Drums of the Ancestors: Manchu and Mongol Shamanism presented by The Foundation for Shamanic Studies

In “Drums of the Ancestors: Manchu and Mongol Shamanism,” presented by The Foundation for Shamanic Studies, the focus is on the Manchu culture and their ancient shamanic traditions. The region of Songhua Lake in Northeast China is considered the cradle of the Manchu culture, where the sacred Shanghai mountains are believed to be the dwelling place of spirits. Despite being culturally influenced by the Han Chinese and ruling China during the Qing Dynasty, the Manchu never fully assimilated, and their shamanic traditions have survived through centuries of political unrest. Today, in the villages along the Songhua River, the sound of the drum can still be heard, and rituals for wild spirits continue to be practiced, emphasizing communal offerings and client rituals.

In this video, we witness the rituals and traditions passed down through generations. From the construction of the main altar for the Harvest Festival to the selection of shamans chosen directly by ancestral spirits, the importance of spirits and ancestors in Manchu shamanism is evident. We also get a glimpse into the practices of the Honjo in clan, descendants of Han Chinese who adopted Manchu culture, particularly their mastery of blacksmithing and the unique iron frames of their drums. The video concludes with a demonstration of healing work by master shaman Seren Chen, showcasing the profound impact of shamanism on individuals’ well-being and the hope of preserving these traditions.

Drums of the Ancestors: Manchu and Mongol Shamanism presented by The Foundation for Shamanic Studies


In the enchanting realm of Manchu and Mongol Shamanism, a world rooted in ancient traditions and spiritual practices, The Foundation for Shamanic Studies has embarked on a journey to unearth the mysteries of these sacred rituals and share them with the world. Through their remarkable program, “Drums of the Ancestors,” individuals have the extraordinary opportunity to delve into the rich tapestry of Manchu and Mongol Shamanism, to discover the profound wisdom and healing powers it encompasses. This article aims to provide you, the reader, with a comprehensive insight into this captivating subject matter, exploring the origins of the Manchu culture, the survival of ancient shamanic traditions, the significance of communal offerings and client rituals, the unique Harvest Festival Ritual, the role of the shaman, the symbolism behind their headdress and altar, and the fascinating personal stories of master shamans. By the end, you will gain a deeper understanding of the awe-inspiring realm of Manchu and Mongol Shamanism.

The Manchu Culture and Shamanism

The Manchu culture, deeply interwoven with shamanic traditions, traces its roots back to the ancient Jurchen people who inhabited the regions of Northeast Asia. These indigenous inhabitants were known for their nomadic lifestyle and fierce warrior spirit. However, it was the imprint of Han Chinese culture that greatly impacted the evolution of the Manchu culture. Through intermarriage and assimilation, the Manchu people adopted aspects of Han Chinese customs, while managing to preserve their unique shamanic practices. Shamanism, deeply ingrained in the Manchu culture, became a means of connecting with the spiritual realm and seeking guidance from ancestors and deities.

Survival of Ancient Shamanic Traditions

Despite waves of cultural influence and political unrest, the ancient shamanic traditions of the Manchu people have remarkably withstood the test of time. Archaeological discoveries and historical records shed light on the profound reverence for shamanic practices among the ancient Jurchen. These practices were intimately linked to their everyday lives and intertwined with agricultural rituals, warfare, and spiritual ceremonies. Over the centuries, the survival of these traditions can be attributed to the resilience and deep-rooted belief systems of the Manchu people, serving as a testament to the vitality of shamanism in their culture.

Drums of the Ancestors: Manchu and Mongol Shamanism presented by The Foundation for Shamanic Studies

Focus on Communal Offerings and Client Rituals

At the heart of Manchu shamanism lies a communal spirit, where offerings and rituals are conducted for the benefit of the entire community. Communal offerings serve as a way to honor spirits and ancestors, seeking their protection and guidance. In addition to communal rituals, Manchu shamans engage in client rituals, where individuals seek personalized spiritual guidance and healing. These client rituals, often conducted in intimate settings, offer profound insight and guidance to individuals seeking answers and resolutions in their lives.

