Sensing “Place”: Performance, Oral Tradition, and Improvisation in the Hidden Temples of Mountain Altai

Abstract

This article suggests that during two Ak Jang (“White Way”) Sary Bür (“Yellow Leaves”) rituals in hidden open-air temples in Mountain Altai, kaleidoscopic relations are created through bodily movements, oral poetry, epic, and song. These components stimulate three interrelated senses of “place” for participants: a topographical, indigenous “place of gatherings;” a numinous interactive spiritual place; and a situational “being-in-place” that serve to strengthen personhood and enable personal transitions in the face of difficult contemporary political and natural change.

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Küree temple above Lower Talda, Kuroty Valley, Altai Republic, 2010.

Photo: Carole Pegg.

Küree temple above Kulady, Karakol Valley, Altai Republic, 2006.

Photo: Carole Pegg.

Valentina Todoshevna Chechaeva and Elena Tӧlӧsӧvna Mandaeva singing a ritual jangar song, Kulady, 2010.

Photo: Carole Pegg.

Female participants circumambulating between outer and inner tagyl altar crescents after purifying and tying up a kyira ribbon. Lower Talda küree, 2010.

Photo: Carole Pegg.

Arzhan jarlyk reciting blessing-fortune (alkysh-byian) verses while sprinkling milk, his “helper” stroking his head.

Photo: Carole Pegg.

Valentina Bachibaeva making food offerings to Üch Kurbustan via the fire in the hearth, Lower Talda küree, 2010.

Photo: Carole Pegg.

Arzhan jarlyk playing topshuur lute and performing blessing-fortune verses using kai throat-singing before the hearth, Lower Talda küree, 2010.

Photo: Carole Pegg.

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