The calendar of the ancient Slavs
Most vividly, the dual faith is reflected in the peasant land-farming calendar, where the veneration of Christian saints is closely intertwined with pagan beliefs and rites. Over time, many of the most important rituals for the pagan were taken less seriously and gradually turned into children’s games.
Here is how the year of the Russian peasant passed. On the day of the winter solstice (December 25), it would be necessary to help the sun gain strength-because farmers burned bonfires, rolled burning ears, symbolizing the sun. So that the winter was not too severe, they made a snow woman, depicting winter, and broke it with snowballs.
On January 1 and in the days leading up to the New year, we tried to dress in everything new, treated each other, went to visit, because we believed that as you meet the holiday – this will be the whole of the next year. During the new Year and Christmas holidays (Yuletide), it was considered magical – any good wish must be fulfilled, and ordinary actions of people acquire special significance, and you can learn your fate from them. Therefore, from the New year to the Epiphany (January 19), the girls wondered what their intended would be like and whether the wedding would be soon. In the same way, the peasants remembered their dead relatives – they made them a treat from their meal, lit bonfires all over the village, so that the dead would warm themselves in the next world.
The oldest form of new year communication with the world of the dead was dressing up in the skins of animals-mythical ancestors. This custom has survived to the present day, turning into a new year’s carnival or Christmas with mummers.
The favorite entertainment of young people on Christmas eve eve (on the evening of January 6) was dancing, which is perfectly described in the work of Nikolai Gogol. Boys and girls walked around the village and sang carols under the Windows – short ritual songs in which they wished the owners well, and they gave them delicious food in payment for the wish. The more plentiful the food, the more satisfying the next year should be.
There were not many other calendar holidays until spring, but the fun in the villages did not stop, because winter is the time for weddings. And those girls who did not yet have suitors, arranged gatherings-gathered at some old woman’s, brought spinning wheels, embroidery, sewing spent long winter evenings at the wheel, so as not to be bored, sang songs, told stories, sometimes prepared food and invited guys to visit.
At the end of February-beginning of March (50 days before Easter) they celebrated the end of winter – Maslenitsa. This celebration lasted a whole week. On Shrovetide, pancakes were baked, lighted wheels were rolled, bonfires were burned – all this symbolized the sun gaining strength. On Shrovetide, the newlyweds rode around the village in a painted sleigh, kissed in front of everyone – their young and hot love was supposed to fill the whole nature with vitality. The same magical goal was pursued by the entire Shrovetide ritual – abundant feasts, fun games, skiing from the mountains. On the last day of the festival, he arranged a farewell party for Shrovetide, a straw doll in a woman’s costume that was called SNA-Chala, then torn up and scattered across the fields so that the harvest was rich.
In the spring, there were several festivals dedicated to birds – it was believed that birds bring spring. Therefore, the peasant women baked “larks” from the dough, released the birds from their cages, thus freeing the vital forces of nature from winter captivity.
Easter in Russia included many features of the ancient holiday of the coming spring. Easter eggs were a symbol of the rebirth of life, so some of the eggs were fed to livestock to breed well. At Easter, they were sure to swing on the swing – the higher the swing took off, the higher the ears and grasses should grow. On this day, they led dances, singing songs about love – this was also once a magical rite that ensures well-being and fertility.
On the day of Yegor veshnego (St. George) – may 6-for the first time after the winter, cattle were driven to pastures, whipped with willow. Willow-a plant that first comes to life in the spring, and its touch was supposed to increase the fertility of livestock. A circle was drawn around the animals with an axe on the ground to protect them from harm.the axe was a symbol of the heavenly weapon (lightning) and was considered a magical object. the ceremony was performed at night or early in the morning, and the whole family took part in it. In order for the cattle to give a plentiful offspring, cookies in the form of Losh-dey and goats were also baked on Yegoriy veshnego.
