A Young Kazakh Woman Learns to Hunt with her Eagle
A series of wonderful photos of a young Kazakh woman, who is learning to hunt with a golden eagle, in the traditional way appeared recently courtesy of the photographer, Asher Svidensky http://www.svidensky.com.
The Kazakh tradition includes shamanism. The beauty and bonding of the young woman and the golden eagle is breathtaking. The eagles are caught as chicks, and learn to work together with the hunter. After seven years, the eagle is released to the wild. The sense of respect between human and bird is very strong.
In Asher's words:
"These eagle hunters, who preserve an old tradition that’s passed from generation to generation, tame eagles and use them for hunting smaller animals, such as foxes and marmots. The eagle hunter’s families live on this side of Mongolia after having migrated between Kazakhstan, Russia and Mongolia until the fall of communism and closing of all borders. The tradition’s preservation was what drew me to them. They preserve it without any touristic nature, unlike in Kazakhstan. These Kazakh eagle hunters, who live in Mongolia today, are the last ones on earth who still deserve the title “Eagle Hunter”. It is not merely a title to them, but a way of life."
"I've learned that Mongolia’s rough surface and difficult climate were the reason that the eagle hunting art was meant for men alone. I thought to myself that in a country where seventy percent of its educated population are women, and most of its education institutes are run by females – is it possible to think that the future of the art of eagle hunting tradition could also lean on feminine shoulders?
I had gone looking for my eagle huntress."
"I found her in the form of Ashol Pan, the daughter of an experienced eagle hunter around Han Gohadok, which is south of Ulgii. She was perfect. I was amazed by her comfort and ease as she began handling the grand eagle for the first time in her life. She was fearlessly carrying it on her hand and caressing it somewhat joyfully."
"At the end of the photographing session, I sat down with her father and the translator to say my goodbyes, and I asked him this:"
“How did it feel watching your daughter dressed in Kazakh uniform, on a mountain top, sending the eagle off and calling it back again?”
“And honestly... would you have considered truly training her? Would she become Mongolia’s first ever female eagle huntress?”
"I expected a straightforward “No” or a joking “Maybe”, but after a short pause he replied:"
“Up until two years ago my eldest son was the successor of the eagle hunting tradition in our family. Alas, two years ago he was drafted to the army, and he’s now an officer, so he probably won’t be back with the tradition. It’s been a while since I started thinking about training her instead of him, but I wouldn't dare do it unless she asks me to do it, and if she will? Next year you will come to the eagle festival and see her riding with the eagle in my place.”
Tradition, co-operation and new ways, embodied here in Ashol Pan, her father and the Eagle. Take flight!