The North Star Project, 2013-2014 Report Number Twenty-One — Erdenet, Mongolia by Gina Sterk
A few weekends ago I took a trip to Erdenet, Mongolia’s second-largest city. While there, we did some hiking around and came across a number of ovoos, which is what you see pictured below. While I don’t know a lot about ovoos, I do know that they are a part of shamanism, the belief system that has traditionally been most prevalent in Mongolia.
An ovoo is a pile of rocks, or cairn, which marks a religious site. In Mongolia, you often come across them at high places, like mountaintops. When you come across an ovoo, it is customary to circle it clockwise three times, then pick up a rock and add it to the pile, so the ovoos are continually growing. Ovoos are also often drapped with hadag – blue, silk scarves used for ceremonial greetings, especially during Tsagaan Sar, the Mongolian Lunar New Year (but which you also see everywhere in Mongolia throughout the year — for sale in markets, in temples, tied to bridges, etc.)
While I don’t know much about shamanism in Mongolia or the deeper meaning behind the ovoo, for me, ovoos symbolize what I find most alluring about Mongolia: the ancientness, vastness, and uniqueness of this land. A land in which you never know when you might come across a beautiful, mysterious rock pile which has marked a sacred space for an unknowable number of years, decades, or maybe centuries.
For all of the North Star Project 2013-2014 Reports, see https://mgjnorthstarproject.wordpress.com/
For all of the North Star Project 2013 Summer Reports, see http://www2.css.edu/app/depts/HIS/historyjournal/index.cfm?cat=10
The North Star Project 2013-2014 School Year Reports: The Middle Ground Journal’s collaborative outreach program with K-12 classes around the world. We gratefully acknowledge North Star Academy of Duluth, Minnesota as our inaugural partner school, and the flagship of our K-12 outreach program. We also warmly welcome Duluth East High School and Dodge Middle School to our collaborative program.
Under the leadership of our North Star host teachers and student interns, The North Star Project has flourished for two years. For a brief summary, please see a recent article in the American Historical Association’s Perspectives on History, at:
Having re-tooled and re-designed the collaborative program, we are drawing on the experience of our veteran student interns, ideas from our host teachers, and new projects provided by our incoming student interns. This school year The Middle Ground Journal will share brief dispatches from our North Star Project student interns, particularly from those who are currently stationed, or will soon be stationed abroad. As of the time of this report we have confirmed student interns who will be reporting from Mongolia, Southern China, Shanghai, northeastern China, The Netherlands, Tanzania, Ireland, England, Finland, Russia, and Haiti. We also have students developing presentations on theatrical representations of historical trauma, historical memory, the price individuals pay during tragic global conflicts, and different perceptions of current events from around the world. We will post their brief dispatches here, and report on their interactions with the North Star students and teachers throughout the school year.
Hong-Ming Liang, Chief Editor, The Middle Ground Journal, The College of St. Scholastica, Duluth, MN, USA, 2013-2014 School Year
(c) 2013 The Middle Ground Journal, Number 7, Fall, 2013. See Submission Guidelines page for the journal’s not-for-profit educational open-access policy.