Barley Burning Ceremony

Very cold at nights and the guard dogs barked all night long — that is their job to guard the sheep. Hard to sleep and was awaken often.

Work continued from early morning for the women while the men slept. The surrounding wasn’t as picturesque as their own pasture, lots of fences around. But, it would be good to tell the story, that the herders are fenced in more and more nowadays.

I filmed Yidan milking the yaks, good sound this time without strong wind that could be used in some of last year’s shots.

Sangku came back again from the village and started playing chess with Ah-Ji again. He helped asking a couple of more questions when Yidan returned to tent, making butter and cheese crumbs. Not as much milk as previous years. Yidan thought the yaks didn’t like their new, fenced home very much. And there were diseases. A couple of yaks got foams on their mouth.

Another round of thunder, lightening and yak dung covering. Sangku left for home after I exhausted my questions. I shall learn to be a better interviewer.

Just before the yaks were to return home for the night, the women prepared several piles of fire in the field where they would tie the yaks. Yidan made three piles. She put coal from the stove to light the piles. Then, all the women started fanning the fire piles with pot lids. Smoke soon permeated the three-tent camp.

The men herded their animals back. With fences everywhere, it was an easy ride out. Soon the yaks showed up at the camp. Fires didn’t seem to bother them. The women prayed while they fanned harder. Yaks walked right into the smoke, to where they were supposed to stand for the night.

Yidan prayed while tying their yaks. She also gave a bucket of whey to a couple of yaks and they seemed to like that a lot.

When all the yaks were tied, Yidan walked back into the tent and brought out a bag of barley flour. She scooped some on each pile of fire, sprinkled some water around and prayed loudly while doing that. I missed the first fire pile, filmed she did the second, and while preparing for the third, the girls came to watch me film and bumped the camera out of focus. Ugh! The little camera with a super fast lens is great for low light scenes such as this, but really difficult to focus when I couldn’t even see very well.

It smelled very nice, the burning barley smell. Perhaps that has some curing power indeed. Yidan said because their yaks were ill, Lamas told them to do a barley burning ceremony (Serpa).

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