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The ikenipke ritual
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Like all of the major shamanistic rituals, this one was forbidden by the Soviets. Vasilevich observed it among the Sym Valley Evenk, who performed it until the late 1920s. Her description (1957, translated and annotated by Lot-Falck 1974), is the only one we have. Since the end of the Soviet regime, this ritual has reappeared in the south of Yakutia and the Amur region.
For Vasilevich, ikenipke means ìritual imitating lifeî: the notion of ìplayingî, ike- or evi-, embraces those of singing, dancing, using bright colors to decorate at the time of rituals, the whole being synonymous with life. The ritual described is held after the first cuckoo is heard, when the nomads gather after their winter isolation. They don a special costume prepared and worn from childhood. The ritual begins by giving the shaman who is to lead the ritual the necessary attributes and building him a tent big enough to hold all the participants. The ritual then unfolds around a round sung over a period of eight days, which symbolically relates the collective pursuit of a wild reindeer, its slaying and its division; the annual cycle of the hunterís life; his descent of the ìinvisibleî river engdekit and his return to the headwaters.
In the ìback to traditionî climate that reigned after the end of communism, two Evenk folklorists, originally from the South and living in the Yakut capital, Anna N. Myreeva and Galina I. Varlamova (Keptuke), who is the daughter of a shaman, decided to revive the ikenipke. They wrote out the ìscenarioî using Vasilevichís article and other descriptions of the ritual (Anisimov 1958, Mazin 1984 and Gurvich 1948). Since 1992 the ritual has been performed by the 2000 Evenk from the capital, in a nearby forest. In 1994 it was enacted for the first time in a village, and it was performed by nine villages in 2002 (Lavrillier 2003).
This new ritual always takes place in the forest beside a river, far (5ñ6000 meters) from any sedentary dwellings. Two days before the performance, the territory is marked off by a string strung between the trees; colored ribbons are hung from the trees as spirit offerings, ulgani-da; around the perimeter, the family tents are put up. At the entrance, chichipkan, wooden arches are placed between two fires made with lede (Ledum palustrum) to ìcleanseî the participants; they walk through the arches one by one. In the center stands ìSevekiís postî representing the ìthree worldsî. Soviet fashion, a stage is set up so that the whole village can see, and prizes are handed out. The organizers (intellectuals, descendants of shamans, older people), microphone in hand, explain the ritual as it unfolds. The initially reticent nomads (if we do this ritual that we have forgotten wrong, the spirits will get angry) now attend in increasing numbers. Most of the participants have put on a traditional Evenk costume made of reindeer skin or of cloth, with its false front, long jacket and a copper headdress dyed or embroidered with beads. The colors are bright, in homage to the rebirth of nature. If the ritual does not take place when the cuckoo first sings but later, a recording of its song is broadcast by loudspeaker. The ritual lasts only one day. After having ìfedî Seveki so that life will be better, so that there will be fewer deaths and more births, everyone goes to the river, walking up stream, to throw pieces of fatty meat and bread into the water. Some murmur : ìRiver, our mother, help us live well, may my younger kin, children and grand children live long and happy lives, may they have many reindeer, may they be successful!î Others ask for luck in finding work or passing exams. Then comes a series of episodes taken from other old rituals enacted by the children: hunting wild reindeer, sharing the meat and depositing the bones; summer gathering of several clans to hunt and eat bear; birth of the reindeer calves. In the evening some attend the stage show, others take part in various competitive games, and the grandmothers start the first sung rounds, which determine the success of the ritual and the year to come: ìthe grandmothers sang wellÖ it will be a good year!î It does not matter if the ritual is not performed as it used to be, ìsince we have been doing the new ikenipke there have been almost no more suicides in the village!î The essential difference, though, is that it is done without a shaman.

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


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Movie(s):
Ulganivun: Offering ritual (3.3MB)

3D Object(s):

<i>Ikenipke</i> ritual area

A child's <i>ikenipke</i>


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