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The Peter The Great Museum of Anthropology and Ethnography
This mask made of copper embodies the patron-spirit of a territory inhabited by an Evenk patrimonial group. Such images were an important element of cult structures in the shape of a conic tent erected in the center of the territory inhabited by a patrimonial group.
The patron spirit was viewed by the Evenks as the main protector of the people who inhabited its territory. It provided for their well-being, promoted their economy, protected them from the evil spirits who caused diseases and death, and protected the children. Among the Evenk people who inhabited Transbaikalia, the cult of the patron spirit developed under the strong influence of the culture of Buryatia, Mongolia and Tibet where it was associated with the beliefs about patron-spirits of mountains. Cult conical structures made of stones (called oboo in Buryatia, ovoo in Mongolia and labtze in Tibet) were an embodiment of the sacred mountain protected by the patron-spirit. The cult of mountains originated from the earliest concepts of the universe embodied in the image of the World Mountain, whose top represented the celestial sphere, its foot – the world of people, and a cave or any other aperture was viewed as a pass to the lower world. Sacrifices to patron spirits were usually made once a year, in the summer, and only took place more often in the event of disasters. All people inhabiting the protected territory participated in the ritual that was performed by the most respected and knowledgeable elders. The ritual was followed by a feast, shooting competitions, fights and games. Collective sacrifices were important events in the life of the people inhabiting the protected territory, and were celebrated as solemn occasions. On territories populated by a shaman’s patrimonial group, the patron-spirit also served as the shaman’s ancestor spirit, which made it even more powerful.”