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Andrei Boldyrev, An Interview



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Churyumov, Anton 


Andrei was born in 1936. In 1941 his family was sent to Omskaya oblast', Siberia, where his mother worked in the fields. His father was away serving in the Red Army. Later he joined the family. Andrei and his father worked together in a cattle barn. Andrei remembers Siberia as a place where they worked a lot and always went hungry. Later Andrei became a driller and worked in the oil industry until 1973. He travelled a lot. From 1973 to 1992 he was a plumber. Andrei’s oldest son is 56. Another son is 54. Andrei says that his father, who cured sick people, wanted him also to cure people. Andrei did not want to. Instead he enjoyed his life, drank and smoked with his friends. Then Andrei fell ill and was on the verge of death. He decided to stop drinking and smoking and accepted that he needed to cure sick people. As a folk healer, Andrei contends that he cannot go out to parties nor even pay visits to strangers. He should stay at home, be close to his altar and keep himself pure. He also cannot go to a Buddhist temple, because, as he says, he practices ‘Kalmyk belief’. All Buddhist icons and statues - including Tsagan Aav and various gods of the Ikh Bagud clan - that Andrei keeps on his altar are either inherited from his father or given to him during a special ritual of initiation. In his healing rituals Andrei uses a rosary with 101 beads that was previously used by his father. Andrei specializes in curing sick children and helping women after they give birth. He also purifies cattle barns. He reads prayers in Kalmyk and massages people. On posting days (matsg odr) he does not receive patients, except for emergency cases. Andrei uses a special knife to perform a ritual of cutting jealous tongues and stopping nightmares. For this, he takes white and black threads, coils them and cuts it with the knife. In the interview Andrei also talks about funerary rituals. When a person dies, it is important to perform a special ritual of purification. The face of the deceased should be covered with a white cloth. No objects should be put inside the coffin so that the dead’s trip to the afterlife is without obstacles. It is recommended that the living do not talk about the dead and cover all the mirrors in the house for 3 days. Clothes that belong to the deceased should be burnt. In the first 3 days it is customary to read mantras and not to take away rubbish. Andrei reads such prayers. After 7 days, a sacrificial sheep should be killed. A candle in the house should burn without interruption for 49 days so that the road to the hereafter is lit up for the deceased. After 49 days, all relatives should be invited for a remembrance tea. Andrei says that men who are 49 should perform a ritual to prolong their lives. He laments that today there are so many ‘folk healers’ who are guided not by their wish to help people but to earn money. Andrei himself does not ask for payment from his patients, he only wants to help people. His door is always open to the needy and the sick who come to see him from many places. Andrei also says that healing abilities are inherited though the paternal line and that women should not practice healing. According to Andrei, today children fall ill more often than in the past, because the times are hard now. It is important that folk healers should cure people correctly, otherwise they will be punished by gods themselves. In the end Andrei reads a prayer to open one’s road to success and prosperity.



traditional medicine, healer, ritual, funeral, belief

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Sponsored by Arcadia Fund, a charitable fund of Lisbet Rausing and Peter Baldwin.