An interesting look at the Mogolian tradition of making Mongolian Vodka called Arkhi. The common tradition in the Mongolian culture of passing the snuff bottle around to all the guests before each meal. The pouring out of the fire is to appease the god of Fire. Interesting facts about the Mongolian decoration of Snuff Bottle and process of making Mongolian Vodka. Vodka bowls are commonly used to serve. The decor of the snuff bottle indicate host wealth and status.
If you read that title you might well imagine we were about to start a party. You would be wrong. In the Mongolian tradition we are about to give an offering, for the delicious food we are about to receive, and for the honor and comfort of our guests. Traditional Mongolian vodka is called Arkhi and is made with milk which is distilled by a kettle, wooden barrel, or tube. The distilled dairy mix is then churned into butter milk or yogurt. The warm yogurt is poured into an empty bowl that is heated by an open flame. As the yogurt is boiling, a bucket catches the newly distilled “vodka.” Once the Arkhi is completed it is poured out and spilled into the fire. That is an offering to the god of Fire.
The Mongolians call themselves Mongols which means “everlasting fire.” When the Arkhi burns blue that is a good sign. Fire is also a tool of purification of the spirit in the Mongolian tradition and many other traditions and religions as well. Some Mongolian nomads will bring their vodka and offer a drink to new acquaintances with humorous results. The Snuff bottle is offered by the host to everyone in the circle of guests. The greeting is called “Khoorog” Every guest then takes a spoonful of snuff to the nostril and passes the snuff bottle with his or her open right hand back to the host.
One of the meanings of the snuff bottle is to Fly. “In passing the snuff bottle, the host is asking, that the guest may be lifted, happy or be inspired.” The snuff bottles can be very ornate, and are considered very valuable.
The decoration and ornamentation indicate the wealth and status of the host. The rich would make snuff bottles from Jade, and Coral and decorate it with jewels. The poor Mongolians would make the snuff bottles out of chalcedony, a very inexpensive and common stone. Today in Mongolia the snuff bottle is still carried in a beautiful embroidered pouch that is worn on the waist under a cloth sash. To refuse Arkhi or the snuff bottle is considered extremely bad manners. A guest must always receive what the host offers. Mongolian may not have a lot of anything, but they share everything. In remote places Mongolian nomads rarely see visitors or a traveler. A visitor is a great moment to celebrate and share his hospitality. One other delicacy is warm horse milk!
Remember it is rude to refuse. After the Arkhi offering, and passing of the snuff bottle, in their Gers, the traditional Mongolian round home, one can hear stories, and music through the night. The Mongolians in many ways are still caught between the ancient rituals and the modern world. If you would like to follow along our Mongolian adventures and read more about the ancient traditions and meet incredible people and read more stories like these.
You will find more in my book ” The Memory of Vinegar and Oil: Origins Unified”