Voices from Russia

Friday, 11 September 2015

11 September 2015. Popular Customs of the Feast of the Beheading of St John the Baptist

01 Russian girl in church


These rituals and customs are NOT “canonical” or “official”; rather, they’re popular expressions of belief that differ from place to place. On the feast of the Beheading, many people avoid anything that resembles the head, blood, a sword, or cutting anything:

  • On the day of the Beheading, many people won’t put anything round on the table, that is, no food on plates, as the head of St John the Baptist was on a dish
  • Many refuse to eat round fruits and vegetables (apples, potatoes, melons, onions, turnips) on this day
  • Many believers refuse to use a knife, sickle, scythe, or axe
  • Many people won’t cut food, for instance, one had to break bread
  • South Slavs strictly enforced a ban on red fruit and drinks (as “it is the blood of St John”), so, they don’t eat black grapes, tomatoes, or red peppers
  • Belarusians in Vitebsk Oblast won’t cook or eat borshch, believing that since it’s red like blood, it means that someone of that household will spill blood that year
  • Some Russians banned singing and dancing on this day, as Herod’s daughter sang and danced as she begged for the head of St John the Baptist

These beliefs are not Church beliefs… they’re popular folk beliefs. In fact, many urban believers didn’t follow them, even in the 19th century. That’s neither a put-down nor a denigration… it’s simply an observation that these things are spontaneous popular piety of the peasant people. If someone follows this, don’t mock them… they’re following customs taught them by their parents and grandparents. If you don’t follow them, be silent in the face of such popular observances. They’re very real to the people who observe them. In my Father’s house, there are many mansions… these folk beliefs are an incarnation of that. You follow or not follow them, as you will, but you can’t criticise or mock those who do follow them. That’s one of the rules of the House…



Tuesday, 21 January 2014

21 January 2014. Now, For Something Entirely Different… It Was Epiphany in Tver

00 Epiphany in Tver. Orthodoxy's for EVERYBODY... 21.01.14


The above isn’t Photoshop… it’s an actual Epiphany (and here) icehole in Tver. The only question for me is, “Is the coloured guy an African convert or is he a lifelong Ethiopian Orthodox in Russia for university studies or military training (they be part of the Orthosphere, dontcha know!)?” If the latter, it’s proof of the ties that bind Eastern and Oriental Orthodox, despite the lack of communion (we Russians are close to our Oriental brethren, much more so than the Greeks are… we’re particularly chummy with the ArmeniansHH and Catholicos Karekin are big-time pals). Remember, Orthodoxy‘s the “Party for Everybody“.

The Orthosphere is REAL…


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Sunday, 19 January 2014

19 January 2014. Hey, Hey, Hey, Fat Albert’s Jumpin’ in a Ice Hole Today! It’s Orthodox Epiphany!

00 Epiphany 2014. 19.01.14


00 Orthodox Epiphany on Lake Chebarkul. Chelyabinsk Oblast. 19.01.14

Blessing the ice hole on Lake Chebarkul in Chelyabinsk Oblast. That’s where the meteorite fell earlier in 2013. Betcha they’re all wearing their long johns


It’s Orthodox Epiphany (and here)! Chop a hole in that there ice, cross yourself, and hop in! It only counts if you duck yourself completely three times. If you ask nicely, maybe, one of your Puerto Rican friends will bring their stilts… after all, it’s Epiphany, which is Tres Reyes (Three Kings) in Spanish countries. Besides, don’t you want someone who KNOWS how to make GOOD hot coffee nearby (no self-respecting upright Spanish person would serve you No es café, as they’d lose face)? Brrr… I’ve done it… it’s COLD!

Have a lovely feastday… it’s the end of the Svyatki holy season, so, feast, feast, feast! God wills it!



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Thursday, 13 September 2012

13 September 2012. One of the Cabinet Sent This On…


I got this from a dear friend:

I found these words in today’s Matins Service for the Beheading of St John Baptist (also 9/11!) and was quite struck by them. I thought I’d share them with you…

Draw Thy bow, prosper and reign, O Son of the Mother of God, subduing the Muslims who wage war against us and granting victory to our Orthodox hierarchs over all heresies, through the entreaties of her who gaveth birth to Thee, O Word of God.

Bogorodichen of the first Canon of the Feast, Ode IX


“Muslims” in this sense isn’t “Followers of Islam”… it’s “Opponents of Christ’s Church”. That makes the second part of the trope, granting victory to our Orthodox hierarchs over all heresies, sensible and applicable. That is, “Subdue the godless who rail against us, granting victory to our Orthodox hierarchs over all heresies”. In short, we must oppose and fight all those who try to ally us to heresies such as “evangelicalism” and to schisms such as the Unia. This is NOT in reference to contemporary Muslims… most of whom aren’t our enemies. It IS in reference to those within our ranks who are Quislings and fifth-columnists.

There IS such a thing as “tserkovnost”…


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