Ramat and kamuy – two basic concepts of Ainu traditional culture

Here is an article by Alexander Yu. Akulov published in 2006 on a Russian forum for linguists.
It is the first scientific article to be written in Ainu and it was originally published on the Journal of Chiba University Eurasian Society № 9 (千葉ユーラシア言語文化論集).

To respect the author’s copyright we will post only some parts of it and its translation.

Ramat and kamuy – basic concepts of Ainu traditional culture, their ethnolinguistic interpretation, comparison with the European concept of god

Ramat newa Kamuy

Neil Gordon Munro nispa nuye-hi ene oka-hi: ramat newa kamuy aynu kamuy-uepakasnu moto itak ne. Munro anak ekasi utar ene ramat eitak-hi nuye. Aynu ekasi ene itak-hi: Kotanpira anak “Ramat newa Kamuy aynu kor kamuy-uepakasnu moto ne” sekor hawean, ine-hot-pa Hokkaydo emakasi wa ek Rennuikes “ramacihi isam yakun – nep ka kor eaykap” sekor hawean, Nisukrek “ramat anak nep ne yakka esik-te, ramat a-wen-te eaykap” sekor hawean, Uesanas “nei ta ne yakka ramacihi an” sekor hawean. [Munro 1963: 8]
Sinna kamuy ramat poron-no kor, sinna kamuy pon-no kor. Aynu opitta kamuy koraci-no ramat kor: sinna kur pon-no, sinna kur poron-no ramat kor. Yakun, ene itak-an easkay: ramat anak Porinesia un mana a-ye p ne koraci an pe ne wa. [Munro 1963: 10]

Ramat anakne tu sinna itak ani a-kar pe ne ruwe ne kuni ku=ramu. Ene an-i: ram + at. Ram anak nea itak sinrit ne. […]

Ram-at kor at anak “an” hene “oma” hene koraci ne kuni ku=ramu.
Ruwe ne kusu, ram-at anak “ram an” hene “ram oma” hene ne wa.

Kamuy anak otutanuno-an kamuy-uepakasnu moto itak ne. John Batchelor nuye-hi ene oka-hi: kamuy anak re sinna itak (ka+mu+i) ani a-kar itak ne; ka+mu+i anak “nep utar kurka” sekor ramu (Munro).

Kamuy anak Sisam itak kami or wa ek, sekor sisam ne yakka Yoroppa-un-kur ne yakka ramu kur poronno oka (Fritz Vos).
Aynu itak kamuy ne yakka Sisam itak kami ne yakka sine sinrit or wa hetukpa p ne, sekor a-ramu. Kamuy ne yakka kami ne yakka Arutay itak kam/kom sinrit ne kor pe ne nankor, sekor a-ramu. Kamuy sinricihi anak ene an-i: kam –> kam-i –> kam-us –> kam-uy. Naa Koryo itak kom – “iso”, komkkun – “kam ohaw” uneno-an sinrit or wa hetukpa itak ne, sekor a-ramu. (Sisam kami anak son-no Arutay kam – “tusu” wa ek nankor kuni ku=ramu. Korka tam-pe anak ku kor aitia patek an.)

Korka kamuy anak Arutay kam/kom sinrit or wa somo hetuku p ne ruwe ne.

Sisam itak hem Koryo itak hem Arutay itak sinrit ne kor. Kia kusu Sisam itak hem Koryo itak hem irwak itak ne ruwe ne. Sisam itak hem Koryo itak hem Arutay itak ne.

Korka Aynu itak anakne Sisam itak hem Koryo itak hem oro wa rit-itak-katu (“rit-itak-katu” anak-ne Inkiris itak ani “linear model of word form” ne.) ani earkinne sinnay-no an. […]

Tap-oka earkinne sinnay-no oka itak (Aynu itak, Sisam itak) anakne sine itak sinrit ne kor kuni-p somo ne (Akulov A.Yu.). Tan tu itak utur ta poro itak a-ukoesouk eaykap kuni ku=ramu. Kamuy anak Aynu kor iyotta husko, iyotta nupur itak or ta an ruwe ne. Tap-an itak oyak itak wa ek eaykap ruwe ne kuni ku=ramu.
Naa son-no nucaktek pe anak ene oka-hi: Aynu kampi anak Sisam kami or wa ek ruwe ne. Kia kusu ku=ramu hi ene oka-hi: kamuy anak Sisam kami or wa ek yakun kampi ne an wa, kamuy ne an eaykap ruwe ne.

