Olzyata Badmaeva, The Respect and Worship of Kin, Ancestors, and Land
Kalmyk Cultural Heritage Documentation Project, University of Cambridge
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Terbish, B., & Churyumova, E. (2017). Olzyata Badmaeva, The Respect and Worship of Kin, Ancestors, and Land [Video file]. https://doi.org/10.17863/CAM.42550
In this interview Olzyata talks about the ritual of gazr tyaklgn (a worship of the spiritual masters of land and water), the local spirits, and the Master of earth. Olzyata: Inside the tent, men sit in the most important corner which is opposite the door, whereas the rest sit closer to the door according to their status. Paternal uncles sit at the most important place, and they get food served for them. Question: Tell us about the ritual of making an offering to earth and water (gazr-usn tyaklgn). How do you do it? Olzyata: Gazr tyaklgn is performed to venerate the land, the spirit of the locality, the souls of ancestors, and Tsagan Aav who is the Master of the Universe. A fire is lit, and a sheep is sacrificed. When I was little, we slaughtered a sheep, made a fire, put a front right leg of the sheep in a leather bag, and read prayers to ask the local spirits of the land and water for blessings, long life, and protection from all bad things. At the ritual there was a special person who read a well-wish (yoryal), while everybody else uttered ‘May the well-wish come true’. Now there are no such people left around. Today people invite monks to such rituals to read prayers. There is a small spring running in front of our house. We have not made offerings there for two or three years. It is time to cleanse that place. We, a few households, make these offerings at that spring. Our livestock graze near that spring, and drink its water. We must pray to the local spirits. Those people who pray, do well in their lives. Question: Could you tell us more about the local spirits of land and water? Olzyata: Land and water have their own syakusn or protecting spirits. That is why you cannot pollute nature. Water has a spirit, ice has a spirit, everything on earth has its own protecting spirits. There is a saying that the sky is our father and earth is our mother. When we walk, we walk on our mother’s body. Therefore it is important that we pray to the spirits of earth on which we walk so that they bless us all. Question: Is there any place where these spirits dwell? Olzyata: I do not know where that place might be. Question: Maybe it is that spring? Olzyata: Yes, there is a spring here. People say there are about 24 springs around here. When in the 1970s and 1980s Namka was still alive, we made offerings to all these springs. Today, by contrast, different groups of people perform this ritual at different springs. They bring vodka and meat to offer, and then fight with each other over vodka. Is this faith? I don’t know! Question: When do people do these rituals? Are there bad years when it should not be done? Olzyata: When there is no rain for a long time, people usually do it on the 15th day of Urs Sar, that is in May or June. During this time the spirits awaken everywhere in nature: in the water, in earth, and in animals. The last offering should be made before the 22nd day of the month of the mouse, that is in October or November. Question: Do things improve after the ritual of gazr tyaklgn? Olzyata: Of course. In the past in a place called Tormt it did not rain for a long time. People said to each other that the place was offended by humans. Later the sky had pity and sent down the rain. Question: During the ritual monks read prayers and the old people pray together with the monks, right? How does it happen? Olzyata: Yes, people hold a rosary and pray to the goddess Okn Tengr, to the fire, to the spirits of land and water, and ask these beings for forgiveness. People, knowingly or unknowingly, harm nature a lot. If people pray from the bottom of their heart, the sky forgives them. Question: Some people say that the Master of the earth looks like a snake. Some people even allege to have seen it. Have you heard anything about it? Olzyata: I heard that once a huge snake appeared here, Choorya Khamr (the name of a place), and crawled to those mounds over there. I did not see it myself, but people said that it was huge. It was so huge that it touched with its head the stirrup of one of the riders. Not far from here, in the past there was a temple called Tavn Avgnr. Snakes constantly crawled into that temple, and the monks collected them and let them out. In the vicinity there was one household whose lambs and sheep always went missing. One day one man witnessed a huge snake swallowing a sheep. He began to bang the snake with what he happened to be holding in his hands at that time, but the snake pushed him to the ground. People say that the Master of earth takes whatever it needs. I did not see it myself, I am just relaying what I have heard from others.
Respect, elders, kin, ancestors, land
Sponsored by Arcadia Fund, a charitable fund of Lisbet Rausing and Peter Baldwin
This record's DOI: https://doi.org/10.17863/CAM.42550