1999 Expedition to Tuva, Page 4
By Paul Uccusic
© Shamanism, Fall/Winter 2000, Vol. 13, Nos. 1 & 2

Each of us grabbed a corner of the room and a chair (if available) and the clients queued up. Aldynai, our only interpreter, did her best to serve all the needs of the healing couples. I had just started to pull out my rattle from its bag when a car arrived in big hurry. The driver rushed in and took Aldynai away, but after a few seconds returned for Otmar Rogl, the only physician we had with us. We all went by car to the local hospital where there was a young girl who had been badly hurt that night in a car accident.

The hospital is the only two-story building in Sug-Aksy. It is wooden and, as usual in Siberia , the pipes for the hot and cold water and the wastewater are outside the walls. We had to lump over them on the way into the building. Besides traumas of the face and chest, the girl suffered from a skull fracture. The physicians there had done the best they could, and for our part, there was nothing more to do other than to pray and send our power animals.

We left a box of medications that we had brought with us in the doctor's office. They were very happy with all the antibiotics and painkillers. Otmar had to explain the purpose of the medication. Aldynai translated.

Back at the yard we found the work had become dramatic. Two children with epilepsy had been treated; one calmed down and fell asleep during the treatment. Two other members of the same family were said to also suffer from the same malady, so a few of us went over to the family's wooden house to cleanse the space spiritually. The air was sticky inside and the windows were sealed (a custom in Siberia where winter temperatures can fall to -60 degrees Centigrade). Otmar and I called in the spirits from the nearby mountains to help the sick. When the cleansing ended, I asked the woman of the house about her belief system. “Shamanistic religion,” she replied instantly; “we believe in the spirits of the taiga, the lakes, and the meadows.” As this was exactly what I had seen in my journey for the members of this family, I encouraged her to stay in good connection with these beings.

The next morning our drivers had to fix a tire. We had to decide whether to go to Sut-Khol, the big “milk lake” in the mountains connecting Bora (gray) and Kyzyl (red) taiga at a mystical place, or stay in the valley. The evening before, Professor Kenin-Lopsan had told us about the spirits there. He said that not only shamans are able to see them. As we learned, the land is full of gifted people. A beautiful woman on a beautiful horse is the spirit of the red taiga; a bull is the master spirit of the lake. By doing shamanic rituals, they are attracted and invited to come down and show themselves in the water, air, or the ashes of the ritual fire.

The day before the Professor had been fearful of climbing that mountain on the steep and unpaved road, but as the sun rose, he asked us for our opinion. We all were eager to go and so it was decided. The mayor of the town obviously expected this decision, for his jeep and team were ready and the tire was fixed.

We left, with some stops to pick up people, food, tools, tents, guns, etc., and at last, crossed the River Ak (white), leaving Sug-Aksy behind.

As we proceeded, the road became steeper and steeper. As usual in Siberia , the 4-wheel-drive had to be engaged at one of the steepest parts of the road (the last time we had to do it in deep mud and had to get out and walk part of the way). But this time the drivers were successful and we made it with 11 people and the all the bags in the Uasik! On top of the pass (7000 feet in elevation) we were treated to an overwhelming view of lake Sut-Khol. At this altitude and in the clear air, the lake appeared deep blue, mocking the myths, which regard it as white. The five to eight-miles long by two miles wide lake was bordered by colorful autumn trees.

We still had to go a long way to get down to its shore. It looked close from our perch in the pass, but it took another hour to cross the meadows with holes, roots, muddy paths, and narrow trails between the trees to reach the peninsula where we erected our overnight camp.

Nikolai Oorzhak, Nadia Sat, and the local people saw to our comfort. Huge fires were built, and the tents were erected. Nina Dovuu took care of the spiritual aspect of the place. After a few minutes she approached a tree, talked to it, and then hung small white cloth strips on its branches, as we had seen hundreds of times in Siberia and the East. We all could feel how important it was to her. It was a very unpretentious tree, but with it in our midst in the center of the camp, we felt it was our protection, our antenna to the spiritual world. We did a little drumming around this tree.

Later in the afternoon, Nikolai and our group gathered a pile of wood for the fire ceremony. We never did learn the criteria for the correct time to begin the fire ceremony. At other places, it seemed governed by opportunity: when the group was there and when the local people had arrived—here it was different.

Abruptly, as we sat around the fire chatting and drinking tea, Nikolai called us to a place a few yards outside the campground. We formed a circle and drummed around the fire. At the point when the fire had burned down, Nikolai stopped and called the spirits of both taigas, the gray and the red, with his voice.

Then we gazed at the remnants of the fire, our attention on the small branches and pieces of wood disintegrating, how the ashes were formed, and how it felt under the clear sky in this unique landscape in the heart of Asia . Silence came down from the mountains: no noise of civilization—no cars, no planes—nothing. The Professor concluded: "This is a mystery. Today secrets will be revealed. It is a very special moment.”

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