Thursday, February 26, 2009

Tsagaan Sar rituals

One of the stranger rituals (to a foreigner) of Tsagaan Sar is the one that is performed first thing in the morning of Tsagaan sar. If you are in Mongolia and woke up around or shortly after sunrise yesterday, you might have seen many people walking around with pieces of paper in their hands, shredding paper, lighting matches and breaking twigs. Depending on the zodiac sign you were born in (Buddhist astrology) and the new zodiac year, the elements that affect your life in that particular year change. For example in my case, my element is air, and I was born in the year of the green horse. Every year, the papers publish the detailed table one can use to determine the particulars of the morning ritual.

In my case, I was told to leave the house, walk south while reciting a particular mantra 7-21 times, shred some paper, throw the paper pieces in the wind, bury a dragon (??) made of flour and return home from the north-west. This ritual is supposed to draw your path for the coming year and ensure, in general, goodness will be the flavour. I didn't do any of it, mainly because I didn't feel like sitting around fashioning a dragon out of dough. Given my sculpting skills, I might've ended up with something that resembled a goose. The gods or the heavens won't like that. I think it was enough that my father, as the head of the family, performed this duty on behalf of us all.

I always wondered if anyone else felt slightly silly walking around with a matchstick, a piece of paper, a rubberduck and other props the papers told us to carry, bury or set on fire, reciting a mantra all the while trying to keep one's bearings correct.

It isn't always silly and safe. reports that a group of people in Zavkhan were attacked by a pack of wolves yesterday morning while performing the ritual and 5 are now in the hospital receiving treatment.