclc/52321341?referer=di&ht=edition[7] Freeman, Sur Les Rives du Lac Mère.[8] Ibid.[9] Ronald Hutton, The Triumph of the Moon: A History of Modern Pagan Witchcraft. (New York: Oxford University Press, 1999), 26- 309.[10] Heide Göttner-Abendroth, Matriarchal Societies: Studies on Indigenous Cultures Across the Globe (Frankfurt: Peter Lang, 2012), here translated by myself.[11] My own transcription of the Na language through the Latin alphabet. “h r h” should be read as an harsh “r” sound close to the throat as in some Native North American languages.[12] My own transcription of the Na language through the Latin alphabet. Two smaller vowels next to one another should be read as a vowel sound combination of the two.[13] My own transcription of the Na language through the Latin alphabet.[14] https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/power Accessed January, 3, 2018.[15] Curiously enough mǎi in Chinese also means ‘to buy’ and a dedicated study drawing from Luigi Luca Cavalli-Sforza’s study ‘Gens, Language and People, may be able to demonstrate common etymologic elements roots of the word power in Anglo-Mediterranean languages, Sanskrit and Chinese.[16] http://www.etimo.it/?term=potere, Accessed December 10, 2017.[17] As widely discussed by Uberto Pestalozza Religione Mediterranea. (Milano: Bocca, 1951. Uberto Pestalozza, Pierangelo Carozzi, Eterno Feminino Mediterraneo. (Vicenza: Edizioni NERI POZZA, 1996). Professor Pestalozza (1872-1966) was an Italian Catholic and celebrated classicist; he was also the first historian of world religions to hold a chair in this subject in Italy in 1935. His valuable studies upon middle-eastern and Mediterranean Goddesses have inspired since.
[18] Ibid.[19] Ibid. Cretan civilization reached its height about 1500 B.C., during the reign of Minos. (...) About 1450 B.C., the Achaean Greeks revolted against Cretan rule. They invaded Crete, crushed Cretans and burned Cnossus (King Minos' City) to the ground.” Gregorio F. Zaide, World History, 120. https://books.google.com.tw/books?id=Kq512SmGMIsC&pg=PA120&lpg=PA120&dq=achaean+invasion+crete&source=bl&ots=Bu9ZkysiAE&sig=w9iPFrqboKs9BSbM0l35KQdLwVs&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwj9oqybqtfYAhUIw7wKHZHQAPAQ6AEIWjAM#v=onepage&q=achaean%20invasion%20crete&f=false Accessed on January 19, 2018.[20] Ibid. As well as in Na society up to the mid-20th century, it must be noted. The link between Na Gammu and the Pòtnia shall be further discussed.[21] Ibid.[22] G.H. Castaldi and I.E. B. Bohm. Pagan Traces in medieval and Early Modern European Witch-beliefs. York: University of York, 2012. www.thesis.whiteros.ac.uk/2153 Accessed on September 19, 2017.[23] Square brackets outline my contribution.[24] Ibid.[25] http://www.etimo.it/?term=ordine&find=Cerca Accessed on December 19, 2017.[26] http://www.etimo.it/?term=regola&find=Cerca Accessed on December 19, 2017.[27] P.2, note 15 ( “patyate to ‘dominate’, pa-ti ‘to protect’, palas ‘sovereign’, pàyù ‘guardian’, pàtis ‘master’, ‘husband’, pàtni ‘mistress’,” etc.)[28] See Appendix, pic.1, p.1.[29] Castaldi and Bohm, Pagan Traces, 2012. See appendix pics 1,2,3,4, p.1.[30] Alain Daniélou, Gods of love and Ecstasy: the traditions of Shiva and Dionysus, (Rochester: Inner Traditions Ltd., 1992), 20.[31] Ibid, 20.[32] Ibid, 20.[33] Ibid, 20.[34] Ibid.[35] Valcamonica Symposium, Les Religions de la Prehistoire, 135, cited in ibid, 33.[36] Castaldi and Bohm, Pagan Traces, 2012, p.13-14.[37] See Appendix p. 2 pic. 5. Other interesting alchemic symbol discussed in Pagan Traces with relation to witches banquets and Greek mythology. Cf. Castaldi and Bohm, Pagan Traces, 2012, 93-95. Furthermore, for associations between Lady of the Mountains and of the Animals/ Goddess and cows/bulls see Appendix pic 6 p.2; pic 8 p.3; pic. 9 and 10 p.4[38] See following page with regard to fishes, and snake symbolism, of which snake or a thyrsus/stick to govern animals itself is a symbolic representation of the snake. See Appendix pic 29 p. 12.[39] Story of the cauldron from which innumerable warriors could feed and find healing in Celtic cultures, where the cauldron as discussed in Pagan Traces refers to the female regenerative and sexual body parts, to be intended physically and metaphysically.[40] story of the cauldron from which innumerable warriors could feed and find healing in Celtic cultures, where the cauldron as discussed in Pagan Traces refers to the female regenerative and sexual body parts, to be intended physically and metaphysically.[41] story of the cauldron from which innumerable warriors could feed and find healing in Celtic cultures, where the cauldron as discussed in Pagan Traces refers to the female regenerative and sexual body parts, to be intended physically and metaphysically.