Vorobiev D. Caribou Fetus: the Concepts and the Taboos of Hunters of the North of the New and the Old World

Denis Vorobiev
Institute of Ethnology and Anthropology of the Russian Academy of Sciences
Moscow, Russian Federation
ORCID: 0000-0002-0401-0295
E-mail: pakamagan@rambler.ru


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ABSTRACT. The article examines the northern hunters’ perceptions associated with the fetus of the ungulates. According to the Innu, a caribou fetus could only be eaten by the older people. If eaten by the young ones, it is believed that it would make them tire out quickly when travelling on foot. It is also imperative to carry the fetus in a bag. If it were transported uncovered, a north wind would rise. The views of Siberian hunters, while being similar on one hand, can also be quite contradictory. Among the Dolgans, the uterine calf was also to only be eaten by the elderly people, the ones who could no longer have children. The modern Evenks do not eat reindeer feti at all. They would either hang it on a tree, or bury it down in the snow, or simply throw it away. D. Clement offers an explanation of the embryo eating taboo for the young people, based on their concept of “signature”. The embryo cannot move independently. That is why, after eating it, young men would also lose the ability to walk quickly. Stamina is essential for young people on the hunt, while old people can afford to lack this quality. It seems that the precept to only carry the fetus in a bag can also be explained in the same way. The embryo rests in the womb, where it is always warm. So the very exposure of it to the outside summons the wind. Thus, it allows for considering the bag to be an analogue of the mother's womb.


KEYWORDS: fetus, caribou, reindeer, Innu, Evenki, “doctrine of signature”


DOI 10.31250/2618-8619-2022-4(18)-240-252



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