Tuesday, December 11, 2007
Of the Blood
Originally my interest in Mongolian shamanism centered around the training and initiation I received from a person whose family practices the old ways up in the tea producing mountains of what is now Bangladesh. I learned so much from her. She was a great teacher and generous benefactor. Wow.
My interest was rekindled after reading about Chinkiss Khan, but I've had a hard time finding sources of good information about anything Mongolian. Obviously, it's not a topic that mainstream readers are interested in - I can't understand why - I find it fascinating. And it's not that different than the other earth-based religions, like Native American trads and western European pagan customs, all of which have become tremendously popular in the last twenty years. What, are the Mongols chopped liver?
Well, there are extenuating circumstances, it turns out. Mongolian shamanism was repressed under the U.S.S.R. - that could account in part for its obscurity. The Soviets took Chinggiss Khan's spirit flag away from the Tibetan monastery where it had been kept for hundreds of years. No one knows what happened to it. Mongolian shamanism was ... outlawed?
Hard to imagine that some guy on a horse in the middle of Mongolia, making offerings to the Eternal Blue Sky, could possibly interfere with things occurring in the Kremlin - what was the threat? Except - the Soviets took a dim view of all religions - maybe they were just being thorough.
I should go down to the Library of Congress - maybe I'll find something really good there. In the meantime, I'm slogging through Shamans and Elders, Experience, Knowledge and Power among the Daur Mongols by Caroline Humphrey with Urgunge Onon. She's an Oxford anthropology Ph.D., so you can imagine how difficult it is to read, like plowing through mud. Well worth it, though, for all the information I can understand. (Why do academics write like that? Sheesh.)
For comic relief from Ms. Humphrey's Oxford-speak, I've also been reading a popular book about the history of Chinese medicine, written for the lay person. Ahhhh. The most ancient acupuncture needles yet discovered were found in Manchuria, a part of Inner Mongolia. They estimate the age of the stone needles at 8,000-10,000 years! Isn't that crazy? At the end of the last Ice Age, somebody in Mongolia was using stone needles on his or her fellows, using a style probably not that different than the Sufi acupuncturist's 21st century brand of healing. He has much thinner needles, thank God. Wow. Acupuncture has definitely stood the test of time - and it's so old (they guess it's much older than herbal medicine) that it has to be shamanic at its roots. No wonder I'm having such a dramatic and completely unexplainable experience as a receiver of this ancient healing art.
A salute and respectful gassho to you Mongolian shamans, both ancient and modern. Thank you!
In Xanadu did Kubla Khan
a stately pleasure-dome decree,
where Alph, the sacred river, ran
through caverns measureless to man
down to a sunless sea,
so twice five miles of fertile ground
with walls and towers were girdled round.
and there were gardens bright with sinuous rills,
where blossom'd many an incense-bearing tree.
And here were forests as ancient as the hills,
enfolding sunny spots of greenery.
--Samuel Taylor Coleridge