Ludians’ harbingers of impending death and their representations of transition to the underworld
Sergei A. Minvaleev
Institute of Linguistics, Literature and History,
Karelian Research Centre of the Russian Academy of Sciences,
Introduction. The author studies religious and mythological representations regarding the death of one of a little-studied ethnic groups which are Ludian Karelians. The purpose of the study is to identify the components that formed the worldview complex of the Ludians associated with the concepts of “soul”, “death”, “underworld”, including signs and symbols.
Materials and Methods. The research is based on the archives and field studies as well as folklore texts, dictionaries, speech samples. It employs the comparative-historical method and the ethnolinguistic approach.
Results and Discussion. In general, the Ludians as well as the Karelians defined death as an act of separation of the soul from the body (heng lähtöu ‘the soul leaves’, heng lendau ‘the soul flies away’), and it occurs upon the will of the ancestors (syndyd). Among the Ludians the term iče (in the initial meaning ‘shadow, soul’) is associated with the representations of the Finno-Ugric people of the existence of the second shadow-soul as well as the idea of “rodimchik” as the terminal illness. Ludian believed that unusual behavior of a cuckoo, a woodpecker, a rooster and a chicken (knocking at the window, knocking on the wall of the house) can be interpreted as the impending death of a family member. The Russian influence on Ludians is associated with Christian ideas about the underworld as the place of the reunion of a human being with God and Orthodox holidays as “favorable” dates for dying.
Conclusion. According to a comprehensive comparative-historical analysis of the sources of the funeral and memorial rites of Ludian Karelians, the components of the Baltic-Finnish, common Finno-Ugric and Karelian origin can be distinguished in the representations of Ludians of the death and the underworld. At the same time, the influence of Slavic ideas of the death on Ludians is traced weakly in the materials under consideration, despite the length of contact between Russians and Ludian Karelians.
Keywords: Karelians, Ludians, funeral and memorial rites, underworld, death, harbingers of death
Acknowledgments: The article was prepared under state assignment of the Karelian Research Centre of the Russian Academy of Sciences (project 121070700119-5).
For citation: Minvaleev SA. Ludians’ harbingers of impending death and their representations of transition to the underworld. Finno-ugorskii mir = Finno-Ugric World. 2022;14;3:304–314. (In Russ.). DOI: 10.15507/2076-2577.014.2022.03.304-314.