Poster Presentation Lowitja Institute International Indigenous Health and Wellbeing Conference 2016

Religious ideas of contemporary Nenets society in the Gydan Nenets (#321)

Andrei Lobanov 1 , Tatiana Popova 1 , Andrei Popov 1 , Sergei Andronov 1
  1. State Public Institution “Scientific Research Centre of the Arctic”, Salekhard, YaNAO, Russian Federation

Nenets people belong to the Samoyedic language group and inhabit the vast area that stretches along the coast of the Arctic Ocean from the Kola Peninsula in the west to the Taymyr Peninsula in the east. Their traditional occupation is nomadic herding and river fishing. Their traditional religion is shamanism. The study was conducted in the Nenets nomadic population of the Gydan peninsula that is situated in the north of Western Siberia (Russia). The study involved 108 people: 60 women and 48 men aged 38 ± 24 years. Primary data were obtained by the expert survey. The idea of sacrifice is the central one in the modern religious practice of Nenets people. There is a strong connection between religious practice, traditional lifestyle and a region of residence. If for any reason there is no deer to sacrifice or it is impossible to visit ancestral graves and sacred places for sacrifice, the religious practice is stopped until such a possibility. The study showed that 75 per cent of Nenets faith’s adherents sacrifice in the name of ancestors, 32% sacrifice in the name of spirits of sacred places, 72% participate in the sacrifice rituals to the supreme god of the Nenets pantheon named ‘Num’. Among the modern Nenets, people sacrifice and communicate with spirits without the shaman mediation. The supreme god of the Nenets pantheon ‘Num’ is characterised by respondents as the god that helps people to live in the ‘land of the living’, which gives food to animals and health, wellbeing and family welfare to people. The idea of repentance has a distinct anthropocentric character in Nenets people. ‘Num’ is regarded to be a person that is accessible to a direct communication. 82% of respondents consider ‘Num’ to be a governor of the world of spirits and the world of people. Only 12% of respondents believe that ‘Num’ is the leader of the good forces only. The idea of ‘Num’ as the god common to all people but not just for the Nenets is expressed by 82% of respondents. The majority of respondents believe that ‘Num’ and ‘Christian God’ represent the same thing.