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The cult of nature the tradition of Buryatia nations

Author:  Krasovsky Oleg
Source:  Conservation of natural and cultural heritage of Baikal.- Moscow-Ulan-Ude, 2010. - . 36-39.

  Ecology as the primal belief

- The human attitude to nature - and it is evident in the most trivial actions -was based on the particular world-view from everlasting. Historically shamanism was such a first world-view at the Baikal land.

Shamanism absorbed ancient beliefs of Siberian nations, which is determined by the common notion "cult of nature" at times. Gods or ghosts of Buryat shamanists in practice always personify nature or natural phenomena. For instance, the pantheon of gods was leaded by the supreme deity Huhe Munhe-Tengri (Eternal Blue Sky), deity Huherday was the master of thunder and lightning. Evenks have Aenekan Buga as the supreme deity, master of taiga, animals and human race, who dwells at the tribal cult shrines - Bugada's rocks - and is associated with the image of elk or wild stag. Aenekan Buga permanently perambulates and watches for the protection of the Universal principles.

The most vivid evidence of the profound environmental consciousness of Buryats is provided with the cult of "aezhens" (aezens) - masters of locality. "Aezhins" were the patrons of mountains, rivers, lakes, forests etc. The chief aezhin of Buryat shamanists was the aezhin of Earth - the symbol of fertility and richness. Alar Burtyats had Etugen as the aezhn of Earth. She was imagined as the old lady living inside the Earth. Ekhirit and Bulagat Buryats had mother Ulgen as the aezhn of Earth, which was donated with the grey goat. All "masters" were subdivided according to their hierarchic position into several categories: "the mistress of the whole Universe" (delhkey aezhin), local aezhins (ulus-tribal, areal-communal), "masters" of particular water object, mountains, forests etc. At the bottom of the hierarchy there were ghosts that inhabit forest depths, holes, crave and so on. Therefore, it was considered as the sin to "cut the tree master", "dig the master of land, mountain slopes". The damage caused by ghosts during the economic activity was symbolically compensated by the sacrifices.

The rites of propitiation of deities and ghosts were considered as the public act. As the instant there could be the new-year holiday of prayer service at oboos (shrine piles), which is the Buryat's calendar rite. It communicated that special beauty of the environing nature, which the fest participants had inspired with. For instance, here is the example of glorification to the honour of the holy mount Barkhan-under: "The top of the mountain is rushed to the shining sphere of the sky, its bottom is rested on the sparkling vault of precious land, above it - there is the canopy of solid clouds in necklaces of golden lightning flashes, peals of thunder spread its glory in the hundred directions. The gracious rain is quietly drizzling in the mid part of the mountain, the foot is surrounded with trees with nectar fruits, rivers, whose water possess eight qualities of perfection. Its bowls conceal the treasures of every precious thing, vegetative and mineral cures. Its surface rich in herds of beautiful upland goats of all kinds, filled with echo of scream of slowly soaring birds, is arrayed with charming varicolored flower covers, belted with the scarf of enchanting joyous rainbow, adorned with beauty filled with all signs of perfection. Inside the mountain - there is the huge palace of precious kingdom, shining with myriads of rays, like sunny day; this vast space is guarded by the powerful tzar of tengeries, tsarina, princes, all ghosts of mountainous taiga, mountain gorges, passes, rocky mountains, woody hills, springs, spring lakes, grassy slopes and valleys, pastures for cattle and scared places".

Nature - partner of Buddhist

The followers of the Mahayana Buddhism, which became widespread in Buryatia since 18th century, avoided extremities and followed the principle,5» of the Middle Path (madhyama pratipad): to the extent possible they tried to spare the nature, at the same time by force acknowledging the fact that man couldn't last without killing and eating "breathers". Nature was considered by Buddhists as the equal partner, and that meant that it also should sacrifice itself to humans in necessary. And man, having the advanced sense of responsibility for everything alive and recognition of its synergy with natural integrity, should understand that harming the nature he hurts himself. And if he still hurts it someway that is due to common interests of cosmic evolution of the total existence towards more perfect forms.

Buddhism absorbed many shamanism traditions and cults. Primarily the Buddhist community exorcised the shaman... "masters of locality" with the assistance of the tsarist police. However, further included the "masters of locality" cult into its rite system Buddhism converted the ritual form not changing the essence of ordinary motivation of rite - cult provision of wellbeing of the social collective depending on the state of the natural habitat. Thereby Buryat Buddhism acquired additional environmental tint.

