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The Tunguska Event: Eyewitness Account

The Tungus (Evenki) tribesmen from the mouth of the Chunya on the Stony Tunguska River

Interviewed by Innokentiy Mikhaylovich Suslov, 1926.[1]

The Tungus have only one expression for the thunder — Agdy — by which they also describe the Old Man, the Lord of the Thunder, as well as all the thunderbirds that come down to earth and cause the thunder. The Agdy birds are as big as black grouses, are made of iron, and their eyes are fiery. The thunder arises from their flight above the earth and their eyes flash like lightning. All the Agdy have close relationships to certain shamans... Some old shamans were great friends of the thunder, and this friendship has passed to their descendants. That is why any wicked shaman can call the Agdy in order to do harm to a group of people he hates or even to a whole clan....

For a long time, there had been tribal feuds between a group of Tungus clans in the basin of the Stony Tunguska and clans living along the right tributaries of the Lower Tunguska.... Then one of the shamans called the Agdy to destroy the hated enemies.

In the early morning of the 30th of June 1908 an interminable legion of Agdy came flying down upon the lands of the Shanyagir clan and brought disaster to many families of the Shanyagir: Some tents flew into the air, higher than the forest, and the people sleeping inside suffered from bruises. From [the herd of] Andrey Onkoul, a Tungus, 250 reindeer vanished without any trace; other Tungus' dogs and some reindeer were killed; the storage platforms with bread and equipment were destroyed; the forest, a real, ancient taiga, was flattened within a few seconds to an expanse of approximately 10,000 km(?). In the catchment areas of the rivers Chambe, Zhilushmo and Khushmo; there was a tremendous thunderous noise, which caused crevices in the earth (at this moment, the seismograph of Irkutsk recorded a really extraordinary type of earthquake). Owing to these impressions, the inhabitants of that part of the taiga fled in panic in all directions, leaving every last one of their belongings behind. All this is blamed on the Agdy.

Now many Tungus believe that only the Agdy can live at the place of that catastrophe; it has already been 20 years since then, and still nobody dares turn up in this area.

— translated by Joachim Otto Habeck

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[1] From: Innokentii Mikhaylovich Suslov, Materialien zum Schamanismus der Ewenki-Tungusen an der Mittleren und Unteren Tunguska (Materials on the Shamanism of the Evenki-Tunguses of the Middle and Lower Tunguska), collected and recorded by I. M. Suslov 1926/1928, Wiesbaden: Otto Harrassowitz, 1983.[Return to text.]


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