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East Asia

The water spirit of the Yakuts. In the Lena River valley, as throughout Siberia and Mongolia, it was believed from earliest times that the universe was governed by spirits. Trees, mountains, rivers, lakes, animals: every ‘living’ thing was animated by an in-dwelling spirit, and decline and death was represented as the spirit's absence. The Altai Tartars use the word kut to denote the soul of both human beings and natural objects. Master spirits are those with authority over other spirits, like Ukulan-tojon, lord of all the waters. Others have charge of a particular species or a type of landscape. Always an object of special reverence in North Asia, water was treated with extra respect by the Mongols. Sacrifices were made to effect a safe river crossing, while the unkempt appearance of the invaders of China can be attributed to the taboo on washing themselves or having an article of clothing washed in running water. Moreover, it is the general belief of the northern peoples that certain rivers empty into enormous icy gulfs ruled over by maleficent spirits who devour human souls.

Subjects: Religion.

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