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Partially wooden and stone Ovoo

An ovoo (Mongolian: овоо, Traditional Mongol: ᠥᠪᠥᠭᠭᠠ, heap) is a sacred cairn found in Mongolian shamanic religious traditions, usually made from rocks with wood or from wood. Ovoos are often found at the top of mountains and in high places, like mountain passes. They serve mainly as Tengriism religious sites, used in worship of the mountains and the sky as well as in Buddhist or Shamanist ceremonies, but often are also landmarks. Almost all researchers say that originally all ovoo were made from holy woods, and to this day they must include wood elements inside of them.

In custom[edit]

When travelling, it is custom to stop and circle an ovoo three times in clockwise direction, in order to have a safer journey. Usually, rocks are picked up from the ground and added to the pile. Also, one may leave offerings in the form of sweets, money, milk, or vodka. If one is in a hurry while travelling and does not have time to stop at an ovoo, honking of the horn while passing by the ovoo will suffice[citation needed].

In ceremony[edit]

Ovoos are also used in mountain- and sky-worshipping ceremonies that typically take place at the end of summer. Worshippers place a tree branch or stick in the ovoo and tie a blue khadag, a ceremonial silk scarf symbolic of the open sky and the sky spirit Tengger, or Tengri, to the branch.[1] They then light a fire and make food offerings, followed by a ceremonial dance and prayers (worshippers sitting at the northwest side of the ovoo), and a feast with the food left over from the offering.

During communism[edit]

During Mongolia's Communist period, ovoo worship was officially prohibited along with other forms of religion, but people still worshipped clandestinely.[2]


Ovoos may have influenced or given birth to the Korean Seonangdang.

 It was customary for each Mongolian warrior who left for battle to leave behind a stone, with the intention of retrieving it should he ever return. 

And so, these curious pyramids called Ovoo were created, which were honored by the Mongols. True monuments to the memory of the many unknown warriors who never returned to their homes.

See also[edit]

A predominantly wooden ovoo in northern Mongolia

A number of sums (districts) in Mongolia have the word Ovoo in their name:

Similarities with:


  1. ^ http://www.culture.mn/mongolia.php?recordID=khadag
  2. ^ EN060501B - The Human Body 1; Interview 2 - English

External links[edit]