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fore, is that of slaves, yet they are better treated on the whole than among more uncivilized nations. Marked respect is shown them ; they are the constant companions of their husbands, and it is not at all uncommon to see a clever housewife exercise the most perfect control over all the rest of the family.
Among the Pagan customs to which the Tshuktshi still adhere, there are some most revolting and inhuman. Allchildren, for instance, born with bodily infirmities, are immediately put to death; and the same course is pursued with respect to old people, who are thought to be no longer able to endure the hardships of a wandering life among the icy deserts. A melancholy example of the latter kind occurred only a few years ago. One of the most wealthy and pow. erful of the Tshuktshi chiefs, the father of Valetka, felt himself growing feeble, and weary of life, and was at his own request put to death by his nearest relatives, who, in so doing, thought they were only performing a sacred duty. The Shamauns, who, in spite of the baptismal rite, still exercise an immense influence, contribute much to the maintenance of these inhuman customs. Every tribe, every caravan, has one or more Shamauns, who are consulted upon every important occasion, and whose decisions no one ventures to oppose. How great their influence was may be gathered by the following, among other instances, that occurred at the fair of Ostrovnoie, in 1814. A pestilence broke out suddenly among the Tshuktshi who had come to the fair, and became more and more violent, in spite of all the incantations, drummings, and jumpings of the Shamauns; many men died, and a still greater number of rein-deer, the chief wealth of the people. A general assembly of Shamauns was held, in which it was determined that, to propitiate the incensed spirits, and to put an end to the destructive malady, it was necessary that Kotshen, one of the most influential among all their chiefs, should be sacrificed. Kotshen was so generally beloved and esteemed by his nation, that, notwithstanding the implicit obedience generally shown to the decisions of the Shamauns, their judgment was on this occasion rejected. The pestilence, however, continuing to rage among men and cattle, and the Shamanns persisting in their judgment in spite of threats and ill-usage,* Kotshen, at length, like another Curtius, declared he saw the spirits were determined to have him for a sacrifice, and therefore devoted his own life to preserve his nation. Still the general affection with which he was regarded opposed itself to the execution of the horrible sentence of the Shamauns.
No one would lay his hand upon the sacrifice, till Kotshen's own son, softened by the father's entreaties, and by the menace of his malediction, planted the murderous steel in his heart, and surrendered the body to the Shamauns.
So powerfulis still the influence of Shamaunism, which occupies the place of religion, but which is distinguished from all other religions by the absence of everything like doctrine or law, if we except a few fabulous traditions. The belief and practice of the Shamauns is not anything invented by one man, and bequeathed to others; it arises in the breast of each separately from the impression of the objects by which he is surrounded. As the exterior objects in the wastes of
* The Shamaun is often well beaten, to induce him to alter an unpopular judgment. This gentle correction frequently produces the desired effect; but he often persists in his first decision, and such firmness never fails to raise him greatly in public estimation.
Siberia are everywhere as uniform as the degree of enlightenment to which the half-savage population has reached, the impressions produced are nearly the same in all places, and on all individuals. When these Nomades abandon their wandering life, fix themselves in permanent habitations, and are brought within the reach of civilized influence, then, and then only, will the spontaneous belief in good and evil spirits and Shamauns disappear, and give place to the pure doctrines of Christianity.
Almost all who have hitherto expressed an opinion respecting the Shamauns, pronounce them at once to be gross cheats, whose con. vulsions are a mere juggle carried on with a view to gain. From all I have observed here, and in other parts of Siberia, I am disposed to consider this judgment severe and unjust
. It is, at all events, onesided, and can apply only to the jugglers who, under the name of Shamauns, wander through the country, and by a variety of marvellous conjuring tricks, such as handling red hot iron, piercing their skin with needles, and the like, astonish the ignorant, and extort money from them. The real Shamauns belong to no caste; they form no distinct body, combined for one common object; they arise as individuals, and stand individually alone. A man happens to be born of an enthusiastic imagination and of excitable nerves; he grows up in a belief in the marvels of spirits and Shamauns; the spectacle of their unnatural convulsions, the mystical character of their whole existence, produce a lively impression on the youth. He longs to obtain admission to a communion with the strange and supernatural ; but there is no one to act as his guide ; for the oldest Shamaun is himself unconscious how he became one It is from himself,-from that vast and gloomy nature that immediately surrounds him,--that the neophyte must derive his knowledge of that which is incomprehensible. Solitude, retirement from human intercourse, watching, fasting, heating and narcotic drugs,--all these raise his imagination to the highest point of excitemeot. He becomes convinced that he has himself seen the spirits and apparitions of which he heard in early youth. At length he is consecrated as a Shamaun,-that is to say, during the silence of the night, and amid certain solemn forms, he is made acquainted with the conventional grasp of the hand, the use of the magic drum, &c. But all this adds nothing to his previous knowledge, occasions no change in his state of mind; it is a mere external ceremony; his future words, actions, and feelings remain the effects of his mental constitution ; he is no cold calculating impostor, no common juggler. Whenever I have seen a genuine Shamaun perform his rites, the spectacle has always left a lasting and gloomy impression upon me: the wild look, the bloodshot eyes, the hoarse voice, apparently forcing its way by a powerful effort from the convulsively contracted breast, the unnatural distortion of the face and the whole body, the erect hair, nay even the hollow tone of the magical drum,--all combined to impart something ghastly and mysterious to the scene.