Sisam ne yakka Yoroppa un kur ne yakka poroserke ramu hi ene oka-hi: kamuy anak Aynu itak kam sinrit or wa hetuku ruwe ne.
K=eyaykouepekennu hi ene oka-hi: hemanta kus kamuy anak iso oyak rehe ne a-ye? Tane nani a-eyayese hi ene oka-hi: iso anak kam poron-no kor kusu iso anak kam-us / kam-uy sekor a-ye easkay. Kia kusu kamuy anak kam sinrit or wa ek. Sekor Aynu-uepakasnu-kur poroserke ramu.

Korka nea aitia anak wen kuni ku=ramu. Otutanu-p ta a=nukar ro:

Emiko Ohnuki-Tierney katkemat nuye hi ene oka-hi: kamuy anak oyak ta okay pe sonno sinnay no an pe ne ruwe ne. Yakun nep ne yakka a=e-oripak pe kamuy sekor a=reko ruwe ne.
Iyotta pon pe ne yakka, iyotta ipokas pe ne yakka (kikir, terke-p) a-e-oripak kusu kamuy sekor a-reko easkay. Naa ikkewe okay pe, wen pe, a-eoripak pe (uhuy nupuri, siri simoye, o-repun-pe) kamuy sekor a=reko ruwe ne. Naa pirka p, nupur pe (pirka mat-ne-po, retar-pe-us-onne-kur, emus, cip) kamuy sekor a-reko ruwe ne.
Tane anak a-nukar easkay hi ene oka-hi: kamuy itak anak-ne usa, kam tura-no okay pe patek a-reko ruwe ka somo ne. Kia kusu kamuy anak kam sinrit or wa somo hetuku p ne ruwe ne.


Tam-pe kusu a-eraman easkay pe ene oka-hi: hemanta kusu iso anak kamuy sekor a-ye? Tee-ta oka aynu ramu hi ene oka-hi: iso anak si-no ikkewe an pe ne wa si-no a-eoripak pe ne, si-no iso rehe a-ye yakun iso anak kotan ta san easkay. Naa iso anak iramante-kur kim ta ronnu easkay. Tam-pe kusu si-no iso rehe a-ye yakun wen nankor. Kia kusu si-no iso rehe iteki a-ye p ne. Iso a-e-oripak kusu kamuy sekor a-ye. Iso a-e-oripak kusu patek iso rehe ne kamuy sekor a-ye. Tam puri anak Porinesia un tapu puri koraci an. Kia kusu itak-an easkay hi ene oka-hi: nea puri anak iramante-kur tapu ne ruwe ne.

Yoroppa un Aynu uepakasnu kur poron-no ramu hi ene oka-hi: Aynu kamuy anak Yoroppa un itak deus /god / Gott / dios / deux ne-no an. Korka tan itak anakne pon-no wayru p ne ruwe ne:
Kamuy anak poron-no oka. Deus anak sinen-ne patek an.
Aynu anak kamuy mosir un mat-etun-an easkay. Yoroppa deus tura-no tam-pe anak a-ki eaykap ruwe.
Tam-pe kus kuni ku=ramu ene oka-hi: kamuy anak Yoroppa deus toyko sinnay no an. Kia kusu a-ye easkay ene oka-hi: kamuy anak Yoroppa itak ani deus ne an eaykap. Kamuy itak Yoroppa itak ani kamuy patek ne an easirki. Yoroppa itak ta kamuy itak anak-ne konteksto or wa a-eraman easkay ruwe ne.

Imaka-ke ta a-ye easkay pe ene oka-hi: ramat piye, kamuy piye a-uk wa a-eraman wa, aynu puri or ta okay pe ne yakka a-ki p ne yakka nep ne yakka peken-no a-eraman easkay.
Poron-no ramat kor pe pirka. Ramat poro-re easkay pe pirka. Ramat pon-te pe wen. Ramat a-siknu-re kusu wen pe a-esisi easirki.
Kia kusu Aynu puri or ta a-ki p opitta (inaw nuye, kamuy oman-te) ramat a-siknu-re kusu, ramat poro-re kusu a-ki p ne ruwe ne.

