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Baira Goryaeva, About Yas Kemyalgn

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Terbish, Baasanjav 


Baira says the following: Sandzhi Kalyaev was the first to write about yas kemyalgn. Performed at weddings, this genre consists of two people talking with each other about symbolic aspects of certain bones. According to the rule, one of them deliberately misinterprets a bone, and when asked by the other to repeat it, he says it correctly by uttering ‘ebe, ebe, bi endurzhyazhv’ (oh, oh, I was mistaken). According to N. Ubushaev, the word ‘ebe’ originally meant a woman or a mother. Therefore, this genre may have been originated in the period when the ancestors of Kalmyks lived in a matriarchal society. Yas kemyalgn is mentioned in a fairy tale about ‘Yovgn Mergn Baatr’ (Hero the Walking Shooter). The fairy tale has an episode where the hero roasts saiga meat, and when he starts eating he discovers that one of the vertebrae has not been roasted properly, being covered with a blood vein. Since it was considered a bad omen to each such a piece of meat, the master of his fate asks the hero to compose a story about the bone. In the past, if the groom’s people could not recount yas kemyalgn, they were fined with a horse. Today, by contrast, yas kemyalgn has lost its sacred meaning and people may say it incorrectly without consequences.



yas kemyalgn, sheep bone, fairy tale

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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