Spirits from the Edge of the World

Spirits from the Edge of the World recounts the Animist beliefs and Shamanic world view of the Ulchi peoples of the Amur river region of Siberia; it is compiled from over twenty years of audio and video recordings so for much of its content we are reading the authentic, unfiltered, ancient voice of a people who believe that the human race was not ‘created’ by some Deity but grew organically out of nature itself and whose Shamanic ceremonies and life have grown out of the past from generation to generation.  To quote Grandmother Nadia, one of the Ulchi elders, “The art of Shamanizing has been passed down to us… The roots of our oldest clans are buried in the depths of a thousand centuries”.

In seventeen chapters, covering subjects as diverse as creation and other myth stories; rituals for life, living and death; the nature of Spirits; the three worlds; legends of Ulchi shamanism and aspects of their shamanic life, plus the autobiographies of some Ulchi shaman this is a fascinating, engaging and from a Western point of view, deeply revealing account; despite the author’s assertion that it is “just the tip of the iceberg”.

But this is also a book of potential loss and sorrow since, due to cultural changes and the loss of their own language to Russian, the young people of the Ulchi are becoming children of the world; instead of children of nature.

A unique insight into the disappearing spiritual life of a people who dwell in that liminal part of the World that is so far East, it is almost West. It gave your reviewer much to think about, including the meaning of some quite vivid dreams he had while reading it!

Thoroughly recommended.

Book Details: Jan Van Ysslestyne. Spirits from the Edge of the World. Pathfinder Counseling (11 Aug. 2018). ISBN: 978-0692104293

Review Details: Spirits from the Edge of the World was reviewed by Martin Pallot, sub-editor of Indie Shaman magazine and published in Issue 40.

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