In may and early June, it was no longer fun: farmers planted vegetables, sowed bread and flax. However, the songs still did not cease, because according to custom it was necessary to perform various magic actions, for example, to lead a round dance so that the cabbage was born large, to praise the rain so that the ear was heavy, and the flax to grow long.
At the same time fell the feast of the Trinity, which became the people’s send-off of spring and the meeting of summer, the glorification of the green land. Just as on Shrovetide they celebrated and then destroyed the effigy of winter, on Whitsunday they cut down a birch tree, decorated it with ribbons, carried it around the village singing, and then broke off its branches and scattered them across the fields to make the land more fertile. On Whitsunday, the girls wove wreaths and gave gifts to each other, wishing them a happy life and a quick marriage. Perhaps these are traces of a pagan festival in honor of Leli-the patroness of girls.
In pagan times, the main summer holiday was the summer solstice (June 21 or 22). Many beliefs and rituals associated with it were later timed to the day of Ivan Kupala (June 7). Farmers believed that on the night of Ivan Kupala trees and animals are heated, herbs are filled with special life-giving power, so healers were in a hurry to collect them. On the shortest night of the year, a great miracle is performed – the fire flower blooms, and if a person can pluck this flower, he will find a treasure. However, it is dangerous to look for Heat-color, because on this night in the forest, evil spirits are having fun, which can destroy a person.
Like other holidays dedicated to the sun, burning ears were rolled on Ivan Kupala. On this day, they got rid of all filth. They burned the shirts of sick children to destroy the disease, washed with dew so that the disease did not stick, lit fires and jumped over them, so that the Holy fire cleansed the person from all corruption. Girls in the bathing night guessed about the intended: they wove wreaths, put several lighted candles in them and let them float on the water – according to the folk tradition, in the middle of the wreath should see the face of the groom.
At the end of July, the harvest began. The first sheaf was considered healing, it was decorated with flowers and ribbons, with singing brought into the house and put in a red corner. The grains of this sheaf were fed to sick people and poultry, and straw to weak cattle.
Many ancient rites were preserved in the celebration of the day of Elijah the Prophet (August 2), which included the features of pagan Perun. It was necessary to appease the Thunderer, so a bull was sacrificed to him, which was then eaten by the entire village. Thunderer with his arrows struck the evil spirits, and the demons, to avoid death, turned into animals. Therefore, on Elijah’s day, animals were not allowed in the house – they were afraid that it was an evil spirit, which the thunderbolt’s arrow might overtake in the izba, and the izba would burn down.
By the end of August, the harvest was over, women were plaiting the last uncompressed spikelets “velesu on the beard”, begging the land to return the tired farmers strength. The last sheaf, as well as the first, was considered magical, it was kept until the New year, it symbolized the well-being of the house.
The end of the harvest is a great holiday: the peasants in the fold arranged a feast, had fun, SLA-Vili their work.Compressed bread before threshing was dried in sheep-special log cabins, in which the sheaves were placed in the upper part on poles, and a fire was built at the bottom. Unfortunately, the sheep often burned with the harvest, this trouble was considered the work of ovinnik. The peasants tried to propitiate the spirit by offering sacrifices to it.
The day of the Nativity of the mother of God (December 21) was the end of all field work, a hospitable harvest festival. In pagan times, the celebration was dedicated to the family And women in Labor. On this day, not only prepared a plentiful feast, but also performed the rite of “renewal of fire”: everywhere extinguished the old fire, and a new one was obtained by friction of two wooden bars.
Girls ‘ gatherings began in October. In the fall, girls were especially willing to invite guys to play with them in various games, which represented the wedding. During these times, serious relationships were often formed between young people, and they celebrated their wedding in the same winter.
Several October and November holidays were dedicated to Paraskeva Friday, replacing-Shay Mokosh. In these days, women prayed to the patroness of needlework, boasted to each other about sewing and embroidery.
The cycle of agricultural work was completed on the autumn Yegoriev (Yuriev day) – December 9. Until the end HU1 century farmer in that day could escape from his master.