Ewenki - Religion and Expressive Culture



Although some pastoral Ewenki are Lamaist Buddhists, the Ewenki as a whole are animists, worshiping many natural elements including the wind god, mountain god, fire god, etc., and various protective gods who ensure their success in hunting and herding and general good health. Totems were prevalent, especially of bears and birds. Although they ate bear meat, they referred to bears with the same terms they would use for their most respected ancestors. The Ewenki conducted a formal ceremony while eating bear meat, following it with the same ritual observed for their own dead—a wind burial in which they placed the bones in a hollow tree trunk suspended on tree stumps. Ancestor worship was another feature of traditional Ewenki religious practice. They believed in an eternal soul that would separate from the body after death. Because of the influence of the Russian Orthodox church, they have changed from wind burial to earth burial. Maru is the term they used to refer to all gods, including their clan god, shewoke. They offered animal blood, meat, and fat to the gods. It was strictly forbidden for women to go near the shrines.

The Ewenki accepted only some basic ceremonies from the Russian Orthodox church; shamanism remained the prevalent form of religious belief. Shamans were highly respected and expected nothing in return for their services. They could be either men or women who had had the experience of long illness and, especially, mental problems. In many cases, as among the Ewenki in Ergun Banner, the clan chief might be the shaman. The Ewenki relied on shamans to cure the sick and, at the same time, they discovered the curing effects of certain herbs and internal organs of animals. Veterinary medicine was developed for their reindeer.

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