Hunting and Marriage: Environmental Perception and Pre-Linguistic Image Schemas in the Cognition of Early Hunter-Gatherers and Nomads in Central Eurasia
(60th Meeting of the PIAC, Székesfehérvár 2017)
This paper focuses on the semantic structure that came to existence from embodied human experience, reflected in the deer chasing narratives (ATU 401) of Central Eurasia, the related heroic epics (pre-eminently the Alpamysh tradition), certain initiation and calendric rituals (rites of passage) as well as in the iconography of the animal style art: “predator or a bird of prey in the snatch of a hoofed animal”. One can find this common logic among almost every indigenous Central Eurasian population of the last four thousand years, including the hunter-gatherer Tungusic and the equestrian (mostly Iranian, Turkic and Mongolic) peoples. This complex and time enduring cognitive symbol system was based on environmental perception, pre-linguistic image schemas and their embodiment in the cognition of early hunter-gatherers and their pastoral nomad descendants. Among the population of the Taiga region in the Neolithic Age, the primary source of nutrition was the hunting of wild reindeer and moose, and this circumstance has been reflected by the rock carvings on the riverside of Amur, Angara, Tom and other rivers in Siberia and by the oral narratives and rituals (Novik, Okladnikov, Vasilevich etc.).
The main idea behind the symbols of the oral tradition in question is always the metaphorical connection between hunting and marriage, consequently the fertility of the tribe or a community. The episode of bride kidnapping, which appears in the written and sketchy variant of the Hungarian origin legend, the so called “Wonderful Deer” in Latin script (Gesta Hunnorum et Hungarorum, 1282-85; Veszprémy and Schaer 1999: 17) has a semantic connection with the act of hunting: they are parallel to each other and the meaning and symbolical message of both is the concept of fertility.
The paper is based on the theories of cognitive anthropology, ritual theory, epic studies, as well as on recent field works.