Handbook of Contemporary Animism

Part III : Dwelling in Larger-than-Human Communities



Auctor, -trix



Death and Grief in a World of Kin

Deborah Bird Rose



Hunting-Animism among Yukaghir

Rane Willerslev



Ethics in Cree Hunting

Colin Scott



Moral Foundations in Tlinit

Fritz Detwiler



Embodied Morality

Douglas Ezzy



The Animal vs. the Social

Priscilla Stuckey





Death and Grief in a World of Kin

Deborah Bird Rose


("Victoria River region of the Northern Territory of Australia")

p. 137 our relationship with non-humans

"In addition to being persons, many non-humans are kin. ... Aboriginal kinship systems ... include non-humans as well as humans ... . ... (Much ... has been developed in greater depth in ... : D. Rose 1996, 2005a, 2009a ... .)"

Rose 1996 = Deborah Bird Rose : Nourishing Terrains : Australian Aboriginal Views of Landscape and Wilderness. Canberra : Australian Heritage Commission.

Rose 2005a = Deborah Bird Rose : "Indigenous Philosophical Ecology". AUSTRALIAN J OF ANTHROPOLOGY 16:294-305.

Rose 2009a = Deborah Bird Rose : Dingo Makes Us Human : ... an Australian Aboriginal Culture. Cambridge Univ Pr.

p. 138 aboriginal mythic dreamings

"Dreamings are {myths concerning} the great creative beings that emerged from the earth and started singing up everything. The Australian continent is criss-crossed with their tracks as they went walking, slithering, crawling, flying, chasing, hunting, ... giving birth. They were ... distributing plants, making landforms and water, and making relationships between one place and another, one species and another. They were becoming ancestral to particular animals and particular humans (multi-species kin groups, technically known as totemic groups)."

p. 138 culture

"other beings have culture ... : ... a particular way of nlife. All creatures ... have their own ways of doing things, and many {e.g., birds, social insects, etc.} demonstrably have their own languages and their own ceremonies."

pp. 138-9 sentience

p. 138

"Plants as well as animals are sentient, and,

according to many Aboriginal people,

p. 139

the earth itself has culture and power within it."

p. 139 country

"Country exists because of the living beings who participate in the life of the country; and country flourishes because of looped and tangled benefits. ...

Country is multidimensional -- it consists of ... Dreamings ... . There is sea country and land country; ... sky country."

pp. 140, 142 matrilineal totem

p. 140

""Matrilineal social totems" ... are referred to in this region as ngurlu. ...

Relationships within and between ngurlu ... are organized into the two moieties, one associated with rain, the other with sun.

On the rain side ..., the connections are between water and sky, mediated by rain ... . The opposite moiety is related to sun and dry land, and to ... winds. ...

Together they comprise the totality of the annual cycle and the interactions which make possible continued life on earth."

p. 142

"When a senior person dies their matrilineal kin become taboo.

For example, when an emu person dies, nobody eats emus until the emu people tell them they can {for, the emu-totem humans will have received a message to this effect from their animal-totem deity in a dream},

{The animals of that species would be rendred incapable of assisting other animal-species in incarnating souls of humans of their totem, if the animals of that species, who are temporarily busied with providing for the soul of the dead person of their totem, were eaten before this task of theirs were completed. [written Sept 22 2015]}

and the first emu to be killed is treated with special ritual (discussed further in D. Rose 2009a:84)."

{The purpose of this ritual would be to inform the animals of other species that the animals of the dead person's totem-species have completed their task with the dead person, and are now free to assist the animals of other species to enable incarnating of human souls of those species' totems. [written Sept 22 2015]}

p. 143 redincarnation of human souls via eating killed animals' cadavres

"The particular species with which one's ngurlu is identified is called one's warpiri.

As far as I have learned, only humans recycle from life to death and back into life ... . ...

The usual method by which a person moves ... is when the animal {provided that it be of her matrilineal totem-species} is eaten by the woman who is becoming the mother of the newly returned human person. It is usual as well that the animal is killed by the man who is becoming the baby's father."

