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Selkup shaman's cloak and headdress
VK4934-18, 19
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Why this is a
Masterpiece

During his long stay, Kai Donner had the chance to become familiar with the indigenous peoples of Siberia including the Selkups. In his account of his travels Donner assesses his collection as follows: "My ethnographic collections are reasonably extensive, but they are probably not particularly interesting, because generally speaking very little is preserved here in Finland. The collections dealing with shamanism and belief, on the other hand, are fairly complete." This shaman's costume represented the Selkup people, and the language of that small population must be regarded as seriously endangered.

History of the Object
The shaman's costume was acquired by Kai Donner (1888-1935). He went on wide-ranging expeditions to Siberia in 1911-1913 and 1914. On his travels, he followed the advice of Edward Westermarck, Konrad Nielsen and Fridtjof Nansen to carry out research by adapting to the way of life of the natives. He studied the eastern Samoyed languages, Enets, Nganasan, Selkup, Kamass and Ket. Donner also made ethnographic observations and he donated a collection of 260 objects to the National Museum of Finland. It includes items from the Selkups (Ostyak-Samoyeds), Khanty (Ostyaks), Nenets (Samoyeds), Enets, Evenki (Tunguses), Dolgans and the Kamass.

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Type
Costume and Jewelry 
Materials
Deer skin; bear skin; deer chamois; iron pendants, plates and figurines; pieces of cotton cloths 
Measurements
The cloak: 
Creator name
Unknown 
Creator date
Unknown 
Where it was made
Russia; Siberia, Ket river 
Geography
Russia; Siberia 
Time period
AD 19th century ~ AD 20th century 
Creation date
Before 1911 
Function
The shamans were the religious, spiritual and political leaders of the Siberian peoples. In seeking contact with the spirit beings, the shaman most often dressed in ritual clothing believed to help in his journey to the lower and upper world. "The upper Ket-region can with full reason be called the promised land of shamans. Every yurt has its own main mediator between humans and spirits, and the rattling boom of the witch's drum and the ghastly singing of the shamans can be heard from almost every yurt in the evenings." (Kai Donner) The Selkup (Ostyak-Samoyed) shamans donned their special dress only if the séance was held in a lighted tent, i.e. by the fire. The shamans acquired their costumes in stages. The Selkup shaman dressed up in the cloak of deer hide when contacting the upper world. The cloak imitated the bird. Iron discs reminiscent of a bird's skeleton were sewn onto the back and arms and the leather fringes represented feathers. In addition to the crane figure, the Selkup shaman was aided by a mythical celestial deer, with which the shaman rode into the sky. Of human figures, the ones with hands represented good spirits, which led the shaman to the upper worlds, and the handless represented evil spirits and a trip to the underworlds. The shaman's cloak and headdress meant the link with Selkup's totem animals, deer, birds and bear. 
Acquisition
Acquired by the National Museum of Finland in 1915 
Copyright
 
Acknowledgements
Text by Ildikó Lehtinen Photos Kai Donner 1914, Markku Haverinen 2001, 2006 Aalto, Pentti. Oriental Studies in Finland 1828-1918. Societas Scientiarum Fennica 10b. Helsinki 1971. Holmberg (Harva), Uno. Finno-Ugric, Siberian. The Mythology of All Races in Thirteen Volumes. Volume IV. Archaeological Institute of America, Marshall Jones Company, Boston 1927. Donner, Kai. Siperian samojedien keskuudessa vuosina 1911-1913 ja 1914. Helsinki 1919, 1979. Lehtinen, Ildikó. Siberian peoples at the Museum of Cultures. Siberia. Life on the Taiga and Tundra. Edited by Ildikó Lehtinen. National Board of Antiquities. Helsinki 2002. Prokofyeva, E. D. Kostyum selkupskogo (ostyako-samoyedskogo) shamana. Sbornik Muzeya antropologii i etnografii XI. Moskva-Leningrad 1949. 
Owner
State property until 1923, National Board of Antiquities, Finland 
Museum
Museum of Cultures, National Museum of Finland 
Credit line
 

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