BRAMA Theatre Events Workshops Translations Series Newsletter Calendar Store Yara Home

Dedication Ritual of a Buryat Shaman in Siberia
as conducted by Bayir Rinchinov

book by
Virlana Tkacz,
Sayan Zhambalov
& Wanda Phipps

published by Parabola Press

In Eastern Siberia, near the radiant blue water of Lake Baikal, live the Buryats, an indigenous people little known to the Western world. After seventy years of religious suppression and persecution by the Soviet government they are once more free to pursue their traditional spiritual practices. Where Mongolia, Sibeira and China meet, White shamans and Black shamans conduct rituals together, for these people believe that they are the children of the Swan Mother,descendents of heaven who can unite both sides in harmony. Their rituals take place around birch grooves under the open sky -- in the "lap of nature," where everything has a spirit.

Shanar: Dedicaiton Ritual of a Buryat Shaman in Siberia is a detailed, intimate account one one of these rituals: the Shanar, in which a shaman first contacts the ancestral spirits and receives power. The officiating shaman, Bayir Rinchinov, invited the authors to attend and record the ritual, allowing the outside world an unprecedented view of this ceremony. Beginning with the preparation of the sacred grounds and the ritual objects, we follow the progress of the shaman initiate Volodya as he struggles through the rites, encountering unexpected resistance from the sprit world. A complex, interconnected web of ancient grievances must be addressed before Volodya can successfully compete his dedication. With dignity and humor the shamans guide the Shanar's participants to step out of the daily routine of their lives and witness extraordinary forces at work, culminating in a cleansing blessing from the heavens themselves. By working together as one and honoring the spirits and masters of the local area, the Buryats continue their quest to bring new life to the ways of their ancestors.

The authors of the book Virlana Tkacz, Sayan Zhambalov and Wanda Phipps have been translating Buryat poetry into English since 1996. Their translations have been performed at the La MaMa Experimental Theatre and the Poetry Project at St. Mark's Church in New York and were published by Agni Review, Terra Nova, Two Lines and Shaman's Drum. They have received New York State Council on the Arts Translations Grants, as well as the Witter Bynner Foundation for Poetry Translation Award for their work. Alexander Khantaev's photographs have appeared in numerous publications in Buryatia. He has had two personal exhibits in New York and one in Kyiv.


Library Journal, January 2003

"fascinating book"..With coauthors Zhambalov, a Buryat actor, and Phipps, an African American poet, (Tkacz) gives a vivid and detailed look into this ritual and, more generally, into this rarely discussed culture.This book provides enough information about the culture to place the ritual in context, but it is not meant to be a scholarly treatment of the Buryat culture. The 175 accompanying photographs by fashion photographer Alexander Khantaev are beautiful and convey a sense of color that is not typically associated with this region."

Publishers Weekly, Forecasts, November 25, 2002

"This glimpse of Buryat culture does not aim to be comprehensive, but it will be fascinating to those interested in Eastern religions and anthropology. Of particular note are the hundreds of full-color photographs that grace the handsomely produced volume; there's also a useful glossary."

MidWest Review (also Wisconsin Bookshelf), January 2003

"The informed and informative text describes all of the various aspects of the ceremony in wondrous, heartfelt, and painstaking detail, which combine to fully capture and present this sacred rite with all respect and an appreciative humility. Shanar is a highly recommended contribution to Comparative Religion and Anthropology reference collections and supplemental reading lists."

Shaman's Drum, Number 63, 2002

"Presented in a well-designed, easy-to-follow, sequential photo-essay format, this volume provides a detailed ethnographic record of a shanar, or confirmation ritual, used to initiate, dedicate and celebrate the calling of a shaman. Given its focus on a highly specialized ritual performed by revitalistic shamans in Central Asia, Shanar: Dedication Ritual of a Buryat Shaman in Siberia may not appeal to everyone, but it will undoubtedly be consulted and referenced by Asiatic shamanists for many years to come - thanks to its rich collection of photographs, new translations of Buryat myths and chants, and insightful narrative description. And in an age where it is sometimes considered politically incorrect to photograph or write about shamanic ceremonies; this volume will stand out as a beautiful ethnographic record of a classic shamanic ritual."

Today's Books, Best Reads, December 30, 2002


Shambala Sun, March 2003

"While religion was forbidden by the Soviets, today the Buryats practice a blend of shamanism and Tibetan Buddhism. The shanar initiation documented here includes components of ritual that will be familiar to Tibetan Buddhist practitioners, even if the execution is slightly more colorful.It's difficult not to become engaged in the process documented in photos and text, especially the struggle of the shaman initiate, Volodya, who meets and overcomes the spiritual resistance of his ancestors during the ritual."

Ions Noetic Sciences Review, December 2002 - February 2003

"Exquisite color photographs give the reader a rare glimpse into the ways of a people in intimate relationship with the spiritual and natural worlds."

Napra ReView, July/August 2002

"A rare and compelling glimpse into a little-known culture and its sacred initiation rites."

Kyiv Post, November 28, 2002

"(Khantaev's) bright, dramatic and moving photos - interspersed in the English-language book along with poems, songs and personal accounts of the participants in the ceremony --- capture both the solemnity and excitement of the initiation ritual."

Bennington Alumni Magazine, Fall 2002

"rare, firsthand account of each step of the shanar, a Siberian shaman dedication ritual.This guide to shaman practice uncovers the personalities involved and respects the complexities of the Buryat community."

John Perkins, Shamanic Scholar and Author

"Part of the magic of this book is that it paints a vivid portrait of Siberia and the lives of four generations of people living in a small indigenous community. These are not the people of dry anthropological studies; they are dynamic members of a complex clan who share their fears, sorrows, and joy with us. Over the course of the book they let us know that salvation lies in balance, between humans and nature, men and women, old and young, work and play, the material and spiritual, heart and mind…the living and the 'dead'.Theirs is not a new message and yet it is presented in a novel form. Another part of the magic is that it is beautifully written and entertaining, closer in many respects to a screenplay than New Age nonfiction. At the same time, it opens the doors to a profound understanding of what it means to participate in a shamanic initiation. In Shanar we see that shamans are ordinary people with extraordinary (at least by our standards) perception of the world. The same can be said for the book itself.This most certainly is no ordinary book. It is unique, in some respects more experience than narrative, a place where form and content merge, where the story becomes the message and the message is the reason for telling the story.

Amazon.Com, Customer Review, January 13, 2003

"In an era of neo-Shamanism and cold-hearted anthropology, it is very nice to see an increase in books where the authors are both practitioners and scientists. Shanar is quite impressive. The ritual appears authentic, the photographs are remarkable, and the text is quite intriguing. The average Western reader isn't going to understand everything on the first pass - and it isn't about perfection. It's about human beings trying to connect with their ancestors and the Spirits of their world. It's a serious business. Because the authors are well versed in Shamanism themselves, they tend to treat the ritual with honor and respect. This is not a how-to book of Shamanism; it is a chance to see the real thing in action. Five stars seems too few."

  • On book presentation in Kyiv and in Lviv
  • See also Daniel Macisaac's article in Kyiv Post "Buryat Ritual Captured on Film, in Words"
  • Book is available at your local bookstore, from or Parabola Press
  • Top of page | Arts & Culture | YARA Homepage
    BRAMA, Inc.

    Copyright (c)1995-2003 Yara Arts Group; all rights reserved. Photo on this page by Alexander Khantaev.
    BRAMA Home -- UkraiNEWStand -- Community Press -- Calendar
    Advertise on BRAMA -- Search BRAMA
    Copyright © 1997-2011 BRAMA,, Inc. All Rights Reserved.