Backstory of Ysyakh
Ysyakh - derived from the Yakut verb ys, which means sprinkle.
According to legend, the first Ysyakh was held by the ancestor of the Yakut people Elley Bootur on the sacred site of Yus Khatyng in the valley of Tuymaada, in the southern part of which the city of Yakutsk is now located. According to legends, Elley arrived in Yakutia from the south, fleeing from wars. Over time, he settled down here and started a family, then it was the first time he held the Ysyakh festival. In 1921, the famous Yakut ethnographer G.V. Ksenofontov wrote down the words of a resident of Kangalassky ulus about the legends of that time: “Elley put some koumiss in a choron, added pieces of butter, stepped onto a footcloth of horse leather and turned his face to the east, raised the bowl up. Then he went to the fire and poured a little koumiss on it from the bowl three times as a treat to the Yuryung Aiyy Toyon. He turned slightly to the right in the course of the sun and raised his bowl in honor of Khomporuun Khotoy Aiyy and also poured koumiss into the fire three times. Turning further to the right, he held the bowl, calling Jesegey Aiyy Toyon. In total, he lifted the bowl seven times. While Elley was performing the rite, people saw a white bird that circled under the clouds above the urasa. So, up to the present time, the Yakuts, having first learned from Elley, are in the habit of lifting the bowl and commemorating Aiyy Toyon.”
From that day forth, until the formation of the Soviet Union, the feast of white abundance, Ysyakh, was held throughout Yakutia. Times have changed after the communists came to power, who proclaimed the widespread abandonment of various ritual cults. Ysyakh in many districts and villages of Yakutia turned into a cultural event in the Soviet spirit, but still, some districts have preserved the traditions of its holding.
There is one amusing story. In 1945, after the victory over the fascists many regional centers of Yakutia hosted traditional Ysyakh, but with one difference - instead of the ritual of Aar Bagakh, which was the central venue for ceremonies, a tribune was built with a huge portrait of Joseph Stalin, under which they put a choron with koumiss after hosting the algys ceremony.
In honor of the onset of the long-awaited summer on the day of the summer solstice, which falls on June 20-21, a national holiday, Ysyakh is held in Yakutia. The holiday personifies the triumph of the unity of nature and man, spiritual principles, respect for national traditions. On this day, the Yakuts hang up salama in the beautiful area, perform a ritual of purification, treat guests with koumiss.
The national holiday of Ysyakh is a unique spiritual wealth of the Sakha people, through which the entire national color and folklore of the people are clearly manifested: language, mythology, dance, music, rituals and customs, national clothes, food, holiday utensils, crafts and architecture, folk philosophy. In accordance with the ancient traditions, Ysyakh is performed inside the ritual circle of chechir (young birch trees). In the center of the festive circle is set the horse standing - serge with arched decorations of birch trees. According to the traditional ideas of Sakha, serge is a symbol of the World Tree and the axis of the whole Universe. In our time, the symbolism of the serge has expanded, and the serge represents friendship and unity of all the peoples of our northern republic.
The place for the celebration is called tyusyulge. Tyusyulge is decorated by multi-colored salama from bundles of horsehair, pieces of cloth and birch bark. Ysyakh begins with an ancient ritual - the blessings of those present and appealing to the highest deities to bestow grace upon all. For this purpose, the Algyschyt (Master of Ceremonies), who is accompanied by nine young men and eight girls, kindles a fire, presents a treat to the deity of fire, sprinkles the earth with koumiss. Those present also join his requests to the highest deities: when the final words of Algyschyt are heard, everyone stands up and raises hands up, repeating after him: Urui! Aikhal! Tuskul! Then comes the turn of the ritual of koumiss drinking. Koumiss in the representation of Sakha is a sacred drink and a symbol of ilge - the white abundance, which contains the kut-syur (soul) of all unborn people, horses and cows. During Ysyakh, people get a feel for the higher mysteries of life through drinking koumiss. They drink koumiss from the national bowl of choron.
Revival of traditions
After the collapse of the Soviet Union, a wave of declarations of sovereignties swept across the country, and with them the revival of the culture of the multinational people of the new Russia. Thanks to the preservation of the traditions of Ysyakh in some areas of the republic, the sacred holiday of the Yakut people was able to be revived. Culture workers, scholars, folk craftsmen, and respectable elders restored most of the Ysyakh rituals in a relatively short time. The largest of the Ysyakhs - Ysyakh of Tuymaada, which is held on the very spot where the algys first sounded, the Yus Khatyng area, gathers hundreds of thousands of people every year.
Ysyakh as a hallmark of the republic
One of the features of the national holiday is that it is decentralized. It can be celebrated anywhere. For example, in Yakutia, Ysyakh is celebrated in all settlements independently of each other. Also, due to the fact that it should be held on the days of the summer solstice, they all happen almost at the same time. For already several years, every summer the Yakut algys sounds in Moscow, Khabarovsk, the United States of America, and New Zealand. Last year, the first European Ysyakh was held in Serbia, this year it gathered European Yakuts in Latvia.
Ysyakh becomes the hallmark of our republic, its uniqueness lies in the fact that one holiday can tell and most importantly show the culture of an entire nation, its world view, and history.
By Nikolai KYCHKIN