International Uluu Ot Ceremony, 2008

Uluu Ot Sacred Big Fire  Ceremony

Date: March 21-22, 2008
Place: Manzhyly Ata Sacred Site, Issyk-Kul oblast

Goals: The Aigine Research Center and WISN, World Indigenous Science-Network (USA), with financial support of The Christensen Fund organized this ceremony in order to unite traditional practitioners all over the world through lighting fire on the same day and at the same time. The main purpose of lighting a Sacred Fire was to remind people that we are a whole, that we are tightly related to one another, to the Earth and to Nature. Recent catastrophes and natural cataclysms make us think once more on the issues of what we are doing wrong and what we should do further for the welfare of the people all over the world.

The Ceremony
On March 21, 2008 at midnight a Sacred Fire was light at the Manzhyly Ata Sacred Site. This date was not chosen at random, since it is the day of the vernal equinox when day and night, light and darkness become equal, with 12 hours of each. It is the day of renewal when people and Nature are unified. The representatives of Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, USA, Mexico and Switzerland participated in this ceremony. Although the participants of this event spoke in different languages, they turned to God in the same way by praying for peace, happiness and plenty.

Before the main ceremony participants went to Manzhyly Ata at about 5 pm. When everybody gathered at the table that was prepared for the participants of the ceremony, the Quran was read and people had an excursion around Manzhyly Ata. The participants were also told about the history of that sacred site.

The second time participants came to Manzhyly Ata for the main ceremony. It was 11:30 PM when they went up the small hill where the pile of fire wood was ready, next to the mosque. Closer to midnight everybody surrounded the fire and three people: Apela Colorado (Native American), Juliana Hepp (Switzerland) and Aida Egemberdieva (Kyrgyzstan) started lighting the fire with fire flints. That time Pete Bebe (USA) chanted the fire song in Lakota language. It was difficult to light the fire at first because cameras from all sides were filming and that disturbed the fire lighters concentration. At midnight the fire was lit and everyone one by one spoke their heartfelt prayers. During the ceremony two Manaschys recited Manas and Juliana played a flute.

Apela Colorado (Native American), Elena Moreno (Mexico), Mike Edwards (USA) and Pete Bebe (USA) told their wishes in their own languages and threw tobacco on the fire. They explained that it is a sacred plant and by throwing it onto fire they give offerings to spirits.

Discussions about Uluu Ot
The next day, March 22, there was a discussion in which the participants of different age, nationalities and religions shared their thoughts, wishes and ideas concerning the Uluu Ot and its possible continuation in future.

Choiun Omuraliev, a philosopher, told of scientifically proved connections between Kyrgyz people and American Indians on the basis of similar symbols. Muzaffar Mahmadali, Doctor of Philosophy from Tajikistan, gave a speech about the Uluu Ot ceremony as not the worship of fire, but the practice of heritage that was left from our ancestors. Taalai Nasyrymbekova, the head of the “Adep” Center in Kyrgyzstan mentioned that it would be good if we taught all of what was said and done during this ceremony to the younger generation.

During the discussion the participants in the ceremony got video messages from Native Americans. The messages were spoken in different languages that were not understood to most of the participants. Translation into Kyrgyz language was provided to the participants in brochures that were distributed. The video messages were from people of Indian tribes of North America, including the Dene, Otomi etc. They sent greetings to Kyrgyz people, told about Sacred Fire and its meanings and expressed their interest in joining this ceremony by lighting Sacred Fires in their own hometowns.

It is noteworthy that Apela Colorado was given a name “Nur-Apela” (Apela, ray of light). Apela is the one who supported the initiative of Talas practitioners concerning Uluu Ot ceremony during her first visit to Kyrgyzstan in summer of 2007 and who was the main person thank to whom Sacred Fire Ceremony took place around the world on March 21, 2008. Giving Apela a new name was offered by the clairvoyant Jyldyzbek Jumabaev.  He proposed to conduct this ritual by the lake Issik-Kul, which also has sacred meaning for Kyrgyz people.

After the ceremony
The days followed by Uluu Ot ceremony were the days of meetings, new acquaintances and exchanges of views and ideas for the next year’s Uluu Ot. Two important events should be mentioned here.

a) Kut Ordo Meeting
On March 24 Nur-Apela and Aigine staff with other guests were invited to visit the community Kut Ordo.  Juliana Hepp, Gulnara Aitpaeva, Aida Egemberdieva and Baktygul Tulebaeva visited Kut Ordo Centre. This was mainly an opportunity to get acquainted and introduce the purposes and activities of participants.

b) Discussion about the past Uluu Ot ceremony and ideas about the future Uluu Ot
March 25 was the day of meeting with participants of the ceremony, including Sultan Sarygulov, Ergeshbai, Estegul, Gulnara Aitpaeva, Aida Egemberdieva, Zemfira Inogamova, Baktygul Tulebaeva and Guljan Kudabaeva. They shared their reflections on the ceremony, their ideas about the Uluu Ot, the successes and shortcomings, and made suggestions for the coming years. Points that were mentioned include: the importance of asking permission from the spirits of the sacred site to light the fire and that this ceremony should be held by people who are spiritually ready for that; and the involvement of young people in following years’ Uluu Ot ceremonies. It will give school children the chance to organize it for the younger generations.  It will also help children understand the value of their natural and cultural heritage.  The Uluu Ot can help young people who cannot overcome problems in their life such as addictions or alcoholism.

Sacred Fires were lit in 7 places in Kyrgyzstan at the same time

Uluu Ot in Talas town
The preparation for Uluu Ot in Talas was also big. It was arranged to light the fire at Manas Ordo Sacred Complex. Under the pressure of clerical Islamists, who considered Uluu Ot as breaking Islamic principles, the head of “Manas Ordo” changed his mind and did not allow using that sacred site for the Uluu Ot ceremony. The traditional practitioners in Talas had to move to a place called “Kut Ordo”. Around 25 participants lit the fire at midnight and sat around the fire until 4 AM. Till 2 AM they were sitting and praying God and wishing for good. From 2 to 4 AM some people chanted “zikir”. Zikir or zikir chaluu is an action when practitioners sit in a circle and loudly repeat words referring to Allah the Most High.

Uluu Ot at Nyldy Ata sacred site, Talas province
Another group of Talas people held the Uluu Ot ceremony at Nyldy Ata sacred site. The guardian of that sacred place, Jengish Ata, reported that everything was conducted as it had been planned. About 50 people lit the fire at midnight and the fire burnt for two hours. One person from oblast administration and one journalist also took part. Their words were recorded on a voice recorder.

Uluu Ot at Sulaiman Mountain, Osh province
Another fire was lit at Sulaiman Mountain at midnight. Kadyr Koshaliev from Osh reported on it and said that it would be the subject of a broadcast from the El-TV television station.

Uluu Ot at Tugol sacred site in Jumgal district, Naryn province
Kubanychbek Tezekbaev, who came to Aigine Research Center on March 25th, let us know that Uluu Ot ceremony was also held at the Tugol sacred site in the Jumgal district of Naryn province. It was organized by about 30 participants.
One of the participants of the Uluu Ot ceremony at Manzhyly Ata sacred site also mentioned that his people were lighting fires in Aksy and Nookat, two towns in Jalalabat province.

Sacred Fire was also lit on the same day and at the same time in Mongolia, Japan, the Philippines, Australia, 16 places in North America, 4 places in South America, 4 places in Africa, and 3 places in Europe.

Click here to find the map that shows places where the Sacred Fire was lit

Prepared by Baktygul Tulebaeva