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62. Reserved Animals: Ongun And Jasil

Among all groups here discussed the practice is maintained of reserving domesticated draught animals, — the reindeer and the horse, — for the spirits. The animals may be reserved for two different purposes, namely, for carrying placings for spirits and for the use of the spirits which are supposed to ride on the hacks of the animals [387]. The spirits are also supposed to hung up to the tail, mane, and ribbons attached to the animals, as well as to the hair on the neck of the reindeer. Whence several precautions and prohibitions result. Amongst the Reindeer Tungus of Transbaikalia there are two kinds of reserved reindeer ongun and jasil. Since the analogy with the horse reserved is almost complete the term may be treated as common. Ongon~onyun (Barg. Nerc. Rum. Bir. Khin. Mank.) ought to be connected with the Mongol term for spirits ongon still used by the shamans amongst the Buriats [388], where reserved horses are also known. Since in Tungus this term has a very narrow use and it is confined to a limited group of dialects of groups living in a close vicinity from the Mongol speaking populations [389] it may be suspected of being of Mongol «origin». Amongst the Reindeer Tungus any reindeer may be selected and the animal is marked with a small ribbon attached to the ear, passed through a perforation. The ribbon is called bon is called sekan, — the «ear — ring». These reindeer have to carry placings for spirits, shaman's costume, etc. The animal may be slaughtered, mounted by man and children of both sexes, and also it may be loaded. Usually, the ongun is established after some sickness or after any other misfortune in the family. Amongst the Nerchinsk Tungus, who have no reindeer, the functions of the reindeer is reserved to the horse, i.e. just as it is among the Buriats. Amongst the Birarchen group the horses are reserved for different spirits. Their colour must be black, white, red, and dark brown, while piebald horses and those of other colours are not used. The exception is made of kaidun burkan the horse for which must be of light — bay (isabel) colour. Every family which has placings for spirits must have a horse ongun. However, horses are also reserved for the spirits for their own use. This is done when there is some sickness amongst the family members or horses, or if there is some calamity to be prevented [390]. Sickness and repeated accidents with the horses are usually interpreted in the sense that the spirits want to have ongun. The same colour of ongun horse would be preserved in the family for the same spirit. The ongun must not be used by the people who do not belong to the family and the women, nor for all things ak'ipcu. It may be used by the male chief of the family. However, sometimes men outsiders may be permitted to ride, if a saddle — cloth belonging to the ongun — horse is put on its back before the saddle is put on. Amongst the Khingan Tungus there is an evident fashion of reserving horses to various spirits. So, for instance, white stallions are often reserved to the spirit bainaca, and a black horse is reserved to indukan, — so that all horses which are used by men and children are sometimes reserved to the spirits. This is especially true of these Tungus for they have very few horses. The horses ongun amongst all groups have special marks: ribbon in the mane or tail.

Amongst the Tungus of Transbaikalia there is another kind of reserved reindeer called jasil (Barg. Nerc.), which seems to be similar to itik; (RTM.), of white colour male or female. Jasil is distinguished by «ear — rings» and a kind of «amulet» hung up under the neck. The animals cannot be slaughtered and must be left to die by natural death. After death the corpse must be put on an elevated place, — usually a special platform, — so that the bones might not be disturbed by wild animals. According to the Tungus, during the period from May to the end of August, when there are wild ducks and thunder storms, and when lightning's are possible, nobody except very young boys can ride on the backs of these animals and they may not be loaded. Yet, before riding a special purification must be done. It consists in exposing the penis to the smoke produced by burning laedum palustrum (the same purification is used mounting ongun). In general, the attitude towards this reindeer must be very kind and polite, — no harm, pain, suffering, even simple displeasure must be caused to it. Even words, when talking to it, or about it, must be carefully selected. During the travelling the jasil must go ahead of the caravan. Owing to a privileged position, according to the Tungus, the jasil sometimes reach the age of forty years.

However, the functions of jasil were not absolutely clear to myself during the investigation; they are not better now. First of all, there must be only one jasil to a clan. After the death of the predecessor, a new jasil is indicated by the clan shaman, who knows it from the spirits (ojan). The jasil is handed over to one of clansmen for his care and responsibility. If he fails the jasil can be given to another clansman. Its connection with the clan, even, perhaps including its name [391] is perfectly evident. Yet, the jasil is considered as an «envoy» of the clan for communication with certain spirits. In the case of sickness amongst the clansmen there must be made sacrifice of smoking laedum palustrum before jasil.

