Voices from Russia

Saturday, 18 March 2017

17 March… St Gerasim of the Jordan and the Arrival of the Rooks in Slavic Folklore… With an Excursus on the Evil Spirit Kikimora

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In Russia, this holyday coincided with time of arrival of the rooks. Because of this, the people called it “St Gerasim the Rook-Keeper Day”. The people said:

  • If you see a rook, spring is on its way.
  • I saw a rook, so, spring has come.

In folklore, the behaviour of the rooks on this day predicted how spring would go:

If the rooks return to their old nests, it’ll be a good spring. The ice will melt all at once.

However, if the rooks arrived earlier than 17 March, it was a bad omen. It predicted a lean and hungry year. In order to speed up the arrival of balmy days, peasants baked little rooks made of rye flour… “грачей” (grachei: rooks).

Another legend about this day was:

St Gerasim the Rook-Keeper brought the rooks back to Rus; with this, Holy Rus throws out the witches.

On St Gerasim Day, people baked grachei as talismans against Kikimora (a pagan Old Russian mythological figure). In popular belief, she was a dwarf with a thimble; her body was thin as straw. She was ugly, with slovenly and disordered clothing. Her eyes were of different colours. With one, she gave the evil eye; with the other, she gave leprosy. A less-common belief was that Kikimora was a naked girl or one who wore nothing but a tunic, wielding a scythe.

Folklore said that if you saw Kikimora, it predicted trouble in your house. Peasants believed that Kikimora was the harbinger of death in a family. People feared Kikimora and did everything that they could, no matter how difficult, to keep her away. On St Gerasim Day, people believed, Kikimora was quiet and placid; they could kick her out of the house. On other days, they protected themselves against Kikimora with prayers and talismans. The best talisman against Kikimora was a куриный бог (kuriny bokh: chicken god), a stone with a natural hole in it (that is, a hole not bored by a person). Besides this, people hung broken jugs over the flap covering the chicken coop to protect the birds against Kikimora.

Kikimora was just one of the household spirits from Old Russian paganism. She feared juniper branches, so people hung them around the house, even wrapping juniper twigs around the salt-cellar to protect it so that she wouldn’t spoil the salt, as it was very expensive in olden days. If Kikimora rattled the dishes and made noise, then, people had to wash the dishes in water and sprinkle the juniper branches to make her go away. Then, people searched for any foreign object that Kikimora may have placed in the house. They had to remove it carefully from the house and throw it away… it was even better to burn it. Superstition had it that if someone wanted to harm another, they’d leave a cursed object in the house. To remove the curse, you had to remove the object. Folklore had it that if you swept the floor with a wormwood broom, unholy things couldn’t bother you, including Kikimora. This was one of the most powerful talismans. People thought that the pungent smell of this herb repelled evil force and evil people.

17 March 2017

Russia-Российская Федерация

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Thursday, 24 December 2015

24 December 2015. As Seen by Vitaly Podvitsky… To the Nativity of Christ!

00 Vitaly Podvitsky. To the Nativity of Christ! 2015

To the Nativity of Christ!

Vitaly Podvitsky

2015

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Christmas! The day marking the birth of Jesus Christ is one of the main Christian holidays. Today, 25 December, is the Western celebration of Christmas. Today, millions of Christians around the world celebrate this holiday, but most Orthodox Churches (including the Patriarchate of Moscow and all the Russias) celebrate Christmas thirteen days later (7 January), as they use the Julian Calendar to calculate fixed feasts. This difference in dates doesn’t change anything essential in the meaning of Christmas, as we don’t know the exact date of the mystery of the birth of Christ. The tradition to celebrate Christmas on 7 January (Julian calendar) or 25 December (Gregorian) goes back to the holiday in honour of the pagan god Saturn, held in late December in the Roman Empire. Saturnalia was a precursor of modern Christmas and New Year, rolled up in one. With time, paganism died out, so, the Church decided to “baptise” Saturnalia, by replacing it with a feast marking the birth of Jesus Christ.  These days, Christmas is a joyous holiday… one of the most beautiful Christian feasts. Over the centuries, many traditions grew up around this celebration… the traditional holiday tree, the “cave” (Nativity scene), worship, and special foods. Every country added its own local usages to the generally accepted forms, making it a kaleidoscopic celebration of national folkways and identity.

Let the newborn baby Christ bring us all peace, joy, and love!

24 December 2015

Masterskaya Karikatura

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Editor:

All Christians celebrate the Nativity on 25 December, but the Julian Calendar used by most Orthodox is 13 days behind the Gregorian (in the 20th/21st centuries). In the 22nd century, the difference will lengthen to 14 days.

BMD

Tuesday, 22 December 2015

22 December 2015. Christmas DOES Have Pagan Links…

00 new year 15. rome italy. 04.01.14

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Christmas DOES have pagan links… 17-23 December was the ancient festival of Saturnalia. Ergo… Christmas happened under the cover of the toing and froing of that holiday (people travelling, visiting family, buying gifts and special foods, etc). It had a distinct date, but well within the ambit of the holiday. in short, the early Christians used the hubbub around the Saturnalia to keep their holiday under wraps. There are aspects of the Saturnalia in our Christian holiday celebrations such as public banquets, private gift-giving, continual partying, and a carnival atmosphere, so, in my view, the attempts of some commentators to “debunk” pagan links to Christmas backfire. Besides which, Christmas is a season where the better-off often “serve” the poorer amongst us… in the Saturnalia, masters would often “serve” their slaves. In short, there are more links than some are comfortable with. As for me, I believe that the “baptism” of these pagan customs wasn’t only innocent, it was beneficial and positively good. Our pagan ancestors weren’t evil… they were merely unchristian. Their good customs, intentions, folkways, and mores DESERVED “baptism” and I’m glad that the Church was wise enough to do that.

 Pagan links to Christmas? YES! It would’ve been strange otherwise, no?

BMD

Sunday, 17 March 2013

17 March 2013. RIA-Novosti Infographics. The Traditions of Celebrating Maslenitsa

00 RIA-Novosti Infographics. The Traditions of Celebrating Maslenitsa. 2013

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On 11 March, Maslenitsa began in Russia… the last seven days before the onset of Lent. Maslenitsa is one of the most exciting, colourful, and lively folk holidays, which, contrary to popular belief, has nothing to do with paganism, but rather has a direct relationship to Orthodox Easter. Archpriest Maksim Kozlov, a professor at the Moscow Theological Academy (MDA), told RIA-Novosti, “The time to celebrate Maslenitsa is tied to Easter, for Maslenitsa, the last week before Lent, begins exactly eight weeks before Easter. In terms of church canons, Maslenitsa is a half-holiday. During Maslenitsa, we don’t eat meat, but you can eat every other non-Lenten food, including dairy products… abstinence on Wednesdays and Fridays is cancelled. During Maslenitsa, services on Wednesday and Friday are particularly long, just like in Lent, with many prostrations. The idea behind the canons is to gradually bring Christians into Lent”. Meanwhile, pancakes, once perceived as a pagan symbol of the sun, with the Christianisation of Rus, became the traditional festive meal in “Cheese Week“, just as kulich and paskha cheese (click here and here for recipes) celebrate Easter, the Resurrection of Christ.

11 March 2013

RIA-Novosti

http://en.ria.ru/infographics/20130311/179940165/The-Traditions-of-Celebrating-Maslenitsa.html

http://ria.ru/infografika/20130311/926081600.html

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