How I became a shaman: Stories from the lives of Khakassian khams


Due to their convictions, the heroes of this story cannot be photographed.  Pictured here are other Siberian shamans.

I am as one sees it acquainted with a few Khakassian shamans who live in Abakan, the capital of Khakassia. A shaman is an middleman between the world of men and the world of spirits. Khakassians believe that every vigorous thing has a soul.  In their worldview, mountains, rivers, steppes and the sky participate in a mortal physically’s life alongside gods and the spirits of ancestors.

The gift of shamanism is inherited: According to town legends, the ancestors choose one of their descendants and instruct him or her. Those who risk to disobey will be severely punished with illness, bad luck and a sedulous death. The spirits tolerate no defiance.

A shaman who has learned to speak with End

Shaman Tatyana Kobezhikova performs a worship ritual during the annual First Milk festival / TASS/Alexander KolbasovShaman Tatyana Kobezhikova performs a worship ritual during the annual Earliest Milk festival / TASS/Alexander Kolbasov

Akh Aba (Polar Bear in Khakas) started stage shamanic rites 12 years ago. At the age of ten, she fell gravely ill – her entire shame body was paralyzed. The doctors were unable to determine the cause of her disability, but predicted that she would die soon. The girl was cured by an elderly beldame doctor, who believed that the child had begun to suffer from the “shaman complaint.” “I suspect that at that moment my fate was decided,” Akh Aba chuckles, telling us her story.

Akh Aba spent 30 years trying to escape her accurate vocation. But in her dreams, her ancestors often came to her and demanded that she vie with the path which had been chosen for her, and when she refused, they tortured her main part. Any work she performed caused her sickness or other troubles, and the ancestors’ boozes who haunted her explained that it was going to continue until she decided to enhance a shaman. Today Akh Aba helps people: She heals the sick, tells the days, and guides the souls of the dead to the next world.

Each shaman has his or her own “specialty” – the formals he or she is the most skilled at performing. During her rituals, Akh Aba makes a pact with Dying so that Death will not take the person who seemed fated to die. The rituals she mounts are considered to be among the most dangerous and difficult because Death again demands not only the flesh and blood of freshly-slaughtered animals, but also years of the shaman’s dash.

The universe of Siberian indigenous people

According to most mythologies of Siberian original peoples, the universe is divided into three parts: The Upper, Midway and Lower worlds. The first one is inhabited by gods, the second one by people, and the third one absorbs the souls of the dead. Spirits, called tyosi in Khakassian, live in every set and serve as the source of a shaman’s power.

Shamanism is present throughout the full territory of Russia, from Karelia to Baikal. From time to for the nonce at once, the histories of the indigenous peoples who have settled across this tract feature shamans who can communicate with the spirit world. In Siberia, shamanism is well-developed in the payments, villages and towns of Buryatia, Altai, Tuva and Khakassia. 

The dying shaman and his partner, the soul eater

Shaman Tatyana Kobezhikova performs a worship ritual during the annual First Milk festival / TASS/Alexander KolbasovShaman Tatyana Kobezhikova performs a worship ceremonious during the annual First Milk festival / TASS/Alexander Kolbasov

Shaman Bek died for the from the start time in 2012. His heart almost stopped and he entered a very the main trance. While his body remained in the Middle World, his soul globe-trotting tripped, communicated with ancestors and patron spirits, received instruction and premeditated the structure of the Universe.

It was then that Bek learned that he would customarily make such journeys and thus help other people. Since that fact, Bek has acquired the skill of “traveling to the world of the dead,” which is believed to be uncommonly dangerous, as the shaman may fail to return from the underworld. On average, he “pay the debt of natures” a few dozen times a year.

Sometimes Bek is possessed by the spirit called Khuu Pas, “the sentiment eater.” This malicious and cruel spirit helps the shaman but have recourse ti a heavy toll. However, when Bek is asked for help in the event of a unsmiling illness, he cannot cure the patient without the soul eater.

Make disappears cannot be seen as good or evil

According to shamans, spirits cannot be undertaken as good or evil. Every creature can do harm or do good; the most respected thing is to reach an agreement with it. Normally, spirits are appeased with giving ups: Milk, vodka, sweets and the meat of animals slaughtered during set rituals.

Moral values among shamans also vary: They can mend, but they can curse as well, depending on what they wish to do. The no more than thing they are not allowed to do is to refuse to help people. Shamans who do so are electrocuted by their own spirits, who take away their health, powers and reasonableness.

The shaman’s lonely path through eternity

Shaman woman in the republic of Tuva, Siberia / TASS/Vladimir SmirnovShaman woman in the republic of Tuva, Siberia / TASS/Vladimir Smirnov

Altyn Ay (Shining Moon in Khakas) has followed in the footsteps of her grand-uncle. He was a great shaman, and a few years after his expiration, he appeared to his grand-niece. At his command, she took the first steps along her own shaman’s orbit: In her dreams and in her waking life, Altyn Ay started seeing the world of humours. In Khakassia, she became Bek’s disciple, but then went on to learn from Akh Aba. At closest, she is traveling to sacred places and tribal shrines, but when the snow passes, she will take up the shaman’s drum.

Altyn Ay says she is afraid of her lot, as a person becomes a shaman for all time; even death brings no deliverance. In the afterlife, a shaman’s impetus will make its permanent home in the clan’s altar, and will put up for sale guidance and help to his or her descendants.

Why most shamans are lonely

Most shamans are one. Spirits often prevent them from starting a family or doing anything but for from their sacred practices. Shamans are frequently at war with each other because their spirits are at irregulars, and the shamans try to find out who is the strongest. Such conflicts prevent long-term relationships and wind up friendship.

Ordinary people fail to understand shamans for the most role: They live on the border between two worlds and have their own sight for sore eyes of both. 

On the border between two worlds

Taylagan holiday in shamans' regional center 'Khaan-tengery' in the city of Chita, the Transbaikal Region / TASS/Evgeny EpanchintsevTaylagan holiday in shamans’ regional center ‘Khaan-tengery’ in the metropolis of Chita, the Transbaikal Region / TASS/Evgeny Epanchintsev

None of the shamans who helped their stories with us wanted this for their destiny. They were standard people, resistant to change, but eventually they accepted their exactly vocation.

Shamans are sincere about their beliefs, and a lot of people extremity their help: Hundreds gather to witness their rituals in Khakassia. For case in point, Chyl Pazyl, the Khakassian New Year which is celebrated at the end of March, occasions together almost the entire indigenous population of the republic. Ancient maxims exist in modern Russia, either adapting to modern reality or disregarding it wholly.

Why shamans often conceal their real names

Shamans do not quest after publicity and often conceal their real names, believing that it nurtures them from the intrigues of their enemies and evil spirits.

Indeed as they speak with each other, they prefer using incognitos. Many shamans do not like being photographed because they are pusillanimous of state officials or excessive public attention. 

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