Friday, December 3, 2010

Shamanism and the Horse

AFter watching this amazing documentary called, The Horse Boy, on netflix I had a lot on my mind. The documentary follows a family of three on a journey that forever changes their lives. The story is about Rowan, an 8 year old who has autism, and his parents journey to Mongolia to see if Shamanic rituals can help heal Rowan. His mother is a psychologist and teaches at a university and she has the most doubts about the journey. His father, Rupert, studies the Bushmen of Africa and is the reason the family is making the journey to Mongolia.
Rupert has a love for horses and one day when he took Rowan to the stable he noticed something peculiar. The animals didn't mind Rowan's behaviors. They had an amazing patience with him, it was as if they had an unspoken bond that his father could only observe from a far. Rowan's father Rupert stumbled upon something extraordinary. He noticed that his quarter-horse mare, Betsy, displayed submissive body language to the two year old boy whenever he wandered, babbling and spasmodic, into the horse pasture. Intrigued, Rupert put him up on the mare's back. Immediately the 'stimming' (self-stimulation) stopped, replaced by an unusual, even blissful calm. The next day Rupert took Rowan riding with him, holding him in front of him in the saddle. Not only did the shrieking and jerking cease, Rowan began to talk.

Rupert got to thinking about how the people he worked with viewed their shamans as healers that contact the spirits and use various chants and tools to heal their patients. He wondered if there were any shamans around the world that worked with horses? What he found would change his life forever. He discovered that the shamans of Mongolia honor and work with the horse and have for thousands of years.
With much convincing his wife agreed that they would make the journey to Mongolia. Much preparation goes into the adventure. Rupert had to find a guide that would take them from the city they land in to the forests of Siberia close to the Russian border where they will find the Reindeer people. The shaman of this tribe is rumored to be the most powerful shaman of the land. The hopes is that they will be able to get a meeting with the shaman for a healing.
After word got around that Rowan and his parents were coming to Mongolia to find shamans to try and heal Rowan many of the gathered outside of the city the day they all arrived. In total there were 9 shamans gathered. The shamans were from various places around the city and they were men and women. The wonderful thing about most shamanistic cultures is that womyn as well as men can be shamans and even in some cultures womyn were the only shamans. As Rowan and his parents arrived at the base of the sacred mountain outside of the city the shamans started to get ready. All of them have an assistant that helps them get into their outfits as they are very elaborate. The picture you see is of the last shaman of the Oroqen people. His name is Chuonnasuan and he died along with his tradition in 2000.
The Shamans who helped Rowan all had one thing in common, the drum. The beating of the drum allows the shaman to achieve an altered state of consciousness or to travel on a journey between the physical and spiritual worlds. You need to watch to see how Rowan reacts to the drums. But anyway, as the shamans worked, they would have messages and other instructions for the family to do as he or she worked. Interestingly all of the shamans believed that Rowan's mother had a woman in her lineage that had a mental disease and that is why Rowan has his illness. Also one of the shamans said that a negative spirit entered her womb as she was giving birth and she had to run and ritually cleanse her vagina. ( I hope me using that term is not offensive, I work with the vagina monologues and the term is second nature to me)
The family leaves those shamans and heads out on their journey. I will let you watch the movie to find out how that went!
After days of traveling the family finally finds the Reindeer people and the shaman agrees to see Rowan. The clip they have of the shaman performing his ceremony is not the best quality but it is powerful. The shaman tells them they have to leave after the ritual and the next day he tells them what he found. He says that Rowan will get better. He says the tantrums will stop the day of the ritual and that one day Rowan will be a shaman. For many socities with shamans they believe that Shamans have to get sick. They get very sick because they need to understand how their patients could feel. And also to make it through a great sickness means you are strong and are meant to be the shaman.
Over all the story is amazingly beautiful. I cried many times ( I am a cry baby) but it was worth every minute. I am happy to say that when I was posting this blog I researched the family and they have started a foundation to help children with Autism to learn to ride horses. Check it out. The Horse Boy Foundation

This movie has really sparked something in me. I have really become fascinated with Shamans. As I was doing my research I discovered that shamans used to be the healers of Hungary. In fact there were shamans there until about World War II.
My great grandfather on my father's mother's side is from Hungary. He was studying to be a rabbi and had to flee to America. I want to go talk to my grandmother to see if she has any stories from her father. I want to see if she can give me any hints to see if there are any links in my heritage to pagans. Not necessarily a "witch" but maybe there are stories or folklore that can deepen my path. I would love to have some personal stories to put in my book of shadows and work with in the future.
I found an awesome story of a Hungarian Shaman named Joska . His story is mostly what I want to ask my grandma to see if anything like this was around when my great grandfather wandered the streets of Hungary.

I have decided that I will make a post about Slavic Mythology! Hope you all look forward to it!



Aine O'Brien said...

I think I read about this somewhere - thank you so much for this - I can't wait to see it!

Anonymous said...

This sounds incredible. I have a little boy who has some difficulties so this especially interests me. But recently my spiritual path has become one dedicated to Rhiannon, who as you probably know is a horse Goddess ~ you've sparked an interest in me to find out more about these horse Shamans. Thanks for the post!

Ponderosa Pagan said...

I am glad you stopped by to check it out. I am going to look into Rhiannon I don't know much about her. Blessings on you and your family and especially your son. I used to volunteer at a place that used Horses for therapy and it was amazing!

Wendy said...

I've never heard of this movie. Oh my goddess, shamans and animals and healing! I can't wait to see it. I have Hungarian ancestry and am always interested to learn more about that aspect of the culture. I really am looking forward to hearing more about your own journey into your Slavic ancestry too. This movie reminds me of the Saami culture that also makes up part of my ancestry. Thank you for sharing this and I always cry too when I'm moved by something. I think being sensitive is a wonderful quality to have.

Ponderosa Pagan said...

thank you wendy! I will let you know how the research goes. And I love the Saami culture. I would love to hear more about your heritage as well!

Ponderosa Pagan said...
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Virag said...

This might sound a little rude, and I might have misunderstood (English being my second language and all), but I feel like I've got to say this since I'm a Hungarian myself. From your post, and from the comments on it, I got the impression, that you are going to look into Slavic mythology because you have Hungarian ancestry. But Hungarian are not Slavs! Although our cultures are close, and have quite a few similarities, but that's only because we've been neighbours with the Slavs for over a thousand years.
On the other hand, I'm really glad that you're interested in these things, since it is a great subject. I've been doing some research on it for some time now as well, so if you'd like some help (as in: not so well translated Hungarian texts), I'd be glad to help you! :)

Linda in New Mexico said...

Thanks for stopping by and commenting on my blog. I am fascinated by this movie....something else on the must do list.
I look forward to your Slavic story. After such I will let you know how it is very timely for my granddaughter.....
Blessings, Oma Linda, The Olde Bagg

Ponderosa Pagan said...

You are definitely right. You pointed out a very good point. I would love to know some of your resources. I was having trouble finding much information online!

Virág Mező said...

Most of my sources are from Hungarian authors (the advantage of living in Hungary). Some of these authors are: Éva Pócs, Vilmos Diószegi, Mihály Hoppál. The pagan Hungarians didn't leave much information behind, so most of the things we know are guesses based on surviving folklore and by comparing that with other Siberian shamanistic systems. Well, if you've got any questions feel free to ask me here: