Slavic Paganism & Troitsa (Pentecost)
- Tomorrow (June 3) is Pentecost in the Russian Orthodox Church
calendar. I was wondering what, if any, Slavic Pagan holidays or
celebrations traditionally took place around this time of year that
were supplanted by Pentecost and if there are any aspects of those
pagan holidays and celebrations that are still evident in the Slavic
version of the Pentecost service.
- First of all, yes, there were holidays at this time of the year, which appear
to have been connected with spring, growth, and therefore fertility.
Second, what these rituals were and what they meant is absolutely unknown.
Speculations in this area are wild and unfounded, even though a number of
them are seductive in their use of 19-th and 20-th century folklore and
ethnography. Such studies attempt to reconstruct something that was already
some 1000 years in the past, undocumented, with no remnants that can be
analyzed with any tiny amount of certainty.
Chronicles seem to indicate that such pagan rituals contained dancing and
singing and music, possibly ritual drunkenness. This can only be derived from
the criticism by the Church of "ungodly" behavior. Further than that, where
these rituals might have taken place, how they were conducted, exactly at
what time of the year, remains unknown. And anyone purporting to reveal the
truth about East Slavic paganism is either a fraud or a rather poor scholar.
Even the names of the Slavic gods are under question: were they worshipped by
the population at large? Were they imported and a religion of the Rurikids
only? Are we actually right about the attributes we give them? Was there a
caste or some kind of organization of priests? -- there are no signs of the
What may be remains of the pagan celebration at this time of the year are
flowers and greenery everywhere -- in the churches, in the houses.
In the 19th century (the tradition was gone by the 20th), the week before
Trinity (Pentecost) was a week called "rusal'skaia nedelia" -- the "rusalka
week" (the rusalka is a water-spirit that can also be a field-spirit, who can
influence the fertility of the fields). There were games, dressing-up,
decorating trees with ribbons and dancing around them (girls only), and so
forth. Of course, it would seem that such traditions come from the furthest
antiquity, but the operative word here is "seem". There is NO WAY to link
with any certainty, much less any accuracy with any pagan rituals that may
have been performed once.
For more on folk beliefs and rituals I recommend the following books:
_Russian Folk Belief_ by Linda Ivanits.
_The Bathhouse at Midnight_ (I forgot the name of the author, but it's a
recent book and fairly easy to find).
Getting off her soap box and her teaching stand.
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- Just as a thought, Troi'itsa (Trinity Sunday) was/is supposed to be the day
Christ takes the ice from the water. (No swimming, boating, fishing between
ice out and today) I am only giving this as an example of folk beliefs who's
origins are lost, not as a pagan rooted idea; The only reason I put this out
is to find out if there is any other similar belief known by those of this
list. Without a reliable source or four (verification) I don't think any
claim to know what the beliefs were pre-Christianity, but pagan is as pagan
does, so have at it, just DO NOT claim ant authenticity. The research is
serious, the role play for fun. Sergius Bulutinkov