Ornithomorphic and zoomorphic elements on ritual clothing of Koryak reindeer herders

Lead Author Liudmila, Khakhovskaya
Institution Contact The N.A. Shilo North-East Interdisciplinary Scientifi c Research Institute, Far East Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences [NEISRI FEB RAS] (Magadan, Russia) 685000 Magadan Portovaya str 16
Co-Authors Igor Vorobey, Magadan Museum of Regional Studies (Magadan, Russia)
Theme Theme 3: Local and Traditional Knowledge
Session Name 3.1 Arctic Human-Rangifer Communities: Vulnerability, Resilience, Adaption to Global Changes
Presentation Type Poster
Abstract text The research is based on the field materials collected among the Koryak reindeer herders of Verchnyi Paren’ and Gizhiga villages. We analyze specific ornithomorphic and zoomorphic elements on shaman and funeral garments in comparative and interpretative keys. Also we examine their actual and/or relict morphological and semantical features.
We track a double opposition between upper and shoulder levels of ritual clothing of Koryaks. Hat that is made of animal’s scalp presents itself as a part of shaman costume, though kukhlyanka with tail is an element of funeral wardrobe. Clothing is also divided due to “bird/animal” token. When hats are always presented as predatory or grass-feeding animal, kukhlyankas are tied to bird semantics.
The usage of shaman and funeral garments leads to the ideas of reincarnation and mutual reversibility of human and animal. Funeral costume transforms the departed into bird (raven), returning him back to the world of progenitor – Big Raven Kuikynnyaku. The funeral rite, in turn, is held as a raven performance, during which participants temporary transform into ravens.
Shaman transformation is reflected in the wolves’ hats morphology which we see as a werewolf sign. Archive documents, dated with XVIII century, show “lycanthropy” in real Koryak actions during battles with Russian parties: for example, signal wolf howl before attack, or ritual drink of human blood for strength gain. Military and predatory meaning of reincarnation is observed in the Koryaks’ ideas of wolf as a wealthy herd owner. This is though not an ordinary ownership: wolf possesses the herd to kill reindeers, thus he is an owner and a predator simultaneously. We assume this idea as a pre-herder hunting level of human-reindeer relationship.
A wolf and a raven are similar in their confinement to ritual clothing and at the same time are divided as belonging with separate worlds: live and aggressive (a wolf) versus calm and dead (a raven). It is also possible that in the Koryaks’s worldview these characters were categories of ethnocultural (perhaps, totem) classification, that reflected attitude between two enemy societies.