The Invisible Threat: Battling Lower Spirits in Buryat Shamanism

According to the beliefs of the Buryat shamans, the world is inhabited by a multitude of different supernatural entities. They all, in one way or another, have a direct influence on people's lives, which is why the well-being of not only an individual but also of the whole lineage often depended on proper communication with these spirits.
evil spirits in the buryat shamanism
One of the most dangerous beings for humans were evil spirits called Elshen. They are a numerous category of lower demons, servants of the lord of the underworld, Erlik, whom he sent for human souls.
Unlike the great spirits, both good and evil, who could reward or punish a person for his righteous or wrongful deed, people could encounter lower-level spirits almost everywhere. Therefore, it was important to observe certain precautions in order not to "catch" one of these spirits.

Characteristics of some lower spirits

The spirit-shapeshifter "Ada" can manifest itself as a small creature with one eye and one tooth or as a person whose mouth is located under the jaw. Ada can also transform into a dog, a child, or an inflated bubble. They can be both good and evil, but the evil ones mainly harm children, sending diseases and even death upon them. The good Ada look after children, take care of the household, and tend to the livestock. If the Adas have multiplied in a house and are causing trouble, a shaman is invited to exorcise or kill them. Children were also endangered by the spirit named Anakhai, for the expulsion of which the help of a shaman was necessary. Women who died a violent death became "muu shubuun," shapeshifting spirits that lurked in the forests or steppes and drank the souls of young men. The souls of women who died during childbirth or as a result of mistreatment after death transformed into "dakhbari," evil spirits that were granted the right by the gods to seek revenge on people.

Modern Buryat shamans in their daily practice often encounter creatures that would be appropriate to classify as lower evil spirits.

According to Buryat beliefs, various small spirits and deities, residing in forests, steppes, hills, at the foot of mountains, along river banks, inside houses, and yurts, constantly interacted with humans and tried to harm them in various ways. The Buryats used to have a whole system of rituals and sacrifices to get rid of these spirits or the consequences of their tricks. Most of these preventive rituals are no longer performed by the Buryats, but the fight against lower spirits remains one of the tasks of modern shamans.
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