Why Fish are Keepers of Souls
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Submitted by: Yuri Klitsenko

 Christian soul is fish, Christ is Great Fish, Christ multiplied fishes, apostles trapped many fishes...

At the entrance into shaman’s tent Evenkis gave their souls to fishes – fishes were keepers of souls-threads (main) which connect Evenk (Evenk means "human") with the source of life in the East. Evenk shaman’s tent had Mammoths and special barriers for protecting fishes-souls.

Yakut creation stories tell there were waters and fishes at the beginning. According to A.A.Popov the soul of the Yakut shaman was turned into a fish and located in a special dam in the “waters of the illnesses”. The dam was arranged with “iron people” (watery spirits) from corpses of killed for this purpose seven girls, seven young men and seven head of cattle (without the knowledge of and the consent of the future shaman). The Earth-Soul of a shaman in the form of a fish floats inside of this dam and all time tries to jump through the dam and if it happens, the shaman dies. Yakuts also thought that fishes do not breathe, and, hence, have no soul.

It seems to me, that Yakut story-tellers are not well aware of functions of the river and the dam. In Evenki tradition each shaman expose river patrols and barriers, especially, on the personal shaman’s river, which is a tributary of the Great River. In Evenki shaman’s tent the river was protected, in particular, by wooden idols of ancestors of the shaman in the form of the wooden columns pointed in the bottom part - Yakuts inform about dead relatives whose bodies serve as posts for dams across the river.

Some Yakutian stories about shamans

“They say that initiation of a new shaman is accompanied by death of people from his family. I also heard stories about a dam. The shaman erects the dam across the river made from his spine. If the new shaman is possessing greater power, than the shaman who erected the dam, the new shaman breaks this dam”.

"After the initiation of the great shaman all his relatives should die out, for the life of the shaman is redeemed by his relatives - the dead bodies of relatives are being used for formation of a new body of the shaman. Some also tell that spirits use corpses of dead people to build a dam on the river of "death and destructions ". Spirits use dead people bodies as posts (wooden columns pointed in the bottom part) for this dam ".

"They tell that great shamans have a dam which bars way to spirits of small shamans. When all demons of smaller shaman get trapped at a dam, the shaman should be sick … because smaller shaman's fish decays. The sick shaman calls then the great shaman who breaks off a dam and instead of a life of the shaman gives other human life. Then the patient recovers ".

"When a great shaman is initiated his relatives die out. Dead relatives serve as posts (wooden columns pointed in the bottom part) of dam across the river. Any great shaman should have waters (the river of death) ".

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

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