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Location, Running, Weight, Species and Color of an Ongon

The main place where the Shaman Ongon or spirits are located and transferred is the “Darkness” or “Space of Shaman Ongons”. As mentioned above on the subject of darkness, this place is only visible to Shamans who are in a Shaman trance. Moreover, there are many geographical sites where the Ongons shelter and their ranges are associated with these.

     In this way, each Ongon is named according to its home or geographical locality where it was sheltered, “Father of X River”, “Mother of Y Mountain” or even a “Thing” (Ium) if it is a Shaman Ongon no so well known. Each of them has a well-defined influential range marked by two points. For example, Baataryn Lamjav’s mother was originated from a Sakha (Yakut) family. Her original Guardian Ongon was located on the Toj River in Russian Tuva of the current days. Her first journey from Yakut to Mongolia was very difficult because her only transport was reindeer. She passed many mountains, crossed large rivers and mudflats; there were torrential rains and heavy snowfalls.

Therefore, in its calling encantation said:

On the Past of Gunna Gulgadag 

I lost three reindeers loads of luggage,

On the top of Doroo Hanginadag

I left four hides; of my belongings,

A frosty cave was my house,

Snowdrifts were my blankets, 

I had worn through my leather boot soles,

Had poured out my cold sweats to reach here…

     It means that this Shaman Ongon’s home was far away, on the Toj River. Likewise, the Mongols chose a powerful Ongons as a “Guardian Ongon” and, regardless of where it was located, stayed close to it in order to be protected from childhood.

     Moreover, as mentioned above, the Ongons change their geographical locations temporarily from one place to another, which is known as the range (running route) of an Ongon. There are two kinds of range, known as short and long. The former is for visits to familiar and related Ongons or their remains. The latter is only for an express purpose, which must be carried out without any resistance. For example, in the early twentieth century, “Mother Bud” of Namnan Mountain in Ived River was running from the top of this mountain, where its Asar had been built, to the pen of a Russian tradesman named Andrei Shubin, in Zoolon Lamasery. The main cause of this long run of about thirty kilometers was a trade dispute between the late Shamaness and the Russian trader. Her Ongons was about to take its revenge, which was properly implemented in the few years after the event. Moreover, the short ranges of an Ongon will not pass over water, but for the long distances they will, for they travel through the atmosphere as the crow flies. Between the ends of a suchlike long run, there are also resting sites, which may be a Shaman-tree, a sheer-cliff, mountain pass or alone tree on a steppe. It is said that the passing of a Shaman Ongon is signaled to ordinary people by the sound of a drum or chimes. So, as a rule, hunting or sleeping near an Ongon’s path is prohibited.

     In general, the range of an Ongon takes place at night during spring. In this way, it is possible for the same relief sites to be used by several Ongons in the locality. Thus, according to Black Shamanist belief, it was forbidden for several Shamans to carry out rituals in the same area at the same time to prevent undesirable consequences such as a drum braking, the destruction of the Shaman’s mind or the loss of the Shaman’s powers. Therefore, each shaman of a given locality has a particular time schedule for his or her regular shaman services.

     Although Mongolian Shamans consider that Ongons are invisible and ghostly, there are many saying concerning their weight. For example, it is said that a Shaman of White Huular Origin, Ariya Zayran sent his Ongon to Jalkhanz Hutugt Damdinabzar to assail him with witchcraft. Knowing this, the Hutugts went to see Ariya Zayran in order to resolve the conflict. However, “Uzuuriin Aav” had made some barriers to prevent him from reaching the Zayran. In this way, the Hutugt had to seek the assistance of Jembee Zayran, who lived on the other side of the Ih Gol (Large River) or its tributary, the River Ol.

     When Jembee Zayran started crossing the Ih Gol River on a raft, the Hutugt observed that the Zayran with his Ongons were all going to drown. Thus, the Hutugt shouted to him to leave his followers/Ongons on the other side, the Zayran did so and crossed the river successfully. When they met to greet each other, the Hutugt said, “I am afraid of crossing my arms with you, because a bear with five heads is standing behind you”. The Zayran answered, “Excuse me please, it is no bear, but my sheathed knives and flinted-lighter. I forgot to loosen them down before our meeting”. afterward, they greeted each other promptly, thanks to Jembee’s intercession Jalkhanz Hutugt met with Ariya Zayran, and the conflict was resolved.

