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V.A. Burnakov and D.T. Tsydenova THE MOUNT OF YZYKH TAGH WITH RELATION TO THE SACRED SPACE AND RITUAL OF THE KHAKAS (LATE 19TH–20TH CENTURY

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This article examines the notion of sacred space among the Khakas, in particular, the sacred mountain of Yzykh Tagh. Reverence of mountains is one of the striking phenomena associated with many aspects of the spiritual life of the Khakas people. The
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  ARCHAEOLOGY,ETHNOLOGY& ANTHROPOLOGYOF EURASIA Archaeology Ethnology & Anthropology of Eurasia 42/3 (2014) 117–127E-mail: Eurasia@archaeology.nsc.ruCopyright © 2014, Siberian Branch of Russian Academy of Sciences, Institute of Archaeology and Ethnography of the Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences. Published by Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.doi:10.1016/j.aeae.2015.04.014 117 Revered places The most important beliefs and ritual practices in the culture of the Khakas people are associated with sacred space. In the traditional consciousness, sacred space is always related to the uniqueness and mysteriousness of a place. People share the view that unexplained *This study was carried out as a part of the project of the Russian Foundation for the Humanities (No. 12-01-00199a, “Sacred Places of the Slavic, Turkic, and Finno-Ugric Peoples in the Cultural Space of Western Siberia: Typology and Comparative Analysis (Late 19th–Early 21st Century)”; the  project of the Presidium of RAS, “Traditions of Gift Exchange in the History and Culture of the Peoples of Siberia in the 17th–21st Centuries”; and the Russian Scienti  c Foundation, “Project in Support of Research Laboratories of Novosibirsk State University, 2014–2016.” V.A. Burnakov 1 and D.T. Tsydenova 2 1  Institute of Archaeology and Ethnography, Siberian Branch, Russian Academy of Sciences, Pr. Akademika Lavrentieva 17, Novosibirsk, 630090, Russia E-mail: venariy@ngs.ru 2  Novosibirsk State University, Pirogova 2, Novosibirsk, 630090, Russia E-mail: darimats@ngs.ru THE MOUNT OF YZYKH TAGH WITH RELATION TO THE SACRED SPACE AND RITUAL OF THE KHAKAS (LATE 19TH–20TH CENTURY) * This article examines the notion of sacred space among the Khakas, in particular, the sacred mountain of Yzykh Tagh. Reverence of mountains is one of the striking phenomena associated with many aspects of the spiritual life of the  Khakas people. The cultural heritage of the landscape is an integral part of the entire ethnic heritage. Sacred places are important in preserving traditions and ethnic identity. The study is based on the literature, archival sources, and    eld materials of the authors. Keywords:  Khakas people, traditional worldview, sacred space, spirits, ritual, sacri    ce, worship. natural phenomena reveal themselves in such places. It is believed that a person who  nds himself in such a  place experiences an active in  uence of some mysterious force which sancti  es and transforms this topos merely  by its presence, thereby giving it a special sacred status. As V.L. Ogudin rightly pointed out, “in the religious consciousness of the population they were perceived as ‘places of Power’ since it was believed that the forms of the landscapes inherit the energy of the factors which created them” (2001: 29). Such views have contributed to isolation of a revered place from the surrounding world. In the mythological consciousness, such space is always  perceived as borderline, linking the human world and the hidden nature, the natural and the supernatural, as if with invisible threads.In the archaic worldview, sacred space is usually  perceived in two ways. On the one hand, it is an object of worship in itself, and, on the other hand, it acts as a    ETHNOLOGY  118 V.A. Burnakov and D.T. Tsydenova / Archaeology, Ethnology and Anthropology of Eurasia 42/3 (2014) 117–127    *All illustrations are reproduced from the  eld data of the authors collected in 2013. locus where believers worship higher powers and perform special rituals. The Khakas people traditionally endow such natural topoi as mountains, rocks, trees, water sources, etc. on with sacral properties. From the earliest times attitudes were based on unwritten ethical standards which in essence were focused on regulating the use of nature and forming environment protection. Such practices certainly contributed to the emergence of distinctive natural reserved territories. When a person found himself there, he needed to be guided by the ecophile principle “do no harm,” which prohibited interfering with the usual course of natural