Dearest Reindeer

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Dearest Reindeer

By Yuri Klitsenko

The Christian part of me doesn't like pagan animal sacrifice in Western Siberia. Khanty and Mansi have an idea of performing pagan rituals at local museum courtyards, some museums indeed show videos of pagan rituals and arrange pagan feasts. Evenkis never kept many domestic reindeer, so in Evenkis sacrifice reindeer in very Extreme Situations only. They think that life of trained reindeer - (personal reindeer or leader of caravan) is very closely connected with life of human.

For example, a guy who occasionally killed his domestic reindeer was expected by all to die (and he indeed died). For Evenkis domestic reindeer is sacred animal, one need to see how old fashioned Evenkis or little children speak about reindeer. Youth brain washed by Moscow TV is more indifferent. Moscow TV is real curse - spoiled boys and girls from rather rich families do TV programmes and about "high life" of capitalists, high life which is actually very low life without any spiritual values.

Western Siberians also have tradition of keeping "dearest reindeer" called "avka" - since birth "avka" spent childhood in humans tent or very near humans tent - "avka" is a member of family. My Khanty friend told me: I can't live well without seeing my "avka" (his "avka" lives in the forest with his parents - it is not easy to get there). They also enjoy to present their children books about "avka". Such relations can be very close and very sentimental.

Photos: Nenets girl with her "avka"; Nenets old lady with her "avka"

About Nenets, Khanty & Mansi home reindeer Avka. "Avka" because baby reindeer makes sounds "avf-avf-avf". Since birthday Avka lives not in the herd but with humans. They keep and decorate avka like city dwellers keep dogs and cats. Russian farmers are very pragmatic and rational - they still can't understand why silly city residents feed useless small dogs and useless cats which are too lazy to catch mice. "People in Moscow are totally spoiled and mad - they keep small dogs in their houses". Sometimes "wild pagan barbarians" can be more irrational and sentimental than these Russian farmers. At the same time it is really terrible to see how Nenets and some others eat uncooked meat with blood - according to pagan tradition mouth and hands need to be specially sprinkled with fresh blood (they feed idols in the same way). Western agitator need to take photos of Nenets or Koryaks covered with blood and write: "Just look at these subhumans!", no matter that all white men are covered with invisible human blood of Native Americans, Native Siberians and others... Who is sinless to throw the first stone? or the first bomb?

There are many stories about "Avka" who is "Teddy Bear" of Nenets children. One poem says how Nenets boy played with his avka in parent's house, but time has come to go to boarding school and get civilized. Of course, separation from parents is great distress for children.

Evenkis don't eat uncooked meat, with exception of reindeer kidney, which they call "Evenki chocolate". Every Evenki reindeer has personal name, but most important reindeer is personal "uchak" (the best and most reliable friend), sacred reindeer which carries pagan idols and Christian icons, and the most strong and experienced leader of caravan (knows all ways). I need to ask Evenki opinion about "avka", but generally taiga and tundra people are different. For Evenki every domestic reindeer is friend and helper of great value, not meat (meat are elks and wild reindeer). For tundra people all domestic reindeer are meat, with exception of home reindeer "avka" which is friend.

[Ed. Note] We also believe, based upon Jesus' teaching, that violence, or causing pain and suffering to any living being separates us from God, and that faith, love, compassion and peacemaking brings us closer to God. It has nothing to do with religious practice, custom, or doctrine.