Pentagram Pizza at the Mongolian Grill

pentagrampizzaSome links worth exploring:

• In post-Soviet Mongolia, shamanism is a “growth industry,” says an MIT anthropologist. In Manuduhai Buyandelger’s Tragic Spirits: Shamanism, Memory, and Gender in Contemporary Mongolia, she writes how, “shamanism is a historical memory for people who lost parts of their ancestral homeland, and who had been marginalized and politically oppressed.”

• Photographer Rik Garrett (formerly of the Occult Chicago blog, now relocating back to the Pacific Northwest), is interviewed at beautiful.bizarre.

Rik harnesses old, analog photography techniques and a deep sensibility that is both educated and magical. I dare to believe he is opening doors to the past, recreating a cross-section of witchcraft and the earliest technologies in photography, and to the spirit realm—illuminating phenomenon and sparking the imagination beyond the typical scope of artistry.

• Is this the first baby step toward recording your dreams?Scientists Figure Out What You See While You’re Dreaming.” I am imaging YouTube full of Inception-style videos. Yikes!

• Should you be hung as a witch? Take the test and see if you are guilty of witchcraft. (Link fixed.)

Anthropologist Describes Rebirth of Mongolian Shamanism

A news release from the MIT News Office carries the subhead, “MIT anthropologist finds that after Soviet domination, a rebirth of shamanism helped Mongolia rewrite its own history.”

The release continues,

In 1990, as the Soviet Union was disintegrating, Mongolia, long a satellite of the U.S.S.R., regained its independence. Socialism was out and free markets returned. Religion — in the form of Buddhism, shamanism, and other folk religions — became officially accepted again in Mongolian society. That, in turn, produced another unexpected change: The return of shamans, religious figures who claim to have a supernatural ability to connect with the souls of the dead.

Indeed, as MIT anthropologist Manduhai Buyandelger chronicles in a new book, the revival of shamanism has shaped Mongolia in surprising ways in the last two decades. From storefronts in Ulan Bator, the nation’s capital, to homes in rural Mongolia, shamanism has become a growth industry.

Read the rest here, it’s good.

If you see the 2009 documentary The Horse Boy, about an autistic boy whose parents take him to Mongolia for shamanic treatment, there is a fair amount of restored shamanism there.

Introduction to Mongolian Shamanism

Introductory ten-minute video about Mongolian shamanism, revived in the post-Communist decades. Just enjoy the visuals, unless you understand the language. Jenghiz Khan shows up, of course, as does Buddhism.

This well-made video shows the drumming and trance dancing of both male and female shamans. Some of the drums seem to have miniature bows in them — is that a traditional Mongol style?

At about the 1:02 point, however, I had a realization. New Agey esoteric-themed art is a circumpolar phenomenon.

The Horse Boy: See it for the Shamanism

When a psychology professor and a human-rights activist/journalist have an autistic son, their lives become incredibly difficult. Among other things, little Rowan never learns bowel control, and like many autistic children, he is prone to screaming, inconsolable tantrums.

But his parents live in rural Texas, and they discover when Rupert is 2 years old that horseback riding calms him. Some San Bushman healers also seem to help him.

So they make a trip to a land of horses and resurgent shamanism: Mongolia. That is the premise of The Horse Boy, a documentary film now out on DVD, as well as the book of the same title.

See it for the shamanism, at least, even if you know no autistic children.

(Actually, I have horse and donkey-owning friends whose autistic son also improves when riding, but they have not taken him to Mongolian shamans. Perhaps they wonder if they should.)

Mongolian shamanism was officially suppressed when the country was Communist. Even as Rowan’s parents seek the shamans’ help, I could not help but wonder if their coming halfway around the world was also validating the shamans, from the latter’s point of view.

No camera can capture the essence of shamanism, but it is still good to see how the externals are managed. And the final two-day ride to the reindeer people’s shaman is just gorgeous  footage.

One shaman lays part of the problem on a relative of Rowan’s mother, a relative whom she admits was mentally ill. That is a hard description of reality for the psychology professor to hear, you might suspect. Our society does not normally blame any problems on dead ancestors. (I want to come back to this topic in a future post.)

Yet Rowan’s degree of improvement at the end is undeniable.