June 21, 2018

Maybe you already noticed from my previous BLOG POSTS that I am sometimes using the word ‘Yhyakh’. I am dedicating today’s writing to the topic of ’Yhyakh’. My reason for this is that today, my BLOG posting day falls by chance on exactly 21st of June! Every year on the 20-21st of June in a far away part of the earth, people are celebrating the summer solstice in a serious way — they call it Yhyakh!

My family lived opposite to a large local park in Taatta Uluus. From my childhood I remember many Yhyakh events happening there! The types of celebration can depend — sometimes people became crazy during the hot days and drank a lot, but the most interesting parts for me were always the opening ceremony and meeting the sunrise at 3 am! I am writing here from the perspective of being a Sakha woman who has experienced this celebration through my life. I have also been careful to check the accuracy of any information here.

Firstly I’ll discuss the origin of the word ‘Yhyakh’ and what kind of meaning it has:

The word YHYAKH comes from the verb Ys: “to scatter; sow; sprinkle; spatter”, Yhar: “he or she scattering now”, Yhyy: “the scattering”, Onu yhyakh tustaakhkhyn: “You must scatter that one”. Considering this, it might have come from the summer solstice celebration ritual of scattering Kymys over the land and onto fire (while a respected community member performs ‘Algys’ blessings). Kymys is a fermented alcoholic drink made from the milk of horses and is an important traditional drink in Sakha. Algys is a blessing, with words dedicated to a specific subject and with certain powers and effects. In addition, the most important and sacred meaning of the word Yhyakh is ‘abundance’.

Yhyakh. Painted by national painter  of the Republic of Sakha, Timofey Stepanov. 

In general, Yhyakh is the most important and main celebration of the Republic of Sakha. People are waiting for this event through the whole winter, which is of course so long, severe and cold. It is a family celebration — for Sakha people it is an opportunity to spend time together and with other relatives. From my experience, I remember that during each Yhyakh days our far relatives would come and stay. Even if there was no space to stay, they would camp in our garden. The whole night before Ysyakh I wouldn’t sleep, firstly because of the white nights (daylight all through the night time) and second because of the excitement of Yhyakh! It is a big celebration where people come from over the whole of the Republic to see concerts, exhibitions, musical events such as Khomus contests, fairs and many other interesting local things! At the beginning of the event, there will be an opening ceremony – a white shaman would come and perform the ritual for asking blessings from the upper worlds, from the sky and from the universe ‘Yehee Aiyylar’. He would take permission to make the event happen, finally feeding the earth and the spirit of fire after the long winter. Every land, river, forest, wind and other aspect of nature has its own spirit and soul. To be alive, healthy and safe, people are feeding and asking permission from these spirits before doing big things such as events. In the evening time, people would watch horse races — people love horse races and are betting on them. There would be concerts, lotteries and many many things in an open field. The most important part of Yhyakh is meeting the sunrise (which we call ‘meeting the sun’). This is the night part of the ritual. Yhyakh can last two or three days after the main ritual and this format is common to all modern Yhyakh events.

These days, people celebrate Yhyakh all over Sakha, in many different locations. For example, while Yhyakh is happening in Taatta uluus it can also be happening in Khangalass uluus. Some people even visit many Yhyakhs, because each region’s Yhyakh has it’s own distinctive local character. The main Yhyakh event of the entire republic is Yhyakh held in Yakutsk. People come from all over the republic to attend this event, which is much bigger and is attended by the president of the Republic of Sakha.

       Yhyakh in Yakutsk city, 2009. I am here in a blue waist ‘khahyachchyk’ and white dress ‘khaladaay’. On the left side of me is our president of the republic E.A. Borisov (since this time he left his post) and from me on the right side is a man wearing ‘Bootur’s outfit from heroic epic Olonkho. We are all dancing the circle dance Ohuakhay, the dance is an ancient ritual dedicated to the sun, which later become a uniting and joyful dance.  

Summer starts on June (Bes Yia, the meaning is ‘Month of Pine’ – every month has its own name with unique meaning). Since ancient times Sakha people have divided the year into two pieces, old and new. From January to June is considered the old part of year, then the new part starts from June. I will talk about the name of each month and the Sakha calendar in my later posts.

This year we (UDAGANuniverse) met sunrise in Caton, England, on the 20th night to the 21st morning. Sunrise has a special energy during those days of summer solstice. We feeded fire, earth and sky and water, all the elements of existence. It was a special event for us, a private sunrise meeting. Instead of cranes, we saw five flying white swans, which flew majestically in formation in the early morning. I’m thankful to my family for arranging it and celebrating nature’s connection to us together, like in Yhyakh.

I have much more to tell about Yhyakh, but this text is becoming long! I will continue on this topic next week, where I will speak about details of the ceremony.

We have also released a podcast about Yhyakh with much more information and discussion, which you can listen to here:

Saydyy Kuo

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