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The regional interactive encyclopedic portal «Bashkortostan»
Academy of Sciences of the Republic of Bashkortostan State autonomous institution of science of the Republic of Bashkortostan Bashkir encyclopedia


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CULTS (from Latin cultus – obeisance, worship) is religious worship to some object, real or fantasy creatures that have supernatural features. Religious and magic activity and the objects related to them (sacred images, sanctuaries, temples etc.) are the constituents of C. Many peoples of RB are known to worship dead relatives, animals, plants, fire etc. The ideas of spirits and souls of the dead transformed into the C. of ancestors (see Animism). The soul was believed to be able to return home in the body of a bird, an animal, a butterfly. According to the C. of ancestors, relatives must care for the souls of the dead (see. The sacrifice feast). There are many traditional holidays of the Slavic, Finno­Ugric and Turkic peoples from RB connected with C. of ancestors (Svyatki, Radonitsa, Semik etc.) The C. of ancestors is based on the idea that a person has a soul that exists during his lifetime and after his death. The Bashkirs and other peoples believed that the ancestors’ spirits protect them and help them to fare well. The spirits of the ancestors who were the founders of the clans and tribes were especially important. People used to conduct different rituals to please the spirit, sometimes these rituals included sacrifices and praying in cemeteries. The Udmurts have a very popular tradition to worship family ancestors­protectors called vorshudu: it was a box with family amulets, it was in kuala. The relation to vorshudu was transferred down the female family line. The Chuvashes also have a ritual connected with C. It is called “Remembrance of ancestors” and took place in October. The main attributes of the C. were the installation of yup (a tombstone for the deceased), kindling a fire, dancing on the coals etc. (see Zoroastrianism). The remembrance of ancestors also took place in spring (see Great day) and in summer (see Trinity). Semyk of the Mari was also dedicated to the C. of ancestors. Family and community commemorations were in spring and overlapped Easter in summer and autumn.

The C. of animals and birds is based on the ides of identity and connection of a person with a totem animal or bird (see Totemism). Many peoples of RB still have the elements of traditional pre­Islamic and pre­Christian beliefs. The animals were believed to hear and understand human speech, to transform into humans and vice versa. These beliefs provide the ritual dances, making masks with the images of an animal or a bird, the custom to put on skins during the rituals. According to the C. of animals and birds, it is prohibited to murder animals, destroy nests, eat meat or eggs of a sacred animal or a bird. The most revered animals for the Bashkirs were a horse, a wolf, a bear, a deer; birds – crane, swan, a cuckoo and others. According to legends and tales, the Bashkir horse is a good protector, a symbol of welfare and happiness. The image of the winged tulpar horse is one of the most popular images of the Bashkir epics (Akbuzat, Zayatulyak and Khyukhylu, Kara-yurga). The deer has an image of a sacred animal descended from heaven in folklore. It is connected with the C. of the Sun. Traditional tales considered deer antlers to be amulets. Kuziykurpyas and Mayankhylyepic has an image of a female deer as a harbinger for the birth of children. According to the oral folklore, a bear is a mythical ancestor (see The first ancestor), a savior of heroes, protector of children. The C. of bear may be noticed in traditional holidays and customs of peoples from RB (see Bear dance). According to Mari mythology, deer or elk are the protectors of a clan. The deer antlers are the main attribute of a deity – the Mother of life and the God of Beginnings, the home protector, the defender against an evil eye. They also were used in medicine. The bear and horse cults took had an important part in the system of religious beliefs of the Mari. The Tatar traditional folklore considers a wolf as a people protector. The elements ot the C. of birds can be noticed in the traditional calendar holidays (see Crow’s porridge, Kuckoo’s tea, Sabantuy). The Mari and Mordovians custom system distinguishes keremet. The sacred groves where people used to pray were believed to be magical. The folklore of peoples from BR has many images of a world mountain and a world tree (see Myths). Plenty of rituals, beliefs and signs are connected with the C. of trees. According to belief, the oak protected people against grief, the birch was a symbol of fertility, the linden protected against diseases etc. The C. are widely reflected in the oral folklore of RB peoples.

Publication date: 10.06.2021
Last updated: 10.06.2021