Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Buryat Shamans Visit West Africa to Meet with Voodoo Priests, ‘Nezavisimaya Gazeta’ Reports

Paul Goble

            Staunton, February 4 – In what appears to be an effort to make the shamans of Siberia seem even more exotic and alien to Russian life, Artur Priymak of Nezavisimaya gazeta reports that a group of shamans from Buryatia made a two-week “official” visit to Ghana, Benin and Togo to meet with voodoo priests.

            In an article entitled “The Siberian Shamans and Voodoo Priests Will Return Humanity to Pre-Historic Times,” the Moscow religious affairs reporter describes the visit by the Buryat shamans to voodoo shrines and quotes both their leaders and specialists on the meaning of this unusual ecumenical activity (ng.ru/ng_religii/2020-02-04/13_480_shaman.html).

            Zaarin Boo (Bair Tsyrendorzhiyev), the supreme shaman of Buryatia, says that from the outside it may appear that “Tengrianism and Voodooism are diametrically opposed and the mentality of the Buryat-Tengrians and the Africans are also different.”  But in fact, “the religions of the native peoples of Africa are similar to those of the indigenous peoples of Siberia.”

            “New religions,” like Christianity, Islam and Buddhism, “differ among themselves, [but] the ancient religions, Tengrianism, African shamanism, voodoo and so on are practically the same,” the shaman continues.  The basic divinities are the same, and that means that the Buryat shamans “felt at home” in Africa.

             The chief shaman adds that the agreement he and his colleagues reached with voodoo leaders in Togo is “an international confirmation of mutual respect and mutual understanding between the Tengrians of Buryatia and the African followers of voodoo.” Both want to preserve and expand their traditional religious faiths.

            “Globalization has allowed people to understand how humanity lived in times which it is customary to call pre-historic” and as a result, people are reversing the course they passed in more recent times to return to that earlier understanding of “all-human unity and initial harmony” between people and nature.

            Yevgeny Nechkasov, a Russian specialist on neo-pagan religions, says that the agreement is a statement of intentions rather than anything more. But it does highlight one thing: “other pagan religions are strictly ethno-centric while Tengrianism and voodooism are religions for all and they have a supreme god.”

            But Nikolay Abayev, a historian at the Ivolgin Datsan University of Buddhism, disagrees. Tengrianism is a religion of “the Eternal Heaven, light and peace” while voodooism is a cult of evil spirits that can lead to horrific developments like the terrorist tonton macoutes of Haiti under the Duvaliers.

            Any notion that voodoo is “a religion of harmony” has been formed “under the influence of Western mass culture,” he says.  He is also dismissive of Tengrianism and says it is alien to the Buddhist traditions of the Buryats.  The Tengrians engage in PR schemes in which they collect enormous sums of money from the curious.

            It is money from those activities that paid for this latest trip to Africa, Abayev concludes.

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