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A lizard is an animal that belongs to the class reptiles, the squamous order, and the suborder lizards. In Latin, the suborder of the lizard is called Lacertilia, previously the name was Sauria. It is customary to call lizards all reptiles with legs, as well as some legless forms. The species diversity of lizards is very great: according to the latest estimates of scientists, today there are almost 6,000 species of tailed reptiles in the world. Representatives of various families differ in size, color, habits, habitat, some exotic species are listed in the Red Book. In nature, the most common reptile can be considered a real lizard, the average body length of which is 10-40 cm.
These reptiles are heroes of myths of different cultures and peoples.

Lizard: Udege MythologyLizards: Myths Across Cultures 7

The Udege considered lizards, snakes, and toads to be the embodiment of the spirits of their distant ancestors, who helped their relatives in the fight against evil spirits. They, like the Nanai, have preserved the ancient custom of decorating bird cherry cakes with images of these animals and patterns of spirals. The ritual belt of the Evenk, Nanai, and Udege shamans could have the appearance of a lizard or one or two snakes and “was considered a means of transportation in time.” In the ideas of the Tungus-speaking peoples, “the transition to another space-time is associated with the image of a vortex,” and the lizard and the snake were symbols of the transition. The attributes of the Udege shamans were masks and headdresses depicting zoomorphic images of shamanic guardian spirits. The Udege believed that the spirit of the helper was embodied in the mask-image itself, personifying the ancestor.

Lizards, frogs, snakes, spiders, and birds, which served as magical weapons to protect against evil spirits, were depicted on the shamanic mask: “The iron spider tongai enveloped the shaman with an iron net and created an artificial cloud for disguise; the iron lizard yhela, moving at high speed, went on reconnaissance and stung evil spirits with a forked tongue, like a flame; the yata frog drowned out the steps of the shaman with the sounds of its voice; the iron horns of a deer served as a military weapon; a gakha bird with an iron beak warned of danger. ” A wooden staff, in the lower end of which a spear was mounted, supplemented the shaman’s armament, allowing him to repel the attack of evil spirits, and the lizard, drawn or carved on the stiff shaft, timely informed the shaman about all the unclean forces that threatened him during the ritual.

It is known that a serious illness was a sign of the calling of a new shaman by the spirits. Having recovered and having learned from a mature shaman to beat a tambourine and sing shamanic songs, the young shaman began to treat the sick. At first, he was approached with minor illnesses, but as the number of those who were cured increased, the authority of the new shaman increased. The treatment took place with the help of long shavings, which the shaman cut from the willow. He tied it around his head, elbows, knees, and ankles. During the ritual, evil spirits, diseases, and dirt allegedly flowed down from the shavings. The shaman took them “on himself.” As a token of gratitude, the healed gave him a bib embroidered with images of lizards, birds, and toads, and the relatives of the healed gave him aprons, skirts, pants, robes, and shoes. It was believed that the shaman’s shoes, with snakes and lizards embroidered on them, gave his legs flexibility and speed. Before rituals over the sick, the shaman hinted to his relatives that he would like to have such shoes, which he received as a reward. When the shaman could not determine the cause of the disease, he advised the relatives of the sick person to make a small wooden idol, which was always made in the same way – with a round head and two arms and legs.

Sevehi mangni was also made to guard the house. It was made only at the direction of the shaman from a stump of wood in the form of a man, with shamanic mirrors of roofing felts marked on the sides and the chest, protecting the shaman from the arrows of evil spirits and making him invulnerable. Frogs and Ehela lizards were carved on the body, which meant that the Sevehi were alive. This idol also helped the shaman in the ritual and was called Mangni (from the Udege “manga” is translated as “strong”). His idol is described as an anthropomorphic sculpture with a small spherical cap on its head with a wide blade at the top. “Mangni is hollow, which means hunger. It must devour the devil. The heart is made in the form of a bird. It must flutter like a bird tied to its legs. On the side is the image of a toad. Without this sign, the Sevehi will be a lifeless piece of wood. Lizards are carved on the legs – symbols of fast movement. Legs should move as fast as lizards run on a warm sunny day. Hands are wrapped in snakes so that they are not brittle; there are six fingers on his hands so that he holds a spear more firmly in his hand, etc. . … “. Among the Udege, there was also a bear-headed sevehi, who helped in the hunt for a wild animal. On the body of the idol, two lizards were depicted, playing the role of hunting dogs.

Lizard: Mythology of the Far EastLizards: Myths Across Cultures 8

The Evenk shaman had many helper spirits who helped him in his travels across the three worlds of the universe. Each spirit had its own specification. Thus, the ancestors served as helper spirits in the upper world, deer, elk, beasts of prey, ravens, and even a tree as assistants to shamans in the middle world, i.e. on earth, and a mammoth, a snake, a fish, a lizard, and a frog, along with the souls of dead people, are in the lower world. However, the idea of ​​the benefits brought by the lizard was preserved only in shamanic rituals, while in the Evenk heroic-archaic epic and some folklore texts, its image reveals a negative connotation precisely because of its connection with the underworld. Thus, in the heroic legend “Brave Sodani the Bogatyr”, lizards, together with beetles, act as a manifestation of the power of the evil spirit of the underworld. The strength of the hero manifests itself in anger, filling and bursting him, instantly increasing the physical parameters of the body. In response to this, the enemy of the hero demonstrates his “strength”: “The whole field was then filled with a multitude of beetles, a multitude of escaping lizards.” The power of an evil spirit is made up of many inhabitants of the underworld who are under its power – evil spirits of diseases in the form of lizards and the souls of the dead in the form of beetles. In the ideas of many peoples, the souls of the dead could have the appearance of insects. For example, the Chukchi saw the external image of the soul in the beetle. The Ob Ugrians, Selkups, and Nenets believed that the soul of the deceased turns into a water beetle. According to Mansi’s beliefs, the soul of a deceased man turned into a beetle, and the soul of a woman turned into a spider. Therefore, the presence of beetles in the underworld along with lizards is not surprising.

