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Abstract

Traditional rituals formed the basis of ethnic Chuvash culture, and are still relevant in today’s festive and ritual culture, primarily among Chuvash ‘pagan’ ethno-religious groups. Today among the unbaptised Chuvash there is, with varying degrees of preservation, a set of ideas about the spirits of nature and the patron deity of different fields of life, practice of ritual prayer and sacrifice, and festive culture. The focus of ritual practice is the cult of the Supreme God Tura (Tură) and the ancestors, who during the calendar year appear in a single complex and in strict sequence. Traditional rituals play an essential role in the funeral and memorial rites and customs of the Chuvash. Thus, ‘pagan’ elements are characteristic not only of the unbaptised Chuvash, but also of some local groups of Christians and Muslims, for example ritual mourning of the dead, weekly commemoration on Thursday evenings until the ritual of ‘seeing off the soul’, ritual singing, sacrificing and ‘feeding’ souls of the dead on remembrance days, and other rituals and their elements. These ‘pagan’ elements in the culture of the Orthodox Chuvash and Chuvash Muslims living in ethnically mixed villages with Russians, Mordovians and Tatars both constitute the basis of their ethnic and cultural identity as Chuvash and contribute to the preservation of their ethnicity. Chuvash ‘paganism’, despite centuries of influence from Russian Orthodox and Muslim Tatar traditions, has a moderating influence over contemporary modernisation and is an element in religious practices of Chuvash confessional communities that is an important resource for the formation and development of ethnic and cultural identity.

Abstract

This article looks at the perceptions of fear and ‘the frightening’ in contemporary Mongolian demonology. In the article, I discuss beliefs concerning both human and supernatural – what is supposed to be frightening for humans and what is supposed to be frightening for spirits, ghosts and demons. In daily interaction with the supernatural this mutual ‘fright’ can be regarded as an important part of communication. In this article, I discuss what is believed to be the most frightful for humans and for supernatural agents, what kinds of image this fear relates to and what the roots of these beliefs are, as well as the popular ways to confront and defend against ‘frightening’ in Mongolian folklore.

My research is based on fieldwork materials collected during annual expeditions in different parts of Mongolia (2006–2017) and Mongolian published sources such as Mongolian newspapers and journals, special editions of stories about encounters with the supernatural.

Abstract

30 years after socialism many groups of Evenki reindeer herders failed to survive in the suboreal taiga of East Siberia. By making reference to two case studies from the northern part of the Zabaikal region and southern part of the Republic of Sakha, this article shows how the successful continuation of reindeer herding is based on the ability of charismatic leaders mobilising Evenki communities around reindeer herding and subsistence economies. This success also relies on connection to different agents of power in local administrations, large cities and governments and the use of all of the available opportunities that infrastructure or economic agents can offer.

Abstract

This article* investigates, for the first time, the local musical tradition of the Udmurt of Chainsk district (Tomsk oblast). The overwhelming majority of migrants in this region arrived from the Sharkan district of the Udmurt Republic, in Siberia, at the beginning of the 20th century. For a long time they kept their original culture in an ethnically alien environment. However, at the beginning of the 21st century, their singing tradition started to fade under the influence of different factors (such as the disappearance of Udmurt rituals and festivals, as well as mixed marriages). The aim of this article is to compare the ‘Chainsk migrational’ singing tradition to the ‘Sharkan original’ musical tradition. The main collection of audio recordings covering the Chainsk district Udmurt musical tradition is conserved in the archives of the Udmurt Research Institute at the Russian Academy of sciences.1 It is comprised of fieldwork material gathered by researchers from the Institute in 1974 and 2006. We discovered new sources of audio and video recordings of the singing tradition in this territory, which allowed us to integrate more song samples. The analysis of both traditions reveals the basic genres of ritual singing, each of which has been examined from the point of view of the topic of the poetic text, the mood structures, and the metro-rhythmic and melodic peculiarities of their development.

Abstract

To exemplify the legitimation processes of a pluralistic health field this article focuses on representations of Chinese medicine and its most popular spokes-person, Rene Bürkland, in the Estonian media. From 320 media texts published between 2009 and 2018 we chose 12 for close analysis with the aim of detecting specific discourses, untangling implicit meanings, and demonstrating the complexity of the rhetorical formulations used to legitimate Chinese medicine. We identified five key discourses – discourses of Bürkland’s charisma, holistic health, individual autonomy, subtle body, and integrative medicine – underpinning various legitimation strategies which aim to change the position of Chinese medicine from alternative to integrative. Our study reveals that the absence of scientific rhetoric together with key discourses has left Chinese medicine and its spokesperson without the attention of biggest critics of CAM and, therefore, has secured a positive image for Chinese medicine in the public discourse.

Abstract

This article* is about the distinct groups that practised malevolent and benevolent witchcraft in Swedish-speaking Ostrobothnia in late-modern Finland according to belief legends and memorates. Placing belief legends and memorates in Mary Douglas’ tripartite classification of powers that regulate fortune and misfortune illuminates the social structure of agents who posed a threat or regulated it by means of their supranormal powers. Powers that bring misfortune dwell outside or within the community, whereas powers that bring fortune live within it but nevertheless may be ambivalent and pose a threat to its members as well. Threat towards the community was based on the concept of limited good, in other words the belief that there was a finite amount of prosperity in the world. The aim is to paint a detailed picture of the complex social structure and approaches to witchcraft in late-modern Swedish-speaking Ostrobothnia.