A guide to the New East

A day at the office: meet the modern-day shamans of Lake Baikal

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“You don’t become a shaman, you’re picked,” says Mikhail Orgonov, one of the “chosen” few in the Baikal region that also feature in Alina Desyatnichenko's series on the subject. The Krasnodar-based photographer travelled to Siberia in the winter of 2015-16, though her fascination with shamanism started across the world in Mexico a few years previously. Shamanism is the world’s oldest spiritual practice, and anyone picked for the job must mediate between the material and the spiritual worlds and perform healing rituals. Organov, who spent many years in the police force, comes from ten generations of shamans. Desyatnichenko spoke to others who were previously janitors, nurses and carers. “With the emergence of New Age culture, Lake Baikal is increasingly presented in guidebooks as the sacred centre of the shaman’s world. Amulets, totems and ‘real shaman drums’ are in demand in local souvenir shops,” Desyatnichenko writes. At the same time, shamans are becoming recognised as professionals, creating unions and organising conferences. “Traditionally shamans never had any support structures, but the local authorities have recently tried to emphasise the autonomy of the Siberian regions,” the photographer continues. With this in mind Desyatnichenko photographed each shaman in their working environment to show how an ancient tradition is in some ways not so different from any other job.

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