The Evenks are an ancient people whose representatives are becoming less and less, since with the development of transport and freedom of movement, this group has ceased to be practically isolated from contacts with other people. This causes a rapid mixing of blood with different genetic groups, which inevitably entails the erasure of the traditions of this people in mixed families. Not only culturologists and ethnographers, but also ordinary people are keenly interested in interesting rituals and traditions of the Evenks. There are tourist destinations that allow you to visit the Evenki villages in order to see firsthand the originality and uniqueness of their lifestyle, activities and leisure.
The Evenks are typical pagans. Until now, they are very sensitive to the faith, trying to adhere to all canons and unswervingly follow the instructions of shamans – mediators between the world of the living and the dead. In the religion of this people, a special place is occupied by the spirits of deceased ancestors, among which there is a clear hierarchy.
Evenk shamanism differs from others in that in it the supreme deities are both male and female goddesses, while the pantheon of gods in the shamanism of other peoples is mainly men.
The entire universe, in accordance with the ideas about the world order of this nation, is divided into three levels: upper (heavenly), middle (earthly) and lower (underground). The souls of people who lived justly, after death, fall into the upper level, and the souls of sinners serve punishment in the lower level, after which they are again reborn in new earthly bodies.
To become a shaman, an Evenk does not need to study or choose his own assignment. For this mission, he is chosen by the gods themselves, who at one point take possession of consciousness. The chosen one begins a “shamanic disease”, during which he experiences discomfort, visions visit him, continuous failures or problems of loved ones may haunt him. After an interesting rite of initiation into shamans, all these troubles come to an abrupt end.
Shamans have no restrictions on the way of life, they may well be engaged in worldly work, but for this in most cases there is not enough time. Each shaman has his own “specialization”: someone is engaged in rituals of “purification”, someone – health problems, etc. There is a certain fee for contacting a shaman. In addition, often turning to the world of spirits and deities requires sacrifices. Previously, it was mainly animal meat, milk and alcohol.
Modern shamans note that spirits react negatively to vodka, since many Evenki do not know how to use this drink correctly, and the problem of alcoholism is present among representatives of this people on the same scale as among all northern residents.
The main occupation of the Evenks, which provided them with food and livelihoods, was hunting, therefore there are many interesting rituals among the traditions of hunters. One of them was aimed at invoking good luck that will save the family from hunger during the cold, snowy winter.
In order for the forthcoming fishing to be successful, the hunters performed a ritual called “sinkelevun” or “shinkellevun”. During it, the magical hammering of the image of the animal was performed, which the men were going to see. The same interesting ritual helped to return good luck to those who had not been able to achieve their goal during the previous hunt.
First, it was necessary to lay out an image of a cloven-hoofed animal on the ground, and then make a fake bow with arrows. The hunter took images of a deer or elk and went into the taiga. All this happened in complete solitude without witnesses. From close range, he shot at the figure. If the arrow hits the target, then the upcoming hunt must be successful. To consolidate the effect, carcass cutting was imitated: one half was hidden in the taiga, and the other was taken home. Sometimes a shaman also participated in this action, then success was almost guaranteed.
The centuries-old life in nature made the relationship of the Evenks with animals special. Interesting traditions were associated with communication between people and animals. It was believed that animals perfectly understand human speech, so there was an interesting requirement: when gathering for a hunt, you cannot speak directly about this, since any animal that heard these conversations would warn the victim. The conversations were carried on allegorically, using special phrases and words replacing the concepts of “hunter”, “victim”, “Shotgun”, “bow”, etc.
It was believed that each animal has a master spirit, which should be prayed to return from the taiga safe and sound. Sacrifices were made to such spirits, and for personal safety, amulets (claws, bones, pieces of skins, etc.) were worn on the body, warding off all possible troubles associated with hunting.
A special place was given to bears. It was interesting that the Evenks identified themselves with this beast, believed that it could talk, could take on a human form and turn back into an animal. Taunting the bear was not allowed, since the beast could take cruel revenge.
It was not allowed to kill a sleeping bear, first it had to be woken up, although this brought unnecessary dangers to the hunters. Often during the slaughter, the Evenks loudly said that they were Yakuts, or cawed like a crow to deflect the blame for the death of the animal from themselves. After the murder, it was necessary to ask forgiveness from the murdered person for taking his life.
During the long cold months, the presence of fire in the du (chum) was the key to survival. The bonfire was located strictly in the center, marking the heart of the dwelling and family. In the summer months, instead of a large fire, a smokehouse was placed here, and food was cooked on a fire near the chum.
Fire was considered the main family shrine, so many interesting traditions are associated with it. Basically, women watched over the maintenance of the fire, while husbands and fathers of families went into the taiga. Fire was considered a living creature with a sensitive and subtle soul, so the extinction of a fire was compared to a harbinger of terrible and tragic events. The fire had a personal spirit, endowed with the appearance of an old man or an old woman, to whom the best cuts of meat were placed right on the coals and wine was dripped.
