Thursday, 30 September 2010

the shamen

I am living just outside Ulaanbaatar in a valley overlooking the city. There are a million walks from the apartment into the wilds and towards cultural allure. My favourite sojourn is a four kilometre run down the valley and along the river away from the city. Some two kilometres away is a major Shaman site. A large patch of land hosts a number of enormous timber posts. Each post is covered in predominantly blue cotton pendants that are tied to the wooden columns as offerings. It is a tranquil and mysterious place.
Shamanism believes that its practitioners, Shamen, are guides or messengers between the physical and spirit worlds. A Shaman seeking to help physical or mental illness or injury will seek to repair that persons soul. It is said that by alleviating pressure on the soul the physical body is healed. Shamen will also go into the spirit world to help communities and heal social problems. Shamanism has been practised for at least 12,000 years and is still practised widely today. It is the second religion of Mongolia after Buddhism.
Often when I pass through the site there are families of Mongolians camped near their offering. Such instances tend to signify the coming arrival of a Shaman. The Shamen seem to travel wildly as nomads. On arrival they will spend time with the families sharing food and discussing the issue at hand. The Shaman will use a rhythm, normally played on tambor, to start his journey to the spirit world. This is accompanied by chanting of the sort we grew up hearing red indians sing in coboy movies. It is a fascinating and captivating sound. I give families privacy at such times but as I walk on can hear the Shaman chanting wildly as the rhythm escalates. I am keen to know what happens during the trance; determined to know what is said; eager to unearth how it comes to pass. I may not have to wait too long. Today I was asked by a Mongolian friend whether I would like a visit with a Shaman, how can I possibly refuse...
Mongolian of the day:- good luck :: amjilt husey