The negative aspect of the lizard was clearly manifested in the description of the everyday situation, given in one of the folklore texts published by L.V. Ozolin in the Orok-Russian dictionary. All peoples who lived in the harsh conditions of the northern climate especially appreciated the ability of the future wife and mother to manage the household: make skins, sew clothes from them, decorate them with embroidery-amulets, understand edible plants, etc. The skill of the bride and the benefits that she will bring the future husband to the household, in the cited text it is transmitted through the image of the deer brought by the bride as a dowry. And the uselessness of a rich daughter-in-law for the household is expressed in the frogs, toads, and lizards brought by her in a basket. Of course, this motif is based on the idea of ​​the upper world of warmth and sun, the zoomorphic personification of which was a deer, while the cold lower world, which serves as the seat of the souls of the dead and evil spirits of disease, seemed to be filled with lizards, frogs, beetles, and snakes.

In the shamanism of the Tungus-Manchu peoples of Siberia and the Far East, 5 categories of shamans are known, associated with animal images and with the power of a shaman. Among the Evenks, shamans of all five categories were kamlās, among the Nanai and Udege – only a part. In the formation of the shaman, symbols of the transition – lizards, frogs, or snakes – played an important role, so their images were applied to one of the first shamanic attributes – a mallet. Among the Nanai shamans, lizards, snakes, and frogs were the helper spirits of the lower world. In the upper heavenly world, this role was played by tigers, moose, red deer, deer, and other animals. Images of all helper spirits were considered their repositories. They were sewn on shaman’s cloaks and mittens; on the shaman’s skirt “two tigers, two dragons, many snakes, lizards, and frogs” were painted. In Nanai shamanism, an important role was played by the idea of ​​a shaman tree – potoha mo, created, according to one version, by Khadau himself. This tree appeared to be very tall, touching the top of the sky. Sacred shamanic attributes grew on it, but the most remarkable thing was that its bark “represented an ever-stirring living mass, consisting of frogs, lizards, and snakes.” The shaman himself was considered the earthly counterpart of this tree.

The sacred ancestral trees that each Nanai clan possessed were associated with the image of the lizard. The image of the spirit of Piuhe living in the trunk of the ancestral tree was carved at the bottom of the trunk. He appeared before people in the anthropomorphic image of a luminous old man, but his most ancient origin appeared in the images of spirits – his sons and daughters. They could appear before people not only in an anthropomorphic form but also in a zoomorphic one – in the form of lizards, toads, frogs, and snakes. The Nanai believed that in the branches of the family tree the souls of children who were to be born to women of this genus sat in the form of birds. Very often, on the wedding gowns of the Nanai, Ulchi, Oroch, and Uilta, a pair of progenitor trees were depicted with the iconic animals of the three worlds.

Lizard: Kets and Selkups MythologyLizards: Myths Across Cultures 9

Images of lizards and snakes are widespread in the Trans-Urals and Western Siberia. Lizards and snakes correlated with the image of the soul, and the chum, in addition, associated with them ideas about their inherent wisdom. This is not surprising, since being the shaman’s helper spirit, the lizard, like the snake, was able to penetrate the most hidden nooks of the underworld. It was they who first of all knew the roads to the underworld, so they were indispensable assistants to the shaman, accompanying him, suggesting the path that could best lead to the goal, warning of the dangers that awaited the shaman in his travels in the afterlife. With this knowledge of the underworld, ideas about the wisdom inherent in snakes and lizards were associated. In addition, the ability of the lizard to climb high on trees, which, according to the Kets, also made it possible to see much of what was hidden, made the lizard involved not only the underworld, into which it entered through cracks in the ground and cracks between stones, but also the air element … Such omniscience was important for the shamanic spirit-helper. Images of lizards and snakes on the shamanic attributes of the Kets and Selkups not only helped shamans in their travels through the underworld but also protected them from evil spirits.

Kets attached an image of a lizard to each shamanic mallet. The mallet itself was called khat-bul (tambourine leg). It was made of cedar, covered from the striking side with a piece of reindeer skin, and from the back, it was painted into two parts: the black part represented the earth, red or blue – the sky. An iron or pewter image of a Tuli (lizard) was attached between them. At the end of the beater, an image of a face was carved. In the event of the death of the shaman, the image of the lizard was removed from the beater and kept by the heirs, and the beater itself, along with a tambourine, was hung on a tree near the grave. It happened that old men and women kept the mallet along with its image, but this was possible only if the shaman had no heirs.

In the drawings of the Kets, a stylized tree similar to a shaman’s rod is often found. His image was used to decorate the over-door plank of the boat’s cabin, sometimes they painted with paint on the birch-bark door of the chum, or the back plank of the cargo sled. It was believed that the lizard is kind to a person, warns him of danger. Fairy-tale heroes, fleeing danger, took the form of a lizard.

The negative aspect of the lizard in the representations of the Kets was that its image could take on the evil spirit of the disease that penetrated the human body. And the Selkups, like the chum, represented the spirit of the disease in the form of a lizard. To heal the patient, the shaman instilled this evil spirit in himself, then spit it out. It was believed that in this way the disease was removed from a person. If a lizard, snake, or frog crossed the path of the Selkup, they had to be killed, because otherwise, the person had to die. The Itelmen also had a similar idea of ​​the lizard, who believed that the lizard was the spy of the lord of the underworld and informs him about all the people who were to die.