The camp of the Tshuktshi, formed of several detached groups, presents not a very cheerful, but, in its way, a very picturesque aspect. In the centre of each group of ten or twenty tents rises that of the chief, which is larger, loftier, and more ornamented than the rest, generally close to a tree, against which it leans for support, surrounded by the travelling sledges of the women and children. Near it stand a few favourite reindeer, tied up and fed on fine moss, while
the rest are obliged to scrape away the snow with their hoofs, in order to get at their scanty food. About the tents, and on the branches of the trees, are hung in poetical disorder, bows, arrows, quivers, articles of dress, skins of all colours, and household utensils of various forms. From the summit of each tent rises a column of smoke mix. ed with sparks, and here and there perhaps a fire in the open air, with a pot suspended over it. Among all this are seen the grotesque human creatures themselves, enveloped from head to foot in furs, covered all over with a white hoar frost, and running about so mer. rily, in spite of thirty-four degrees of frost, that one might be tempted to believe them insensible to any feeling of cold.
The travelling tents, not so large as those the Tshuktshi use at home, are of soft tanned reindeer skins sewn together, and sustained by means of a few thin poles. Under this outer tent, which has an opening at the top to let out the smoke, are the kitchen (an iron pot, with a fire lighted under it,) and the sleeping-tent. This is a large bag sewn together, of the finest skins of young reindeer, and kept in the form of a square box by means of some staves and laths, but so low, that the most its inmates can do, is to sit upright in it, or to creep about upon their knees. This sleeping tent has no opening either for light or air. To give light and warmth to this sleeping. tent, a large earthen pot stands in the centre filled with train-oil, and in this burns a wick made of moss. In so small a space, hermetically closed, the heat produced by this lamp-fire is so great, that even during the severest frost the inmates sit there nearly naked. One tent often covers two or three sleeping-tents, each containing a separate family, or perhaps one of the wives of the owner of the tent and her children.
Loit, one of the richest chiefs, invited me to visit him, and I was delighted with this opportunity of seeing something of the domestic life of these people; but scarcely had I been introduced into the sleeping-tent by my hospitable host in the humble manner above described, than I most heartily wished myself out again. The atmosphere prevailing in the air tight box may be imagined. I thought I should have been stifled. The hostess and her daughter, a young girl of se. venteen, received me with a loud shout of laughter, occasioned, no doubt, by the awkward manner in which I entered their drawing-room, which contained six naked Tshuktshi, male and female, and then proceeded, without the slightest embarrassment, to plait a few strings of beads into their greasy hair, a thing done entirely in honour of my visit. I was requested to be seated; and as soon as their toilet was completed, Madame Loit placed a dirty wooden trough before me, with some boiled reindeer venison without salt, and over this, to make it more agreeable and palatable, she poured a liberal portion of rancid train-oil, and kindly invited me to fall to without ceremony. I shud. dered, but there was no help for it. Not to give offence, I was obliged to swallow a few mouthfuls. My host meanwhile devoured meat and broth with incredible eagerness, and without the assistance of fork or spoon, praising to me all the while in broken Russian the culinary talents of his lady, who, it seemed, was famed for her skill in communicating to the train-oil a certain bitter acid flavour, that was highly prized by her lord. I shortened my visit as much as possible, and was well pleased when I got out, and was able to breathe a little fresh air again ; but the smell of the sleeping tent remained in my clothes for several days, in spite of all my beating and airing. Loit is not only
one of the richest, but also one of the most cultivated of his nation; some notion may therefore be formed of the domestic delights of humbler mansions. It is astonishing that, living in so pestilential an atmosphere, and in such habitual filth, the people remain so strong and healthy as they do. They are a fine well-grown race of men; and herein, as well as in their physiognomy, they are distinguished from all other Asiatic nations. The Tshuktshi appear to be of American origin, although their language bears no resemblance to the American dialects. Their own name for themselves is Tshetko.
