Religion and Folklore

Enets folklore is very rich and consists of mythological and historical legends, fairy tales, and cosmogenic legends. Topics are mostly about wars and animals. Heroic folklore reflects real events from the history of the Enets people, which was filled with the struggle for survival and armed conflicts with adjacent tribes— Nenets, Nganasans, Dolgans, Kets, Sel'kups, and Evenki. There are some legends of a hero-hunter who hunted wild reindeer with a domestic decoy-reindeer.

Shamans are the main performers of mythological legends: they recite or sing them, sometimes with music. The main musical instruments are the tambourine and a unique primitive stringed instrument.

The Enets were officially converted to Christianity in the 17th century, but in reality their religion was and is now shamanistic animism. Forest (southern) Enets are more "Christianized" than tundra ones. Enets have animistic beliefs about the creation of the world. According to them, the spirits of the "Upper World" created the world, waters, and land. Their leader is "Owner of Sky—Nga." His mother was the owner of Land ("Dya'Minyu"). The "Lower World" is populated by wicked spirits and the Upper World by good spirits. The Owners of Fire, Water, Forest, Mountains, separate areas, had a special place in this pantheon.

It could be said that it is now difficult to do something to protect and conserve the Enets people and culture. They will inevitably be assimilated by Nenets and Russians (incidentally, Enets women are highly estimated as good housewives). It is only possible to try to support Enets by special State measures promoting conservation and development of traditional land use forms typical for Enets. They have sufficient biological resources in their present range, and the rich hunting and fishing resources are used to a considerable degree.

H.V. Rogacheva

See also Nenets; Northern Uralic Languages; Sel'kup

Further Reading

Berg, L.S., "On the ancient distribution of Yenissey Samoyeds, or Entse." Proceedings of the All-Union Geographical Society, 1945, No. 5 (in Russian) Dolgikh, B.O., "On the genera and tribes structure and distribution of Entsy." Soviet Ethnography, 1946, No. 4

-., "Entsy." In Narody Sibiri, edited by M.G. Levin &

L.P. Potapov, Moscow: Russian Academy of Sciences, 1956, pp. 661-664; as The Peoples of Siberia, Chicago: Chicago University Press, 1964

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