A novice shaman makes an offering of milk to the spirits at her initiation outside the Mongolian capital of Ulaanbaatar. www.carolyndrake.com
A novice shaman makes an offering of milk to the spirits at her initiation outside the Mongolian capital of Ulaanbaatar. www.carolyndrake.com

Masters of Ecstacy

They are shamans—called by spirits to heal bodies, minds, and souls—and their numbers are growing.

Nergui is a boo, as Mongolians call male shamans. He believes himself to be an intermediary between the visible world and the hidden world of spirits and gods. Mystical figures like him are reviving old traditions throughout Mongolia, Central Asia, and Siberia and finding a receptive audience for their charismatic rituals. After meditation and chants Nergui moved into a trance, the moment when the spirit from the invisible realm would be free to enter his body. “Oh, my spirit, I would ride ten Mongolian cows to see you. Please let the golden cuckoo guide me to the spirit.”

Eight of us had gathered around, sitting on stools and metal-framed beds pushed up against the walls of Nergui’s one-room wooden cabin. Outside, the temperature on this mid-November day was 10°F. It was just after midday, the “horse hour,” according to the Chinese zodiac clock. For Nergui the noon hour is the perfect time to go on an otherworldly ride.

“Sky of the wolf, please help me. A man in need, with a heart of peace, has come. Great sky, please come here.”

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