Clan Rituals

Although separated territorially from the rest of the Mongolian world, contemporary Kalmyks continue to practise customs common among other Mongolian groups. Many Kalmyks honour their tradition and perform various rituals that preserve and perpetuate kinship links. The main aim of clan rituals is to preserve and consolidate kinship groups not only by worshipping the clan or local deities, remembering ancestors, and cleansing native land but also by engaging all clan or family members in the ritual. Clan rituals are often performed by inviting a Buddhist monk or a folk healer who reads mantras, prayers, and gives advice.

Anna Sangadzhi-Goryaeva, Gal Tyalgn

Anna says that gal tyalgn, or worship to fire, is a special ritual where a sheep is sacrificed. The following parts of a sheep are used at this ritual: a sheep’s head covered with semzh fat (a fat layer that covers internal organs), its neck, the right front leg, the liver, and kidneys. All these parts should be cooked before offering them to fire. The rest of the meat is then offered to kinsfolk who are participating in the ritual. During the ritual, guests utter well-wishes, all of which are believed to be heard by ancestors. The ritual of gal tyalgn is very complex and not every person can perform it. Anna herself performs gal tyalgn in the courtyard of her house. In the past she performed this ritual in Lagan’ as well, where her husband is originally from. On that occasion Anna was accompanied by a knowledgeable woman who organized and directed the whole ritual.

Anna also talks about how she came to believe in the efficiency of this ritual, how she taught herself to count beads (a Buddhist practice) and read mantras.


Gal Tyalgn, The Ritual of Offering to Protecting Spirits


Sangadzhi Kononov, About the Worship of the Masters of Land and Water


Telo Tulku Rinpoche, Purification Rituals