Sunday, August 14, 2016

Young Shamans in Buryatia Making Their Practices into a Business

Paul Goble

            Staunton, August 14 – Shamanism, the most ancient religion in the world, is now found only in a few places such as Siberia and Buryatia, but at least in the latter, it is at risk not from anti-religious efforts as in Soviet times but from the impact of commercialization on this aspect of life, according to Stanislav Romanov, a leader of the Shamanist community there.

            In the past, there were “many strong shamans” in the Barguzinsk valley, he says; but now there are only a handful.  Nonetheless, many people still believe in the power of the spirits in the natural world and their beliefs have attracted young shamans from other regions who unfortunately are further undermining the faith (

            Some of these shamans, Romanov says, are immature and not really able to help people because they do not understand the faith they say they are practicing. Instead, they come, collect money for their services, despoil the land, and then leave, thus increasing the threat to the old faith.

            This is the result of what he calls “the commercialization of Shamanism,” and he notes that “many now have financial interests.” Indeed, “it is rare to meet a shaman who will not take money. But each shaman should have his own work. Shamanism is one thing, but work must be something separate.” 

            Because many who turn to such commercialized shamans do not get the help they need, they begin to blame all shamans, including those with long experience and knowledge and thus turn away from shamanism as a whole.  That is their loss, Romanov says, but it is understandable: “unfortunately, one meets real shamans only very rarely.”

            The shaman says that he and his fellow shamans in the valley are working to correct the situation, insisting on better training for young shamans, using their faith to help people rather than to get money, and displaying the concern for the environment and the future that has always been a characteristic of shamanism.

             Later this year, an assembly of Barguzinsk shamans will set the dates of religious activities for the next year and work toward the publication of a book on shamanism there as well as promote the protection of the environment and better public health.

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