We pick up our story in the same location we were 26,000 years ago, where we observed a ceremony in our last blog. In this tale we are with a small group traveling in modern times to the Siberian Mongolian area on an Eco-treck, looking at the origin of Shamanism . . .
Why is our small group here in Siberia, Russia talking about Mongolia a few hundred Kilometers away? As you can easily presume, borders are just boundaries created by current politics. Borders move around a lot. The land we are in right now had no borders some 26,000 years ago. There were small tribes of people living nomadic lives, who gathered together once in a while for big ceremonies. This is not so different from how the Plains Indians of the Americas lived before European contact. They lived in various nomadic tribes, coming together for celebrations like Sun Dances. These were very special events, not only for festivities, entertainment and communication; they were times when the young would meet potential mates from other tribes, and start or finalize marriages.
For all intents and purposes, this whole area of Eastern Siberia was peopled by nomadic shamanic tribes, which eventually became Mongolia. We are here because of a group of steles that have been erected over the years to celebrate various festivals. The ones most interesting to us are the flying deer steles. Some of them were erected between 20 – 30,000 years ago. These offer some important clues into what will happen in the next several transitional years (2012 – 2014). Even though our story reaches back 26,000 years to this location, it started way before this.
We know that man has occupied the beautiful rolling hills of Siberia and Mongolia for more than 800,000 years, according to current archeological thought. Many groups of people spread out from this area over time. Some authorities feel that this area is the epicenter of shamanism worldwide. Where and when did it start? The Bon Shamans from Tibet have an interesting creation myth that includes this area.
The Bon myth starts way before time was known, at least a million years ago. They say their first shamans came from outer space, riding in on a meteorite. They landed in an area that is now the center of shamanic ways, Lake Baikal. Back then it was not a lake, but a very high mountain. This mountain was so high it pierced the sky, being 2–3 times higher than Mount Everest. There was a group of master shamans of off-planet origin that lived there for hundreds of thousand of years. Once in a while they would come down from the mountain to teach the people of the land, working with them and doctoring them, but mostly they stayed to themselves. After some time, two of the prominent shamans got in an argument over some mundane thing, which turned into an outright battle and eventually a war employing many of the local peoples. This soon became a fight over possession of the mountain. One of them had to leave! From there, the fight escalated until they blew the whole mountain up, creating a deep tear in the earth’s crust, leaving a deep fissure that is now Lake Baikal. It is the deepest lake in the world, and contains more water than any two of the great lakes of North America combined.
This of course made the local people scatter; but some stayed back to become students of the now dislocated shamans. One of the new sacred rules of these shamans was to never scar the land, their Mother, again. This is the reason why Mongolians maintained a herding, nomadic lifestyle; never embracing cultivation as it would mean plowing, or scarring, their Mother.
After many generations of living in the Mongolian/Siberian area, a large group migrated to what is now Tibet, to form the Tibetan shamanic Bon tradition that pre-dates Buddhism there by several millennia.
Of course being a myth, we don’t have specific time lines and we don’t even know if any of it is true. There is often a grain of truth in myths and the part that seems quite realistic is that the original Bon came from this area of Siberia/Mongolia. There are many ties between the Tibetans and the Mongolians, which we will see as our story here unfolds.
We do know the people who live in Mongolia to this day have strong shamanic roots, with shamanism being the second most common religion in the area. Buddhism is the most prominent religion. The style of Buddhism practiced here in Mongolia is Tibetan Buddhism, which incorporates large amounts of Bon shamanism. So it is easy to say the two major religions of the area are based on shamanism.
Like most shamanic groups around the world, the Mongolians base their practice on a strong connection to nature. In prehistoric times their society was a matriarchal one, with women playing a dominant role. This was due to the strong connection that women had to Mother Earth. There were many gods, but the two most significant ones were Mother Earth (Gazar Eej) and Father Sky (Tenger Etseg).
Just like the North American Plains Indian of 200 years ago, the Mongolian shamans of ancient times lived in tipis. They started most ceremonies with calling in their ancestors and the four directions. They always started with the direction of the East. Their Tipis also faced that direction, the direction in which the sun rises. Again, this is very similar to the Plains Amerindians. The Mongolian Tipi evolved into a Ger, or what we call in the west a Yurt. These are very efficient, portable structures that are easy to heat in the winter. The Gers today face to the South, not the East as their tipis did. Sometime in the past (the exact time is still debated), the shamans moved the prominence and initiation of their ceremonies from the East to the South. In talking to some Mongolian shamans in the spring of 2008, they told me that it is most likely they will be moving this prominence to the West direction around 2012-2014. This ceremonial medicine wheel, similar to the North American Plains Indian’s wheel, is on its own evolutionary course, as the people go through the various phases of its teaching.
