S. A. Popova (Khanty-Mansiysk, Russia). The Bear’s Festival of the Northern group of the Mansi: linguistic taboo

The Bear’s Festival of the Northern group of the Mansi: linguistic taboo

Popova Svetlana A.,
Candidate Sc. {History}, Leading Research Fellow, Scientific Research Department of History, Archeology and Ethnology Ob-Ugric Institute of Applied Research and Developments (Khanty-Mansiysk, Russia), rusina-popova@yandex.ru

Introduction. In the traditional Mansi culture after the bear’s hunt there is a cycle of ceremonial actions (bear festival). The study considers the description and characteristics of the tabooed “bear” language used during them. Mansiysky bear festival ceased to be performed in a full variant in the first half of the 20th century. At the same time, there has been no proper research, except for rare publications. The importance of studying this issue is that it is one of the significant ritual elements, showing ethnic specificity of the people, but it is poorly represented in research.
Materials and Methods. For the first time, there is a database of field research records made at 6 Mansi bear festival in Berezovsky district of the Khanty-Mansiysk Okrug – Ugra (1994, 2000, 2001, 2011). It also employs the method of cognitive anthropology. The research itself is based on the principle of historicism.
Results and Discussion. In folklore and religious representations of Mansi the bear (in the northern group of Mansi she-bear) embodies the mythological ancestor of the phratry “por” and is believed as a sacred animal. One of the important elements of the bear festival is the “bear language” (in the presence of a bear one cannot use ordinary spoken language, all objects, actions are called dummy words). The prohibition proceeds from the mythological similarity of a human and a bear and the animal’s understanding of human speech. It was created to mislead the animal and take it away from the hunter and the inhabitants of the settlement.
Conclusion. The research materials contain fragmentary information about such a phenomenon as a hidden, sacred “bear language”. We initiated sporadic Mansi bear rites (it is still rare, as it is requires the reconstruction of its lost or endangered parts, including “bear language”). Tabooed language as part of the spiritual culture of the Mansi people will contribute to the preservation of the traditional belief system as a whole.

Key words: Mansi; bear; celebration; taboo; “Bear language”; dance-sketch.

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