Devils, Dead, Saints. How On Christmastide In Russia They Fought Against Evil Spirits And Welcomed Their Betrothed

Devils, Dead, Saints. How On Christmastide In Russia They Fought Against Evil Spirits And Welcomed Their Betrothed
Devils, Dead, Saints. How On Christmastide In Russia They Fought Against Evil Spirits And Welcomed Their Betrothed

Video: Devils, Dead, Saints. How On Christmastide In Russia They Fought Against Evil Spirits And Welcomed Their Betrothed

Video: Devils, Dead, Saints. How On Christmastide In Russia They Fought Against Evil Spirits And Welcomed Their Betrothed
Video: CONSCIOUSNESS AND PERSONALITY. From the inevitably dead to the eternally Alive. (English subtitles) 2023, September

At the junction of territories and traditions


- In the hinterland, we see a mixture of pagan and Christian traditions. The archaic traditions of Russians were superimposed on what the Orthodox Church proposed,”says Ksenia Osipova, associate professor of the Department of Russian Language, General Linguistics and Speech Communication.

The toponymic expedition of philologists from the Ural Federal University, which is supported by grants from the Russian Science Foundation, has been collecting forgotten words and rituals of the Russian hinterland for about 60 years. The specifics of the celebration and beliefs primarily depend on the characteristics of the territories, scientists say. According to philologists, the celebration of the New Year in the Russian North was more pagan, in the center - Orthodox. In the north, most of the rituals were associated with the protection of the harvest, and in the south, where there were fewer problems with the harvest, with the protection of livestock. So, in the Arkhangelsk region, they closely followed the precipitation: if it snows on Christmas, there will be a good harvest. In the Tambov region, the future milk yield of cows was determined by the density of the Christmas fog.

On the first day of Christmas, people tried to do what they would like to do for a whole year. And in some regions, philologists note, there was a ban on work: you cannot spin, sew, since this could supposedly affect the offspring - the children will be born blind. According to legend, this was the punishment for a disrespectful attitude to the holiday. The child loses the ability to engage in painstaking manual labor, since this is the kind of work his parents did on Christmas. And also, if you spin at Christmas, you can call on the Holy One - an evil spirit that will appear to spin flax and bring misfortune.

According to gender, holidays are divided into male and female, explains Olga Morgunova, Associate Professor of the Department of Foreign Languages of the Ural State Medical University, senior researcher at the Department of Languages of Mass Communication of the Ural Federal University. Christmas is a masculine holiday, and, for example, the day of the Virgin (January 8) is a feminine one. Only boys and men went to Christmas, that is, to glorify Christ, women were not allowed to leave the house. But they celebrated the day after Christmas, which was called Babi's Day, Babins, Babi's porridges. On this day, women went to the midwives who helped them with childbirth. In gratitude, the midwives were brought treats: pies, bacon, cereals and flour. The Mother of God was considered the patroness of women, who, according to legend, rested from childbirth on the day after the birth of Christ.

A woman's arrival at the house on Christmas Day was considered a bad omen. But this was not everywhere - for example, in some districts of the Oryol region they believed that if a woman came to the house, then a cow would give birth to a heifer, and if a man came, a bull would be born.

Souls of ancestors and moron wives

The time between Christmas and Epiphany is Christmastide. Any actions during this period had magical properties. As noted by philologists, the days, which in the biblical tradition are filled with special holiness, in popular beliefs were associated with the action of dark forces and were accompanied by sometimes gloomy rites.

At this time, sorcerers are activated, who are trying to harm the neighbors: take away milk from cows, leave without a crop for next year. On the same days, communication with deceased relatives is strengthened. It is believed that this is a transitional time from the old to the new year, when the boundaries between the earthly and other worlds are blurred. Souls of ancestors and evil spirits visit the human world and can influence them both positively and negatively. Fortune-telling is also associated with this idea - an attempt to look into the future with the help of evil spirits.

- Hence the tradition to remember and invite the souls of ancestors to the table. In some regions, such rituals are recorded: they set the table and put appliances for deceased relatives - it is believed that their souls will come to the festive meal. Another belief from the Tambov region: bonfires were made there on the eve of Christmas in order to burn everything unnecessary. It was believed that this fire would warm the "legs of the parents" - the deceased relatives. According to legend, they can influence crops and livestock. So that there was a lot of grain and the cattle did not get sick, the ancestors had to be appeased, - says Olga Morgunova.

The interweaving of Orthodox and pagan traditions sometimes creates something completely new. For example, the spring day of the female myrrh-bearers in the Tambov region turns into the day of the female myrrh-bearers, on which it is customary to "kill" - to slaughter chickens.

- The people do not really understand who the myrrh-bearing wives are, and they are looking for an explanation for this name. This is how the popular name of the day appears in honor of the myrrh-bearing wives, and to consolidate the invented motivation, a new custom appears - "to kill the chickens," says Morgunova. In the Kama region, philologists even recorded Christmas for the dead - the name of Baptism, when, according to local beliefs, the fasting of deceased relatives ends - this is how people explained to themselves the need to remember their ancestors.

