EACH season of the year has its own songs set apart for it in Russia, hallowed by old traditions, and linked with customs of which the original meaning has, in most cases, long been forgotten, but which still retain much of that firm hold upon the popular mind which they possessed in heathen times. In none of them are the traces of the old religion more perceptible than in the songs which are sung at Christmas-tide, chiefly in White-Russia and Little-Russia, and which bear the name of Kolyádki. The name of Kolyáda, or Koleda, which is given to the festival celebrated at that time has been explained in various ways, being derived by one philologist from Kolo, a wheel, and connected by another with Kolóda, a kind of yule log; but others are decidedly of opinion that it is merely an adaptation of the Roman Kalendæ, the word having been introduced into the Slavonic languages by way of Byzantium 1.
However that may be, the festival which is called that of Kolyáda, and which the influence of the Church has to some extent converted into a celebration of the birth of Christ, seems to have referred in ancient times to the renewed life universally attributed to the Sun after the winter solstice, when the gloom of the long nights begins to give way to the light of the lengthening day. At that time, according to popular tradition, the Sun--a female being--arrays herself in her holiday robe and head-dress, takes her seat in her teléga, and urges her horses upon the summer track. And to this solar goddess the people have given the name of Kolyada, and a custom used once to prevail in many places, and in some may still be kept up, of representing her by a girl dressed in white, who was seated on a sledge and driven about from house to house, while Kolyadki were sung by the young people who attended her, and who had various presents made to them in return; such gifts being supposed to have represented the contributions to a sacrifice which used to be made in the days of old. Here is one of the songs still sung at the Christmas festivals:--
Kolyada has arrived
On the Eve of the Nativity.
We went about, we sought
Through all the courts, in all the alleys.
We found Kolyada
In Peter's Court.
Round Peter's Court there is an iron fence,
In the midst of the Court there are three rooms:
In the first room is the bright Moon;
In the second room, the red Sun;
And in the third room, the many Stars.
The song then proceeds to explain that the Moon is the master of the house, the Sun is the mistress, and the Stars are their children, and concludes by wishing them good health,
"For many years, for many years 2."
In all probability the celestial beings were originally introduced as objects of worship; but as time went by, and new religious ideas came into play, they were employed merely for the purpose of laudatory comparison. At present they occur in many songs under different forms, and are explained in various ways. In a Ruthenian version, for instance, they are likened to God, to the Son of God, and to the Children of God, the last being, in all probability, the Angels. Instead of the Stars sometimes appear "the Bright Dawns," or they are replaced by the Rain. In one song they are "three kind guests," and in another they are "three brothers who have brought blessings with them from distant lands." In another of the Ruthenian Kolyadki, the Sun has a son, the young Ivan, who speaks of the "Bright Dawn" as his sister. In some of the songs, especially those sung in Bohemia, Moravia, and Bulgaria, a Christian form is given to
the idea. The Virgin Mary appears, either bathing or washing vestments in the Jordan, and directly afterwards she bears a son, and the an gels, come and carry him away to heaven. Or she bathes her child, and places him in the manger, and the doors of a temple are opened, and lights are lit, and Christ Himself serves at the altar. These legends are not supposed to be of Christian origin, but are looked upon as old heathen myths to which a Christian character has been given, being akin to the Lithuanian idea of Perun's mother daily bathing the weary and travel-stained Sun, and sending it forth again bright and rejoicing.
The Maiden who appears in these songs as the Virgin Mary is found in others guarding wine. Heavenly birds, in a Little-Russian Kolyadka, fly to her, and would fain drink the wine. She awakes and drives them away, saying that she has need of the wine for her own wedding, and for that of her brother and sister.
The steep hill gave forth, gave forth a sound.
On it as yet grew no silken grass,
Grew only green wine.
A lady fair guarded the wine,
Guarded the wine--fell into a heavy slumber.
There came flying heavenly birds,
They plucked the green wine,
And wakened the fair lady.
Quickly did she hear that;
She waved at them her sleeve.
"Away with you afield, heavenly birds!
To me myself is the wine needful,
To give in marriage my brother and my sister,
And I myself am a young betrothed one 3."
In her the mythologists see the Dawn, to whom the part of a manager of weddings is openly ascribed in one Little-Russian song, in which it is said that--
The Moon went wandering about the heaven,
And the Moon met the bright Dawn.
"O Dawn, Dawn! wherever hast thou been?
Wherever hast thou been? Where dost thou intend to live?"
Where do I intend to live? why at Pan Ivan's,
At Pan Ivan's in his Court,
In his Court, and in his dwelling,
And in his dwelling are two pleasures:
The first pleasure--to get his son married;
And the second pleasure--to give his daughter in marriage 4."
Pan 5 Ivan is supposed to be some celestial being, marriages between the heavenly bodies being often mentioned in Slavonic songs--especially in those of Servia, in one of which the Day-star, so closely connected with the Dawn, arranges a marriage with the Moon, and in another the "Sun's Sister" appears as a bride, whose hand is gained by a youth in whom some see the Morning-star. A similar youth is found in a number of Little-Russian Kolyadki, in which he is represented as besieging a town and gaining from it a bride. He is tall and radiant, he sits within a tent made of white silk, or rides on a
horse with a mane of gold; his sabre flashes like the Sun, and so do the swords of his trusty comrades, who enable him to drive away his foes and gain his bright bride. In him Orest Miller sees the lightning which pierces the dark clouds and rescues the fair sunlight from eclipse, just as he recognizes some thunder-bearer in the "proud youth" of one of the Ruthenian Kolyadki. In it we see a dark mountain, from behind which come a flock of sheep, and after them follows a "proud youth" with three pipes, the sound of whose piping exercises a magic influences over all the realm of Nature.
The dark mountain has grown black,
From behind it has come forth a black cloud,
A black cloud--a flock of sheep;
After them has come forth a proud youth,
A proud youth to the foreground:
He has girded himself with a straw girdle,
From that girdle hang two or three pipes;
The one pipe is of horn,
The second pipe is of copper,
The third pipe is of aurochs horn.
Oh! when he began to sound the pipe of horn,
A voice went through the forest;
Oh! when he began to sound the pipe of copper,
A voice went among the mountain tops;
Oh I when he began to play on the aurochs pipe,
There went up voices to the heavens 6.
Some of the Russian Kolyadki, also, seem to refer to the thunder-god, for they speak of the sacrifice of a goat, one of the animals most frequently used as symbols of the thunder. Here is one of them:--
Beyond the river, the swift river,
There stand dense forests:
In those forests fires are burning,
Great fires are burning.
Around the fires stand benches,
Stand oaken benches.
On those benches the good youths,
The good youths, the fair maidens,
Sing Kolyada songs,
In their midst sits an old man;
He sharpens his steel knife.
A cauldron boils hotly.
Near the cauldron stands a goat.
They are going to kill the goat.
Come forth, spring out!"
Gladly would I have sprung out,
But the bright stone 7
Drags me down to the cauldron:
The yellow sands
Have sucked dry my heart."
Oi Kolyadka! Oi Kolyadka 8.
Long after heathenish rites had been generally discarded in Russia, they were kept up by the Lithuanians, among whom it was customary for the shepherds and shepherdesses to assemble and light a great fire, round which they would sing religious songs. Afterwards a goat would be brought to the fire and sacrificed by a priest, the priestly class existing among the Lithuanians. In all probability
the sacrifice described in the song was actually performed in old days in Russia as well as in Lithuania, though its memory is now preserved in popular poetry alone. Some writers, it should be mentioned, are of opinion that this song belongs to the Midsummer, rather than to the Christmas festival, the pig, and not the goat, being the animal generally sacrificed in the winter 9. The last few lines of the song are very like, if not identical with, those which occur in the story "of the Kid Prince," a Russian counterpart of that of Brüderchen mid Schwesterchen in the Kinder- mid Hausmärchen.
In some of the Kolyadki may be found traces of cosmogonic myths, as well as fragments of others referring to the relations between the gods and mankind. To some of these deities Christian names have been given, but the old heathen forms are plainly apparent under the ill-fitting garb which a later time has carelessly flung over them; for instance, in this Carpathian Kolyadka:--
Afield, afield, out in the open field!
There a golden plough goes ploughing,
And behind that plough is the Lord Himself.
The holy Peter helps Him to drive,
And the Mother of God carries the seed corn,
Carries the seed corn, prays to the Lord God,
"Make, O Lord, the strong wheat to grow,
The strong wheat and the vigorous corn
The stalks there shall be like reeds!
The ears shall be [plentiful] as blades of grass!
The sheaves shall be [in number] like the stars!
The stacks shall be like hills,
The loads shall be gathered together like black clouds 1."
Here the Mother of God is evidently some such benignant divinity as the Teutonic Holda. There is a tradition among the Lusatian Wends that the Virgin Mary and the infant Christ once passed by a field in which a peasant was sowing barley, and she said to him "God be with thee, good man! As soon as thou hast sown, take thy sickle and begin to reap." In a little time came a crowd of Jews in pursuit of her, and asked the peasant if he had seen a mother and child go by. "She passed not long ago," he replied, "just when I was sowing this barley." "Idiot! why that must be twelve weeks ago!" exclaimed the Jews, seeing that the barley was now ripe, and the peasant was reaping it, and they turned back. The same story is told in a Little-Russian Kolyadka, only the Virgin carries on her hand a hawk--one of the symbols of the Sun-god--instead of leading the infant Christ.
Perhaps the most curious of the cosmogonic Kolyadki is a Carpathian song, in which we find the following description of the creation of the world:--
Once there was neither heaven nor earth,
Heaven nor earth, but only blue sea,
And in the midst of the sea two oaks.
There sat there two pigeons,
Two pigeons on the two oaks,
And began to take counsel among themselves,
To take counsel and to say,
"How can we create the world?
Let us go to the bottom of the sea,
Let us bring thence fine sand,
Fine sand and blue stone.
We will sow the fine sand,
We will breathe on the blue stone.
From the fine sand--the black earth,
The cool waters, the green grass.
From the blue stone--the blue heavens,
The blue heavens, the bright sun,
The bright sun, the clear moon,
The clear moon and all the stars 2".
