Travel Route: Lake Hovsgol – Selenge Gol – Bulgan – Khustain Nuruu – Ulan Bator
“From the air Mongolia looks like God’s preliminary sketch for earth, not so much a country as the ingredients out of which countries are made: grass, rock, water and wind.” – Stanley Stewart
Where is Lake Hovsgol?
Lake Hovsgol is in northern Mongolia bordering Russia and is part of the Siberian Taiga. The lake contains 1-2% of the world’s freshwater resources.
What distinct the Mongolian women?
Unlike their counterparts elsewhere in Asia, in traditional Mongol society, women took the men’s place when they went off to war and had to be skilled in all aspects of animal farming and hunting. So, it is not surprising that fundamental equality between men and women existed. Furthermore, since fertility was valued over virginity, the Mongols did not place the same emphasis on female purity as found in other societies in Asia.
Today, women in Mongolia are not only free and equal to men but often in positions of power. Because men are usually busy herding livestock, traveling to markets, or fixing things, the women often go to school longer than men; 80% of higher education students are women. And it is estimated that in Ulan Bator, the capital, women hold 70% of skilled jobs.
Shamanism in Mongolia
Mongolians worship the spiritual forces of nature. Mongolia is known as the Land of the Eternal Blue Sky. Mongolia’s culture has been influenced by the traditional nomadic way of life, ancestral Shamanism, and Tibetan Buddhism.
I did not encounter Shamanic rituals but for hearing, in the middle of a full moon night, a particular drumming sound, which was later confirmed as the sound of a nearby Shamanic ceremony. Shamanism in northern Asia and Europe is a religion characterized by a belief in an unseen world of gods, demons, and ancestral spirits responsive only to shamans. Shamanism takes its root beliefs from Tengerism – the indigenous religion of Mongolia, practiced by Chinggis Khan. In the worldview of Tengerism, one can learn to survive and thrive in the world by being responsible for one’s actions, giving thanks to the gods, and living in harmony and accordance with nature. After decades of oppression by both Buddhism and Communism, Mongolia is taken back by its ancient religion.
The aspect I find most interesting in Mongolian Shamanism is natural healing. This natural healing is not only about giving an ill person medicinal herbs or chanting over them to cure their energy fields. Shamans believe that the sick person carries an underlying supernatural evil or a natural harmonious imbalance that causes the illness. A shaman seeks out the help of spirits to find where the disharmony or evil comes from to help an ill person. The spirits also protect the shaman as he/she embarks on the supernatural journey. The shaman’s effectiveness results are related to the strength of the spirits embedded in the shaman.