Guess.What.Day.It.Is? (Khuus, khuus, khuus.)

Springtime in the Gobi is as life-giving as it is treacherous. As the -45-degree lows of winter yield to 100-degree summertime highs, the traditional livestock of the area’s Mongolian herders start to give birth. Risks are many. Shaggy Bactrian camels (two humps!) are pregnant for 13 months, and usually give birth to a calf every second year. But the harsh, dusty climate is unforgiving, and it is not uncommon for mother or baby to perish during or after delivery. The result is often orphaned babies and grieving mothers who need one another—but don’t have any filial bonds.

After centuries in the desert, the nomadic herders have developed a unique musical ritual to help form these bonds, or reestablish one when a camel mother has rejected her own offspring. In the half-light of dusk or dawn, a musician wields his instrument, usually a horsehead fiddle, known as a morin khuur, or a Mongolian flute. Everyone present wears their best clothes, out of respect for the rite. The mother and calf are tied together, and, on the orange dunes, another musician begins to chant: “khuus, khuus, khuus.”

At first, observers say, the mother either ignores the calf altogether or lashes out by biting or spitting at it. The “coaxer,” at this point, adjusts the melody based on the behavior. The singer begins to weave elements of poetry or song into the tune, to mimic the sound of the camel’s walking, running, and bellowing. After many hours of this, it is said, the mother and calf begin to weep. The spell is cast, and the animals are joined for life.

~ Natasha Front, excerpt from The Transcendental Ritual of Mongolian Camel Coaxing May Soon Be Lost Forever. Khuus, khuus, khuus. (Atlas Obscura, August 31, 2017)


Notes:

  • Khuus = “Service” in Somali (via Google Translate)
  • Photo/Article: Thank you Nan.
  • Background on Caleb/Wednesday/Hump Day Posts and Geico’s original commercial: Let’s Hit it Again

Comments

  1. First tears, then love…this is the kind of stuff that adheres to the sticky stuff in the heart.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Must see the movie The Weeping Camel. It documents this ritual.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. this is such a beautiful ritual. literally, life saving.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Very informative post. My first thought was, how I enjoyed couscous in Morocco! Thanks for posting!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Who knew? Love this…

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Perhaps humans should give this a try.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Reblogged this on It Is What It Is and commented:
    CALEB … I sure missed you! 🐪

    Liked by 1 person

  8. WMS, WMS. Mother Nature still has so much to teach us!! On a (slightly) related note, I heard a fascinating piece on NPR yesterday about technology being used to reveal new information on animal migration. http://wbur.fm/2xwSchS Our world is an amazing place…

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I have heard of this and find it amazing! A great post.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I once saw a video of this heart-opening ritual in which the mother camel and her calf reunited. I was touched just as much by the service the singer and the musician gave to mother and calf as well as the rest of the family who witnessed the mother camel releasing the memories of her pain. A powerful reminder of love in action in all its guises. Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Years ago I saw a beautiful movie about Mongolia called Close to Eden. If you ever come across it, I think you would love it.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Woo hoo! You know me, David – this is my favorite day, thanks to you!

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Wonderful 💕

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Maybe the camels are part Greek, they spit on their loved ones to keep the evil spirits away. I learned that by watching “My Big Fat Greek Wedding”. ☺☺☺

    Liked by 1 person

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