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  • 1 Liszt Academy of Music, Budapest H-1391 Budapest Pf. 206 Hungary
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There are two basic types of Japanese female shamans, representing two different categories regarding their social position and their musical activities. (1) The medium type shamaness, the itako comes from a stratum of the rural society which lives in relative modesty and whose musical activities belong to folk art. The ceremony takes place in the itako’s house, in front of the house altar, kneeling on tatami. She improvises dialogs with previously living persons who speak through her mouth, or recites stories, ballads to “entertain” the deities. Among her musical instruments, the weapon-like catalpa bow holds an outstanding place. (2) The other type of shamaness, the miko is connected with the functions of shrines, their social position is basically on par with that of priests active in Shintô shrines. The miko’s main musical activity is to perform ceremonial dances in front of the shrine. Their dances are accompanied by chant and/or small instrumental groups (flute, drum). The third, indispensable instrument is the sistrum, held by the dancers themselves. The paper is based on the author’s personal field research conducted in 1988 and 1994.