{The dead human's soul is connected with some living animal's soul in such a way that when that subsequently-killed animal's cadavre be eaten, the human soul is so drawn toward the husband and wife eating it, that they become that soul's forthcoming body's parents.}

p. 146 language of hounds; hounds serve as bosses in charge of humans

"in Australia (D. Rose 2011), ... the senior Dingo man ... was the only person in our area who understood dog language."

"Dog's a big boss, you've got to leave him [alive], no more killing [of dingoes by humans]."

{Dingoes are "bosses" over humans' souls in the sense of being guides for humans' souls : not only according to Zarathustrianism doth a hound guide the trek which each human soul must undertake after death, but also the same is taught in the Maha-bharata (where god Dharma, in the guise of a hound, guideth the Pan.d.ava-brethren's souls' after the death of their mortal bodies).}

Rose 2011 = Deborah Bird Rose : Wild Dog Dreaming. Charlottesville : Univ of VA Pr.



Hunting-Animism among Yukaghir

Rane Willerslev


[p. 158, n. 1 "This chapter is based on ... my ... (2011b)."

Willerslev 2011b = Rane Willerslev : "Seeing with Others' Eyes : ... the Siberian Iukaghir". In :- Peter Jordan (ed.) : Landscape and Culture in the Siberian North. Walnut Creek (CA) : Left Coast Pr. pp. 49-70.]

p. 148 reciprocal gaze, complementary viewing

"The human hunter ... sees the elk ... in much the same way as he himself is seen ... by the spirit of the animal, who is said to hunt him as an elk. ... Indeed, much of what goes on among Yukaghirs is concerned with this fearsome symmetry of being both subject and object of vision".

p. 148 complementary sexual seductions

"Hunting is ..., however, ... also an act of "love-making", ... expressed in their view of hunting as a process of "sexual seduction" :

the hunter aims at sexually seducing the animal into "giving itself up" to him in much the same way as he himself risks being sexually seduced by the animal's spiritual being."

{This would apply directly in the case wherein the male hunter is sexually seducing a female animal; but in the case of a male animal's being hunted, the hunter's own wife would have to be offered sexually (which the hunter's wife could do at home in a seductive ritual) to the male animal.}

pp. 148-9 criss-crossing of personal species-identities

p. 148

"In either perspective, ... the seduced, is said to lose its original species adherence and undergo an irreversible metamorphosis into its predatory {i.e., its seducer's} counterpart. Predation is thus experienced as a power struggle over identity : a struggle ... to take on the prey {object of one's seduction} ... without losing one's own sense of identity in the process of converting the other being into one's own species. ...

p. 149

However, this attempt at bodily transformation is risky and may result in him {read "his"} losing his original species adherence. Within the human encampment, therefore, the process ... is matched by a counter-process, encompassing the hunter's attempt to purge otherness from the self and to reconstruct his personhood as belonging to the human kind. In spatial terms, this movement ... thus represents a criss-crossing between the dangerous world ..., defined by ... inter-species transformation, and the safe setting ... in which the hunter is returned to his original, human state."

p. 149 the 2 groups of Yukaghir

direction on Kolyma river

upper river valley

lower river valley

main village settlement



__ Ulus






pp. 151-2 hunters as "raw meat"

p. 151

"Yukaghir hunters sometimes describe themselves as ... "ongdsjotjunai sjoromok" ..., or "raw meat" in the Yukaghir language (Willerslev 2007:163). By this, they are referring to a ... hunting that is predicated on a skilled and deliberate "dehumanization", where they they ... take on a new identity ..., reshaped in the image of their animal prey. ...

Hunters ... wipe themselves with whisks from birch trees. It is believed that the elk. recognizing the attractive smell of birch leaves, ... comes closer to the hunter."

{It this why "Birch" is the 1st letter in both the runic (as "Beorc") and the ogham (as "Bet") alphabets? If so, it may be first in the alphabet because it is 1st in the series of act constituting a hunt, the process whereof the alphabet may be intended to describe.}

p. 152

"Likewise, the undersides of the hunters' skis are covered with smooth elk leg-skins so as to imitate the sound of the animal when moving in snow."

