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Blood, perfume and deer

Unusual and sometimes terrible rites of the indigenous peoples of the Far East

From time immemorial, the indigenous peoples of the North and the Far East believed that everything in this world is one and inextricably linked. Moreover, man is not the king of nature, but its grain. But the one who was revered the most was spirits. Many traditions and rituals are connected with this understanding of the world, which to an ordinary person seem strange, and sometimes terrible.

Blood, perfume and deer

Bloody wedding

One of the most important ceremonies of any nationality is a wedding. It became unusual among the peoples of the North among the Chukchi. Before taking the girl as a wife, the young man had to work in the house of the bride’s father — a year and a half to help with the housework or graze the deer. If the work was appreciated, they began to prepare for the wedding.

Shortly before dawn, the ritual "uavynragtatgyrgyn" (taking the wife to her husband's house) took place. The first to come was the groom's friend to conduct reconnaissance - to find out if there was a bride in the camp. After that, the groom rode in a sled to the bride's house, and then showed his artistic abilities - he sang and danced. After he finished demonstrating his talents, the bride's mother outfitted her with a new yaranga: she gave her a doll as a symbol of procreation and a dowry. At the other yaranga, the mother-in-law was waiting for the bride to give her a task right away - the girl had to show how well she was able to support the fire.

Since everything in the world is connected, it was not complete without spirits and cult animals. After passing all the tests, the bride’s face was smeared with the blood of a deer to show her belonging to a new genus. The bloody rites did not end there: the newly-made wife had to smear the sledges with deer blood, and put the horned bone marrow near the yaranga - for good luck. The girl mixed part of the remaining blood with ash, rubbed between her palms, and then lit a new family hearth.

As a sign of engagement, the hands of the newlyweds were tied with a leather cord, then they were blindfolded and led around the yaranga. This symbolized that they could find their way to their home even in the dark. 


Siege of the bride

The Itelmens who live in Kamchatka and in the Magadan region have different wedding traditions. The young man, who liked the girl, like the Chukchi, helped her father of the bride, but at the same time tried to serve the chosen one herself. All this was necessary so that after some time he was allowed to “grab” the bride. The girls knew about these traditions, therefore, as a sign of sympathy, they dressed more smartly - the fluffy, the better: they put herbal wigs and hair pads on their heads, and the sleeves, collars and hem of the clothes were covered with dog fur. Sealskin tassels could be sewn onto the caftan. 

When the time came, the girl's father said: “Guatem” (grab), giving his consent to the wedding. After this command, the guy needed to catch the bride, cut her shoelaces and straps on the trousers with a stone knife and touch intimate places. If the girl was against, she actively fought back, and relatives came to her aid. If the "siege" ended in success, the groom, as a sign of victory, took off his necklace from the neck and put it in the bride's pantaloons.


Childbirth on her knees

The birth of children among small nations did not go without rules and ceremonies. The Chukchi again distinguished themselves more than others. They can’t help a woman during childbirth, otherwise everyone should expect the anger of spirits. This nation believed that the birth rate is governed by the supreme deity, who knows the souls of the dead and sends them to earth for rebirth. 

Women gave birth alone, standing on their elbows and knees, and in order not to attract the attention of evil spirits, they tried not to scream. If a woman agreed to help, then her whole life suffered ridicule, and her husband received the nickname "midwife." The women in labor did not want to tolerate general contempt, so they did everything on their own, they even cut the umbilical cord themselves — with a knife or a piece of stone scraper for dressing hides.

They wiped the baby with a piece of deer skin, put bracelets of rabbit and deer wool on the left wrist and left ankle. If the mother did not have enough milk, the child was often given to feed the dog, because they believed in the healing properties of its milk.

Coffins on the trees

Burial rites among the northern peoples were also peculiar. Yakuts, Nenets, Buryats practiced the so-called air burial - they hung a coffin with a deceased on a tree, and did not bury it in the ground. He hung there until he decayed. Some nationalities buried everyone like that, others only highly respected people.

