The purpose of this article is to examine Khanty spatial ritual behaviour in the context of the simultaneous application of different ideas about sacred landscape. I aim to demonstrate the functional pattern behind handling seemingly ambivalent characteristics of cosmological models in the tangible ritual performance of the Khanty, an indigenous people inhabiting the taiga and forest taiga zone of Western Siberia. I explore three cases in which the concept of sacred topography is applied among the Khanty by exploring two public ceremonies of reindeer sacrifice and one episode of a post-funeral rite. It appeared that the spatial conceptualisation is different in different rituals. During sacrificial ceremonies, the Khanty position the Upper World in the southern direction, while in the case of death rituals, the Upper World is projected towards upstream of a river, even if it remains in the north. Studying different spatial orientations during rituals provides a methodological key for approaching other concepts of vernacular belief among Siberian indigenous communities.
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When I conducted fieldwork among the Darhad of northern Mongolia my informants repeatedly asserted that after a good singer’s performance even the most badly intoxicated lad stands still and keeps silent. In this article, I make three points in order to explain why this claim was made. In the first one, I show that the main concern about singing performance at social gatherings is not about revealing the singer’s inner emotional realm but rather about crafting a collective feeling that has the ability to make people temporarily shed their otherness and converge. The problem with drunkards lies in the fact that they are unable to participate and even noisily impede this rite of convergence. The main reason is that they are not sufficiently detached from their own inner realm. I then put the concept of noise in context, arguing that it forms the repulsive pole of a Mongolian sonic continuum. In my last point, I stress the fact that according to Mongolian linguistic ideology, noise brings misfortune to the entire community. That is why good singers must win their battle against drunkards.