It is chiefly on Christmas Eve that the Kolyadki are sung, but the Christmas festival itself lasts until the Epiphany. The evenings during this festal period, and indeed the whole space of time included, bear the name of Svyatki, and to them belong a number of special games and songs. Their sacred character dates back to the period of heathenism, and on them it was customary, as it is now, for social gatherings to take place at which games were played, and songs were sung, and guesses were made about the future. These guesses or divinings--Gadaniya--are now for the most part kept up only among girls who wish to know something beforehand about their destined husbands. Sometimes a horse is led across a piece of wood, and, according to whether it stumbles or not, a conclusion is drawn as to the
character of the coming man. German writers of the eleventh and twelfth centuries bear witness to the fact that a similar divining process formerly prevailed among the Baltic Slavonians, only in those days it was a lance across which the horse was driven, and the subject about which an omen was sought was the issue of an impending war. Sometimes a girl goes out into the street, and asks the first man whom she meets what his (Christian) name is; her husband will bear the same name. Sometimes she listens at the window of some neighbour's house; the mirthful or melancholy tone of the conversation she overhears serves to give her an idea of what will be the nature of her married life. Sometimes "a despairing maiden" takes a table into an empty room, lays a cloth on it, and prepares it as for a meal--only neither a knife nor a fork must appear upon it. Then she shuts herself up in the room alone, and calls to her destined husband to come and sup with her. According to tradition he may perhaps appear, heralded by the sound of the night-wind beneath the window, or by a tapping on the window pane or the door, or even "by an evil odour." When he comes the girl must keep her seat, and hold her peace until he sits down at the table. Then she asks his name, which he gives, taking something out of his pocket the while. She is then to utter certain words, on hearing which he will vanish, leaving behind him whatever it was he had brought in his pocket. Unmarried ladies of a mature age will sometimes go down to a frozen river by night, and sit there beside
a hole in the ice, straining their eyes and ears for prophetic sights and sounds. She who is going to be married within the year will see her destined husband in the water; she who hears a single thump beneath the surface will remain unwedded. Such are the uses to which these "guesses" are now turned, but in olden times they seem to have referred to other subjects, and especially to the weather which the coming year was likely to bring with it. At the season when the birth, or the renewed life, of the Sun was being celebrated, thoughts of the harvest which the next summer was to ripen would necessarily arise, and to them may have been originally due the song sung on those Christmas evenings, beginning--
Glory to God in heaven, Glory!
This song is one of the most prominent among the Kolyadki, for with it always commences the singing of what are called the Podblyudnuiya Songs 3. At the Christmas festival a table is covered with a cloth, and on it is set a dish or bowl (blyudo) containing water. The young people drop rings or other trinkets into the dish, which is afterwards covered with a cloth, and then the Podblyudnuiya Songs commence. At the end of each song one of the trinkets is drawn at random, and its owner deduces an omen from the nature of the words which have just been sung. The Sláva, or "Glory" Song, is as follows:--
Glory to God in Heaven, Glory!
To our Lord on this Earth, Glory!
May our Lord never grow old, Glory!
May his bright robes never be spoiled, Glory!
May his good steeds never be worn out, Glory!
May his trusty servants never falter, Glory!
May the Right throughout Russia, Glory!
Be fairer than the bright Sun, Glory!
May the Tsar's golden treasury, Glory!
Be for ever full to the brim, Glory!
May the great rivers, Glory!
Bear their renown to the sea, Glory!
The little streams to the mill, Glory!
But this song we sing to the Corn, Glory!
To the Corn we sing, the Corn we honour, Glory!
For the old folks to enjoy, Glory!
For the good folks to hear, Glory 4!
The word translated "Lord" in the second line is Gosudar', the term generally applied to the Emperor, but it seems to be used here in the sense of head of the family, lord of the household. Of the other songs of the same class there are many which are very hard to understand. The most intelligible are generally those which refer to marriage, such as the following, in which the divine blacksmith (Kuznets) is introduced--the Slavonic Vulcan, who became transformed in Christian times into the double saint Kuz'ma-Dem'yan [Cosmas and Demian].
There comes a Smith from the forge, Glory!
The Smith carries three hammers, Glory!
Smith, Smith, forge me a crown, Glory!
Forge me a crown both golden and new, Glory!
Forge from the remnants a golden ring, Glory!
And from the chips a pin, Glory!
In that crown will I be wedded, Glory!
With that ring will I be betrothed, Glory!
With that pin will I fasten the nuptial kerchief,
One of the legends about Kuz'ma-Dem'yan is, that once, when he had just made a plough, a great snake tried to attack him. But no sooner had it licked a hole through the iron door of the smithy than the Saint seized it by the tongue with his pincers--as firmly as St. Dunstan seized the devil--harnessed it to the plough, and forced it to plough up the land "from sea to sea." The snake vainly prayed for a draught of water from the Dnieper; the Saint drove it till it came to the Black Sea. That sea it drank half dry, and then it burst 6.
Some of the songs sung at this time have evidently come from the regions inhabited by the South Slavonians, as, for instance, those of which the refrain is,--
O vineyard, green and red!
or the following, in which the name of the man is as foreign as that of the river,--
By the Danube, by the river,
On the steep bank,
There lies an untuned lute, Kolyada!
Who shall tune the lute? Kolyada!
Shall tune the lute, Kolyada!
Zenzevei is away from home;
He has gone to Tsargrad
To settle questions, to arrange agreements,
Among the games in vogue at this season by far the most interesting is that called "The Burial of the Gold." A number of girls form a circle, and pass from hand to hand a gold ring, which a girl who stands inside the circle tries to detect. Meanwhile they sing in chorus the following verses:--
See here, gold I bury, I bury;
Silver pure I bury, I bury;
In the rooms, the rooms of my father,
Rooms so high, so high of my mother.
Guess, O maiden, find out pretty one,
Whose hand is holding
The wings of the serpent--
The girl in the middle replies,--
Gladly would I have guessed,
Had I but known, or had seen,--
Crossing over. the plain,
Plaiting the ruddy brown hair,
Weaving with silk in and out
Interlacing with gold.
O my friends,--O dear companions
Tell the truth, do not conceal it,
Give, oh give me back my gold!
My mother will beat me
For three days, for four:
With three rods of gold,
With a fourth rod of pearl 8.
The chorus breaks in, singing,--
The ring has fallen, has fallen,
Among the guelders and raspberries,
Among the black currants.
. . . . .
Disappeared has our gold,
Hidden amid the mere dust,
Grown all over with moss.
All this is somewhat hard to comprehend, but the explanation given by the mythologists is, that the golden ring represents the sun, hidden away and, as it were, buried by wintry storms and clouds, and that this game--the counterpart of " hunt the slipper," and many other recreations of the same kind--is in reality an ancient rite. It is evidently connected with the custom prevalent among so many nations, our own included, of hiding a ring (or a coin, or a bean) in a loaf or cake, about the time of the New Year.
According to rustic tradition, all sorts of hidden treasures are revealed at this period of the year. During the "holy evenings" between the Nativity and the Epiphany the new-born Divinity comes down from heaven and wanders about on earth, wherefore every sort of labour during that period is held to be a sin. At midnight, on the eve of each of those festivals, the heavenly doors are thrown open; the radiant realms of Paradise in which the Sun dwells, disclose their treasures; the waters of springs and rivers become animated, turn into wine, and receive a healing efficacy; the trees put forth blossoms, and golden fruits ripen upon their boughs 9.
Ideas of this kind were common to the Teutons and to the Slaves, and a certain mysterious being, about whom very little is known, but in whose honour songs are still sung in Russia at Christmastide, seems to have had several points in common with one of the divinities known to German mythology. In the Kolyadki mention is made of a goddess called Kolyada, although no such being appears in the recognized list of old Slavonic deities, and her existence seems to have been accepted only by the popular belief, not by any properly constituted religious authorities. Similar mention is made in another set of songs, called Ovsénevuiya--of another divine being, also seeming to represent the Sun, to whom is given the name of Ovsén 1. He is represented as a "good youth," who appears together with the New Year, making the way clear for it, and bringing from Paradise rich gifts of fruitfulness, which he distributes among mortals according to divine decrees. On New Year's Eve boys go about from house to house, scattering grain of different kinds, but chiefly oats, and singing Ovsénevuiya Pyesni, such as the following:--
In the forest, in the pine-forest,
There stood a pine-tree,
Green and shaggy.
Oh, Ovsen! Oh, Ovsen!
The Boyars came,
Cut down the pine,
Sawed it into planks,
Built a bridge,
Covered it with cloth,
Fastened it with nails.
Oh, Ovsén! Oh, Ovsén!
Who, who will go
Along that bridge?
Ovsen will go there,
And the New Year,
Oh, Ovsén! oh, Ovsén 2!
Another songs asks,--
On what will he come?"
"On a dusky swine."
What will he chase?
"A brisk little pig."
This peculiarity seems to link Ovsén with Fro or Freyr, the Teutonic sun-god, who possessed a boar, Gullinborsti, whose golden fell made the night as clear as the day, whose speed was that of a horse, and who drew the car of the god 3. In reference, probably, to this idea, pigs' trotters, and the like, used to be offered as a sacrifice to the gods at the beginning of a New Year, and the custom still prevails in Russia of preferring such dishes at that time, and giving them away as presents.
The New Year, it may be as well to remark, began in olden times with the month of March, and this method of computation remained in force till A.D. 1348.
The commencement of the New Year was then shifted to the 1st of September, an arrangement which held good till the year 1700, when it was made to begin with the 1st of January 4.
In some of the songs the name Ovsén, or Govsén, as it is sometimes written, occurs as a refrain under the form of Tausen. Here is one, of a later date than those which have already been quoted, in which the names of Kolyada and Ovsén are coupled.
Peter is getting ready to go to the Horde,
Alexander fawns at his feet,
Do not go to the Horde, do not serve the king.
Serve thou the White Tsar.
Without thee surely can I not
Eat bread and salt,
Nor sleep upon a bed.
Now must I sleep in sorrow
On the bare boards,
On the warm stove,
On the ninth brick.
Koleda Tausen 5!
Among the many strange customs preserved among the people is a very singular one, kept up by the peasants of White-Russia, by which they express in a symbolical form the idea that the New Year brings with it to each man his allotted share of weal and woe. On New Year's Eve they lead about from
house to house two youths. One of them, called the Rich Kolyada, is dressed in new and holiday attire, and wears on his head a wreath made of ears of rye; the other, whom they call the Poor Kolyada, wears a ragged suit and a wreath made of threshed-out straw. When they come to a cottage they wrap up each of the two youths in long coverings, and tell the owner of the house to choose one of them. If his choice falls upon the Rich Kolyada, a song is sung by his visitors, which states that a good harvest awaits him, and plenty of money; but if he chooses the Poor Kolyada, then the singers warn him that he must expect poverty and death.
In Little-Russia, on the festival of the New Year, a number of corn sheaves are piled upon a table, and in the midst of them is set a large pie. The father of the family takes his seat behind them, and asks his children if they can see him. "We cannot see you," they reply. On which he proceeds to express what seems to be a hope that the corn will grow so high in his fields that he may be invisible to his children when he walks there in harvest-time. A similar custom is said by German writers of about the twelfth century to have prevailed in their times among the Baltic Slavonians, only in that case it was a priest, who hid himself behind a pile of sheaves 6.
Another custom, most religiously preserved, is the preparing of Kásha--a favourite Russian dish made of stewed grain--for the New Year. Kásha in this
case is used as a general expression for corn, or for the coining harvest, and is spoken of as a living person, as some great lady who is met on the threshold by boyars and princes, and who comes attended by two other personages of importance, "Honourable Oats," and "Golden Barley." Here is one of the formulas recited during the cooking of the New Year's Kásha. "They sowed Buckwheat, they let it shoot up all the summer long. Both fair and rosy did our Buckwheat grow up. They called, they invited our Buckwheat to visit Tsargrad, to feast at the princely banquet. Off set Buckwheat to visit Tsargrad, with Princes, with Boyars, with Honourable Oats, with Golden Barley. They awaited Buckwheat, they tarried till its coming at the Stone Gates. Princes and Boyars met Buckwheat, they set Buckwheat at the oaken table to feast. As a guest has our Buckwheat come unto us 7.
