|2004-11-04 - Meeting with a yugahir shaman?
It is the 4th of November today here in Zyryanka. The temperature is just a mere -20°C (F) and we´ve started to take off some of our clothes.
I guess that is a sign that we´re adapting to the cold!
´´When I woke up this morning I saw, at the back of my head, that a mammoth tooth was on the way to you from Moscow´´ ,she explained enthusiastically, at the same time as she was patting the back of her head,
´´it will be a lot of help to you.´´
I consider myself a reasonably rational person. I only believe in things I can see, understand, touch and logically explain. I´ve also come across heaps of so called wise people at all corners of the world. From oracles to shrewd old ladies. I´ve always had a lot of respect for their knowledge and what they believe in, but I´ve always considered their conversations with Gods, spirits and their ability to read one´s future, as pure hogwash.
´´I have also sensed at the back of my head, that your journey will continue going well for you´´ ,she continues with the same passion and a wide smile,
´´you´re kind people who´s come here to do good things.´´
The lady in front of me is laughing like a young girl, quickly
rearranges her headscarf and asks her daughter, who´s sitting next to her on the bed, if she looks good enough for these visitors. I can see a bunch of cosmetics and a few bottles of perfume on a shelf in front of her. An old faded color photograph when she was strong and young is placed on the wall, just above her head. She´s still strong, full of energy and laughs a lot. She´s 91 years old and belongs to one of our globes most threatened of extinction and unknown native people, the yugahirs. There´s no more than a thousand of them left. Maybe even far less. Nobody knows. Historically, the yugahirs were a nomadic reindeer people. They´re genetically relatives of the inuits (Eskimos) and other northern native people. The old lady speaks in yugahir to her daughter and to us, it sounds like an Inuit dialect, but in reality it belongs to the finnish-ugro group of languages.
´´Is that what she say´s!´´ , I exclaim with great surprise,
´´if that´s true, she´s one of very few who believes that!´´
The main reason, though, for my reaction, is her words regarding the mammoth tooth. The fact is that a good friend who´s spent a lot of time in Siberia, gave us a copy of a mammoth tooth he´d carved out of a reindeer horn. He said it would bring us good luck. I forgot to bring the good luck charm when leaving, but since my wife Titti believe in a lot of supernatural things, she has now sent this mammoth tooth with the rest of our winter gear, which leaves Moscow by plane today! The only one´s aware of this is Johan and me! Well, the old lady didn´t even know that we would turn up at her doorstep today. Neither did we! In this state of chock, I start telling her about an extraordinary thing which has happened to us throughout the canoeing part of the Expedition.
´´For some unknown reason we´ve been accompanied by two giant ravens´´ , rational me tells her with embarrassment, ´´we´ve named them Hugin and Munin. I don´t know if it is the same two ravens all the time, but they turned up at our camp the same day we finally started catching some fish. That´s the same time the Kolyma River slowed down considerably.
After that, they´ve been with us almost all the time. They´re the one´s which alarmed us when this giant of bear attacked us, they´ve also indicated by their presence the best campsites we´ve had and the best places to place our nets. And, believe it or not, yesterday, even if it was freezing cold, they turned up outside our flat!´´
´´They are bringing you good luck. See them as your security guards´´ ,the old lady explains and raises her finger warningly at the same time,
´´show them your lucky charm, talk to them, but don´t harm them in any way. This would bring you the worst of luck!´´
´´One question´´ , I quickly add, so to change subject, ´´do you have a formula for getting as old as you, but still so wise and full of life?´´
´´It is easy´´ ,she answers, ´´get a lot of healthy and fresh air, never stop working and have a positive outlook on life!´´
After these words of wisdom, she starts singing with great concentration in her own language with a monotonous voice which gives you a feeling that it originates from a part of the frozen earth beneath us, which is as old as the earth itself. I shiver. All this feels absurd!
´´Could she give as some advice what we should do to be able to handle this extreme cold?´´ , I ask her through our great friend in Zyryanka, Sirjosa,
´´and can you tell her that we will sleep outside in a tent with no heating when it is -60 and -70.´´
´´Keep warm!´´ , she answers with the same wisdom and suddenly hollers:
´´I´ve lived outside in a yurta (in this area, the yurta is a cot like construction made by reindeer skins with a fire or stove in the center) a big part of my life. There´s no better and healthier life!´´
´´On what did she sleep?´´
´´Reindeer skins´´ ,she answers, ´´and we had sleeping bags made of hare skins. They were warm and very comfortable.´´
Before we have a chance to ask more questions, she stands up and with great speed, heads of into the kitchen. We´re not allowed to leave her home with empty stomachs. Food is more important than questions! She serves us cold fish cutlets, sugary berries, dark rye bread, acidy vegetables and frozen fish liver and frozen caviar. They ´re eaten frozen like ice cream and they´re our new local favorites. Together with pike pate and creamy spoongeballs.
´´Don´t forget´´ ,she adds when we´re on the way leaving her home at the same time she´s kissing our hands,
´´not to get cold. Don´t stand still. Move all the time. The cold is dangerous!´´