Batgerel Batmunkh, a shaman, kisses his niece Munkhsoyol while 'possessed by the white spirit' during a shamanic healing ritual in their ger on the outskirts of Ulan Bator, Mongolia, in a photo taken on July 4, 2012 and made available to NBC News today.
This ancient faith dominated the land during the time of Genghis Khan but was brutally suppressed under decades of communist rule, the European Pressphoto Agency reports. In recent years ancestor worship has seen a resurgence, as many have sought to fill a spiritual void in a bewildering urban landscape dominated by the burgeoning mining industry, where the traditional nomadic lifestyle is becoming a thing of the past.
Batgerel and his brother Gankhuyag became shamans only two years ago, having previously worked in construction. Illness and misfortune plagued their family, they say, causing them to seek the advice of a shaman. It was revealed to them then that they had been chosen by spirits to serve as shamans. Only by doing so would their lives improve and would they be able to avoid further miseries, they were told.
"When I first heard that I had been chosen to receive the spirits, I did not believe it and was angry and ignored the calling," Batgerel said. "But my life became worse and worse and I began to believe. After receiving the spirits, my life and health became better and now I live in happiness. I am very thankful to the spirits and this way of life."