Tuesday, January 6, 2009

The Buryat White Shaman

In 2004 and 2005 I studied at a Mongolian university in Ulaanbaatar and conducted my fieldwork research on contemporary Mongolian shamanism. I often visited the Golomt Centre of Mongolian Shamans in an effort to get acquanted with as many shamans as possible and to collect data for my research. It happend in January 2005 that Suhbat, the head of the Centre, asked me to bring my video camera and make an interview with a shamaness (Altanceceg) and her assistant (Namsrai) who were going to come from Dornod aimag the next day. So they came and brought along a pink fancy cake, big chunks of mutton and a bottle of vodka. After having eaten and drunk we settled down to work. First I made the interview about how they had become those they were, how they practiced etc. Then I asked them to introduce me the shamanic paraphernalia and lastly they allowed me to capture a ritual on camera. Now in this post I'm going to write about the paraphernalia. Namsrai explained to me that the Buryats distinguished between two kinds of shamans; black and white shamans. Altanceceg was both. Black and white shamans wear different costumes and use different requisites. Altanceceg first showed me her white costume and paraphernalia, which resembled the traditional Buryat garment. She didn't look like a "real shaman" to me in it. Buryats often say that white shamans aren't"real shamans", in fact they are bone-setters (bariash), who can put the sprained bones right and cure minor illnesses. The white shaman channels Buddhist divinities during his/her rituals while the black ones would impersonate their ancestors in ecstasy.
The following video is an excerpt from my footage I made with Altanceceg and Namsrai and it represents the white shaman's costume. Altanceceg is the shaman, I am the one who asks questions which are answered by Namsrai.

If you want to know where the Buryats and other ethnic groups of Mongolic origin live check this out!


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