1,284 Works

Rimma Badmaeva, about Kalmyk cuisine

Baasanjav Terbish
Rimma talks about Kalmyk cuisine: The Kalmyks love lamb most of all. Lamb can be used to make various dishes, including dumplings, tyunteg, soup, and khuursn makhn (fried lamb with pasta). Intestines are used to make sausages. The next most popular meat is beef. The number of dishes made from beef is less than those from lamb. Camel meat is also very delicious. Compared to other livestock, camels can be without water for a long...

Zoya Chokaeva, about Kalmyk holidays

Baasanjav Terbish
Zoya says that all holidays are connected with Buddhism. Zul is a birthday during which all women add a year to their age. The week after Zul, called ‘Jilin Noyon’ (Master of the Year), is when men add a year to their age. At Tsagan Sar people bake biscuits and visit each other. ‘Togshi’ biscuits are tied together with a thread to form gift bundles. People give each other these bundles.

Rimma Badmaeva, About Zul and Tsagan Sar

Baasanjav Terbish
During Zul and Tsagan Sar people make biscuits, tea, and cook meat. Different biscuits have different meanings and symbolisms. During Tsagan Sar people make a variety of biscuits, whereas during Zul – simple biscuits. Torghuts have the following custom. During Zul, their old men give their young men a coin wrapped in a paper wishing them to grow into brave defenders of the motherland. During Zul, Kalmyks perform a ritual to prolong their lives. They...

Evdokia Erdnieva, Zul and Tsagan Sar

Baasanjav Terbish
Evdokia talks about how people celebrate Zul and Tsagan Sar: For Zul, people make biscuits, light candles, and invite their relatives to their homes. Before the celebrations, people collect special grass the stems of which is cut into pieces to make candlewicks. All stems are individually wrapped in cotton and then all the stems are wrapped together to form a candlewick. The number of grass stems inside each wick should be more by 3 stems...

Alexandr Tarancheev, About Zul and a wedding song

Baasanjav Terbish
Alexandr talks about candlewicks and a ritual performed at weddings which involves singing a song by holding a cup of vodka in one’s hand: n the past, people collected the feather grass in the steppe and dried them in their houses. Two or three days before Zul, they made candlewicks from that grass by wrapping it with cotton. Each candlewick had to have the same number of grass blades as the age of the person...

Bosya Barzueva, about Zul

Baasanjav Terbish
Bosya says the following: For Zul people made candles called ‘a boat of life’. The candlewicks were made from wild grass stalks. Each wick had the same number of grass stalks as the age of the person to whom it was dedicated. Each member of the family had his/her wick. All candlewicks were put together, wrapped in cotton, and stuck into the candle.

Nikolai Khatuev, about dalyn shinj

Baasanjav Terbish
Nikolai recounts a legend about the origin of dalyn shinj, or traditional weather forecasting by burning a sheep’s shoulder blade: In ancient times, Kalmyks did not have a calendar. Because they could not predict the weather and seasons, nomads suffered a lot from livestock mortality, cold and hunger. It was in such circumstances that one wise man decided to produce a calendar. One day his papers got scattered by the wind. The sheep grazing nearby...

Alexandr Susukov, how we celebrated Zul and Tsagan Sar in Siberia

Baasanjav Terbish
Alexandr talks about how his family celebrated national holidays in Siberia: Since we did not have monks in Siberia, we did not know when holidays were. People could end up celebrating the same holiday several times. During Zul my grandmother made a candle from dough and lit it in front of two Buddhist tangkas that she would to take out on such occasions. My mother made biscuits. When the first stars appeared in the sky,...

Dordzhi Nandyshev, about dalyn shinj

Baasanjav Terbish
Dordzhi explains what dalyn shinj is: During weddings, the parents of the newlywed are given a sheep’s vertebra bone which they need to describe. If a person cannot do this, the bone is given to the next person. In a wedding delegation at least one person should be able to recount all the signs of the bone. It is done as follows. It involves two people: one asks the other to describe various parts of...

Tatyana Dordzhieva, well wishes (2018)

Baasanjav Terbish
Tatyana utters a well wish that people say during Tsagan Sar.

Maria Pozharova, incantations, signs and prohibitions

Baasanjav Terbish
Maria says that every whirlwind has a shulm (evil spirit) sitting in the middle and spinning the wind around. When a whirlwind passes near you, throw a knife and sprinkle water into it, while saying the following incantation: ‘Shulm, shulm where are you going to? Don’t come to us!’ Hair that falls during combing should be destroyed in a fire. Otherwise, ‘dogam’ spirits may use the lost hair to influence the person to whom the...

Bosya Barzueva, a well wish

Baasanjav Terbish
Bosya wishes that Kalmykia develops, the coming year brings all people happiness, grass and crops grow well, all people have plenty to eat, and the Head of Kalmykia works for the wellbeing of the republic. She ends her well wish by asking Buddhas and ancestral spirits for protection.

Tseren Badaev, about Kalmyk weddings

Baasanjav Terbish
Tseren says that during the wedding the bride bows to the altar in the groom’s house. In the house her hair is divided into two braids. Only after that, she could go out to the street and the groom could approach her.

