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Tsatsal- The Blessing Spoon

Mongolians are practical.

As they move at least 4 times a year almost all of their possessions are functional, and they often serve more than one purpose. Among the few ritual objects in their possession is often a tsatsal, a special carved wooden spoon used for specific offerings—usually of milk—to the gods, Earth and Sky. Milk is used in several Mongolian rituals, including the ritual of tossing milk into the air. It is the only spoon that is not used for cooking, serving, or eating, but is still intimately connected with food.

A Tsatsal is carved out of a single piece of wood usually left in natural colour. The carving on the spoon with nine symmetrical indentations forms a grid of three rows of three indentations each. Each of them is a four-sided pyramid into which the milk is poured.The flat bowl with its three-by-three grid pattern of indentations is the only element common to all these spoons. The grid (three down multiplied by three across) represent a sacred  number to Mongolians, as do other multiples of three. Three and nine are also significant numbers in Buddhism—and indicate the direct influence of Buddhist symbolism on many of these milk spoons.

To Mongolians, the number three has several symbolic meanings:

Past ~ present ~ future

The three stages of life: youth/childhood ~ adulthood ~ old age/wisdom

Heaven ~ earth ~ the lower world/underworld

For Buddhists: the three pillars of Buddhism

For the safe journey
The ritual of tossing milk into the air

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