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The Mongolian Pastoral Nomads consider that after death, the soul separates from the body and rebirths later.

The relationship to the dead is part of the landscape, the natural environment, the mountains, and the steppe, as well as the physical and material practices of the Mongol breeders.

Like most indigenous peoples, the Mongolian Pastoral Nomads practice many rituals to prevent the deceased from coming back to haunt the living or turning into a demon.

Woman in front of the yurt

According to the pre-Buddhist shamanic beliefs, they think that life in the afterlife is modeled on life on earth, and the needs of the dead are similar to those of the living.

This materialistic conception of the afterlife explains why families offer to their dead, on the burial site: tea, fuel (the lamb’s poops), cattle, clothes (lamb’s skin), a candle (to light), fire (to heat and cook the food) and a house.

The family believes that the dead person is thereby able to: make a good fire, eat, drink tea, pray to God, and sleep with a pillow.

They deposit the dead body in a yurt separated from the one of the living.

The pastoral nomads have refused to comply with the funeral reform and have defied the law by continuing to practice their ancient funeral rituals. The “bone-bearers” deposit the dead bodies on the ground in the middle of the steppe and to let them get devoured by the animals.

However, the place where the corpse is deposited remains marked by a big flat «mark stone» and without inscription. Therefore, its recognition rests only on the memory of the deceased’s loved ones.

The placement of the dead is surrounded by oblivion, and the burial site is the first thing to forget.

After the funeral, the deceased’s name becomes forbidden and cannot be pronounced or reused by his descendants.

The challenge of the funeral ritual is to eliminate any reason to speak about the dead person.

Mongol Pastoral Nomads


Arnaud Esquerre, Les morts des espaces lisses

Grégory Delaplace, L’invention des morts. Sépultures, fantômes et photographie en Mongolie contemporaine



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