     There is also a saying that the weight of Yanjiv Zayran’s skull-bone, who was defeated by the evil deeds of Tergelhen Udgan of Tuva, was equal to the weight of three baskets (hunz) of tea bricks (approximately 60-70 kg -Transl). Moreover, an Ongon is capable of lifting heavy objects up to 10-15 kilograms, but cannot take treasures such as gold, silver, precious stones, and state banknotes or bonds of a few grams.

     According to Shamanist custom, the Ongons are inherited from parent to child and from a tutor to disciple among the Shamans. Additionally, someone else may be lent an Ongon for short periods to accomplish a specific task. Black Shamanism classifies Ongons as either of Lus or Soul origin, whereas Yellow Shamanism divides them into with and without Lus. The Yellows consider that Ongons with Lus have their own Garabwanchig deity to the south-eastern side. For example, the Shamaness Dulam of Chonos origin possessed a Shaman Ongon of Lus origin “The Thing of Red Cliff”, whose original legend is summarized here: Once upon a time there was a childless young couple. The husband hunted and his wife toiled. once, during a hunt, the husband found a baby – boy in his cradle, inside a mountain cave. He did not tell his wife but nourished him with wild vegetables and plant juices for three years and the child grew up healthily. At that time he told his wife, who allowed him to bring the child home. Eventually, she became jealous and gave some roe deer blood to the boy, who died straight away. After three years, his soul transferred to the Red Cliff’s Ongon of Lus Origin. Suchlike, there were many Ongons of Lus Origin in Hovsgol province including “The Thing of Blood Lake”, “Tilig’s Thing”, “The Thing of the Nine Passes”, “Iron Horse Ongon” and “The Thing of Uur (River)”.

     The Ongons are also divided into Black and White Ongons. The Black ones are mainly originated from Lus; so they are relatively violent and fond of black or bad deeds such as curses. In contrast, the White Ongons relatively calm and mostly used for white or good deeds such as healing. In this regard, Shamans are influenced by the color of their Ongons. The Black Ongons of Lus (no-soul) origin were called “The Black Heavens”, which may be a relic of ancient times of Shamanism, when no soul, but only natural forces such as Heaven, Earth and Water were revered as Deities. 


The relationship between a Shaman and an Ongon

An Ongon or spirit is most important to a Shaman, who communicates with it during Shamanist rituals. In this way, the shaman becomes the attendant, guide, and messenger of the Ongons of Darkness for the people of the Sunny world.

     The communication between Shaman and Ongon takes place when one or more Ongons enter the mind of the Shaman when he or she is in a trance and through his/her voice give all manner of advice to the people who are present at the ritual. 

     Researchers from many countries come to face-to-face with this aspect of Shamanism over the years. For example, Vilmos Diosegy came to Renchinlhumbe soum of Hovsgol aimag in 1960 from Hungary to research Shamanism. When he met Jugderiin Chagdar Zayran (1901-1975) of white Huular origin, the zayran was going to fall into a shaman trance but stopped himself by force of will in order to protect his secret. During a similar meeting, Shamaness Dugaryn Barii (1898-1973), becoming unable to control herself, fell into a trance. When she lost her memory, Mr.Diosegy made a juniper incense offering to pray for her recovery and she began to make her shaman service in a proper manner. In the mid-1960s, research them headed by academician B.Renchin also met Chagdar Zayran. At that time, when one of his invocations was being recorded, he lost his memory and became necessary to receive medical assistance. Records from that survey are now preserved in the collection of the Philological Institute of Academy of Sciences. According to to Dr. M.Sumiyabaatar, who took part in the survey, B.Renchin guai (a Mongolian term of respect) said to his pupils, “It was one of the rarest examples of shaman secrets, which should be properly studied”.

     Thus, the main expression of shaman conception is the inter-communication between Shaman and Ongon . A proper analysis of that problem in detail would be the main way to discover the heart of Shamanism itself, that is, to understand the nature of an Ongon and shaman belief. The Shamans themselves have much to say about what an Ongon is. A woman, called Tajivyn Sampil of Sharnuud origin, who suffered from epilepsy, lived with her father. In 1958, when she was thirty-two years old, her father Tajiv visited the Shamaness Zegviin Tseveen to obtain a cure for his daughter. Initially, the shamaness began making her rituals in a simple fashion literally known as “on a seat”, without using all of the Shaman clothing and armor. Having prepared the proper Orgol, she began to pray her Huur (mouth-organ) to call he Ongons when suddenly the Orgol split into two. Thus, the Shamaness put on all of her clothing and armors, made another ritual that night and afterward said: “It is very difficult to make your daughter well. She will die if she stays here, so you should take your daughter with and leave this locality within the week”. Both father and daughter were reluctant to leave their native land, people and relatives. Meanwhile, his daughter had an epileptic fit, lost her memory, and collapsed.  