It is easy to see strong similarities between the two matriarchal societies of the Mongolians and the Plains Indians. The ecology of this part of Mongolia is very similar to the foothills and plains of Canada. The dwellings and many of the ceremonial practices have great similarities. It appears that some of the Plains Indian’s ceremonies and the tipi originated from Mongolia, before the Mongolians adopted the Ger and moved their ceremonies to a Southern direction.
I don’t want to get into a debate over who first populated the Americas. Was it one large migration to the Americas, or did the indigenous people of the Americas originate in the Americas? I don’t believe in the Bering Strait Clovis man story as the sole source of population in the Americas. There were obviously people in the Americas way before the 10 – 11,000 year period of the opening of the Bering Strait land bridge and the passageway along the eastern slope of the Rocky Mountains through my home country of Alberta. There is too much evidence on both sides of the Pacific showing people were in the Americas way before 10,000 years ago. In fact a Bering Strait land bridge existed 50,000 – 10,000 years ago, when the sea level was 60 meters (200 ft.) lower than it is today. Not only was the land bridge lower, so was the coastline of North America. This means that any evidence of seafaring migration would be under 50 – 100 meters of ocean now, so it would be hard for us to find. There is suitable evidence of seafaring or coastal migration of people. One of the most convincing is some human coprolites (desiccated feces) found in an Oregon cave in 2006. Carbon dating puts it several thousand years before the Clovis/Bering land bridge date. More importantly for this train of thought, there was Mongolian/Siberian genetics found in the desiccated feces.
When looking at mDNA (mitochondrial DNA) of Amerindians, it suggests different migration patterns among coastal and inland inhabitants. The same is true between groups from the tip of South America and Canadian Amerindians. This indicates the Amerindians were influenced by at least two, if not many separate migration groups. There are even sites in Chile that have been dated to 33,000 years ago. Of course the debate about this will go on for years; the important aspect of this concept is that there was at least one, if not more, migrations of Mongolian/Siberian peoples into the Americas. There might have been a Southern route of migration also. This is in no way meant to detract from the creation stories of most First Nation people which indicate their origin is from the Americas. It just means that these first people had immigration issues way before the Europeans came along. All of these theories could be right at the same time, as they are not exclusive.
It does seem that some of the lifestyles, structures, languages, ceremonies and genetics of Amerindians came from Mongolia. It is interesting to note that many Amerindians have Mongolian birthmarks. This is a bluish (almost a bruise-looking) mark, often on their lower back or buttocks. In fact it was considered among the upper class of Maya important to have a pyramid shaped Mongolian birthmark on their lower back.
No matter what the case, we can say there were most likely many levels of contact and we can see at least a few waves had strong Mongolian/Siberian genetics in them. The social similarities and the scientific evidence are overwhelming. This doesn’t mean there wasn’t a strong group of people in the Americas before all of these waves of migration. Did we all evolve from Eve and Adam in a valley in Africa? I don’t think so, but who knows.
Coming back to the prehistoric peoples of Mongolia/Siberia. Even though there were huge glacial sheets of ice over much of North America and Europe at the time, Mongolia and Siberia were not affected. It is the oldest ‘high and dry’ area of the world. It has never been submerged in ice or water in 1.5 million years. It is one of the best deposits of dinosaur fossils, and huge animals wondered its land for millennia. This area had an almost tropical climate in much of the Southern part, with deep lush grassland extending high up into what is now considered the arctic. This climate was due to a different polar axis. We went through a major polar shift around 10 – 12,000 years ago. In fact, the area that is now the great Gobi desert was a great fertile area, with either a huge inland fresh water sea or a lake. Some have even gone so far as to suggest that on the shore of this lake was the original Eden of the Adam and Eve story, not in the middle East at all. Many have suggested that the Gobi desert was the location of the Agarthi and Shambala centers, two mythical centers of shamanic study, one dark and one white. There are differing opinions on which one was dark and which white. In fact Hitler and the Nazis did much archeological work in Gobi area, looking for links to the “Great White Brotherhood.” There was a great tie, even up to present day, between Tibet and these mystical centers. Other esoteric schools like the Lemurian Fellowship and Steele Group believe that large numbers of people from Atlantis ended up here in Mongolia, some 11,000 years ago. Was this area protected from the great flood talked about in the Judeo-Christian Bible? It appears that it wasn’t flooded. During this time, many feel the present day Mongolians lived further North; the Ulger “Caucasians” had a great city on the edge of the Gobi inland sea/lake, called Karakota. It is thought that the Caucasians became the Celtic groups that moved into the central area around present day German for millennia, before moving onto Scotland, Ireland and other more western areas. There is one popular legend that says the Golden Age lasted up until 3,000 BCE around this great inland lake of the now Gobi area.
