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Dzhidzha Araeva, About How I Was Born

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Terbish, Baasanjav 


Before I was born, my parents had a daughter who died in 1933. My grandfather brought home lama Sangadzhi – whom we called Kaaka – to read memorial prayers. The lama told my parents, ‘You should read prayers for your daughter for seven days, otherwise she might be reborn in an inauspicious direction. If you do it, she will return to you as a baby boy’. Since there was no one around who could read these prayers, my grandmother asked Kaaka to do it, to which he agreed. Some time passed, and I was born. When I turned one month, my mother fell ill and could not breastfeed me. She said, ‘My eyes can see, but my tongue cannot move’. My grandmother was upset and crying. A female relative breastfed me. My uncle decided to bring Kaaka to our house, who stayed to perform a ritual all night long. In the morning a dry bush blossomed outside the house. Kaaka sat next to the hearth, took me in his arms and began to swing me. He calmed my grandmother by saying, ‘Don’t worry, grandmother. Your daughter-in-law is a cheeky girl. Why did she eat the meat of an animal that was attacked by a wolf? That’s why she had a girl instead of a boy’. After this prayer my mother recovered. Later she said, ‘Kaaka caught me. When I was pregnant, I went to see my parents. There was not much food around at that time. Nearby, there lived a relative, an old woman, whom I went to see. When I entered her house, she was eating some boiled meat and drinking tea. As soon as she saw me she put the meat away and said to me, ‘I can see that you are pregnant, but you should not eat this meat’. When the old woman left the house to throw bones out, my mother took the bowl and ate a piece of horse meat that was inside. She did not know that that horse had been attacked by a wolf. That old woman knew about this taboo and cautioned my mother, but she did not listen to her. That is why I was born as a girl.



Birth, divination

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Kalmyk Cultural Heritage Documentation Project, University of Cambridge

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