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13 July 2011

Neoshamanism in questions and answers

Andrei Yan, Infpol. Translated by Heda Jindrak

Neoshamanism in questions and answersHow can you differentiate a shaman from a quack, what does one need to know before a visit to a shaman, is it obligatory to sprinkle vodka during rituals? These questions disturb believers, regardless of the fact that there is an increasing number of shamans. Or those who describe themselves as such. The head of shamanic association "Tengeri", Bair Tsyrendorzhiev answers these questions.

-  On 10 July, there will be already the 2nd prayer meeting to the Master spirit of Selenga at Omulevoi mountain. The ritual will be performed by your association. It was amazing at the first of these ceremonies, how many of the shamans have Tibetan names and surnames. How do you explain this obvious Buddhist origin and the rank of a shaman?

-  In fact, there is no contradiction. My grandfather was a lama and my surname is of Tibetan origin. But that does not mean that Buddhism and shamanism are in conflict. The world of spirits exists, all religions admit that. As a shaman I can speak with spirits and celestials. But as any other person I can go to a datsan (Buddhist temple) and pray to my protector - sakhyusan. All the people of Buryatia, regardless of their ethnic origin, stop at "barisan", offer them the first piece of food, or money. Nobody is embarrassed by the fact that it is a purely shamanic ancient tradition.

-  Shamanic rituals seem unnecessarily harsh to those who grew up in purely Buddhist families - the animal sacrifices, copious libations of vodka, trances.

-  Let's speak of the most painful part - the vodka. It is a deep mistake to think that it is necessary to bring a lot of vodka to shamanic rituals, much more so to drink it. It is a contemporary perversion of  an ancient tradition to treat the spirits to the best. In the old times vodka used to be made from milk, vodka was the purest distillate of milk. Not the stuff that ids sold in stores today.  Today you can treat the spirits simply to milk, the first drops of white food. Or anything that you consider the best food. As far as the sacrifices, the rams that are selected as sacrifice do not feel fear or upset when they are killed. The souls of the animals chosen as sacrifice, leave their bodies before the moment of physical killing, and the rams do not try to tear themselves out and run away, they calmly await their fate. The "souls" of the animals fly away before the ritual.


Translator for the Spirits

-  At the first prayer mass to the Master Spirit of Selenga, there was an interesting situation. Many people asked questions or had requests for the shamans who were in a trance, but they did not know their family tree.  It went so far that some Buryats who did not know their native language were asking others to translate their requests.

-  Unfortunately such cases happen. One can understand why they do not know their language, and even people of other nationalities can consult a shaman. But it is necessary to find out about one's ancestors from one's older relatives before the ritual.

-  And what is to be done by people of nations that do not keep the memory of their family trees so carefully?

-  And what about the surname? In such cases we orient on the family surname.


-  It is sometimes very difficult for a simple believer to tell who is a real shaman and who is a pseudoshaman.  After all, in contrast to other religions, it is not necessary to study in a religious school to be a shaman.

-  That is a big problem in contemporary society. Really, we are often consulted by people after séances with such impostors. To hang a toli mirror on one's chest does not yet mean that one is a shaman. This "playing shaman" is dangerous most of all for  the pseudoshamans themselves. The believers, before they consult a shaman, should first of all find out by whom he was consecrated, what degree, and what he can do. It is because despite the absence of actual schools, there, after all, is  shamanic learning.  Among today's shamans there ar none with the highest san - zaarin.  That means the ability to fly and travel in various worlds. Ancient shamans could do that.

-  So really  during the "kamlanie" the shaman's soul leaves his body, leaving the place free for the ongon. And the believers talk to the ongon that is using the shaman's body, eating or smoking a pipe?

-  Yes, and more than that - when the shaman comes out of the trance, he does not remember anything, because he was completely somewhere else. You are laughing that many people look for translators at the séance.  But every shaman has such a translator. A shaman's helper will help you to ask questions of the ongon. That is another reason to verify if the shaman is real. Ongons know no borders between the past and the future, they know any information. I understand that not everyone believes this. But you can convince yourself  with your own eyes and ears, when you question a shaman in a trance.

-  And how should one treat the fact that shamanic rituals are becoming more and more public, they are recorded for TV, photo-documentaries. Is it an element of advertising or is it simply openness?

-  I always say that a shaman is a completely ordinary person until the moment he puts on his special costume and starts his ritual. Especially when a spirit -  "ongo" -  comes into the shaman. In daily life we are people of our time, with the same worldly education. What is bad about shamans publishing books and giving interviews? We use it to support the best of  ancient traditions, we remind people of forgotten customs.

-  Buddhists worry that if you visit a shaman once, you will have to keep going there, because the spirits will keep demanding more and more offerings.

-  The spirits are not racketeers. (he smiles).  There is no reason to be afraid of that. Nobody will keep following you afterwards.  One simply should not go to extremes and use the spirit powers only for a momentary advantage.  One has to know what is a temporary moment of bad luck, which can be treated as a task, and where there is a really difficult situation.

-  And do they come to you mostly with a sickness or simply for telling a fortune?

-  A real shaman will not pester the spirits just to tell a fortune.  There has to be a very concrete goal with the aim to help.


Women's Question


-  It is no secret that women are not allowed to participate in many rituals, especially during "critical days".   There is a stereotype that a woman is "unclean" during those days.

No, not at all. A woman is a person just like anybody else, there can be nothing "unclean" in a human organism.  It is simply because blood is not allowed at rituals  for a male shaman either. If he cuts his finger before the ritual, he can't participate. Even when butchering the animal carcasses fro offerings, not a single drop of that ram's blood should fall on the earth until the end of the sacrifice.

Why are the rituals carried out mostly in the summer?

It is not quite like that. Rituals of  worship and offerings to the ancerstors begin in May, when the first grass shows up and the cuckoo begins to sing, and go on until the fall.  at that time the Celestial Gates are open and all the rituals can be performed. On 10 July we invite everybody who wants to come to contact the power of the Master Spirit of Selenga - Bukhe-Bator.

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