The rite of cremation in contemporary burial practices of the Chukchi reindeer herders 

Kolomiets O.P., Nuvano V.N.

 

Vestnik arheologii, antropologii i etnografii, 2022, 1 (56)

 

https://doi.org/10.20874/2071-0437-2022-56-1-14

 

              page 171181

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Abstract

In the Reindeer Chukchi and Koryak cultures, cremation practices did not interrupt for centuries. In contemporary Chukchi culture, burial practices include cremation, leaving the body in the open space, and burial in Russian style. Cremation is still practiced among Reindeer Chukchi nowadays, although with some modifications and simplifications. The article is based on the fieldwork materials assembled by authors in 20002021 from the villages of Vaegi, Khatyrka, Meinypylgino, Omolon, Kaiettyn, and Ilirney of the Anadyr and Bilibino municipal districts, as well as on published materials. For the comparative analysis, the ethnographic materials from Kamchatka and Magadan regions were used. The informants answers suggest that contemporary burial rites in Vaegi, Khatyrka, Meinypylgino, and Omolon villages are the closest to the traditional cremation ritual. The purpose of this article is the reconstruction of the rite of cremation of Chukchi peoples and compare the traditional ceremony with the contemporary rituals of Reindeer Chukchi from Vaegi, Khatyrka, Meinypylgino, and Omolon localities. This paper described the full cremation ceremonial cycle: the preparation for the burial, sewing the burial clothing, crafting specific tools, distribution of the ceremonial roles, activities on the day before, during and after the cremation. The rite of asking the dead, preserved virtually with no changes till modern days, is described in detailed; the actions of main participants on every stage have been reconstructed. The local differences in the burial ceremony between various Chukchi groups have been specified. Special consideration has been given to the local Chukchi terminology, formulas, and spells, which were in use in the burial rite until 19701980s. Currently, informants practice simplified elements of the rite, the Chukchi language is not routinely used for the ceremonies, some words being spelled in Russian. Nevertheless, the burial practices have kept the mythological elements such as crossing the border into the other world, dividing of the worlds, creatures-guardians, evil spirits, guardian spirits.

Keywords: Chukotka, burial practices, cremation, reindeer herders, re-construction.

 

Creative Commons License

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

Accepted: 16.12.2021

Article is published: 21.03.2022

 

Kolomiets O.P., North-East Interdisciplinary Scientific Research Institute N.A. Shilo Far East Branch, RAS, Energetikov st., 15, Anadyr, 689000, Russian Federation, E-mail: okkolo@mail.ru , https://orcid.org/0000-0003-0027-7539

 

Nuvano V.N., North-East Interdisciplinary Scientific Research Institute N.A. Shilo Far East Branch, RAS, Energetikov st., 15, Anadyr, 689000, Russian Federation, E-mail: vlad_nuvano@mail.ru, https://orcid.org/0000-0001-8482-3052