[Buryat sections of] Bo# & Bo:n, VII-VIII

pp. 311-314 types of ut-h^a

p. 311

"Utkha is a Bo# or Utgan’s ... magical spiritual energy, an empowerment given to the first Bo# of a clan lineage and then transmitted within that clan from one Bo# to another."

p. 312

"The word ‘utkha’ is derived from ... ‘ut’ meaning ‘fire’ or ‘hearth’ ... . ‘Utkha’, then, might be translated as ‘spark of spiritual fire’."

pp. 313-4

non-clan-lineage-derived uth^a

p. 313 "Nerye>er utkhautkha of those chosen by the Sky. This utkha is initiated when, by the will of the Tengeri, someone is struck by a ball of lightning."

"Buudal utkhautkha descended from the Sky. This utkha falls on a person who finds sacred meteorites, zada shuulun, or other magical objects which have dropped from the sky such as magical Tengeri toli or even Sky-scripture which descend from the Sky".

p. 314 "Zayaanai utkha – an utkha received from the Zayaan."

p. 314 tamga

"reincarnations of particularly powerful and gifted Bo# of the Zaarin rank were found by means of the Bo#-clan mark tamga. This technique involved branding the clan symbol onto a certain part of the famous Bo#’s corpse during the funeral ceremony using a specially fashioned red-hot iron stamp. The stamp was often made in the shape of a swastika. Later a child could be born bearing the tamga mark in the same special place and found by a knowledgeable Bo#."

pp. 319-321 becoming a shaman

p. 319

"Ongon Daralga or ‘pressure of the Ongon-spirits’. The Ongon Daralga is a calling to become a Bo# or Utgan sent by the Ongon-spirits of the clan ... . ...

p. 320

The spirits of the ancestor-Bo# take his/her soul from the body and bring it ... to the palaces of the Haats where ... it is taught the secrets ... . ... The calling is always sudden ... : the world is crumbling, one hears voices giving orders and instructions day and night, one cannot sleep and becomes ... withdrawn, often seeking solitude and maybe wandering in remote places. ... one may experience comatose-like states, a kind of paralysis, ... which cannot be cured by ordinary means but only through a special ritual, then by surrendering to the pressure and taking up office as a Bo# or Utgan. ...

One may often see and feel one’s body being cut into pieces and then remade anew; ... and then being re-forged on an iron anvil ... in the smithy of the Tengeri. Sometimes when this cutting and re-forging takes place the chosen person ... lies in a kind of coma for days on end. Their face turns blue, their heartbeat almost stops and their eyes roll uncontrollably. In this period

p. 321

no-one is allowed to touch the body. Experienced Bo#, Utgans and people of the clan ... gather around and pray that the neophyte may return ... with magical powers."

pp. 321-323 privileges of Bo# according to successive levels (ranks) of initiations

p. 321

"An uninitiated Bo# is called Sagaasha. He is someone who has the utkha spark and who has gone through Ongon Daralga but has not taken further

p. 322

initiations. ... Uninitiated or not fully initiated Bo# ... are allowed to sprinkle {asperge} to the gods and spirits with tea ..., and take part in tailgans, helping the initiated Bo#."

"Before a neophyte can be initiated the candidature is discussed at the hurultai [‘assembly’] of Bo# ... . ...

p. 323

Only an experienced Bo# who has received seven initiations or more has the right to initiate the neophyte. {Only a bishop hath the right to confer a priesthood.} Moreover, a Bo# cannot initiate more that nine Bo# and nine Utgan; eighteen spiritual sons and daughters altogether."

pp. 326-328 1st-level-initiation rite

p. 326

"The Bo#-father and his nine spiritual sons, Yuhenguud, go to three springs where by sprinkle with milk ... and take water to bring to the site of the ritual. The water is boiled, arsa and juniper are sprinkled in it ... and some hair from a billy goat’s ear is added. ... Then divination is performed on a sheep’s shoulder blade ... . The Bo#-father dips a bunch of birch twigs into the water and touches the back of the initiate. ...

p. 327

The first birch ... is dug in with its roots in {transplanted to} the far south-western corner of the yurt ... . The top of the birch is pushed through the smoke hole. This birch is the pathway to the Sky and is called Udeshi Burkhan after the god who opens the Tengeriin Uden, the Door of the Sky. The remaining birches are erected around the gher and are connected to the central birch within by red and blue ribbons ... symbolizing the ‘rainbow’ path by which Bo# travel the universe. ... .

