Cauldrons in the cultural traditions of the Ob Ugrians and Samoyeds: a sacral aspect

Perevalova E.V. (St. Petersburg, Russian Federation), Danilova E.N. (St. Petersburg, Yekaterinburg, Russian Federation)


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The ritual attitude towards the cauldron as the sacred vessel can be found in all religious practices. Archaeological and ethnographic materials indicate the incredible versatility and polysymbolism of the cauldron in the cultures of the Ob Ugrians and Samoyeds. The first part of this research, which was published in the previous issue of the present Journal, covered the archaeological context along with the functional, morphological and social aspects associated with the cauldron as a unique ethnocultural phenomenon. The second part presented here aims to consider the sacral aspect of the cauldron. The conducted archaeological and ethnographic research was based on a structural-semiotic approach. In this article, we analyse field ethnographic materials collected during long-term fieldwork (1980s2018) from Northern (Synya, Voykar, Sob, Kunovat, Polui, Ob, Polar Urals), Eastern and Southern (Salym, Yugan, Pim, Tromyogan, Agan, Vakh) Khanty; Northern and Western Mansi (Northern Sosva, Lyapin and Lozva Rivers); tundra and forest Nenets (Yamal Peninsula, Pur and Agan Rivers). The materials of research carried out in Western Siberia and the Urals were also applied. The use of cauldrons in rituals and rites is characterized by a wide diversity and local variability of traditions. Judging by the information presented in the article, the cauldron plays the roles of a divine sacrifice-gift, a guard-talisman, as well as a home-receptacle for gods and the souls of people. The cauldron concentrates the energy of life through participating in the rites of birth-rebirth and the cult of Mother Earth. Besides cult practices, the multifunctional character of the cauldron manifests itself in the funeral and memorial rites of the Nenets, Khanty and Mansi. Cauldrons from burials, as well as products made thereof (masks, mountings, brackets), indicate the social status of the deceased. Cauldrons act as a guard and a receptacle for the soul of the deceased and/or his posthumous image; they are used as an accompanying item and a vessel for preparing ritual food.

Key words: North-Western Siberia, the Ob Ugrians, the Samoyeds, cauldron, energy, symbol, the spiritual and ritual practices.


Funding. This work was supported by the grants from the Russian Scienc Foundation (E.V Perevalova project No. 18-18-00309, E.N. Danilova project No. 19-78-10002).


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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Submitted: 22.08.2019

Accepted: 19.12.2019

Article is published: 02.03.2020


Perevalova E.V.  

Peter the Great Museum of Anthropology and Ethnography (the Kunstcamera) of the RAS, Universitetskaya nab., 3, St. Petersburg, 199034, Russian Federation



Danilova E.N.

Peter the Great Museum of Anthropology and Ethnography (the Kunstcamera) of the RAS, Universitetskaya nab., 3, St. Petersburg, 199034, Russian Federation

Institute of History and Archaeology of the Ural Branch RAS, S. Kovalevskoy st., 16, Yekaterinburg, 620099, Russian Federation