In the Russian North, during the Christmastide period, ritual atrocities were very common, when young people were mischievous and hooligan. They could pour water over the porch - the door does not open, the threshold is slippery. They pinned the door so that people could not leave the house. Tools were thrown on the roof, firewood was scattered throughout the yard. It was possible to shower the courtyard with ash or smear the gate with soot, lay a chimney or lower a string with feathers into the pipe - the draft stopped, all the smoke went into the house. Most often, people who were disliked or who refused to treat carols were punished in this way.

Teenagers could trample the road from a guy's house to a girl in order to flaunt relationships that were not advertised in ordinary life, notes Ksenia Osipova.

Kuleshmeny and roe deer

- On the territory of the Kostroma region there was a tradition of dressing up as Kuleshmen. Usually the guys took a sheepskin coat, turned it out with fur, smeared their faces with soot, put on unprepossessing hats with earflaps to look like devils. In this form, they walked around the village, frightened girls or passers-by, - said Osipova.

According to legends, the Kuleshmen people come out of the water during the period from Christmas to Epiphany and can walk on the ground in the form of people. Often they appear in the guise of a woman with a child, who comes to visit and sits in the house until Baptism occurs. Before the water is consecrated, the Kuleshmen must run away and jump into the reservoir in order to have time to return to his world.

- Since water was considered the home of the Kuleshmen, most likely it was originally the name of water. The word itself is not very clear in terms of origin. There is a version that the Russians borrowed this name from the Komi language, where kulushun is a water spirit, devil, devil, explains Osipova.

Young men disguised themselves as devils, other very different evil spirits, portrayed the dead and played comic funeral ceremonies to amuse and scare neighbors. To do this, they made terrible masks, smeared them with whitewash and soot, inserted huge teeth cut from turnips. And in the north, for example, in the Arkhangelsk region, they dressed in bears. But evil spirits also got it in this short period of celebration: in the Arkhangelsk region there was a custom of burning Kikimora - a straw effigy. This should have brought a good harvest and a happy life for the newlyweds.

- Ritual baked goods were made - these are pretzels, the so-called roe - figurines in the form of animals and birds. They were treated to carols for their songs. It was believed that such figures will give health to those who eat them. In the Kostroma region they baked "crosses" - buns in the form of crosses. They were not eaten, but put in grain - it was believed that it would be better preserved this way, - says Olga Morgunova.

What can be heard at the intersection and why hug the fence

Fortune-telling was one of the main entertainments for girls on Christmas day, which, of course, was not supported by the church and was considered a sinful matter. However, no church prohibitions could get rid of the practice of fortune-telling. For young people, mainly girls, the main interest is to find out who will be the betrothed when you get married. Older people wondered about the harvest: how flax or rye would be born, whether the year would be hungry or full.

Fortune-telling was most often carried out in a marginal, border zone: near a window, at an intersection, at a fence, or "on crosses" - at an intersection. For example, they could go to the window and listen to what the owners were talking about, and the first thing they heard projected onto their fate. At the crossroads, they stood in a circle outlined in the snow and listened: from which side the bells would ring - from there the groom. They wondered with the help of snow - "weeded" it in the hem: they shook it and looked - in which direction it flies, the groom is there. On the street they could close the well and call from the house: "the betrothed-mummer, come and drink the horse." The betrothed had nowhere to go: the well was closed - so he would come to the girl to ask for water.

Of course, one could guess without leaving home. So, one of the girls secretly hid a salt shaker in a snowdrift, while others began to look for her in the snow, whoever gets caught will marry next year. "They hugged the fence": they went out the gate and tried to grab as many boards as possible: if you "hug" an even number, you will get married, an odd number - you will be alone this year.

Before going to bed, the girls would put a piece of cloth under the pillow and say: "A new piece of tissue in the new year, show me life ahead." They hid a piece of bread under the pillow to lure the groom and he appeared to the girl in a dream. Animals also helped in predicting fate: two saucers were placed in front of the rooster, one with grain, the other with water. If the rooster first pecked the grain, then the husband will be rich; if he drank water, he is a drunkard.

Baths were considered another marginal territory where one could guess. Usually, in order to reduce the risks of fires, they were located far from houses, and therefore they considered them not their own, not home, alien space and "inhabited" by evil spirits, without risking entering there in the dark.

- The girls gathered in the bathhouse, put their backs in the door or the air and waited for someone to touch them. If with a bare hand, then the husband will be poor, and if in a shaggy mitten, then rich, - says Ksenia Osipova, noting that this fortune-telling was very common in the Russian North.

All these traditions, according to experts, are at least two centuries old - it was in the 19th century that Russian philologists began to purposefully collect these customs and vocabulary of the provinces. But they are clearly much older, notes Olga Morgunova. Now, judging by the stories collected on expeditions, all these fortune-telling, traditions, rituals no longer endow such magical power. Only children go caroling, hooliganism and fortune telling - as fun.

Victoria Ivonina