Shamanism in Siberia

Shamanism, an ancient belief system is thought to have originated first in Siberia and Central Asia.  Shamans are healers and mediators between the physical and spiritual world. Shamanism is still practiced among most native Siberian peoples. It was brutally repressed under communism, and Shamans went into hiding. The fall of communism has allowed a resurgence in Shamanism which retains a strong hold on the minds of native people. Sacrifice to territorial spirits is very common, and along roads, in hills and mountains of Siberia you will find ovoos. Ovoos are cairns of stone or wood all tied up with silk and scraps of material flapping in the wind. The objects of sacrifice for the local spirit lie scattered like discard, small coinage, broken cigarettes, cucumber shards, and voided vodka bottles. Many a Buryat have told me tales of the time they neglected sacrificing, and the resulting accidents or sicknesses that resulted. In the same breath a Buryat might say, “Oh I don’t believe in Shamanism, do you know how powerful our local Shaman is?” Stories abound of Shamans dashing across the Steppe in horseless sleighs and stealing  vodka by sticking a knife in their neighbors doorpost like a spigot and draining the barrels inside dry. Fear of the spirits and their vengeance if you do not honor them are the driving force behind Shamanism. Shamans mediate between spirits and the people at great personal cost to themselves. It often entangles them in alcoholism, and they constantly have to drive away spirits for a few moments of peace. The island of Olkhon in Lake Baikal is considered a very powerful place by practitioners of Shamanism, and a gathering of Shamans occurs yearly there. The video clip here takes place on Olkhon island, and although what you see is performed for tourists, there are many practicing Shamans across Siberia.

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