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OVER THE STEPPE AND FAR AWAY
By Mackenzie Blyth
My teacher, Kungaa Tash-ool Buu is the last of a long lineage of shamans operating in the area round Erzin in the extreme south-east of Tuva, Siberia, right on the border with Mongolia.
He is aware of the rarity of inside knowledge there is of the special places of shamanic practice around Erzin.
And that's why every time I go back to Tuva, he organises an expedition to some of those places where he first began shamanising many decades ago, when it was outlawed by the communist regime.
The highlight of my recent trip there was visiting an outcrop of rocks - called Kayzhege - bursting out of the rolling steppe.
We drove south, past Erzin and on to a narrow dirt track. After a few miles we veered off this track on to a much rougher ride over the steppe.
We stopped at the outcrop in a box canyon. At the far end, there was a pool of water from a small spring.
It was a magnificent spot, like a big room of high rocks and no ceiling, just the sky. But there was more. Through a narrow gap above the pool, we scrambled up maybe just 20 feet or so, and were confronted by a much circular larger room of rocks 50 or 60 feet high.
Instead of grass, there were rocks and bushes festooned with ribbons brought by followers of shamanism, hoping for some intervention or other. There were kids' toys left by couples hoping for a baby, and models of animals...livestock to be blessed.
The spirit host of Kayzhege is a female deer, and you could easily feel the history of the place.
It's not easy to get to, yet most of the ribbons there were fresh, indicating how well supported the place is.
We shamanised together there and I felt the connection of the place, and the fact that shamans were doing kamlanies here many thousands of years ago.
It was a hard place to get to Ė even with a four-wheel drive Ė but local people make the trip regularly. And of course for them, shamanism isnít something you dip into and out of. Itís an integral part of their culture.
And neither is it exotic. Itís every day experience.
Also, further north, in Kyzyl, I went along with another shaman doing a job. He was doing the annual clearing of bad energy from a small, mini super-market. Again, an normal shamanic practice, this time in an urban environment.
These practitioners are deep. They have generations of accumulated knowledge and experience guiding them.
Itís really good to see shamanism flourishing there.
About the author:
Mackenzie Blyth was offered an apprenticeship by a senior shaman in Tuva, Southern Siberia where he was playing with local musicians in the mid 1990s. He kept returning to study and in 2000 he became an initiated shaman. He is based in London, UK.