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Humanitarian sciences in Siberia

2018 year, number 2

SEMANTICS OF TRADITIONAL MATERNITY RITUALS OF INDIGENOUS POPULATION IN THE NORTH ALTAI FOOTHILLS (THE LATE XIX - FIRST HALF OF XX CENTURIES)

V.V. Nikolaev
Institute of Archaeology and Ethnography SB RAS, 17, Lavrentiev av., Novosibirsk, 630090, Russian Federation
Keywords: , , , , indigenous peoples, Altai, maternity ceremonies, semantics

Abstract

The article is devoted to reconstruction of the traditional maternity rituals of the autochthons in North Altai foothills and their semantics. The research source is field materials of the author and other participants of ethnographic expeditions of Altai State University in 2001-2004. Large families were highly respected in traditional communities; boys birth was preferable. This should have been facilitated by certain actions. A new life advent was associated with kut (a human double) and umay (the spirit-keeper), complexes of religious beliefs. Preparation for childbirth included observation of certain prohibitions and restrictions by pregnant women. For example, they were released from hard work and forbidden to visit springs. During birth action, the wise woman assisted women in birth and helped with a newborn. The wise woman was an active participant in many rituals of transition: washing a baby, telling a father of a newborns sex, burial of afterbirth, participation in naming, etc. The indigenous people were careful to afterbirth and an umbilical cord; they were stored in an inaccessible place or buried in ground. Rituals accompanying the emergence of a new member of the family and society should save the life of the newborn and the woman in labor. The name was chosen in honor of the deceased relatives. Naming amulets were practiced, they protected from evil spirits. Simultaneously a rite was carried on to place a baby in a birch bark cradle, which was made by a father right after birth. If the child grew strong and healthy, then the cradle was considered happy, and it was used in the future. Important stages of maternity rituals were forty days and a year. After a year the child was shown to relatives. In general, childbirth was a transitional period for a woman in labor and her child. The woman in labor was finally included in the new family and clan, acquiring a new status. The child moved from the natural state into the social through symbolic actions, including cradling, giving a name, first haircut, threading legs, etc.