The University of Wisconsin Press

Folklore & Mythology / Anthropology / Religion


The Rulings of the Night
An Ethnography of Nepalese Shaman Oral Texts
Gregory G. Maskarinec

"The Rulings of the Night offers something new to the anthropology of language and ritual. Built on impeccably careful fieldwork, and beautiful at times in its transparency, the book gets back to the words themselves in crafting an understanding of the deadly important play between shamanic prayers and social reality in the Nepal Himalayas. The author's novel focus on the pragmatics of everyday speech is sure to provoke argument (and a much needed one, at that), but, like the Nepali shaman's mythic songs, the book is also sure to intrigue, captivate, and transform."—Robert Desjarlais, Sarah Lawrence College

It is impossible to discuss what shamans are and what they do, contends Gregory G. Maskarinec, without knowing what shamans say. When Maskarinec took an interest in shaman rituals on his first visit to Nepal, he was told by many Nepalis and Westerners that the shamans he had encountered in the Himalayan foothills of western Nepal engaged in "meaningless mumblings." But in the course of several years of fieldwork he learned from the shamans that both their long, publicly chanted rituals and their whispered, secretive incantations are oral texts meticulously memorized through years of training. In The Rulings of the Night, he shows how the shamans, during their dramatic night-long performances, create the worlds of words in which shamans exist.

Maskarinec analyzes several complete repertoires of the texts that the shamans use to diagnose and treat afflictions that trouble their clients. Through these texts, they intervene to manipulate and change the world, replacing its unbalanced, inexpressible chaos with orderly, balanced, grammatical, and eloquently expressible states. They negotiate the relations between language, action, and social realities, providing a well-constructed and thoroughly consistent intentional universe—and only in that universe can all shaman actions and beliefs be fully comprehended.

"Based on exceptionally solid research with fifteen shamans of the Nepalese Himalaya, this innovative book uses meticulously edited texts to reveal the shamanic world and the shaman's expected life course within it. A wide variety of readers in anthropology, religion, folklore, and linguistics will find how language has the power to maintain a seamless universe closely bonding the everyday world and the world of spirits."—John T. Hitchcock, University of Wisconsin

Gregory G. Maskarinec
is lecturer in anthropology at the University of Hawai'i. He was a King Mahendra Scholar at Tribhuvan University and spent more than six years doing fieldwork in Nepal.

Media & bookseller inquiries regarding review copies, events, and interviews can be directed to the publicity department at or (608) 263-0734. (If you want to examine a book for possible course use, please see our Course Books page. If you want to examine a book for possible rights licensing, please see Rights & Permissions.)

April 1995

LC: 94-023024 BL
288 pp. 6 x 9
5 halftones, 9 figures, 1 map

The 1995 cloth edition of this book is out of print, but the paperback is still available.

Book icon
Paper $22.95 x
ISBN 978-0-299-14494-4
Shopping cart ADD TO CART
  Review cart contents
Secure checkout


Home | Books | Journals | Events | Textbooks | Authors | Related | Search | Order | Contact

If you have trouble accessing any page in this web site, contact our Web manager.

Updated October 7, 2010

© 2010, The Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin System