Shamanistic Rituals: Past and Present

By ashihai
February 25, 2024

Shaman… This word is associated with another world; fear of the unknown, subliminal consciousness, and all these attract unconscious interest. Although scientists are sceptical  about  shamanistic rituals and traditions, sociologists are quite positive about them. The reason being that shamanistic rituals are deeply connected with human nature and the essence of human society. Researchers say shamanistic rituals are focused on reaching balance between the higher world, the cosmos, the world of spirits, animals, nature, human beings and their mind.

Let me introduce some interesting conclusions made by academics and researchers who have studied the development of Mongolian shamanism. While living in groups, ancient people used their physical and mental power to overcome natural forces and learned ways to fight for survival. As a consequence of this natural selection, only the strongest and wisest among ancient peoples were left. Those strongest and wisest people learned about the natural phenomena regarding the sky, earth, sun, moon, stars, fire, etc., and explained it to the people around them. This is how the connection between nature and human beings was established. Those people were respected and awed by their communities and ,they asked about everything they feared or doubted. Since those ancient times, the shamans’ (“Boo” in Mongolian, originates from “boognuuleh” – “gatherer”, “collector”) influence and participation in the lives of people has increased greatly – this was the origin of shamanism. In ancient times, most clan leaders were shamans. Therefore, it can be concluded that being a shaman was an advantage in that it made them stand out from  the others. The main religion in the first Mongol nation state of the Hun Empire (209 – 93 BC) was shamanism. Historians pointout that from the times of the Hun Empire until the times of the Khamag Mongol, Mongols had freedom of faith. Religions at that time included Manichaeism, Buddhism, Confucianism, and Nestorianism. However, Mongols did not adopt the philosophy of others. They kept their original beliefs in nature or shamanism.  This was one of the reasons why Mongols have been able to keep their national identity until today. Since the collapse of the Hun Empire, shamanistic rituals of different clans started to merge to other religions. The Mongolian steppes were restless during the 12th century. Only when Chinggis Khan united all the tribes, shamanism evolved and became more suitable to the times, a kind of monotheistic shamanism. The new shamanism saw theEternal Blue Sky as the main power. It brought a great change in the ideology and mentality of Mongols.

Historians note that Chinggis Khan deeply believed in shamanism, and always consulted with the Eternal Blue Sky, his ancestors, and nature beforemaking big decisions and going to battle. This also suggests that perhaps Chinggis  Khan was a shaman himself and served as a bridge between the Eternal Blue Sky and earth.

After Chinggis  Khan’s death, his teachings and beliefs were gradually forgotten. This was the beginning of the end for Mongol unification and their power. During the rule of Khubilai Khan, Buddhism spread widely, while Shamanism faded and its influence on state decisions significantly decreased. In the 1800’s, the Gelugpa school of Buddhism, or “Yellow hat sect”, gained strength in Mongolia, and Mongolian shamanism developed in two different directions: one with a significant Buddhist influence called “Yellowshamanism”, and the other with original shamanistic traits called “Black shamanism”. These two systems developed separately in their own ways.

During the Great Repressions of the 1930’s, Shamanism and Buddhism both were repressed by communist ideology, though the traditional belief stilled lived in the hearts and minds of the Mongols. With the arrival of democracy in 1990, the Mongolian nation was given back their  freedom of belief, and the ancient tradition of worshipping the Eternal Blue Sky was restored. These days many ancestral spirits are descending to us. Mongolians believe that they are descending to bless their children and to balance their fates.



Leave a Reply