Siberia

The Siberian culture is made up of nomadic people living in northern Asia, which includes the Taiga and Ural Forests.

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Shigir Idol, in the Sverdlovsk Regional Museum of Local Lore in Yekaterinburg, Russia. Photo by -Ekaterina Osintseva, The Siberian Times

9000 BCE – The Shigir Idol stands 9.2 ft and is the oldest known wooden sculpture in the world discovered in a peat bog in the Middle Urals of Russia. It was made from a 159 year old larch. Some historians believe that the statue originally rose to a height of 17.3 ft. It’s surface is filled with etchings and symbols that have yet to be interpreted. It is estimated to be 11,000 years old.

The World Tree has held a central role in shamanic cosmologies. The word “shaman” is believed to come from the Tungus Evenki language of northern Asia. The word is often connected to the Tungus root ša – “to know.” Some believe the word means “one who can see in the dark.”  Shamans communicated with the spirit world through trancelike states. Drums were used to help them enter an altered state of consciousness where they could travel through the World Tree (Tuuru).

The earliest known depiction of a Siberian shaman, drawn by the Dutch explorer Nicolaes Witsen, who wrote an account of his travels among Samoyedic and Tungusic speaking peoples in 1692.

Tuuru was seen as a cosmic ladder that led to the North Star. The World Tree was divided into three worlds: upper world, middleworld and underworld. The Shaman’s drum was made from the wood of the Shaman’s sacred Tuuru Tree.

Sacred tree with gifts for the spirit protector of the place, Khant, 1888. No. 3954-27.

The Tuuru tree was also thought to nurture the “souls” of young Shaman’s until they were ready to become human. Once born they would eventually take on the role of a Shaman for their people.

A Siberian Larch Tree.

In the words of the Tungus Shaman Semyonov Semyon: “Up above there is a certain tree where the souls of the shamans are reared, before they attain their powers. And on the boughs of this tree are nests in which the souls lie and are attended. The name of the tree is ‘Tuuru. The higher the nest in this tree, the stronger will the shaman be who is raised in it, the more he will know, and the farther he will see. The rim of the shaman’s drum is cut from a living larch. The larch is left alive and standing in recollection and honour of the tree Turuu, where the soul of the shaman was raised. Furthermore, in memory of the great tree Tuuru, at each séance the shaman plants a tree with one or more cross-sticks in the tent where the ceremony takes place, and this tree too is called Tuuru. According to our belief, the soul of the shaman climbs up this tree to God when he shamanises. For the tree grows during the rite and invisibly reaches the summit of heaven.” (Joseph Campbell, Primitive Mythology)

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An example of the Taiga Forest biome.

The nomadic peoples of northern Asia, shared a sacred alliance with the ancestor spirits of the Taiga Forest. The Taiga Forest is the world’s largest biome apart from the oceans. Also known as a Boreal Forest or Snow forest, is a characterized by coniferous trees consisting mostly of pines, spruces and larch.

Pillars (inspired by trees) are seen as a Cosmic Axis. The Buryats and Mongols called it the Golden Pillar, while the Siberian Tartars referred to it as the Iron Pillar and to some it was the Solar Pillar. All of them recognized how this Pillar represented the centre of the universe and the place of penetration of the individual worlds.

Kuira is the ritual of tying ribbons to the lower branches of sacred trees. The ribbons vary in color from white, yellow, blue or green. Each ribbon represents a prayer which the wind carries up to the spirits. Kaira occurs at the new moon to honor the guardian of the land.