The Spring – A Photo Essay of Siberia

One of the most exciting aspects of the Caravan 2013’s journey is the people we’ve met along the way. Valeriy Klamm is a Siberian Photographer, Producer and Curator who’s mission is to document and share the images and emotions of life in his corner of Russia. Valeriy along with Writer Irina Oktyabrskaya present a first-person Photo Essay on an uniquely Siberian Ritual.

The Dzhumala (Warm) Springs are situated one hundred kilometers from the village of Kosh-Agach not far from the Ukok Plateau and the Mongolian border and elevated at 2400 m above the sea level. The area represents a system of thermal springs. The spring has been worshiped as a healing sacred place by the local people. In 1980, the spring was announced as a regional natural heritage site.

A shadow of a black bird glides along the yellow mountain slope over a round lake in the hollow. The shadow moves faster than the bird’s call. The still water of the lake reflects the blue color of the low sky framed with the white summits. Snow covers the mountains surrounding the Dzhumala Springs on the new moon eve in August. The spring water matures at his time. Every spring serves its own purpose and has its specific voice, once rolling, once whispering. Spring sounds merge and form a rolling boom. The sounds rise up and fill the valley, which is the realm of an invisible beauty – the Mistress of the nature and the universe. People have become her guests at the new moon. They climb over two passes high in the mountains and get over the river to reach the springs in search for cure.

Having entered the Mistress’s possessions, people have to share their belongings with her. They commit some food to the flames and tie up white strips on a sacred pole. The visitor’s code of conduct is based on competence and respect. If somebody does not perform a ritual because he does not know about it, his misdeed will be forgiven. If somebody does not perform the necessary ceremonies being aware of it, his negligence will be punished.

In return for the knowledge about this sacred place, the Mistress demands that people should observe the rules. People have to abandon the anxiety for everyday deeds and forsake the vanities of the world. The due time has to be devoted to pacification with oneself and the surrounding world. People have to lead a simple and pure life like infants. All the everyday anxieties should be forgotten to be blessed with the chance to reveal the inner essence of oneself.

With the delivery of the new moon, people drink water, touch the rocks, sink into baths and take shower in the waterfall. Everyone has to fix the duration of this ritual, either three, or five or seven days. During this period, everybody has to visit every site of the forty sacred places for three times. The uneven numbers are incomplete and mean hope and finding favours. Beads are the measures and values of recovery. It is known that the Mistress treasures body decorations. The beads represent the low price for the right to lead a new life.

A bead is dropped in the water, it sinks to the bottom, and a line of air bubbles rise up from there like a thread of life in response from the Mistress. Day after day, the guests make rounds about all the springs and rocks. Every site is correlated with a particular part of human body, like the eyes, head, heart and others. Round after round, the people collect the parts of their body and reconstruct their body and soul. Forty sites are like forty phases, like forty days after birth or forty days after death. This is a period of transition when everybody has a chance to change his or her fate.

People get force and faith in Mistress’s springs in the Dzhumala valley. This place has become a point of power for the people. The essence of this place is beyond the usual things that belong to the rational, commercial and global power. The Dzhumala spring is the key to the eternity. The key is hidden in the mountains, springs and souls, from which spells cannot be removed. How can a person discover this key? It is necessary to coup with the shadow of a black bird which glides over the mountain slope faster than the bird’s call and drop a bead in the flowing spring water.

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Valery Klamm_self portraitLearn more about Valeriy on his websites:
Birthmark On the Map blog
and his personal website