Rituals

       Since most of the field studies take place in the summer time, audio and video recording of different materials of summer calendar rites will be an important aspect of our work.

Ascension Day (Vozneseniie,A 'cuckoo'-doll in a coffin (Kaluga province). Photo Yelena Minyonok the 40-th day after the Orthodox Easter) - The cuckoo's funeral rite.  This rite is one of the most interesting relics of Slavic pagan notions. Recollections about it have remained bright up to now. Children perform the cuckoo's funeral rite in some villages even nowadays. There are five versions of this rite. The most widespread is the following: before Ascension Day women (or girls) make a small doll from herbs or pieces of fabrics. This is a 'cuckoo'.Girls celebrating a 'cuckoo'-doll funeral (Kaluga province). Photo Yelena Minyonok The next day before sunrise, the women or (girls) carry the 'cuckoo' to a well. There they spill water on it to 'baptize' it. Then they put the 'cuckoo' into a small coffin, and with jocular laments carry a coffin in the forest. Men (or boys) do their best to find the site in the forest where a doll-cuckoo is buried. If they manage to find it they tear out the 'cuckoo' from the earth and tease women (or girls) with it. Having buried it women (or girls) make a funeral repast on the cuckoo's grave. Then the whole group goes back to the village, makes a festive dinner, sings songs, and dances to theGrave cross covered with Wit Saturday ritual scarf. Photo Margo Bowman accordion.

Whit Saturday (Dukhovskaya Subbota, the 49-th day after the Orthodox Easter). This day is dedicated to all the deceased. People go with their children to the local cemetery, where make funeral repasts on their relations' graves. The women lament.

Whit Sunday (Troitsa, the 50-th day after the Orthodox Easter). One of the merriest folk holidays, here are numerous versions of this rite also. In the most interesting, on Whit Sunday in the afternoon most Women with Trinity ritual doll (Kaluga province). Photo Lydia Bartholomew of the country people go to the forest. There they make wreaths of birch branches and put them on their heads. One or two women cut a young birch and form a woman's body out of it. Then women put a festive costume on this woman's body. This doll is a personification of woman's erotic essence. Then the people carry this ritual doll to the nearest river, accompanied by special ritual songs (usually of erotic content). Everybody stops near the river and sings short songs (called in Russian chastushki, somewhat similar to limericks), sing and dance in a circle, dance to the accordion. As the evening approaches women take the festive costume off the doll and throw 'the body' in the river. This calendar rite retains the idea of human sacrifice.

Whit Monday (Dukhov Den', the 50-th day after theDrawing of a Trinity ritual doll face. Photo Yelena Minyonok Orthodox Easter). Country people go to sacred wells and brooks for water. According to folk beliefs water taken this day is health-giving. People treat themselves for numerous diseases, including insomnia and the evil eye with this holy water.

July 12 - Saints Peter's and Paul's Day (Den' Svyatych Petra i Pavla). Country people cook a festive dinner, sing and dance. Young guys and girls play funny tricks on villagers during the night before July, 12.

July 21 - The Holiday of the Icon of Kazanskaia Virgin Mary (Prazdnik Icony Kazanskoi Bozhyei Materi). Villagers gather together and held the services near three places: a) the holy well, b) the place where was the church, and c) the Desna-river.A service near a Holy well. The Holiday of the Icon of Kazanskaia Virgin Mary (Briansk province). Photo Eileen Starr People sing Church songs. Everybody is carrying his icon covered with the embroidered ritual scarf. From the holy well to river people move very slowly and one by one everybody is going under the icons and under the scarves. The whole ceremony is full of different pagan relics. People believe that if you take the water from any place you like it will be holy water. According to the local belief it is very important to swim in the river during this day. Villages tell us that this will clean their sins, which they collected during the whole year. Documentary about Snopot holiday is available in Film&CDs section.

August 2 - Saint Il'ya-the-Prophet's Day (Den' Il'i-proroka). Saint Il'ya-the-Prophet is one of the most popular Saints in Russia. According to folk beliefs Il'ya commands rain, thunder and lighting. It is he who sends rain on earth. He is one of the Devil's main enemies. Saint Il'ya rushes through the sky in a fire-chariot during a thunderstorm and throws fire-arrows in the Devil who runs on earth. A thunderstorm is expected to happen on this day usually, and one does. Our goal is to record the system of notions, stories and beliefs about Il'ya-the-Prophet in the most detailed way.

August 19 - Transformation of our Lord's Day - ("Yablochnyi Spas" - "Apple Jesus Christ"). This day peasants sanctify the new apple harvest, symbolically thanking the Lord for it. There is a ban on eating apples before this day. According to folk beliefs, the God gives out apples to the dead in heaven this day. If someone's parents or a child had eaten an apple prior to Transformation Day, God would not give an apple to the dead parents or to the dead child. Peasants leave apples on the graves of relatives as gifts. On this day wells and brooks are sanctified, and country people hold thanksgiving services. The rite is completed with a festive dinner and the entertainment of guests.

Summer calendar rites, which are mentioned above, do not exclude collecting information and materials on rites, which are performed in other seasons.

We plan to record materials on traditional summer peasant employment such as making hay; gathering medicinal herbs, berries and mushrooms, pasturing of cattle, milking, and others in addition to the recording of ritual materials.

The problem of disparity between notes/audio records of folk materials and folk tradition gets more important when we are dealing with ritual folklore. The main reason is the particular syncretic indivisibility of verbal, musical, choreographic and dramatic components that is typical of any folk ceremony. An environment takes on special significance for a rite. Trees, herbs, rivers, sun and earth were personified by traditional consciousness, therefore a ritual space with all its landscape and weather conditions is an integral part of a ceremony, and the whole environment is of great importance for comprehension of the ceremony's meaning. And perhaps, the most important parameter of ritual folklore, which can not be fixed in written form or in audio recording, is the atmosphere of a folk rite.

 

 

 
University
of Virginia
Dr. Natalie
Kononenko
University of
Wisconsin Dr.
James Bailey
University of
Colorado at
Boulder Dr.
Laura Olson
University of
Kentucky
Dr. Rouhier-
Willoughby