Willerslev 2007 = Rane Willerslev : Soul Hunters : ... the Siberian Yukaghirs. Berkeley : Univ of CA Pr.

p. 152 ayibi

"all beings, whether human, animal or spirit, each within their own sphere of existence, are said to see the world in similar or identical ways ... . Eduardo Viveiros de Castro (1998a:470) calls this ontology {though more accurately termed epistemology, for as a way of perceiving appearances, it is more a way of sensing rather than of existing} "perspectivism". Like the Arawete and other Amazonian groups described by him,

the Yukaghirs too regard the subjectivity of humans and non-humans as formally the same because they share the same kinds of souls, ayibii, meaning "shadow" in the Yukaghir language, which provides them with a similar or identical viewpoint on the world."

{Very likely, this word /AYiBI/ is cognate with <arabi />AYYUB/ (>ibri />iYO^B/) and also with Japanese /AYOBE/. >ibri />iYO^B/ (Strong's 347) is a variant of Strong's 341 />oYeB/ 'enemy, foe'; and "perspectivism" is also known as "the enemy's point-of-view" : whence the title (FEPV) of a book about tropical-forest South-AmerIndian "perspectivism".}

Viveiros de Castro 1998a = Eduardo Batalha Viveiros de Castro : "Cosmological Deixis and Amerindian Perspectivism". J OF THE ROYAL ANTHROPOLOGICAL INSTITUTE 4:469-88.

FEPV = Eduardo Batalha Viveiros de Castro : From the Enemy's Point of View : Humanity and Divinity in an Amazonian Society. Univ of Chicago Pr, 1992.

{The shift of meaning of /ayibi/ from 'foe' to 'shadow' may have been prompted by the Homeric description of the ghost of Orion (in the Asphodel Meadow) as hunting shades of prey-animals -- this, in combination with the Aztec description of shadows in the Mictla`n, abode of souls of the dead. The term /aSPhoDel/ is related to ("HAM", p. 391, fn. 5 : citing Prellwitz 1892) /SPhoDro-/ and /SPheDano-/ ('trembling, shaking' -- cf. the "trembling aspen") and thus to Samskr.ta /SPanDa/ ('vibration'). Cf. also Latin /PonDere/ 'to weight in a balance' (involving libratory seesawing motion of the scale-armature), and Latin /PenDere/ 'to hang' (which could involve bobbing up-and-down in the case of a yoyo).}

"HAM" = Steve Reece : "Homer’s Asphodel Meadow". GREEK, ROMAN, & BYZANTINE STUDIES 47(2007):389-400. https://web.duke.edu/classics/grbs/FTexts/47/Reece.pdf

{In Omoto reconstructionism, "Ayobe in Kyoto Prefecture is designated as the capital of the Empire" (JFC, p. 328). /A`yo,`be`/ is a word for 'Dioscorea rotundata' (white Guinea-yam) in Igbo.}

JFC = Freda Utley : Japan's Feet of Clay. Faber & Faber Ltd, London, 1936. (reprinted London : Routledge, 2000 as vol. 9 of JAPANESE ECONOMIC HISTORY [series ed. by Janet Hunter]) http://books.google.com/books?id=dJ_26BHnrA4C&pg=PA328&lpg=PA328&dq=

p. 152 dreaming by humans about animals

"During the hunter's nightly dreams, when his soul, ayibii, leaves his body and wanders freely, the animal spirits call to it, inviting it into their forest home to eat and drink and to have sexual intercourse.

{"Then Swarochi embraced that female deer; and embraced by him she at once became invested with a most bright and beautiful body" (MKP LXV:21).} {Likewise (MKP LXXIV) concerning Swaras.t.ra with woman who had become a doe-deer.}

The feelings of lust and sexual excitement that the ayibii arouses in the spirits is then extended to their physical counterpart, the animal, so that when the hunter embarks on his task the next morning, it runs towards him in the expectation of experiencing a sexual climax."

MKP = Mar-kan.d.eya Puran.a http://www.archive.org/stream/markandeyapurana021288mbp/markandeyapurana021288mbp_djvu.txt

p. 153 "falling in love" by humans with animals

"The animal's spirit, Yukaghirs say, will seek to kill the human hunter out of "love" for him so as to drag his ayibii back to its household as its "spouse".

