Tuesday, 5 March 2019

Alexander Arbachakov and the Shor Shamans

The Last of the Shor Shamans by Alexander and Luba Arbachakov published by Moon Books. Lyn Roberts introduces this book as she visited the area to meet tribal elders of Tuva and Altae region with Bill Pfeiffer, founder of the Sacred Earth Network. 

Alexander Arbachakov is a native of the Shor region of Siberia and raised in a traditional village in the area. He is a photographer, an environmentalist, a local conservationist and a forestry specialist and he is Vice President of the Shortsi People’s Association. His co-author is Luba Arbachaka from a remote mountain farming area. She is an environmentalist, a folklorist and language specialist.
I consider it wonderful that those with a love and knowledge of the region have brought us this invaluable book at a time when their cultural traditions are close to being lost forever. The population of this isolated area of Siberia is between 10-12,000 people, and it has an ancient and unique cultural heritage. Sadly, their holy mountain is now a ski run and a church has been built with a cross erected at the holy mountain's peak.

Many of the keepers of tribal customs suffered persecution by Orthodox Christianity and later by the Soviets during 1920-80’s. Many tribal leaders were arrested, jailed, tortured and killed. They no longer wear their shamanic costumes and are unable to create their chief sacred object, the drum. It is said no-one alive today can make a shaman's drum. Now they wave towels to imitate the rhythm of the drum instead.

The shaman usually accepts this vocation after an illness which fails to heal but also sometimes they can inherit the knowledge from family members. Spirits choose the shaman; often shamans have an extra bone, such as 6 fingers or a bony protuberance of some kind. There are two categories of shaman: the ones who are genuine and the ones who pretend. This book describes the first category. The shaman, either a man or a woman, acts as a mediator between humans and spirits and between the upper, middle and lower worlds. Shamans, known as 'kam', have many abilities. They are the holders of creation myths and a shamanic story is described in the book to explain the origins life and death. If the spirit leaves the body and cannot find its way back, the shaman travels through the spirit realms to find and retrieve it. They can also return sick people to health and catch evil spirits. They can change the weather, find lost cattle, use amulets and create good luck. 

I have connections with the Mongolian shamanic people who, despite invasive Russian, Chinese and now western culture, are trying to re-establish their ancient shamanic wisdom traditions. It is said that thousands of years ago, these people from Central Asia walked over the land bridge into north and south America. Americans would love to find the origins of their own ancient traditions and could look to Shortsi for similarities, as I can detect there are many. In all caring societies, everyone has a valued place, and no-one need to drink themselves into oblivion or commit suicide due to lack of love or support from their neighbours. We have much to learn from ancient tribal cultures. 
The majority of the seven shamans interviewed for this book are no longer alive. Their words are caringly recorded as the last of their tribal peoples. Shamans are reciters of revered poems and the book ends with several pages of ritual poetry which has never before been recorded. The authors were trusted by those who were interviewed and we are the benefactors of words and actions now recorded for posterity. We are fortunate that the authors can speak the language fluently and are indigenous people from the region themselves. 

A note from the authors concludes this small but fascinating book: If anyone wishes to know more about the indigenous Shor people or would like to support them, please contact the authors at this email address: belsu@rikt.ru Donations can be sent to: Shortsi  People’s Assciation, C/o The Arbachakovs, 9 Zagorodnaya St., Mezdurechensk, Kemerovskaya region, 652870 RUSSIA  

Circle Network Book Review: The Last of the Shor Shamans by Alexander & Luba Arbachakov is a paperback with 96 pages: Price: £9.99 ISBN 978-1846941276 Published by O-Books
Reviewer: Wendy Stokes www.wendystokes.co.uk

I have included a youtube video link of the Ice Maiden whose 3,000 year old mummified body was discovered in the melting permafrosthttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oqWCEqMEbgE&feature=relmfu

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