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Hunting rites
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Hunting rites are different for fur animals or game meat. Hunting animals for their pelts, long used as a medium of exchange at fairs in China, did not become intensive until the arrival of the Russians. Hunting game for their meat, which is a subsistence activity and causes blood to run, is the more ritualized.

Game hunting
The hunter leaves the slain animal on the spot devun until the next day, ready to be transported. He butchers it on a thick carpet of branches in a predefined order and orientation, respecting a series of prohibitions among which that of spilling blood onto the ground, for if the spilled blood were to be trampled, the hunter would lose his luck. He guts the animal, deposits the entrails near the carcass and hangs the genital organs from the branch of a larch. Then he spreads the skin on branches and places the carcass on top of it. In former times he would also leave a figurine mentaja to protect the meat and skin (Mazin 1984: 38). In hot weather, he covers everything with branches; in cold weather, with well-packed snow so that the meat will still be warm when they come for it the next day. In the snow, the hunter plants an odd number of silavun (sharpened willow switches whose points have been stripped of bark and dipped in the dead animalís blood), for the olly, a large crow that figures in myths relating the origin of hunting and with whom the man vows to share his future prey if the crow gives him luck. In reality, the flight of the crow helps locate the game.

The sharing out of the meat, once womenís business and now done by the men, must be accomplished without breaking any bones. First of all the lower part of the legs are detached with the skin on, then the haunches. Next the chest is opened to cut away the breast, then the tendons are cut away from the spine at the base of the ribs and are removed in one piece. The backbone is then separated from the neck and the pelvis, then each vertebra is detached. The hunter receives the tail, the first neck bones, the first four ribs, the entrails, the skin and the head. The hunter, or someone from his tent, then divides the rest of the meat and the bones equitably among all the tents in camp, giving a portion to each representative (woman or child) sent for their share. The sharing is a ritual action in itself. To perform it improperly would mean depriving oneself of luck in hunting.

The meat is displayed for a while on a sled at tent entrance. One part is then put into sacks and stored into raised larders, one meter high, another part is cooked because all of the tents are supposed to eat their fill that very evening. Everyone makes an offering to the fire, for the spirits (those of the game and the hearth), a bit of the best pieces, ìbut not too much, so they wonít become too demandingî.

When all the meat has been eaten, the bones and the unused pieces of skin are placed on a special raised platform, gulik or delken ìso that the animalís soul will fly away faster and a new wild reindeer will soon be born.î

Author(s): A. Lavrillier
Date created: 2003-09-09 - Date modified: 2004-04-14


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3D Object(s):

A <i>gulik</i> (raised funerary plateform) for bears

Display of the quartered game


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