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Buryat Peasant couple, ca. 1900 (Public Domain Image) (Public Domain Image)
Buryat Peasant couple, ca. 1900 (Public Domain Image) (Public Domain Image)

A Journey in Southern Siberia

by Jeremiah Curtin


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Jeremiah Curtin, writer, polyglot, ethnographer and folklorist, travelled in 1900 to central Siberia to study the religion and folklore of the Buryat people. The Buryats are one branch of the Mongols, who at one point conquered a large swath of Asia, Europe and India. Their home is around Lake Baikal in central Siberia. The first third of this book is a travelogue which describes Curtin's Siberian journey; this is a fascinating glimpse at Tsarist Siberia just before the Revolution. The last two-thirds of the book is an extraordinary record of the mythology of the Buryats. The lore is of great interest, resembling in its fluid, dreamlike narrative the Native American tales. There are many elements found elsewhere through Asia and Europe such as epic horses (and horse sacrifices), battles with giants, a World-mountain and 'the water of life', (see The Epic of Gilgamesh). There are also unique elements such as heroes with oracular books embedded in their bodies.

This one of the last of Curtin's books, published after his death in 1906. Etexts of the full text of other books by Curtin at this site are Myths and Folk-lore of Ireland, Tales of the Fairies and of the Ghost World and Creation Myths of Primitive America.

Title Page
Prefatory Note
Map of Siberia
Chapter I. The Birthplace of Mongol Activity
Chapter II. My Journey to the Buriats
Chapter III. Collecting Myths
Chapter IV. The Horse Sacrifice
Chapter V. Journey to the Island of Olkhon
Chapter VI. Sojourn on the ''Sacred'' Island
Chapter VII. A Birthday in Siberia
Chapter VIII. Customs of the Buriats
Chapter IX. The Origin of Shamans
Chapter X. The Gods of the Buriats

Chapter XI. Myths Connected With Mongol Religion

Gesir Bogdo. No. I
Gesir Bogdo. No. II
Gesir Bogdo. No. III
The Iron Hero
Ashir Bogdo

Chapter XII. Mongol Myths and Folk-Tales

Buruldai Bogdo, No. I
Buruldai Bogdo Khan. No. II
Húnkuvai and the Horse with Round Head
Varhan Tulai Hubun
Altin Shagoy
Yerente Khan and His Son Sokto
Alamaldjin and His Twin Sister Hanhai
The Twin Boys, Altin Shagoy and Mungun Shagoy