The Widdershins Prayer Wheel

Prayer wheels are meant to be turned clockwise. You also walk clockwise around an Ovoo to symbolizing circumnavigating the world and clockwise around a stupa to make an offering. In fact a lot of things in the Tibet Buddhism are about going clockwise. The is because clockwise represents the path of nature. In the northern hemisphere, the sun appears to go clockwise in the sky so by walking clockwise you are symbolically following the sun.

But not always.

In a small temple, a rebuilt version of a temple built by the Lama of the Gobi, we saw a shrine to a certain female goddess, I think Senge Dongma, whose prayer wheel is meant to be turned counterclockwise. This prayer wheel symbolises “coming to meet the sun,” and summons more powerful wrathful energy. According to our guide, there is a whole school of philosophy symbolized by this counterclockwise wheel of finding one’s own path rather than going with the flow.

What excited me, is that Mongolia (actually Tibet, but Mongolia too) has the concept of Widdershins, the English word for the unnatural act of going counterclockwise or against the path of the sun. In English and European mythology, Widdershins is connected to the unnatural and the fairy realm. In Childe Rowland (an old english fairy tale that was inspiration for the poem, Child Roland to Dark Tower Came) a girl is kidnapped by fairies for walking around a church counterclockwise or widdershins.

This is the Widdershins Prayer Wheel

Also cool, these are legendary footprints from when men were bigger. You see, all living beings are getting smaller and apparently some day horses will be as big as rabbits. 

Dinosaur bones sitting in the middle of Gobi. About a mile from the temples. Which are kind of in the middle of a desert.

Petrified wood. Also in the middle of a desert. Huge chunks of petrified wood. Seriously, this stuff should be in a museum. It’s moments like this that I feel sympathy for the various scientists, archeologists, and anthropologists who steal artifacts and things because they want to preserve them. As is, the bones will be stolen bone by bone by tourists and the petrified wood with be chipped to bits by the same tourists.

I’m about to start my Independent Study Project on Mongolian Wrestling. So I’ll be spending the next month interviewing wrestlers.


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