The singers of the songs about Ovsen receive presents, standing in lieu of the old contributions towards a sacrifice to the Gods, for which they ask in some such terms as
"Give us a pig for Vasíly's Eve."
The first day of the New Year being consecrated to the memory of St. Basil the Great, the previous evening bears the name of Basil's or Vasíly's Eve. In one of the Little-Russian songs it is said that "Ilya comes on Vasíly's Day," i.e. on Basil's or New Year's Day comes the Sun-god or the Thunder-bearer,
originally Perun, who, under Christian influences, became Elijah, or Ilya.
On Vasíly's Day.
He holds a whip
Of iron wire
And another of tin.
Hither he waves,
Thither he waves--
Corn grows 8.
An idea which is intended to be conveyed by the custom of scattering seeds which is still kept up by the singers of songs to Ovsén.
The Svyatki--the Christmas or New Year festivities--come to an end with the Feast of the Epiphany, on the eve of which a curious custom is observed. After dark, on the 4th of January, the girls go out into the open air, and address this prayer to the stars:--
O Stars, Stars,
Dear little Stars!
All ye, O Stars,
Are the fair children
Ruddy and white,
Of one mother.
Send forth through the christened world
Proposers of marriages 9.
On the feast of the Epiphany, in some places, a number of sheaves of various kinds of corn are heaped
up in the courtyards after the morning service is over, the cattle are driven up to them, and the corn and the animals are sprinkled with holy water. This appears to be a relic of a festival observed in old times, when the cattle were first driven out afield after the winter was past, and seems to speak of a warmer clime as its birthplace, for sprinkling with water is a somewhat unseasonable custom at a time when every spring or stream is frozen. Not less inopportune is the custom which prevails in some parts of bathing on the occasion of "Meeting the Spring," the bath often having to be taken in one of the holes in the ice kept open for the purpose of procuring water during the frosty season. Either the custom has been imported from a southern land, or the date of the festival has been altered.
Such an alteration has been brought about in some cases by, the Church, for the introducers of Christianity into Russia found that certain festivals, which the people had observed from time immemorial, occurred during the season of Lent. As the Clergy objected to this, but were not powerful enough utterly to abolish the feasts, they transferred them to the week preceding Lent--the Máslyanitsa, or "Butter-week," [Máslo = oil or butter] answering to the Carnival of Western Europe.
The songs appropriate to this season have almost entirely disappeared, but some idea of their nature may be obtained by a study of the customs appertaining to it, the songs and customs having always been closely connected with each other. In some
parts of Russia a large sledge, drawn by twelve horses, is driven about at this time, followed by other sledges containing singers and musicians. On the principal sledge is placed a pillar with a wheel on the top, and on the wheel sits a man dressed in a peculiar style, with bells and cymbals attacked to his clothes, and holding in his hands bread and a bottle of spirits. He probably represents the Sun, of which a wheel was so well known an emblem, and he seems to be a male counterpart of the girl who, as the representative of Kolyada, used to be driven about in a similar manner on the days immediately following the winter solstice.
In other places a sort of huge "Christmas Tree" is carried round, an emblem of summer fruitfulness. In Archangel an ox, resembling the French buf gras, occupies the place of honour on the sledge; and in Siberia a ship, with sails spread, conveying a figure representing "Lady Maslyanitsa," and a bear 1. As in mythical speech a ship generally means a cloud, fraught with showers destined to enrich the earth, and the bear is one of the familiar emblems of the thunder-god, the Siberian equipage is looked upon by the mythologists as a type of the storm-compelling deity, who was supposed to make his power specially felt about the time of the vernal equinox, or an emblem of the productive powers of nature, manifesting themselves at springtide amid wind and thunder and rain.
In some parts of Russia the end or death of winter is celebrated on the last day of the "Butter-week," by the burning of " the Straw Mujik"--a heap of straw, to which each of the participators in the ceremony contributes his portion. The same custom prevails in Bulgaria, accompanied by dancing round the bonfire, the firing of guns and pistols, and the singing of songs in honour of Lado or Lada, the peculiar deity of Spring. There, also, during the whole week, the children amuse themselves by shooting with bows and arrows, a custom which has descended to them from their remote ancestors, and which is supposed, by some imaginative writers, to have referred in olden times to the victory obtained by the sun-beams--the arrows of the far-darting Apollo--over the forces of cold and darkness.
In every Slavonic country, indeed, there are to be found, at this period of the year, traces of olden rites intended to typify the death of Winter and the birth of Spring or Summer. Some of them have been preserved in customs almost identical with those still kept up by various Latin or Teutonic peoples; as, for instance, the destruction of a figure representing Winter or Death. In Poland a puppet, made of hemp and straw, is flung into a pond or swamp, with the words "The Devil take thee!" Then the participators in the deed scamper home, and if one of them stumbles on the way and falls, it is believed that he will be sure to die within the
year. In Upper Lusatia the figure of Death is constructed of straw and rags, and fastened to the end of a long pole, to be pelted with sticks and stones. Whoever knocks it off the pole is certain to live through the year. Afterwards the figure is either thrown into water, or taken to the boundary of the village lands and flung across it: its bearers then return home carrying green boughs or an entire tree, emblems of the springtide life which has taken the place of banished death. Sometimes the figure is dressed in white, as if in a shroud, and in one hand is placed a besom, in token of winter's sweeping storms, and in the other a sickle--one of the characteristic signs of the goddess whom the Old Slavonians represented as reaping the living harvest of the world. In Slavonia the figure is thumped with bludgeons, and then torn in twain, just as a somewhat similar puppet is treated in the middle of Lent in Spain and Italy. In Little-Russia a female figure is carried about, while springtide songs are being sung, and then is set on fire, the villagers singing, while it burns, joyous invocations to the Spring.
In many parts of Russia the 1st of March is the day still set apart in deference to old customs for the reception of the Spring. In the early morning the women and children go out to the highest places they can find, mounting the hills, if there are any in their neighbourhood, or climbing on the roofs of barns and other buildings, if the country around is utterly flat, and singing some of the numerous Vesnyanki,
Vesenniya Pyesni, songs appropriate to Vesná, the vernal season, such as,
Spring, beautiful Spring!
Come, O Spring, with joy,
With great goodness:
With tall flax,
With deep roots,
With abundant corn!
In some places the girls go into water up to the girdle, or, if the streams are still frozen over, take hands round a hole in the ice, and dance, and sing,--
O healthful springtide water,
To us also give health!
And sometimes sick persons are brought down to the banks of a river, and sprinkled with water, in the hope that it may restore them to health. In other places a similar custom prevails at a later period of the year, on the Thursday in Holy Week, or on the 1st of May. In the Government of Tula, for instance, the "Invocation of the Spring" commences with the first week after Easter. Before sunset the young people of a village go to the top of the nearest hill, turn towards the east, silently repeat a prayer, and then begin the circling dance and song of the Khorovod. The principal singer, holding a loaf in one hand, and an egg painted red in the other, begins
On what hast thou come?
On what hast thou ridden?"
"On a plough,
On a harrow."
Afterwards they all commence one of the choral songs:--
All the maidens are in the street!
All the fair maidens in the broad street;
One maiden is not there.
She sits in the upper room,
She embroiders a kerchief with gold,
She fastens a favour on a bridle.
Ah, a great sorrow!
By whom shall it be obtained?
It shall be obtained by my destined husband 2.
On March 9, the day on which the larks are supposed to arrive, the rustics make clay images of those birds, smear them with honey and tip their heads with tinsel, and then carry them about singing songs to Spring, or to Lada, the vernal goddess of love and fertility. The peasants have a springtide calendar of their own, according to which--on the 1st of March [o. s.] the Baibak, or Steppe Marmot, awakes from its winter's sleep, comes out of its hole, and begins to utter its whistling cry. On the 4th arrives the Rook, and on the 9th the Lark. On the 17th the ice on the rivers becomes so rotten that, according to a popular expression, "A Pike can send its tail through it." On the 25th the Swallow comes flying from Paradise, and brings with it warmth to the earth. On the 5th of April the Crickets bestir themselves; and on the 12th the Bear comes out of the den in which he has slept away the winter.
Like the Greeks, the Romans, and the Teutons 3, the Old Slavonians seem to have greeted with special joy the return of the swallow, "the bird of God," as it is called in Ruthenia, "the Virgin Mary's bird," as the Bohemians name it, whose early arrival foretells an abundant harvest, whose presence keeps off fire and lightning, and the robbing of whose nest brings down terrible evils on the head of the robber, or at least brings out freckles on his face.
The cuckoo, also, is regarded with much respect in Slavonic lands. In the Old Polish Chronicle of Prokosz, quoted by Jacob Grimm in the Deutsche Mythologie (p. 543), it is stated that the people believed that the God Zywie, the Lord of Life, used to transform himself into a cuckoo, in order to address the faithful with ominous voice. This deity is the male counterpart of Jiva, the Slavonian Goddess of the Spring, whose name is a contracted form of Jivana, in Polish Ziewonia, that is, "the giver of life" (jizn'). Many of the other stories about the cuckoo and the swallow, mentioned by Mr. Kelly in his "Curiosities of Indo-European Tradition and Folklore 4," are known to the Russian peasants.
The name of the cuckoo is associated with a singular custom of great antiquity. A few weeks after Easter--generally during the seventh week, the time of the Semík festival--the village women and girls meet together at some spot in the woods, and there fasten to a bough a figure made of shreds and flowers,
and supposed to represent a cuckoo, and underneath it they hang the little pectoral crosses which all Russians bear. Sometimes, instead of this, they pull up by the roots the plant called "cuckoo-grass" (orchis latifolia), dress it up in a shift, and then bury it in the earth underneath two semicircles of wood 6 set crossways, which they cover with handkerchiefs, and on which they hang crosses. In the Orel and Tula Governments they place a small cross on the figure of the cuckoo itself, and sing,
Gossips, darlings! (kumushki, golubushki) 5
Become gossips, love each other, make presents to each other!
This is called the "Christening of the Cuckoos" (kreshchenie kukusëk). When two girls have kissed each other under the decorated arch, and have exchanged crosses, they become "Gossips" for life, as intimately connected as if, at the christening of a child, they had become attached to each other by the Spiritual ties of co-godmothership. On the Semík festival the villagers choose two young birch-trees in a wood, bend them down, and fasten their branches together into a circle, which they adorn with ribbons, handkerchiefs, and the like. Above this circle they place the figure of a cuckoo, or the dressed-up cuckoo-grass,
and from the sides they hang crosses. Two girls then walk in different directions round the birch-trees, so as to meet at the leafy circle, through which they kiss each other three times, and give each other a yellow egg. Meantime the other women sing in chorus,
O spotted cuckoo!
To whom art thou a gossip?
We will become gossips, O kumushka,
We will become gossips, O golubushka,
So that we may never be at variance.
They then exchange crosses, and divide the "Cuckoo" into two parts, one of which each of them keeps in memory of the occasion. Afterwards the whole party prepare and eat omelettes, and finish the day with dance and song. In the Orel Government. according to Tereshchenko, it is, or used to be, customary for men also to enter into the state of mutual cuckoo-gossipry 7.
