Siberian Shamanism

Siberian Shamanism

May 23, 2011, Posted by admin at 2:46 am

Siberian-Shaman-665x1024These indigenous Siberian peoples do have their original understanding of traditional religions in a cultural point of view in common; they share the belief in animated nature as well as the existence of entities in all natural objects with their owner spirits, distinguished into heaven and earth-water spirits, and a supreme heaven god (Tengri). Shamans contacted them by travelling to them, by sending these souls to them or allowing them access to their bodies. When this happened, they were in a state of ecstasy, visualised by means of ritual-like dances and drum sounds, the whole event originally supported by intoxicating herbs such as juniper and toadstool (only recently there has also been used alcohol for this means).

Yer su (Gazriin Ezen) are earth-water spirits that live in a particular mountain, lake, river, rock, tree, etc. Chotgors are responsible for physical as well as psychological diseases and illnesses. Otsoors are suld souls of ancestors living in nature. Ongons (Totems) – ancestral spirits that now live in a place or house assigned especially to them. They may also live in figures carved from wood (fetish) or simply in jewellery (lucky charms, amulets). Burkhansare very powerful and dangerous spirits that are rather hard to control.

Within the communities the shamans excerted more influence than the leader of the tribe. This position was backed by their knowledge of herbs as cures and the role they played in the preservation of tribal traditions. A shaman also had the duty to help people overcome the mountain (their life). They were especially skilled in dealing with these spiritual worlds. Within the social communities they held different positions and hence were respected as healers of illnesses and diseases, fortune tellers and masters in the celebration of rituals. They also succeeded in preserving their cosmology with the conception of the three worlds, an upper, a middle and a lower world that are linked by the World Tree in the form of a larch and by the World River. The treetop was the gate they passed when travelling into other worlds. When people were born, their souls came from the upper world, the place of origin, into the world centre, the life on earth. Consequently, the lower world was the realm of the dead. They also believed in souls being reborn.

Man has three souls, and when the suld soul leaves man, this means his end, and the soul remains in nature, with the two other souls wandering around and being reborn. The ami soul changes into a bird and flies to the World Tree. The suns soul travels on water.

The cosmology of Mongolian shamanism and its eight customary rituals are based on the view that apart from the visible world, the shaman interacts with many other worlds or the universe, and that the establishment of contacts with the spirits constitutes an important part of the shamans’ work. They worship Eternal Heaven (Munkh Tenger) and Mother Earth (Etugan), see below, as well as the ancestors deceased and nature spirits. This means that every person is responsible for his/her own actions, and Tenger sees all that is done and is the ultimate judge and the shaper of destiny.

The shamanism of the Turk people, the Buryat and the Mongolian people is essentially one and the same. Heaven Tengers (heaven gods), humans, the nature (animals and plants), fire and water, those are the elements of our life; as well as the sun and the moon, like Tenger’s eyes. The sun is the fire, and the moon is the water. Humans have realized that clean air and pure water are the most important things. They have understood that it is important to keep the world in balance. Tegsh means ‘being in balance’.

The Mongolian Shamans’ Association plays a historic role in the continuation of these traditions at the occasion of the annual Ulaan Tergel (Summer Solstice) celebration.

Although shamanism experiences a revival nowadays, there are hardly any genuine shamans in the original sense of the word anymore, but some elements of shamanism, however, have been kept alive, such as, for example, some sacrificial rituals.

Content credit to

M. Ermolenko

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