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Koryak worldview

some frequent words in Koryak ritual

p. word meaning
yanana house
171 vaalin corpse {/val/ is ‘slain’ in Norse}
vuukulgan black stone (placed on corpse in funeral) ["they put pebbles on the dead body to hold it down to earth so that the spirit won’t wander from the body." (p. 185)]
172 kinitaaho clothes (for the corpse)
173 gyoyat stomach
jiljil tongue
jinnagun antlers
kas^ihin vertebra
205 ineluet / inawet offerings (to the spirits)
247 nan person

p. 249 in Chauchu dialect, /r/ > /y/

rituals for slain animals

47 "There was a woman who was carefully tying something ... on a string to the antlers ..., so "to hold down," meant to commemorate eternally the fact that they had sent a reindeer to the world of the dead."
54 "The parts of the liver were called "the liver for the evil spirits" and were given to the evil spirits ... to let the spirit of the land know that they had killed a healthy reindeer. ... If they made an inawet [sacrifical offering] out of a sick reindeer, the spirit of the land would get angry with them." {The same prohibition against sacrificing defective animals in found also in the To^rah.}
57 "these offerings were for the guardian deity of the reindeer herd, "Gichigi"... As they cut the reindeer apart, they put together with the antlers each part necessary for the ... offering. These parts were : the eyes, the lower jaw {cf. inclusion of eyeballs with mandible in [Aztec sign] Malinalli}, the lips, the hooves, the heart, the liver, the fat, the fur and a part of the brain – each of which came from the left side of the reindeer’s body. ... every part of the inawat had to come from the left side of the body. The left side was where the heart was, and therefore signified "life"."
79 "The hunted seal is butchered, and its lips ... are thrown into the sea ... When they throw the lips into the sea, they say, "May they bring us luck." ... The ... stomach should be cooked over the fire and eaten right away. If not, the sea will get angry."
96 "When killing a reindeer, it is good-luck if the reindeer falls to the front, and bad luck if it falls backwards – meaning someone will die in the near future."
184 "The Koryaks cut up the sacrificed dog’s body into small pieces and leave them ... on the tundra so that the ravens can eat and carry them above the sky."
238 "She ... pulls out the ... whiskers and burns them in the fire. They do this not only with bears, but also with other animals such as goats". {[Skt.] /s`mas`ru/ is cognate with /s`mas`ana/ ‘cemetery’ – are these animals suggested to be reckoned, in Bodish style, as assessors of souls in the land of the dead?}
240 "In Koryak tradition, you can’t shoot a bear suddently." A hunter is permitted to kill a bear only, if after it "letting it know" of the hunter’s praesence ("I whistled to the bear"), it should choose to attack ("This bear stood upright and started to walk toward me.").
252 "the special place where they place the animal’s skull is called "the animal hole." The hole beneath the special rock is the entrance to the animal world."

festivals [all the festivals ... held when the new moon appears (p. 76)]

months p. 64 festivals p. 73 purpose
late Aug Koyan-aitatek "to welcome back the reindeer"
Sept Tanteginin ["Memorial service for deceased persons in the year" (p. 87)] ["sketch was taken" (p. 244) to memorialize a visitor]
[Oct Gitoga-koyan-matik "when winter comes" (p. 86)]
Nov Magei-lavt ["Dancing around reindeer head" (p. 87)] ["Only women know how to prepare for this." -- /magei/ ‘dancing’ + /levt/ ‘head’ (p. 215)] ["People ... danced inside the yanana around a pole on which was stuck a reindeer’s head with ... left leg ... attached it it". (p. 216)]
late Dec Pegitim ["They prepare special food ... called Kirikiru, which is a mixture of reindeer brains and bilberries" (p. 76) {cf. brain-&-berries ointments for tanning hides}]
the 2nd day of Pegitim ["they take out the "reindeer" made of bundled green grass. It is called Wiatwiat-kayana (green reindeer). Antlers made of twigs are attached to it and blackberries are fitted into the eyes." (p. 76)]
Mar Nevrab to "divide the reindeer-herd" ["into males and females" (p. 80); inawat in which "the left side of the lips, the left lung ... are put inside the fence" (p. 80)]
early May Kilway birth of fawns ["the reindeer’s tongue ... they ... boil" (p. 81)]; "Then they turn the empty pot upside down near the antlers." (p. 82) "They have to put in this bag a symbolic reindeer made of a grease-filled stomach, a small stone taken from the shore, and some beads." (p. 82) "they make a new fire for the New Year" with a bow-string drill-drill (p. 83)] ["Women hold their clothes and imitate the fawn’s birth." (p. 208)]
early July Anoatt "saying farewell to the reindeer" ["People ... make reindeer jerky ... as food for the summer." (p. 84)]

p. 207 "the Kilway is held once every two years"

