Riding Windhorses: A Journey into the Heart of Mongolian Shamanism

Riding Windhorses: A Journey into the Heart of Mongolian Shamanism

By Sarangerel
Rochester, VT: Destiny Books, 2000. Paperback, xiv + 210 pages.

Shamanism is among the oldest and most universal forms of religious expression. It is a tradition that was, and to a certain extent still is, found in both the Old and New Worlds. Its influence upon the so-called higher religions is also quite obvious when one knows what to look for. Sarangerel is a practicing shaman of Siberian descent who has studied with several Central Asian shamans and who presents to us in readable and interesting form a fine description of Mongolian belief and practice.

Unlike works by such scholars as Mircea Eliade and Michael Harner, she writes from a practitioner's perspective, often attesting to her own experiences. She also seeks to present, not shamanism in general, but the special forms of Mongolian shamanism. For her, this shamanism is not just an exotic tradition to be studied at arm's length, but a viable spiritual option today. While she is thoroughly conversant with modern scholarship about shamanism, she can also attest, for instance, to her own experiences of out-of-body travel. At the conclusion of each chapter, therefore, she provides rituals of visualization techniques for the reader to use. Moreover, she provides useful information about where to go in Mongolia to see shamanistic holy places. Useful web site addresses, a bibliography, and glossary of terms are also provided.

In a word, this is a very valuable and useful work that brings the reader much closer to the realities of shamanism than most other scholarly works. Whether a belief in the spirit world, which shamanism presupposes, is possible in today's post-modern world is a question only individual readers can answer for themselves. Clearly, however, the development of "windhorse," that is, psychic power, is something that will be attractive for many to contemplate. This work merits study by anyone interested in either the history of religions or the exploration of the possibilities of human spirituality.


January/February 2002