Maritime Koryak sacred fireboard
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Sacred Fireboard.
Maritime Koryak.
Bundled in furs, Maritime Koryak women and children sat in the light of blubber lamps inside their winter houses, protected against evil spirits by many charms, including the anthropomorphic fireboard. Fire was made by the friction of the spindle whirling on the board.

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The Koryak house was a sanctuary from the kalas (evil spirits who brought disease and death), who came from the darkness to attack the settlement, attempting to enter the house from underground through the hearth fire or by creeping down the ladder.

The family fire was a sacred and powerful family protector. Other guardians of family and hearth were kept in a shrine by the door and included the sacred fireboard. The fireboard was "dressed" in sacrificial sedge grass and "fed" by smearing fat on its mouth during ceremonies. Also kept in the shrine were various small wooden figures made from forked willow branches, which functioned in the hunting ceremonies that took place in the house, and, along with the fireboard, served to protect and increase the family's liveihood.

- Aron Crowell
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