CONCEPT OF ANOTHER WORLD AT THE KORYAKS.
What can be common between archaic tribes and civilized society? All fields of human life were studied but there is something that remains behind the limits of human knowledge up to now. A modern man knows about life after death much less than an archaic man. The latter was sure at least that life after death exists.
In archaic tribes the answer to this question was passed from generation to generation as sacral knowledge that is why not everything was opened to investigators. But their writings are the only source in response to which it could be possible to reconstitute the concept of another world among ancient people including the Koryaks.
S.P. Krasheninnikov describes funeral ceremonies in the following way. The dead was dressed up the best kukhlyanka and was driven to the place of cremation by his dearest deer. According to S. Krasheninnikov observations, the dearest deer considered to be those which being put into a sledge took it across specially fixed pole without creak of runners. Probably, the pole symbolized the bound between two worlds: the world of the living and the world of the dead. The creak of runners probably compared with the dead’s voice and his silence meant the agreement to go to the other world with the help of these deer: “In that way they change more than 10 pairs of deer under the dead choosing the most suitable”. It’s interesting that tows were put on the left shoulder of these deer but not on the right as usual. In the beginning of the 20th century W. Jochelson explained this fact in the following way: according to the Koryaks’ beliefs everything after death differs from this life. The custom of choosing deer was kept till the beginning of the 20th century and was described by W. Jochelson. Not far from the place of cremation, while the fire was burning, these deer were killed, their meat was eaten and their bones were cremated with the master. Also all the harness, military and household instruments (i.e. lances, saydacs, arrows, knives, axes, coppers, needle-book, needles) were cremated with the dead. As
S.Krasheninnikov emphasises the deads
were prayed for after only once, in a year after death. In the middle of the 18th century it looked like as a following: the relatives took 2 unridden deer and a lot of deer’s antlers, they had been specially gathering during the whole year, when they came to the place of cremation (or to another high-placed point if the place of cremation was far away) they killed unridden deer and ate them, but the antlers were stuck into the ground. It was a way the shamans were sending the herd of deer to the dead. From this funeral ceremony, described by the investigator, we can understand that the Koryaks of the 18th century imagined life after death as their everyday existence. Under ground the man had to hunt, build a house, graze deer, so everything what he could need was sent with him by means of cremation.
The investigator of archaic mentality Bronislav Malinovsky writes that it is typical for archaic tribes to have a dual attitude to the dead. «On one hand - the wish to keep the body leaving its form untouched or to keep some of its parts; on the other hand - the wish to get rid of it, get it out of sight, to destroy it in full. Mummification and cremation are two extreme manifestations of this dual relation” [7, p53]. The scientist emphasizes that there is no reason to consider mummification and cremation or any intermediate forms of burial to be the result of simple accidental beliefs or as a historical peculiarity of this or that culture, as the form which gained universality only due to the cultural contacts or borrowings. For, in these customs are clearly expressed a fundamental purpose of those who stayed alive - relatives, friends or loving people - their wish to keep the remains of the dead and at the same time disgust and fear before the awful transformation because of death”. [7, p.51]
Magically fire influences the man. With the help of fire he goes to the other world. After the cremation relatives returned home passing between two twigs which were specially placed for cleaning, and the shaman was standing nearby beating the people with the twig in order the deads would take them. This custom has been
partially saved by our time. In the 18th century as well as nowadays the Koryaks tried to avoid addressing to the deads. The man leaves this world, he is not expected to give any protection, and his returning to the world of people makes them to fear. But the man passes away not forever. Relatives wait for his returning through the child who is born in this family. Whose soul lives in the baby was defined in the following way: after the baby’ birth old women put two sticks and ties them with threads, the stone covered up with the skin of stone sheep was hung in the middle of them, and they whispered invocations asking the stone about the baby’s name saying names of dead relatives. In pronunciation of which when the stone started defined the name of the baby. So, the death for the Koryaks in the 18th century was not a tragic event in the man’s life. It is interesting how this concept has been transformed meanwhile.
