The Raven's Gift: A Scientist, a Shaman, and Their Remarkable Journey Through the Siberian Wilderness by Jon TurkThe Raven's Gift: A Scientist, a Shaman, and Their Remarkable Journey Through the Siberian Wilderness by Jon Turk

The Raven's Gift: A Scientist, a Shaman, and Their Remarkable Journey Through the Siberian…

byJon Turk

Paperback | November 8, 2011

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Jon Turk has kayaked around Cape Horn, traversed the Northwest Passage and paddled across the Pacific Rim. But, the strangest trip he ever took was the journey he made as a man of science into the realm of the spiritual. In 2000, in the remote Siberian village of Vyvenka, Jon Turk met an elderly woman named Moolynaut, a Koryak shaman, and learned about her voyages to the spirit world. A year later, Moolynaut entreated the spirit of a great, black raven to help mend his pelvis, which had been previously fractured in a mountaineering accident. When the healing was complete, Turk was able to walk without pain. Turk, a scientist, could find no rational explanation for the healing and the experience changed his life, irrevocably altering his view of the connectivity between the natural and spiritual worlds. Searching for the spirit raven, he traversed the frozen tundra where Moolynaut was born, camping with bands of reindeer herders, and recording stories of their lives and spirituality. Framed by high adventure across the vast and forbidding Siberian landscape, The Raven's Gift is a life-altering vision of the ties between the natural and spiritual realms, informed by one man's awakening and guided by the ancient spirit bird with wide black wings and the power to heal.

JON TURK is the author of twenty-five environmental and earth science text books and two previous adventure travel books. He alternates his time between Fernie, British Columbia and Darby, Montana.
Title:The Raven's Gift: A Scientist, a Shaman, and Their Remarkable Journey Through the Siberian…Format:PaperbackDimensions:336 pages, 8.24 × 5.56 × 0.92 inPublished:November 8, 2011Publisher:St. Martin's PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0312611773

ISBN - 13:9780312611774

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Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great Adventure! While attending the Banff Mountain Film & Book Festival in 2010 I was glancing through the programme and was intrigued by the description of Jon's book and how it deals with shamanistic traditions. I bought a ticket and went to Jon's presentation. The "show" started a little unconventionally but when Jon mentioned that he'd been to school with G.W. Bush he had everyone's attention. That fact really has nothing at all to do with this book but Jon used and still does use it well to get the full attention of his audience. This book so impressed me that I was in touch with Jon directly; discovered that we have good mutual friends and the author and I have since become friends. So with that introduction it is likely needless for me to state that I found "The Raven's Gift" fascinating, challenging, provocative and simply a great read. As a mutual friend put it, "Jon does things that no one else has ever done before". That is Jon's life - breaking new trails and shattering old myths. In this book he relates a series of his adventures woven in with the story of a little known and often forgotten people and their "grandmother" the shaman Moolynaut. For readers interested in any or all of: wilderness & adventure; ethnography, shamanistic traditions, modern & remote Kamchatka- this is a fascinating book. The pace varies from high speed adventure to detached observation. Indeed my only significant criticism is that in my opinion from time to time Jon's textbook writing side comes through a bit too strongly. At times I felt like I was pitched from an adventure tale into an ethnographic journal. Through it all though the rich thread of human experience binds the book together into a rich and vivid story which held my attention from beginning to end. Thank you Jon - I look forward to reading your other two books.
Date published: 2012-03-22

