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An Eagle Soars Over the Steppe

November 17, 2013

An Eagle Soars Over the Steppe

I’ve recently been thinking of a field trip I was a participant in some years ago, and have been sifting through old pictures. I found this (slightly blurred) photograph I took on that field trip in Buryatia, southern Siberia in August/September 1995. We were looking for rock art, paintings on cliffs and outcrops, seemingly associated with shamanic practices. Based on the order in which this picture was found, and from my increasingly vague memories of that expedition, I’m fairly sure this picture was taken at a place called Sarbadui, close to the border with Mongolia. I’m sure I thought I was just taking a picture of an eagle soaring overhead, not the white ‘streamer’ to its left. It doesn’t look like a cloud, more like a strand of ectoplasm or a prayer flag fluttering in a stiff breeze. A foreign object on the lens? I’ll have to track down the negative… Here’s the relevant bit blown up:

Eagle Banner

Actually, judging from its organic, fibrous appearance, I’m wondering whether it’s a seed head blowing into view. It was a warm end to the summer on the steppe. A closer look at the picture below reveals a lot of organic material floating about, presumably from the plants in the foreground, disturbed by the passage of walkers. We are being led to a rock outcrop where there is a shaman’s grave, near a place called Goltologoy. Strangely, the rock appears to have attracted a ‘halo’, a luminous, horizontal white line, hovering immediately above the outcrop, just below the horizon. I was quite excited when I found this photo tonight. Again, probably a drifting seed head, illuminated by the rays of the setting sun, but how fortuitous that it coincides with such a numinous place… (NB This picture actually enlarges when you click on it).

Image (49)

Rational explanations don’t quite dispel the auspicious patterns formed by the random movement of matter, whether birds, tea-leaves or seed heads…

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