[42] In Lige and Daluoshui between March/May 2015, December 2016 and December 2017.[43] Cf. Castaldi and Bohm, Pagan Traces, 2012, see p.93, although the whole thesis is dedicated to proving this point.[44] Freeman, Sur Les Rives du Lac Mère, 54.[45] Freeman, Sur Les Rives du Lac Mère, 54.[46] On the symbolism of fishes, widely present in Na and Naxi iconography and the link with the Goddess and her representation as Mermaids, see pictures on the present page and cf. note 48.[47] It is interesting at this regard that it is recounted as natural in the tale the fact that after a dream someone would go and look for what experienced in the dream, suggesting the idea of the absence of neat separation between wake and sleep and the possibility of seeing dreams as a means of suggestions/communication from divine dimension, drawing from the natural world of which she is representative. cf. note 48, note 68 and note 38.[48] On the symbolism of caves, and the link with the Goddess’ womb, and generative apparatus resembled by the yurta and the stupa see Castaldi and Bohm, Pagan Traces, 2012, chap.2, particularly pp. 50-61, 91and appendix p. 7, 12, 17, 23[49] On the symbolism of fishes, widely present in Na and Naxi iconography and the link with the Goddess and her representation as Mermaids, see also Castaldi and Bohm, Pagan Traces, 2012, 72, with regard to the folkloristic representations of the Goddess represented as a half woman and half fish(/snake) for her closeness to the animal and natural world, from which she symbolically draws her endless generative and regenerative power.[50] See Appendix pic 29 p. 12.[51] (appearing not only in India and in China—mostly in the form of dragon or flying snake— but throughout Europe and the Middle East as well as in prehistoric Eastern Europe in the snake birds representing the Goddess studied by Gimbutas)[52] the wand, club, caduceus, stick and other such recurrent masculine, vertical symbols, Castaldi and Bohm, Pagan Traces, 2012 84,88-95.[53] Interestingly, this is still used as a graphic symbol for modern Italian pharmacies; whereas in Germany and sometimes in England we find a snake climbing a chalice (probably the alchemic vase, to drink the alchemic Panakeia, the liquid that heals all illnesses, associated with the elixir of life, which gives immortality). see Maier, Atalanta fugiens, 205, 259. For instance, the Norse God Odin stole his power from three Cauldrons of “wise blood” or mead of poetry by entering as a snake in the womb of the earth, the Giantess Gunnlod. By drinking the mead, he became a shape-shifter, turning himself into an eagle to gift others with the mead: Paul Acker, Carolyne Larrington, The Poetic Edda: Essays on Old Norse Mythology. (New York: Routledge, 2002), 32-38. It may be worth observing that Indra, Aryan God of Heaven, also stole the Gods’ ambrosia (which was like an elixir of life, with healing properties, reminding of the Alchemists’ panakeia (see note 92, p. 88), associated with Kali’s three Cauldrons) and also flew away in the form of an eagle: John Rhys, Lectures on the Origin and Growth of Religion as Illustrated by Celtic Heathendom. (Forgotten Books: 2004), 296, accessed May 19, 2011, available at ForgottenBooks.Com[54] Widely discussed in Castaldi and Bohm, Pagan Traces, 2012 chap.2.[55] Ella Young. Wondrous Celtic Tales. Davies Sioned, trans. The Mabinogion. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007).[56] Castaldi and Bohm, Pagan Traces, 2012, p. 16, 38, 52, 56,57, 81, 82, 84, 86, 88, 91, 97, 98 Muraro, La Signora del Gioco, 2009.[57] For instance, the Irish Cauldrons may be associated with the patera of Rhiannon Queen of Dyfed, originally known by the Gaulish name of Rigatona, ‘Great Queen” and possibly associated with Epona, also a horse Goddess associated with plenty who was worshipped by the Romans: Miranda Green, The Gods of Roman Britain. (Buckinghamshire: Shire Publications Ltd, 2003), 56. Cit. in Castaldi, Pagan Traces, 2012, 55.[58] ibid, chap. 2 and note 38 p.4 above.[59] As recounted to me by Ake Dama, on 8th March 2015.[60] As widely proven in Pagan Traces, 2012, Nature in all animistic societies as in several matriarchal religions like the Moso such as the Cretan as well as in patriarchal ones such as Zoroastrians in Mesopotamia today, is a representation of the deity itself, usually seen as a nourishing divine mother, but in some cases as a father, like in Zoroastrianism, or as a neutral genderless spirit as in Northern Native American cultures.[61] In Lige, She Kua, Lugu Lake Town and Daluoshui between March/May 2015, December 2016 and December 2017.[62] In worldwide shamanism representing generation and Good Fortune. See Appendix pics 31 and 32 p. 13.