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The Tiger-Dog and its Semantics in the Nanai Shamanic Sculpture: Cultural and Cognitive Aspects

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This article describes the Nanai shamanic set, combining two images—a dog and a tiger. The Nanai shamanic sculpture is viewed as a phenomenon reflecting both the subjective and the objective reality constructed by traditional cultural practices. Parallels with Siberian and Pacific cultures reveal the significance of the domestic animal and the wild predator for the people of the Lower Amur. Using folkloric and lexical data, findings of field studies, and ethnographic evidence, folk images of the dog and the tiger are reconstructed. Viewing the problem in the context of collective knowledge about the world reveals the archetypical and modified layers in the image’s construction. The idea of the dog, typical of all the peoples of Siberia and the Russian Far East, is that of a draft animal, assistant, sacrifice, and guide to the afterworld. Its image in the Nanai shamanic sculpture was meant to enhance the power of the spirit. It was often combined with the image of the tiger, personifying shaman’s power and the progenitors. The analysis of the terminology relating to the tiger attests to the Southeast Asian roots of its cult. The tiger semantics in the Nanai culture resulted from a blend of Tungus, Paleoasiatic, and Manchu (Chinese) elements. These images were used by shamans not only as assistants in “capturing” spirits and holding them in “detention”, but also as a means of communicating with the world of spirits.

About the Author

O. V. Maltseva
Institute of Archaeology and Ethnography, Siberian Branch, Russian Academy of Sciences
Russian Federation

Pr. Akademika Lavrentieva 17, Novosibirsk, 630090


For citations:

Maltseva O.V. The Tiger-Dog and its Semantics in the Nanai Shamanic Sculpture: Cultural and Cognitive Aspects. Archaeology, Ethnology & Anthropology of Eurasia. 2021;49(2):125-133.

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ISSN 1563-0110 (Print)