Much of this is mere legend, but it shows the level of intrigue that has existed in this area. There is good solid evidence that people did live for a longer time some 20,000 or more years ago. We can also see evidence of this in the Jewish and Christian Bible, talking about the long-lived people living in the Golden Age. Even today there are theoretically people living to very old ages in the Taiga of Siberia. A very popular series of books, written by Russian author Vladimir Megre, talks about encounters with a shamanic woman named Anastasia in the Siberian Taiga. Her family is from a long line of shamans that live completely off of nature, interacting deeply with the cedar trees (really a pine species), and animals of the area. Her family is said to live very long lives, being strong and healthy after several hundred years. There is now a worldwide movement following her teachings, with hundreds of Eco-communities in Russia, Europe and now North America who have adopted some of her concepts. In Russia there are schools set up to practice her principles, which are based on Vedic concepts.
In these books it is said that Vedic concepts originated among Anastasia’s people in the Taiga many millennia ago, long before these ideas entered India and Tibet. The word Taiga translates from Mongolian to mean ‘Mongolian cold jungle’. It is said to be a white jungle, because most of this area is covered with snow much of the year in present time. Does this name suggest another environment in other times also?
Did Vedic thought really start in Anastasia’s part of the world? Are there really people hundreds of years old living in deep harmony with nature out in the Taiga now? As much as I enjoyed the series of books and concepts written about Anastasia, I can’t say for sure they are based on reality. I have visited some of the Eco-communities in Russia and realized that this movement looks like it is ‘growing with legs’ and expanding fast.
The one concept we keep getting echoes of is that shamanic life goes back many millennia in these areas. Some of the shamans were part of the flying deer people, who erected the stele we are now in front of.
These flying deer people, or should I say flying Reindeer people . . . yes, these are the same flying reindeer as in the Santa Clause myth. Yeah, I know what you are thinking. Some of the ideas I have brought out so far are pretty far-fetched and hard to believe. Now I have brought Santa Clause into the mix, and my credibility is about to go right out the window. Just bear with me for a moment to see where we go with this.
Locally there is a very famous mushroom called Amanita muscaria, also known as fly agaric. This is the toadstool that is often depicted in fairytales — the bright red mushroom with white spots. It was very important to the shamanic traditions of Siberia and Mongolia. This fungus is a well-known hallucinogen. Consumers be warned: all other species in this genus are deadly poisonous, and misidentification could prove fatal. Even though much of the shamanic work done in these parts was based on trances created by long session of drumming and dancing, Amanita was used for some special ceremonies. Consumption of the mushroom, prepared in a special way to reduce toxicity, is quite hallucinatory. It is said to aid a person to have vision journeys in the realms of the gods. There is one special preparation that is said to help you enter the Head of God. This preparation was done by tying a reindeer up, feeding it Amanita and collecting the urine to consume. Thus this mixture would let you journey, on the wings of the reindeer, into the Head of God. It is said that this mixture could be used for deep vision, including time travel. This is the origin of the name of the flying reindeer people.
There was much research done on this mushroom by R. Gordon Wasson in 1968 stating that this mushroom is the sacred substance called Soma, referred to in the Rig Veda. (Soma: Divine Mushroom of Immortality) This substance was said to be responsible for many of the concepts found in Vedic life. Could there be a connection between Vedic thought and the shamans of this area are said to originated? Were the flying Reindeer people responsible for these Vedic concepts that they later spread around the world? Interesting question, to say the least!
What does any of this have to do with Santa Claus? There are several parts of the Christmas myth that might have seeds of origin here. First the mushroom is best consumed after being dried. The best way to dry them is the same way the squirrels do it, by placing them on the middle bows of the pine and spruce tree. This creates a very interesting sight. I was once hiking in northern Alberta in the fall and came across what looked like a group of Christmas trees. There were little red balls on many of the evergreen trees. On closer observation I realized the red balls were Amanita muscaria mushrooms, which also grow in Canada. The Squirrels would harvest the mushrooms and dry them on the tree bows for winter use. I bet the squirrels had an interesting winter. I can just see the squirrels holed up in their tree, with their own version of big screen T.V.
The shamans used the same method to dry the mushrooms and thus the advent of the first Christmas tree. But the story goes deeper. The shaman would collect all the mushrooms and put them in large bags. Around the winter solstice (Dec 21) he would go around and deliver them for the shamanic ceremonies. It was said that the most powerful day is four days after the solstice (Dec 25). Most of the people lived in Ger (Yurts). There is only one door to a Ger. If the snow is deep, as it often could be in Siberia and Mongolia, the door would be blocked, so the only way to enter the home was through the smoke hole in the roof. The shaman would dress up in a red costume, with white fur highlights to resemble the mushroom. So here you have a man, dress up in a red suit with white fur, carrying a big bag over his shoulder and entering your house through the chimney in late December, to give you gifts. Who else could he be, but Santa Claus? Did I mention that they had domesticated reindeer to pull sleds? I don’t think any of the reindeer had bright red noses; that must have been a later adaptation to the story.
It is interesting to note that even up to present day, in Germany and other parts of Europe, Amanita style decorations are still hung on Christmas trees.
To be continued . . .