Shaman's costume

Image by the Russian Museum of Ethnography
This costume belonged to a powerful shaman, Semyon Mikhailovich Urkanov, who was believed to possess the ability to influence the weather, the earth and water, and to accompany souls of the dead to the other world. The clothes symbolize a bird. The twisted strands and the fringe along the lower part of the sleeve represent bird feathers. The long band with appliqué work of red and blue cloth is the "tail" of the bird; the wings and claw of an owl are tied on the back. Tied to the lower edge of the coat are twisted strands of suede symbolizing a mythical shamanic snake--the creator of the middle world (the earth). Some of the twisted strands strung with pieces of squirrel fur are wrapped with colored cloth or with white hair from the beards of reindeer. Bells--one bell attached to each of the sleeves--symbolize "voices" of shamanic spirits. On the back of the costume, at the level of shoulder blades, a bear figure and "reindeer antlers" made from iron are attached. They symbolize helper spirits of the shaman.

East Siberian region, Vitim-Olekma District, village of Nuyukzha, early twentieth century.

Suede, cloth, feathers and claw of bird, metal, hair from beards of reindeer, squirrel fur.

Span of sleeves 155 cm, width of coat 50 cm, diameter 35 cm.

Coll. No. 8762-19242.

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