Dualism

Kets are a Siberian people who speak the Ket language. They are thought to be the only survivors of an ancient nomadic people believed to have originally lived throughout central southern Siberia. Today’s Kets are the descendants of the tribes of fishermen and hunters who have adopted some of the cultural ways of those original Ket-speaking tribes of South Siberia. The earlier tribes engaged in hunting, fishing, and reindeer breeding in the northern areas.

Shamanism was a living practice among the Kets into the 1930s, but by the 1960s almost no authentic shamans could be found. It shared characteristics with those of Turkic and Mongolic peoples. Additionally, there were several types of Ket shamans differing in function, power and associated animals. Also, there are examples of the use of skeleton symbolics. These have been interpreted as a symbol of rebirth, although they may symbolize the bones of the loon, the helper animal of the shaman, joining air and underwater world, just like the shaman who travelled both to the sky and the underworld. The skeleton-like overlay also represented shamanic rebirth among some other Siberian cultures.

The mythology of Kets has been compared with that of Uralic peoples, assuming that they are modelling semiotic systems in the compared mythologies. Among other comparisons, the mythologies of Ob-Ugric peoples and Samoyedic peoples are mentioned. Other authors have discussed analogies between similar folklore motifs, purely typological considerations, and certain binary pairs in symbolics. These may be related to a dualistic organization of society as some dualistic features can be found in comparisons with these peoples.

However, for Kets, neither dualistic organization of society nor cosmological dualism has been researched thoroughly. If such features existed at all, they have either weakened or remained largely undiscovered. There are some reports on a division into two exogamous patrilinear moieties, folklore on conflicts of mythological figures, and also on cooperation of two beings in the creation of the land, the motif of earth-diver. This motif is present in several cultures in different variants. In one example, the creator of the world is helped by a water fowl as the bird dives under the water and fetches earth so that the creator can make land out of it. In some cultures, the creator and the earth-fetching being, sometimes named as devil, or taking shape of a loon, compete with one another.

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