{This would apply directly in the case wherein the male hunter is sexually seducing a female animal; but in the case of a male animal's being hunted, the hunter's own wife would have to interact with the male "animal's spirit" -- which could be done by her in ritual and/or in dreaming. A male elk (besides seeking the life of the hunter's wife) could still, however, seek to kill a hunter on behalf of a female elk (perhaps the male elk's sistre).}

The elk spirit attempts this by seducing the hunter into believing that what he sees {only in his nocturnal dreamings} is not an elk spirit but a fellow human.

{This assessment would be accurate for a spirit well-disguised as an elk encountred during dreaming, but inappropriate to apply to an ordinary elk encountred in the waking world}

When this happens, a true metamorphosis occurs and the hunter's memories of his past identity are lost {obliterated, passed into oblivion}. ...

{This "metamorphosis" would occur in a dream, and would be discovered to have occurred by a shaman seeking to recovre the "lost ayibii" by searching in the Otherworld of lost souls.}

Similarly, it occasionally happens that that a hunter becomes so absorbed in some enticing trait or action observed in the elk that he ... is ... "falling in love" ... . Consumed by this love, he cannot think about anything else, stops eating and soon dies. His ayibii, hunters say, then goes to live with the animal".

{This could apply to male hunter's seeking of a female animal. And likewise, if in her dreaming the hunter's wife should "fall in love" with the male animal, then it could be she who "cannot think about anything else, stops eating and soon after dies". Her ayibii, the hunters' wives would say, must thereupon go to reside with the male animal and with the male animal's kinsfolk.}

{If this Yukaghir system of attitudes be of palaiolithic antiquity, then, in palaiolithic society, hunters' wives must have enjoyed at least as much importance a ro^le in religious beliefs and rituals as did the male hunters. It is likely that the "female figurines" of the Gravettian culture were carried (as surrogates to remind the male animals of the hunters' wives who had made erotic agreements, in rituals and/or in dreaming, with the male animals) by the hunters while they were hunting. [written Nov 17 2014]}

p. 153 euphemistic vocabulary employed by hunters


euphemistic circumlocution


"the big one


"bare-footed one"

gun {anciently, an archery-bow}

"stick" {anciently, perhaps a musical bow}



p. 153 carven model as decoy for animal's spirit

"Hunters ... conceal {from the elk's spirit} the fact that they are the ones responsible for the animal's violent death. Immediately after killing the elk, they will make a small, roughly carved wooden figure, which they paint with lines using blood from the dead animal. The figure ... is hung from a string above the meat and serves to attract the attention of the furious spirit. The spirit, hunters say, will smell the blood of its "child" {prote'ge' the elk's body, now dead} painted on the figure's body and attack it {viz., the figurine thus functioning as a decoy}. ... The wooden figure, however, is left at the site of the kill as a kind of physical representation of the "murderer" and draws the anger of the spirit."

pp. 153-4 transferral to ravens of a bear-spirit's blaming of the hunters

p. 153

"The ritual performed after killing a bear ... is more elaborate ... . Before

p. 154

removing the skin of the bear the bear hunters will ... poke its eyes out while croaking like a raven (Willerslev & Pedersen 2010:270). This will make the bear believe that it was the bird that blinded it." {Ravens consume dead animals' eyeballs.}

{cf. "Ainu bear festivals ... culminating in ... consumption of the bear's ... eyeballs" ("NCAT-BM", p. 92)}

Willerslev & Pedersen 2010 = Rane Willerslev & Morten Axel Pedersen : "Proportional Holism : Joking the Cosmos into Right Shape in North Asia". In : Ton Otto & Niels Bubandt (edd.) : Experiments in Holism. Chichester (W. Sussex) : Wiley-Blackwell. pp. 262-78.

"NCAT-BM" = George van Driem : "Neolithic Correlates of Ancient Tibeto-Burman Migrations". . In :- Roger Blench & Matthew Spriggs (edd.) : ARCHAEOLOGY AND LANGUAGE. Vol. II : Correlating Archaeological and Linguistic Hypotheses. ONE WORLD ARCHAEOLOGY, 29. Routledge, London, 1998. pp. 67-102. http://books.google.com/books?id=DWMHhfXxLaIC&pg=PA92&lpg=PA92&dq=

p. 155 spirit-possession of unborn child by soul of dead relative; recovery of forgotten skills

"At a given moment during the pregnancy, the soul, ayibii, of the deceased person enters the mother's womb through her vagina and possesses her child, who is ... to be born, ... and [in consequence] the child shares with the deceased ... the same repertoire of skills and


{This " ayibii, of the deceased person", is aequivalent to a "soul-spark" from a dead person (sometimes a renowned saint) which at an infant's birth can entre the infant in order to impart pious attitudes, according to teachings of the Qabbalah.}

In brief, all the elements of character and knowledge ... are received by the child all at once in a bundle, even before it is born.