A-eiwanke a-nuye-p

Here follows the English translation:

Ramat and Kamuy

This short text is devoted to the analysis of ramat and kamuy which are the key words/basic concepts of Ainu religion and Ainu traditional life. This text is written in Ainu language and it is the first scientific article in Ainu language during the whole history of Ainu studies.

Ramat is the first and the main concept of Ainu religion. According to my data this word consists of two morphemes: ram which means “soul”/”mind”/”heart” and at which is similar to such verbs as an/oka and oma which mean “to be”/”to exist”. So the concept of ramat can be interpreted as “soul exists”.
Ramat exists everywhere and fills everything. Every thing and every being has ramat. One thing has a lot of ramat, another – little but nothing can exist without ramat. Ramat cannot be annihilated. When beings die or when things are broken their ramat leaves them but doesn’t disappear and goes to another place. Following to Neil Gordon Munro it is possible to state that ramat is very much alike to the Polynesian mana.
Kamuy is the second basic concept of Ainu religion. According to my data word kamuy doesn’t have any connection to the Japanese kami “deity” because kamuy belongs to the most important and old part of Ainu lexics.

Moreover it is worth noting that the Ainu had not known paper before they met Japanese, so in the Ainu language the word for paper was borrowed from Japanese. In Japanese paper sounds the same way as “deity”, i.e. kami but in Ainu it became kampi. In this connection I think that Ainu kamuy cannot originate from Japanese kami because Japanese kami would become kampi but not kamuy in Ainu.
Also I don’t think that kamuy has any connection with the Ainu word kam – “meat” as many anthropologists believe. This point of view is usually explained in such a way: kamuy is often used in connection with bear because bear has a lot of meat, i.e. kamuy originated from kam + us which later became kam+uy.
And from this point of view it is possible to understand: why kamuy is used as another name of bear or another awful or beautiful beings or things. According to Emiko Ohnuki-Tierney kamuy should be distinguished from other beings. And it is important to know that the word kamuy is often used to name some beings and things, which real names are tabooed. In the case of bear the word kamuy is used just in order to express respect to bear and in order to avoid the use of the real name of bear cause it may bring different troubles to people.

Also it is important to note that kamuy is not similar to the European concepts deus /god / Gott / dios / deux cause European god is a transcendental being while kamuy exist in the neighborhood of people and people can easily get kamuy mosir. […]
At least it is possible to state the following: ramat is the basis.
Having picked up the essence of ramat and kamuy, having understood their meaning we can interpret every thing and every act of the Ainu tradition. Every event of Ainu traditional life can be described in terms of ramat and kamuy. Any act of Ainu tradition is intended to save and to magnify the existing ramat. Because of it a thing which has much ramat and which can magnify ramat is good thing; while thing which takes ramat away is bad. Because of it people should escape things and beings which take ramat away. And every act of Ainu tradition (carving inaw or bear feast) is performed in order to save and magnify the existing ramat.

Akulov A.Yu. On the typological characteristics of Ainu language in connection with its possible genetic relationship // CES № 8, 2005,
Koreisko-russkii slovar’ (Korean-Russian Dictionary) / Kholodovich A.A., Moscow, 1951,
Munro N.G. Ainu Creed and Cult, London, 1962,
Nevski N. A. Ainskii fol’klor (Ainu folklore), Moscow, 1972,
Ohnuki-Tierney E. Ainu of North-West Cost of Southern Sakhalin, Waveland Press, 1984,
Vos F. Japanese Loan Words in Ainu // Rocznik Orientalistyczny, T. XLVI, Z. 2, 1990,

(あれくさんどる あくーろふ・Russian Christian Humanitarian Academy)

Conferences about Ainu epic poetry and narrative literature.

Blogger at Unbeaten Tracks in Hokkaido reports [en] on the conference held by professor Hiroshi Nakagawa and other scholars about Ainu Epic Poetry and by professor Kyoko Kojima about Ainu Narrative Literature.