VESTNIK ARHEOLOGII ANTROPOLOGII I ETNOGRAFII ¹ 2 (33) (2016)
A mermaid in folk beliefs of East Slavic peoples in Western Siberia (prospects of mapping the local aspects of the image)
Golubkova O.V. (Novosibirsk, Russian Federation)
Beliefs about mermaids, mythological characters, spirits in the female form, vary considerably across different regions of Russia. A mermaid is one of the most variative, polysemantic images of Slavic mythology. The beliefs about habitats of mermaids, their origin, appearance, features, abilities, specific occupations, attitudes to people are ambiguous. Some local features of the beliefs in mermaids among Russian, Ukrainian and Bielorussian population in Western Siberia have been identified on the basis of the field ethnographic materials. These differences are primarily related to the regions of origin of the ancestors of the Siberians, to places where their great-grandparents (Siberian long-term residents, or immigrants from different regions of Russia, Ukraine and Belarus) were born. The continuity of traditional culture among the villagers contributed to the preservation of folk beliefs, characteristic of a particular region. Traditional beliefs of old-timers (descendants of the Russian immigrants of the end of XVII — beginning of XVIII centuries) in mermaids were lost or heavily modified. On the other hand, Siberian «new settlers» (descendants of the immigrants of the end of XIX — beginning of XX centuries) remember a lot of stories about mermaids and meeting them. The brightest and diverse stories of oral non fairy-tale prose have been recorded according to the information provided by Siberian Ukrainians. The mermaids in Siberian beliefs lost their ability to affect the harvest (in contrast to the beliefs of the population of western and southern regions of European Russia). In Western Siberia the mermaids are believed to inhabit the ponds, but during a mermaid week they can be found in the forest, field, in the garden or in the Russian sauna. The appearance of the mermaids differs significantly: they can be attractive or terrifying. Natural and geographical factors, and landscape features also influenced indirectly the occurrence of stories about mermaids and variants of development of their images. The use of mapping method for data processing of field ethnographic materials lets us most fully reproduce the picture of localization of mythological concepts, displaying specificities of various regional features of the mermaid image: its appearance, characteristics, functions, folk stories.
Key words: Slavic mythology, folk beliefs, mermaids, seasonal rituals, regional specificity, Western Siberia, ethnographic field materials.
Institute of Archaeology and Ethnography SB RAS, Prospekt Àkademika Lavrentieva, 17, Novosibirsk, 630090, Russian Federation