The Evens dressed the deceased in the best dress, put them in a wooden block and put it on trees or on poles. The blood of the deer was poured over the coffin and trees, and the tomb of the deceased and his belongings were placed under them. The Nanai people put a stone to their heels so that the deceased would not push the souls of living relatives. Also, a funeral bib with a pattern in the form of intestines was sewn for the dead so that the soul could breathe and feed. Food and water were placed at the head. And in Yakutia, where the horse cult existed, the horse's head and hooves were hung from a tree near the burial.

At the funeral, the Nanai laid out the clothes and belongings of the deceased on the street, some were burned during the commemoration, some were given to relatives as a keepsake. Some items of clothing and household items were placed in the coffin. They carried the deceased out through a broken opening or through a window, and not through the door, so that the deceased would not find his way home. The grave in the ancestral cemetery in the shape of a rectangle was dug by strangers, but the lid of the coffin was hammered by the relatives of the deceased. Moreover, they did it with an odd number of nails, striking them an odd number of times.

In Koryak, the main action was cutting the abdomen to the dead. At the same time, it was important to preserve the insides so that you could understand the cause of death. The body was burned, all the things of the deceased were put in a fire, mainly weapons, home equipment and gifts for deceased relatives. Watching the burning, people ate the meat of deer slaughtered by the deceased, did not particularly grieve - they behaved freely, competed in wrestling and running. Before leaving, everyone went around the place of burning against the sun, and walked, confusing their tracks. 


Dirty tradition

In the cold and harsh conditions of life, the peoples of the north did not practice body washing. Since there is snow on the tundra for nine months of the year, and the water is icy in summer, people had no desire to do hygiene. To put themselves in order, the inhabitants of the camp gathered around the hearth in the yaranga or plague, threw all the available clothes on themselves and sang. Having sweated well, they take off their clothes and wash each other's skin with bone scrapers. After that, everyone was richly smeared with fat seals. He created a protective film - he protected the skin from drying out, excessive cooling and a little from pathogenic bacteria.

In the Soviet years, Aborigines began to be taught to wash with soap in baths, but these procedures did not go to the benefit - small nations began to get sick and die more often. Their body became more susceptible to bacteria and viruses, heart attacks occurred due to the fact that the body is not used to hot water.


Guest - the most expensive

Many Evenki families roamed the taiga for the most part of the year in isolation from other people, so the arrival of guests has always been a holiday. They were presented with gifts, seated in a place of honor in the plague, prepared the most delicious dishes, and in the warm season they danced.

After that, one of the guests or hosts began an unhurried story, which smoothly flowed into singing. The heroes of the story were people, animals, spirits. The stories lasted all night, and the guests remained in the plague for several days.

The highest manifestation of respect for the guest was the proposal to spend the night with the wife of the head of the plague. If, after that, a woman gave birth to a baby, everyone considered this a great success.


Dancing with a bear

The Koryaks, who live in Kamchatka, Chukotka and the Magadan Region, based their customs and holidays on the ancient myth of a dying and resurrecting beast. For example, when a hunter returned home with prey, all the inhabitants of the camp went to a solemn meeting of the "guest" - the killed animal. One of the participants in the ceremony put on animal skin and performed an old dance, which asked the beast not to be angry and to be kind to people. The inhabitants of the house where the hunter lived prepared a festive meal and offered it to the "guest". If the prey was a bear, a domestic deer was slaughtered in his honor.

It was important not only to meet the beast well, but also to “carry out” the honor. To do this, the inhabitants of the camp reproduced the hunting scene: one, throwing a bear's skin on his shoulders, depicted a beast, first fought with the hunters, and then stopped the fight, took the bag of presents prepared for him and gave his skin to people. The Koryaks believed that the return to life of animals killed in the hunt depended on these rites.

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