Gal Tyalgn, The Ritual of Offering to Protecting Spirits

Change log
Churyumov, Anton 
Okonov, Andzhur 

In this video the ritual of gal tyalgn is performed by the members of the Taltakhn clan in the village of Tsagan Nur, Kalmykia. A Buddhist monk is in charge of the whole ritual. Before the ritual, the participants bring into the house a sacrificial sheep. The back and all four legs of the sheep are sprinkled with milk. Then the sheep is given milk to drink. This is done to secure a successful rebirth for the sheep. Meanwhile women make meter-long ropes out of wool. Then the sheep is killed. The women pour blood into the sheep’s stomach and cook it. The intestines are filled with fat to make sausages. The fattier the sausages are, the more luck they are supposed to bring to those who eat them. The men fry the sheep’s head. Afterwards, everyone gathers in the main hall of the house where the altar is. The monk tells the participants about the meaning of the ritual of gal tyalgn. According to him, it is a shamanic ritual accompanied by Buddhist prayers chanted both in Kalmyk and Tibetan. The ritual of gal tyalgn consists of the following parts: a ritual to prolong one’s life, a ritual to cut evil tongues, a ritual to provide a white road (i.e. open the door for luck and eliminate obstacles), a prayer read for daughter-in-laws and a prayer read for boys. After the short introduction, the monk begins the ritual by chanting a prayer for a successful rebirth to the killed sheep. Then he asks all clan protectors and ancestors for forgiveness that he is performing this ritual. The monk then explains to all in the room that he is a keeper of the traditional knowledge of how to perform gal tyalgn. The monk again chants prayers while the members of the Taltakhn clan offer food to the furious deities so that they would forgive the present people for their wrong deeds and thoughts. Then the monk asks a man to hold a bowl with cooked mutton in front of the altar. The man goes to the kitchen to offer the mutton to the hearth of the house while reading out the names of the members of the clan. The bowl with the mutton is then brought back to the main hall and the monk resumes reading out the names of the members of the Taltakhn clan. When the man with the bowl turns three times clockwise in front of the altar the people in the hall utter khuree. The man with the bowl bows before the altar. All the men and boys in the room also bow three times to the altar. The women and girls do the same. After that, the monk reads mantras to eliminate and disarm curses that may have been sent to the clan. Everyone in the room chants om mani padme khum. The forehead of the sheep is smeared with butter and its eye cavities are filled with semzh (a fat layer taken from the sheep’s intestines). Then people put incenses and white coins into the bowl with mutton. The man who holds the bowl receives items (including white and blue ribbons, semzh, incenses, a piece of mutton and a woolen rope that symbolize male and female energies) that are placed on his arms. Then the man turns towards the audience while the monk resumes reading the names of the members of the clan. Then the man goes up to the others who put white coins into the bowl. The monk wraps up the offerings in semzh and ties it with ribbons.Three candles made from dough are put in front of the altar. A woman bows three times before the altar, kneels with both legs while holding an uncooked blade bone and a leg of the slaughtered sheep. The man holding the bowl with mutton sits beside her only with one knee touching the floor. The monk again reads out names and everyone in the hall utters khuree. Single men and boys are asked to bite the cooked heart of the sheep three times. After another round of prayers, all the married men who do not have sons do the same – bite the heart of the sheep. It is followed by prayers read by the monk and the people again utter khuree. After that, the men who want to have sons bite the heart. The man who holds the bowl with mutton also takes a bite. The monk again reads prayers while the man who has been tasked with holding the bowl with mutton and the woman sitting next to him resume their positions. The cooked neck of the sheep and half of the white coins are put on a separate plate for all the daughters-in-law to bite three times and take a coin each. The coins are meant to be sewn into a white piece of cloth and kept on the altars of those who took the coins.After that, everyone goes outside to make further offerings (consisting of biscuits, sweets, incenses and milk) to a fire. A man sprinkles milk over the fire while the rest shout khuree. Then the remaining milk is sprinkled in all four corners of the yard, as well as in all four corners inside and outside the house. After the monk finishes prayers, all move around the fire three times while chanting om mani padme khum.The ritual concludes inside the house. The monk says that the uncooked blade bone and the leg should be cooked and eaten inside the house. The rest of the meat should also be cut into small pieces and added into soup and then offered to all the people. Those who eat this soup should say well-wishes and give money to the hosts for organizing the ritual. The sheep bones should be collected and burnt on a fire. All ashes remaining from the ritual should be collected and kept inside the home until the leg of the sheep is eaten up. Then the bones left from the sheep’s leg should be burnt and the ashes collected. All ashes produced during the ritual and later from the sheep’s leg should be put into a white cloth and buried in a clean place far away from human habitat. The sweets should be given to children. The meat can also be given to those members of the clan who did not or could not participate in the ritual. What remains from the dough candles should be destroyed on a fire.

rituals, gal tyalgn, Tsagan Nur, clan, sheep, semzh
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