However, the Yukaghirs say that the moment the child acquires language a failure in its memory occurs. {This could imply that the child would then wish to disclose divine secrets, but is hindred from doing to by sudden forgetfulness of those secrets -- a volatilization of memory similar to the volatilization of smoke-producting substance in wood by manufacture of charcoal.}

{Ladon, who "spoke with divers tongues" (GM 133.b), had as his son-in-law (GM 66.a) A-sop-o- ('Not-keeping-silence'). Charcoal is found (GM 66.b) in the river-bed of the A-sopos; and the secret-society of the Carbonari ('Charcoal-burners') "venerated St. Theobald as its patron saint." (NA"C") St. Theobald "entered the Camaldolese Order." (NA"STh") One of the 5 Camaldolese congregations, the Congregation of Notre-Dame de Consolation, adopted "Jansenism" (NA"C"), named for Jansenius, author of the book Augustinus, disclosing (NA"J&J") the secret quasi-semi-Pelagian meaning and intent of St. Augustine.}

The child's knowledge is not lost as such, but it is no longer explicitly aware of who it is and what it knows. Its knowledge comes to exist in a sort of encapsulated form, which needs to be drawn out through ... acts of remembrance."

{This is similar to the method employed in the Dialogues by Platon, of drawing forth (by means of leading quaestioning) of knowledge inhaerent in the souls of the persons quaestioned.}

NA"C" = New Advent article "Carbonari". http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/03330c.htm

NA"STh" = New Advent article "St. Theobald". http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/14567b.htm

NA"C" = New Advent article "Camaldolese". http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/03204d.htm

NA"J&J" = New Advent article "Jansenius and Jansenism". http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/08285a.htm

p. 156 among humans, language is obstructive to understanding; but animals glibly speak human languages

"Yukaghir hunters claim that verbal instruction might even distort peoples' proper understanding of things.

Thus, in their view, language is something that obstructs proper understanding of things. ...

{To know this fact is similar to realizing that the brain is a filter which obstructs us (as naturally omniscient souls) from directly realizing the teleological cosmic nature of the universe. An apophatic (unspeakable) cosmic realization by means of the divine elixir LSD would be diluted by mere words.}

Thus, the various animal species are said to speak in their own languages in much the same way as they are believed to live lives analogous to those of humans : ... when they enter their own lands and encampments they too hang up their fur coats and take on human shapes and speak in their own "human" languages."

{Some variation of this is also a belief and doctrine of AmerIndian tribes generally. It is derived directly from first-hand personal dreaming-experiences of witnessing in dreams all these behaviours, traits and features, of the Otherworldly animal-folk.}

p. 157 fluctuable species-identity, etc.

"species identity is in a constant state of flux, no category of being is ever permanent and anyone can transform into virtually anything else : humans become animals, animals turn

into humans, and

{Nevertheless, such shifts are usually quite impermanent, and performed for some temporary motive; with prompt return to one's own propre species-nature.}

the dead convert into the living. Indeed, while waiting to be reincarnated, the dead person's soul, ayibii, is said to live in the "Land of Shadows" (Yuk. ayibii-lebie) ... : the inhabitants live in log cabins and tents, live and hunt ..., yet ...

day and night, winter and summer, are reversed."

{likewise in AmerIndian and many other tribal religions} {This (day and night) could indicate opposite time-zones (difference of longitudes), or (winter and summer) opposite hemisphaires (difference of latitudes).}

"For the Yukaghirs, ... personhood is not about a class of being or entity; rather it entails relationships."

{More fully stated, personhood is both about one's own inhaerent nature, and also about relationships entailed.}


Graham Harvey (ed.) : Handbook of Contemporary Animism. Acumen Publ, Durham; ISD, Bristol, 2013.