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The Mari people are the last pagans of Europe. Their religion is based on faith in the forces of nature and the maintenance of an intimate and very personal connection to the natural, which they must honor and respect. The Mari reside in Eastern Russia and began their migration to the region in the late 16th century. This was in connection with the forced Christianization of the population in the lands captured by the Khanate of Kazan, a medieval Bulgarian-Tatar Turkic state.
Osh Kugu Jumo, the Mari supreme God, is understood to be the protector of cattle. The Ural Mari would therefore sacrifice a white stallion in their ritual. Nowadays, it is replaced by animals such as rams, bulls, waterfowl, ducks, and geese.
This amazing series of photographs by Sergey Poteryaev captures this prayer ritual, taking place in the sacred grove near the village of Sars. The photos show the local Ural Mari people and other Mari from outside settlements who were invited in for the occasion.
For everything you need to know about the Mari people, click here.
For photos of the Mari people by Russian photographer Fyodor Telkov, click here.