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The heART of Ritual


Chysh Khan' - Siberian Santa

Chysh Khan''(Kış Han) - The King of the Winter / The Bull of Frost / The Cold Keeper of the Siberian Turkics, Sakha (Yakut) Republic, Northeast Siberia

'Chysh Khan is said to be a modern incarnation of the mythical image of Yakut Bull of Winter. Chysh Khan’s residence is located at the Pole of Cold in Oimyakon. Every year fairy-tale characters from all over the world arrive to Oimyakon to visit Chysh Khan and to symbolically take over the Cold from the Keeper’s hands and to share their experience of the current New Year preparations.

According to Yakut legends every autumn the Bull of Winter comes out of the Arctic Ocean and gives out the cold. In spring on the first St. Athanasius day (around March, 7) it casts one of its horns and on the second ''St. Athanasius'' day (around March, 22/ Spring Equinox) the Bull sheds of his second horn. Then his head knocks down, and by the time of ice break his carcass is carried back to the Arctic Ocean.

It is supposed among historians that the Bull of Winter image in Yakut mythology and folklore is emerged as affected by the impression mammoth remains had on ancient Yakuts of Siberia. At times of Yakut migration to the Middle Lena it could have been found everywhere frozen in the ice.

The Bull of Frost dwells in Tomtor, Oymiakon ulus, which is the coldest place in Siberia. Winter lasts for 9 months in Tomtor, where the lowest temperature registered in Tomtor is -71,2 degrees Celsius. Due to the climate, there are no bulls or cows there.

Scholars confirm that Bull of Frost is actually a Mammoth, which is important personage in shamanic traditions.For example, a large wooden representation of Mammoth was in a western "gallery" of Evenk shaman's tent etc.

Recently Yakut Bull of Frost-Mammoth befriended Siberian Grandpa Frost (Ded Moroz) and became popular in Siberia. However some Christians are not happy to see their children playing with "Shaman's Mammoth".

Notably the mammoth and the bull make up two aspects of the Bull of Winter image, one is of unknown animal and the other is of long forgotten ancient Yakut deity of the Bull (Bug-noyon).

Whereas according to native mythology all spirits, ''itchi'', are personified, i.e. the Yakuts communicate with them, make sacrifices, conduct ceremonies in order to win their favourable disposition, the Bull of Winter image is deprived of all this.

As consistent with Sakha (Yakut) traditional mythology, the Bull is the incarnation of inevitable forces of nature (frost, cold and winter) therefore it comes from the North out of the water (of the Ocean). It is portrayed as a huge blue spotted white bull with enormous transparent horns and frosty breath. When it walks round, everything freezes over, so all humans and animals suffer from the cold at the time.

By the end of January the winter and the frost reach an all-time high level, so on the day just before the end of January the Mighty Eagle, the child of the warm skies, comes from the South, shovels off the snow from its nest and emits his first ringing screaming. Because of that screaming, the Bull of Winter retreats: it alternately loses both his horns and his head...

The Sakha (Yakuts) are a nomadic Turkic people indigenous to Sakha (Yakutia) in Northeast Siberia. The Sakha Republic is one of the ten autonomous Turkic Republics within the Russian Federation.

In the 17th century Russia began to move into their territory and annexed it, imposed a fur tax, and managed to suppress several Sakha (Yakut) rebellions between 1634 and 1642.

Russian brutality in collection of the pelt tax (yasak) sparked a rebellion among the Sakha (Yakuts) and also Tungusic-speaking tribes.Russian forces, responded with a reign of terror: native settlements were torched and thousands of people were tortured and killed. The Sakha (Yakut) population alone is estimated to have fallen as a result by 70 percent in the 17th century. The discovery of gold and, later, the building of the Trans-Siberian Railway, brought ever-increasing numbers of Russians into the region. By the 1820s almost all the Sakha (Yakuts) had been forcefully converted to the Russian Orthodox church although they retained, and still retain, a number of Shamanic practices.'


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