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An intimate account of an ancient shamanic ritual of Siberia
• Illustrated with vivid, full-color photographs throughout
• Details the many preparations and ritual objects as well as the struggles of the shamans to complete the ceremony successfully
Near the radiant blue waters of Lake Baikal, in the lands where Mongolia, Siberia, and China meet, live the Buryats, an indigenous people little known to the Western world. After seventy years of religious persecution by the Soviet government, they can now pursue their traditional spiritual practices, a unique blend of Tibetan Buddhism and shamanism. There are two distinct shamanic paths in the Buryat tradition: Black shamanism, which draws power from the earth, and White shamanism, which draws power from the sky. In the Buryat Aga region, Black and White shamans conduct rituals together, for the Buryats believe that they are the children of the Swan Mother, descendants of heaven who can unite both sides in harmony.
Providing an intimate account of one of the Buryats’ most important shamanic rituals, this book documents a complete Shanar, the ceremony in which a new shaman first contacts his ancestral spirits and receives his power. Through dozens of full-color photographs, the authors detail the preparations of the sacred grounds, ritual objects, and colorful costumes, including the orgay, or shaman’s horns, and vividly illustrate the dynamic motions of the shamans as the spirits enter them. Readers experience the intensity of ancient ritual as the initiate struggles through the rites, encountering unexpected resistance from the spirit world, and the elder shamans uncover ancient grievances that must be addressed before the Shanar can be completed successfully.
Interwoven with beautiful translations of Buryat ceremonial songs and chants, this unprecedented view of one of the world’s oldest shamanic traditions allows readers to witness extraordinary forces at work in a ritual that culminates in a cleansing blessing from the heavens themselves.
Virlana Tkacz, the recipient of two Fulbright Fellowships, is director of the Yara Arts Group in New York. Since 1996 she has worked with Buryat artists to create theater pieces based on Buryat stories, poetry, and songs. Sayan Zhambalov is a Buryat writer, actor, and singer. He performed with the Yara Arts Group and heads Uragsha, a traditional music ensemble that has performed at the World Music Institute in New York. Wanda Phipps is a poet, translator, and founding member of the Yara Arts Group. A recipient of a New York Foundation for the Arts Poetry Fellowship, her work has appeared in more than a hundred literary journals and anthologies.
Table of Contents
Foreword by Itzhak Beery
Foreword by Dashinima Dugarov
Introduction by Virlana Tkacz
PART I THE PREPARATION
My beautiful homeland Great Mother Earth Great Father Sky Listen to me, hear me well.
The Sacred Grounds
On a good day At a good time Mountain trees were pulled out with their roots. Mountain trees were cut at the root. Each leaf was made golden. Each branch was silvered.
The Ritual Objects
The beautiful instrument that I hold Was crafted, made by The heavenly white smith.
I ask for White cleansing waters strong as a storm For this Golden Shanar.
It is a great offering. I give breath to it and silver it With white mother's milk I chant and give breath to it.
Part II CALLING THE SPIRITS
The Ongon Spirits
Great ancestors of my family tree Descend and thunder
Great, uh . . . ancestors . . . of my family tree. Listen to me . . . hear me well. (Volodya: What comes next?)
August 20, 2000
The Fading Light of a Golden Afternoon
August 21, 2000 The Fog Rolls In
August 22, 2000
A Cold Wind Blows
Bringing up the Dust
Blessings and happiness have descended! Descended! Joy and happiness have descended! Descended! May the children live beautifully forever. The ritual is complete! The ritual is complete!