Mongolian Folk Religion

Mongolian folk religion, also known as Mongolian shamanism or Tengerism, is the traditional spiritual belief system practiced by the Mongolian people, particularly those living in Mongolia, Inner Mongolia (China), and parts of Russia. Rooted in the nomadic lifestyle and deeply intertwined with nature, Mongolian folk religion encompasses a rich tapestry of rituals, deities, myths, and practices that reflect the spiritual worldview and cultural heritage of the Mongolian people.

Key features of Mongolian folk religion include:

  1. Worship of the Eternal Blue Sky (Tengri): Central to Mongolian shamanism is the veneration of Tengri, the eternal blue sky, as the supreme deity and creator of the universe. The sky is believed to be inhabited by celestial spirits, including Tengri, who govern the forces of nature, destiny, and the cosmos. Mongolian shamans, known as “böö,” act as intermediaries between the human world and the divine realm, invoking the blessings of Tengri and other celestial beings through rituals and ceremonies.
  2. Animism and Nature Worship: Mongolian folk religion reveres nature as sacred and imbued with spiritual significance. Mountains, rivers, lakes, trees, and animals are believed to be inhabited by ancestral spirits, nature deities (khan), and supernatural beings known as “nagas.” These natural entities are honored and appeased through offerings, prayers, and rituals designed to maintain harmony and balance between humans and the natural world.
  3. Ancestral Worship: Ancestor veneration is a fundamental aspect of Mongolian religious practices, with families paying homage to their deceased ancestors through rituals, offerings, and commemorative ceremonies. Ancestral spirits are believed to play a protective role in the lives of their descendants, offering guidance, blessings, and spiritual support.
  4. Shamanism and Rituals: Mongolian shamanism encompasses a wide range of rituals, ceremonies, and practices performed by shamans to communicate with spirits, perform healing, divination, and protect the community from malevolent forces. Shamanic rituals often involve drumming, chanting, dancing, and trance-induced states to enter into contact with the spirit world and invoke spiritual energies.
  5. Festivals and Celebrations: Mongolian folk religion is marked by a calendar of seasonal festivals, ceremonies, and celebrations that commemorate important life events, agricultural cycles, and spiritual occasions. These festivals, such as Tsagaan Sar (Lunar New Year), Nadam (summer festival), and Ovoo worship (sacred stone mound rituals), provide opportunities for communal gatherings, feasting, traditional performances, and religious observances.

Mongolian folk religion continues to play a significant role in shaping the cultural identity, social cohesion, and spiritual life of the Mongolian people, fostering a deep connection to the land, ancestors, and spiritual traditions of their nomadic heritage. Despite the influences of modernization, urbanization, and external religions, Mongolian shamanism remains a resilient and vital aspect of Mongolian cultural heritage and collective consciousness.