A rare nganasan idol is exhibited in a private ethnographic museum, created by Oleg Krashevsky. A famous collector calls the nganasan quoiqa (a sacred idol), which came to him half a century after its owner’s death, a unique idol and tells its story.
Once the most northern and one of the smallest peoples on Earth believed in afterdeath life and thoroughly prepared for it. If a person felt that he was going to die soon, he told his relatives where and how he would like to be buried and what he would take with him to the “seventh permafrost,” where, according to the legend, all the dead met.
Oleg Krashevsky says that one of the nganasans showed him the burial of an old man Gornok by name. A whole set of patrons was kept on special shaitan-sledges designed for their transportation and standing in the tundra for about 50 years:
“Being so long in the snow and rain, the clothes, the deer fur covers dissolved, but the idols have not suffered much, – the collector comments. “They are very strong and have only dried up a little, but the wood seems to be saturated with something and looks like new”.
Krashevsky says that the main patron idol of the old man Gornok is a very strong idol, the personification of the Earth-Mother, Mou-Nyama, the progenitor of everything that is on Earth. Very interesting notches are made on the statue. The Nganasans’ sacred numbers are 7, 9, 11, and sometimes 13. The notches on the body correspond to these numbers. Moreover, there are 13 notches on the spine, and 9 and 11 ribs on the sides. Unfortunately, there is no one to learn the meaning of this symbolism from.
As we know, the Nganasans did not see the difference between living and nonliving nature. Unusual objects, stones, deer horns became the people’s home patrons. Idols were transported in special sledges pulled by sacred deer, “fed” with pieces of fat, meat … So, according to Oleg Krashevsky, traces of fat feeding were discovered in the shaitan-sled idol, apparently less than half a century ago.
Text: Valentina Vachaeva, Photo: Oleg Krashevsky, Slsva Shut