The Heart of Hearths: Some Reflections on the Significance of Hearths in Nature, Culture and in Human Memory
Keywords:Saami, Siberian (Evenk), shamanism, fire symbolism, cosmology, midpassage
Starting from new discoveries of classical Saami hearths in an area where they hitherto have been unknown, the author claims that the organization of the Saami hut can be explained by what can be considered as a shamanistic nomadic tradition common to Eurasia and Greenland. The comparative ethnographic material is supplied by the Evenks at the river Yenisey in Siberia. The expressions of the shamanistic cosmology are to be found in the midpassage or linear structure of the arctic huts with the hearth at the centre. This structure has been used also in the practice ofthe shamans. The metaphoric and cosmological potential ofthe fire and the hearth is furthermore explored in sedentary societies, with examples in Classical Antiquity and in Scandinavia. Some implications concern different types of cairns. Iconographical aspects are also treated. The similarities are tentatively explained as consequences of the archetypes of the transforming and regenerating fire, but also as a means of upholding social boundaries in a literary as well as a figurative sense.
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