processes. Limitations were imposed on a wide range of actions, including the appropriation of natural resources, strict adherence to the seasonality and the proportionality of their use, etc. In addition, special ethical rules of staying in such a space were elaborated over centuries. It was traditionally forbidden there to speak loudly, argue, sing or dance, manifest negative emotions, etc. The established environmental standards were based on a  rm belief in inevitable mystical punishment for their violation during one’s lifetime or after death, and the negative consequences which could befall not only the direct culprit, but also the people close to him (Burnakov, 2009). This mental attitude contributed to the sense of responsibility for thoughts, words, and deeds, as well as for the whole group – family, community, clan, etc.Reverence for sacral spaces was reflected in the regulated performance of special rituals. This spiritual  practice was imprinted in symbolical designations of such places: ilig ilchen chir   /  sek sek tastachan chir   /  pazyrchan chir   – “worshipped / revered places,” where sacri  ces were offered to the local deities. Similar parts of space also included the so-called anomalous spaces: eelig chirler  , lit. “place of the master-spirit” and tag kizilernin  / eelernin chollary , “the roads of mountain spirits.” Not all of them are marked in the general natural landscape with particular ritual structures, but all of them are well known to the locals. It is worth noting that it is not the presence of the material altar or its form, which are important for the traditional mentality of the Khakas,  but the ethical aspect of a human relationship with nature, and the spiritual perception of the surrounding space.  Nevertheless, a considerable portion of particularly revered landscapes are marked with special symbolic objects: ritual hitching posts  sarchyn  / chechpe  / tehek  , trees decorated with colored ribbons chalama , or piles of stones obaa  (Fig. 1, 2)*. In the archaic worldview of the Khakas, such places are predominantly associated with the mythologeme of the road. The path of the traveler can  be both easy and happy, and dif   cult and sometimes even tragic. It is believed that on the way people more often may encounter “the other,” be it an ordinary stranger or a supernatural being from the other world. According to the traditional beliefs, movement occurs not only in the visible geographical space, but also in the sacral space  lled with special symbols and secret meanings. In the mythological worldview, traveling through such places determined the idea of transcendence – going beyond the boundaries of strictly human existence and entering the other, eternal, incomprehensible, and potentially dangerous world. The movement of a living person in any space necessarily implies a return; thus, the traditional culture always regulated such a transition-journey by a set of established norms and rules.Typically, revered places are mountain passes, river crossings, forks and certain parts of roads, etc. The  believers in all these places perform a customary simple ritual. Its main purpose is to win the favor and support of the supernatural power which resides in the place. Ritual actions expressing respect for the “masters” of the area intend to eliminate all kinds of obstacles in the process of crossing over that space. In addition, it is  believed that mystical help of those spirits brings people good luck in the business they planned. The ritual consists of a mental and often verbal greeting and addressing ( algys ) the invisible inhabitants of the space; its key phrase is “ Cholym azykh polzyn !” – “Let my road be open / happy!” Along with the greeting, people usually give offerings in the form of pieces of food, various drinks, coins, tobacco, scraps of fabric, stones, branches, kindling of matches, etc. (Fig. 3–5).  Fig. 1 . Ritual hitching post at Mount Uitak, Askiz Region.    V.A. Burnakov and D.T. Tsydenova / Archaeology, Ethnology and Anthropology of Eurasia 42/3 (2014) 117–127   119  Fig. 2 . Obaa  – stonework on the top of Mount Uitak.  Fig.   3 . Ritual hitching post on the road to the village of Tashtyp, Tashtyp Region.  Fig. 4 . Offerings at a sacred hitching post on the road to the village of Tashtyp.  Fig. 5 .  