The time set apart for the "Christening of the Cuckoos" coincides with that in which the souls of little children who have died unchristened appear under the form of small Rusalkas 8 seeking for the baptism which is necessary for their salvation. Coupling this fact with that of the soul being constantly represented as a bird, and remarking that the cuckoo is a common type in Russia of the orphan state, Afanasief suggests that the "Christening of the Cuckoos" ought, perhaps, to be regarded as a symbolical
rite having reference to the christening of such children as have died unbaptized, and are therefore obliged to fly wailing through the air. The baptismal idea must have originated during the Christian period of Russian history--perhaps about the time when, under the rule of Yaroslaf, the remains of the sons of Svyatoslaf, the heathen princes Yaropolk and Oleg, were exhumed for the purpose of being baptized, after which they were interred within a church; but the kumovstvo, or gossipship, is, in all probability, nothing more than a slightly altered form of the old pobratimstvo, or mutual brotherhood by adoption. To this day the Servians keep up a custom very similar to the Russian Cuckoo-Christening, held at Eastertide in memory of the dead, with kissings through willow circlets, and exchanges of red eggs, after which the men are called Pobrati, "adopted-brothers," and the girls "friends 9."
In Lithuania, says Tereshchenko, at Eastertide, the young people of each village meet within some cottage. There they first sing various songs, and then they perform the cuckoo dance. A girl, whose eyes are bandaged, sits on a chair, round which the rest of the party dance in a circle. After each round the men come up to her, and taking her in turn by the hand, sing,
Queen Cuckoo--kuku, kuku!
I am thine, brother--kuku, kuku!'
Eventually she uncovers her eyes, leaves her seat, and chooses three of the young men as her partners in the dance. Before parting she gives each of them a sash worked by her own hands, and they make her a present in return. Thenceforward she calls them her brothers, and they call her their sister. This custom is supposed to be founded upon the popular tradition of a sister who, in the olden days, felt so keenly the loss of her three brothers, who all fell in one battle, that she left her father's home and wandered about the forest weeping bitterly, until a compassionate deity turned her into a cuckoo. In one district the Lithuanian girls still sing,--
Thou who feedest
The horses of thy brothers;
Thou who spinnest
Say, O Cuckoo,
Shall I soon be married?
The length of time during which the girl will have to wait will be signified to her by the number of repetitions of the Cuckoo's cry 1.
Among many of the Roman Catholic Slavonians a feast, originally in honour of the Spring, is celebrated in the middle of Lent, and some traces of it are still, to be found among them even in Holy Week, the day before Good Friday, for instance, being known to the Bohemians as Green Thursday. Palm Sunday is known
in Russia as Verbnoe Voskresenie, Willow Sunday. The verba, or sallow, was made use of at this time of year long before it became likened to the palms or olive branches of Christianity, children and cattle being then, as now, beaten with its boughs, while such songs were probably sung as that which is still to be heard on such occasions in Little-Russia:--
Be tall, like the willow;
And healthy, like water;
And rich, like the soil.
Even on Good Friday itself, in some places, the old pagan practices show signs of life. Before sunrise on that day it is customary for the Bohemians, says Orest Miller 2, to go into their gardens, and there, falling on their knees before a tree, to say,--
"I pray, O green tree, that God may make thee good,"--a formula which has probably been altered, under the influence of Christianity, from a direct prayer to the tree to a prayer for it. And at night they run about the garden, exclaiming,--
"Bud, O trees, bud! or I will flog you."
And on the next day, the Saturday in Holy Week, they shake the trees, while the church-bells are ringing, and go about the garden clashing keys. This they do under the impression that the more noise they make the more fruit will they get.
At Eastertide, according to a belief common to Germans and Slavonians, the Sun is accustomed to
dance in the heavens, and so in Ruthenia the peasants rise before the dawn, and climb high places in order to witness the spectacle. In pagan times the gods were supposed to walk the earth at Springtide, and so the Russian peasant now believes that, from Easter Sunday to Ascension-day, Christ and His Apostles wander about the world, dressed in rags and asking alms. In the Government of Smolensk it is believed that Christ always visits the earth on Thursday in Holy Week, and so, in readiness for the heavenly guest, a particular kind of loaf is prepared in every house. In most of the villages of White-Russia songs are sung at this season in honour of the Virgin, of St. George and St. Nicholas, and of the Prophet Elijah, and eatables, adorned with green boughs, are provided. Among the viands generally figures a roast lamb or sucking-pig, the bones of which are afterwards--either scattered about the fields to protect the crops from hail, or are kept in the houses to be burnt, during the time of the summer storms, as a preservative against lightning.
On Easter Eggs, much as is thought of them in Russia, it is unnecessary to dwell here at any length, as they are so well known elsewhere and so much has been written about them. But we may mention the epithet given to the Paschal week in Russia, that of Svyetlaya, "bright," one which [unless it is borrowed from the Greek lampra] may be derived from those heathen times in which our own ancestors worshipped the Goddess Ostara or Eástre, whose name, suggestive of the East and its brightness, has
been preserved by us in that of Easter 3. In Little-Russia it used to be the custom at Eastertide to celebrate the funeral of a being called Kostrubonko, the deity of the spring. A circle was formed of singers, who moved slowly around a girl who lay on the ground as if dead, and as they went they sang,--
Dead, dead is our Kostrubonko!
Dead, dead is our dear one!
until the girl suddenly sprang up, on which the chorus joyfully exclaimed,--
Come to life, come to life has our Kostrubonko!
Come to life, come to life has our dear one!
With the first week after Easter commences the festival of the Krasnaya Gorka, "the red, or bright little hill," the epithet referring, like the red colour of the Easter eggs, to the brightness of the spring, and the name of "little hill" being given to it because it was originally held, or at least inaugurated, on some high place. It lasts from Low Sunday till the end of June, and its chief feature is the Khorovod--the circling dance attended by choral song. The chief singer on these occasions is a woman, who holds in her hands a round loaf and a red egg--each an emblem of the Sun. Turning her face towards the east she begins one of the vernal songs, which is then taken up by the chorus, and in many places this is attended or followed by the destruction of the figure of Death, or Winter, to which allusion has already been made.
Many of the songs are addressed to the Goddess of Love, the presiding genius of the season, or at least have reference to her influence, and in some places it is customary to sing them under the windows of young wedded couples. But the dead also are remembered at this season of the year. The old pagan rites formerly performed in their honour are still kept up in some parts of Russia. The festival called Rádunitsa, held at the same time with, or just after, that of the Krasnaya Gorka, is chiefly devoted to the memory of the dead. In certain districts the women and girls still take food and drink to the cemeteries, and there "howl" over the graves of their dead friends and relatives. When they have "howled" long enough, they sit down and proceed to eat, drink, and be merry, deeming that the dead can "rejoice" with them. After their meal, the fragments which remain over are thrown to the evil spirits, in order to prevent them from troubling the repose of the dead, and with similar intent their flasks and drinking-cups are emptied over the graves 4. Then they return home, dress themselves in holiday attire, and go out to the Krasnaya Gorka, to commence their songs and the games to which those songs form an accompaniment.
It has already been stated that the greater part of these songs relate exclusively to love, or to other subjects connected with social life, but there are also
some which may possibly have a mythical signification. In one of these a young man wanders with uplifted hands in the space enclosed by the circle of the Khorovod. The chorus sings,--
Our bright Prince has gone,
Has gone around his city,
Has gone around his high city:
Our bright Prince seeks
His bright Princess.--
. . . . .
He goes, the Prince goes,
Goes around the city.
He cuts, he hews
With his sword the gates.
Shall we soon, O bright Prince,
Find the fair maiden?
At this point the youth stands still, the chorus stops, and he finishes the song as follows:--
Wherever I shall find
The fair princely maiden--
To that princely maiden
Will I give a golden ring.
In this dramatic poem, with the leading idea of which may be compared the "Passage of the King and Queen" among the Czechs and Servians, or the German "Maigraf and Maigräfin," Orest Miller, [Opuit, I. 51] sees evident reference to the idea of the Sun, as a bright Prince, piercing with his beams, as with a sharp sword, the icy obstacles by which Winter strives to keep him from his fair bride the Earth.
The most widely spread of the choral games belonging to the Krasnaya Gorka festival is that called
"The Sowing of the Millet," of which an account will be given in the chapter devoted to songs relating to marriage 5. Of the rest we have already given several examples in the first chapter 6. In the "Meeting," or "Coming together" (Skhodbishche), a number of girls go out into the meadows, where they are met by "the arrived ones"--the game belonging to the season at which the young men arrive in the villages after their winter sojourn in the towns. A circle of dancers is formed, in the middle of which a young couple take their places, and then the others move round them singing,--
From one street comes a youth,
From another comes a fair maiden;
Close have they drawn near to each other,
Low have they bent in greeting.
Then thus speaks the brave youth:
"Farest thou well, O beauteous maiden?"
Smilingly the maiden answers,
"Well do I fare, dear friend;
How dost thou fare alone without me?
Long is it since I have seen thee,
Since that time when we two parted."
In the game called Pleten', a word meaning a wattled fence, the dancers stand up in couples, and, with hands locked together after the manner of a fence, form in line. Their leader begins the following song:--
Be twined together, O fence, be twined together!
And do thou be coiled up, O golden pipe!
Be folded up, O rustling damask!
From behind the hills the maiden has driven out the ducks.
Come away home, duckie!
Come away home, gray one . . . .
When the chorus comes to an end the leading couple lift up on high their joined hands. Then, as in our own country-dance, the other couples pass under the arch so formed, while the chorus sings,--
Untwine, O fence, untwine!
Uncoil, O golden pipe!
Unfold, O rustling damask!
The game called DON IVANOVICH is associated with an old popular tradition, according to which the rivers Don and Shat are the offspring of Lake Iván. Those who take part in it form a circle, and move around the leader, who is supposed to represent Don Ivanovich. As they go they sing a song, the changes in which he follows with suitable movements of his limbs. It begins--
Now has our youth
Come along the street to the end.
Ah! Don, our Don,
Don Iván's son!
Ah! they have called the youth,
They have called the bold one.
Ah! Don, etc.
To feast at the banquet,
To sit at the gathering,
To take part in the games,
Ah! Don, etc.
Eventually the song and game resolve themselves into those already described (at p. 8), under the title of "The Murman Cap."
Here is one more of the Songs sung at this time of year--a song specially worthy of notice on account of the hostile expressions it contains with respect to Byzantium, a city which, after the conversion of the Slavonians to Christianity, acquired a sacred character in their eyes.
I will go up, I will go up,
I will go up to Tsar-gorod.
I will shatter, I will shatter,
With my lance will I shatter the wall!
I will roll away, I will roll away,
A barrel of treasure will I roll away!
I will give, I will give it
To my harsh father-in-law!
Be thou kind, be thou kind,
Like unto my own father dear!
. . . . .
I will bring out, I will bring out,
A pelisse of fox's skin will I bring out!
I will give, I will give it
To my harsh mother-in-law!
Be thou kind, be thou kind,--
Like unto my own mother dear 7!
