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Dates: 19-23 June 2013
Venue: Karakol Natural Park Uch Enmek, Altai Republic, Russian Federation
Working language: Altai, English, Russian

Long-time partners and experts of the Aigine Cultural Research Center, Nurak Abdrakhmanov and traditional practitioner, Amanbubu Torogeldieva, together with staff member, Cholponai U-G, participated in an international Fire Ceremony Uchurlu Ot, organized within the framework of a conference on the Place and the Role of Traditional Knowledge in the Modern Scientifically Materialized World at the Karakol Natural Park Uch Enmek in Altai Republic, Russia on 19-23 June, 2013.

Guardians and bearers of traditional practices from Altai Republic, Buryatia, Gornaya Shoria, Japan, Kamchatka Peninsula, Khakassia, Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia, Tatarstan, Tuva and United States of America came together to ignite the Sacred Fire, as well as honor and pay tribute to the Mother Earth, Nature and ancestor spirits in a heavenly place with mountains covered by lush green forests and ice-cold spring waters.

Ancient fire ceremony, unfortunately, fell into oblivion in contemporary Kyrgyz culture and in 2007 at the initiative of local elders, sacred site guardians and Aigine CRC with support of The Christensen Fund the Sacred Fire Ceremony was revived in Kyrgyzstan. The ceremony was carried for three years and in the summer of 2010 the Fire was transmitted to Altai Republic, where the ceremony has been successfully conducted since then. The highlight of this year’s ceremony was transmission of the Fire to Mongolia.

The main goal of the event was to unite traditional practitioners and indigenous peoples from different regions and continents through ancient fire ceremony and strengthen their efforts in safeguarding sacred sites and endangered traditional practices around the world. Representatives of each tradition, at first conducted individual fire ceremonies and on the last day all of them ignited one fire and conducted one ceremony. Participants of the event had a unique chance to exchange with traditional wisdom of their people, make joint prayers for well-being and sustainability in the world.

The delegation from Kyrgyzstan carried out its Fire Ceremony in the evening of the first day after the ceremony of Altai and Tuva people. Before igniting the fire, traditional practitioner, Amanbubu Torogeldieva, described in details the meaning of fire in Kyrgyz culture and every item used during the ceremony. Thus, the fire was lit with the help of a juniper branch that is traditionally is used to besmoke the evil spirits. After the fire was ignited, periodically Amanbubu Torogeldieva was pouring milk in small amounts onto the fire, as well as, putting pinch of salt and chunks of clarified butter. Milk and salt symbolize purity and therefore are used for cleansing purposes. Clarified butter is a symbol of abundance and well-being. All the above mentioned ingredients are intended as offerings to the spirit of fire and other ancestor and patron spirits that gather around the fire. The whole ceremony was accompanied by melodic sounds of traditional music instrument,komuz, powerful chanting of the Manas epic and continuous prayers and blessings. The ceremony lasted for more than a half an hour and was concluded by joint prayers of the participants around the fire. After the ceremony was completed, Nurak Abdrakhmanov enchanted the participants with his virtuous komuz playing and mood-elevating songs.

One of the most spectacular and fascinating moments were the ceremonies carried out by Khakas, Tuva and Mongolian shamans. Indigenous peoples of these regions maintained and safeguarded their shamanic practices up to present days. It was evident from the ceremonies that shamans have a special relationship with the fire and highly revere its spirit. They make abundant offerings to the fire and spirits: fresh lamb meat, various milk products, grains and bread in large quantities. Each offered lamb bone has its own symbol and meaning, as well as every other product that is used. Throughout the ceremony, shamans walk around the fire and play their drums and chant prayer-like songs to invoke the spirits and communicate with them. Numerous small bells tied to shaman’s ritual robe accompany the powerful sound of the drum. Duration of the ceremonies varied from one hour to five hours depending on each shaman. It was particularly amazing to notice the change of the weather during each ceremony, there were sudden showers followed by bright sunlight, strong wind followed by total calmness. It was also interesting how different wild birds were circling above the fire during each ritual. According to traditional practitioners, these were the guarding spirits peculiar to each person or nation.

The culmination of the event was on the last day when all the practitioners and shamans of different cultures united and chanted their prayers, each on his/her own way, around the fire. Whisper of the wind, palpitation of the leaves, babble of birds and random drops of rain – all seemed to follow and accompany the practitioners and shamans in their prayers around the fire. At that moment, understanding and harmony between human beings and nature seemed certain and possible to achieve.    From ceremonies, it can be referred that indigenous cultures that managed to keep strong ties with and careful attitude towards Nature, may serve as an example for the rest of humanity to revive and strengthen its ties with Mother Earth.

The ceremony came to an end with joint prayers for peace, love, compassion, well-being and harmony of people among themselves and with Nature. With good intentions in mind, the hosts of the Fire Ceremony, Altai people, transferred the Fire to the people of Mongolia where the Fire Ceremony will be conducted for the coming three years until it is transferred to other place.

The event was abundant not only with spiritual rituals and ceremonies, but also with beautiful cultural performances. Participants enjoyed mysterious Altai throat singing, kai, performed by older generation and younger generation kaichys, melodic sounds of komuz, topshur and jews harp, as well as mood-elevating folk songs masterfully performed by the participants and local artists. Participants were also able to watch a documentary film on efforts of indigenous communities in the world trying to protect their sacred sites.  The hosts of the event have also organized a half day tour around sacred sites of the Karakol valley giving a chance to the participants to become familiar with history of the valley and witness breath-taking beauty of nature. Importance of the valley for local people is immense, as they recognize it as sacred place and believe it to be the “umbilical cord” of the Earth where the ancient wisdom of civilizations is hidden.

Please follow the link to view some pictures from the ceremony