In the beginning of the 20th century W. Jochelson studying customs and beliefs of the Koryaks emphasised the following peculiarities of Koryaks’ thoughts about life. After death investigator’s opinion death didn’t seem a natural process for the Koryaks. Most of dying people happen to be killed by the kalau. Sometimes death comes because the man breaks some sacred ban. Shamans can avert death from the man but they also can bring it on. Death according to the Koryaks happens because the man’s soul is frightened and leaves the body rising to The Upper World when it meets kalau. Probably such beliefs go to the Christianity actively brought into Koryaks’ culture in 18
- 19 centuries. Krasheninnikov’s writings contain definite idea of trespassing of the soul into the underground kingdom, but W. Jochelson asking the Koryaks specified their concept that not the only one soul tives in the human being but several ones. It can be said definitely that the breath and the shadow were separated; both of them follow the man’s life when he is alive. After death the breath raises to the sky and the shadow goes down to the underground world. May be this belief is based on the observation of breath and shadow during the man’s life. So man’s breath goes up to the sky but his
shadow always goes on the ground as if it aims to reach it. The investigator emphasises that the differentiation between life and death is hardly destinguished. Death, according to the Koryaks beliefs doesn’t deprive the man the possibility to move, to eat, to drink, to play, i.e. to live in a usual way. Probably because of this fact the dead person is given a cup of water, food, he is played cards with, etc. The real death comes at the time when the man stopped to be visible in this world, i.e. after the cremation. The soul leaves the body after physical death. The man can be dead but his soul still soars above him. The soul leaves he body in disease, and if the sick man gets worse it rises up and flies far away from the man. All mighty shamans can return the soul and consequently they can return the man to life who died not long ago. W. Jochelson describes the incident when the man died twice. In 1900 Koryak Ulta from village Kamenskoye told about it to the investigator. At first time the father of this Koryak died in the sunset. Shaman called from the neighbour village was beating the tambourine during the whole night and by the sunrise veta’s father came to life. Then this man lived for a long time.
Death often comes after the attack of kalau. In the beginning of the 20th century there was the following superstition: kalaus eat man’s meat cutting off the slices. The Koryaks assured that kalaus like man’s liver. But at the same time W. Jochelson describes the opposite point of view: nobody can touch the body after death but before cremation. During the cremation soul (breath) rises to the Upper Spirits and his shadow goes to the underground world. The entrance to it opens when funeral fire is burning, and it closes when the man is burnt and is not visible any more. The entrance to the underground world is protected by dogs. If the man beats dogs during his life it will be difficult for him to go past them. But these dogs can be lured and for this aim the best fishes were put into the dead’s mittens according to Jochelson’s observations. The custom of putting heads of fish to the dead’s mittens is kept in some villages till nowadays. The man must throw this food to
the dogs which guard the entrance to the World of Shades. The most ancient people live there (Peninelau). They live in the underground world in the houses similar to those which are built on the surface of the earth. L. Levi-Brul studying primitive thinking emphasises that archaic mentality doesn’t have any opportunity about historical perspective, about chain of historical events. All last events are placed into the same plan by mythological mentality: “Just because of it primitive consciousness is not possible to apply coordinates of some public order to the events about which the legend says: mythological personages live in the same houses as the speaker has, use the same food as the speaker uses” [5, p.231]. Every newcomer is met by his relatives. The inhabitants of the underground world take care of newcomers but they can punish them because of some reasons. With the deads the livings pass their presents to other relatives in the underground world. As we can see from many fairy-tails the entrance to the next world is narrow and damp, probably here is the analogy with the man’s birth which exists among many archaic tribes. Burning the man squeezes himself through the narrow entrance. Death finishes his earthly living way and the man returns to the initial place. To some degree death is the birth in the other world. The man according to the views of ancient people squeezes to the next world. Every man with all his life lives the history of the whole world. Mircha Eliade investigating archetypical basis of human mentality emphasises: “If the notion of archaic mentality is used it can be proved that in the life of the man there was a “paradise” (for psychoanalysis it is the period before the birth or to weaning the child) and a “loss of paradise”, “catastrophe” (childish traumas); but in spite of the adult’s attitude to the original events they have definite importance for his existence” [12, p.77]. The idea of renascence and re-creation of the world constitutes the basis of eschatological myth. Probably it explaines the fact that all attention of archaic man was paid not to the death here but to his life THERE and to
