June 28, 2018

Hello again! I am continuing my previous post, on the topic of Yhyakh in Sakha!

Let’s start today’s post by exploring the meaning of Yhyakh from ancient times:

Tradition claims that the first Yhyakh was arranged by Elley Boothur. He arrived in the Tuymaada field around in between 1128 and 1130. Here is a quote from a text written by the scientist G.V. Ksenofontov, translated from the words of the inhabitants of the Kangalassky Uluss in [1921]: “Elley poured a drink kymys (a traditional drink from fermented mares milk) into a choroon (a special bowl with legs) and also put in pieces of butter and a small amount of horsehair, then he faced to the east and lifted the ‘Choroon’ bowl upwards. He then approached the fire and poured out a little bit of Kymys from the bowl three times, as a treat to Yurung Aiyy Toyon (name of Sakha pantheon’s ‘creator’ deity). He turned slightly to the right of the sun and picked up his bowl in honor of Khomporoon Khotoi Aiyy (the name of another deity in the pantheon) and again thrice poured Kymys into the fire. Then, turning to the right while holding the bowl, calling to Djehegei Aiyy Toyon (another pantheon deity), he lifted the bowl seven times. While Elley was performing the ritual, people saw white birds circling beneath the clouds above the Urals. Since then and continuing until this day, the Sakha people having first learned from Elley, are in the habit of raising the Choroon bowl and remembering Aiyy Toyon”.

In the old days, Yhyakh was recognized as the Sakha new year. People praised the coming of the summer and the fertility of the land, preparing for haymaking on which they relied to keep their farm through the long winter. When the Sakha people lived in Alaas (fields), the rich part of population arranged a holiday for all the countrymen. On this day, cattle were slaughtered, kymys was prepared from mare’s milk, the wise old men sang olonkho and all joined together in the circle of dance ohuakhay. Men would compete in contests of strength and dexterity in which the strongest and fastest won prizes, there were also horse races and many other popular events. The meaning of the Yhyakh celebrations was that on that day the people were united, regardless of whether they were rich or poor.

In the early 90s, Yhyakh was declared a state holiday in Yakutia. Now it is a symbol of unity and a holiday of friendship for all residents of a multinational Republic. The national holiday of Ysyakh holds a unique spiritual wealth for the Sakha people, symbolizing the triumph of life and nature in the land of Olonkho. It is a holiday that reflects the traditional picture of the world as well as the world outlook of Sakha; a holiday that everyone is looking forward to all year long. It clearly shows the entirety of national colour and folklore of the people: language, mythology, dances, music, rituals and customs, national clothes, food, festive utensils, crafts, architecture and folk philosophy.

In accordance with ancient traditions, Yhyakh is arranged within a ritual circle of chechir (young birches). In the center of the festive circle there is a there is a SERGE (originally, it was a hitch for horses, then later become a totem made from carved birch wood). According to the traditional concepts of Sakha, the SERGE is the symbol of the World Tree and the axis of the whole Universe. Establishing this, Sakha culture has constructed a model of the Universe as a nine branched Sacred Tree Aar Kuduk Mas exude white grace. In our time, the symbolism of the serge has expanded, and it now also embodies the meaning of friendship and unity of all peoples inhabiting our northern republic. Usually, near the serge, a circle is constructed — tyuhyulge, fenced with multi-colored salamaa (string made from horsehair decorated with many small pieces of fabric and with hanging decorations carved from silver birch skin). In the center of the tyuhyulge, there is an altar in the form of a miniature uraha (summer house) with Aar bagakh (like a carpet of handmade fabric, for sitting) with ritual utensils, as well as vessels filled with kymys. Kymys in Sakha’s ancient culture is a sacred beverage and symbol of ilge – the white grace of abundance, in which the kut-sur (soul) of all unborn people, horses and cows is enclosed. During Yhyakh, through the drinking of kymys people are introduced to the higher mysteries of being. People drink kymys from a sacred vessel: the ritual choroon bowl.

Since ancient times Yhyakh is the most awaited holiday of the year — especially for women! Sakha women would sew beautiful hand embroidered coats and dresses through the entire long winter, then specifically in the Yhyakh celebration, they would demonstrate their amazing creations to people. Sakha clothing is a whole topic, which needs separate attention.

These days I am sewing my khaladaay dress by hand; I will definitely will share about it in a future blog post!

The photography from my family archive. Besteekh village, Khangalass Uluus, Republic of Sakha. The picture captures Yhyakh celebration pre 90s.

As a Sakha woman away from my homeland, I have not attended the Yhyakh holiday in the Sakha for a couple of years. I don’t miss the solstice celebration itself however, as every year I am privately performing the most important part of the ritual of Yhyakh with the people in my life. The most important part is meeting the sunrise early on the solstice morning. The main things of note are saying ‘thank you’ for the past year and welcoming the new year, and asking for blessings and wishes. In this ritual I feed the earth and river, putting homemade pancakes (in an odd number) on the earth near the water (river) in a circular shape (placed clockwise). In the middle of circle, instead of kymys I use milk and butter. Also, in order to feed the sky, I feed fire; the fire has a spirit of its own, which delivers my requests up to the Aiyy deities.

To know if you will receive blessings, nature will give you sign. In Sakha belief, after the ceremony people will see white birds, traditionally it would be the white crane or other graceful such birds. That’s the sign of acceptance and connection to nature. I mentioned in part A on Yhyakh that we saw five white swans, flying together in a beautiful form. It was a powerfully beautiful moment, which happened exactly at the moment of the ritual’s completion.

In Caton, UK. On the 21st of June at around 4.50 am we saw five large swans flying … for one second I thought …are they cranes?

Yhyakh is celebrated for two consecutive days. On the night from the first to the second, the rite of meeting the sun passes. It is believed that with the first rays of the rising sun there is a magical convergence of the world of people and the world of the gods. Through the rays people are charged with energy and strength.

Here is our UDAGANuniverse podcast again, in which we discuss all sorts of topics connected with Yhyakh and Summer in Sakha!

Saydyy Kuo

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