Orok - Religion and Expressive Culture



Orok religious beliefs are associated with the surrounding environment. A world-creator, Xaddáu, taught them trades, hunting, and the rules of relations. They also revered the master of the sea, Teomu; his assistants, the killer whales; and Dooto, the master of the forest. They performed bloodless sacrifices to the spirits before and after the hunt. They returned the skull, bones, and eyes of a slain nerpa seal to the sea.

Like other peoples of the Amur, the Orok revered the bear. The ritual of the bear hunt, the festival after catching the animal, the observance of a number of taboos during meals, the ritual burial of the bones of the consumed animal—all this differed from customs carried out in such instances by the Ul'cha, Orochi, and Nivkh. The same can be said about the bear festival, which is held two to four years after keeping the animal in captivity (beginning as a small cub). The captivity itself was dependent on several prohibitions. They considered the bear the son of the master of the forest; deviation from the ancient rules (i.e., violation of the taboos) incurred the anger of the master and required the death of the violator or one of his kinsmen. A huge crowd gathered for the bear festival, at which reindeer races and games were organized.

Orok shamanism was most similar to that of the Ul'cha. Human spirits, the spirits of good and evil, and the neutral assistants of the shaman all came into play. The basic energies of the shaman were directed at the activity of the spirits of the sick and the spirits that try to help them. The shaman regularly fed these spirits, which were his assistants during special procedures. Sometimes he would go around in his complete outfit (special suit, drum, belt with rattles) visiting all the houses of the settlement to receive aid from his fellow villagers—sustenance for the spirit helpers. The Orok buried the dead in plank coffins in high pillars (up to 2 meters). The burial, in which the shaman did not take part, was preceded by various ceremonies (there were many), whereas after the burial there were various memorials. Orok spiritual culture (folklore, ornamental art) is no less rich than that of other peoples of the Amur.

In the nineteenth century the Orok adopted Christianity. Some people, generally those possessing larger reindeer herds, traveled to Nikolaevsk on the mainland, where they traded pelts and had their children baptized.

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