renascence here. Just because of this in accordance with the Koryaks’ beliefs it is a great sin to cry after the dead. The Koryaks imagine themselves the shadow of the dead as an absolute copy of the dead’s appearance. The old men talked to W. Jochelson that at last time the ties between the world of the deads and the world of the livings was less difficult than now (in the beginning of the 20th century). The man could specially go or accidentally get to the underground world through the slot in the earth and then come back. Now only shamans can go to the underground world. In ancient time according to Jochelson children killed their aged parents. This custom prevailing among the Chukchy was fully finished among the Koryaks in the beginning of the 20th century. Coastal Koryaks categorically renounced this custom. W. Jochelson fixed that relatives took care of the dying man well. If he could eat he was given the best food. If the torture of a sick man lasted too long he was turned into left side. If there was one more dying man in the house their souls were treated as tightly connected with each other. The man considered to be the dead when his breathing stopped. The cremation was held in a special funeral clothes which were made for the relatives by the Koryak women during all life. It was necessary to go into the next world in the best clothes with special ornament. The clothes could be practically ready but the work with it had not to be finished otherwise the man would have to die. The Koryak women tried not to show the funeral clothes which they sewed basically at nights; if the stranger came into the house the Koryak women hid their work. After the man’s death all relatives sewed the funeral clothes trying to do it as quickly as possible. If the funeral clothes were ready this man was cremated at the same day. In any case the man was tried to be sent to the next world during three days.
When the Soviets came the cremation of died Koryaks was prohibited, they had to bury their dead relatives that was a contradiction to their ancient traditions. So in spite of interdictions the old men asked to be cremated as their ancestors were as far as
it was the only way for them to get to the underground world. The ceremony of cremation remains even nowadays, though it has been greatly transformed under the influence of the Christinianity upon the Koryaks and then under the influence of atheistic approach.
In the beginning of the 21st century the funeral ceremonies in Koryak’s villages keeps the elements of an ancient rite but at the same time there exists the practice of Christian funeral ceremony.
The painter Egor Chechulin tells about the next world and about the rite of cremation in the following way: “The next day after cremation they come to the place of the funeral fire, find the remains of the burnt body. Then they pick up pieces of burnt bones, lay them with stones, make a fire and have tea. The second day is also the day of visiting this place. They try to come to the place of cremation in a year...”.
Nowadays the influence of Christianity is very strong; it is obligatory to celebrate the 9th and the 40th days. After cremation the lakhtak’s (seal) strap is cut and every day till the ninth day on this strap it is made a knot.
Death comes to man because he is tired, it is hard for him to live and it is necessary for him to have a rest. He will rest in the other world. It is desirable to name the born child with his name in a year; so he is coming back having had a rest in the other world.
Death is quickly appreciated. The attitude to the dead doesn’t depend on the kind of death which he died: from disease, suicide or accident.
The Koryaks borrowed the main canons from the Christian religion: be good, don’t kill, don’t steal. There were many wars at that time. After introduction of Christianity the revenge decreased, and the rites exist even nowadays. Though during the Soviet power they were forced to bury not to cremate. Only the old men were cremated. But while burying they tried to follow some features of the rite: they obligatory put the gun, a bow, arrows, knives to the dead and a needle-book - for women.