... the Bo#-father ... sanctifies the Bo#-to-be’s ritual implements and call the Ongon-spirits to dwell in them. ...

p. 328

In some traditions the initiate is carried around the nine birches on a white felt carpet".

fn. 73 (pp. 328-329) a tribal variant account of names, sequence, and functions of the 9 Stages of Initiation [BSh, pp. 99-101]



Stage of Initiation

328, fn. 73


S^anartai Bo# (from /s^anar/ ‘initiated Bo#’)

328-9, fn. 73


Yedoto (Z^odoto) Bo# ‘Bo# with silver-fir bark’

329, fn. 73


S^ere>ete Bo# ‘Bo# who hath an altar’



Noitolhon Bo# ‘Bo# who hath taken ritual of body-washing’



Hor>bito Bo# ‘Bo# with canes’



Orgoito Bo# ‘Bo# who hath an iron crown with antlers’



Hesete Bo# ‘Bo# who hath a drum or drums’



Duuren Bo# ‘complete Bo#’



Zaarin Bo# ‘great Bo#’

BSh = T. M. Mikhailov : Buryatskii Shamanism. Novosibirsk, 1987.

pp. 329-333 the 9 levels of initiation






"A Bo# who has received this initiation is accepted ... with the right to sprinkle to the Ongon-spirits of his clan with milk and tea ... . He is called ... Yabagan Bo#, pedestrian Bo#, as his means of magical travel are very limited ... . ... As his ritual objects and attributes he has a special ritual hat with a front band made of the fur of his clan’s totemic animal, a birch hor>bo-cane with notches to show how many Bo# ancestors he had in the nine generations before him; a silk belt; a knife; and a flint stone."



"After this initiation he is called Noitolkhon Bo#, ‘a Bo# who has been made wet’, because the initiation includes a body-washing rite with water from three holy springs. [fn. 78 : "Some say nine. The water is boiled with red-hot stones taken from a river near the initiate’s birth place".] Another name for a Bo# at this level is Duhaalgyn Bo# from the word ‘duhaalga’ ..., literally to ‘drip’ as he can now sprinkle with ... melted butter not just tea or milk. After this initiation a Bo# can invoke and pray to the local deities of his valley, those pertaining to the cult of fire ... . {cf. Brahman.ik rite of pouring butter (or ghee) into sacred fire.} He



receives a second birch cane which is longer than the previous one."



"A Bo# with the third initiation is called Hayalgyn Bo#, ‘one who can sprinkle upwards’ because he now can invoke and make offerings to some of the Haat and Ezhen divinities. In the course of this third initiation ...Manzhilai Zayaan, son of Hormusta Tengeri ... aid the Bo# in delivering offerings to the Sky. Therefore a Bo# at this stage is also called Manzilaitkhan Bo#."



"A Bo# at his stage is called Zhodo>otoi Bo#, ‘Bo# who has silver fir tree bark’ because he is given bark and three special birch tapers decorated with multi-coloured ribbons to hold it with. ... The initiate also receives a toli-mirror and a whip {the whip being stated (by other Siberian tribes) to be used to manage recalcitrant spirits} ... . ... In the course of the initation the Bo# is purified with water from nine springs and takes tangarig, a special Bo# oath, at a sacred place ... . Among other things the oath includes promises to help all people ...; not to ask ... for anything in return for the services he provides".



"At this stage the Bo# receives a hese-drum or ‘deer-drum’ with a drum stick and is called Hesete Bo#, ‘a Bo# who has hese’. Now he can use his deer-drum to fly wherever he needs in the universe performing various magical tasks such as returning the soul ... . In fact there are three kinds of hese at this level : one made of deer skin, another from goat skin and yet another from a bull’s hide. At this stage a Bo# meets his ‘sky-consort’, a spiritual female being from the dimension of the Sky who helps him in his work. ... he can reach only the three lower levels of the Sky. A Hesete Bo# has the capacity to lick red-hot iron ... as proof of his power."



"At this stage the Bo# receives a metal horse-headed cane with nine rings and hol>bogo [fn. 93 : "a kind of little bell"], ... and is therefore called Hor>botoi Bo#, ‘a Bo# who has a cane’. By using this hor>bo-cane he can



immediately enter the state of ongo and let himself be possessed by the Ongon. At this stage the Bo# is also given a shere>e-altar and has the right to lead ... tailgan ... . Moreover, he can sanctify ritual and religious objects by inviting the Ongon-spirits to actually descend and dwell on them."