In addition to the soirée just described given me by my friend Loit, I was invited by another chief, Makomol, to a race given by himself near his camp, and to which he brought me in his own sledge. A large portion of the assembled crowd had been attracted from the fair, and these, having posted themselves in two lines, formed the
Three prizes were destined for the victors, namely, a blue fox-skin, a beaver, and two very fine sea-horse tusks. At a given signal the race commenced, and we had every reason to admire, not only the astonishing rapidity of the reindeer, but also the admirable skill with which the charioteers guided and urged them. In addition to the prizes, the victors received the loud acclamations of all present, more particularly of their own countrymen, upon which they appeared to place the highest value. The sledge-race was followed by a foot-race, more curious even than the former, the competitors being all in their usual heavy, stiff, and cumbrous costume, in which it was only with the greatest difficulty that we could stir at all. They ran, however, through the deep snow, as lightly and nimbly as a most elegant runner could have done in his jacket and pumps. They were thoroughly "game," as may be judged from the fact, that the distance to be run round a hill could not be less than fifteen versts, and that the race was well contested. The victors were again rewarded by inferior prizes, and by the applause of the public ; but it was evident the Tshuktshi set less value on the skill of the runners than on that of the charioteers. As soon as the games were ended, the whole assembly were entertained with boiled reindeer, cut up into portions, and served out in wooden bowls, each Tshuktshi fetching one for himself, and eating it very contentedly on the snow. Their orderly behaviour, as well during the games as at the banquet that followed, was admirable. There was no crowding, pushing, or quarrelling ; everything went off decorously.
On the following day I was visited at my quarters by a numerous party of Tshuktshi, male and female, who came to take leave of me, and to commend themselves to my remembrance. I had only tea and sugar-candy to treat the ladies with. The latter they accepted very willingly, but left the balmy infusion, which appeared not to be to their taste. Frugal as was my entertainment, still, by the aid of a few glass beads, blue, red, and white, which I distributed, I put my guests into such good humour, that the ladies offered to get up a dance. There was nothing, to be sure, very refined in the ballet; but it was peculiar in its kind. The bayaderes, in their stiff ungainly furs, placed themselves in a close circle, and, without stirring from the spot. kept moving their feet slowly backwards and forwards, and toss. ing their hands violently about in the air all the time. The countenance, however, played the most prominent part in the performance, being distorted most extravagantly. This was accompanied by a
kind of song, consisting of single discordant tones, or successive grunts. By way of finale, one of their favourite national dances was executed by three artistes of the first eminence, whose performance was most enthusiastically applauded by their own country-people. We uninitiated ones beheld only three uncouth oily objects, holding one another by the hand, rushing at each other with the most frightful grimaces, then starting back again, and keeping up the sport till perspiration and exhaustion forced them to break up the ball. By the advice of our interpreter, a little brandy and tobacco was offered to these solo dancers, who accepted them with great delight, and the whole party left us highly pleased with our hospitality, and with reiterated invitations to visit them in their own country.
On the sixth day after our arrival the fair was at an end. The Tshuktshi chiefs paid me one last formal visit, to renew their assurrance that we might depend on a friendly reception in their country; after which they set off for their homes, in five or six separate cara. vans. The population of the surrounding country did the same, as did also the merchants of Kolymsk, the Commissary, and the priest, to whose party we joined ourselves. In a short time the last trace of the busy life that had so lately prevailed there disappeared under a covering of fresh snow. Some hungry foxes and wolverenes estab . lished themselves there immediately on our departure, and held a lit. tle fair of their own, to discuss the bones and other remnants that lay scattered about the huts and the late encampments.
*I left Ostrovnoïe on the 16th of March. Our return was quick and easy, partly because the dogs had been well fed and well rested during the fair time, and partly
because we everywhere found hard and beaten tracks. We accordingly reached Nishney Kolymsk in good spirits on the 19th.
What a creature of mischief and fun !
What odd things the urchin has done.
And the ruffled pond was blue ;
The pond and the meadows too.
When the sun is out of the way,
In winter, by night and by day.
Or whitens the emerald dale,
Or he pells the roof with hail.
Perhaps on Ben Nevis' crest,
He makes his icy nest.
He'll be at his pranks again,
And the rest of his madcap men.
And sit round the fire so bright,
And laugh at all his spite.
S. W. P,