In some of the songs which are now sung by the children only, but which used not to be confined to them alone, the rains which play so important a part at this season of the year are either begged to come, or entreated to go away. When the first spring shower falls the children thus address it,--
Get thyself ready to be seen.
Shower, let thyself go well.
. . . . .
Pour, O rain,
Over the grandmother's rye,
Over the grandfather's wheat,
Over the girls' flax,
Pour in bucketsful.
Rain, rain, let thyself go,
Warm us young ones.
And they make it promises, saying,--
Dear rain, dear rain,
I will cook thee some borshch [soup],
I will put it on an oak.
Three pigeons will come flying,
They will take thee on their wings,
Will bear thee to a foreign land.
The spring rain was supposed to produce a beneficial effect even upon the human body, and therefore it was customary to wash in it. Its efficacy was increased if it came attended by thunder. "St. Peter [evidently Perun's successor] lifts up his voice and gives us wine, that we may all drink our fill," says a Bohemian song. And in order to obtain that celestial wine from the clouds, not only were songs sung, but certain rites were observed.
Of such a kind are the well-known rites of Dodola kept up among the Servians to the present day. During a drought a girl, literally "in verdure clad," something like our own "Jack in the Green," but having no covering beyond one of leaves and flowers, is conducted through the village, her companions singing meanwhile "Dodola Songs," and afterwards the women pour water over her, she dancing all the
time, and turning round and round. The people believe that by this means there will be extorted from the "heavenly women"--the clouds--the rain for which thirsts the earth, as represented by the green-clad maiden Dodola. The songs which are employed upon this occasion begin with a prayer for rain, after which they say,--
"We pass through the village, and the clouds across the sky. We go quicker, and the clouds go quicker, but the clouds have overtaken us, and have bedewed the fields," And again, "We go through the village, and the clouds across the sky, and see, a ring drops from the clouds!"
A custom exists in Russia of catching rain that falls during a thunder-storm in a basin, at the bottom of which rings have been placed; in the Riazan Government, water that has been dropped through a wedding-ring is supposed to have certain merits as a lotion; and at a Little-Russian marriage the bride is bound to give the bridegroom to drink from a cup of wine in which a ring has been put. In Dalmatia the same custom is kept up as in Servia, only instead of a girl called Dodola, it is a young unmarried man who is dressed up, and who dances and has water poured over him. He is called Prpats, and his companions, who are young bachelors like himself, bear the name Prporushe. In Bulgaria the same part is played by a girl, who must be just fifteen years old, and who is called Preperuga or Peperuga, and among the modern Greeks by a child of from eight to ten years old, who is called Purpirouna. In Wallachia
the name has become Papeluga, as appears from the song which the children sing in time of drought--"Papeluga! Go into heaven, open the gates, and send rain from on high, that the corn may grow well!" In different parts of Germany similar customs used to prevail, and Jacob Grimm [D. M. 560-562] thinks that the Dodola and Purpirouna were originally identical with the Bavarian Wasservogel and the Austrian Pfingstkönig, whom he connects with old rain-preserving rites, although the custom of covering them with foliage, and then flinging them into a brook, has now degenerated into a mere practical joke played off upon the lazy.
The name of Dodola is by some philologists derived from doït' = to give milk, Dodola being looked upon as a bountiful mother, a type of teeming nature. Others connect it with Did-Lado, from the Lithuanian Didis = great, and Lado, the Slavonic Genius of the spring. From the mention of a ring made in the Dodola songs, and in others referring to storm and rain, it is supposed that a golden ring, in mythical language, is to be taken as a representation of the lightning's heavenly gold.
The 23rd of April is consecrated to St. George of Cappadocia, and is known as the Yurief Den (or Yegorief Den) Vesenny, i.e. Yury's (or Yegóry's) Day in the spring. On it a festival is celebrated of a national, as well as of an ecclesiastical character, and to it are devoted a number of special songs, which derive from it the name of Yegoriefskiya Pyesni. Their mythical character is, in ni-any cases, apparent
enough, serving to prove that the Christian hero, St. George, has merely taken the place of some old deity, light-bringing or thunder-compelling, who used to be honoured at this time of year in heathen days. It is not a slayer of dragons and protector of princesses who appears in these songs, but a patron of farmers and herdsmen, who preserves cattle from harm, and on whose day, therefore, the flocks and herds are, for the first time after the winter, sent out into the open fields. "What the wolf holds in its teeth, that Yegory has given," says a proverb, which shows how completely he is supposed to rule over the fold and the stall. Here is one of the songs
We have gone around the field,
We have called Yegory . . . .
"O thou, our brave Yegory,
Save our cattle,
In the field, and beyond the field,
In the forest, and beyond the forest,
Under the bright moon,
Under the red sun,
From the rapacious wolf,
From the cruel bear,
From the cunning beast."
In Bulgaria a regular sacrifice is said to be still offered up on the occasion, a ram being killed by an old man, while girls spread grass on which the blood of the victims is poured forth. A White-Russian song represents Yegory as opening with golden keys--probably the sunbeams--the soil which has been hard bound all the winter.
Holy Yury, the divine envoy,
Has gone to God,
And having taken the golden keys,
Has unlocked the moist earth,
Having scattered the clinging dew
Over White-Russia and all the world 8.
In Moravia they "meet the Spring " with the following song:--
"Death Week! [The Fourth Sunday in Lent--the time of the expulsion of Death = Winter], what hast thou done with the keys?"
"I gave them to Palm-Sunday."
"Palm-Sunday I what hast thou done with the keys?"
"I gave them to Green Thursday [the day before Good Friday]."
Green Thursday! what hast thou done with the keys?"
"I gave them to St. George. St. George arose and unlocked the earth, so that the grass grew--the green grass."
In White-Russia it is the custom on St. George's Day to drive the cattle afield through the morning dew, and in Little-Russia and Bulgaria the young people go out early and roll themselves in it.
Besides the springtide Yurief Den, there is another St. George's Day in the autumn, or rather winter, on the 26th of November. Upon that day, said a tradition which prevailed in Russia up to the sixteenth century, the people in a certain district by the sea [Lukomorie] used to die--to come to life again upon the corresponding, Saint's Day, in April.
Before temporarily giving up the ghost, they were in the habit of placing the wares they had on sale in a certain spot, from which the neighbours who wanted them took them away. The settlement of accounts took place as soon as the owners of the goods came to life again. This legend seems to be closely connected with that which Herodotus found himself unable to believe, of the people who lived beyond the bald-headed and goat-footed races, and who slept away six months of the year at a stretch--a story which Heeren supposed to have referred to the length of the Polar night, and which has also been explained as meaning that there were people who "lived indoors in comparative darkness half the year 9."
The mythical character of Yegory the Brave becomes very apparent in some of the poems about him which have been preserved among the people by oral tradition. According to them he came into the world a strange child, for his arms up to the elbows were of gold, and his legs up to the knees were of silver, and his head was all of pearl. When the time of his martyrdom came, his pagan foe, King Demianishche, had him shut up in a deep dungeon, and gave orders "that he should not see the white light, nor perceive the red sun, nor hear the sound of bells or of church-singing." So Yegory lay in utter darkness for thirty years. Then "the red sun shone warmly, and there came a thunder-cloud, and the stormy winds arose," and swept away all the bolts
and bars of the dungeon, so that Yegory was able to come out of it, and once more to see the white light. After that he fought many battles, including one with a fiery serpent, always coming off victorious, and finally he killed the heathen king, from whose veins poured forth such a torrent that Yegory stood up to his knees in blood. All this, says Afanasief, is nothing more than a poetic representation of the struggle which takes place in spring between Perun and the dark storm-clouds, which are crushed beneath his mace, or pierced by the shafts of his lightning. For a time the demon of wintry storms may hide the sun, keeping him, as it were, imprisoned, but the spring comes, the sunlight bursts out again in all its glory, and the thunder-god once more goes forth conquering and to conquer 1.
On the Thursday of the seventh week after Easter is held the feast called Semík (from sem = seven). In heathen times a number of rites were performed, and games were celebrated, during the month of May, in honour of the Goddess of the Spring: after heathenism had given place to Christianity, these games, and some remnants of their accompanying rites, were transferred with altered names to the festivals of Ascension Day and Whitsuntide. And in that way many of them have now become attached to the Semík
holiday, held upon the Thursday before Trinity Day, or Whit-Sunday. On that day the Russian villagers, and the common people in the towns, go out into the woods, sing songs, weave garlands, and cut down a young birch-tree, which they dress up in woman's clothes, or adorn with many-coloured shreds and ribbons. After that comes a feast, at the end of which they take the dressed-up birch-tree, carry it home to their village with joyful dance and song, and set it up in one of the houses, where it remains as an honoured guest till Whit-Sunday. On the two intervening days they pay visits to the house where their "guest" is; but on the third day, Whit-Sunday, they take her to a stream, and fling her into its waters, throwing their Semík garlands after her.
In the district of Pinsk, on Whit-Monday, the peasant girls choose the handsomest of their number, envelope her in a mass of foliage taken from birch-trees and maples, and--under the name of Kust (shrub or bush)--carry her about, just as the Dodola maiden is carried about in Servia. In the Government of Poltava, in Little-Russia, they take round "a poplar," represented by a girl with bright flowers in her hair. In the neighbourhood of Voroneje, at Whitsuntide, it was the custom in old times to construct a small hut in the middle of an oak copse, to adorn it with garlands and flowers and fragrant grasses, and to place inside it a figure made of wood or straw, and dressed up in a male or female holiday attire. To this spot the inhabitants of the neighbourhood would flock together, bringing their
provisions with them, and would dance and make merry around the hut.
In these instances the Semík birch-tree, the bush," the "poplar," and the Whitsuntide puppet, are all representatives of some Deity of the Spring whom the people worshipped in olden days, and whose memory still survives, although "the wearing of the green" has been adopted by the Church, and the birch-trees which once were put to pagan uses are now turned into the ornaments of Christian temples. All over Russia every village and every town is turned, a little before Whit-Sunday, into a sort of garden. Everywhere along the streets the young birch-trees stand in rows, every house and every room is adorned with boughs, even the engines upon the railways are for the time decked with green leaves. On the eve of Whit-Sunday the churches are dressed in green as ours are at Christmas, and the next day the women and children go to the morning service carrying posies, which they preserve during the rest of the year, deeming them a preservative against all sorts of maladies.
In many places, especially in Little-Russia, the young folks go out into the woods on Whit-Sunday, singing in chorus this song, in which there is a strange medley of Christian and heathen designations:--
Bless, O Trinity,
O Mother of God!
We must go into the forest,
We must weave wreaths,
Ai Dido, Oi Lado!
We must weave wreaths,
And pluck flowers.
When the wreaths are ready they are exchanged between the youths and the maidens. The girls put them on their heads, the lads adorn their hats with them. In the evening, after the Khorovod games are over, or on the following day, they go to a stream, and throw their wreaths into it, singing the while--
I will go to the river Danube,
I will stand on the steep bank,
I will throw my wreath on the waters:
I will go afar off and see,
Whether sinks, or sinks not,
My wreath in the waters 2. . . .
