Shamanic Sports: Buryat Wrestling, Archery, and Horse Racing
This paper presents the religious aspects of the historical and present forms of the traditional sports competitions of the Buryats—a Mongolian ethnic group settled in Southern Siberia, Northern Mongolia, and North-Eastern China. Both historically and in our time, their traditional sports have been closely linked to shamanic rituals. This paper provides insights into the functions of these sports competitions for Buryat shamanic rituals—why they have been, and still are, an inevitable part of
... nevitable part of these rituals. They are believed to play an important role in these rituals, which aim to trick and/or please the Buryats' spirits and gods in order to get from them what is needed for survival. The major historical changes in the Buryats' constructions of their relationship to their imagined spiritual entities and the corresponding changes in their sports competitions are described. The effects of both economic changes—from predominantly hunting to primarily livestock breeding—and of changes in religious beliefs and world views—from shamanism to Buddhism and from Soviet Communist ersatz religion to the post-Soviet revival of shamanism and Buddhism—are described. Special attention is given to the recent revival of these sports' prominent role for Buddhist and shamanist rituals.