In The Land Of The Gods – Shamanism In Mongolia

Visit Mongolia and you’ll get used to seeing these piles of stones. It’s an ovoo – a shamanistic construction erected by local families and travellers to show gratitude and respect, and to honour the spirits of the surrounding land. This particular one is in the spectacular Khoridol Saridag Mountains, just to the west of Khovsgol Nuur – Khovsgol Lake known as Dalai Ej (Mother Sea) in Mongolian. 

Look more closely at an ovoo and you will see steering wheel covers, plaster casts, crutches, empty bottles of vodka, sweets, small pieces of dairy products such as cheese as well as many ‘khadag’ (Mongolia’s sacred blue scarf that represents the ‘eternal blue sky’).

The discarded casts, crutches, steering wheel covers and food offerings are people’s ways of giving thanks for better health, a safe journey or maybe thanking the spirits for the much-needed rain. Don’t be alarmed if you see a horse’s head. The horse is a symbol of strength of spirit, freedom and independence – an honoured animal for a Mongolian herder and oftenwhen a herder’s best horse dies, the spirit of the animal is honoured by the head being placed on an ovoo.

In the words of author and historian John Man –

‘Creating them remains an easy, unselfconscious part of travel, a ritual by which Mongolians assert their heritage and the network that binds them’.

Photo? Taken by me (Jess) during one of our day-hikes. Just to be clear, I am NOT a photographer!

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