Thursday, February 5, 2009

Nergui, Joe Leaphorn and the scent of spring

It wasn't a deliberate reference on my part, but one or two reviewers have noted some similarities in personality between Nergui and Tony Hillerman's Navajo policeman, Joe Leaphorn.  I'm flattered by the comparison, of course.  But this UB Post article on Mongolia's alcohol problems suggests that the similarities may not be entirely coincidental. In the course of a discussion about whether  alcoholism is determined more strongly by ethnicity than by demographics, Loring Brace, an Anthropology professor at the University of Michigan, is quoted as stating that Mongolian’s closest genetic link is to the Navajo Tribe.  I don't know whether that's true, though I'm aware of theories suggesting that Native Americans may be descended from Asian peoples who migrated across the Bering Strait land bridge during the Ice Age.  But it's nice to think that there might be a link between these two rather enigmatic detectives.

Elsewhere, the UB Post provides a fascinating account of Mongolia's forthcoming national holiday, Tsagaan Sar  or the white month, which celebrates the beginning of spring.  Tsagaan Sar is a festival of white foods such as dairy products and rice (as the picture above demonstrates), and involves a range of intriguing rituals.  I was particularly taken with the ceremony of  'Muruu gargakh' or  'Starting your footprints'.   This is based on the principle that starting your life in the right direction will bring luck for the year to come - and we could all do with a bit of that in these dark times. 


1. &mpersand said...

I agree that ‘starting your life in the right direction’ is a lovely idea (even though I would probably require a compass!) I’m less taken with the idea of exclusively white food though. Although having been subjected to St. Chad’s day traditions at university, where all foodstuffs are dyed an alarming shade of GREEN, I probably wouldn’t grumble if push came to shove!

2. Michael Walters said...

I was hoping for spiritual satnav, but no luck so far. I agree that white food doesn't sound too enticing, though it's probably possible to find enough that's edible. Green certainly sounds unpleasant...although I do seem to recall someone at university who occasionally dyed food blue...

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