The Harvest Festival Ritual

One of the most significant and visually striking rituals within Manchu shamanism is the Harvest Festival Ritual. This grand celebration takes place annually, marking the bountiful harvest and expressing gratitude to the ancestral spirits for their blessings. The main altar, meticulously constructed, serves as a focal point for the ritual. Adorned with intricate murals depicting the genealogy of clan shamans, the altar creates a connection between the past and present, honoring the lineage of spiritual practitioners. Wooden idols and representations of ancestor spirits are arranged along with offerings of liquor and burning incense, creating an immersive representation of the spiritual realm. Additionally, a smaller altar dedicated to wild animal spirits emphasizes the harmonious relationship between humans and the natural world.

The Role of the Shaman

The shaman, an integral figure within Manchu shamanism, holds a sacred role as a mediator between the human and spirit realms. The selection of a shaman is a deeply revered process, often involving signs and omens, and the chosen individual undergoes rigorous training and preparation. In the trance state, induced through rhythmic drumming and dance, the shaman connects with the spiritual realm, accessing the wisdom and guidance of ancestral and totemic spirits. The shaman’s headdress is a potent symbol of their connection with these spirits, adorned with feathers, shells, and other sacred objects. Particularly significant are the copper mirrors, representing the shaman’s ability to reflect the spiritual realm and commune with the divine.

The Shaman’s Headdress and Altar

The shaman’s headdress, intricately crafted and laden with symbolism, is a cornerstone of Manchu shamanic practices. The construction of the headdress involves the use of copper birds and branches, representing the earthly and heavenly planes. These symbols serve as a bridge, allowing the shaman to traverse both realms and receive messages and guidance from the spiritual beings. Copper mirrors, strategically placed on the headdress, enable the shaman to reflect and channel the energies of the spiritual realm. The altar, another sacred space within shamanic practice, serves as a focal point for rituals and offerings, connecting the physical and spiritual dimensions.

Personal Stories of Master Shamans

Within the rich tapestry of Manchu and Mongol Shamanism, the Hons1 Clan stands as an embodiment of the profound power of shamanic practices. The clan’s shamans play a crucial role in preserving the ancient wisdom and passing it down to future generations. The Honjo, a revered shaman of the clan, shares captivating tales of the adoption of Manchu culture by Han Chinese during a time of political unrest. Renowned as skilled blacksmiths, the Honjo clan utilizes their craftsmanship to fashion sacred objects for shamanic rituals. One remarkable feat of the Honjo clan is their practice of salt capture, using shamanic rituals to harness the curative properties of salt and to dispel malevolent spirits.

Seren Chen: The Healer Shaman

Among the many revered shamans, Seren Chen stands out for her remarkable healing abilities. Known as a healer shaman, Seren Chen channels the energies of the spiritual realm to bring about profound healing and transformation. Through specific rituals and invocations, she addresses the physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being of her clients. Seren Chen’s work embodies the core essence of Manchu and Mongol Shamanism, emphasizing the interconnectedness of all beings and the potential for healing through spiritual communion.

Demonstration of Healing Work

In the culmination of the “Drums of the Ancestors” program, participants have the privilege of witness ing a live demonstration of healing work conducted by Seren Chen. Through rhythmic drumming, dance, and trance states, Seren Chen taps into the deep wisdom and healing energies hearkened by her ancestors. These captivating demonstrations provide participants with a powerful firsthand experience of the transformative power of Manchu and Mongol Shamanism.


Amidst the cacophony of modernity, the ancient and profound world of Manchu and Mongol Shamanism continues to echo through time. The Foundation for Shamanic Studies, through their program “Drums of the Ancestors,” shines a light on these hidden realms, bridging cultures and continents, and offering a glimpse into the sacred practices and wisdom of the Manchu people. We express our deepest gratitude to the shamans who have dedicated their lives to preserving these ancient arts. May these practices be cherished and nurtured, empowering individuals to reconnect with their ancestral heritage and bring the resonating sound of the drum to the western world.

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