In Nepal Shamanism is still practiced, so on the full moon I witnessed something very special. I squeezed into a tiny wooden house, high up in the mountains, with most of Gele’s family: elders, children and all. Every year they gather on the first full moon of the year to pray for the coming Winter months.
An altar was set up on the floor. There was a bowl containing stones and porcupine quills, a pretty potent incense burning (the fumes were making me me high :oS), a flickering oil lamp, two Shiva forks donned with “good luck” white silk scarves, some holy rice, and a sacred vase (kalasa) containing water and a plant.
It felt quite spiritual, so I didn’t want to become a typical Western tourist and be trigger happy with my camera. Therefore you will have to use your imagination a little bit and make do with my terrible sketch.
There were two shamans / witch doctors knelt in front of the altar. One was only a little girl of 9 years old, who has been in training the last 2 years. I watched the ritual of them dressing into their costumes. First putting on a white dress, then a waistcoat, followed by garlands made of marigolds and finally a very impressive red head-dress of peacock feathers.
In the background 2 double-sided drums were being beaten, which were driving the shamans into a frenzy. Their bodies were shaking; they were chanting goodness knows what and slowly they were going into a trance. At one stage the male shaman jumped up and danced across the hot coals of the burning fire.
Mind you that’s not the worst thing they did that night, they had to drink cow pee because Gele and I had eaten meat.
When a shaman is in a trance, they have visions and tell people about their past and future. I spoke to the wizard (as Gele calls him) the next day about his visions and he says he sees a black headless yeti, yikes!!!
The shamans took it in turns to predict peoples futures, they were beating madly on the drums and chanting something like
Oh horion, oh china, oh diner…
I had my future foretold and Gele, my translator, says it is all good. Well it sounded impressive to me. I was completely hypnotised by the little girl, whatever was coming out of mouth sounded amazing.
They were going to continue the ritual all night long in forest, now I know what goes bump in the middle of the night. I was happy to leave them to it, for the comfort of my cosy sleeping bag. I felt sorry for the little girl, I caught her stifling a yawn or two, however she survived a night in the forest. At 10 am the next morning they returned and everyone was still in good spirits and still banging on their drums.
I can’t imagine the Full Moon Party in Thailand, that night, would have been quite the same. :o)