Shamans from Siberia: How Russia’s mystics do magic for money

Valentin has six fingers on his right hand. An abnormality, medics say; but for religious shamans living in Siberian wilderness along Russia’s Lake Baikal, having an extra digit signifies something sacred.

“My great-uncle, a respected shaman, once said, ‘Our boy is born with a sign from heaven,’” Valentin recalls.

As fate would have it, those words appear nothing less than prophetic. Valentin Khagdaev, a 51-year-old man of Buryat (Mongol) ethnicity, is chief shaman of Olkhon, the largest island in the world’s oldest and deepest lake.

Beating his drum made from animal skin while mumbling magical spells, Valentin hopes to reach an altered state of consciousness to enter into a shamanistic seance.  

Shamans act as healers and magicians, as intermediaries between human, natural and spiritual worlds — a tradition dating thousands of years. Their faith is rooted in a belief that plants, animals, rocks, clouds and rivers have souls.

For Valentin, everyday life consists of performing rituals for visitors, especially for tourists coming to the Lake Baikal region. But being a shaman is almost a job in itself.

“He is not a real shaman,” locals clamor. “We call him ‘Showtime Shaman.’ He runs shows for tourists and then collects the admission fee.”

Tamara Shantanova, a female shaman from Ust-Orda, 37 miles from Irkutsk, gets requests for rituals by cell phone and e-mail.

“I never say no to those calling me,” Tamara says. “And I never ask them to pay. But some people bring 50 rubles ($1.60), while others pay 5,000 ($160).”

Officials say the numbers of shamans posing as genuine ones is rife. However, while the demand of something authentically Siberian, the shamans are here to stay.

Modern shaman’s genuine cause

While there may be those who no longer regard Siberia’s shamans as holy mystics, but as heinous moneymakers, the Olkhon chief believes that the sacredness of genuine healing is still at the fore.

“A person can be a driver, a teacher, can work in the fields,” Valentine said, “while at the same time possess truly unique abilities. … I receive many requests, particularly right now, I often perform rituals to cure my dearest ones of alcohol and drug problems. But if the person does not want to be cured, then he will receive nothing.”


News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
National

Florida man charged with murdering son to play…

A Florida man annoyed that his 16-month-old crying son was preventing him from playing video games suffocated the toddler, police said on Friday.

International

Powerful 7.2 magnitude earthquake rattles Mexico

A powerful earthquake struck Mexico Friday, shaking buildings and sending people running into the street, although there were no reports of major damage.

News

OMG! Exercise can make skin (and butt) look…

A moderate exercise regime can turn back time and actually reverse the skin's aging process, according to new research. The study showed that a minimum…

Local

Oval oasis: Summer of fun kicks off this…

A bold partnership between the Fairmount Park Conservancy and the city's Parks and Recreation Department is kicking off this weekend with family activities re-activating this unused public space.

Entertainment

Whoopi Goldberg makes her debut as marijuana columnist

"It helps my head stop hurting, and with glaucoma your eyes ache, and she takes the ache out. It's wonderful," she said.

The Word

Kate Middleton made fun of Prince William's bald…

Kate Middleton and Prince William are in Sydney, Australia, right now, and it sounds like that brash Aussie sense of humor might be rubbing off.

The Word

Is Tom Cruise dating Laura Prepon?

"Mission: Impossible" star Cruise is said to be dating Laura Prepon, star of "Orange is the New Black."

Television

'Scandal' recap: Season 3, Episode 18, 'The Price…

Sally is Jesus, Olivia caused global warming, and Mellie's still drunk. Let's recap the Scandal finale. A church full of Washington insiders is about to…

MLB

Jimmy Rollins is key to Phillies success

When John Kruk was asked about what the Phillies need to contend for a playoff berth, the ESPN analyst said Jimmy Rollins needs to play like a MVP again.

MLB

Ben Revere lifts Phillies to avoid sweep

Ben Revere came through with a two-out RBI single against Atlanta’s tough lefthander Alex Wood.

NBA

Season wrap: 76ers make the grade

The 76ers opened the 2013-14 season with a victory over the Miami Heat. The Sixers closed the season with a win at Miami.

NBA

Fantasy basketball: Finding next year's NBA studs

Before we put the 2013-14 fantasy basketball season to bed, it’s worth thinking about next year’s breakouts while they’re fresh in our mind.

Parenting

How to parent without gender stereotypes in a…

Christia Spears Brown, Phd. author of "Parenting beyond Pink & Blue" gives advice on raising kids free of gender stereotypes.

Tech

VIDEO: 'Vein-scanning' may become the future of paying

Designed to make transactions quicker and easier, the technology works by scanning the unique vein patterns in each person's palm.

Tech

#FollowFriday: 10 of the smartest Twitter accounts

Spending lots of time on Twitter? You might as well learn something. Here are some of the smartest accounts to follow.

Style

Light-up nail art syncs with phone

This Japanese technology syncs light-up nail art with your phone.