Sable in the traditional culture of the Buryats 

Badmaev A.A.



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The work is aimed at identifying the image of the sable in the traditional worldview and rituals of the Buryats. The chronological boundaries of the study are determined by the time of functioning and translation of the complex of traditional beliefs and rituals among the Buryats the end of the 19th middle of the 20th century. Geographically, the study is focused on the Baikal region, which encompasses the ethnic Buryatia. Linguistic, folklore and ethnographic sources have been used for this research. Comparison-collation and structural-semiotic methods have been used to explore the research topic. As a result of assessing the utilitarian value of the sable, it has been determined that the animal's fur was used in sewing winter outerwear and hats, and its meat was occasionally eaten, as well as applied in folk and veterinary medicine. The all-Mongolian origin of the term for sable, and its gender nominations, is proved. It is assumed that this predator could be revered as a totem by some of the ancestors of the Buryats of the pre-Baikal clans. It has been found that in the traditional Buryat culture, the image of sable was ambiguous. In the traditional views of the Buryats, sable was endowed with a heavenly nature. It acted as a female symbol. At the same time, a negative characteristic of this fur-bearing animal has been determined: it was associated with the chthonic world. In the traditional family ritual of the Buryats, a sable fetish was associated with the image of this fur-bearing animal, which performed a protective function for children and represented a female image. The sable skin was an attribute of the shaman: for some black shamans, it represented the emblem of the clan. Furthermore, in the shamanic ritual of the Buryats, a fetish, embodying the shaman's spirit-assistant, was associated with this animal. In shamanic poetics, the soul of a deceased shaman turned into a sable; this predatory animal was endowed with the function of a shaman's transport in his mystical travels to other worlds.

Keywords: Buryat culture, mythological representations, rituals, fur-bearing animals.


Funding. The work was carried out within the framework of the research project of IAET SB RAS No. FWZG-2022-0001 Ethnocultural diversity and social processes of Siberia and the Far East of the XVIIXXI centuries.


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

Accepted: 27.02.2023

Article is published: 15.06.2023


Badmaev A.A., Institute of Archeology and Ethnography of Siberian Branch RAS, prosp. Acad. Lavrentieva, 17, Novosibirsk, 630090, Russian Federation, E-mail:,