If the wreath swims steadily, without running ashore, its late wearer will marry happily and live long; if it circles around one spot, there is reason to fear some misfortune, a broken engagement, or an unrequited love; and its sinking is a very evil omen, foreboding that he or she who wore it will either die soon, or at least go down to the grave unmarried.
The songs which are sung in the Khorovods on these occasions frequently refer to a contest between two apparently mythical personages, and two mythical names are mentioned in them--those of Lado and of Tur. About Tur very little is known, but there seem to be reasonable grounds for identifying him with Perun or with Freyr 3. Lado, or Did-Lado.
as has already been observed, is generally supposed to be the solar deity, or the god of the spring and of love. One of the songs is as follows. A number of girls form a circle and sing,--
Ah! on the grass, on the green turf,
Around a great city,
Strayed a bold youth.
While this is being sung, a girl, who wears a man's hat, walks with an air of pride around the circle. Then another girl, holding a handkerchief in her hand, goes inside the circle, the chorus singing meanwhile,--
Oi, Tur, the bold youth;
He from out of the great city.
Has called the beauteous maiden
To contend with him on the grass.
Oi Did, Lado! to contend.
Then the girl with the kerchief comes out and deprives the other of her hat, and pretends to strike her, the chorus singing,--
The beauteous maiden has come out
And has overcome the youth;
Has dropped him on the green turf,
Oi, Did, Lado! has dropped him.
The conqueror goes away, and the song ends as follows:--
The brave youth rising up,
Hid his face in his hands,
Dropped burning tears.
His grief he did not dare
To good people to tell.
Oi, Tur! Did! Lado! to tell 4.
The contest here described has been explained in various ways. Some commentators think it is the same as that mentioned in a Servian song, in which the Lightning-Maiden struggles with the Thunder-Youth and conquers him. Others, taking Tur to be the solar deity, refer it to the substitution for the daylight of the evening glow or the clear summer-night.
Some traces of tree-worship may be found in the song which the girls sing as they go out into the woods to fetch the birch-tree, and to gather flowers for wreaths and garlands.
Rejoice not, Oaks;
Rejoice not, green Oaks.
Not to you go the maidens,
Not to you do they bring pies,
Io, Io, Semík and Troitsa [Trinity]
Rejoice, Birch-trees, rejoice green ones
To you go the maidens!
To you they bring pies,
The eatables here mentioned seem to refer to sacrifices offered in olden days to the birch, the tree of the spring. The oak, to which no sacrifice is offered, is the summer tree.
On the banks of the river Metch, near Tula, there stands a circle of stones. These, according to popular belief, were once girls who formed a Khorovod on this spot, and who danced on Whit-Sunday in so furious a manner that they were all thunder-smitten into stone.
In some of these songs reference is made to the bathing of a gaily-attired maiden, to whom is given the name of Kostroma, and sometimes not only the bathing but also the drowning of a "brave youth" is vaguely mentioned. These allusions connect them with the class of songs called Kupalskiya, which are sung at Midsummer, and which are evidently rich in mythical purport, though it is often difficult to ascertain their exact meaning, as they have come down to the present day in a very mutilated condition. In popular speech the St. Agrafena [Agrippina], to whom the 23rd of June is dedicated, is surnamed Kupálnitsa, and St. John the Baptist, who is honoured on the 24th, is known as Iván Kupálo. The rites which belong to these two festivals are also kept up on the Feast of All Saints, the first Sunday after Whitsuntide.
The word Kupálo has been explained in different ways, some philologists, for instance, connecting it--with kupát' = to bathe, and others with kúpa = a heap--heaps of straw or brushwood being used for the bonfires which in Russia, as in many other parts of Europe, are the chief characteristics of these Midsummer festivals. Professor Buslaef points out the fact that the root kup conveys the idea of something white, bright, and also rapid, boiling, as it were, vehement--in Russian yary, whence seems to be derived the name of the similar mythical being Yarilo. Jacob Grimm [Klein. Schrift. II. 250] compares kupa with the German Haufe, and the Lithuanian kaupas, a heap, kapas, a mound, etc.
In some parts of Russia an image of Kupálo is burnt or thrown into a stream on St. John's night. In others no image is used, but fires are lighted and people jump through them themselves, and drive their cattle through them. In Ruthenia the bonfires are lighted by a flame procured from wood by friction, the operation being performed by the elders of the party, amid the respectful silence of the rest. But as soon as the fire is "churned," the bystanders break forth with joyous songs, and when the bonfires are lit the young people take hands, and spring in couples through the smoke, if not through the flames, and after that the cattle in their turn are driven through it. In Little-Russia a stake is driven into the ground on St. John's Night, wrapped in straw and set on fire. As the flame rises the peasant women throw birch-tree boughs into it, saying,--
"May my flax be as tall as this bough!"
The Poles still keep up the customs which were described by a sixteenth century writer as being so diabolical that "the demons themselves took part in them." According to him the girls were in the habit of offering grass as a sacrifice to evil spirits, after which they wove wreaths out of it with which they adorned their heads, and then they lighted fires and "sang Satanic songs, and danced, and the Devil danced for joy with them, and they prayed to him and magnified him, and forgot God 5." This picking
of herbs and flowers on St. John's Day is common to various Slavonic peoples, as also is the habit of washing in dew on the morning of the festival.
Even at the present day, it is said, heathen rites are secretly observed in some of the remote districts of Russia. However this may be, it is well known that they prevailed in many places until a comparatively recent, period, a fact which accounts for the significance attached to these Midsummer festivals in the eyes of the people. Of thoroughly heathenish origin is a custom still kept up on the Eve of St. John. A figure of Kupalo is made of straw, the size sometimes of a boy, sometimes of a man, and is dressed in woman's clothes, with a necklace and a floral crown. Then a tree is felled, and, after being decked with ribbons, is set up on some chosen spot. Near this tree, to which they give the name of Marena [Winter or Death], the straw figure is placed, together with a table, on which stand spirits and viands. Afterwards a bonfire is lit, and the young men and maidens jump over it in couples, carrying the figure with them. On the next day they strip the tree and the figure of their ornaments, and throw them both into a stream.
To equally heathenish times also must be referred the song which the peasants in White-Russia sing at sunrise on St. John's Day.---
Iván and Márya
Bathed on the hill:
Where Iván bathed
The bank shook;
Where Márya bathed,
The grass sprouted.
That is, says Afanasief, [P. V. S. III. 722] Perun and Lada bathed in the dewy springs on the hills of heaven. He shook the earth with his thunderbolts, she made the grass grow in the fields.
Both Kupalo and the similar mythical being called in the songs Yarilo appear to be intended at times for the Sun or the Spring, at times for Perun. According to a Bulgarian tradition, the sun, on St. John's Day, loses its way, and therefore a maiden appears who leads it across the sky, this maiden being the Dawn. The Bulgarians assert, also, that on the same day the sun dances and whirls swords about, that is, it sends forth specially bright and dazzling rays. In Lithuania it is supposed that on that day the Sun, a female being, goes forth from her chamber in a car drawn by three horses--golden, silver, and diamond--to meet her spouse the Moon, and on her way she dances and emits fiery sparks 6. The Servians assert that the sun stands still three times on St. John's Day, and they account for its apparent pause at the time of the summer solstice by the fear which seizes on it at the thought of its downward career towards winter. The mixture of nuptial and funereal ideas connected with this Midsummer festival gives it a double nature; one set of its rites and songs being joyous, as if to exult
over a marriage, and the other tragic, as if to lament for a death. In the former case it appears to be a mystical union between the elements of fire and water that is celebrated; in the latter the downward course of the sun towards its wintry grave. It is true that the feast of All Saints generally occurs some weeks before the summer solstice, and therefore it might at first sight seem difficult to explain as solar myths any allusions to decay or death that may be conveyed in its songs and customs, were it not well known that the Church arbitrarily altered the time of many popular festivals, and may therefore in this case have transferred to the week after Whitsuntide what were originally Midsummer ceremonies.
The custom of rolling a blazing wheel on St. John's Day, "to signify that the sun ascends at that time to the summit of his circle, and immediately begins to descend again 7," common to so many lands, is observed also in some of the Slavonic countries--Croatia, Carinthia, and Galicia 8. To the same festival in all probability belonged in olden days the decidedly heathenish rites which in modern times have been celebrated either in the week after Whitsuntide, or on the Sunday after St. Peter's Day, June 29. The Bacchanalian character of those rites made the clergy anxious that they should not be observed
during the fast preceding that day, and so they have been transferred to a period a little before or after it. They bear the name of "The Funeral of Kostroma," or of Lada or Yarilo, and they evidently symbolize the decay and temporary suspension of the vivifying powers of nature as winter comes on. In the Governments of Penza and Simbirsk the "funeral" used to be represented in the following manner:--A girl was chosen to act the part of Kostroma. Her companions then saluted her with low obeisances, placed her on a piece of wood, and carried her to the bank of a stream. There they bathed her in the waters, while the oldest member of the party made a basket of lime-tree bark, and beat it like a drum. After that they all returned home, to end the day with games and dances. In the Murom districts Kostroma was represented by a figure made for the most part of straw, and dressed in female attire. This was carried to the water's edge by a crowd which divided into two parts, of which one attacked the figure and the other defended it. At last the assailants gained the day, stripped the figure of its dress and ornaments, trod it under foot, and flung into the stream the straw of which it was made. While this act of destruction was going on, the figure's defenders hid their faces in their hands, and seemed to deplore the death of Kostroma.
A similar custom prevails in the Sarátof Government, but the figure which is there escorted to the grave is supposed to represent the Spring. In
Voroneje the people used to meet in an open place, and decide who should represent Yarilo. Whoever was chosen for that purpose was fantastically clad, and had small bells fastened to his dress. Then, holding in his hand a mallet--an ancient emblem of the thunderbolt--he paraded around, dancing, singing, gesticulating; and after him followed a noisy crowd, which eventually divided into two bodies, between which a kind of boxing-match took place. In the town of Kostroma the people chose an old man, and gave him a coffin containing a Priapus-like figure representing Yarilo. This he carried outside the town, being attended on the way by women chanting dirges and expressing by their gestures grief and despair. Out in the fields a grave was dug, and in it the figure was buried amid weeping and wailing, after which games and dances were commenced, calling to mind the funeral games celebrated. in old times by the pagan Slavonians. A similar custom used to prevail in Little-Russia, where, before the figure was buried, it was shaken, as if with the hope of awaking the dead Yarilo--the Slavonian representative of Adonis.
Some of the Russian archæologists see in the names Kostroma, Kupalo, and Yarilo, nothing more. than the designations of as many summer festivals, and it cannot be denied that those names are of very uncertain derivation--Kostroma, for instance, meaning osier twigs, rods, etc., and Kostér being a name for certain weeds, such as tares or darnel [Kostër or Kostyór means a pyre]; whence it is supposed
that the mythical being may have derived its name, inasmuch as its figure was made of straw mixed with weeds, twigs, etc. The general supposition, however, seems to be that expressed by Afanasief [P. V. S. III. 726], who says that the names conveyed to the popular mind the idea of living beings, similar to mankind, and that they appear to have originated at an exceedingly remote period.
