The Shaman’s Path

Cape Burkhan – Sacred place

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Olkhon Island is the geographical center of the Buryat ethnic territory, it abounds with sacral objects of general Buryat significance, so at the end of the 20th century modern shamans of the Republic of Buryatia officially declared the island as “the main sanctuary, the cult center of common-Mongol and Central Asian significance, embodying the sacred ancestral home of the Buryats.”

Due to its isolation, Olkhon became the last stronghold of shamans in North Asia.

Mongolian shamans found shelter on the island during the persecution in the era of Genghis Khan and Khubilai Khan in the 12th-13th centuries, and later – Buryat shamans,  during the spread of Lamaism in Buryatia in the 17th-18th centuries.



One of the main sacred places of the island is the entire Burhan Cape and Shamanka rock. Shamanka rock, formerly called the “stone-temple”, is a cult place for people confessing shamanism, Buddhism – it is as an open-air temple, a place with strong energy.

The two-peaked rock is paved with crystalline limestone – marble, covered with bright red lichen. There is a through cave in the closest rock to the shore, that is especially revered by the Chorin and Barguzin Buryats. Earlier, shamanistic rituals took place in the cave, and later, after the Lamaization of the Buryats, the Buddha’s altar was located there.



Serge is a ritual column – the establishment of serge had a symbolic meaning: it is my land, this place has a master. Serge was built twice in the life of a man – in connection with wedding and death. In the past, it stood at every ger, because “as long as Serge stands, the family is alive”. It was forbidden to break down Serge until it falls apart itself. Serge symbolized the tree of life, the world tree, uniting 3 worlds.

Three ring lines were applied on a column. The upper one was for tying the horses of supreme celestials, the middle one – for horses of ordinary earthborn people, the lower one – for horses of representatives of the underworldю

You can meet Serge in the sacred place Barisa, where the offering to the spirits is made, near roads and gers.

13 serges were established on the Burhan Cape, according to the number of northern celestial – noyons, sons of divine tengriye



The chief of the noyons, the oldest and most powerful Khan Hute-Baabai, chose a cave in Shaman-rock as the shelter, became the island’s Master, protector and patron of the whole shamanic religion of the north. Nobody had the right to come close to the residence of the spirit-master. “Whoever approaches the Shaman-rock without permission… the judgement will come on him,” shamans say.



There was the Shaman Forest near the cape, where shamans were burnt and buried.

Nobody dared to hunt in this forest, as all animals living there, belong to the island’s Master.

According to the memoirs of Khuzhir inhabitants the Shaman Forest existed until the 30s of the XX century.

Ancient sacred trees were used for the construction of the village of Khuzhir. Destruction of the forest meant the destruction of the natural territory protection from wind and sun; loss of moisture caused soil erosion, the death of rare plants and the formation of ravines.