Home    Number 6, 2019

To Eat or Not to Eat: Dietary Prohibitions in the Yakut Culture

[Est’ ili ne est’: pishchevye zaprety v yakutskoi kul’ture]

DOI: https://doi.org/10.31857/S086954150006199-8

Type of publication: Research Article

Submitted: 31.10.2018

Accepted: 27.02.2019

About author(s)

Liubomira Romanova | https://orcid.org/0000-0001-9408-5161 | liubomiraromanova@gmail.com | Université Toulouse III — P aul Sabatier (37 allées Jules Guesdes, 31000, Toulouse, France)


food, dietary prohibitions, Yakut people, impure, taboo, beliefs, rite of passage


This article presents an analysis of dietary regulations and restrictions for Yakut people. Following the anthropologist Mary Douglas, cultural restrictions are interpreted as “impure” or “dirty” (as opposed to “pure”), as a deviation from the classification of matter. The article shows that, in the Yakut culture, this classification is based on the feeding of animals, when carnivores are considered “impure” and, therefore, it is forbidden to consume them. I distinguish the concept of unacceptable food from that of taboo. The consumption of tabooed products represents a symbolic danger. I investigate restrictions of Yakut people based on analogy or principles of contagiousness. I study prohibitions during pregnancy, marriage ceremonies, and burials considered as rites of passage. I further analyze restrictions for children; a large number of those is explained by the desire to save their health and life. Unlike meat products, dairy food is perceived as ritually pure. The restrictions on dairy products are not related to their impact on human health, but are aimed at preserving and increasing wealth.

Funding Information

This research was supported by the following institutions and grants: Russian Foundation for Basic Research, https://doi.org/10.13039/501100002261 [grant no. 18-54-16004]


Romanova, L.G. 2019. To Eat or Not to Eat: Dietary Prohibitions in the Yakut Culture [Est’ ili ne est’: pi­shchevye zaprety v yakutskoi kul’ture]. Etnograficheskoe obozrenie 6: 172–183. https://doi.org/10.31857/S086954150006199-8

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