CHAPTER XXXI. LAST WORK OF THE WINTER - BIRDS AND FLOWERS OF SPRING CONTINUOUS DAYLIGHT - SOCIAL LIFE IN GIZHIGA - A CURIOUS SICKNESS - SUMMER DAYS AND NIGHTS - NEWS FROM AMERICA
This struck me as being a very singular explanation of a very curious performance, and I proceeded to question Viushin more closely as to the nature of this strange disease, and the manner in which an old moth-eaten tippet could afford relief. The information which I gathered was briefly as follows: The "Anadyrski bol," so called from its having originated at Anadyrsk, was a peculiar form of disease, resembling very much the modern spiritual "trance," which had long prevailed in north-eastern Siberia, and which defied all ordinary remedies and all usual methods of treatment. The persons attacked by it, who were generally women, became unconscious of all surrounding things, acquired suddenly an ability to speak languages which they had never heard, particularly the Yakut language, and were gifted temporarily with a sort of second sight or clairvoyance which enabled them to describe accurately objects that they could not see and never had seen. While in this state they would frequently ask for some particular thing, whose appearance and exact location they would describe, and unless it were brought to them they would apparently go into convulsions, sing in the Yakut language, utter strange cries, and behave generally as if they were insane. Nothing could quiet them until the article for which they had asked was produced. Thus Kolmagorof's daughter had imperatively demanded a woollen tippet, and as the poor Cossack had nothing of the sort in the house, he had started out through the village to find one. This was all the information that Viushin could give me. He had never seen one of these possessed persons himself, and had only heard of the disease from others; but he said that Paderin, the chief of the Gizhiga Cossacks, could undoubtedly tell me all about it, as his daughter had been similarly afflicted. Surprised to find among the ignorant peasantry of north-eastern Siberia a disease whose symptoms resembled so closely the phenomena of modern spiritualism, I determined to investigate the subject as far as possible, and as soon as the Major came in, I persuaded him to send for Paderin. The chief of the Cossacks - a simple, honest old fellow, whom it was impossible to suspect of intentional deception - confirmed all that Viushin had told me, and gave us many additional particulars. He said that he had frequently heard his daughter talk the Yakut language while in one of these trances, and had even known her to relate events which were occurring at a distance of several hundred miles. The Major inquired how he knew that it was the Yakut language which his daughter spoke. He said he did not know certainly that it was; but it was not Russian, nor Korak, nor any other native language with which he was familiar, and it sounded very much like Yakut. I inquired what was done in case the sick person demanded some article which it was impossible to obtain. Paderin replied that he had never heard of such an instance; if the article asked for were an uncommon one, the girl always stated where it was to be found - frequently describing with the greatest minuteness things which, so far as he knew, she had never seen. On one occasion, he said his daughter asked for a particular spotted dog which he was accustomed to drive in his team. The dog was brought into the room, and the girl at once became quiet; but from that time the dog itself became so wild and restless as to be almost unmanageable, and he was finally obliged to kill him. "And do you believe in all this stuff?" broke in the Major impatiently, as Paderin hesitated for a moment.
"I believe in God and in our Saviour Jesus Christ," replied the Cossack, as he crossed himself devoutly.
"That's all right, and so you ought," rejoined the Major; "but that has nothing whatever to do with the 'Anadyrski bol.' Do you really believe that these women talk in the Yakut language, which they have never heard, and describe things which they have never seen?"
Paderin shrugged his shoulders expressively and said that he believed what he saw. He then proceeded to relate to us further and still more incredible particulars as to the symptoms of the disease, and the mysterious powers which it developed in the persons attacked, illustrating his statements by reference to the case of his own daughter. He was evidently a firm believer in the reality of the sickness, but would not say to what agency he ascribed the phenomena of second sight and the ability to speak strange languages, which were its most remarkable symptoms.