Amongst the Manchus we also meet with horses reserved to the p'oyun vochko. As will be described, such a horse is marked with ribbons. However, among the Manchus this complex is rather poorly represented. I could find no special term for such a horse.

The above given description reveals some interesting points, namely, the domesticated animals are used as carriers of placings for spirits and as placings for the spirits, as well as special envoys. This practice seems to be of non — Tungus origin, and yet of not very old one, in so far as it may be seen from the terms and geographical distribution of this practice. The animals at any rate cannot be considered as «sacred» ones, or as possessing some exceptional properties of a supernatural order.

387. Once I heard from the Barguzin Tungus that the reindeer reserved is also used for communication with the spirits, as a special envoy. However, I am not inclined to accept such an explanation. It is more probable that the animals are supposed to be used by the spirits as a kind of moving placing and thus the communication with the spirit becomes easy. This Tungus group, being influenced by new ideas, might have changed the original meaning of this practice or even they might give an explanation which in their eyes seemed clearer than their own conception, for a foreigner as I was. Indeed, the soul of the reindeer may be used as an envoy but in this case it should be exteriorated, consciously as the shamans do it, or unconsciously, or through liberation of the soul by slaughtering of the animal.

388. In Mongol, according to Kowalewsky, » genies tutelaires, manes, mets offerts aux manes», connected with «pur, saint», etc. and ongon morin — the horse ongon (reserved). At the present time the ongon complex is competing with Lamaism (cf. C. Z. Zamcarano, op. cit. p. 380) in Transbaikalia and gradually substituted in Mongolia (Grunwedel, op. cit. pp. 84 and 180) by the Buddistic complex. I think it would be perhaps dangerous to identify this complex with «shamanism», for in the Mongol complex the oygon occupy a larger position than the simple shamanistic spirits, and they have evident connection with the dead ancestors.

389. The Barguzin Buriats in Transbaikalia are neighbours of the Barguzin Tungus, the Uldurga Buriats are neighbours of the Nerchinsk Tungus, the Dahurs (cf. N. N. Poppe's dictionary onyon delbur, — the oggon mane in horse, also Xalxa dial.) and the Barguts are neighbours of the Tungus of Manchuria.

390. The sickness or misfortune of members of the family is not directly connected with the establishment of ongun but its establishment depends upon the placings for spirits to be carried with. Yet, although a shaman may be connected with it, this is not shaman's function, — the ongun may be established without shaman's interference.

391. In Tungus dialects and Manchu we find no satisfactory etymology of the term jasil. However, in Mongol we find a series of words connected with jas||jasung, — the bone, branch of clan, etc. — a recent loan — word in Tungus of Mankova (SONT, p. 121). It is almost sure that at a certain moment in the past the Barguzin Tungus used this Mongol term in the sense of «clan», now replaced by another Mongol term omo~omok (Barg. Nerc. Mank.). It may be also noted that in «religious» texts of the Birarchen I have found jaso used in the sense of «kind», «mankind», «human species». Or, perhaps the term jasil may be connected with the stem jase - «the law, administrative regulation» etc., but I doubt it. Amongst the Manchurian groups, this term is unknown. All other groups use ongun, and in somewhat different functions. The RTM use a term itik which, in so far as I can see, may be connected only with Yakut (Pekarskii, p. 3847) ytyk (of Turkic origin, — «the animal consecrated», etc.). However, the term jasil in its modification jashil is also recorded by E. I. Titov amongst the Angara and Irkutsk Gov. Tungus, i.e. neighbours of the same Buriat groups. E. I. Titov indicates that the white reindeer is reserved to the «master» of the taiga. I have some doubt as to the reservation of jasil to this «master». The same interpretation is given by this author to ongun and tyngor (doubtful transcription). In this case the reindeer is reserved to lesnomu (Russian) which is indicative that this author wanted to say «to the spirit of the forest». In fact, such a reservation is practised, but as shown amongst other groups jasil is reserved and functioning for a different purpose. Tyngor looks like tengri of the Mongols. There is always conflicting information from this author (E. I. Titov), when he treats various «superstitions» about which he is «sceptical».

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