British man becomes Mongolian shaman
A typical evening for Paul Diamond can include any number of things: an Indian fire ritual, yoga, a puja to Green Tara, a conversation about dream conceptualization, chi gong, a guided meditation, or a South American shamanic ritual. For the last twenty years, Mr. Diamond has traveled the world studying religion, mysticism, and indigenous shamanic practices. In September he arrived in Mongolian to study Mongolia shamanism. What happened next was frighteningly rapid and virtually unheard of: Paul was took an ancestor spirit in the Mongolian tradition.
It isn’t the first time Paul has brought forth a strange and exciting spirit. Years ago, he studied voodoo shamanism in Haiti. After an intense ritual of animal sacrifice, Paul was able to bring forth an African spirit named Legba. Legba is a door opening spirit, meaning that he has the power to open doors for those who call upon him. Doors of success, wealth, love are at one’s disposal but Legba is no fool, and is very hesitant to open a door without a good purpose behind it.
Yet there is a big difference between the traditions Paul has studied, from African to Nepalese, and the Mongolian tradition. In the Mongolian tradition, shamans call upon ancestor spirits. This differs from other traditions, which can call upon a number of spirits, including those of Gods. A typical Mongolian shaman, if a shaman could ever be considered typical in any sense of the world both spiritual and tangible, calls his or her spirit from one of three Heavens: The White Heaven, which generally contains benevolent spirits, the Black Heaven, which is the opposite of the White, and the Red or Mixed Color Heaven, also known as the home of wrathful spirits.
On his second meeting with his teacher, Battsaikhan, Mr. Diamond’s ancestor spirit was quickly identified. The identification process was quick and precise. Battsaikhanshamanized and began softly beating his drum in front of his face. Occasionally, he would look to his own translator—necessary because his spirit spoke in an ancient language—and tell her various details regarding Paul’s ancestor spirit and the items necessary for the spirit to come. By the end of the early morning session, Paul was given a long list of things to obtain before the week’s end.
He set off to the Black Market to acquire an assortment of curios and necessary items. Aside from the costume, the bells, the mask with the strips of material hanging over the shaman’s face, the feathers, the back piece, the pants, the pipe, the felt boots, the necklaces, the silk khatag, the drum, the drum beater, the cleansing tool—a variety of other things are necessary for a Mongolian shaman. These include a sacrificial sheep, a mouth harp, a bottle of vodka, various silver bowls, statues of animals, and a large cushion for the shaman to sit on.
For a traveling shaman like Paul, who is planning to travel to Peru in the following months, carrying a large amount of items is a no-go. With finesse, Paul was able to downsize a few of the items, such as the girth of the seat. As a traveling shaman, he also needed strictly follow airport security and immigration requirements. When Paul was told he needed a wolf’s foot, he knew he wouldn’t be able to get it past airport security. Luckily, the shaman understood this and the list was modified to accommodate his worldly concerns.
The ritual took place on a Friday night on the outskirts of the city. Gers were arranged near an oboo and shaman’s and their families arrived as the evening progressed. Sometime in the morning, Paul’s new spirit came to him. For Paul, who has been a vegetarian for twenty years, the spirits first request of a “plate full of meat” was bizarre and only gave weight to the propensity of the possession.
Meet Joshua Roosevelt. This is the name of Paul’s ancestor spirit as told to him by Battsaikhan, the Mongolian shaman and Paul’s teacher. Joshua Roosevelt was alive five generations ago and to be from the east coast of America sometime in the late 1600s. He is a benevolent spirit, mostly interested in healing people. He doesn’t like be in an enclosed space such as an apartment and has a great affinity for cigarettes and vodka. He is everything a Mongolian ancestor spirit is, except for he’s not.
For one, the spirit isn’t from Mongolia. He is one of Paul’s ancestors who was brought through in the traditional Mongolian way. This only adds to the channeling powers of Mongolian shamans, as they are apparently powerful enough to bring forth a spirit through another person using traditional techniques. The channeled spirit doesn’t speak Mongolian nor does it need the necessary items a typical Mongolian spirit (once channeled) will need. It is, therefore, a spirit-hybrid, a conglomerate of tried and true techniques and Paul’s spiritual progress.
Stranger things have happened. Or maybe not. A British man taking an ancestor spirit in the Mongolian shamanic way is unprecedented. It’s not, however, unimaginable. As the world continues to connect over many things through a variety of mediums, it’s only natural that shamans will and have already followed suit. From shaman councils around the world to academic literature, the study of the subject is expanding and the knowledge that can be gained from understanding other traditions outside of one’s own appears to be endless. Shamanism existed thousands of years ago and it exists today. While the methods and settings are different, a dedicated student will always be in need of a good teacher, be it shamanic or otherwise.
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