Technically, I've read these books in the reverse order in which they were written and published. My teacher explained that Riding Windhorses was the first book on the Mongolian Shamanism published in English and written by a practitioner of this tradition. Following its release, there was some demand for a more introductory book, which is the one on our assigned reading list.
After a brief yet detailed preface and introduction placing her subject in a historical and cultural context, Sarangerel offers a tour of Mongolian Cosmology— the directions, the placement of ritual objects within the sacred circle, and basic descriptions of the three worlds through which Shamans travel and do their work. As before, much of this resonates with what I've experienced of Witchcraft in the Modern Pagan tradition, and it also brings to mind elements of Northcoast Native traditions which I've learned about through the work of Bill Holm and his family at Camp Nor'wester. In some ways, I feel as cozy as a great-great-great-granddaughter hearing family stories. In other ways, I am clearly entering new realms of discovery.
My favorite section is all about the heavenly bodies as they are understood in the Mongolian tradition. Long before I knew the names and movements of planets and constellations, I had relationships with the beings of the sky, and every variation of their stories add to their glorious splendor. I was fascinated to learn that the Big Dipper is known as Doloon Obgon (The Seven Old Men) and the shape is the origin of their swastika symbol, has temdeg, showing the directions the constellation points in each of the four seasons.
And of course, more divination techniques, with basic interpretations. Sarangerel describes a rather elaborate card spread that one can do with a regular deck of playing cards which I will have to try soon. It involves eliminating cards in certain orders, and reminds me of Solitaire games I made up as a child, which I just now realized was my way of entering a meditative state.
The things one discovers when one writes them down.
A few quotes I marked in the book:
"The safest action for a shaman dealing with a hostile spirit is to master it, adding it to his group of spiritual allies if his other helper spirits agree." p.106
"…[T]he loon above all other birds is believed to communicate with the souls in the water." p.31
"What is the lesson that is too often ignored? It is that nature is in a state of balance already." p.164
"It is good to keep some small change, tobacco, or bud, strips of cloth, handy for offering at shamanistic sacred sites." p. 153
I have not yet tried any of the rituals outlined in this book, however, one is calling to me strongly. We will be planting a tree in front of our home this weekend, and I intend to dedicate it as a Prayer Tree using the instructions at the end of this book. I foresee that this is only the beginning of my journey.
*Yes, wouldn't it be delightful to have a public CAYA Clergy recommended reading list? Perhaps it will happen soon!