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It Gets Weird with a Shaman

Yesterday I meet a Tuvan Shaman. (Shamanism is a tribal belief in which a person, the shaman, acts as intermediary between the natural and supernatural worlds, using magic to cure illness, foretell the future and control spiritual forces). Most Mongolians are Buddhists but for the Tuvan people who live here in Western Mongolia and Russia, shamanism is all the rage.

This is the first time I’ve meet a real bonafide shaman and it was pretty full on. Firstly she was completely drunk on Vodka. Apparantly this is normal practice for shaman in these parts – it helps them see visions easily (no kidding).

Clearly the locals were all afraid of her, and she acted liked a chain smoking, drunk five year old. I asked her if my wife and I were going to have kids (yep four, so we will have to get busy as we have none at present). Anyway, my question called for a whole lot of eye rolling, hand waving, shell shaking, headdress-sent-flying, pig-like grunting and a few more rounds of vodka. She assured me that she had a pretty clear line to the spirit world so it shouldn’t be a problem. None-the-less she increased my “man energy” for only T10,000 (about $7.63) which was a pretty good deal I thought.

Next an infant appeared and I was given his piss stained and still damp nappy to smell which I declined on the grounds that when you’ve smelled one dirty nappy you’ve pretty much smelled them all. She insisted that she at least wipe my forehaed and cheeks with it and a small wrestling match broke out between me and the 50 year old drunk granny. The locals said they have never seen anything like it.

Anyway I avoided the nappy and things moved on to the next question (a Mongolian family wanted to know if their Russian relative would be cured by an upcoming operation). this question caused her to start beating several of the family memebrs with the long tassels tied about her wrist to exorcis any demons they were harbouring.

The last I saw of her was she was wheezing her way through a pack of cigarettese and had walked into a wall trying to gain access to the spirit world.

Interesting stuff.

Ovoos – not just a pile of rocks

One of the most notable religious landmarks of Mongolia are the Ovoos that dot the landscapes. To help find their way, in what at time can be a featureless landscape, these sacred stone heaps are used as landmarks and a good luck charms.

When you encounter one of these rock piles, it is customary to walk around it in a clockwise direction three times.  It is also good practice to add to the ovoo with a nearby rock (or as pictured a horse skull or bicycle)  thus help building it a teensy bit higher. If one is in a hurry and does not have time to pull the jeep, honking the horn with passion while zooming pass will suffice

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Western Mongolia
Top Tip
Bring a gift - vodka and cigarettes are welcomed but not exactly healthy.
Written by Dean
Photography by Dean