     However, Shamaness Tseveen told her father that his daughter would get well and live for a long time if they would leave, for otherwise, she would die in the next week. After a while, when she recovered, she was no longer so inclined to stay there and agreed with her father to leave her homeland. Afterward, shamaness Tseveen possessed by her Ongons and whispering over a line of invocational verse, sewed a small thing under Sampil’s left armpit. Thus, Sampil left her homeland and never come back after her father’s death in 1962. The Shamaness said to Sampil, “You should never unwrap that small thing until reaching your destination”. She went to Ulaanbaatar and when she unwrapped that thing there were only five scraps of cloth, one each of red, blue, green, white and black. At seventy-three years old she is still living in Batsumber soum of Central Aimag with an unshakable belief in the power of Shaman Ongons.

     In April 1991, a tem came to Hovsgol to film a documentary. T.Baljir of the Black Darhad gave a Shaman demonstration in Bayanzurh soum and White Huular Shamaness O.Suren made an offering to the “Father of Hos” in the Ived river. Their actions had an enormous impact on the three scholars of the team, all of whom were reduced to tears. One of them only stopped crying when he returned to it. In September 1995 one of the five people cried when they worshipped that Ongon again. In August 1993, when Shamaness Banzragchiin Bayar was making a shaman show in her own home, one of four foreigners cried too, but she corrected him and so he stopped crying. Shamanist believers observed this, for crying is considered a mark of great piety. They also thought also that Shaman Ongons had a powerful influence over his mind. The above-mentioned Tuvaany Baljir foretold the emergence of Mongolian Democracy in the 1990s as long as 1978. She said “My Ongons always tell me that something of heavy iron or a big bird is going to fall down soon from the sky”, this was a week before September 21st, 1995 when a MIAT airplane crashed near the town of Moron in Hovsgol aimag. Witnesses to this prediction included the researcher H.Niambuu, cameraman D.Mash and myself. After that incident, people gave much more respect to T.Balgir’s fortune-telling abilities. 

     Dandiin Damba Zayran of Maanjrag origin was seriously ill in the 1920s and made a shaman performance for himself, during which he decided to shoot himself dead with so-called Balgany Avir’s flint-gun and he did so. However, the zayran did not die; instead, he vomited out some bloody pus and gradually recovered. Unfortunately, in 1938, during Komintern’s notorious persecutions, he was sentenced to death.

     The Shamaness Sharavyn Dashdavaa (1899-1936) of White Huular Origin carried out a remarkable feat. During one of her shaman services, wearing only a dress-gown, bareheaded and barefoot, she rose up through her ger’s toon (roof-ring) in the depths of winter when it was at least minus forty degrees outside. Nevertheless, she returned a week later completely unharmed. Similarly, in 1919 a lama called Sharav-Osor asked the shamaness to find his own snuffbox, which had been missing for several months. So she carried out her rituals and told him, I have found your snuffbox, but could not bring it back, for it is too heavy. It is on the left side of a river between two mountains, which you know well. I made a sign in that place by gathering together some horse and cattle droppings. However, please forgive me, for I split the snuff out when I tried my best to pick it up”. The next morning, Sharav-Osor went to the indicated place in Togos, where he found his empty snuffbox.

     Tseveenii Ayur ayran was a magical Shaman (1894-1948). Once, Sandag Baldan and Luvsan asked the zayran about three pupils, who had fled the boarding school in Hatgal. He told them that the students had died near a mountain cairn (Ovoo), and it was so. In 1946 the Zayran’s own son lost his camels and asked his father for help. He said that the five camels were at the back of the forest over a rocky mountain, with a lake on its top. Sure enough, his son found the camels on Zayadai Mountain with a small take on its top, just as his father had told him.

     In the nineteenth century, Shaman Tsend Zayran of Yost Beis Hoshuu visited the Manchurian Han with Hoshuu chieftain. The chieftain had forgotten his ceremonial dress, so Tsend Zayran sent his drum to the chieftain’s ger and brought it in a night. These legends and tales were known throughout Mongolia. In this way, the Shamans have influenced the minds of many people thanks to their drums. There are a number of miraculous deeds made by the power of Shaman Ongons. 

     I considered previously that the spirit is a real natural thing. Increasingly, I began to consider that the Shaman Ongon is a type of spirit. However, while a spirit is something immaterial, a Shaman Ongon is a real thing. Either way, all of a Shaman’s actions are conducted through an Ongon’s power.

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