Mongolia is a country I have been fascinated for a very long time and a place someday I hope to visit. Mongolia is so rich in history, culture and spirituality. Lesser known by most, which is unfortunate, is Mongolian Shamanism. This is a subject I touched on in my blog post regarding the Tengriism which is the native religion of Siberia, Mongolia and throughout the Asian Steppe. Even the great Genghis Khan (ca. 1162–1227) himself was a believer in Tengri and attributed his success and rise to power due to his devotion to Tengriism. So now I wish to dive into specifically what Mongolian Shamanism is all about, at least what is known because the unfortunate truth is with modern society taking a strong hold in Mongolia, the native religion is slowly disappearing. So I wish to at least do my part in sharing with you what I have gathered to help preserve this fascinating spiritual practice.
Mongolian Shamanism is an ancient ethnic religion, tradition and moreover, a way of life. It is a way to connect with nature and all of creation. As all ancient spiritual practices are rooted in nature, shamanism is the method by which we can strengthen that natural connection. It is also centered on the worship of the Tenger “Tengri” (Heaven, God of Heaven, God)
Shamanism is the universal spiritual wisdom inherent to all tribes and it is memory of tribes and nations, preserving the traditions throughout the centuries. Mongolian shamanism is an all-encompassing system of belief that includes medicine, religion, a reverence of nature, and ancestor worship.
It is a practice that involves a practitioner reaching altered states of consciousness in order to perceive and interact with spiritual world. A shaman is someone who is regarded as having access to the world of spirits and enters into a trance state during a ritual and connects with spirits of their ancestors. Shamans perform a variety of functions depending upon their respective cultures; healing, leading a sacrifice, preserving the tradition by storytelling and songs, fortune-telling, and acting as a psychopomp (literal meaning, “guide of souls”). A single Shaman may fulfill several of these functions. In this way the Shaman helps to maintain balance and harmony on both a personal and planetary level.SOURCE
Ovoos or aobaoes (in Mongolian “heap”) are large rock ceremonial altars in the shape of mounds that are traditionally used for worship in the indigenous religion of Mongols and related ethnic groups. Every ovoo is considered to be the representation of a god. There are ovoos dedicated to heavenly gods, mountain gods, other gods of nature, and also to gods of human lineages. In Inner Mongolia, the ovoos for worship of ancestral gods can be private shrines of an extended family or kin, otherwise they are common to villages (dedicated to the god of a village). Pilgrims passing by an ovoo traditionally circle it three times in clockwise direction while making prayers. They often make offerings by adding stones to the mound, or by hanging blue ceremonial silk scarves, called khadaq, symbolizing the Tengri mountain spirits. Some pilgrims also leave money, milk, incense sticks, or bottles of alcoholic beverages.SOURCE
Much like with Norse Paganism (Asatru), Slavic Paganism often in modern times gets a negative reputation by some mainstream sources and organizations as a result of a minority demographic that utilizes such spiritual beliefs for their own malicious intentions. However the more ancient native beliefs throughout the Slavic countries which can be in general described as Slavic Paganism has a rich history of traditions, ritual holidays and their Gods and Goddesses. Being that I myself have Slavic blood running through my veins I have been fascinated and studied this subject for years and even in my own crafts pay homage to Slavic Paganism and their Pantheon of Gods and Goddesses. In fact eventually on this Blog I plan to feature each Slavic God and Goddess in their own post.
The use of this methodology in contemporary paganism is not new. It has proven its worth through the compelling reconstructions of the paganisms of other ethno-cultural groups, such as the Gauls, Anglo-Saxons, Greco-Egyptians and Norse, among others.
Slavic reconstructionist paganism includes three main objects of worship: the gods (Russian: Bogi), the spirits (Russian: Dushi), and the ancestors (Russian: Predki). We believe in multiple, distinct gods who are both immanent (appearing in the world) and transcendent (not limited to the material world). We believe that every building, every forest, every river or lake, the landscape itself is populated by countless spirits. We believe that our ancestors watch over and protect us throughout our life.SOURCE
The following list gives some of the more important Slavic deities known from older sources. Almost all of these are easily identifiable as Slavic cognates of other Proto-Indo-European Goddesses and Gods. The names used here are just some of the forms of the names which vary widely because of dialect differences in the Slavic languages as well as differences in the alphabets and the manner of their transcription from the Cyrillic alphabet. The element -bog seen in several of these names means ‘a god’ in various Slavic languages. The earliest references to specific deities are to Vladimir’s pantheon, the Gods and one Goddess worshiped by Prince Vladimir in about 980 CE before his conversion to Christianity. Most of the earliest references are from Christian sources and do not give much information, and even that is suspect. However many of these deities continue to be worshiped in the dual religion of the country people, and so they are well known from folk traditions.
