1999 Expedition to Tuva, Page 2
By Paul Uccusic
© Shamanism, Fall/Winter 2000, Vol. 13, Nos. 1 & 2

A second major reconstruction, now nearly complete, is on the bank of the Moskva River: the new concrete building of the Church of Christ the Savior. It was once the dominant, main church of Moscow. Stalin had it demolished in the late twenties, replacing it with an outdoor (heated) swimming pool for the working classes. The Russian Government, the city of Moscow , the Orthodox Church of Russia, and many donors all over the world combined their efforts to reconstruct this important church. The main temple is not yet ready, but on the ground floor, a smaller room has been sanctified so that masses can be held there.

When we arrived in Kyzyl, we found much adoption of Western lifestyle, including private stores, coffee shops, and new restaurants (most with exotic dancers) — for those who can afford this lifestyle.

The street names remain unchanged from the Soviet period. Lenin's monument remains on the main square “as a part of our history,” as most Tuvans put it. However, there is a new building for the shamans, located near the obelisk marking the “center of Asia" on the banks of the Yenisei River , near the mystical place where Bii Khem (big Yenisei) and Kaa Khem (small Yenisei) merge to form the Yenisei River proper. They call it the “shaman's clinic” to show that its main purpose is to help the sick. People come from everywhere to get treatments there, but most are Tuvans.

We were given a splendid welcome by Professor Mongush Borakhovich Kenin-Lopsan and the other shamans. They stood outside their new clinic on the meadow, observing us closely during the welcoming by the Professor. We all felt how proud they were to show us their new building. It was obvious that they could not have been in the building for long. We then stepped inside for a tea and pastries.

The head of the shamanic society Tos Deer (Nine Planets), Nikolai Oorzhak Munzukovich, guided us around. There is a central counter where his daughter serves as receptionist. She registers people coming in, records which shamans would like to work that day and the next, and answers the phone. There are different rooms for the shamans but sometimes two must share one room. Shamanic teachers and apprentices always work together. The paint was wet and the heating system not yet working — but the mood was marvelous!

We tried to limit the negative impact of our arrival on the ongoing treatment of clients. And we did indeed accomplish this, for while a long line of people queued up for each Tuvan shaman, even more did so for the exotic Austrian shamans. The few interpreters there had a lot to do—but, as usual, the quickest way for us to get information about a client was to trust our power animals, teachers, and hands.

Later in the morning, we all had to go out into the cold, fresh air to attend a ceremony on the occasion of the 85th Jubilee of the founding of the City of Kyzyl. A few hundred people attended this event.

After a little drumming to call in the spirits from the steppe, the river, and the Sayan Mountains , Nikolai Oorzhak spoke. He is indeed a gifted man, able to convince people of what they should do correctly in their lives, how to behave, and how to follow the path of the Tuvan spirits for health and wealth. On this occasion he said: “Remember the connection to the spirits around you. We have a hard situation. Ask the spirits for help. Help comes from the Upper World, the place whence shamans also come. Be kind and helpful to each other; remember that shamanism is the religion of our ancestors. Respect this old philosophy. Teach it your children, for sometimes children grow up without religion. But remember that without religion, nothing would exist.”

After that the shamans went around drumming, calling for help from the Upper World (most Tuvan shamans work with helping spirits from the Upper World), and pouring spiritual power over the people. Some, like Nikolai, lay on hands; some used whips to beat the people (a newly revived but very common way to do extractions in the old days). Some worked with furious drumming around their patients and some worked intensely with smoke from the classical Tuvan spiritual plant: juniper.

After a short noon break, we prepared to go to a special site. To the West, but still within the city limits of Kyzyl, a rock in the shape of Tuva long ago was found on the steppe. Tuvans believe this rock is the “foundation stone” of Tuva. Its origin is difficult to determine—there are no quarries or similar rock formations near to where this stone rests. There has been speculation about a supernatural origin of the stone from the old times on.

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