[63] Which in Greece and continental Europe in the mountains it is still recalled by rural old people as the time of the Gods (in Peloponnese) or of the Fairies (in the mid Alps and Apennine) in Northern Italy), as noticed by myself in interviews and travels in the area between 1996 and 1998.[64] Uberto Pestastalozza, Religione Mediterranea, 1949.[65] See Appendix p. 1 picture 15 and 16.[66] Interviews In the five months I spent with Moso people so far, interviewing more than twenty households and over a hundred-forty locals amongst which more than a hundreds were Moso and others Yi, Tibetans, Mongols and Han, across Sichuan and Yunnan side, as well as documenting myself extensively about the Moso social structure well ahead my first trip to Lugu lake through academic publications and documentaries, I can possibly state I have a clear idea of how the traditional Na family is structured.[67] I shall later discuss the legitimacy of the term matriarchal and the limits of the terms matrifocal and matrilineal.[68] This in my field work in West Papua and Lugu Lake consists in consulting each member involved in the consequence of any given decision, as also confirmed by Abendroth in her extensive work in indigenous societies. Cf. note 58 and Heide G. Abendroth, Matriarcati Viventi, Göttner-Abendroth, Heide 2013, Le società matriarcali 5RPD 9HQH]LD 14.[69] Abendroth, Matriarchal Societies, 2012.[70] As recounted by Sadama and her Grandmother Ku Mu in late April 2015.[71] As recounted by every household (about 20 so far) I have interviewed between March –May 2015 and September-December 2016 and December 2017.[72] unofficial relationships usually amongst young people which are kept secret (nana) because being non-official they should be private and are considered temporary (literally ‘secretely’ nana, ‘paying visit’, sessé, Freeman, Sur les rives du lac Mère p.96)[73] Mathieu, 2003; Stefano Zamblera, Introduzione alla Cultura Naxi Dongba, www.xiulong.it/pubbl/introduzioneNaxiDongba.pdf, 2007, accessed on Decemer 23rd 2016. Cit. in Rosati Freeman, Benvenuti nel paese delle donne, (XL edizioni Sas Roma:2010), 150.[74] Cai, Hua
, A Society without Fathers or Husbands: the Na of China, (New York: Urzone, 2001), 20, cited in Stefania Renda, "Difendere il Lago Madre fino alla morte" Etnografia dell'incontro turistico nei villaggi Na del Lago Lugu, Tesi di Laurea, Corso di Laurea magistrale in Antropologia, etnologia, etnolinguistica. Università Ca' Foscari Venezia, pdf. Kind concession of the Author.[75] Ibid.[76] Joseph F. Rock, The Life and Culture of the Na-khi Tribe of the China-Tibet Boorderland (Wiesbaden: Franz Steiner Verlag, 1963).[77] Mathieu, 2003.[78] However, according to Zamblera (2007) only male Dongbas were believed to communicate with sky spirits however, which may indicate either that women shamans were active but socially restricted in their roles, or that, as it is likely and as I may try to demonstrate, women shamans were originally present and powerful in the Lijiang area but that the increasing male political power restricted their roles until complete disappearance. The pictogram “do ba” is in fact more tardive and very different from “pa” and “lu bu[79] Rock 1963 Mathieu 2003; Stefano Zamblera, Naxizu, L’Etnia Naxi, www.vicina.org/ecole/ShijiuLijiusketch.pdf. 2007, Accessed on December 6th 2016.[80] Matthieu, 2003. It has thus been supposed that Naxi/Na immigrants mixed up slowly with local people of the Li Jiang valley, eventually confining local people to the outskirts of the region so that the indigenous female shamans pa and lu bu were marginalised, whilst men lu bu were integrated. This leads to another very relevant investigation as to if the Na were originally patrilineal and as to why they adopted matrilineal social structure. One possible answer is that mixing with the matrilineal Pu they adopted some aspect of women leaderships that would be harder to change in the local population, such as family structure and arrangements, whilst making them abandoning other, “higher” ones, such as the religious, more linked to power, hence to political power. The other hypothesis is that the Na already had matrilineal social structure but women had already lost the religious leaderships encountered in other matrilineal societies. It has been supposed that female shamans have continued to serve people in mountain places for some decades even after their apparent disappearance.[81] I personally interviewed a 93 years old one near Yonging.