The Ancestors

The spirits of the ancestors are invoked in all rituals along with Father
Heaven and Mother Earth. According to Siberian and Mongolian shamanist
tradition the soul actually consists of multiple parts, usually three, each
of which has a different fate after death. One sub-soul, known as the suld
or unen fayenga, remains on earth perpetually as an ancestral spirit.
Ancestral spirits remain in contact with their descendants and other
relatives, usually as protectors and helpers. After several generations
these spirits may not remain with their relatives’ households but will be
available and ready to help when called. By that time they have become part
of the group of ancestors invoked as deedes mini during prayer. Ancestral
spirits, after ceasing to reside with their relatives, will usually find a
residence in a natural place such as a rock, spring, or tree. They can be
called by shamans as helper spirits during rituals and settled into an
ongon spirit house.

Certain spirits are recognized as ancestors even though they are not
necessarily ancestors in a literal sense. Mongols revere Blue Wolf and Red
Deer as their distant ancestors, and the Buryat Mongols have a mythical
ancestor named Buh Baabai Noyon (Prince Father Bull). The bear is regarded
as an ancestor by many Siberian groups, in fact the Mongolian word for bear
is actually a form of the word “father” (baabgai). Chinggis Khan (Genghis
Khan) is regarded as a protector ancestor spirit of the Mongolian people
and is worshiped both as a patron of the nation and a protector of
marriage. The sacred place of Mongolian dwellings usually include pictures
of Chinggis Khan and deceased relatives and any ongons which shamans may
have created for the family’s use.

Back to The Course in Mongolian Shamanism