The legacy of a totemic belief and its transmission in the 21st century
Attila Mateffy (University of Bonn)
Paper short abstract:
The paper focuses on symbolical and semantical ties between a Eurasian epic tradition and a Moldavian Csango ritual. The narrative includes the deer chase, the transformation of the doe and the totemic marriage. This belief has survived as a ritual, in which one performer wears a deer costume.
Paper long abstract:
This paper focuses on the symbolical, semantical and religious connection between the most archaic strata of the Central Eurasian (Ossetian, Tibetan, Mongolian, Turkic, etc.) epic tradition, namely the deer chasing motive sequence (AaTh 401) - the type of narrative that also appears in the origin myth of the Hungarian people (Gesta Hunnorum et Hungarorum, 1282-1285), and a current field research data of a fertility ritual in a Moldavian Csango village, Arini, Bacău County, Romania. In the most archaic layer of this narrative we recognise the deer-chase led by the protagonist, the transformation of the doe and their totemic marriage. The figure of the doe was an ancestress-symbol in these communities. This Bronze Age shamanic and totemic belief has survived the appearance and spread of the world religions, and it was adopted as a communal ritual, in which, according to Hungarian folk traditions one performer wears a deer costume and the other members lead her into a dance and sell her as a bride in the wedding. The members of this "folk theater" were until 1989 predominantly village bachelors, but the age-group has changed. Because of massive Western European work migration, schoolchildren have taken over their role. This paper is based on folklore texts and on field-research conducted in 2015, and argues that the deer-chase narrative has cultural, symbolical, semantical and religious ties with the 20th and 21th centuries new year fertility rite of the Moldavian Csangos.
Cognitive anthropology and cultural transmission; legacies and futures