Monday, December 29, 2008

Mongol Shamans

Mongol shamans are not all alike. In fact there are a number of shamanic traditions in the Mongol Cultural Region that spans the borders of three countries, Mongolia, Russia, and China. The region comprises Kalmykia, Buryatia, Mongolia, Inner-Mongolia and certain parts of north west China (mainly Xinjiang and Qinghai provinces) that are inhabited by Mongols. In this vast territory there are three major areas or regions where different shamanic traditions are practiced. Shamans from these regions differ greatly from each other. These regions are the following:

1. The Darkhat or north western region inhabited by the Mongol Darkhats and the Turkic Dukhas (also known by their Mongolian name Tsaatans). Darkhat and Dukha shamans practice a south siberian turkic type of shamanism, which is very similar to that of the Tuvans.
2. The north eastern region is populated by the Buryats, Bargas and Daurs. Their shamanism shows similarities with the shamanism of the Tungus.
3. The south eastern region or the Khorchin region is situated at the south eastern periphery of the Mongol Cultural Region north east from Beijing. The shamanism of the Khorchin Mongols has much proximity with that of the Manchu and Sibe ethnic groups.

Here is a map of the above-mentioned regions of Mongol shamanism:

A Tuvan shaman

A Buryat shaman

Khorchin shamans

Friday, December 26, 2008

What is Situgen?

The word situgen means 'the object of veneration' in written Mongolian. Its modern Mongolian form is shuteen. A shuteen or situgen can be anything that is revered and worshipped by the Mongols. It can be one's parents, the spirits of deceased ancestors and shamans, buddhist deities, or a legendary hero. The meaning of situgen often overlaps with that of the onggon (modern M. ongon) which can be interpreted as divine inspiration that spurs artistic and religious performances. The onggon is also viewed as an ancestral spirit impersonated by shamans. In fact every onggon is a situgen for all the onggons are revered but not every situgen is an onggon.
In modern Mongolian the combination of these two words are often used as one expression: ongon shuteen implying deities, and spirits.
In the Mongolian cultural region there are various types of situgen or onggon representations:

This is an image of a female ongon probably made of copper. You can see her tits and two parallel lines presumably standing for the streams of her flowing milk. I photographed it with my mobile phone during a trip outside of Ulaanbaatar.

A Khorchin shaman's ongon-images made of bronze.
2008 september Kulunqi, Tongliao, Inner-Mongolia.

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