During the night before St. Peter's Day, June 29, the people in some places do not go to bed at all, but spend the hours in games, or in sitting by a fire kindled on a high place and singing songs till the day dawns, and then they anxiously watch the sun as it rises, being under the impression that it dances in the sky on that day as well as on Easter Sunday. As soon as its first rays appear, the leader of the choir begins to sing, and after him all the others take up this song:--
Oi Lado! Oi Lad! on the Kurgan
The Nightingale is weaving its nest,
But the Oriole is unweaving.
Weave or not at thy will, O Nightingale!
Thy nest will not be woven,
Thy young ones will not be bred:
They will not fly through the oak forest,
Nor peck the spring wheat.
Oi Lado! Oi Lado 9.
The 29th of July forms, in the popular calendar, the first autumnal festival. That day, it is generally
believed, cannot pass by without thunder. In olden times it was consecrated to Perun, the thunder-compelling deity; since the introduction of Christianity it has been transferred to Ilya, the Thunderer, as the Servians call the Prophet Elijah. But, except among the Bulgarians, there are no special songs devoted to Ilya's Day.
During the harvest-tide many customs of great antiquity are observed, most of which seem originally to have been rites performed in honour of the deities who were supposed to watch over the grain-crops. Corn is a holy thing to Slavonic eyes; they look upon it as "the gift of God." In the Christmas festivities the first song is sung in its honour: the peasant who is going to make a new loaf says, "Lord, grant Thy blessing!" as he takes the flour in hand, and he would consider as a great sin the uttering of "bad language" addressed to any sort of corn, and also the "messing" of bread, or the rolling of pellets made of it. Such conduct God punishes, he thinks, with death and famine. Moreover, if a man while eating bread lets pieces fall to the ground, they are collected by evil spirits, and if the weight of the heap thus formed ever becomes greater than that of the slovenly feeder himself, his soul, after death, will be forfeited to the devil 1. On the other hand, he who shows fitting respect to his bread, eating it oven when it is stale and mouldy, such a one will not be injured
by the thunder, nor will water drown him, but he will live on, secure from poverty, to a green old age.
With the spring commences the season of field-labour, which is inaugurated by a religious service. Crosses, holy pictures, and banners, round which are twined festoons of green leaves and flowers, are carried in procession to the fields, and the priest blesses the soil, and sprinkles it with holy water, a ceremony which is repeated before the commencement of the hay and corn harvests. At Candlemas each peasant has a wax candle specially consecrated, and this he carefully preserves, in order to bear it to his plot of land at seed-time and harvest. On Lady-Day, and on the day before Good Friday, small loaves are consecrated, which are afterwards placed near, or crumbled up among, the seed-corn. When the sowers go into the fields to sow, they bend low towards the east, the west, and. the south, uttering prayers each time, and flinging a handful of corn. Until this ceremony has been performed they do not begin their regular work of sowing.
In the Government of Vladímir there exists a custom called "Leading the Ears of Corn." About Trinity Sunday, when the winter rye is beginning to ear, the fields are solemnly visited by the peasants. The young people of each village meet together and draw up in two lines, linking their arms in such a manner as to form a kind of bridge, along which trips a little girl adorned with ribbons of various hues. The couples past whom she has gone ran to
the end of the lines and take up their places again, so that the bridge of arms is always renewed until the corn-fields are reached. There the girl jumps down, plucks a handful of ears, runs with them to the village, and throws them down close to the church. On their way to the fields the performers sing,--
The Ear has come to the corn-field,
To the white Wheat--
Be thou produced abundantly
O Rye with Oats,
With Wheat, with Buckwheat.
The Ear is going to the young corn,
To the white Wheat.
Where the Queen has gone,
There the Rye is thick.
Out of the ear a measure,
Out of the grain a great loaf,
And of the half-grain a pie.
Rye and Oats--
Father and Son.
When the crops have ripened, the mistress of each household goes out afield, bearing bread and salt and the Candlemas taper, and begins to reap the harvest. The first sheaf which she gathers is called the Imyaninnik 2, and is taken home and set in the place of honour near the holy pictures; afterwards it
is threshed separately, and its grain is in part mixed with the next season's seed-corn, in part set aside as a preservative against evils. Its straw is used as a specific against diseases of cattle. In some parts of Little-Russia it is a priest who commences the reaping. At the end of the harvest the reapers go to the fields and collect any ears which may have been left uncut. These they weave into a crown, adorned with gold tinsel and with field-flowers, and place it on the head of the prettiest girl of their party, after which they visit the house of the owner or tiller of the soil, headed by a boy who carries a sheaf decked with flowers, and sing,--
Open, O master, the new gates,
We bring a crown of pure gold,
O come out, even on to the balcony,
O ransom, ransom, the crown of gold,
For the crown of gold is woven.
In some Governments, as in those of Penza and Simbirsk, the last sheaf is dressed up in woman's clothes. In White-Russia the harvest-home feast is known by the name of Talaka 3, a name which is given also to a girl who plays the leading part in it, as may be seen from the following song:--
Good evening, Talaka!
Take, take from us
This sheaf of corn,
And put on, put on
This fair crown with flowers.
With these good things we will go
To the Lord and Master,
We will bring to him
Thy good fortune into his rooms.
He, the Lord and Master,
Will make ready for us the Dojinok [Harvest-home].
When the Talaka is brought in procession to a house, the master and mistress come out to meet her with low salutations, and the offering of bread and salt. Then she is invited indoors, and given the place of honour during the ensuing feast, at the end of which she takes off her crown, and gives it to the master of the house.
In olden times these customs were probably of a sacrificial nature--the sheaf, for instance, which is now taken home and placed under the ikóna, or holy picture, having originally been intended, in all probability, as an offering to the gods. A very evident trace of sacrifice is manifest in the custom of leaving patches of unreaped corn in the fields, and of placing bread and salt on the ground near them. These ears are eventually knotted together, and the ceremony is called "the plaiting of the beard of Volos," and it is supposed that after it has been performed no wizard or other evilly-disposed person will be able to hurt the produce of the fields. The unreaped patch is looked upon as tabooed; and it is believed that if any one meddles with it he will shrivel up, and become twisted like the interwoven ears. Similar customs are kept up in various parts of Russia. Near Kursk and Voroneje, for instance, a patch of rye is usually left
in honour of the Prophet Elijah, and in another district one of oats is consecrated to St. Nicholas. As it is well known that both the Saint and the Prophet have succeeded to the place once held in the estimation of the Russian people by Perun, it seems probable that Volos really was, in ancient times, one of the names of the thunder-god 4.
Volos in olden times was known as the God of Cattle, and in that capacity he, together with Perun, is appealed to in the oath by which Svyatoslaf ratified his treaty with the Greeks. Various explanations of his name have been offered, Sabinin connecting it with that of Odin, which sometimes passed in the mouths of the people, through the form Woden or Wôde into that of Wôld or Wôl, and Prince Vyazemsky connecting Veles, one of the forms of the name, with the Greek βελιος, ἀβέλιος = ἥλιος. Afanasief considers that the name was originally one of the epithets of Perun, who, as the cloud-compeller--the clouds being the cattle of the sky--was the guardian of the heavenly herds, and that the epithet ultimately became regarded as the name of a distinct deity.
In Christian times the honours originally paid to Volos were transferred to his namesake, St. Vlas, or
Vlasy [Blasius], who was a shepherd by profession. To him the peasants throughout Russia pray for the safety of their flocks and herds, and on the day consecrated to him [February 11] they drive their cows to church, and have them secured against misfortune by prayer and the sprinkling of holy water. At the same time they carry offerings of butter to the church, and place them in front of St. Vlas's picture--a custom which has given rise to the saying "Vlas's bread is in butter!"
In times of murrain, when the villagers are "expelling the Cow-Death" in solemn procession, they almost invariably carry with them the picture of St. Vlas, singing as they go a song which will be quoted in full hereafter, calling on the epidemic to depart, seeing that St. Vlas is going through the village,
With incense, and with taper,
And with burning embers.
The Ist of September is called Semen Den', Simeon's Day, being consecrated to St. Simeon Stylites. He is popularly known as Simeon Lyetoprovodets, or year-leader, inasmuch as the Russian year formerly began with his feast. After Christianity had been introduced into Russia the 1st of March was for some time accepted as the commencement of the Ecclesiastical year, and the Ist of September as that of the Civil year. In 1348 a Council, held at Moscow decided that the latter of these two days should be accepted, both by Church and State, as their New Year's Day, and accordingly it held that
position, as has already been stated, until the year 1700 5.
The first week of September bears the name of Seminskaya Nedyela or Simeon's Week, and it is also known as the Bab'e Lyeto or Woman's Summer. Some critics have derived the name from that of the cluster of stars called in Russia Baba [the Pleiades], which is apparent at that time of year; but it seems really to be due to the fact that, after the harvest is over, and all field-work is ended for the year, the babas, or women, betake themselves to what is called special "woman's work" (bab'i rabotui), such as spinning, etc. At this season the peasants predict what the coming winter will be like, judging by the abundance or rarity of the gossamer webs--the German Alteweibersommer [D. M. 744]--in the fields. By the Carpathian Slavonians this season of the year is called Bab'in Moroz--the Woman's Frost; and a legend is current among them of an old sorceress who was frozen to death on the heights, a story which may have been invented in order to explain the strange appearance of one of those stone female statues which used to stand by the roadside in some parts of Transylvania.
In the villages near Moscow the peasants extinguish all their fires on the eve of the 1st of September, and light them anew the next morning at sunrise, the kindling being performed by the "Wise Men" or "Wise Women" of the neighbourhood, who employ
special incantations and spells on the occasion. On this day the swallows are supposed to hide or bury themselves in wells. It is also set aside for a very singular funeral ceremony performed by the girls in many parts of Russia. They make small coffins of turnips and other vegetables, enclose flies and other insects in them, and then bury them with a great show of mourning 6. An equally strange custom is the expulsion of tarakans 7, which takes place on the eve of St. Philip's Fast, when a thread is fastened to one of these obtrusive insects, and all the inmates of a cottage, with closed lips, unite in drawing it out of doors. While the "expulsion" is going on, one of the women of the family stands with dishevelled hair at a window, and when the tarakan nears the threshold she knocks and asks,--
"On what do ye feast?" [before beginning to fast]; to which the reply is,
"And the Tarakan on what ?" she continues.
"The Tarakan on Tarakans," is the answer.
If this ceremony is properly performed, they think it will prevent the tarakans from returning. The Old Believers," however, deem such acts of expulsion
wrong, thinking that the presence of such insects brings with it blessing from on high.
September is apt to be a gloomy month in Russia as far as the weather is concerned. And as the weather has its influence on the spirits, a number of proverbs are current with reference to the month, such as, "As surly as September," "September's spleen has seized him," or "He has Septembrian thoughts."
But a good deal of merriment takes place among the peasants, however ungenial the weather may, be, this being the season for commencing such autumn games as the following, which is called "The Beer Brewing."' The younger women of the village, followed by a festive rout, go from cottage to cottage,, offering braga--millet-beer--first to the old, and then to the young. Afterwards the choir-leader commences the following song, during the singing of which the girls imitate the gestures of a drunken man:--
On the hill have we brewed beer,
Lado mine, Lado, beer have we brewed!