Algys  – poster with traditional good wishes to a traveler, Tashtyp Region. In the worldview of the Khakas  people, the highest cult status is given to natural landscape objects with specific symbolic names:  pazyrchan tagh  – “revered mountain,” taiychan tagh  – “mountain of sacri  ce,” taiychan (taiyghlygh) tigei  – “sacrificial  peak,” taiychan sorakh  – “hill of sacrifices,” y  zykh tagh  – “holy / sacred mountain,”  yzykh pas  – “sacred head / peak,”  yzykh tas  – “sacred rock,”  yzykh köl   – “sacred lake,”  yzykh chul   – “sacred brook” (Butanaev, 1995: 78, 120–121, 211–212; Sunchugashev, 2001: 90, 155, 163, 193; Khakassko-russkii slovar, 2006: 338, 578, 1037). The Mount of Yzykh Tagh  (lit., the  Fig. 6  . The view of Yzykh Tagh  from Sartykov aal, Altai Region.  120 V.A. Burnakov and D.T. Tsydenova / Archaeology, Ethnology and Anthropology of Eurasia 42/3 (2014) 117–127    Holy Mountain) located on the right bank of the Abakan River near the aal  * of Sartykov in the Altai Region of the Republic of Khakassia (Fig. 6) is well known among the many revered natural objects. Yzykh Tagh  as a historical and cultural topos The earliest mention of this mountain, associated with the discovery of large coal deposits nearby is found in the works of the famous explorer and naturalist P.S. Pallas, “Layers of coal can be seen in a steep ravine on the bank of the Abakan, in the corner which the Uibat forms with the Abakan, on the gently sloping, but particularly high Ysik mountain, four or  ve versts from the mouth of the Uibat. The whole mountain, and thus the bank, is composed of soft gray yellow sandstone, whose thickest layers tilt to the northern side” (Palas, 1788: 559). It should be added that the  rst component of the oronym of Yzykh Tagh  in effect determined the name of the nearest “Izykhsky” coal mine. The traveler and surveyor E. Pesterev provided brief information about Yzykh Tagh  in the late 18th century. He noted that a  erce battle between the Krasnoyarsk Cossacks and the Yenisei Kyrghyz – the ancestors of the Khakas – occurred in these places. The author noticing a certain consonance of the Khakas words  yzykh  and izig, ** suggested an erroneous translation of the name of the mountain, associating it with the topographic location of the battle ground. He wrote that Yzykh Tagh  is called “the hot mountain on the occasion of the bloody  battle” (cited after (Kostrov, 1884: 226)). Scholars of a later time also mention this unusual mountain while describing the ritual practices of the Khakas (Stepanov, 1835: 133; Kornilov, 1854: 627; Kostrov, 1852: 24; 1884: 226–227; Butanaev, 1995: 38, 212) (see also the Archives of the Museum of Archeology and Ethnography of Siberia at Tomsk State University (AMAES TSU).  No. 682, fol. 40).In the worldview of the local dwellers, Yzykh Tagh  was a visible symbol and focus of their spiritual life, as well as a major source of inspiration for folk art. Folklore shows an unequivocal indication of the central position which this sacral object occupied in their world. It is at the foot of this mountain where the mythical hero Ir Tokhchyn once lived. People associated the srcin of the majority of place names in Khakassia with his heroic actions (Katanov, 1909: 274; Ir Tokhchyn, 1990). For centuries  Yzykh Tagh  served as a kind of cultural and communicative center, unifying local steppe dwellers around itself. Their festive culture was closely related to the mountain. Apparently, it was in this area that P.S. Pallas was the first scholar to describe the colorful Khakas popular celebration of Tun Pairam , “the feast of the  rst ayran ”* (1788: 561). In the late 19th century, the Minusinsk Okrug Governor Prince  N.A. Kostrov reported on the scale of festivities which took place there, “At this mountain many Kachin** uluses*** even now celebrate their spring feast Tun” (1884: 227). According to the tradition, seasonal popular festivities were held on the slopes of Yzykh Tagh  even in the Soviet period: “In June we would celebrate. The sowing was reaching an end, and there was still time  before haymaking. People would slaughter a sheep. It was a sovkhoz feast” (FMA 2013****, informant G.S. Kongarov, born 1956). Yzykh Tagh  as a sacral mountain One of the most important elements underlying the de  nition of a revered place is its esthetic value. The uniqueness of the Yzykh Tagh  is caused by its practically central location in Khakassia, its prominent physical and geographic features, and the overall unusualness of its natural background (Fig. 7). The scenic landscape of the valley of the Abakan River opens up from the top of the Yzykh Tagh  (Fig. 8). One can agree with the remark of V.L. Ogudin that “a prerequisite for choosing the place was its attractiveness – the visual ‘appeal.’ <...