"the Bo# is put on a white felt carpet outside and purified ... . ... In the course of the initiation ritual the initiate receives a maihabshi, a horned crown made from the top part of a deer’s head taken together with the antlers ... . A Bo# at this stage receives five animal skins, a special cloak or orgoi with metal objects sewn onto it and three hese-drums with toibor [fn. 101 : "drum stick to which attached nine coloured ribbons."] drum sticks. Now he can invoke all the Tengeri, sprinkle from the sacrificial bowl with an eagle’s feather and initiate Bo# beginners. Because he has orgoi ... he is also called Tengeriin Orgoito Bo#."



"At this stage the Bo# receives his second metal horse-headed cane to which ... is attached a small metal ladder as a symbol of his ability to travel to the Sky. Actually, the cane ... is quickened by inviting the Ongon to dwell in it and therefore it becomes a steed on which the Bo# travels to the Upper World. The also receives a malgai-hat made out of bear fur with the symbol of the sun on the front band. The Bo# now ... can control the weather. Consequently he is called Duuren Bo# ..., ‘complete Bo#’."



"In the course of the initiation he receives a human-headed metal cane which becomes an ongon and can perform magical actions by itself. {Implements which can act of their own volition are typical of Bon.} ... He is called Zaarin Bo#, supreme Bo#. In the past Zaarin could do ... things such as flying in the air or cutting their head off and then putting it back".



waiting-periods after the initiations each, before a Bo#-candidate can be installed in the immediately higher office


after the __ initiations

waiting-period of __ each


1st & 2nd, 6th & 7th

3 years


3rd to 5th and 8th

1 year

p. 334 initiation among Utgan (shamanesses)

"how an Utgan from the Hongo>odor tribe of Tunka was initiated" : "everyone prayed around a bonfire. The initiate entered a trance state. To determine whether the deities had accepted her ..., the Bo# put two pebbles, one white and one black, into the fire, leaving them there until they were red-hot. He then gave them to the Utgan to put into them into her mouth and suck until they cooled down. She was able to do so". [fn. 108 : "practice in Bo:n called Tib. gtar tshan len pa. In this practice a Bo:npo takes and holds in his hand red-hot metal or stone".]

p. 341-342 Bo#-smiths

p. 341

"Bo#-smiths, called Bo#-Darhan or Darhan Utkhatai Bo#" : "An accomplished Bo#-Darhan can perform miracles such as flying in the air, escaping from any closed space (even from the dungeon of Erlig Khaan), sitting unscathed in the midst of fire and becoming invisible, but they are also especially adept at healing ... cancer ... . ... Black Bo#-smiths trace their utkha ... specifically to Hara Mahagal Darhan Tengeri with his seven sons who were sent to earth to teach people the skills of working black metals and the magic healing of thirteen difficult-to-cure diseases".

p. 342

"The White Bo#-smiths have a special short brown-red apron and

wear a white belt.

They have dalabshi, a shoulder-piece {epaulet} with tassels symbolizing the wings of the Eagle who brought fire to the earth, and

he>ete hebeneg, a special cloak with pictures of eagles, stars and mountains decorated with nine hol>bogo (metal tassels) and nine silver bells.


Black Bo#-smiths have the same additional items but of different colour.

Their elgebshe breast-piece is black and

they wear a red belt over it;

their dalabshi and hebeneg-cloak has hol>bogo, bells and decorations of black metal."

pp. 342-343 other spiritual practitioners : clairvoyants and bards

p. 342

"Ooselshen may be a former Bo# or Utgan who had to stop practicing ... . ...

p. 343

Ooselshen ... can deliver prophecies and predictions through clairvoyance, mediumistic trance or various kinds of divination techniques."


Uligershen are bards who know uliger, ... myths surrounding the pantheon of Bo# Murgel ... . These are sung at celebrations ... . Uligershen are directly comparable to Tibetan drungkhen [sgrun mkhan] bards."

pp. 344-346 shamanic vestments

p. 344

"The complete costume is called amitai ... ‘made alive’. That is literally so because the various components and the whole dress are purified, sanctified and made alive. The Ongon-spirits are invited to actually dwell on the dress and their spiritual power is invoked into it. Each Bo# or Utgan has their own personal amitai made especially for them which cannot be used by another Bo# because of the personal prtective deities and spirits dwelling on it. Each amitai has a special Ongon-spirit(s) connected to it who acts as its protector and Owner, protects the Bo# or Utgan to whom this amitai belongs and aids him or her in the performance of magical tasks."



portion of the amitai



"The maihabshi horned crown can be ... made from the whole top part of a deer’s skull complete with antlers."

p. 345


"The malgai is worn either by itself or under the maihabshi horned crown. ... For high-ranking Bo# the front-band is often made of bear skin."



