Ancient Mongolia for Kids - Religion, Shamans, Tsam Figures, Ovoos Illustration

Modern Day Ovoo
The Mongols
Religion, Shamans, Tsam Figures, Ovoos

Mongol Religion: The ancient Mongols believed in many gods and goddesses and demons.

Nature Worship:

One of the reasons the ancient Mongols never became an agricultural society is that they believed it was terribly wrong to dig the soil or cut the grass. To them, these were attacks on nature. If you attacked nature, you would have bad luck. The ancient Mongols worshiped nature - they worshiped the sun, the moon, the planets, the earth, the sky, mountains, hills, lakes, streams, and animals.

They also worshiped fire. There were a bunch of rules about fire. You were forbidden to throw dirt on a fire. You could not put a stick in a fire. You could not jump over a fire. The ancient Mongols made offerings to fire, which was usually a piece of grease. When the grease was tossed into the fire, it made quite a satisfying crackle and spitting sound.


Shamans were the holy men of the ancient Mongols. They were credited with special powers that allowed them to talk to the gods on behalf of their tribe.

When someone died, for example, the tribal Shaman would go into a trance, so he could accompany the spirit of the dead person to the other world.

Shamans also performed the Tsam, a dance the ancient Mongols believed would rid them of evil spirits. Some Shamans inherited their job from their father. Others found their powers after an illness or a calamity.

Tsam Figures:

These are little figurines that represent various gods and goddesses, with famous Shamans of the past.


Ovoos are little piles of stone that act as alters. Each tribe had its own style of building an ovoo. Offerings of food or other goods were placed on an ovoo to bring luck into your life.

One of their many rules was that it was imperative to circle the ovoo three times in a clockwise direction when leaving an offering or you would never find luck.

Today, the nomad people of Mongolia still build ovoos in the old way. As you travel, you might pass a small pile of rocks with an old bottle, a used car part, and perhaps a ribbon on it. This may not be litter. These may be meaningful gifts left carefully on a family ovoo, asking the ancient gods for a favor.


Today, most of the Mongolian people are Buddhist. But the old ways are still amongst them as you can see in their festivals and customs.

Buddhism for Kids

The Mongols for Kids Index