Read from the Book

Raven's GiftPart 1To Vyvenka by KayakI have seen that in any great undertaking it is not enough for a man to depend simply upon himself. --Lone Man, Teton SiouxA Walk with My Dog: Spring 1970Forty years ago, I was a research chemist, working at night, in the absence of sunlight, buffered against all vagaries of weather by a precise climate control system. In an effort to probe into the nature of the chemical bond, that much studied but still mysterious collection of forces that holds all matter together, I blasted molecules apart with a beam of high-energy electrons and then accelerated the resultant fragments into a powerful magnetic field.It was intense, stressful work, and one sunny weekend day, in the spring of 1970, I went for a walk with my dog across an alpine meadow in the Colorado Rockies. A few patches of crusty snow lingered in shady and north-facing aspects, but the open spaces were dominated by young, green grasses, the lifesaving nutrition for elk and deer after a long, hungry winter. The earth was moist and spongy underfoot and I knelt down to smell a glacier lily that had opened its petals to the warm, spring sun. My dog suddenly raced off at sprint speed for about fifty yards, leapt into the air like a fox, with his front paws spinning, and landed, digging furiously, clods of sod flying into the air. I felt certain that he was chasing a ground squirrel, futilely trying to dig faster than the rodent could run through its tunnel, the waydogs chase prey, as sport, because they know that a bowl of kibble awaits them back home and failure holds no penalties.I sauntered over, but by the time I arrived, my dog had abandoned that hole, sprinted another fifty yards, and repeated this same odd behavior. There was no evidence of any burrow in the vicinity of the first hole, nor at his second, or his third, or fourth. Had he gone mad? I watched him more closely. Each time, after breaking through the protective sod, he shoved his nose into the earth and sniffed, then dug, and sniffed again. What did he smell down there? I squatted on my hands and knees and tentatively stuck my nose into one of his holes. Even my human senses could detect the sweet aroma of decay as mites and bacteria woke from their winter somnolence and began to munch and crunch, as only mites and bacteria know how, to convert bits of roots and old leaves into soil.I assumed that my dog, with his animal instinct, was rejoicing in the process of spring, in the primordial smell of rebirth and renewed growth, a smell that originated when organisms first ventured onto the naked rock of the continents. By the time I reached the fifth hole, my nose and cheeks were smudged with dirt and bits of moist soil lodged onto the hairs of my nostrils, so the earth was inside me, as if we had just made a lifelong pact of togetherness. I lay on the grass, sandwiched between the chill spring dampness on my stomach and the warm sun beating against my back.The next morning, I returned to the lab, as usual, but something inside me had changed. Although the dog caper, by itself, didn't create an instant epiphany; it was the tipping point. Over the next few weeks, I realized that I couldn't spend my whole life down there in that room, which suddenly felt like a dungeon, manipulating particles that I could never see, under the flicker of fluorescent lights, in a world permeated forever with the smell of acetone and benzene. A year later, I finished my thesis, stuffed my Ph.D. diploma in the glove box of a battered Ford Fairlane, lashed a canoe on top, and headed into the Arctic.Since that time, my entire adult life has been a balancing act between science on one hand and the smell of the earth that became so seminal that spring day in the Rockies on the other. I have made the bulk of my livingwriting college-level textbooks on geology, environmental science, chemistry, physics, and astronomy. At the same time, I moved to a ski town and became involved in high-intensity rock climbing, skiing, kayaking, and later mountain biking. Climbing a vertical granite wall in a remote region of the Canadian Arctic--vulnerable to gales from the North Pole--involves a different level of intensity than smelling the spring earth. But the relationship between the two is stronger than most people would suspect. During expeditions, the often razor-thin margin between life and death depends on a tactile, sensory awareness of the environment that incorporates but also transcends logic. My first introduction to that awareness occurred on a spring day when I was walking in a meadow with my dog.Over the decades, these two aspects of my dichotomous personality have forged a comfortable symbiosis. I have grown to enjoy the exhilaration and toil of arduous expeditions to remote, dangerous, and beautiful places, and at the same time I am always happy to return home, sit in a comfortable office chair, and distill complex scientific concepts into sentences that a college student can understand and appreciate.But if I thought I understood my relationship with these two disparate worlds, nothing had prepared me for the day when I stood naked on one leg before Moolynaut, a one-hundred-year old Siberian shaman and healer, with my right hand behind my back and my left arm pointed straight in front of me. When I stabilized my balance, she chanted herself into a trance and asked Kutcha, the Raven God, to heal my overused and battered body.THE RAVEN'S GIFT. Copyright © 2009 by Jon Turk. All rights reserved. Printed in the United States of America. For information, address St. Martin's Press, 175 Fifth Avenue, New York, N.Y. 10010.

Editorial Reviews

"The northern lights have indeed seen strange sights, but none quite compare to Jon Turk's adventures on the frozen tundra of Kamchatka. There he encounters a great-great-grandmother spiritual healer who mends his body of damage sustained in a long-ago skiing accident. The tension between his own logical scientific background and the mysterious shamanistic wisdom of his healer is at the heart of this wonderfully-told story of Koryak life and his own personal transformation." -Henry Pollack, author of A World Without Ice and Uncertain Science...Uncertain World