Sangadzhi Kononov, About Shamanism
Sangadzhi says that folk healers (medlegchi) should be differentiated from shamans. In Kalmykia, what doesn’t belong to Buddhism is lumped together under the title of shamanism. According to Sangadzhi, shamans are those who establish contact with spirits (dukhi) and receive information from them. Shamans enter into a trance state with the help of chanting and bodily movements and in this way become a vessel for spirits. Shamans may ask spirits to send the rain, etc. In other words, shamanism deals with the spirits, or spiritual masters of localities (such as mountains, trees, water sources, etc.) Folk healers, by contrast, establish contact with Buddhist deities (that protect Kalmyk clans) by chanting mantras. It is these Buddhist gods that help Kalmyk folk healers. Sangadzhi contends that all rituals require energy. For folk healers it is their Buddhist deities (clan protectors) that serve as a source of energy. For shamans it is spirits or spiritual masters of localities. In order to ask Buddhist deities for help, folk healers first need to accept them as their protectors by performing a special ritual of acceptance. After such rituals, folk healers become conductors of the energy emanating from their deity-protectors which they use to cure ill people. Having said this, not all folk healers use help from deities. There are healers referred to as khar syakustya khun (lit. ‘a person who has a black deity- protector’). Such healers do not perform the ritual of accepting deities as their protectors. Despite this, they can still heal others by using their own energy. As a result, when their energy depletes or runs low, such healers fill the void with negative energy. Before performing any ritual, folk healers ask their deity-protectors for permission. If they do not ask, their protectors may punish them.