Folk Medicine

Curative Magic is based on notions of material causes for internal diseases on the analogy with a foreign object in the body. Shamans of the Nanais, Khants, Nenetses, and Chukchi “sucked” the disease out of the patient’s body, extracting it as a stone, a worm, etc. Magic methods of purification were widespread: climbing through a narrow frame during the curative rite of Evenks, through a circle made of grass or intestines in Koryaks’, Itelmens’, Nanais’, and oth. peoples’ rites. A Dolgan shaman made his patient drink water to wash away uncleanness and then breathed on the crown of the patient’s head to disperse the uncleanness. Diseases were also shaken off onto a dead person. Coastal Chukchi performed a sacrifice at the end of the hunting season, shaking diseases and bad luck into a bonfire or into the flames of an oil lamp. Khants tattooed their bodies to transfer the pain from internal organs onto the depicted beast or bird.

Things were often cured with their like. Thus Nivkhs often used the same animal organ to cure human diseases: a dog’s thigh bone was tied to the injured human thigh; headache was cured by tying a quail’s head to the human head; deer teeth were worn around the neck to cure toothache. Nanai shamans carved wooden figures of animals (bears, panthers, tigers) with an oversized aching part to make the pain in a human organ go to the analogous organ of the animal.

“Curative” amulets were widespread. Evenks placed a red necklace on the neck of a person with a sore throat. They seemed to believe that the redness of the throat would go into the redness of the necklace. Spec. bandages were used to cure headache, e.g. diseases of arms and legs were treated with bracelets of deer tendons dyed red or woven from the white deer hairs from the lower part of the neck. Yukagirs used spec. curative clothing; Oroks, bandages with depictions of animals. To “scare off” diseases and oth. bad things, Nanais, Ulchas, Negidals, and Nivkhs wore small amulets depicting strong animals (bears, tigers, panthers), anthropomorphous or complex zooanthropomorphous figures. Nanais hung a bear fang, a fox jaw, and lynx claws as protective amulets on baby cradles.

Harmful M. aims at putting the evil eye on an enemy in the form of a disease or oth. trouble. Shamans and magicians of neighboring peoples were regarded as the most dangerous in this respect. Chukchi had shamans of a spec. category to do harm. Lay tribe members themselves could perform harmful actions: give the name of the person to be harmed to a figure made of wood and grass or leaves, and then pierce it with iron, burn it in a fire, or cut it to pieces. To put an evil eye on smb. they used hairs from the victim’s clothes, pieces of fingernails, lifted footprints, a lump of snow soaked with fresh urine. A N’ganasan, finding a trace of the wrongdoer on the ground or on the snow, cut it with his knife, saying, “Let him die soon.” A human depiction (koika) was made out of snow and pierced with a khorey (a thin rod used to drive reindeers and dogs) inscribed “Let this person die.” Ideas that a harmful magic force came from the dead were widespread. A Chukchi shaman cut off a piece of a dead person’s flesh and secretly added it to the food of a doomed person.