Larisa Shoglyaeva, Rituals Connected with Children

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Terbish, Baasanjav 
Churyumova, Elvira 

In this interview Larisa talks about the following topics: how people celebrated the birth of their children, what rituals were performed when a 1-year old child could not walk; a ritual of the first haircut; and name giving. Larisa: In the past, people always wanted sons. Women who had boys were respected in their families. Whenever a boy was born, the father celebrated this occasion with others by firing a rifle and making noise. A girl’s birth, by contrast, was not celebrated by anyone. If a child did not start to walk by 1, the parents brought a dog, bandaged its eyes with a ribbon and pulled the dog around the child. If this did not help, the parents called the child’s maternal uncle who threw his hat between the child’s legs. This ritual was done in a celebratory atmosphere. Children had their first haircut at the age of 3. It was their maternal uncle who cut their hair, which then was kept wrapped in a white cloth. The Kalmyks believe that a person’s hair and life are inter-connected. Hence, people had their haircut at certain hours and on certain days. Question: Why? Larisa: Hair was like an amulet. By the way, one’s placenta was also kept for such purposes. It was dried and sewed to a corner of the child’s pillow. During the first haircut the parents invited guests to celebrate. People gave the child various presents, including livestock (a horse, a goat, a camel, a foal, a sheep, or a lamb). The Kalmyks did not hold gold or money in high regard. Livestock was more precious. In this way, a child had personal livestock from young age. At 3 boys were taught how to ride a horse. Today children are afraid of horses. Babies received their names from close paternal relatives. In the past, people also went to the temple where a lama would look at his book and propose a list of names from which the parents chose. Today young couples also go to temples. 30 years ago, we named our children as we wished. We did not give the names of deceased people though. Question: Why? It is a bad omen. It is believed that the dead person whose name is given to a child may take the child away. In the past, people often had many children, some of whom died early in life. (In order to cheat evil spirits which were blamed for children’s deaths) people gave their children such names as Mukovyun (Bad Boy), Nokha (Dog), Taka (Hen), Nokhan Kichg (Puppy), etc. Even today people give such names. When I was studying at a pedagogical college, my friend told me that the head of her village council was a man with a strange name. His name was Gakha (Pig), surname – Nokhaev (Dog), and patronym – Takaevich (Hen). I laughed a lot. Even today we have such names. It is believed that bad names are actually good for children.

Birth, rituals, first haircut, name giving
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Sponsored by Arcadia Fund, a charitable fund of Lisbet Rausing and Peter Baldwin.