Concepts of Shamans
As an energy healer, I have always been interested in how shamans connect with the spirit world. When I found out that Mongolia is well known for its shamans, I began to collect visions of shamans by street artists. Shamans honor the living spirit in each animal, person, and plant. They wear different costumes, headdresses, and beat drums of different shapes to connect with spirits.
These paintings and paper cuts are images from Mongolian artists showing their interpretations of shamans. Today the streets in Ulaanbaatar are one big traffic jam every day, but in the 1990s, when there were hardly any cars, I found it easy to get to the Buddhist Gandan Monastery. Leaning along the wall just inside the monastery complex, there was a long row of art displayed by their artists. I went often to ask for paintings of shamans. After a while, the artists would see me coming and spread the word that “the shaman collector woman is coming” and switch their canvases so that the shaman paintings were in front of their other ones. This is where I began my collection of shaman art.
One year leaning against the wall, someone had a large painting of a female shaman, very colorful and full of symbolism. I held back and told myself not to look at it, since there was no way to get it home and obviously, I couldn’t afford it. And then, I was in front of it, bargaining with the artist, and he was rolling it up and handing it to me. Only then did I ask in my dreams how to get it home. Finally, I got it. I collected five water bottles, cut the bottoms and tops off three, and left the bottoms on two. I put the rolled-up painting inside the plastic cylinders and taped the bottles together, the bottoms of two being the ends. It made a long, but protected, bundle to carry onto the plane. Except for leaving it on the entry counter in Beijing and having to return through the infection control area to rescue it, I got it home smoothly. I still enjoy studying the symbolism of the painting where it hangs in my healing room.
Although that long row of art at Gandan Monastery is now gone, there are still the occasional street artists peddling their wares. They hold their folded-over cardboard portfolios and ask tourists if they want to see their paintings. I ask if they have any shaman paintings. If they don’t, they ask if I will meet them the next day. They say they have some at home. Sometimes I believe they go home and paint them. Once an artist, painting all night, called every hour the whole night before I was leaving for the US to make sure I would meet him. I did. The paintings are from various artists in Mongolia, accumulated over 20 years of visits.
I'm grateful to the artists for sharing their concepts of shamans to our world.
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