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The Soul

Everything has its own Soul

Apart from the three main tenets of Queen Earth, King Heaven, and the Deities of the Earth and Sky, the Soul is the fourth major concept of Mongolian Shamanism. According to Ch.Dalai, “Only Shamanism considers that the soul of a dead person continues to exist invisibly”. In this regard, H.Buyanbat wrote more specifically, “Shaman believers consider that every person has his/her own soul, which never dies”. Furthermore, Mr.Yonsog, considered, ‘Shamanism has a general belief that every kind of living creature and the natural thing has its own Soul and Guardian Spirit. So, all-natural events are affected by their influence, which is in turn resolved by their own Souls and Spirits”. 

     This makes it clear that Shamanism has a clearly thought out set of beliefs on the nature of the soul. However, Mr.Yonsog failed to make the necessary distinction between earth and water guardian spirits and the soul. Soul and spirit have different meanings in Mongolian Shamanism. For example, a living tree has its own soul; but forest as a whole and other natural resources have their own special spirit. If someone cuts down the tree then it dies, but if someone builds a wooden house then the house’s spirit will always exist because many trees were killed in order to build it. If people use trees wastefully or start wildfires, their spirits get angry and natural disasters such as floods and snowstorms will ensue. So, the main difference is that a soul belongs to a single entity such as a person, a plant or animal, white land and water spirits protect an area or group of entities.

     In the Hunnu tombs of Noyon Uul and Evolga, human skeletons and coffins were found. Associated with these were horses, cattle, goat, sheep and camel bones, which were strung with rectangular pieces of wood. Ancient items and instruments such as bones from wild animals, needles, clothing, saddlebows, spades, and sickles were found there too. These finds suggest that the souls of the dead should remain associated with their possessions. 

     On the basis of some Chinese sources, G.Suhbaatar wrote that, during the burial ceremonies, a fat dog was dragged by a cord made from different types/ colors of fibers to the grave and finally all of the personal property of the deceased, including horses were burnt. In the period of ancient Toba, horses, clothing, and the cart bearing the departed were also burnt. Thus, Mongolian Shamanism considered that smoke lifted up the human soul along with the souls of his possessions to the darkness. Hence, when B.renchin was interviewed by the French journalists Noirou and Lanten in 1965, he said:

Shamanism has its own peculiarities. Mongolia social groups and classes believed that there are different kinds of Heavens or spirits. The soul rises up from a dead body. According to social rank, there are many soul. For example, the soul of a family master or tribe chieftain will remain as leader of all the souls of that family or tribe. Thus, souls exist for all animals, people and things. Therefore, it was a common occurence that when a person dies, his/her soul leaves the dead body. So people had customs to bury their dead with all his/her possessions, including horses, dogs, and even a man or woman, whom the deceased cherished.

     However, Mr.Yonsog considered that “Soul” was for all things. For example, the soul was for a goat, sheep, horse, and fence. When the owner became richer, the souls began to scatter even toa lasso pole, its loop, and whip stick. According to Shamans, this protects all of them from any trouble or disaster”.

     Thus, Mongolian Shaman believers thought that all kinds of creatures and lifeless items have their own souls, which, as guardian spirits or totems, protect them properly.

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