Now the dead is buried in accordance with those rites which he and his relatives followed. The culture, the man followed to when he was alive, should define the rites he must go to the other world. Before burial or cremation the dead is put on the funeral kukhlyanka, its collar is tightly closed. The hood of kukhlyanka is tied tightly the face not to be seen. The dead is put with the head to the exit, the hands are tied with the stripe. The man seems to be tied. A little pectoral cross was put on the chest of the man. In the house where the dead lies the people talk, eat, play cards, and a cup of water and crust of bread is put near the dead’s head. They try to communicate as if he is alive. The long pole symbolizing lance is put near the dead. Sometimes they put a symbolically made bow: the bow-string ties to a stick and arrows were planed. The dead is taken to the place of cremation on the sledge attached to the tractor. The dead has flint, a piece of file and a piece of sulphur in a special bag. It will be necessary for the man in the road.
Before the dead is put the clothes on he is under the sheet because nobody can see the face of him. When the clothes are ready the man is dressed in. Nowadays the man is tried not to be buried for three days after the death. The old people prepared funeral clothes for themselves in the time of their life. It is sewed only from the skin of grownup deer. If the clothes is not absolutely ready somebody can give his one to the dead. The funeral clothes differs from the usual one with that it is very nice because it needs to go to the next world in the best clothes. The dead lies in the house for three days, somebody sits near him without fail though all the others can sleep.
Some of relatives stay at home at the time when the dead is being cremated. Now the funeral repast has become obligatory after the cremation. The funeral repast is held in the house where the man lived and died. Returning after the rite of consuming all relatives come to the house of the dead, before the threshold two alder twigs with the length of 40 sm are put into the ground and everybody must go between these twigs. If the ceremony is held in winter the line is drawn on the snow before the threshold
which must be stepped over. This line keeps the dead from returning home. Relatives who put him into the last way returned into his house; if the person went to another way the diseases followed him. After cremation of the dead everybody returned into the house from where he had been brought out. At the threshold they are met by a woman who pours out the ashes down the wind before them. Coming relatives are also met with the fire. Ash and fire in the concepts of the Koryaks are connected with the ritual of cleaning. In winter the line is drawn in the snow before the threshold; this is the river (the bound between two worlds) which one must jump across. That line is drawn in 9 days. It is the barrier which the dead cannot overcome and return from the other world to this one. Also the torbasas are cut; soles are cut along the foot for the aim the dead cannot return.
If the man is sinking nobody tries to save him. The Koryaks consider water to be the hostile element. The man is born on the earth and must live on it. The sinking man is considered to be taken by Sea Spirits, Sea Masters. The Northern peoples has never liked water, never swam, never undressed, never lay in the sun. If the person sank his body will be buried in customary was the body gets ashore.
If the child dies its placenta together with umbilical cord which was kept after the birth is burned. Egor Chechulin remembers the fact when a boy of 18 died and his placenta was buried with him.
The Koryaks pay great importance to the name: if a child fells ill he is given another name. It is considered that evil spirits lost the child with this name. In this case the man gets a nick-name: bear’s face, ninvit.
When a child is given a name of the dead person cremated a year ago, it is treated as a sign of respect; the soul is regenerated. After this the man doesn’t regret that his relative died. So the Koryaks regard to their children with great respect, never beat them and call them not a child but with the name of their relative. The Koryaks don’t try calling their close relatives with the name: they call them a
sister or a brother.
The Koryaks always think of death quietly. At burial everybody talk as usual because the life of the person is endless.
The custom of cremation at the Koryaks had several great changes after joining Kamchatka to Russia. Assimilation of cultures is an inevitable process of interchanging of societies. This process is an objective one. Just because of it today the investigator’s aim is not only the restoration of the archaic ceremony but in the exact fixation of modern ritual actions and attempts of their analysis. Dead ceremonies are very important both for archaic tribes as well as for civilized society. Death stays unknown phenomenon, it fills people with fear and hope. The attempts of investigation of ceremonies aim to study archetypical basis of human mentality. The observance of unwritten rules which seem absurd from the point of view of “real logic” is nevertheless something important, active for the archaic man and for the civilized man.
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