Shaman Rituals Vital To Life in Mongolia

Shaman Rituals Burn Bright in Mongolia

At these summer solstice ceremonies, ancient traditions live on.

On the summer solstice last week, Mongolia's Shamans gathered to practice traditions and rituals that are thousands of years old. This might not seem remarkable, but under Communist rule, Shamanism was banned in Mongolia for 70 years; since 1992, when it was officially revived and legally protected, it has seen an extraordinary resurgence. Shamans are now in high demand, offering city residents aid for such workaday issues as money, romance, and health. But they're also on hand for sweeping moments like the sun ritual ceremonies that accompany the solstice and that remind participants of a more ancient past and of ways more deeply connected to the natural world. (Above: A Shaman beats her drum on June 22 outside Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia.)

AT SUNRISE Kevin Frayer/Getty Images AT SUNRISE Here, Shamans sit together, taking part in a sun ritual ceremony. Shamanism emerged from the ancient grasslands thousands of years before Genghis Khan founded the Mongol empire, and it's believed the country now has more than 10,000 Shamans. Many of them are thoroughly immersed in modern life, advertising their services on websites and forming unions and collectives.
Shaman Rituals Vital To Life in Mongolia
Shaman Rituals Vital To Life in Mongolia
Kevin Frayer/Getty Images Kevin Frayer/Getty Images

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FOLLOWERS PRAY Kevin Frayer/Getty Images FOLLOWERS PRAY Believers in Shamanism pray during a blessing for a ritual ceremony on June 21. Shamans are believed to be chosen by the ancestral spirits, and shamanistic abilities can be passed down through families. ANCESTRAL GUIDES Kevin Frayer/Getty Images ANCESTRAL GUIDES An elaborately dressed Shaman smiles before the fire ritual, which is meant to summon spirits and mark the summer solstice. A 2013 MIT anthropological study notes that women constituted a larger portion of underground Shamans during the Communist era because they were better able to escape the attention of authorities. SACRED MUSIC Kevin Frayer/Getty Images SACRED MUSIC Shamans play the harp, one of the many ways they have of inducing trances so the spirits can enter them.
Shaman Rituals Vital To Life in Mongolia
Shaman Rituals Vital To Life in Mongolia
Kevin Frayer/Getty Images Kevin Frayer/Getty Images BLESSINGS Kevin Frayer/Getty Images BLESSINGS Followers pray during a blessing on June 21. A key part of the indigenous Mongolian identity, Shamanism is regarded as Mongolia's national religion. LIQUID OFFERING Kevin Frayer/Getty Images LIQUID OFFERING A Shaman throws milk, a common offering to the spirits, though they might also demand candy, cookies, or alcohol. INTO THE FIRE Kevin Frayer/Getty Images INTO THE FIRE A Shaman gestures during the fire ritual in the grasslands.



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