[82] See Appendix pics 31 and 32 p. 13[83] Cf Castaldi and Bohm, Pagan Traces, 2012, 27, 32, 50, 53, 91, 94 and appendix, 21-27 Other comparable Mulierum Societatis are the nineteen Irish Christian nuns of Saint Brigid, keepers of a secret fire which, like that of the Vestals, was never allowed to die to die out, [83] a cult of obvious pre-Christian origin perpetuated in Kildare until 1220 when the Bishop of Dublin forbid it as a survival of Pagan practices. Then there were semi-legendary figures of the Amazons,[83] connected to Diana’s cavalcades, and reminiscent also of the mythical Valkyrs of Norse myth; the German women’s secret societies called Fraubunden, in honour of Goddesses like Holla (and Berta)[83] ; and the Gallisenae, Gallic priestesses who were nine “perpetual Virgins” (however they occasionally chose for themselves men as lovers) as described by Pomponius Mela and said to live on the island of Sena in the British sea.[83] Then we have Ariadne’s (ari-agne, literally “the most virgin”) mythical cortege of, who is both a Virgin but also immortal bride of Dionysus, her paredro, who pushes women to abandon their houses and families to follow him on the mountains, curiously enough, not unlike Shiva[83] and, on a more individual Aphrodite, for whom women abandoned house and duties, as sung of in a poem by Sappho. Sappho, Frammenti. (Milano: Arnoldo Mondadori, 1996). (Castaldi and Bohm, Pagan Traces, 2012, Appendix, 21-22).[84] namely the Daba or Dongba (respectively in Na and Naxi culture) for more simple matters and of Lamas for matters of more complex significance, such as fatal illnesses or death[85] cf. The Dongba Religion by Christine Mathieu and On the Na Daba Religion by Na Professor Lamu Gatusa Christine Mathieu, I was given privately as they were in towards the final drafts prior publication by Christine herself and Gattusa’s assistant, since I couldn’t find them elsewhere in our Chinese unversity’s library nor in any European one nor online for that matter.[86] Fieldwork with the last Na Seer and holy Woman who was enlightened by a “genderless” Living Buddha [neither man nor woman” were her words translated in Chinese by her daughter], in the country sides near Yonning, April 2015, October to December 2017, August-September 2018, March-April 2018, July-August 2018, mid-August to early-September 2019. It must be noted that when “fieldwork” shows in the notes concerning Na (Moso) and Bai people I was invariably adopted by the families in question and that I am describing experiences of anthropological investigation through direct participation, not through interview. I participated in all the activities of the family, and I lived and behaved abiding to their traditions both social and spiritual, as far as I was able to in consideration of the cultural and linguistic barrier. In fact, only young generations, under fifty for the most, speak Chinese and only three Na (Moso) I met spoke English. My Mandarin on the other hand is scarce and I can only have basic conversation and ask basic questions. I was however assisted by in translation by the three aforementioned English speaking Na interpreters.[87] Luoushi, March 2016.[88] My own transcript. Na (Mo-so) language doesn’t have a written form. There was an attempt to turn into a transcript by a non-profit association in the area but the work remained uncompleted and when I analysed it I didn’t have enough linguistic experience on the matter to grasp its coherency so I was allowed to use my own phonetic transcript based on the different Sichuan and Yunnan dialects of the same language.[89] Words repeatedly heard from the villagers whom I prayed to free the cats and dogs, promising to teach them how to train them[90] Mandarin to English translation of Yusong, a 20-year-old student from成都, Chéngdū) who studied finance but was an expert of老子, Lǎozǐ, declaimed Nietzsche and spoke English fluently.[91] Goddess of mercy, described both as agendered and as hermaphrodite by the Bai. The story of her in Shaxi goes along the lines of a roofless beggar who told people She was the Goddess of compassion, and was not believed, until one day a woman asked her to show her how and the Beggar opened the door of her heart, where a golden Buddha (now stolen from the temple) was found by the people praying in Communion with all beings. This again reminds of the respect in this areas for every form of life, resembling the Hindu concept of Samadhi.[92] Whose family also took me in the months of October and November of 2018 at their beautiful Old Theatre Guest House.[93] See Castaldi and Bohm, Pagan Traces, chap.1 “The Internal and External Familiar Spirit” with regard to the transversal spread of “totemism”.[94] Wechat message, early December 2018.[95] Cf. Castaldi & Bohm, Pagan Traces, chap. 2 “Shape Shifting”.[96] Both my research projects will show stunning parallels between the proto-Celt and the Na, which points to a shared ancestral genetic connection to the Scythians and Proto-Scythian of the Silk Road, who descended also in this south western strands of the Silk Road that was the territory of today Yunnan.