"A White Bo#’s orgoi-cloak is white while Black Bo# have a blue orgoi. {The Manikhaian and Yazidi priestly vestment is likewise blue. ... Various small metal items such as bells, small figures of a human, horse, birds, snakes, and a miniature sword, hammer and tongs are sewn onto it. ... All of these aid the process of connecting with the beings invoked by a Bo# or Utgan and help in his/her travels in different dimensions of the universe as well as inducing magical powers and clairvoyant abilities."

p. 344


"Dalabshi ‘winged’ shoulder-piece"



"Elgebshi short apron"



"Hebeneg overcoat"

p. 345

"Hooyag [huyag (fn. 27)] – a kind of coat of mail made out of iron or lead plates connected by metal rings. It can be worn over the orgoi".

p. 346

"A head band with black tassels which cover the eyes and upper part of the face to separate the spiritual visions of a Bo# from the physical". [fn. 28 : "A head band with black tassels is also used in ... the Do:lpo region of Nepal".]


"a Bo# or Utgan could also wear a leather, wooden, brass or iron mask ... to induce possession by the Ongon-spirits especially when asking for predictions through oracular trance".

347-351 shamanic implements




description of it



toli (mirror)

"these are made from brass ... . ... Bo# can have up to nine mirrors of different sizes which are used for divinations, healing".



hese (drum)

"with a cross-handle on the inside. ... a metal ongon-figure is attached to the cross-handle while multicoloured ribbons or fur are affixed to the outer rim. ... . ... a ... Zaarin Bo# has nine hese of various sizes made out of deer-, goat- and bull-skins. Each hese, also called hengereg, has to be sanctified and animated through a special ritual before it can be used for practice. ... When a Bo# dies, his relatives make a slit in the drum skin and break the frame, thus enabling the Bo# to use it in his posthumous life in the Otherworld. In Tibet, the closest equivalent of hese is a Bo:npo drum called chyednga [phyed rna] or ‘half-drum’. Like hese, it has only one side".



"hese is one of the Bo# or utgan’s steeds used for travel to and in different dimensions within the Three Worlds."



hor>bo (cane)

"As the knob is often fashioned after the head of a horse, human or snake they are called moriin, hun and mogoi : horse-, human- and snake-cane. Hor>bo is yet another type of steed which Bo# use to travel the universe. ... Generally, wooden hor>bo are given to lower-ranking Bo# and are made of birch, carved with a number of notches and decorated with coloured ribbons. Higher-ranking Bo# have metal hor>bo ..., some of which ... can jump and fly by themselves when their Bo# perform rituals."







ho>orto (dagger)

"used for ... cutting off curses".



hootaga (knife)




"made of the skin of eelput and coloured ribbons together with small metal charms".




"to shoot ... malevolent spirits. Arrows act as a support for hulde and are used for soul recalling rites in some tribes. An arrow may be shot to send a request to the Sky, ... or to made an ‘arrow way’, opening a way for a journey or some kind of enterprise."



z^ada (spear)

"[flagstaff] for ... tug, the magical banner which acts as a support for the hulde of a clan".



z^o>do (bark)

"bark of the silver fir tree and symbolizes the Bo#’s magical abilities. Its smoke is used for fumigation."



huur (mouth-harp)

"used for calling beings to the offering and the sound it makes can be used to induce trance and as a means of travel in the Three Worlds."



zeli (rope)

"made of horsehair and hung with buckets and pendants. ... It also can be used as a lasso to bind bad spirits."



s^ere>e (altar)

"a kind of small cabinet used to put ritual objects in and on."




"They may also be masks of particularly powerful Ongon-spirits which are worn by Bo# and Utgan when they go into the ongo trance state."



hahuusan (amulets)

"which the Bo# and Utgan make for others."



bo-hete (flint)

"is used to light the sacrificial fire".



s^angi-nuur (bell)

"Some of the Utgan ... use shang [gs`an], a flat Bo:npo bell."

Dmitry Ermakov : Bo\ and Bo:n. Vajra Publ, Kathmandu, 2008.