Although Buddhism is the most widespread practiced religion in Mongolia, Shamanism is alive and well. Often, the two religions blend into one, and landmarks throughout Mongolia testify to this. The Eej Mod or “Mother Tree” in Shaamar is one stand-out example. Its fame spread beyond Mongolia and worshippers from Japan, Korea, and China come from afar to pay homage to the Mother Tree.
Those who practice Shamanism believe that shamans communicate between the human and spiritual worlds, and the Mother Tree became seen as a gateway to the spirits after it was struck by lightning. Now worshipers will travel to the tree to make an offering in hopes of having their prayers answered.
Until 2015, the Mother Tree was an actual tree, around which a ger (aka yurt) had been built. Following a practice that thousands of others had engaged in before, one worshipper in 2015 lit an incense stick by the tree, but this time the tree caught fire, and it was all but destroyed. The stump was salvaged from the fire and placed in the outside compound. Today, the ger is still in its place, and the ground where the Mother Tree once grew is the object of people’s veneration.
The stump, alongside a number of nearby trees, is shrouded in ceremonial scarves, mostly blue, and drenched in milk and vodka. The fence around the compound is “fortified” by tea bricks. In an adjacent compound, another tree has been elevated to the status of Holy Tree in recent years by an eminent Mongolia shaman.
Know Before You Go
Along the main road running through Shaamar, there is a sign saying Eej Mod (in Mongolian script) pointing left (heading north). There is no well defined road, but tracks going off road are visible at the sign. The Mother Tree is a couple of kilometres along those tracks.