11-month year (omitting February)

month p. 88 __-ergin pp. 91-2 __-ergin (meaning)
Jan Gunurevit Gunureut middle of head
Mar Yayavichio Yayavochiyin fleshy (praegnant)
Apr Gyo Gryoya birth
May Imir Imiruri water
Jun Ano Anoye spring
Jul Elei Eleye summer
Aug Hycheihing Hycheipie a little yellow
Sep Myngcheiping Einei very yellow
Oct Nutahit Nutaheite freezing ground
Nov Verectepron Welkitepro goat mating
Bec Fuveret Hivirait narrow & short

household idol

46 "The fur from the reindeer ... they kept ... with an idol, which was a guardian deity in the form of a human called Gichigi".
58 "A Gichigi is a human-shaped wooden figure. ... The Gichigi was said to be the master of the reindeer herd. ... tied to its neck ... Some strings had talons or the head of a hawk or crow tied to them. ... these were the friends and assistants of ... the Gichigi."
83 "it has to be after dark to offer food to the Gichigi."
84 "they feed the guardian deity of the house, Gichigi."
104 "Every morning, when they start a fire at the beginning of the day, they offer rabbit’s fat to the fire and to the east". {cf. North American Indian custom of saying "rabbit" when waking up in the morning; and myth of [Algonkin hare-god] Manaboz^o’s theft of fire} "The Gichigi symbolizes fire because we start fires from it." "fire and the sun are twin brothers, and the Gichigi is a symbol of fire." {since [in the Algonkin system] /GIC^I GumI/ is the ‘shining water’, this may suggest solar water (tritium) – as in Hindu myth}
208 "the Gichigi, which is an ignition board, gives off smoke."


84 "a soul that unifies the entire reindeer" = Koya-vaginin ["The Koyavaginin is the creator of the reindeer’s life and it is a spirit that represents the entire reindeer species." (p. 206)] ["The Koyavaginin is an abstract master spirit representing the entire reindeer species." (p. 212)]
85 "god of the land" = Nuchukin, lives high up in the mountains
"There is also a god of the river"
"The sea is a mother"
201 "there were various spirits inside the bag ... The spirits were these : ... dried fur from a shrewmouse, a wolf’s skull ..., a dried raven’s head and beak, and ... a bear’s shoulder blade." {cf. ingredients in [Kongolese] wanga bags}
204 "The fire started by a Gichigi is a liji-milgen, or a "real fire." ... the "real fire" made by the Gichigi was the source of fire, and was a spirit in itself."
205 "The role of fire ... was its power to foresee the future dangers, accidents, or incidents ..."
"they take a little bit of food separately, and offer it to the evil spirits. ... This evil spirit, called Kala, brings about disease and causes bad things to happen. By giving it food, they can eliminate its influence."
228 myth of origin of the fox – it urinated on tree-bark on order to produce red dye [this is done to alder-bark (p. 225)]