Children were not allowed to play with firebrands, and adults were not allowed to quarrel and swear next to him, as this could cause the spirit-fire to weaken, which would lead to misfortune and illness for all household members.
Evenks have always burned cut hair and nails in a fire, because a person who did not burn them will suffer after death and search for cuttings all over the world. You can burn these scraps only in your home, it will keep your soul clean and save you from nightmares.
Evenki wedding ceremonies differ in many respects from other small peoples living in neighboring territories, they have a huge number of interesting traditions. The choice of a groom or a bride for their children was made by parents or older relatives, who could conclude an agreement even before the child appeared in the family. They were very scrupulous about the fact that the future newlyweds belonged to different families.
The groom himself and the matchmaker, a noble and respected elderly man, came to the matchmaking. It was necessary to dress in a special way for this event, so the purpose of the visit did not remain a mystery for the girl’s parents. The matchmaker silently entered the house and put brushwood or wood on the fire in order to sweep away all possible omissions. The girl at this time left the house, so as not to interfere with the conversation, and was expecting a special invitation. The groom also did not participate in the conversation between the matchmaker and the bride’s parents.
The matchmaker offered his tobacco to the girl’s mother and father, and if they agreed, the question of marriage was considered resolved. In case of refusal, the man and woman lit their own tobacco. Then the groom and the matchmaker said goodbye and went home.
During the matchmaking, they discussed the size of the kalym – the ransom that the young man must pay to the bride’s parents. The groom, in turn, had the right to inquire about the dowry, and if it was too small, demand to supplement it.
For the sake of fairness, it should be noted that the Evenks did not play a decisive role in the kalym and the dowry, the main factor was the personal qualities of the young.
Whenever the matchmaking took place, the wedding was scheduled for the spring, since by this time the deer had already finished calving and the first grass appeared, so grazing was easy. After the matchmaking, the family of the bride and groom constantly wandered towards each other, and by the time of the wedding they were neighbors.
The most expensive and brightest outfits were worn for the wedding. The deer, on which the bride rode to the groom’s chum, was dressed up with a special saddle and blanket, the bridle was decorated with beaded patterns. The girl drove around the chum three times, while the men fired into the air. Then the young woman went into the dwelling, and all family members, together with her, danced around the fire in the direction of the sun. In turn, the parents of the bride and groom gave their blessing to the young.
There were supposed to be many treats at the festival, the guests sang and danced until the early morning, told long stories, held competitions in horse racing, wrestling, shooting, etc.
According to the Evenk culture, the souls of unborn babies live in the bodies of small birds – “om”. This word has two meanings – “soul” and “tit”. The place where they live is called “nectar”. Because of this, the killing of tits and other small birds is one of the grave sins for this nation.
The birth of these nomads was a fateful event, because in difficult conditions without qualified medical care, they often ended in the death of the mother or newborn, and sometimes both at once. The birth procedure was often lengthy and painful. If the relatives of the woman in labor saw that the process was going on with difficulty, they resorted to magical rituals. There was an interesting tradition of undoing all the knots in the house and in the yard while the family has a pregnant woman. Later, this tradition was transformed into opening all the locks, and this rite persists to this day, since for many centuries there has been a firm conviction that if this requirement is not met, childbirth cannot be successful.
In the event that a woman in labor in the process of childbirth needed urgent help, the relatives called a shaman who cut down a tree and drove a wedge into the stump. The stronger and faster the wedge was driven in, the faster the child was born.
Name and Occupation
The newborn was immediately named. Delay in choosing a name was not allowed, because while the baby does not have a name, evil spirits can take possession of the soul that has come into the world, and the child will be sick. The name must be one that is not in the family. If the baby is called the same as the name of one of the old living relatives, they may die before the due date, so that the life force flows to a new family member. Such an interesting tradition has been preserved among the Evenks to this day, and they persistently follow it.
Ritual items were placed next to the child in the cradle, which was located on suspended supports. They chose them depending on who the parents wanted to see their child and what qualities, in their opinion, it should have when it grows up. A bow and a spear made his son an accurate marksman and a successful warrior. Interestingly, amulets were often not placed in the crib for girls, only occasionally they could put a doll there, and in most cases some part of the mother’s clothes acted as protection. It was believed that the mother’s soul, absorbed from the first days of life, would save the girl most reliably from all possible difficulties in the future.
The burial rites of adults and children are different among the Evenks. An adult or an old person is buried in the ground, and deer are usually sacrificed. The more deer sacrificed, the easier the afterlife will be for the deceased. A stuffed deer made of wood was installed on a hill piled over the body. This was due to the great role deer played in the life of this people.
Nowadays, the tradition has been transformed and become even more interesting. The fact is that many representatives of this group adopted Christianity as their religion, therefore, on the graves of most Evenks, there are both a stuffed deer and an Orthodox cross.
Dead children are buried in the air. To do this, their bodies are placed on the branches of trees. An interesting rite is associated with the belief that the souls of children are not strong enough for independent ascension to heaven, and a bird can pick up a soul from a tree and deliver it directly to another world.