Belbog, with the element bel- meaning ‘bright, white.’ This deity is known from early Christian sources. Bereginya, mentioned in old sources, the bereginyi (plural) receive offerings among the folk, and there are folk stories told about them. Bereginya dolls are still made by Russians. Dazhbog, a ‘Day God’ known from Vladimir’s pantheon and other early sources. In myths, he is the father of the morning and evening stars and of the Zoryi. Khors, known from Vladimir’s pantheon, but little else is known about this God. Koliada, the Goddess associated with the winter solstice and possibly a personification of it. There are many songs and dances known for her. Kupalo/Kupala, a deity associated with the summer solstice. Kupalo, a masculine form, appears in early Christian references, while Kupala, a feminine form, appears in more recent folklore sources. Lado/Lada. Lado, a masculine form, appears in early sources and is identified with Pluto and was the God invited to any occasion of merriment including weddings. Lada, a feminine form, appears in many folklore sources and is the Goddess associated with the May Day festival. There are many songs for her which people still sing. Although the linguistic relationship is uncertain, she appears to be the Slavic version of the Proto-Indo-European Goddess *Pleto. Leshii, a personification of the forest fires which were a big concern for people who lived and worked in the northern forests. Marzanna, a Grain Goddess known from early references and later folklore Mesyats, a personification of the Moon, Mesyats appears in folk tales, where he or she marries Dazhbog, and they have lots of little baby stars together. Mokosha, a Goddess from Vladimir’s pantheon, she remained important to people and is associated with water. Perun, known from Vladimir’s pantheon, he is the Slavic version of the Proto-Indo-European God *Perkunos, a Storm God. Poxvizd, Pogwizd are Wind Gods. Priye and Porevit are Slavic versions of the Proto-Indo-European Goddess *Pria, Goddess of spring flowers. Radigast at Rethra, known originally from Christian sources, the name Radigast is not well understood, but Rethra, the site of a temple appears to be the Slavic form of a standard Proto-Indo-European Goddess or God. The site of the temple described in old records is not certain, but it is probably south of the Tollense Sea (lake), where a wooden idol with two heads was found in 1968. Rugavit, known from a confused description by the Christian Saxo Grammaticus, Rugavit was said to be a God of War. In later Slavic folklore she appears as Baba Rugen and similar names, meaning Rye Mother among the country people. Simargl, mentioned in connection with Vladimir’s pantheon, the Simargl was often pictured in folk art as a supernatural bird with a long or braided tail. Various etymologies have been offered, but it may be borrowed from a Zoroastrian/Persian source. The Simargl was also borrowed into Islam and can be found as far afield as Indonesia where it is known as the Simurgh. Stribog, a Wind God in Vladimir’s pantheon, also mentioned in the Lay of Igor. Svantovit, is mentioned by Saxo Grammaticus but may be borrowed from Zoroastrian as one of the Amesha Spentas. It’s not clear because the name has been interpreted and reinterpreted in various languages, including as St. Vitus in Latin. The archaeological site for a major temple of Svantovit has been found at Arkona on the island of Rugen along the Baltic Sea. A proper dig was done by Schuchhardt starting in 1922. Svarog, a God of the Sun or of the Forge in early sources. Svarozhich, a son of Svarog, another name for a forge or smithy, also known from early sources. Volos/Veles, though not specifically mentioned in Vladimir’s pantheon, it is known that warriors at that time (10th century) swore oaths by Veles and their swords. Veles is more widely known as the protector of cattle though he seems to take the form of a wolf. Yarovit, one of the faces of Svantovit, and a deity of summer. Yaro means ‘summer.’ Zhiva is a Grain Goddess, and the Slavic version of the Proto-Indo-European Goddess *Devi. Zoryi/Zorya, the Zoryi (plural) were personified forms of the sun at sunrise (dawn) and sunset and their names are cognate with other Indo-European names for the Sun, such as Surya. There is a third sister called Black Zorya who represents Night in folklore, or as some say, the Northern Lights. The three are the daughters of Dazhbog. They sometimes appear as knights on horseback as in the tale of Vasilisa and the Baba Yaga.SOURCE
The Völva in Norse Paganism is in my opinion the most sacred title that can be bestowed upon a Woman who has worked tirelessly with unwavering dedication to practicing and learning the secrets and magick that is Seiðr and Galdur. It is not something just anyone can call themselves. It is a name with a history dating back thousands of years even before the Viking Age. Women as Shamans in ancient Scandinavia and across Europe has been found through Archeological evidence from the Bronze Age. It is a tradition of spiritual beliefs, medicine, divination and more passed down through the generations. Years ago I met a woman born and raised in Iceland. We quickly became good friends and to this day I consider her like a sister of mine. She also happens to be a truly recognized Völva not only in Iceland but across Europe and elsewhere. She learned the secrets and practices of a Völva from her Mother who learned from her Mother and so on going all the back to when Iceland was settled during the late Viking Age. I can honestly say that not only am I proud to be her friend but feel a true gratitude and unbelievable privilege that she has mentored me during the years and she even has gone so far to share with me things regarding this sacred magick I hold closely guarded myself. So with that said I feel the need to share what I feel are some of the best resources to learn more about the Völva.
Remember this as I have been saying this for years. No one can just become a Völva or self proclaim this title. The Völva is chosen, granted the title and only after showing that they themselves are worthy.
In the Sagas, seeresses called völur (plural) have been described. The word völva (singular) means a carrier of the wand. Usually, a völva was an older woman who traveled around helping people with her magical skills.
“There was in the settlement the woman whose name was Thorbjorg. She was a prophetess (spae-queen), and was called Litilvolva (little sybil). […] It was a custom of Thorbjorg, in the winter time, to make a circuit, and people invited her to their houses, especially those who had any curiosity about the season, or desired to know their fate. […]
The women formed a ring round about, and Thorbjorg ascended the scaffold and the seat prepared for her enchantments. Then sang Gudrid the weird-song in so beautiful and excellent a manner, that to no one there did it seem that he had ever before heard the song in voice so beautiful as now.”