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Postgraduate student, Center of Typology and Semiotics of Folklore, Russian State University for Humanities
This paper if supported by the Grant of the Foundation for Basic Research project No. 14-18-00590-П” Texts and practices of folklore as a model of cultural tradition: comparative-typological study”.
The paper considers a complex of infancy cycle rites, namely the rites of the first forty days of a newborn’s life that are intended to protect it, help it overcome the liminal stage and include it into “this” world. Specific attention is given to the rite that marks the end of a forty-day period and ritual practices associated with changing the first infant shirt — “it koilek”, literally a “dog’s shirt” — for new clothes that symbolizes true birth and change of status. Drawing examples from her field experience, the author aims to demonstrate how an entire rite that had existed once was gradually reduced and simplified, while the contemporary tradition retains only a name for a ritual object and some debris of the initial rite. According to earlier ethnographic descriptions and testimonies of the informants, before putting on the first shirt on the child, a puppy was wrapped into it or was put into the cradle. This highly apotropaic practice, initially involving a direct contact with a dog, apparently caused nomination of the first shirt of the baby — “dog’s” shirt. In some cases, a direct contact with a dog became unnecessary, but the pet was brought into the house for the same protective purpose and the shirt was shown to the dog before putting it on the child. Subsequently, these ritual actions were reduced and completely ceased from the narratives about the structure of the rite. The name “dog’s shirt” for children’s first shirt is spread in the Kazakh folk tradition, preserving the memory about the ritual that existed in the past.
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