Dordzhi Nandyshev, About Folk Medicine
Kalmyk Cultural Heritage Documentation Project, University of Cambridge
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Terbish, B. (2017). Dordzhi Nandyshev, About Folk Medicine [Video file]. https://doi.org/10.17863/CAM.42892
In this interview Dordzhi talks about folk healing methods applied to humans and horses. Dordzhi: Let me tell you what I have heard about folk medicine. Kalmyks know the names of many diseases. In Kalmyk gout is ‘kerkg gem’ and pox is called ‘mu khatg’. Question: Do you know how to cure them? Dordzhi: No, I don’t. When I was a child my mother fell ill. She had a headache, and the area below her eyes at her nose ached. After inspection, an astrologist from the Ik Khurul Temple said to a lama (who was also there): ‘She has got a strange ailment, I cannot define what it is’. Afterwards they smoked something and asked my mother to inhale it. It turned out she had sinusitis. My mother was cured in this way. When in Siberia, my brother had his teeth swollen, and suffered from scurvy (in Kalmyk ‘khar yam’). He was shown to many doctors. My mother, who believed Tatars to have powerful spells, took him to see an old Tatar women that read a spell 203 times, after which my brother’s health improved. Although he lost many teeth, he recovered. He was at the edge of death with his face and teeth swollen, his cheeks turning dark green. Question: When a child had a fever or a toothache, how were they cured? Dordzhi: For every ailment there was one panacea – mutton soup or cooked mutton (there was a belief that people fell ill because of bad diet). My mother told me that she was a sickly child and that her mother gave her soup made from the meat of three sheep. After eating the mutton and drinking the rich soup, she recovered. In my childhood, we did not keep sheep. My mother would ask me to buy meat at the market. By the way, there is one funny story. One day my friend, Leonid, went hunting. Since he had pus around his eyes, he attributed this to his bad diet and decided to eat mutton (and not the game that he had hunted). Another funny story. There was a Kalmyk man whose ears ached. Thinking that he was not eating properly, that man killed a sheep, made soup and cooked the meat. After eating the meat and drinking the soup he still had pain in his ears. He decided to kill a second sheep and eat it. But the pain in his ears did not go away. Finally, he decided to go to a Russian doctor who said that he had dirt in his ears. After cleaning his ears, the pain disappeared. Also, in our neighborhood there lived a woman who cured sick horses. Can I tell you about how people cured sick horses? Question: Yes, please do. Dordzhi: Her sons are still alive. Their mother – I forgot her name – was a good vet. She used penicillin. After her, Lag Otiev from Barun, a Torghut himself, cured horses in our place. Lag Otiev had powerful vets among his ancestors. Since my friend was his neighbor, we often went to see Lag Otiev. He told us all kinds of stories about how the Kalmyks were transported by train to Siberia and how Kalmyks cured horse diseases with hot iron. For example, sometimes horses may turn suddenly and twist their legs. Lag said that in this case the horse should be treated by applying hot iron on its muscle. Back then I was studying at a medical institute, and compared the modern medicine with the traditional one. Lag’s methods were similar in many ways to modern medicine. If a horse has its joint dislocated, for a human being it is impossible to put it back. When you burn the horse’s muscle with hot iron, it gets loose and relaxed. At this point you need to push the dislocated joint back into its place. This is a Kalmyk method. One day one of Baatr Gedeev’s mares began to limp. Lag determined that it was because of the dislocated thighs. He took its tail, wrapped it around the thighs and asked two men to pull the tail when someone pulls the mare in the opposite direction. After this, the thighs fell into its place. He was a very good vet. In the past, people used strange healing methods. For example, sick horses were smoked with a burning old shoe sole. Or when horses limped they were driven into muddy water and made to stand there. Today we understand that Kalmyks had many methods to cure sick animals. My father knew the names of cattle diseases that I do not know. Question: When cows had a tumor on their neck… Dordzhi: I do not know about cows. People have tumor on their neck. It is called ‘nyazr’ in Kalmyk. Kalmyks still use folk methods. My mother has pain in her knees. Recently my older brother invited a healer from Elista. The healer said that he would warm up her knees. He nearly burnt her knees. Why? Because people have forgotten traditional methods.
Sponsored by Arcadia Fund, a charitable fund of Lisbet Rausing and Peter Baldwin
This record's DOI: https://doi.org/10.17863/CAM.42892