Cover image for Shanar : dedication ritual of a Buryat Shaman in Siberia as conducted by Bayir Rinchinov
Shanar : dedication ritual of a Buryat Shaman in Siberia as conducted by Bayir Rinchinov
Tkacz, Virlana, 1952-
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Parabola Books, 2002.
Physical Description:
x, 182 pages : illustrations color, map ; 26 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
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BL2370.S5 T49 2002 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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This rare first-hand account, accompanied by 175 photographs of the setting, sacred tools, and costumes, follows each step of the shanar-a Siberian shaman dedication ritual. The Buryats are indigenous people of eastern Siberia, an area which gave rise to the languages from which the term 'shaman' is derived. Shamanism is dependent upon intimate connections to specific places and cultures, and this account of a ceremony celebrates that relationship, while using the ritual as an entry point to explore the living culture of a people obscure to most Western readers. This accessible and authentic guide to true shaman practice reveals the personalities involved and respects the complexities of the Buryat community, thereby achieving greater depth than conventional anthropological studies.

Reviews 2

Publisher's Weekly Review

The Buryat are a people indigenous to eastern Siberia, living mainly in the area near Lake Baikal called Buryatia. In 2000, a Shaman named Bayir Rinchinov invited Tkacz, Zhambalov and Phipps, translators of Buryat poetry, to the Siberian town of Ust-Orda to document a Shanar, the dedication ritual for a new shaman. This lucid, day-by-day account of the Shanar begins with the cleansing of the participants and the preparation of ritual objects (such as the initiate's goatskin drum and headdress) and continues through to the climax of the ceremony, a ritual called Bring Up the Dust, in which ancestral spirits enter the initiate (in this case, a man named Volodya) as he runs around a grove of birches. This particular Shanar turns out to be a difficult one: the spirits refuse to enter Volodya. The older shamans officiating the ceremony have to do a great deal of spiritual detective work to figure out what's gone wrong. After some back and forth with the spirits (their conversations are transcribed), it turns out that Volodya had slighted one of them with his inept performance of an earlier ritual, and appeasements are in order. As she describes these lively proceedings, Tkacz explains the beliefs of the Buryat and the role of shamans in the village (Rinchinov does healing, for instance, but only for those who can't be helped by Western medicine-he tells a villager with a toothache to "stop wasting his time and go to a dentist"). The authors have also translated the ceremony's ritual chants. This glimpse of Buryat culture does not aim to be comprehensive, but it will be fascinating to those interested in Eastern religions and anthropology. Of particular note are the hundreds of full-color photographs that grace the handsomely produced volume; there's also a useful glossary. (Dec.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

This fascinating book is a narrative account of a Buryat dedication ritual for a new shaman. The 300,000 indigenous Buryat people live in eastern Siberia around Lake Baikal, and it is from a language native to that region that the word shaman was derived. Tkacz, the director of an experimental theater company in New York, witnessed the four-day-long ceremony and describes it here in great detail. With coauthors Zhambalov, a Buryat actor, and Phipps, an African American poet, she gives a vivid and detailed look into this ritual and, more generally, into this rarely discussed culture. An element of drama is included, as difficulties crop up in the ceremony, and its successful completion is in doubt at several points. This book provides enough information about the culture to place the ritual in context, but it is not meant to be a scholarly treatment of the Buryat culture. The 175 accompanying photographs by fashion photographer Alexander Khantaev are beautiful and convey a sense of color that is not typically associated with this region. Recommended for libraries looking to enhance collections in shamanism or in the cultures of this region.-Stephen Joseph, Butler Cty. Community Coll., PA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Table of Contents

Dashinima DugarovVirlana Tkacz
Forewordp. VII
Introductionp. 1
Part 1 The Preparation
Bayir Rinchinovp. 4
The Sacred Groundsp. 7
The Ritual Objectsp. 25
The Cleansingp. 55
The Offeringp. 71
Part 2 Calling the Spirits
The Ongon Spiritsp. 86
Volodya's Shanarp. 97
August 20, 2000p. 97
August 21, 2000p. 108
August 22, 2000p. 131
Breakthroughp. 149
Giving Thanksp. 157
Thanksp. 176
Glossaryp. 177
Creditsp. 180
Suggested Readingsp. 181
The Authorsp. 182