the World on the Other Side; psychopomp; and re-incarnation

95 "The Koryaks call the world of the dead the Other Side, nganenka ... It is located in the east, from where the sun rises, but at the same time, it refers to the world above the sky. ... However, dogs to not go the upper-world after their death, but go to the dog’s world, which is ... between this world and the upper-world. ... The dog ... drives away evil spirits and shows the way to the upper world for the deceased."
103 "The people living in the land of the dead will eventually be reborn in this world. They are born to their relatives. Moreover, they are reborn as 10 – the number of fingers on both hands – different people. Therefore, when babies are born, people watch closely to see whose reincarnation they are. ... While they watch a string with a stone tied to the end of it, they call out the names of the dead one by one, and when the stone moves, the baby is determined to be the reincarnation of that person. Then that name becomes the baby’s name."
180 "not only one, but also two and even three people can live inside one human being. {multiple personalities} However, one of them becomes the master and the others just accompany the master. ...
The newborn baby’s name is decided according to the dream the mother sees in her sleep. {as in the cases of Tirthan-kara-s & of Tatha-gata-s} ... When the baby cries, the mother whispers different people’s names. The name whispered when the baby stops crying is the baby’s name. If they can’t find the right name, three women gather and hang a small stone by a thread from three wooden sticks crossed together. Then they say loud different people’s names, and if the small stone starts moving that is the baby’s name."
181 "People’s spirit is called unna, which is the third person referring to "he" "her" or "it." ... The world on the Other Side is the country of the dead, ... although people don’t call it the "upper world." They use the word nganenka, which means "over there" or "the other side.""
182 "The dog leads the way so that evil spirits won’t block his passage ..."
183 "The spirit of the killed dog runs up to the deceased, ... and walks with its master along the path ..., barking to ward off the evil spirits that stand in their way."
"When they killed a dog ... took home some grass and ... would keep in an important place ... They receive the grass as a return gift from the other world, in return for sending the dog’s spirit to the other world".
184 "the woman [shamanka] ... stays with the dead person’s spirit, performing the task of bridging the spirit from this world to the other. ... beside her job of sending off the dead spirit, she even tells fortunes, ... by the way the dead body’s eyes open."
"Just before the corpse was carried out of the room, people kicked the body with their heels and imitated the cry of a raven. {the aim (of arrow) by Paris toward the right heel of Akhilleus was directed by Apollon (GM 164.j), who "changed himself into a Crow." (C; cf. GM 36.a) } They kicked him so that he could then start walking along the path from this world ... The people who kicked him were ravens".
187 "At the cremation site, people wrestled" {cf. Homeric (Iliad) funeral games}


GM = Robert Graves : The Greek Myths. 1955.

C =

dreams of travel

98 a dream under the influence of Amanita muscaria :- "I was walking along a road. It was a flat road extending straight to the east ... There were any people there, and among them were my dead mother and grandmother. ... but though they must have seen me, they ignored me and didn’t talk to me."
99 Amanita muscaria : "This mushroom is called Wapaka in our language. We eat three of them. ... Then you sing a song. Each person has a song particular to himself or herself. {cf. the "death-songs" of Indians of the Great Plains} ... These songs are given to people by the [wapaka]. ... We can see our families in the upper-world".
100 author’s experience of Amanita muscaria :- "the rhythm of my heartbeat and the rhythm inside my body both played a melody. It was the slow rhythm to which the Koryaks beat their drums ... I could see in front of me the Koryaks dancing with their drums in their hands ... They danced on and on to the joyous
101 drumbeat. ... Suddenly, ... a wide, flat, straight road appeared. The width of the road spread to the farthest corners of my eyes. ... Looking into the distance, the road narrowed as if to follow the rules of perspective. This "beautiful road" was pale white. ... After that I wondered if I could see the dead leading their lives ... Then I saw ... the people working there. ... From the sky above the sea, I saw diagonally below,
102 the coastline of Northern Kamchatka and the mountain range behind it, and the two wide rivers that flow between them toward the sea. ... The right river was the Apuka River, and the left was the Pakhachi River, where I was at that moment."

dreams involving animals

61 the myth of "How the reindeer first came" :- "Children ... cut off some branches and made a reindeer out of them. Then they ... dreamt about it. In the morning, they saw many reindeer. ... {cf. "The children throw this [inawet of reindeer-meat] onto the yanana’s roof." (p. 209)} Not only the reindeer to be sent to the deceased was made of wood, but also the first reindeer ... was born from a wooden reindeer."
95 "if someone sees a dog in a dream, it means a dog needs to be sent to the upper-world : so they kill a dog. ... Then they predict the future according to the cry the dog gives".
96 "If the dream was a very bad one, two men stick two long wooden poles in the ground like pillars and hang the dog’s intestines across them to make a gate. Then they place the dog beneath the gate and people step over the dog. As they do this, they kick the dog behind them with their heel." {cf. heel of Akhilleus , who "was fed on nothing but the entrails’ (CDCM, s.v. "Achilles"), and whose original name (DG&RB&M, s.v. "Ligyron") Liguron (‘whining’) may have referred to a beaten hound’s cry}


CDCM = Grimal, A Concise Dictionary of Classical Mythology.

DG&RB&M = Smith, A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology.

SENRI ETHNOLOGICAL REPORTS, 48 = Takashi Irimoto : The Eternal Cycle. National Museum of Ethnology, Osaka, 2004.