> Forces of nature formed such unusual forms that it was not dif   cult to recognize the presence of the supernatural in them. This was encouraged by the euphoric state, experienced  by visitors while contemplating the views which struck one’s imagination” (2002: 69–70).In the traditional worldview of the Khakas, a mountain is an essential element of their native land; it is always a sublime object not only in a literal, but also in a  gurative sense. The idea of the mystical communion and even kinship of humans with a mountain / spirit of a mountain is widespread in the mythological thinking of the Khakas. Sacral highlands are perceived as a living and thinking organism, as well as a life-creating and fertile center. The Khakas believe that a person’s soul may initially be in a mountain, and at the end of his life it returns there. Mountains are also recognized as the abodes of the spirits – masters of the mountains tagh eezi  / kizi , the ancestral spirits (Kyzlasov, 1982: 88; Butanaev, *A Khakas village.**  Izig   means “fever, heat, hot” etc. (Khakassko-russkii slovar, 2006: 141). *  Ayran  is a traditional fermented milk product with medical properties. **Kachin (Khak.  Khaas ) are an ethnic group of Khakas. ***Ulus is a Khakas settlement.****FMA 2013 –  eld materials of the authors, collected in 2013 in the village of Arshanovo of the Altai Region, Republic of Khakassia.    V.A. Burnakov and D.T. Tsydenova / Archaeology, Ethnology and Anthropology of Eurasia 42/3 (2014) 117–127   121 1996: 15, 174–175; Burnakov, 2006: 16–42), and of other supernatural forces upon which life, happiness, and prosperity of each individual and people in general depend. In this regard, the image of a revered mountain causes ambivalent feelings in the religious consciousness of the Khakas – simultaneously admiration and sacred fear. The peak of the mountain is the extreme geographical  point, closest to the upper world – the heavens. Therefore, believers think that mountains are the favorite earthly places of God (Khak.  Khudai ).  N.A. Kostrov, who studied the religious worldview of the Khakas in the mid-19th century, correctly observed their traditional sentiments in this regard, “Although Kudai constantly lives in the Sky, there are several  places on Earth that he particularly loves. These places are the peaks of the mountains, from which the entire surroundings can be seen, or a small grove, beautiful in its location” (Kostrov, 1852: 57–58).An important role in sacralization of space is played by the hierarchical structure of the revered objects located within this space and the  patterns of its sacred and territorial impact. It was believed that the more signi  cant the revered places were, the smaller was their number, and the greater was the extent of their impact on believers; conversely, the less signi  cant the revered objects were, the greater was their number, but the lesser was the scale of their sacred impact. As V.L. Ogudin rightly observed, “revered places of ‘different value’ could be located in the same territory. In general, such a system is similar to a ‘Matryoshka doll,’ where a larger  gure contains a number of smaller figures and in the end tiny ones” (2002: 67). Such a pattern of sacralization of space is also applicable to Yzykh Tagh . This long mountain, where the local dwellers have traditionally performed rituals in order to solve their everyday problems, gain protection from the higher power, and ensure prosperity, is located near major pathways functioning since ancient times. It is worth noting that the historicity of the place is one of the fundamental factors in the process of sacralization of space. This is testi  ed to by the entire complex of ritual, historical, and cultural objects, located on Yzykh Tagh  and in its vicinity, including the stone statue  Fig. 7  . One of the canyons of Yzykh Tagh .  Fig. 8 . View from Yzykh Tagh . of  Inei obaa *, the ancient fortification  sibee , burial grounds (Fig. 9), menhirs, and petroglyphs. According to V.Y. Butanaev, the stone structure  sume , associated with  prayers to the Sky was located on the top of the mountain (1995: 38, 212). The rich heritage of the location is manifested in numerous archaeological objects which have been found by the local population (FMA 2013).Some Khakas still perceive speci  c parts of Yzykh Tagh  as anomalous territories tagh eelernin chollary  – “roads of mountain spirits” and eelig chirler   – lit. “places with the master,” where, from the viewpoint of mythological consciousness, mysterious phenomena occur. According to the legends, tagh eeleri  (“mountain spirit-masters”) are often encountered in these places. People believe that the *  Inei obaa  – lit. “stone old woman”; according to the informants, it stood on the top of Yzykh Tagh  and in the 1970s was taken to the Museum in Abakan.
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