shaman’s snakes siberia

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Below: fabric snake from Buryatia in Southern Siberia with red tongue and red glass bead eyes Snakes, and snake-like creatures made from fabric, are a common feature found on shaman’s clothes right the way across Southern and Central Siberia. The snake is a powerful spirit and shamans wear the snake for protection and power. Snakes are often associated with the water spirits, known as lus in Mongolia. These are really the same as the Tibetan and Indian Naga, the water spirits who live in the earth. As underworld dwellers, they are associated with the Lower World of the shaman’s universe, and as dangerous beings, capable of attacking any that seek they harm, they form an important part of the shaman’s armour, which they wear when they go to work in the spirit worlds. In addition to being fixed to shaman’s coats, snakes and snake like beings are also often hung in homes as family protector spirits. Whether on the back of a shaman’s coat or hung up in a tent or other nomadic structure on the steppes, it is important to remember that these fabric snakes are not merely symbolic. They are actually ongons, spirit houses, for a snake spirit to live within. As such they are alive, and must always be treated with care and respect. A snake should never be stitched to a shaman’s coat, as the passing of a needle through the snake will harm or even kill it, so instead the snakes hanging from a shaman’s coat are tied or bound on to it. Often shaman’s snakes are quite crudely made, some just being merely a thin twist of cotton or silk fabric bound round with a thread to An old fabric shaman’s snake from Mongolia. The snake has three smaller snakes emerging from its lower body. The snake is stuffed with sheep’s wool and is made of cotton, brocade. This snake came unexpectedly from Mongolia, hidden amidst newspaper packing placed around some other objects, it apparently had a life of its own and wanted to come to the West, getting itself packed ‘by accident’ amidst the newspaper in the box Left: Tuvan snake-like dragon being called Amyrga-eren, a family protector. Shamans would make these for families in their care, and the family would hang them up in their homes for protection. Often, children wore a small protection amulet called a ‘child of Amyrga’, designed to keep them safe from harm. Late C19th from S iberia S haman’s S nakes

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Page 1: Shaman’s Snakes Siberia

Below: fabricsnake fromBuryatia inSouthern Siberiawith red tongueand red glassbead eyes

Snakes, and snake-like creatures madefrom fabric, are a common feature

found on shaman’s clothes right theway across Southern and

Central Siberia. The snakeis a powerful spirit andshamans wear the snakefor protection and power.Snakes are often

associated with the water spirits,known as lus in Mongolia. Theseare really the same as the Tibetanand Indian Naga, the water spiritswho live in the earth. As

underworlddwellers, they are

associated with theLower World of the

shaman’s universe, and asdangerous beings, capable of

attacking any that seek they harm,they form an important part of theshaman’s armour, which they wearwhen they go to work in the spirit worlds.

In addition to being fixed to shaman’scoats, snakes and snake like beings arealso often hung in homes as familyprotector spirits.

Whether on the back of a shaman’s coator hung up in a tent or other nomadicstructure on the steppes, it is important toremember that these fabric snakes are notmerely symbolic. They are actually ongons, spirithouses, for a snake spirit to live within. As suchthey are alive, and must always be treated withcare and respect. A snake should never be stitchedto a shaman’s coat, as the passing of a needlethrough the snake will harm or even kill it, so instead thesnakes hanging from a shaman’s coat are tied or bound onto it.

Often shaman’s snakes are quite crudely made, some just beingmerely a thin twist of cotton or silk fabric bound round with a thread to

An old fabricshaman’s snake from

Mongolia. The snake hasthree smaller snakes emerging

from its lower body. The snakeis stuffed with sheep’s wooland is made of cotton, brocade.

This snake came unexpectedlyfrom Mongolia, hidden amidstnewspaper packing placedaround some other objects,it apparently had a life of itsown and wanted to come tothe West, getting itself packed‘by accident’ amidst thenewspaper in the box

Left: Tuvan snake-like dragonbeing called Amyrga-eren,a family protector.Shamans wouldmake these forfamilies in theircare, andthe familywouldhangthemup in their

homes for protection.

Often, childrenwore a small protection

amulet called a ‘child of Amyrga’, designed to keep

them safe from harm.Late C19th

fromSiberiaShaman’s Snakes

Page 2: Shaman’s Snakes Siberia

keep it rolled up. Others are stuffed with rope or sheep’s wool, whileother’s are strips of leather - with or without a covering offabric. Sometimes, when it is available, fabric whichresembles the scales of a snake is chosen.

The heads of the snakes also vary, someare quite complex, with little red tongues andperhaps glass beads for eyes, where asothers really have no naturalistic animalqualities at all.

Cloth snakes are also sometimesused in healing work done byshamans. Whips - used to drive awaythe spirits of illness - often havesnake-like elements to them, andoften a shaman’s costume wouldhave small iron or bronze amuletsfixed to them as representationsof the powerful snake spirits.

Right: the back of a veryelaborate Evenk shaman’scoat made from reindeerskin and cloth.The coat is completewith the partial wing andclawed foot of an eagle,and underneath thecloth snakes that hangfrom the back is asmall metal amulet of abear. The bear and the eaglewould indicate that these were theshaman’s main spirit helpers.The red, white and bluedecoration on the coat representsthe Lower, Middle and UpperWorlds and the black and whitebanding on some of the snakesrepresent the paths of day andnight, the two paths the shamanhad to walk when he worked.The name of the shaman this coatbelonged to was Semen MikhailovichUrkanov, and the coat was collectedfrom him in 1923.

Below: shaman’s bronze snake amulet,designed to be hung from a coat

HOOP ISSUE 88 2015www.sacredhoop.org 43

Page 3: Shaman’s Snakes Siberia

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but reference to www.SacredHoop.org must be made if it is reprinted anywhere.(Please contact us via email - found on our website - if you wish to republish it in another publication)

Sacred Hoop is an independent magazine about Shamanism and Animistic Spirituality.It is based in West Wales, and has been published four times a year since 1993.

To get a very special low-cost subscription to Sacred Hoop - please visit :

www.SacredHoop.org/offer.htmlWe hope you enjoy reading the article. Nicholas Breeze Wood (editor)