For Buryats Lake Baikal is a sacred and holy place. Historically, Baikal has given people food, fish, water, and there are many legends about Baikal.
While travelling in Siberia and reporting on the area surrounding the world’s deepest, oldest, and most voluminous fresh water lake in the world, you can hear as many tales of Baikal myths as while witnessing breathtaking landscapes.
With the gorgeous scenery and peaceful solitude, one can imagine the effect Baikal had on its first settlers and inhabitants. It is not a reach to imagine that these settlers arrived during the short summer, but soon realized the harsh winter was just a price to pay in order to balance the gifts of the lake. But it’s more than just beauty and fish and freshwater. Everyone is talking about how Baikal has a strong energy; some say there is magic.
Indeed, perhaps the romantic notions of magic auras and spiritual energy are too abstract or subjective for a modern, scientific mind to acknowledge. Nonetheless, the region has been inhabited by Buryats (an ethnic relative of Mongols) for centuries. The spirituality and religious customs of their culture are generally referred to as Shamanism and have distinct ties to the land.
Buryat land is totally Shaman land. All this land belongs to Buryat people and Shaman people. Shamanism is still very strong, and it doesn’t conflict with other religions. It has existed like this from ancient times and it survives; in some cases it helps.
Though Russia’s predominant religion is Eastern Orthodox Christianity people who need help in life continue to be attracted to a naturalist philosophy in Siberia’s great Baikal. Olkhon is the Mecca of Shamanism in Siberia. Many tourists to the region are fascinated by Shamanism.
It may be that people are captivated by the lake, and are willing to express their feelings of spirituality in any form that seems natural to them. Shamanism works, most notably on the Peak of Love. The Peak of Love cliff resembles a woman’s lower half with her legs spread wide like she’s giving birth. One knee is for boys. It’s more difficult to climb despite the path being paved by trampling believers. The other knee is deserted: it’s for girls. People who have gone to this cliff and their wishes have come true.
“So the legend has it that Sarma is a wild and pretty girl, Vekhovik and Barguzin are boys and they both like Sarma. They argue and quarrel for the heart of Sarma. They made a competition with each other: they put a barrel in the center of Baikal and see who can blow it to the other side. They compete to find out who is stronger. “The barrel wasn’t moving because they are the same strength. When the barrel was still in the middle, Sarma decided to interrupt the competition and blew it to the other side of the coast breaking it into small pieces. So Sarma stays independent and is still the strongest and didn’t accept any of them.” Sarma’s wind is still known to be unpredictable and of great force. It’s like hurricane. In the winter, seven ton trucks are blown, and are moved on the ice by the Sarma wind.”
There are countless myths. Myths to explain various phenomena or simply the actions of animals. We were shared this tale:
“Two springs: husband and wife were always capricious asking the gods constantly for things. The gods granted them everything until one day they turned furious and refused. They turned them into two springs, masculine and feminine. Now they will give forever. The moral is very Shamanic: don’t be greedy, everything in measure.”
Upon coming to a view point on Olkhon, we saw a rock cliff shaped like a woman in profile.
“There was a Shaman and the gods loved him so much and presented him with a castle. His wife was pretty and very jealous, and she demanded to have a castle for her too. He went to the gods and said, ‘my wife wants a castle like this too, and could you give it to her?’ And the gods turned her into stone here on this mountain cliff and said that she will be a woman again only when there is no more jealousy in the world anymore.”
In Baikal, storytelling does not necessarily need a beautiful backdrop for its meaning and morals. However, as convenient tools, the surrounding landscapes and creatures help communicate the experience.
«It’s also important to visit Places of Power and look for the connection with God that can protect and cleanse us from negative influences and evil powers. It’s very important in the fight against such parasites, much like medicine is important in the fight against viruses and bacteria. It’s not enough to get rid of the parasite, though. One also has to cleanse his energy field by visiting Places of Power and creating the Field of Love. Also nature that has not been touched by human hands can help people cleanse their auras, especially those places where the spirit of nature – Ayami – lives» (a quote from After Death http://newcenturybooks.com/after-death/)
And Baikal is for sure one of such places: a well of pristine, pure nature; a land of spirits and powerful energy; the heart of shamanism and ancient rites. It welcomes you!