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Konstantin Naktanov, About Leather and How Kalmyks Slaughter Sheep

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Terbish, Baasanjav 
Churyumova, Elvira 


A short interview with Konstantin about processing pelt and killing sheep. Konstantin: When I was a child I used to soften pelt. Processed pelt was beaten with a stick and then softened by rubbing with both hands. Darina: What is the first stage in processing pelt? K: First, pelt was salted and smeared with a mix made from sour milk and fodder. When dried, it was softened by hand, washed, and left to dry again. The pelt was processed like this. One had to repeat this every day for a week. D: When did you use chalk (in this process)? K: You smear chalk on the pelt towards the very end, in order to make it white. D: What did you do with the pelt afterwards? K: It was used to sew a vest for children. My grandmother sewed it herself. She spun wool. She could do everything. D: Did people use pelt to make winter coats? K: Yes, people did it in the past. D: What kind of pelt did people process? K: Sheep’s skin. There was nothing else. We killed sheep at home. According to Kalmyk tradition, it is forbidden to say ‘to kill a sheep’. One has to say ‘to let the sheep’s (soul) out’. So, we ‘let sheep’s soul out’ beginning from the age of 13 or so. We cut its chest open and pulled out the heart so that the sheep died quickly. D: Did people cut sheep in this way for fire rituals? K: We always cut this way, be it for food or rituals. I had not seen other ways of cutting until I came to Tsagan Aman village where I witnessed people cut a sheep’s throat. I was really surprised to see that. People in different places had different ways of cutting sheep. D: Before cutting a sheep, what did you say? K: During a fire ritual, the sheep was to be smeared with milk and butter from head to tail and smoked with incenses. It was the elderly who said the (special) words. We, youngsters, knew nothing of these words.



Pelt processing, sheep slaughter

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Sponsored by Arcadia Fund, a charitable fund of Lisbet Rausing and Peter Baldwin.