Russia Ethnography and Folklore Part 2

Russia Ethnography and Folklore Part 2

Linen is prepared with scardassi and macules in the shape of scissors, as in central Europe; instead, the preparation of hemp is characteristic, pounded in mortars or beaten with wooden hammers and clubs to release the fiber. The cones are generally decorated with an artistically worked crown in the shape of a comb and are equipped at the bottom with a crossbar, on which one can sit, since spinning is work done at home. The young men give the girls some nicely decorated clubs to beat the laundry. Mechanical looms are widespread in western Russia, following the European example, but the artistic carvings of the wooden parts testify to the important part still held by the textile industry in home life. In Ukraine, women’s work is at the fore; are packaged, in addition to fabrics for the family’s clothing, decorative cloths, blankets and carpets in large numbers, and are used in the home to cover benches, chests and other furniture or even hang on the walls. The technique is that of the old tapestries, but the designs are generally regional or Asian-style geometric motifs. In some centers of Great Russia and Ukraine they were performed since the century. XIX carpets knotted according to oriental use.

Economic and social life takes place in the villages according to traditional customs handed down from the distant past. In the villages of the western regions between Moscow and Leningrad, one type of farm is common, the constructions of which tight to each other are arranged deep; elsewhere a regular construction with a courtyard closed on two or three sides is preferred. The large villages of southern Russia sometimes have 6 to 8 thousand souls.

According to Themeparktour, the textile works, carding, spinning and weaving of linen and hemp, the preparation of woolen fabrics and the processing of leather are largely used to make clothing. For the man it consists of a linen smock, which the great Russian has worn for centuries with tight trousers, while the Ukrainian accompanies it with wide oriental-style linen trousers, and sandals in leather or tree bark. Short jackets cut on the bias and long coats similar to caftans, lined with fur or made with sheepskin, are used for overcoats. In addition to the well-known Russian flat cap, cylindrical or hemispherical fur caps were also used, considered as an emblem of the wearer’s dignity. In the summer in Ukraine, straw hats are worn mainly.

The women wear a wide, richly embroidered gown which, especially in Ukraine, also serves as a petticoat: the girls add only the belt; they also wear, when the season requires it, overcoats in the shape of a jacket or coat. In southern Russia, only with marriage is the solemn vestment of the girl, with a petticoat in the shape of an apron; petticoat commonly made up of two or three pieces sewn together. In Greater Russia, a pleated skirt tight to the armpits and held by tie rods or sewn to a bodice (sarafan). The female headdress is particularly varied and rich. In western Russia and in Ukraine the head is wrapped in a long white cloth, according to the custom established in the Middle Ages in Western Europe. The tall two-horned headdress of Russian women probably responds to apotropaic concepts. Previously, rich silky fabrics and ornaments in the shape of a diadem according to the Byzantine style were also in use in the countryside. Numerous old motifs from the East are preserved in folk art: animals faced at the tree of life, birds in the shape of mermaids, water birds used to contain alcoholic beverages. Of ancient European origin are the geometric decorations of the carvings and embroideries of the shawls, especially in Greater Russia.

In Russian folklore, a series of rituals are connected to the changing of the seasons. Thus, p. for example, in March spring is “evoked” by girls who climbed onto a roof or a small hillock; spring is sometimes depicted as riding on a plow; in the spring songs (vesnjanki) the prayer is expressed that the new season will bring its usual gifts. In some places the girls evoke spring by standing in the water up to their waist, or by standing in a circle around a hole made in the ice. In the spring songs a mention of love is also very often made and sometimes young men and girls from other villages are mocked.

For Easter the eggs are painted, especially in red color; the eggs are exchanged as a gift and on this occasion we kiss three times. In some regions, on the Saturday or Sunday after Easter, children sing under the windows of the newlyweds and obtain sweets in exchange.

For the Ascension, pasta scales are cooked and placed in the middle of the wheat, so that it grows high. For S. Giovanni, among other ceremonies, a procession of girls takes place around the fields. When fires are lit, verses against witches are also often sung. The youth behave in a very free way that night; couples of young people and girls sometimes jump over the fire: if they hold hands it means that they will soon get married.

Characteristic for autumn is the magical burial of flies in September. Some live flies are placed in the excavated interior of a turnip to be buried underground. In this way we want to depict the expulsion of flies and other annoying insects from the house.

For Christmas, foods are eaten that recall the ancient cult of the ancestors. In certain regions, straw fires are lit so that the dead ancestors can warm themselves. They also cook sweets in the form of animals: in this custom we wanted to see a replacement of the live animal that in ancient times was sacrificed. Sometimes the animal in the dough is even hung over the door of the stable. On the occasion of Christmas, the future is also very often foretold: Fr. for example, a few weeks before Christmas a cherry tree branch is cut and placed in water at home: if the branch blooms for Christmas this means that the girl will marry. Very often predictions of the future are combined with magical ceremonies, some of which are extremely obscene.

Even the foods that are consumed for carnival recall ancient funeral rites. The joy for carnival is very great; in certain regions the girls, armed with sticks, climb onto a bench and defend themselves against the young men who try to “storm them”; whoever manages to conquer one of these “fortresses” has the right to kiss the whole line of girls. The wedding period ended with the carnival.

Spirits abound almost everywhere. The domovoj is the spirit of the house; in it we wanted to see a fusion of the cult of the ancestors with the cult of the hearth: it generally resides under the stove. The chlevnikis the spirit of the stable. The forest and the water also have their spirits; the spirit of the forest is considered good and modest: it resembles man, but has no shadow and blue blood; it also takes the form of animals and often makes jokes. The spirit of the water protects millers and fishermen; the drowned become his workers, or, if women, are transformed into a kind of nymphs. The children of the water spirit jump out of the holes made in the ice and try to enter the houses: against them crosses are drawn on the doors and windows. The sunstroke is attributed to the spirit of midday. Nymphs generally see themselves as lustful women who try to attract young people; they behave in a hostile way towards mankind. The vampire, of Western origin, is unknown in Greater Russia, but it lies between the White Koreans and the Ukrainians. Witches transform into dogs, snakes, toads, but sometimes also into objects.

Women very often give birth in the stable or in the bathroom; it also often happens that children come into the world in the middle of the countryside, during the harvest work. Midwives usually intervene after the birth has already taken place: they must possibly be women who have already had children. When childbirth is difficult, doors and drawers are symbolically opened, the future mother of the lice eaten to produce vomiting.

Russia Ethnography and Folklore 2