Sacred Mountains and Trees

Mountains, stream, forest, and individual rocks and trees are all part of
Mother Earth, but are also the home of gazriin ezen, nature spirits. Some
if not all of them were once souls of human beings, ancestors from so long
ago that their numerous descendants no longer remember them and the spirit
no longer has any connection with them. Looking back on the hundreds of
thousands of years of human history it is easy to imagine how many of these
spirits exist out in nature. A mountain or tree of great majesty will be
said to have suld, which is the same word that is used to refer to the soul
which remains in nature after death. Unusual rocks or trees are believed to
have a strong spirit and are respected or given offerings of tobacco or
liquor. Because these spirits are found throughout nature it is considered
very taboo to offend them by needlessly damaging natural features or
mutilating trees. An angry nature spirit is very powerful and can create a
lot of problems for a person or community until a shaman can placate or
control it.

Mountain spirits are considered to be very powerful, and are prayed to
provide good hunting and abundance of natural food plants. These ceremonies
are usually held roughly around the times of the equinoxes and solstices
and are usually done by the elders of the local clan or tribe. Mountain
spirits and other powerful gazriin ezen are worshiped at special shrines
called oboo, which are tall piles of rocks and tree branches roughly
conical in diameter, about 6-10 feet tall. When passing by an oboo
travelers are required to walk around it three times and place a rock on
it. In doing this not only is a person showing respect for the spirit,
which would be the least required of him, but by adding to the spirit’s
power symbolically by adding the rock he is receiving windhorse and good
luck for his journey. Oboo are also the sites of several ceremonies during
the year which nearby families or clans would celebrate in honor of the
local spirit as well as Father Heaven and Mother Earth and other shamanist
spirits. Oboos not only represent mountains, but by their upward pointing
nature they also represent a point of closer contact between heaven and
earth, just as a mountaintop is considered to be closer to Tenger and
therefore spiritually powerful.

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