Feelings About What Anthropologists Do and Bear Ghosts
Religious Fables, Folklore, Legends, and Stories
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Submitted by: Yuri Klitsenko

Maria Chiara Miduri wrote:

“I think is really important having account not only from anthropologist but also by those who "really know" cultures ethnologists study. I have to say that I partially disagree with most of the ethnographic accounts and theories that push too much on academism forgetting the importance of native ideas and feelings about what anthropologists do”.

That is a very interesting question indeed. I am not a professional ethnographer or anthropologist. I'm a Christian journalist, interested in Evenki mysticism. I study so called “zones of contacts”.

The Evenki shaman’s tent was the most interesting “zone of contacts”, but due to historical reasons shaman’s tents totally disappeared in the 40-50-s. However, Evenki cemetery remains a “zone of contacts”. So for Evenkis, I was a person who does prohibited things by disturbing spirits and dead humans at the cemeteries.

There were some adventures. For example I had meeting with Evenki delegation which asked me to destroy some photos I took. One strong young Evenki wanted to beat up “lucha-mi” (“damned Russian”), but refused that idea because noise and fighting could offend spirits of the forest (a few times I saw him feeding these spirits).

Other Evenkis were friendly and explained to me the rules of behavior at the cemeteries, so as not to be swallowed by spirits and bears. I just tried to remain myself and be honest and religious, which was not too hard because I am religious.

One Russian hunter politely informed me that not only was a Muscovite tourist interested in sacrificed reindeers, but also some bears. “The bear smells blood and comes to see skin and head of reindeer sacrificed by Evenkis”. I had perfect repellents against insects, but as a city born person, I had forgotten about the existence of any wild bears.  I never thought about meeting any bears except bears in the zoo and circus. 

Later I heard Evenki talks about bear-ghost visits. One teenage Evenki boy disappeared in the forest before my arrival – all hard attempts to find the boy or at least some of his remains failed. One Evenki old lady believed that I am secret federal agent - Sherlock Holmes, who arrived from capital city Moscow to find poor boy. Hunters confirmed that they indeed saw footprints of a young bear who visits the settlement. Some Evenkis thought it was bear-ghost.

The difference between ordinary bear and bear-ghost is following: ordinary bear avoids meetings with humans, while a bear-ghost is eager to meet humans to take them to ancestors in underworld. Actually bear-ghost is believed to be one of dead ancestors. One Evenki leader whom I deeply respect told that he saw a true bear-ghost only one time in his life.

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

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