- Project Runeberg -  Through Siberia - the land of the future /
226

(1914) [MARC] Author: Fridtjof Nansen Translator: Arthur G. Chater - Tema: Russia
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THROUGH SIBERIA

eomplete ecstasy, which is transmitted to the listeners
in the tent, so that they may all become quite wild.
Castrén says of the religion of the Yenisei-Ostiaks
that even if they are Christians, they worship three
mighty divinities. These are the god of heaven, whom
they call Es ; an infernal female deity, whose nåme is
Imlya, and the god of earth ; that is, the bear. As to
the bear, they imagine that it is not an animal like all
the others, but that its animal semblance is only a
disguise which conceals a human creature and a divine
power and wisdom. The same conception, says Castrén,
is also general among the Tunguses, Samoyedes and all
Finnish tribes ; and, we might add, it is the same con
ception that survives in our fairy tales, where the bears
are often princes in the form of animals, and in the
common popular notion that the bear has the strength
of ten men and the wits of twelve. The Yenisei-Ostiaks
also make the bear the guardian of the whole infernal
realm of spirits, a power which he shares with Imlya,
but both appear to be subject to the heavenly god.
The shamans naturally stand in a peculiarly intimate
relation to these super- and subterraneous powers, from
whom they derive their faculty of curing diseases,
warding off evil spirits and predicting the future ; they
are something like our wise women in Norway, who are
also a remnant of ancient heathendom.
Meanwhile the weather had cleared and there was no
time to waste. We had to go aboard and away as soon
as we could. Several of the Ostiak boats were also
ready to start. It was picturesque to see them being
poled out from the shore, while the morning mists
rolled away from the country to the south, and the
sun shone on the mists and on the bright water behind
them. There was life and activity everywhere. Many
of the people were standing on the roofs of the boats
226

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