Cultural practice in Altai: tengrism, animism, and shamanism and their historical expression

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We support indigenous community efforts to protect, renew, and continue diverse cultural practice and heritage. It is vital for the survival of indigenous peoples as well as for global biodiversity and science. Over millennia, Altai communities and nomadic peoples have left evidence of their culture on the landscape: glimpses into their lifestyles, practices, and traditions.

Elaborately dressed shaman performs ceremony around a fire. Others stand in a wide half circle in the grassy meadow during the cultural practice

Dyalama – Spiritual practice of ritualistically tying ribbons to trees and other natural objects to communicate with spirits

Petroglyphs – Cultural practice by Bronze and Iron Age nomads carved and inscribed ancient imagery on stones and rocks

Kurgans – Ancient Scythian and Turkic burial mounds constructed in the Bronze and Iron Ages – Under development

Standing (Deer) stones and stellae – Bronze and Iron age simple standing stones and more elaborate carved stones- Under development

Tengrianstvo, Animism, and Shamanism – traditional indigenous practices maintained to this day in Greater Altai – Under development

Note: Here at The Altai Project, we are committed to sharing information about Greater Altai. We strive to avoid appropriation or misrepresentation. Our staff are not indigenous, and there is no single authority on what it means to be Altaian, use traditional spiritual and cultural practices, or even how to interpret the ancient cultural sites found across the region. We hope you’ll let us know if you think we’ve gotten something wrong, could have said it better, should not be saying it, or anything else on these sensitive subjects.

More reading
The Anatomy of Deep Time: Rock Art and Landscape in the Altai Mountains of Mongolia by Esther Jacobson-Tepfer (Mongolia)
The Telengits of Southern Siberia: Landscape, Religion and Knowledge in Motion by Agnieszka Halemba (Russia)
The Horse, the Wheel, and Language: How Bronze-Age Riders from the Eurasian Steppes Shaped the Modern World by David W. Anthony (Eurasia)
The Mummies of Ürümchi by Elizabeth W. Barber (China)
Shamanic Worlds: Rituals and Lore of Siberia and Central Asia by Marjorie M. Balzer (Russia and Central Asia) (We haven’t read this one yet. Let us know what you think!)
Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World by Jack Weatherford (Eurasia)
Spiritual Wisdom from the Altai Mountains: Altai Bilik by Nikolai Shodoev, translated by Joanna Dobson (Russia)

Camel loaded with household belongs cross a mountain meadow in Mongolian Altai. Cultural Practice

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