SHAMANISM IN MONGOLIA
Mongolian Shamanism is one of the oldest forms of religion. It has been developed on the basis of the belief in totemism and dates back to 300 to 400 BC. The Huns, ancestors of the Mongolians, worshiped shamanism and made it the state religion. Since then the people of Mongol origin, who lived in the territory of Mongolia, have been worshiped shamanism. The word shaman (böö) is a common noun that can be divided into two categories: a male shaman (büge) and a female shaman (udgan). Hun and Mongol people worshiped the sun and the moon and made sacrificial offerings to the heavens, the earth, spirits, and their ancestors.
The main rite of Mongolian shamanism is to worship and sacrifice heaven. Shamanism venerates the blue sky and green earth. In shamanism, there are 55 deities (Tenger) of the west who are well disposed towards humans and 44 deities (Tenger) of the east who cause all misfortunes. Mongolian Shamanism worships a total of 99 deities. These deities are answerable to the clans or tribes, including individual persons, before the power of nature. In addition, in Mongolian shamanism, there are water spirits (Lus), and mountain spirits (Savdag), as well as souls and amulets. Devotees worship these objects as their guardians.
The life of the hunters is devoted to catching beasts. There is a notion that the dispositions of wild beasts are linked to the spirits. This established a relationship between hunters and wild beasts and created a method for how to deal with them, together with rules on how to kill or control them. The rites involving libations and consecrations were established, as was a habit to preserve nature and conserve wild beasts. These habits became traditions that have been observed by nomadic peoples from generation to generation. Over time, the skills and methods used to domesticate some wild animals and to hunt others were transferred to animal breeders. The animal breeders then started worshipping nature, mountains, waters, and the sun and moon. These rituals formed and spread widely and have been performed and maintained up to the present day. In Mongolian shamanism, there is a view that every being has a spirit. The invocations, incantations, and consecrations in Mongolian shamanism are performed by Mongolian shamans, who are considered to be unusual and to possess the magical power or “ongon” of the spirits. There are three varieties of spirits. The first is the soul of a living being or of the body flesh obtained from the mother; the second is the conscience of thinking, which is the soul of bones obtained from the father; and the third is the soul, reincarnation, or spirit separated from the body after death. In Mongolian shamanism, the spirit is living in the body. If the spirit is separated from the body, the living body dies. There are the notions of invocation of spirit and exorcism of the evil spirit. The shamans perform rituals of the incantations, invocations, and exorcism.
The aggregation of shamanistic views can be considered in the following sense:
- The preference for the penetration of the shamanistic spirit. The role of the shaman is to regulate and pacify them.
- The preference to invite the shaman’s ongon, which serves to support good deeds and to drive away evil spirits. The ongon abides in holy places, so they are invited in to demonstrate their supernatural power.
- The preference for the magical ability of Mongolian shamanism in exorcising evil spirits. Devotees believe that the ongon of spirits can drive out misfortune, illness, and evil spirits with the guardian power of shamans.
Rituals are the main elements of Mongolian shamanism and play a very important role in their practices. There are two important entities that shamanic rituals seek to invoke or influence. The first is the White Heaven, which controls everything in the western direction. The other is the heart-shaped Black Heaven, which controls everything in the eastern direction. The shamanic rites seek to invoke the ninety-nine deities, to whom offerings are made. There are also the mountain-rites, cairn-rites, and tree-rites, and spring-rites, all of which are related to the traditions and rituals of worshipping the earth as Mother. Together with them, there are the fire–rites, ancestor-rites, saddle-thongs rites, destiny rides, and horse-rites. There are also entrance-rites and lightning-rites. Shamanist rites assume that nature has godliness. Shamans use the rites to get into contact with this godliness, which occurs while the shamans are in a trance.
FIRE WORSHIPPING CEREMONIES OF MONGOLIAN SHAMANISM
December 23rd and 24th of every lunar year are, for Mongolians, the days of worshiping fire. On December 23rd, the deity of fire appears and informs Indra about the living beings of the universe. The worshiping of fire of the Mongols has traversed many centuries, undergone various changes, and adapted to diverse local spaces, but its general tenor is the same.
The masters of fire are called “Mother of fire”, “Song of fire”, “Heaven of mother-fire” “Daughter-deity of fire,” and “Heaven of fire”. Since Buddhism spread over Mongolia, the name “Hermit heaven, King of the Fire Meraja” has become commonly used.
The preparation for worship is the first act of these rituals. Then the fire deity is invited. Offerings are made to them. Then the ode to fire is recited, and prayer and statement for fire deities and benediction are uttered. Then we entrust the fire deity to make the devotees healthy and wealthy and solicit offers in a melodious tune. The offerings of worship were shared with all the participants. Ghee oil ( purified butter) and incense on four sides of the trivet to prevent a fire from the evils. The offerings to the fire must be sanctimonious.
Mongolians celebrate the ritual of worshipping fire as the “small Lunar Month” and perform them according to the established rules. The statement, invocation, and benediction of worshipping fire were orally transmitted and, later, they written in sutras and books.
There are many forbidden practices concerning fire and the fire-worship ceremonies in ancient law. People were subjected to severe punishment if they assaulted someone’s hearth. Mongolians, venerate fire, sun, and moon in our genius and wish our hearth and altar to be holy forever and as prosperous as the flames of fire.
OVOO WORSHIPPING CEREMONIES
The rituals of mountain worship and ovoo worship were originally shamanistic, but they were enriched and developed with the notions and teachings of Buddhism and concepts of nature and the universe. This ceremony involves inviting the spirits of the mountains and water to please and express our requests to them.
According to Mongolian shamanism, there are spirits in the trees, mountains, and water. There are two spirits, Savdag and Lus. These are words borrowed from Tibetan. Savdag means master of the earth or mountain nymphs. Lus means master of water and humidity or water nymphs. In the sutra Buman tsagaan Lus there is a definition: “The water spirit exists in water, the earth spirit exists in the ground. The wrathful deity lives in space.”
The water spirits are defined as blue, yellow, and black, according to their colors. The white king deity is the king of all the masters of water. The good and bad omens of human beings depend upon the will of the white deity. We beseech the white deity to cause us to be in his good graces and make offerings of a boiled saddle of mutton, sacred cakes, rendered cream, ghee lamps, grain and milk vodka, and other things to him.
There are provisions for rituals at an ovoo - cairn or sacred site. There are thirteen ovoos in an array which are to be sanctified. The middle cairn is the biggest and tallest and is a symbol of Sümber agula (Lofty mountain). There are two ovoos from the middle cairn on the western and eastern sides. They are symbols of the four great continents. They are smaller than the middle ovoo. There is another small eight ovoos. They are known as the eight little continents.
The day to observe the ovoo worshipping ceremony is selected by the astrologist in advance. Then it is announced to the locality. Early in the morning before the sun rises, local people start moving to a place where the ovoo worshipping ceremony is to be performed. People attend an ovoo worshipping ceremony preparing offerings in advance and wear their holiday clothes. Mongolians esteem this event greatly.
These offerings consist of khadag (sacred scarf), dairy products, boiled mutton, skim of milk, and rendered cream. Nanti, Ubanantu, and other spirits of water and supporters of holiness are invited to deliver bounties for the sake of all beings. After the ceremony is finished attendants come down to the foot of the mountain and attend a small Naadam event, including horse racing, wrestling, and archery, with the accompaniment of singing and reciting benedictions and odes. In such a manner the mountain and water spirits are pleased with Mongolia.