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Last Updated: Thursday, 28 April, 2005, 17:34 GMT 18:34 UK
In pictures: Shaman initiation
Vasily Dunkai. (All pictures by Dmitry Klimov)
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For the first time a public initiation has been held for a shaman (spiritual chief) in Russia's Far East. Vasily Dunkai is one of about 1,000 Udege people living in the Primorye region.
Dousing of Vasily Dunkai
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A highlight of the ritual was Vasily Dunkai's dousing in water from three different springs.
Initiation ceremony
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The water was heated over stones brought from five hills. First the stones were placed in a fire.
Food for the taiga gods
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During the initiation, the villagers left food at their place of worship for the taiga (virgin forest) gods.
The sacrificial cockerel
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A cockerel was sacrificed to the taiga spirits as part of the ritual.
Wooden statues (savens)
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Wooden statues (savens) for the spirits to live in were also prepared.
Pampushki and vodka for the spirits
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The spirits were then offered pampushki (fritters) and vodka.
The shaman's grandfather (second left) before the initiation ceremony
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The shaman's grandfather, 84-year-old Aleksandr Pionka (second left), helped with the ceremony. He alone knows all the fine details.
Children in the village of Krasny Yar
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All the residents of Krasny Yar village - including children - were keen to see the initiation, which lasted two days.


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