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Religious Fables, Folklore, Legends, and Stories
Early Concepts about the Universe among the Evenks

Submitted by Yuri Klitsenko, Russia

From G.M.Vasilevich, Early Concepts about the Universe among the Evenks:

In the beginning Seveki made the soul (omi) - the basis of everything.
Seveki had a fine tent (how did Creator’s tent look like? – Yu.K.).

When he had created various figures, he put them in the storehouse. When he had placed them there, he went away. The dog was his guard. When he went away he left it behind. The dog was without fur. Left alone, it stood at the door.

Snow fell and the dog was very cold. At that moment Avakhi came. Arriving, he asked the dog for the key. The dog said; "Seveki will scold me." "I shall give you fur and you will not be cold." Then the dog gave him the key.

Avakhi took the key, opened the storehouse, and let out all the productions of Seveki, then gave the dog fur.

(In this connection the etymology of the word "omi" is of interest. The original concept of "omi" as the sculpture of a man or animal that was destined to live became transformed into the concept of the life force, vitality. Morphologically the word "omi" consists of all-Tungus root "o", to become, to create, to make, and the suffix "-mi", which according to modern Tungus-Manchu grammars is used to form the indefinite adverbial participle, but in certain cases the form of words ending in "-mi" indicates nouns of condition or action, as "oimi aya" – "life is beautiful". "Omi" in the stories we are considering denotes the result of an action and this is why in some versions "omi" is replaced by the form "ona" – literally "the result of creation". The first concept of a soul among the Evenks was expressed by "omi" and was developed from a concept of a sculpture which became man).

Variations:

The older brother came and began to ask the dog to open the warehouse, promising it fur for this. The dog was tempted to the point where it finally agreed to let him in. He went into the storehouse, blew on the sculptures, and went away. After ten days the younger brother returned, saw the disturbed storehouse, and understood everything. He went into the storehouse and looked on the ground were lying, dead and half-dead, the representations of people. He breathed on the living ones and made blood flow through their veins. The figures came to life and became people.

The dog began to stand guard and Khargi came. The dog was naked and its clothes were poor. Khargi said: "Seveki clothes you badly. Let me in. I shall give you clothes." The dog let him in. He gave it clothes and he spat on the Evenks, saying: "Let this be a sickness." Now all the Evenks have become susceptible to sickness. When Seveki had finished his walk, he came back and asked the dog: "Where did you find yourself a fur coat?" "Khargi gave it." "For what did you betray my sculptures? For what purpose did you take a fur coat for yourself? I could have given you clothing afterwards”.

Kheladan

An old man had five daughters. One after the other he tried to send them for drinking water. They all refused. He went himself to the river. He began to drink and froze to the ice. To free himself he began to talk to the ice, begging it to free him and promising it in return one of his daughters. The ice agreed to take the youngest, Kheladan. The old man sent Kheladan with toys to the river. She came to the river, sat down on the ice, and went through. Going down to the bottom of the river (a shaman's river) she arrived in this way at Engdekit. She floated downstream on a cake of ice.

For a long time she floated. She saw a little fire on the cape at the mouth of the river, and asked the ice-floe to stop. The ice-floe agreed. She went to the fire. She looked, and there was a yurt where an old woman lived. The girl asked: "Where is the ice-floe taking me?" "I do not know, ask the shaman-woman with the two drums, she may know."

The girl went on. She floated farther. In this way she came to a shaman-woman with ten drums. She came up to her. This one told her: "The ice is carrying you to Chungedek (the place of eternal darkness, the shaman's lower world). The ice is deceiving you." The old woman gave her two awls so that the girl could, by driving them into the soil, pull herself onto it, and, she warned her: "The ice will call and coax you, but do not look around." The girl dragged herself onto the earth, and no matter how much the ice called her back, promising her all kinds of woman's tools, she did not look around, and said to the ice that in place of a stone for spreading paint he had human foreheads; he had not whetstones, but human kneecaps; not black paint, but dead men's excrement; not red paint, but dead men's blood; not leather-softeners, but vertebrae of the dead; not scrapers, but pelvic bones; not whetstones, but anklebones; not cups, but skulls; not flints, but forearms of dead people. So the ice was unable to entice her, and the girl got away.

A girl, Kheladan, was walking on and on until at last she came to the bear.

The bear said: "Kill me and cut me up. Place my heart to sleep beside you, put my kidneys in the place of honor (malu) behind the hearth, my duodenum and rectum place opposite you, spread out my fur in a dry ditch, hang my small intestine on a dry, bent-over tree, and put my head to sleep near malu (the place of honor)." Kheladan killed the bear and did all as he had ordered. In the morning she awoke and looked. At the place of honor there were two children (the kidneys) playing, an old man (the head) was sleeping near them, while opposite him were sleeping an old man and an old woman (the intestines). She glanced outside there were some reindeer (the fur) walking about and the little valley was full of reindeer. She ran out of the yurt, and there were some halters (the small intestines) hanging on the slanting tree.

…the bear started to cross a river to reach the girl. He went in, getting deeper into the water up to the heel, the ankle, the knee, the thigh, the hips, the belly, the navel, the armpits, die shoulders, the throat, the chin, the mouth, the nose, the eyes, the crown of the head, until he disappeared altogether. Then he said: "My heels shall be whetstones; my knees, grinders; my shoulder blades, stones for trying out colors; my blood, the color red; my excrement, black. . . ." Since that time one could find in the taiga colors, grinders, whetstones, and other things.

Evenk Christian stories

Man’s body is hairless because once upon a time after Seveki created a man with fur, a man wanted to eat cranberries; he began to eat, and the fur fell off him.

Amaka-Kristos was building a barge. He was the enemy of Erulve Odyapki (literally "Evil Doer"). Amaka-Kristos was getting ready to carry away his children, the Evenks, on the barge. Erulve Odyapki found the place where God had been working. He burned the barge. Erulve Odyapki went on looking for God. He found God, seized him by the arms, and led him holding his arms to his sides. The Russians saw this. Russians had a post by the road. They led God there. Having led him there, they nailed up him to a post and also two Russians. Having nailed them up, they went away. Erulve Odyapki looked around, saw God, and said: "Why did he die?" One said: "They didn’t put a nail through the heart". The other asked: "How are we nailed up?" At that moment a fly lighted on God’s chest. Erulve Odyapki said: "He has died. It is useless for a fly to sit on his chest".

Yuri Klitsenko is a Russian living in Moscow.  He works for the Russian Orthodox Church.

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