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June, 28, 2017

Shaman Stone: on the Border of Lake Baikal

Shaman Stone is a rock near the source of the Angara, a natural monument of the Pribaikalsky National Park and also a sacred place of shamanists. This is one of the symbols of Lake Baikal. Only a small tip of the Shaman Stone is visible above the water, protruding to 1-1.5 meters, but a rock massif dividing the river into two parts lies under the water and, moreover, it is a boundary between the river and the lake.

The places where the sacred lake is located have been famous for being especially beautiful, picturesque, and also mysterious in their origin since ancient times. During the time that people have lived on the land of Lake Baikal, several poetic legends, tales and myths have been born and passed into oblivion. One of these legends tells about the emergence of the Shaman Stone.

Here is one of its versions:

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 "It happened very long ago, at the time when powerful athletes and brave war heroes lived on Earth. Baikal was then immensely rich and large, so everyone respected and honored it. He had a daughter – the beauty Angara, everyone admired her good looks. Baikal loved and spoiled Angara, she grew capricious and proud; however, as the time went by, it was the turn of Angara to choose her husband. Baikal called the athletes from the neighborhood, so that they could compete in their strength and courage to win the heart of his beloved daughter. 
 
 
 

There was one athlete among them who was especially favored by the father, the young hero called Irkut. But no matter how much the father praised the sporty Irkut, the heart of his daughter remained unyielding. The holiday began, the heroes came together to compete in their strength, and there was only one among them: Yenisei, the son of the mighty Sayan, who surpassed them all, and his courage and valor gained the heart of Angara.

But Baikal did not want to give his parent’s consent, and the young ones had to part. The father had tried to persuade his daughter to marry Irkut for a long time, but Angara responded with a refusal. Then Baikal imprisoned her. When the father told her that he had agreed that Irkut would marry her, Angara decided to flee and asked her younger brothers – creeks -- to help her. And they came to help their elder sister, washed away the wall of the dungeon, so Angara broke free. Baikal became angry and screamed at the runaway girl, then a great storm rose above the Earth. This storm shook the sky and the Earth, animals and birds fled from it in fear. The young Irkut rushed after Angara. Suddenly the lightning split the old mountain - Baikal picked up a fragment of the mountain and threw it after his daughter to block her way. But it was late – Angara was already close to Yenisei, and he took her into his arms. They have remained inseparable since that time”.

This ancient legend includes rivers, lakes and mountains which act as heroes and deities at the same time. Therefore, the Shaman Stone has long been known as a sacred place created by Baikal. It is also believed that the Shaman Stone is the habitat of the spirit of Angara, Ama Sagan Noion. It is one of the most revered places among shamanists. That is why traditional ceremonies of the ancient Buryat faith are still held here.

Court was held in this sacred place in ancient times. The accused was left on a lonely rock so that he spent a night there. If the water did not pick him up by morning and he did not die from fear and the cold breath of Lake Baikal, he was forgiven.

Modern science confirms the assertion that the Angara River is younger than Baikal. The split in the Primorsky Ridge which led to the formation of an opening appeared quite recently, from 15 to 60 thousand years ago - while the age of the Sacred Lake is estimated at millions of years. Baikal broke into the valley of the Bolshaya River that used to flow into Irkut, and formed the full-flowing Angara River. The smaller Irkut became its tributary, and the Bolshaya River has preserved only in its upper reaches, having turned into one of the small tributaries of Angara.

As some researchers suggest, the legend telling about the unnatural movement of the shamanic stone is a confirmation of the fact that ancient people could be real witnesses of geological cataclysms on the shores of Lake Baikal. In particular, this concerns the disasters when new tributaries of the lake were created and the old ones were overlapped, for example, in the areas of Kultuk or Buguldeyka.

The rock rising in the middle of the source of the Angara River - this is all what is left from the Primorsky Ridge here after its erosion by the waters of Lake Baikal. The rock has a fairly large base forming a kind of threshold before the depths of Baikal. Of course, the visible size of the rock was greater before the creation of the water reservoir of the Irkutsk HPP. And after the level of Baikal rose by 1 m, only the two tops of the rock mass remained open to our eyes, but in order to see them, you should move fairly close to them and look at the rock from a certain angle.

In 1958 it was proposed to blow up the Shaman Stone, placing 30,000 tons of ammonite under it. In the opinion of the author of the idea, this would make it possible to deepen the bed of the river flowing from the Baikal up to 25 meters and thereby release 120 cubic kilometers of water from the lake in order to increase electricity production at the Irkutsk HPP.

Upon implementation of this a coastal strip of the lake with the area of 100-120 thousand hectares would be exposed (this area is the zone of life for the entire flora and fauna of Lake Baikal), the main spawning grounds of the fish would have disappeared completely. In many places the coastline would have to retreat by a kilometer or more, populated areas would lose their water supply sources, and the vast expanses of meadows and pastures on the eastern coast of Lake Baikal would turn into a semi-desert area. Fortunately, this project was abandoned.

The source of the Angara River around the Shaman Stone almost never freezes - except in cases when the ice is brought with the wind from Baikal. The river steams all winter, decorating the forest in the vicinity of the source with a snowy white frost. And the point is not as much in the rapid flow of the river, as in the fact that the water flows into the river source from the deep layers of Lake Baikal, where it is warmer than on the surface. The “warm island” near the Shaman Stone attracts many species of swimming birds during the cold season. This is the only large wintering ground in the Northern Asia; you can simultaneously observe at least 25,000 birds here.

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