Selkup - Marriage and Family



Marriage, According to Selkup tradition, boys could enter marriage at 17 years of age, girls at 13. The marriage ceremony included matchmaking (preceded by fortune-telling), a wedding in the home of the bride's parents, and the marriage celebration at the groom's parents' house. The matchmaker was an older relative (father's brother, older brother) of the groom. Persuasion of the bride's parents and the determination of the kalym (bride-price) were the matchmaker's responsibility. A shaman took part in the wedding, shamanizing at the beginning and completion of the ceremony. After the marriage the groom had to stay in the bride's parents' house for about a month. A young wife had to cover her head and face with a kerchief to hide from the older kinsmen of the husband; this "avoidance" continued until the birth of the first child.

Domestic Unit. There were three types of family among the Selkup—the nuclear, the large patriarchal (including the married couples of two generations), and the fraternal (which consisted of married brothers, either related or collateral). Monogamy was usual for the Selkup. The family lived in an individual dwelling; large families erected spacious houses, sometimes with two or three rooms. The family undertook a joint (communal) economy, divided into micro-groups according to need. The head of the family was a man—the husband in the nuclear family, the father in the patriarchal family, and the older brother in the fraternal family. In the cemetery, the graves of members of a family were situated together.

Socialization. Childbirth was celebrated by the rites of circumcision and burial of the umbilical cord, carried out by a midwife ( evvem-payia ) ; purification of the infant over the fire; and the preparation of the day and night cradles. A child was not considered to possess an "upper" soul ( il'sat ) until the onset of teething. In case of death, Selkup bury the infant away from the common cemetery, customarily within a tree stump (a return to the initial state). No special education system existed for children. From the ages of 1 to 4 they were incorporated into the community through playful imitation of the activities of adults. By age 5 a girl knew how to sew (at 3 she could already "hold the needle"), and a boy could shoot with a bow and had mastered the lasso. From around 7 or 8 years of age a girl participated fully in domestic work, a boy in hunting. By age 14 or 15 teenagers had command of all the necessary skills of independent life. The learning of social norms, ceremonial arrangements, and spiritual symbols took place in the same way.


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