Buddhism entered Mongolia in the sixteenth century after the conversion of Altan Khan. In 1691, after Outer Mongolia had been annexed by the Qing Dynasty, Buddhism became the dominant religion of the entire area and shamanism began incorporating Buddhist elements. Violent resistance in the eighteenth century by the hunting tribes of Northern Mongolia against the (Buddhist) ruling group, the Khalka Mongols, led to the foundation of black shamanism.
Spirit world and class
Klaus Hesse described the complex spiritual hierarchy in clan-based Mongolian society based on sources that go back to the 13th century. The highest group in the pantheon consisted of 99 tngri (55 of them benevolent or “white” and 44 terrifying or “black”), 77 natigai or “earth-mothers”, besides others. The tngri were called upon only by leaders and great shamans and were common to all the clans. After these, three groups of ancestral spirits dominated. The “Lord-Spirits” were the souls of clan leaders to whom any member of a clan could appeal for physical or spiritual help. The “Protector-Spirits” included the souls of great shamans (ĵigari) and shamanesses (abĵiya). The “Guardian-Spirits” were made up of the souls of smaller shamans (böge) and shamanesses (idugan) and were associated with a specific locality (including mountains, rivers, etc.) in the clan’s territory.
The difference between great, white and small, black (in shamans, tngri, etc.) was also formative in a class division of three further groups of spirits, made up of “spirits who were not introduced by shamanist rites into the communion of ancestral spirits” but who could nonetheless be called upon for help–they were called “‘the three accepting the supplications’ (jalbaril-un gurban)”. The whites were of the nobles of the clan, the blacks of the commoners, and a third category consisted of “the evil spirits of the slaves and non-human goblins”. White shamans could only venerate white spirits (and if they called upon black spirits they “lost their right in venerating and calling the white spirits”), black shamans only black spirits (and would be too terrified to call upon white spirits since the black spirits would punish them). Black or white was assigned to spirits according to social status, and to shamans “according to the capacity and assignment of their ancestral spirit or spirit of the shaman’s descent line.”
Black shamanism in Mongolia
According to Otgony Purev, the practice goes back to Genghis Khan and was practiced by the Darkhad people in defiance of the Buddhism introduced to the area by the Khalka.During the Soviet domination of the Mongolian People’s Republic, all varieties of shamanism were repressed; after 1991, when the era of Soviet influence was over, religion (including Buddhism and shamanism) made a comeback.
- Hesse, Klaus (1987). “On the History of Mongolian Shamanism in Anthropological Perspective”. Antrhopos 82 (4-6): 403–13.
- Мелетинский, Е.М. (1998). “Мифология”. Мифология (4th ed.). Большая российская энциклопедия.
- Pegg, Carole (2001). Mongolian Music, Dance, & Oral Narrative: Performing Diverse Identities. U of Washington P. ISBN 9780295981123. Retrieved 13 August 2012.
- Shimamura, Ippei (2004). “Yellow Shamans (Mongolia)”. In Walter, Mariko Namba; Neumann Fridman, Eva Jane. Shamanism: An Encyclopedia of World Beliefs, Practices, and Culture. 1. ABC-CLIO. pp. 649–651. ISBN 9781576076453.