Family: People of One Fire




The knowledge of fire changed the rhythm and space of migrations, and opened the way to the Arctic. Fire warming a dwelling place became the hearth of home, at the same time creating a special sacral space of the house. Since the earliest times, ancient aboriginals of the Arctic had a concept of fire as of a well-disposed being. Later, fire ghosts got an anthropomorphic shape, appearing to Arctic peoples as an old woman,” “granny,” or “mistress of fire” (not necessarily an elderly one), or as “the master of fire” to the Yakuts. A special attitude towards fire was developed. One might not throw needles and other sharp objects in it, also fir and dwarf pine cones, “so as not to paste up with tar” the eyes of the mistress or master of fire. It was forbidden to chop firewood near fire and to adjust it in the hearth, to shed the blood of a bird or a beast “so as not to make it angry,” to spit into fire, and to dowse it with water. As fire was considered patron of family well-being, it was always, prior to eating, “fed” with fat, meat, and even with wine or vodka as rare foodstuffs. In doing so, they addressed fire appealing for help in economic activities. Caring for people, fire by its cracking could “speak” about good hunting and status of the deer herd, or warn about forthcoming troubles. Hearing this sound in the morning was a good omen, and in the evening, a bad one. Families tied with common fire were called “those having one fire,” or “people of one fire.” Such connection of family and family hearth was typical for all Arctic peoples. It is observed not only in reverential attitude to hearth fire whatever its form (open fire, fire in a cast-iron stove of today’s deer farmers, or fire in a fixed stove of the Pomors), but also in traditional wedding rituals accustoming the bride to the husband’s family hearth, and in feasts.


V.V. Gorbacheva – Author K.Yu. Solovyeva – Album Compiler