Sky Shamans of Mongolia

Aman khuur (mouth harp) is the instrument that gave our tour operator name and shape to our logo, so it was necessary to talk about it and explain the reason for this choice. It’s a shamanic instrument and shamanism is an integral part of Mongolian culture, even before Buddhism or other philosophies, creeds or cultural products of this vast territory. Its origins are lost in time, we are talking about a period that, according to concrete archaeological studies, is between thirty and seventy thousand years ago, or at the dawn of the conscious thought of humanity. This dating makes shamanism the oldest spiritual practice in the world.

It is certainly a record that indicates that the spiritual side of human existence, beyond science and matter, has always fascinated the Mongolian people and Kevin Turner, author of the book “Sky Shamans of Mongolia – Meetings with Remarkable Healers”. The premise to make is this: Turner is himself a shaman, and the fact that he is not local initially aroused perplexity and reserve on the part of the Mongolian shamanic community. Despite this, in the end he managed to win their trust by demonstrating remarkable divinatory skills. His personal experience is explained very well in the book, as well as his spiritual growth, his numerous travels to Mongolia and his attempts to learn the art, to improve and refine it.

It is good to take a step back and explain in the words of the anthropologist and author of the 1980 classic “The Way of the Shaman” Michael Harner, what shamanism is: “Shamanism is a great adventure mental and emotional involving the shaman-healer and the patient at the same time. Through his heroic journey and his efforts, the shaman helps patients transcend their common and ordinary definition of reality along with their perception of themselves as sick. The shaman makes available his special powers and convinces patients, at a deep level of consciousness, that another human being is willing to sacrifice himself to help them. The shaman’s self-denial requires in exchange a commensurate use of emotions on the part of the patient “. The definition that Turner finds most appropriate is the following: “Shamanism is not a religion – we have no sacred scriptures or predetermined beliefs – we are individuals, not religious followers”

Earlier we spoke of a deep level of consciousness: “during the shaman’s sessions / trances, everything is possible” (Mircea Eliade). Turner testifies this to us continuously with the words of the numerous healers he met on his long journey and also through his direct experience as a patient. He tells us how the healer Ariyunaa managed to make him pass chronic back pain with a whiplash, speaking through the hoarse and guttural voice of her guiding spirit and confirming that she knew of his own involvement in shamanism and of his studies carried out in Nepal without ever having seen him before. A friend of the author named Babette suffers from multiple sclerosis, during a flight she literally saw the folding stick she used as a support, unfolding and taking off from inside her bag to the bathroom and then being sucked into the toilet. Two weeks earlier, Ariyuanaa herself had beaten her three times with the whip on the back, leaving deep scars.

In his book, Kevin Turner, (who is also president of FSS: Asia of the Foundation for Shamanic Studies), talks about the various lives of Mongolian shamanism, clarifying what the Tengri are, the spirits behind it. The Tengri were divided into whites and blacks. The former were known as the omniscient and compassionate ones as well as residents of the ethereal world and close to the deities, while the latter were seen as ethnocentric and violent, often invoked for their strength and their will for revenge. During the reign of Genghis Khan (1206 – 1227), the shamans were assiduously consulted about every affair of state, no military action or war strategy was carried out without their guidance and support. In combat, the help of the Tengri, the black ones, was asked to ensure that the soldiers could conquer a large part of Eurasia and enlarge the Empire. The book also tells us how in more recent times, during the Soviet Union, every form of spirituality was considered a disease to be eradicated through any form of violence; the shamans were tortured, murdered or arrested and locked up in concentration camps throughout Mongolia. Only a dozen of them continued to practice clandestinely. In any case, what is naturally striking about this book is the personal experience of the author who was subjected to various tests by the local shamanic community in such a way as to test the man who came from the West with a load of presumed divination skills.

Turner insists that shamanism is not a creed but a practical type of spirituality and that shamans are nothing more than spiritual scientists open to new solutions and possibilities, all pragmatic in nature, just like doctors of science. If an approach does not bear fruit it is discarded, if not, it will be used. In fact, the Mongols cease to consult a shaman if they see no practical results.

And of course, as in science, so in shamanic spirituality, questions arise: are the treatments effective? Did the patient actually recover? Were the divinations accurate? What are the tools used in order to operate in invisible worlds and dimensions? How can consciousness be altered in order to perceive the latter? And in conclusion there is an analogy with science, or rather, neuroscience that continues to provide evidence that non-ordinary states of consciousness have validity as quantifiable and repeatable phenomena endowed with a biological purpose, all of this, in short, that the shamans already knew for millennia? The author then focuses on the interest, more or less recent, of this branch of science in relation to near-death experiences, whose studies today tend to scientifically demonstrate the direct perception of universes external to reality that we represent to ourselves, universes that shamans have always described. And here, if it’s scientifically demonstrable that consciousness or mind survive biological death, then having direct communication with spirits, with deceased ancestors, and with extrasensory dimensions is no longer science fiction matter, but an object of study worthy of attention.

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