Selkup shaman's attribute with a mammoth image

Baulo A.V. (Novosibirsk, Russian Federation)


                   page 128132


The article describes an attribute of a Selkup shaman a trimmed garment, which is kept in a private collection in Salekhard (the Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous Okrug). The shamanic garment was purchased from the relatives of I.S. Bezrukikh, a famous shaman, who had lived in the village of Farkovo, Turukhansk district, Krasnoyarsk Territory. The trimming on the garment is made of fabric pieces, bead strings and some iron figures tied with laces. The total length of the trimming is 80 cm. Three bird beaks (possibly of wild ducks) and seven pieces of skin are sewn on a red ribbon. Figures of two animals a mammoth with a long tusk and a moose with an elongated muzzle are sewn on a white ribbon. The mammoth tusk and the moose mouth are connected. The trimming is made of things produced at different times and combined in one unit presumably in the 1970s. The iron figures and a copper ring are the earliest items, which can be dated the second half or the end of the 19th century. The animal figures (a mammoth and a moose) sewn on a ribbon must have been produced in the 1950s or 1960s. The article describes main Selkup beliefs related to mammoths using data from publications by E.D. Prokofieva and G.I. Pelikh, as well as from unpublished materials reporting the 1970 and 1979 expeditions to the Selkups. According to E.D. Prokofieva, a mammoth was believed to protect the entrance to the underground world, to the land of the dead. Sometimes the image of an underground mammoth would merge with that of a bear (a mammoth-bear), or even with a pike (a mammoth-pike). The Narym Selkups distinguished two kinds of mammoths: sourp-kozar (a beast mammoth) and kvoli-kozar (a fish mammoth). The former looked like a moose, who would turn into a mammoth as soon as it got old, with tusks starting to grow instead of its horns in the process of transformation. The latter resembled a huge pike. As far as the two images sewn on a ribbon are concerned, they are supposed to depict either the transformation of a moose into a mammoth after its death, or a kind of confrontation between a moose and a mammoth. Iron figures that are present on most of the known Selkup shamanic costumes most likely belong to the category of myrak, a spirit enclosed in an iron object. It is known that an iron figure of a swan used to be sacrificed to the spirit when a family member was ill or when some other misfortunes had occurred, with the purpose of conciliating the spirit. Unfortunately, we lack information about the role played by the images of a mammoth, a moose, birds and other animals in the beliefs of I.S. Bezrukikh. In any case, the investigated artefact is a unique cult attribute of a Selkup shaman, which demonstrates an extremely rare plot of including an underground creature the mammoth into the religious ritual practices of a small northern people.


Key words: shaman, mammoth, moose, religion, cult, peoples of North-West Siberia.


DOI: 10.20874/2071-0437-2018-42-3-128-132




A.V. Baulo

Institute of Archaeology and Ethnography of Siberian Branch RAS, prosp. Akad. Lavrentieva, 17, Novosibirsk, 630090, Russian Federation