Two Swiss in Mongolia – visiting the shaman lady

The interview with the shaman lady

Pudje drives our car to the Shaman lady he knows. She lives in a wooden house that has the shape of a ger. Other than a ger it has windows. The kitchen and the bed as well as the altar (in this case an owl on a blue flag) are at the usual places,
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but other than a nomadic ger, the walls are full with the “tools” she needs as a shaman and with souvenirs (I assume given by visitors) such as bottles of vodka or portwine).
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The ger is almost overloaded and dirty. In the kitchen corner there are still bones from one of the last meals. Some ladies come and start to clean up the kitchen.
The shaman lady immediately offers us to show how she performs her cult and this would cost 250’000 Tögröt or about 150 dollars. No, we do not want a show for tourists. We just want to talk to her about her art. Ursula leads the interview – I can tell that she has a lot of practice at this (doctors practice “anamnese”). Aika translates and the shaman answers reluctantly first. At the age of thirteen she decided to become a shaman, and she is the 14th shaman in her family. No, she does not want to say, why she made this decision (which we of course respect, because the reason may be very personal, an illness or a stroke of fate). Her mum taught her the practice. She mainly tries to help people with psychic or health problems or she forecasts their future. She uses her mental abilities to cure people, she does not use medical plants. After a ceremony it takes her two days to recover. She is a Tuva and can speak Tuva and Mongolian. She has five children.
Whether she would show us her drum, we ask. No, she would do so only for 250000 Tögrök, she answers.
Then she switches and starts to ask questions. Your names? Your country? Your age? Children? And then a few compliments such as “you look younger than your age” and “your skin is still beautiful”. We return the compliments: “You look wise and you have charisma”. She starts to thaw up a bit. She invites us to join a ceremony that is planned in the forest in about an hour. Her husband comes and pulls a foto album from under her bed. In 2010 they traveled through Europe and also came to Switzerland. They met European shamans, and some of them also had visited them in Mongolia.
The room is now full with people. Three ladies and a young man from Ulanbatoor want to explore shamanism, and a man in his fifties admires her; he has already attended various sessions and has often been the only person to see the fire in front of the practicing shaman lady – and he could even take a foto of what he saw and the others could not see. He shows us the foto…
The group of people now takes their cars to get to the shaman place about five to ten kilometers north. It is on a hill in the forest. The sacred area is surrounded by a fence covered with ribbons in all colors.
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 A hut made of branches. A bench in front of the house. The guests put their gifts on to that bench: Bisquits, milk tea, vodka, cigarettes, toffees and more. A mat on the ground and a fireplace nearby. The husband tunes the drum over the fire, carefully testing it from time to time. Supported by the guests the shaman lady dresses up for her performance. She puts on a coat made of fur pieces (fox), a grim mask with feathers on top and big shoes. The guests write their wishes on white ribbons and add them to her coat. She sits down and her husband sits next to her. She starts to hit the drum with a decorated drum stick while turning her upper body. Sometimes her husband supports her carefully. Her coat must be heavy – I think what she performs requires a huge physical effort.
After some time the man in his fifties kneels and bends down in front of her. He has problems with his eyes, but wants to open up a new business. The shaman lady continues to play the drum and turn her upper body, while murmuring her advice. Her husband translates her words. The future does not look good for this man and the shaman asks him to take care for his health.
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The three ladies bend down one after the other. They mostly have problems with men and also ask about the future of their families. When translating, the husband sometimes smiles or lights a cigarette; then he speaks with the cigarette in the edge of his mouth. From time to time the shaman lady needs a bowl of milk tea or wodka. One of the ladies has just been divorced, has a son, and would like to find a new husband. The shaman lady shows compassion by dropping the drum on her back. She foresees that this lady will find a new husband in two years. This young lady takes notes, while the shaman speaks to her.
In the background, Kleiber and squirrels enjoy the bisquits – a second performance is going on here. From time to time the guests and the husband sprinkle milk tea around or throw toffees into the air.
Last it is the turn of the young man from Ulanbatoor. Then the husband helps the shaman lady to get up and undress. She sits down again and immediately is back in this world and wants to know, whether we liked it. We leave a gift between the bisquits and the wodka and say good-bye.
Lunch in the camp
We are frozen – the ceremony had lasted about one and a half hours in the cold forest. We take our box lunch in the camp.
Siesta and a walk
To digest our experience with shamanism, we need a rest and free Aika and Pudje for the remaining afternoon. They visit relatives of Pudje and we meet them later laying hearts for their partners. Aika takes a foto of me with her heart that says “I love you”. Yes, I do… today it is exactly two years ago that you became a star watching over me.
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