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Susan and the bridegroom, Bemba visit a Tibetan Buddhist monk to bless their marriage. They sit on a white sheet in which grains of rice, a fertility symbol, also signifying prosperity, are enfolded. The white sheet insures them a happy healthy life together.
Katrina Thomas's notes: Kalmyks are the descendants of the Oirats, a semi-nomadic Asian Mongolian people, who lived in felt yurts, and adopted Tibetan Buddhism during their migration from Asia to the European part of Russia. They remained there for nearly 400 years. After World War II, despite America's stringent immigration laws, 571 were admitted in 1951 and 1952, as displaced persons, under a special dispensation of the US attorney general. Others soon followed. Their weddings observe rules and hours, set by an astrological priest, for specified events which incorporate their traditions of a white road. It is based on the fact that milk and milk products are essential to the culture of a herding people. I photographed one wedding in Philadelphia. All the others took place in their rural neighborhood of Freewood Acres that has taken root in Howell Township, NJ.