For that beer shall we all meet together,
On account of that beer shall we all part asunder:
That beer will make us all bend the knee in dance,
That beer will cause us to lie down to sleep.
For that beer shall we stand up again,
On account of that beer shall we all clap our hands.
With that beer shall we all become drunken,
Now on account of that beer shall we all take to quarrelling 8.
With September begins also the threshing-season, The day on which a farmer begins to thresh his corn is looked upon, in many parts of Russia, as the name-day of his ovín. [The word, which is closely connected with the German Ofen and our oven 9, means the corn-kiln, or place in which the corn is dried before being submitted to the flail]. On the preceding evening he begins to heat the ovin, and next morning he calls together the threshers, and regales them with kasha. After the meal they stick a few ears into each corner of the barn or corn-kiln, in order that their labours may prove richly productive, and then they fall to work, usually commencing with the sheaf which was gathered the first at harvest-time. The ovin has always enjoyed a share of the respect paid to the domestic hearth. In olden days it seems to have been customary for the peasants "to pray under the ovin," for that practice is expressly forbidden, together with many other heathenish customs, by the "Ecclesiastical Ordinance" of St. Vladímir, and one of the old chroniclers says of the people that "they pray to Fire under the ovin." In the Orel Government it is still usual to kill a fowl in the ovin on the 4th of September; in some other places a cock is sacrificed there on the 1st of November. In the Government of Yaroslaf a peasant who feels a pain in his loins [utín], will go
to the lower part (podlaz) of the ovín, rub his back against the wall, and say,--
Father Ovín, cure my utín.
Hence the old proverb says, "Churches are not like ovins: in them [i.e. the former] the holy pictures are all alike," i. e. it's all one whether you pray in your own parish church or in any other. But the old heathen worship of the domestic hearth, or of the ovín, was confined to such places only as belonged to each individual worshipper.
The 6th of September is one of the two principal days--the other being the 6th of December--set aside for the celebration of the Bratchina, or brotherly feast [brat = brother], held at the common expense. On each of those days the villagers go in a body to church, and there offer a large candle and have a service performed for the gaining of all things good. Afterwards they feast together and entertain hospitably their friends from the neighbouring villages. The relics of the meal are given to the poor, and any bread-crumbs that may remain undisposed of are tossed into the air, in order to propitiate the unclean spirits that might be tempted to destroy the trees or the cornfields.
Various other feasts of a similar nature are held after the harvest is over, such as the Ssuipchina, one to which the feasters contribute the necessary ingredients [ssuipat' = to pour in together]. On these occasions offences which may have been committed
during the summer, such as trespassings and the like, are forgiven, and much good-will crowns the feast--unless it ends in a quarrel brought about by drink. Meanwhile the young people betake themselves to their circling dances, and sing such convivial songs as the following:--
At the feast was I, at the gathering,
Mead I drank not, nor small beer.
Vodka delicious I drank, I drank.
Not in a cup, nor a glass,
But a bucketful I drank, I drank.
Home I went without wandering,
But to the yard when I came, there I staggering
Clung to the posts of the door.
Oaken door-post of mine,
Hold me up, the drunken woman,
The drunken woman, the tipsy rogue 1.
The 8th of September, in the year 1380, was a memorable day for Russia, for on it the great victory was gained at Kulikovo by Dmitry Donskoi over the forces of the Tartar Khan Mamai. In memory of the Christian warriors who fell upon this occasion a solemn festival was instituted by the conqueror, and was held for many years between the 18th and the 26th of October. In 1769 Catherine II. ordered the day of its celebration to be changed to that of the commemoration of the beheading of St. John the Baptist, August 29. The battle of Kulikovo having been fought on a Saturday, the day of its commemoration has received the name of Dmitriefskaya
Subbota, Dmitry's Saturday--a name now given by the peasants to the autumnal festival they hold every year in remembrance of their ancestors and dead relatives. If at that time a thaw follows the first frosts of winter, the people say, Roditeli otdokhnut, "the Fathers enjoy repose," for they hold, as will be seen in the chapter on Funeral Songs, that the dead suffer from cold, as well as from hunger, in the grave. On the day of the commemoration the peasants attend a church service, and afterwards they go out to the graves of their friends, and there institute a feast, lauding amidst many tears the virtues and good qualities of the dead, and then drinking to their eternal rest. So important a, feature in the ceremony is this drinking, that it has given rise to a proverb, "One begins for the repose of the dead, and one goes on for one's own pleasure." It is customary on such occasions to hand over a portion of the articles provided for the feast to the officiating ecclesiastics and their assistants, a fact to which allusion is made in the popular saying, "It is not always Dmitry's Saturday with priestly children."
During the part of the winter preceding that Christmas festival of Kolyada with an account of which the present chapter commenced, the principal amusements of the younger members of a village community are found in the Posidyelki which have already been described. It is to a great extent at these social gatherings that the courtship of young Russians of the agricultural class is carried on--courtship
which, in the great majority of cases, leads to a marriage, some day after the cares and toils of harvest are over. How many relics of the past are still preserved in the customs attendant upon a Russian marriage, and how rich it is in old songs, the next chapter will attempt to show.
186:1 The Croatian verb, Kolyadovati, means "to offer a sacrifice," but the word Koleda, as used by the Tver peasants, stands for "the daily dole of alms to the poor." In Croatia the word has retained its old heathen associations: in the Russian provinces it has yielded to the influence of Christianity. See Schöpping, R. N. p. 13.
188:2 Tereshchenko, VII. 56.
190:3 Sakharof, I. iii. 22.
190:4 Sakharof, I. iii 22.
190:5 The Little-Russian or Polish equivalent for the Great-Russian Gospodin, the German Herr, the French Monsieur, etc.
191:6 Afanasief, P. V. S. III. 757.
192:7 Literally "the fiery or inflammable stone," the epithet being in general purely conventional.
192:8 Snegiref, R. P. P. II. 68.
193:9 See Schöpping, R. N. p. 10. He says that the names Kolyada and Kupalo were not unfrequently confused, and that the latter feast to this day bears the name of the former in Dalmatia.
194:1 Afanasief, P. V. S. III. 758.
195:2 Afanasief, P. V. S. II. 466.
197:3 Snegiref, R. P. P. III. 8. Tereshchenko (VII. 150) says that the songs derived their name from the fact of their being sung at table during a meal.
198:4 Sakharof, I. iii. 11.
199:5 Sakharof, I. iii. 12.
199:6 Afanasief, P. V. S. I. 561.
200:7 Sakharof, I. iii. 11.
200:8 Sakharof, I. iii. 21. There are many variants of the song, but they do not differ materially.
201:9 Afanasief, P. V. S. III. 741.
202:1 This name (pronounced avsén) is derived by some writers from Oves (pronounced av-yós), oats, and connected by others with Vesná, Spring. The Feast of Ovsén was originally on the first of March.
203:2 Snegiref, R. P. P. II. 111.
203:3 Grimm, D. M. 194.
204:4 Tereshchenko, VII. 90.
204:5 Tereshchenko, VII. 123. The refrain occurs in the original at the end of almost every line.
205:6 Orest Miller, Opuit, etc. I. 52.
206:7 O. Miller, Chrest. I. 5.
207:8 Tereshchenko, VII. 109.
207:9 The Svat (or Svakha) is the man (or woman) who proposes or arranges a marriage in Russia.
209:1 Snegiref, R. P. P. II. 132.
213:2 Tereshchenko, V. 11.
214:3 Grimm, D. M. 723.
214:4 Pages 97-101. See also Grimm, D. M. 1088.
215:5 Dugi. The arch springing from the shafts of a Russian cart or carriage, above the head of the draught-horse, is called a Duga.
215:6 The word Kuma, dim. Kumashka, is the French Commère, Scotch "Cummer," our own "Gossip," originally a connexion by common godmothership.
216:7 Afanasief, P. V. S. III. 226-228. Tereshchenko, V. 41.
216:8 See supra, chap. II. p. 144.
217:9 Afanasief, P. V. S. III. 229.
218:1 Tereshchenko, V. 45-49.
219:2 Opuit, etc. I. 48.
221:3 Grimm, D. M. 268.
222:4 Tereshchenko, V. 17. For further information on this subject see infra, pp. 310-313.
224:5 See infra, p. 283.
224:6 See pp. 8-10.
226:7 Snegiref, R. P. P. III. 37-46.
231:8 Afanasief, P. V. S. II. 402.
232:9 See Rawlinson's Herodotus, III. 172.
233:1 Afanasief, P. V. S. I. 699-704. It should, however, be stated that the above-mentioned legend about Yegory has been preserved in certain poems, which some critics assert to be of a different origin from that of the songs to which the present chapter is mainly devoted. The question will be discussed on another occasion.
236:2 Tereshchenko, VI. 169.
236:3 See Afanasief, P. V. S. I. 662, 663. The word tur (cf. taurus) means an aurochs or bison.
237:4 Snegiref, R. P. P. III. 124.
240:5 Tereshchenko, V. 59.
242:6 Tereshchenko, V. 75.
243:7 Quoted by Kemble from a mediæval MS. See Kelly's "Curiosities of Indo-European Tradition and Folk-lore," p. 58, where a full account is given of similar customs in other countries.
243:8 Grimm, Deutsche Mythologie, 590.
246:9 Snegiref, R. P. P. IV. 67. Kurgán is a non-Slavonic word for a tumulus. The Ivolga, or Oriole, being golden-plumaged, may have been classed among the fire-bringing birds.
247:1 Afanasief, P. V. S. III. 763. A number of similar Bohemian traditions are given by Grohmann in his Aberglauben und Gebräuche am Böhmen etc. pp. 102-104.
249:2 Imya =name; Imyanínui = name-day, day consecrated to the saint after whom a person is named. Imyanínnik, one who celebrates his name-day.
250:3 Toloká in some parts of Russia means the gathering of the hay or corn harvest by the united labour of a man's neighbours, and Tolók is a threshing-floor, or a corn-field left to lie fallow.
252:4 For a similar custom, anciently observed in Mecklenburg in honour of Woden, see Grimm's Deutsche Mythologie, p. 141. Dr. Mannhardt in an article recently published (in Russian) by the Moscow Archæological Society, suggests that, in ancient times, the Slavonians may have plaited their beards in Assyrian fashion, and adduces in support of his suggestion the testimony of an urn found in a Wendish tomb near Dantzic in 1855, on which is represented the face of a man with a barred or chequered beard.
254:5 Tereshchenko, III. 10. See supra, p. 203.
255:6 It has been already mentioned that the soul was often represented by the heathen Slavonians as a fly, gnat, or other insect. See supra, p. 118.
255:7 The Tarakans are a kind of cockroaches. They must not be confounded with some other insects of a sturdy nature, and not easily to be expelled, or in any way subdued, which the people call Prusáki or "Prussians."
256:8 Tereshchenko, V. 146.
257:9 Ulfidas translates the Greek κλίβανος by Auhns, in Matt. VI. 30, where our version has "cast into the oven." The Slavonic equivalent used in the Ostromir Gospel (A.D. 1056-7) is peshch, the modern pech, a stove.
259:1 Tereshchenko, V. 149-152.