‘Evolution of the Black Faith (Shamanism) of Yakuts’ is a work by ethnographer Vasily Filippovich Trishchansky (1845-1898), who spent the last 12 years of his life in political exile in Yakutia. The book was written in 1895; then, the author has edited it for two years. The final version was published in 1902, after his death, by E.A. Pekarsky, whom T. left his papers.
The work is a detailed essay on Yaukutian Shamanism. In the introduction, N. Katanov noted, that it was similar to Shamanism of other Siberian and Altai peoples; and he saw the fundamental importance of the work by T. in it.
The author started his considerations with the remark that, in spite of converting into Christianity, which stayed rather nominal, Yakuts kept their traditional beliefs. He gave a short characteristic of the religion of Yakuts: their belief in two souls, the absence of veneration of ancestors, and the material character of the afterlife. The author demonstrated his acknowledgment with the work by V. M. Mikhailovsky (Shamanism), and tried to compare the conceptions of soul of the Samoyedic people (sӳr) and Yakuts (kut). In the chapter on enlivening and spiritualization, he shown the difference between those conceptions and marked their sequential shaping in the primordial conscience, as well as their link to psychological reactions. There were also noteworthy thoughts on the distribution of Yakuts in regions on the base of similarity and dissimilarity of their beliefs with the beliefs of other peoples.
The author explained all basic concepts of the Yakutian language connected to religious discourse, and tried to restore their etymology. He also tried to reconstruct the ‘evolution of beliefs’ on the base of linguistic data. He described Yakutian gods using folk tales collected at the local population, and from the research of D. Banzarov, I. Khudiakov, A. Sleptsov, and others. The author classified gods and spirits and explained their interrelations. He also characterized venerated animals and birds and general vies of Yakuts, their conceptions of the afterlife. He gave a description of funeral rituals and sacrifices and feasts. He noted that there was no information on the Yakutian cult of ancestors; but he mentioned, that Yakuts had a fear of dead men. He also made a special essay on Shamans and their attributes.
Ethnographer S. A. Tokarev marked such merit of the book by T., as setting the problem of the evolution of the religion of Yakuts: their migration from the south and further northwards led to changes in the system of their beliefs.