Shaman’s Headdress

19th Century

This headdress of a “big” Evenk shaman (avun) made of steel was part of a full ritual costume worn by a shaman for very important rites and rituals. The structure of this headdress reflects its symbolic meaning and contains an archaic image of the model of the Universe. The hoop embodies the concept of the closed space of the world of people and solid earth. Two crossing arcs symbolize the parts of the world and the seasons. The cosmic vertical that reflects the sacral center of the Universe is embodied in the horns of the mythical deer that stands for the sun in the mythical beliefs of the peoples of northern Asia. The deer was one of the main characters in the myth about the celestial hunt and embodied the archaic concepts of the day and night and the cosmic order. The horns also symbolized the sacred deer – the helper spirit of the shaman, his draft animal that he rode to travel to other worlds. Long cloth ribbons embody snakes and lizards, the shaman’s powerful helpers that accompany him in his “travels” to the lower world. They also symbolize the sacred birch – the totem tree of the shaman. It is also associated with the World Tree that symbolizes the Universe as a whole and Axis mundi – the cosmic axis connecting the spheres of the Universe. Such ritual headdresses were conditionally referred to as “crowns”. (The VCM)

The Kunstkamera via the VCM

547. A Tongusian Priest, in theVicinity of the Argoun. Un Devin Toungouse, auprès de l'Argoun. 10 x 14.5 inches. £50 A TONGUSIAN PRIEST, . IN THE VICINITY OF THE ARGOUN. THE Tongusians are pagans of the sect of the Schamans. Boa is the appellation given to the Supreme Being, Bougai is the name of the devil, and their idolatrous priests and magicians are called Schamans. (See Plates XXXIV and XXXV.) The Tongusians believe in a future life, which they imagine will be similar to their present state of existence. They have no idea of future punishments. The children who are subject to convulsions or frequent bleedings at the nose, are thereby considered as called to the priest-hood, and arc placed under the care of’ a Schaman, who charges himself with their education.

     The Tongusians enjoy a state of freedom, under the direction of’ chiefs of their own choosing; in time of war, these chiefs are placed at their head, and in peace, they are appointed arbitrators of all differences. The descendants of their ancient chiefs enjoy a particular degree of consideration, and it is from this order of nobility that their new chiefs are selected. Upon the slightest differences the Tongusians have recourse to their chiefs. These men, who discover so much apathy in times of scarcity and of the greatest privation, carry their desire of revenge to the utmost pitch of extravagance. In their single combats they use the bow and arrow. Their duels arc subject to nearly the same laws and ceremonies as our ancient camp fights. Their old men are appointed to examine the arms, to mark out the place of battle, and to prescribe the distance at which the champions are to stand, and the moment of drawing.

      If a person of the common rank seduces a girl with a considerable for-tune, or remarkable for her beauty, he is in danger of being shot by the relations, friends, or lovers of his mistress. In all matters of’ dispute brought before their chiefs or elders, where it is difficult to discover the truth, the parties arc put upon their oath. The Tongusians have three kinds of oaths, each more solemn than the other. The slightest consists in raising the blade of a knife towards the sun, and in agitating it with violence, saying, at the same time, “ If I am guilty, may the sharpest pains seize my body, and tor-” ment it as I agitate this knife!’ The second is performed with more formality. The person accused is conducted to a sacred mountain, where he pronounces with a loud voice, “If I am guilty, may I never be successful in ” hunting or fishing; may I be bereft of my children, and also of my own “ existence!” But the third is still more terrible than the two former. A dog is killed and cast into the fire, but before it is consumed, it is taken out and thrown to the company; the accused person is obligated to drink some of the blood of the animal, uttering at the same time these words: “ I drink ” this blood in witness of the truth! if I lie, may I perish, be burnt, and “ dried up like this clog!” See Plate XLVIII.

sturmbannfuehrer asked:

Nice job on that last post regarding racial differences in IQ. By the way, since you've posted about the Uyghurs again, I've been wondering if you got anything interesting on the Tungusics. In general, do you think the Altaic peoples are connected not only linguistically but also genetically?

Depends what you mean by interesting, but from what little I can tell you I have had the Red Book of the Peoples of the Russian Empire saved for a while, which covers the Evenks and other Tungusic peoples, there’s probably some invaluable information there.

As for the Altaic peoples, there is a genetic connection between Turk, Mongol and Tungus populations - the Yakuts (Turks) and Evenks (Tungus) are particularly more closely related. The Japanese and Koreans are also distantly related:

Analyzing genetic connections between languages by matching consonant classes:

The idea that the Turkic, Mongolian, Tungusic, Korean, and Japanese languages are genetically related (the “Altaic hypothesis”) remains controversial within the linguistic community. In an effort to resolve such controversies, we propose a simple approach to analyzing genetic connections between languages. The Consonant Class Matching (CCM) method uses strict phonological identification and permits no changes in meanings. This allows us to estimate the probability that the observed similarities between a pair (or more) of languages occurred by chance alone. The CCM procedure yields reliable statistical inferences about historical connections between languages: it classifies languages correctly for well-known families (Indo-European and Semitic) and does not appear to yield false positives. The quantitative patterns of similarity that we document for languages within the Altaic family are similar to those in the non-controversial Indo-European family. Thus, if the Indo-European family is accepted as real, the same conclusion should also apply to the Altaic family.

I suppose it’s fair to ask how can a people belong to a group of languages when there is not significant genetic kinship between them anyway, for this I would have originally said Altaic is not a genetic group, but an ‘areal’ group, where any shared ‘Altaic features’ are there because of prolong contact; as of course there is always gene exchange between neighbours, and the Mongolic and Tungusic language families have been spoken adjacent to each other for many millennia, but I guess the Altaic language family is a reality…

As noted in the Uyghur post Central Asia was once populated with Indo-European-speaking tribes before the area was overrun by Mongols (and Turks) from the South, when Indo-European language and culture was gradually replaced by Altaic speech. Prior to this the Altaic people lived in Mongolia, Manchuria (Northeast Asia) and East Siberia.