Togtan Amunova, about weddings

Baasanjav Terbish
Togtan says that a traditional matchmaking consists of three stages and a wedding lasts for a couple of days: the first day is celebrated in the bride’s house and the second in the groom’s. Today, in contrast, both matchmaking and weddings have been simplified: matchmaking has only one stage and weddings last for only one day. In the past, weddings were made on matsg (fasting) days. Details regarding the wedding (food, presents etc.) were discussed...

Togtan Amunova, rules of behavior for brides

Baasanjav Terbish
Togtan says that women should show respect to the elders and deities of their husbands’ clans. Women should always wear a headscarf and socks in front of their in-laws. It is forbidden for them to wear trousers or call their husbands’ elder relatives by their first names. Women are also expected to wake up first in the morning, make tea and do the household chores. When Togtan got married, her mother gave her instructions as...

Rimma Badmaeva, about weddings

Baasanjav Terbish
Rimma says that Derbets and Torghuts have similar wedding customs. Everything begins with matchmaking. First, the groom’s side delivers a box of vodka and boiled mutton (including 3 legs, the sheep’s skull without the jaw and the tongue) to the bride’s side. For the wedding, the groom’s side brings two sheep: one live and one cooked. Other wedding gifts include dairy products, more vodka and foodstuff. When the groom’s side sets off to bring the...

Nadezhda Tarancheeva, about how my father married my mother

Baasanjav Terbish
After my father’s first wife died, he wanted to get married again. He liked a girl named Angir who was Basli Shoshayev’s daughter from the Khongshud clan. But she did not want to marry him, for she considered him old. My father went to Angir’s older brother and threatened to hand him over to the Soviets as a former White officer. By blackmailing her older brother, my father secured a marriage consent.

Nikolai Khatuev, respect for in-laws

Baasanjav Terbish
Nikolai says that one of the oldest traditions among the Kalmyks is called ‘khadmnkh’ which requires that women show respect to their parents-in-law. According to this tradition, women should wear a headscarf, a long dress, and socks in the presence of their in-laws. Old people should always be treated with respect and given a cup of freshly cooked tea. Women also should not sit on the bed of their in-laws, nor pronounce the first names...

Narma Mergenova, about matchmaking and weddings

Baasanjav Terbish
Narma says that a gift package that the groom’s delegation gives to the bride’s parents during the engagement include a box of vodka and cooked sheep carcass (without the jaw and the neck). The groom’s delegation consists of about 5 people. During the engagement the two sides discuss the wedding i.e. the amount of food to be prepared, the type of presents to be given to each other, and duties for the people. On the...

Zoya Chokaeva, about weddings

Baasanjav Terbish
Zoya says that in the past weddings lasted longer, from a week up to a couple of weeks. People performed various rites and used that time to get to know each other better. Both the bride and the groom usually did not know each other before the wedding. During weddings, candies were scattered everywhere on the ground, which was a way of making offerings to local spirits. We, children, competed with each other to collect...

Olga Budzhalova, about some wedding rituals

Baasanjav Terbish
Upon arriving at her husband’s house, the bride goes around the house, and bows to the domestic altar. The people around are given boiled meat. Before entering the house, the bride steps over a fire, then enters and fills the candle on the altar with oil, and bows. The bride also brings with her a mattress which is put on the groom’s bed. The bride sits on it. This ritual is called batrkh ‘strengthening (the...

Yefrosinya Nimgirova, about my wedding

Baasanjav Terbish
Yefrosinya says that she did not have a proper wedding but only signed marriage papers. Her husband had no relatives, except his paternal aunt, to come to their wedding if they had had one. On that day she just invited a couple of acquaintances who uttered well-wishes. After some time her husband’s aunt also invited several families to their house where they had a small celebration. The guests drank vodka and uttered well-wishes to the...

Viktor Sandzhiev, about my son’s wedding

Baasanjav Terbish
Viktor talks about his son’s engagement and wedding in Moscow. Before the engagement, Viktor paid a visit to his future daughter-in-law’s family twice. During the first visit he got acquainted with the girl’s parents. The second visit involved a delegation, consisting of 11 people, who went to see the girl’s parents to discuss the wedding. The wedding began with a ‘long song’ after which the young couple entered the wedding venue. All guests offered well-wishes...

Evdokia Erdnieva, about post-wedding customs

Baasanjav Terbish
Evdokia says the following: At weddings people sit at the table according to their age. After the bride is brought into the groom’s house, she is introduced to all his relatives. The bride bows to each of them. She also offers them tea. The groom’s relatives give her presents – milk, butter, tea – and utter well-wishes. She is reminded to respect the groom’s relatives all the time. The bride should never sit on the...

Batyr Elistaev, about rituals to appease local deities

Baasanjav Terbish
Lama Batyr talks about how people in his village of Orgakin perform various rituals to appease local deities. He describes three such rituals. (1) He says that our world consists of five elements: earth, water, air, fire, and space. Our physical and astral bodies also consist of these elements. The Kalmyks have always had an understanding that they should give something back to nature. The ritual of offering to the spiritual masters of water (lakes,...

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