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Anna Sehnalova Tuesday 21st May Seminar Room 3, 5.pm - 7pm, followed by dinner at Wolfson Title: Mountain Deities and Their Treasures: Possible Indigenous Origins of the Tibetan gTer ma tradition
Wolfson College Seminar Room 3, 15:00 - 17:00
Title: Boons from Bones: Dead Ancestors and Buried Treasure in Eastern Tibet
Title: Mountain Deities and Their Treasures: Possible Indigenous Origins of the Tibetan gTer ma tradition
Abstract: This paper discusses the possible origins of the Tibetan gter ma treasure traditions from outside its own testimonies and narratives, making use of other written historical documents (such as chronicles and genealogies), other ritual texts, and mainly recent fieldwork in East Tibet in the area of the sacred mountain of gNyan po g.yu rtse in the region of mGo log. The paper focuses on Tibetan indigenous religious notions, particularly on local, and mainly mountain, deities (variously called gzhi bdag, yul lha, gzhi bdag yul ha, also sa bdag, etc.), and their relationship to the concept of a hidden treasure, gter. Such a gter treasure is an offering to the deities of land, acquires various functions, and is employed at different social and religious occasions. It represents a coherent part of local indigenous cosmological perceptions and linked ancestral worship. Different kinds of treasures are offered to the deities of land as repositories of various forces of good fortune, prosperity and well-being (g.yang, bla, sa bcud), ensuring success and continuation of the social groups concerned. The treasures offered nowadays usually acquire the form of “treasure vases” (gter bum) or “treasure sachets” (gter khug), and based on the location of their placement can be “earth treasures” (sa gter) or “lake treasures” (mtsho gter). Treasure burials of bones of leading figures, typically clan chieftains, in “treasure vases” as “earth treasures” mark important sites of their groups’ history and religious practice, as well as places of own perceived (and sometimes divine) ancestry. The sites of such burials can become venerated as sacred mountains and the individuals thus buried as mountain deities, becoming worshipped ancestors by their descendants. The paper aims to open the questions in which ways the gter is related to gter ma, if it eventually might have stood at its origins, and if, for instance, the latter might be an outcome of the Buddhicisation of the former.