Alaska Native Collections – Sharing Knowledge

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The Chukchee say that young persons destined to receive shamanistic inspiration may be recognized at a very early age, even in their teens, by the gaze, which, during a conversation, is not turned to the listener, but is fixed on something beyond him...The eyes of the shaman are very bright….which gives them the ability to see “spirits” even in the dark.

—Waldemar Bogoras, from “The Chukchee,” 1904-1909

Siberian shamans were intermediaries between people and spirits. Through their visions and magical practices they sought to bring success in hunting and herding, to predict the future, and to cure illness. This armless Ulcha or Nanay carving represents an illness spirit or sevon, and the cut marks on its chest may signify that it was the bringer of lung disease.

Culture: Eastern Siberian
Region: Siberia
Village: Habarovsk
Object Category: Ceremony
Dimensions: Length 25cm
Accession Date: 1919
Source: W. K. Arseneff (donor)
Museum: National Museum of Natural History
Museum ID Number: E309967