Miscellaneous SIG Cultural Notes

Period Slavic Superstitions:

From: Jenne Heise (jenne@mail.browser.net) What information do we have from period sources about Slavic superstitions? I would like to know what sorts of superstitious practices and beliefs the period Slavs might have practiced.
I know that the offerings of kut'ya and eggs to the dead is attested by period texts and referred to as superstitious by period sources. I also know that the tradition of drowning a straw doll representing Winter/Death, known as Marzanna, was attested by a period source (Annals of Jan Dlugoz). The Annals also mention other superstitions or traditions about history, etc. as held in 15th century Poland, in a section that was not part of the English translation I saw. Anyone have any information from that?
Also, I understand that the recitation of the Angelus at every possible opportunity was a strong tradition among the Western Slavs who practiced Roman-rite Catholicism and the Domostroi talks about a prayer to be said on every possible opporunity for Russian-rite believers. (Yes, I know this is not a superstition but a belief/habit.) -- Jadwiga Zajaczkowa, mka Jennifer Heise jenne@mail.browser.net

From: Jenne Heise (jenne@mail.browser.net) Anybody have anything on the periodness of the tradition of the Oplatek (the christmas wafer, broken and shared between the family)? -- Jadwiga Zajaczkowa, mka Jennifer Heise jenne@mail.browser.net

From: MHoll@aol.com - First you have to separate the various Slavic traditions. Second, the information is scant and rare. There is almost nothing on Russian non-Christian tradition (what you call superstition). Things can only be inferred by what the Church rails against. No descriptions of rituals.

As for Church traditions, they haven't changed. The services, prayers said, holidays, fasts and Lent, etc, etc, are the same today as they were in period. The only thing we know has changed is how Russians put their fingers together to cross themselves (used to be index and middle finger together and the rest folded down against the palm; now it's thumb, index and middle finger together, the other two folded down).
This is for Russia. Catholic countries will have different traditions, and maybe some cultures, especially those closer to Western Europe, will have some period descriptions of period rituals/superstitions/beliefs. --Predslava.

From: Jenne Heise (jenne@mail.browser.net) - I was checking into www.findarticles.com (searchable full text from 300 magazines & journals) to see if the SIG group might find it helpful [The answer is yes, the first article that comes up if you search for Medieval Russia is the History Today article from 1995 giving excerpts from recovered birchbark letters)

And came across a review of _The Bathhouse at Midnight: A Historical Survey of Magic and Diviniation in Russia_ by W.F. Ryan. (University Park: Penn State University Press, 1999). The reviewers noted that the author did use ethnography but also worked from primary texts. So, I checked our library and we have it. It includes interesting snippets like this one about divination:
"In Kiev Rus' this ambivalence is neatly illustrated by the juxtaposition in the _Russian Primary Chronicle_ for the year 1064 of a long and entirely creduluous digression on contemporary and historical portents of disaster (celestial phenomena, monstrous births, earthquakes, behavior of birds, etc. ) and a sermon under the year 1068 condemning as pagan the belief in divination by chance meetings, ill-omened encounters with a monk or a pig, or sneezing (all of which continued to be omens into modern times). It is worth remembering that most natural signs and omens recorded for Russia have exact counterparts in other parts of Europe, and many can be shown to have been known in classical antiquity, from which, by devious routes, they are probably derived." -- Jadwiga Zajaczkowa, mka Jennifer Heise jenne@mail.browser.net

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