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Finno-Ugric and Siberian (Mythology of All…
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Finno-Ugric and Siberian (Mythology of All Races, Volume IV)

by Uno Holmberg

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I got this old book, copyrighted 1927, because I saw it heavily quoted by much later authors.

I came for the Siberian section, and have only read half the Finno-Ugric: that was description of religious practice -- bear festivals, memorial feasts. The Siberian isn't. The Siberian is almost exclusively on mythology: on cosmography and myths. In this area, it's a wonderful old book. Cogent, although he ranges widely and doesn't try too much to theme the similarities between peoples but looks at the differences. He reaches down into Central and Inner Asia, too. What struck me was his attempt to distinguish input from Indian, Iranian and other religions; I thought he did this sensibly and for the most part I was convinced he had the right of it. It's hard to dig back 'before the time of influence' -- there was no such time. Yet we want to see antiquity, don't we, if we can, and the indigenous? For an example, he is clear that God was not conceived as a Creator, until influence: We cannot, then, consider any of the above mentioned creation tales to be the invention of the Altaic race. Without doubt the idea of the Yakuts, "The world has always been," probably represents the original belief of the whole Altaic race. I've read more recent books and articles that are not so clear or not so concerned about what was native and what wasn't. He studies ideas of fate: how far are these Iranian, how far Altaic? And watches the in-creep of the very foreign ideas of dualism -- a God and a devil -- and of judgement/punishment: To true shamanism these ideas of restitution are completely alien.

This old transmission of ideas, on the other hand, throws up a cross-breed of stories that are simply fascinating in themselves, and no doubt more unexpected than if there were a 'pure' tradition.

On shamans, the book is poor. He complains of a lack of ethnographic material, for the subject; we've scraped up much more since his day. ( )
  Jakujin | Apr 11, 2013 |
I suppose that some of the work in this book, one of a 13 volume set written between 1916 and 1932 (reprinted in the 1960s, has been changed by more recent scholarship, but there is still nothing to equal this fantastic achievement. The set includes not only the more familiar myths such as Greek and Roman, but pretty well succeeds in its goal to include all of humanity. The text is extremely detailed but very readable; none of the turgid prose so often associated with academia. The volumes contain numerous illustrations, both in the text and as plates (mostly black & white.)
One of the most useful parts of the set is the final volume, an extremely detailed index, which allows the reader to pursue a theme, or even a topic as specific as the significance of belts, across all the volumes. The individual volumes do not have their own indices, but the tables of contents are fairly detailed. The books appear to have been issued without dust jackets. ( )
  juglicerr | Aug 10, 2009 |
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I suppose that some of the work in this set, written between 1916 and 1932 and reisused in the 1960s, and again around 2008-2010 has been changed by more recent scholarship, but there is still nothing to equal this fantastic achievement. It includes not only the more familiar myths such as Greek and Roman, but pretty well succeeds in its goal to include all of humanity. The text is extremely detailed but very readable; none of the turgid prose so often associated with academia. One of the most useful parts of the set is the 13th volume, an extremely detailed and completed index, which allows the reader to pursue a theme, or even a topic as specific as the significance of belts, across all the volumes.

The first twelve volumes deal with the mythology of particular regions, as noted in the titles. Although there is not an individual index, the table of contents is fairly detailed, so information can still be retrieved. The volumes include a number of plates, mostly in black-and-white, with line drawings included in the text. The hardcover books appear to have been issued without dust jackets
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