Page:The Folk-Lore Journal Volume 7 1889.djvu/73

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THE BELIEFS AND RELIGIOUS CEREMONIES OF THE MORDVINS.[1]

SO far as can be traced back historically, the Mordvins have always occupied the territory on both sides the Surà, between the Oka and the Volga, in the governments of Nizhni-Novgorod, Simbirsk, Pensa, Tambof, and Saràtof. Their number amounts to about half a million, but they are divided into two sections, called Ersa and Moksha. The former are the more numerous, and are chiefly found in the first two governments. The Mordvins are also found in considerable numbers in the governments of Kazàn, Samara, and Orenburg, but are believed to have extended themselves so far in more recent times. From a linguistic point of view they belong to the Finns, and of all the eastern members of the family they live furthest south, and are nearest to the Finns proper as regards language. The number of words they have in common is very considerable, apart from the similarity of grammatical structure. Such are—bow, arrow, boat, oar, bear, beaver, dog, calf, skin, marrow, honey, dough, pestle, mortar, tongs, house, weaving, twisting, span, ell, summer, autumn, cloud, son-in-law, daughter-in-law, &c. Well into the last century the Mordvins were still heathens, and the last public act of sacrifice on record took place as late as the year 1813.

The information about to be given was originally published by the

  1. In transcribing foreign words I have used the following symbols i
    i = the thick Russian i, sometimes transcribed by ui.
    Zh = French j.
    Sh = English sh.
    Ch = English ch.
    Kh = Scotch ch.