My first contact with Siberian Shamanism

The tattooed arm of the Altai male mummy

I have never been attracted at all to Shamanism; my Way (at least in this lifetime!) being more the Way of Mysticism, the Way of the Heart and the Beloved. So the story which follows will be all the more extraordinary:
In the early years after 1984 and my creating the ‘Laboratory of Evolution” here in Auroville, someone donated to our Specialized Library his whole ongoing collection of ‘National Geographic’ magazines. One day while exploring the oldest issues, I found an article with some photos of ancient drawings that strangely provoked a deep emotion within me; those drawings were those of the many tattoos found on the just discovered, remarkably well preserved thousands of years old body of a princess, a warrior princess apparently, buried with horses like a warrior prince would have been; she must have been some kind of priestess too, the article said, or anyway been a very special woman to have been honored in such a remarkable way as her tomb showed.
I didn’t care much about the scientific details given, totally fascinated as I inexplicably was by the princess herself, and those tattoo drawings full of what must have been her life, her beliefs, her culture, her times, long, long ago… The attraction was so strong I kept that magazine aside and looked at it again and again, always with the same fascination and deep emotion.
Time passed (or such is the illusion we have while incarnate in an Earth period-play!…), the other preoccupations arising from my work for the Laboratory of Evolution made me gradually forget about that whole article in the National Geographic.
Then, in May 2000, a passing guest in the Auroville place where I live gave me when leaving a book, ‘Entering the circle’, by a Russian young psychiatrist, Olga Kharitidi, whose photo on the back showed an open, pretty, luminous face, that decided me to look inside the book in spite of its darker, slightly weird overall cover. Trying to read Castaneda’s books had been an inner ordeal for me, so I certainly didn’t want to inflict upon myself yet another unpleasant mud bath.
I started hesitantly leafing through the pages… To my utter amazement and downright emotional shock, I recognized over the title of each chapter the tattoos of the ancient Warrior Princess!!!  I had to sit down, my legs all shaky, before I could go on looking, this time avidly, into the contents of that book. For the next four hours I could not put it down. When I finally did after reading the very last page, I remained immobile and silent for a long time, aware that I had just reconnected with a world known intimately long, long ago.
Particularly striking had been the inner experiences lived by the author herself, Olga, that young, modern psychiatrist from Novosibirsk in the Soviet Union, under the powerful but loving guidance of the shaman-woman, Umai, that she is unexpectedly led to meet in a small, remote village up in the Altai Mountains where she has followed a ‘mental patient’, Nikolai… whose so-called disease is that he is actually becoming himself a shaman or ‘kam’, uniting inwardly with the village’s just dead kam Mamoush – that process happens independantly from Olga’s growing relationship with Umai, whom she trusts more and more. Although the vocabulary and the inner images were somewhat different, some of the experiences lived by Olga thanks to Umai were definitely what I call mystical experiences, that is, connecting her to her own soul, the deepest part in herself, and had a most beneficial effect on her and on her understanding of true Healing. But one last experience stood out for me as the reader, it will be easily understantood why:
About to leave that village and go back to Novosibirsk instead of staying on as Nikolai/Mamoush is urging her to, Olga is asked inwardly by Umai to lie down directly on the cold ground, and she is told “Here is something you must know. The kams were supposed to keep only one line of immortality, but instead there are more. You and Mamoush belong to different lines. Olga, you must leave here today. If you stay as Mamoush is requesting, he will try to destroy your line. (…) Time is not as simple as you think it is. You are not only Olga who works as a psychiatrist in a Siberian clinic. There is something else about you, something you have to figure out.”
Lying there she has a ‘dream’, which she describes thus:
“I feel a chill go through my body. Perhaps I have caught a fever. I remember that I have been lying on ice for I don’t know how long. The earth begins swaying under me.
In the distance I hear the sound of a galloping horse. It grows louder and louder. I can feel the pounding of its hooves upon the earth. Then a white horse comes into view. Its entire being emanates a passionate energy.
A voice says to me, ‘Get up on his back and ride away!’, and I notice for the first time the small but powerfully built young woman standing besides the horse’s head, holding his bridle. My attention moves from the horse to the woman’s bare arm, which is entirely covered with tattoos. I have never seen anything like them. Tattoos of unknown animals circle around and around one another from her shoulder to her wrist. As I stare at her, the animals gradually begin to seem more familiar to me, although I don’t actually recognize them or remember where I have seen them. (…) The horse and the dream dissolved, and I was awake.”
After the long bus and train journey back to Novosibirsk, Olga is relieved to find herself again in her little apartment and her ‘normal reality’. But another surprise is awaiting her right there too:
‘I looked through my mail, saving the newspapers for later. Eventually I snuggled into my worn sofa to read them. At first all the news seemed exactly like the same old news of the week before.
Then, as I turned the page of the newspaper, a headline reading “Science in Siberia” caught my eye. Under the headline was a large picture showing the opening of an ancient tomb in the Altai Mountains. The picture looked interesting, so I continued reading.
The article described the discovery the summer before of the tomb of a young woman. She had been about twenty-five years old when she died.  Her tomb had acted as a deep freeze for millennia, keeping its contents in a remarkable state of preservation. (…) The picture and description of the tomb reminded me of the scene where my last encounter with Umai had taken place, and as I read further my heart began to beat faster.
According to the article, one particular discovery in the tomb had created a great archeological sensation. The woman’s arms had been covered with tattoos of strange symbolic animals circling her limbs and merging into one another. (…)
Instinctively I was certain this was the same woman who had come to me in my dream.’
And I, Bhaga, was simply stunned to find myself stumbling again upon that same story that in the National Geographic had so strangely moved me years before!… How was it that precisely this book had been given to me by this unknown guest?!
In that book, there is also the question of Time, and of Belovodia, which I’ll have to present in some other post some other day…

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