Mongolia Homestay Travel and Shamanism – General Information for Success
Tips on How to Travel in Mongolia and Homestay with Mongols who Practice Mongolia Shamanism
Prior to reviewing this information please do kindly refer to the “Mongolia Homestay – General Information for Success” – thanks!
Mongolians have been a believer in shamanism since the era of the Huns. Chingis Khan revered shamanism heavily. Before Chingis Khan waged war, he would pray atop a mountain holding up his belt to his head. The Secret History of Mongolia, states that this was his way of emboldening his troops through belief.
During their rituals, the shamans wear a special garb – although many outfits are similar – there is a wealth of a difference that can be observed.
Generally shamans’ outfits vary with differences adopted from various ethnic people. For example, shamans from western Mongolia wear a low hat with some wrapping their heads in cloth. Their deels have colored strips hanging from collar down making up an intimidating look. Meanwhile, Khalkh shamans, especially shamanesses let their presence known through extravagant hats.
The outfits worn during the ritual are sewn with colorful ribbons. Their collars are decorated with serpent shaped cloth and on their heads are either eagle claws or deer antlers forged into a crown called “оргой”. It has either six or nine colorful ribbons hanging from behind, called “майхавч”. On the front the shaman wears an apron made of animal skins or cloth with metal hoops connected in groups of three. The shaman’s belt has up to nine old brass mirrors with the twelve traditional zodiac animals engraved on them. They hold a thin stick called “сорви”, a piece of wood with a metal circle and a piece of cloth attached called “ташуур” and a drum called “гэц”.
Before the ritual a totem, usually crafted out of iron or silver, is set up. The totem is believed to hold a guardian spirit who protects from dangers.
Shamanism is believed to have originated during the Stone Age. Early humans in their struggle against nature wanted to appease the sky by worshipping specific items related to nature. That would go on to become shamanism. Currently Native Americans most worshipped religion is shamanism.
The Sky: Shamanism considers there to be 99 skies, 55 from the west bringing good and 44 from the east bringing bad unto people. Once a year Mongolians plead the western skies for all that is good and call upon the eastern skies to curse those against them; the sky is seen as “Father” by all shamans.
The Land: Shamans see the land the “Mother”. It is said that the mother gives the body while the father gives the soul. As such, when a human passes away their body remains with the land while their spirit floats away to the skies. That might be the reason why the deer on deer-stones are depicted as prancing away from the touch of men to symbolize deer carrying the soul up to the skies.
What makes shamanism unique:
- Main religions of the world each have a unique piece of literature about their ideals and teachings. However, shamans don’t have a singular tradition that they follow, instead their methods are passed down from generation to generation. In fact, it is forbidden for a shaman to document the ways of his rituals as it violates notion that a tribe must only have a single shaman.
- Unlike mainstream religions, shamanism has no founder and its traditions are commanded by nature.
- Mainstream religions have palaces of worship where shamanism doesn’t. However, their worship of cairns is similar to the worship of stupas in Buddhism.
- Unlike other religions, it has no history or calendar; whereas, other religions keep a calendar and have their history well documented.
- Other religions have a systematic method of schooling, however, in shamanism new shamans are either generational or emerge out of the blue.
Twice annually, the third day of the lunar new year and before the 15th of the mid-autumn month shamans hold an offering ceremony. During the new years ceremony, worshippers put offerings at cairns praying for the upcoming year to be great. At the autumn ceremony they mark livestock by tying a white cloth to one of its legs and making it bow to the sun three times; a marked animal then belongs to the sky therefore no one is allowed to touch them.
Cairns are an important aspect of shamanism as when one piles rocks their path to the sky gets closer. In ancient Mongolian traditions men approached cairns alone – to do so they would first need to clean themselves and dress appropriately. Once at the cairn, man must take off his belt and hat and kneel before the cairn before proceeding with the prayers and wishes.
Shamanism still remains prominent in areas with frequent floods, fires and lightnings: Khuvsgul province, Uvs province and Khovd province.