Hunters and cattlemen to protect homeland nature

 Buryats and Evenks traditionally treated animal world with respect, one could see here the echo of primeval totemism. Thus, according to legends, Khori-Buryats originated from the heavenly swan-girl, the first Buryat shaman was eagle, and the ancestors of all Mongolian nations - Brown wolf and Grey doe.

The hunting rites, rules, taboos developed in centuries under the terms of severe taiga life primarily were the elements of hunting ethics and technology successfully compatible with the nature's requirements. Thanks to shamans this ethics turned into the law code, norms of regular law. Evenk-hunter was able to respect the killed animal, dress it according to particular rules, it was impossible to outrage or jeer at the catch. The legend reads: "Once during the autumn hunt two Evenks killed so many elks that they were impossible to skin them and make them in a proper manner. They were forced to leave a part of animals. The master of taiga punished the hunters for this. Both soon got sick and died".

K. Rychkov, traveler and ethnographer, in his travel sketches present the legend that illustrates how Evenks sensed their kinship with the foresters. "A bear entered the home of a Tungus. He took an interest in a knife, took it with the forelegs and began to examine it. The master returned at this time. Both were very frightened. The bear carefully gave the knife to the master. The latter took the knife, cut off the bread slice, and in his turn gave it t the bear. The bear ate the bread and went away".

Buryats thought that in the desire for rich catch it is impossible to exceed: kill animals in vain, leave wounded game. In whole his life the Buryat-hunter should kill more than 99 bears. It was considered that greedy hunters might loose their children like in return of animals excessively killed. When the hunting season come Buryats dressed in neat fur-coats and sanctified, because it was considered that are not moving to kill animals but paying a visit to the taiga master Khangai. The master of taiga was mostly portrayed as the huge grey-bearded aged man who rides the horse, is kind, but abhorrent to dirt and mess in the forest. In order not to anger him it was to be respect cleanness and quietness in taiga, especially at tabor, it was restricted to pour water onto pathways, cut trees around tabor, disorder everything, throw into fire fur, felt and everything that stinks when burns. It was restricted to sing and loudly cry, especially in the nesting period, when noise could scare away birds from their nesting sites.

 The major management condition for the Buryats-cattlemen was denial of "overgrazing". The nomads knew which herbs are suitable for various animals and could detect their quality. The grass was considered as nutritious if it cut at the very root, had red shade, sweetish taste. The true sign to identify the grass quality - the character of horse dung at the pasture. Such knowledge of nature along with skills in pasturing techniques were passing on from one generation to another and ensured the integrity of pastures - the basis for wellbeing of cattlemen.

Restoration of traditions -education and practice

The persistence of many traditional beliefs and cults could be noted in the modern period of Buryat nation development. Such collective prayers as tailagans and oboo tahilga aimed at paying attention as previously of "lords of land and water" are practicing during the unfavorable years. The shaman tailagans and shaman-lamaistic prayers to oboo are arranged aimed at solicit from deity - patron of rain, moisture and housekeeping' wellbeing. As we see the ancient cult of "land and water" appeared to be viable, though as the cult of «u187» - "master of taiga", arshans - healing springs, as well as some norms of behavior with respect to nature.

According to polls, awareness among Buryats on environmental traditions of their ethnos is higher among elder generation people and those directly related to nature through their activity. The representatives of mostly adapted to new situation groups (farmers, pro-hunters) are optimists regarding the restoration of lost traditions of this kind, while pessimists are elder-aged groups. The overwhelming part of questioned thinks that the restoration of environmental traditions should be combined with the industrial development of the region.

Study of popular environmental traditions could become the most capacious and productive form of environmental education. At the same time their practical potential should not be disregarded. Thus, nowadays there are various "sacred" groves, lone-standing protected old trees and so on remained still. In some areas of Buryatia, in particular in Tunkinsky district, even now one could find former shaman tabooed funeral groves due to the density and height of trees.

Traditions of restriction for cut and other landscape alterations remain there so far, aas it is considered that shaman is guarded his boned for 1,000 years. Such areas became objects of fear, mysticism and ceremonies already have some level of protection and safety. If put these unique natural historic objects under the state protection their defense could be the most effective because the protection there would be provided not only with the legal acts, but with the moral norms.

 








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