This is a brief introduction to the shamanic world of Siberia, especially
from the perspective of the Mongols. In spite of the linguistic differences
there are overarching themes and images which appear among all forms of
shamanism in Siberia. Indeed, the classic studies of shamanism have given
special attention to the shamanism of Altaic peoples such as the Buryat,
Mongols, and Tungus, creating an image of a “classic” Siberian shamanism.

Some of you may find that certain of the features of Mongolian shamanism
which I describe may not completely be true in all its points for all
Mongolian or Siberian groups. This is the result of the great geographic
area which they occupy and differences in environment and tribal history
which allowed for some variation from the observances or beliefs of their
kindred. Many of you have some acquaintance with the beliefs of Native
Americans, and how their relationship with the world shaped their beliefs
and behavior. This is also true of Mongols and Siberian peoples in general.
Reverence for mother earth and father heaven above as well as for all the
spirits of animals and nature create a way of life which expresses respect
for natural forces and abstains from harm to them whenever possible.

Mongols believe that the goal of life is to live tegsh, in balance with the
world. One stands alone and in power at the center of the world, with
infinite blue Father Heaven above and Mother Earth supporting and nurturing
below. By living an upright and respectful life, a human being (hun) will
keep his world in balance and maximize his personal power (windhorse,
hiimori). Heaven and Earth and the spirits of nature and the ancestors
supply every need and protect all humans. Shamans play an important role in
restoring balance when it is thrown off by disaster or spirit interference.


The Four Directions (Durvun Zug)

The Ger and the Sacred Circle

The Upper and Lower Worlds, and the World Center

Windhorse and Buyanhishig


Father Sky, Mother Earth, and Heavenly Objects

The Ancestors

Tenger, Chotgor, and other Nature Spirits

Spirits of Animals, Totems, Animal Guides, and Hunting

Sacred Mountains and Trees


A Multiplicity of Souls, their Form and Function

The Siberian Circle of Life and the Water Cycle

When Spirit and Earth Touch: Customs, Taboos, and Ongons


Becoming a Shaman

Drumming, Hallucinogens, Paths to Ecstasy

Riding the Cosmic Steed

Healing and the Cause of Illness

Overview of the Model of Mongolian Shamanism