If you met Arjhan Kezerekov in Altai then you will probably already know that he passed away today. He was a great, great man.
Arjhan was a public figure. He saw into our souls, performed ritual, called upon the spirits and gave words of advice honestly, humbly and with good humour. I am certain that many of the foriegn visitors to Altai will feel that meeting him was a meaningful experience. The way he worked meant he could touch you deeply in a moment. Therefore, if anyone has anything at all they would like to express to Ursula I am happy to translate or pass on letters to her at the appropriate time. Joanna.
This photograph shows the first time I met Arjhan in July 2002 although I didn’t know who he was then. It was evening in a cave near the Katun river. He was warming his ‘topshur’ by the fire waiting to say his blessing and throat sing for us. The women who also sang were a little nervous. Even then, I distinctly remember, Arjhan had a strange gait, he slightly stooped to one side creating the impression of being so much older than his years. At the time this photograph was taken he was just 24.
The next time I saw Arjhan was at his home about 6 months later. I was in a car late at night travelling back to the valley with some friends having been visiting in Ongudai. My friend began telling me that in the village we were about to pass through there lived a really interesting young shaman called Arjhan. As we passed through the village I began to feel light headed and was getting cramps in my hands and face. My friend told me not to worry. She said it had happened because we were obviously supposed not to pass by Arjhan’s house without meeting him. So we turned around and at nearly midnight my friend began banging on the thick wooden door to Arjhan’s house. Surely everyone would be asleep I thought. I was embarassed to be waking people up at midnight. Unexpectedly, the door was opened and we were ushered in from the cold. I’ll never forget what I saw. There was Arjhan sitting beside his stove in full costume, warming his ‘topshur’. The table was laid with jams and sweets ready to have with a cup of tea and the room was full of family. Apologies were made for disturbing the family so late. Arjhan replied, ‘I’ve been expecting you. I had a dream last night that a visitor would come from a distant land and that I had to help them.’ And true it was. All sorts of cleansing and seeing rituals began. He talked in Altai as he worked. ‘Your daughter’, he turned to my friend who was nearly old enough to be my mother, and said: ‘she will stay in Altai’. How could that have even seemed possible ten years ago. But I did stay as Arjhan boldly said I would and he proceeded to tell them many things about me of which I had never breathed a word to any living soul……He always knew, saw and helped.