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When Good Luck Is Bad Fortune

Between Too Little and Too Much Hunting Success in Siberia

Ludek Broz and Rane Willerslev

Keywords: Altai; death; homonymy; reciprocity; sharing; spirits; Telengits; Yukaghirs

Two indigenous Siberian groups-the Yukaghirs and the Telengits-share rather similar ideas about success in hunting as an elusive and highly precarious tension between too little and too much luck. In the catalogue of semiotics, it corresponds to the homonym whereby one sound/spelling is the manifestation of two words with different meanings. The result, as we shall show, is that any lucky hunter always inhabits the alternative possibility of his own failure. In this sense, good luck in hunting might at any point be exposed as bad fortune.

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