Vedic origin of a Kupala ritual?

It is widely accepted that the Kupala celebrations trace their origins back into the pre-Christian Slavic societies. But what if some rituals were even older than the Slavic times? In any case, the meaning and significance of the ritual acts performed during these special days were blurred, distorted and obscured through the ages. Even though nowadays the practice of the rites and festivities of Kupala are mostly superficial, their meaning might not be entirely lost.

Artist: Vsevolod Ivanov Title: The night before the Kupala holiday

Artist: Vsevolod Ivanov
Title: The night before the Kupala holiday

I would like to share in this article a perspective on one of the many rituals occurring during the Kupala festivities. It addresses the tradition of (Slavic name?) the crafting of small rafts decorated with wreaths and lanterns or candles which are then set afloat on water. This understanding is provided from the 6th book of the Ringing Cedars Series, The Book of Kin.

The following excerpts are part of a section entitled “Rituals”, which is itself part of the chapter “History of mankind, as told by Anastasia”. Quoted with the kind permission of the publishers at www.ringingcedars.com, here are but a few of the consciousness-expanding insights these books provide.

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“In various countries today there is a celebration involving water, whereby wreaths or small rafts with beautiful lanterns or candles are set afloat on a water surface and pushed away from the shore in a plea to the water to grand good fortune. But let us see where this particular celebration originated and how rational and poetic a significance it had in its pristine form.”

“In Vedic times it sometimes happened that one or two girls (how many is of no importance) did not find someone they could love within their own community. And even at large festivals involving several communities they did not succeed in choosing their intended. This would not have been on account of a limited selection. Indeed, they were presented with a whole array of splendid young men with intelligent countenances – almost like gods, who shone in their celebratory performances. But while the heart and soul of the girl in question where filled with great expectations, they were not visited by love. The girl was dreaming of someone, but of whom? She herself did not know. Even today, no one can explain the mystery or freedom of choice inherent in the energy of Love.”

“This is why on a designated day the girls would go down to the river, and in one of the little bays set a small raft afloat. Its edges were decorated with a garland of flowers. In the middle stood a small jug of wine or fruit infusion. Pieces of fruit were placed around the jug. The drink was to be prepared by the girl herself, and the fruit to be plucked by her from the trees she had planted by her own hand in her family garden. She might also place on the raft a woven linen headband, or some other object, but it had to be something made with her own hands. Lastly she would place on the raft a little lampadka (a small vessel filled with tree oil and a wick which could be lit). Around a fire burning on the shore the girls danced their khorovod and sang about a beloved of whom they were not yet fully aware. Then, taking one of the branches burning on the fire, they lit the wick of the lampadka. They pushed their rafts out of the bay into the mainstream of the river, where the current would catch it and tenderly convey it down to the river’s farthest unknown reaches.”

“Upon seeing the little lights in the distance being carried along by the current, a young man would at once leap into the water and swim toward the little lights of love he had seen.”

“Placing the little raft carefully on the land, the young man snuffed out the lampadka, took an excited drink from the jug and quickly headed home to prepare for his journey. He took with him whatever he had found on the little craft. Along the way he took a taste of the fruit and was thrilled by its taste. By and by he arrived at the village from where the raft had been launched, and was able to accurately determine which garden ant tree whose fruit had sweetened his journey.”

For those who might still have trouble understanding how the young man who had been waiting on the riverbank could find with accuracy where the raft came from, some more explanations are given in this chapter. They have to do with the wick of the lampadka being an indicator of how long it had been alight, the well known speed of the river’s current as well as the unique characteristics of a fruit such as shape, colour, fragrance and taste.

“What would draw him to her? Was the meeting the result of mysticism or rationality? Or perhaps of the knowledge to which the Vedic people had access through their feelings? Decide for yourself which way”

Ivan Kupala. Fortunetelling on the wreaths. Wood with levkas, oil. 85 x 150 cm

Artist: Simon Kozhin
Title: Ivan Kupala. Fortunetelling on the wreaths. Wood with levkas, oil. 85 x 150 cm

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Studia Mythologica Slavica

Here’s a very resourceful web address containing many papers on Slavic mythology in English.

“Studia mythologica Slavica is international scientific journal on the mythology, spiritual culture and tradition of Slavic and also other nations and people. […] The journal is dedicated to interdisciplinary studies, and one of the main aims of this journal is to present comparative research that defines and determines (i.e. establishes) Slavic culture in the context of the wider European and non-European world (cultures). The journal intends to throw light on the belief systems and religions of older Slavic, Eurasian, and other civilisations.”

complete description here

Link to the articles

Russian – Sanskrit

I’ve been reading an article recently that opened my eyes to some very interesting stuff. It’s about the striking similarities between russian and sanskrit (languages). Language being a fundamental constituent of any culture, I think that the links between russian and sanskrit can bring important contribution to our understanding of the origins of slavonic folklore. The analogy between the vedic and slavic cultures established through language resemblances is most likely to unfold in different aspects of culture (to be researched!)

I would like to let the words speak for themselves here. You will find here lists made by Constantine Leo Borissof in which are juxtaposed the most obvious Russian – Sanskrit cognates verbs and nouns.

As Anastasia (from the Ringing Cedars of Siberia) tells us, the Vedruss civizilation would have, in a very distant past, thrived on the lands of Siberia and maybe in a much wider area (don’t know to what extent, Eurasia certainly). For those who are unfamiliar with the term Vedruss (also spelled Vedrus) it is basicly a contraction of vedic and russian (Rus). There is evidence that some core elements of the vedic culture (based in the principles of Sanatana Dharma) were once long ago present on what is now the vast russian territory. What remains of this today are the artefacts and the intangible relics that we must bring to light if we are to really discern and understand our human story. I feel that becoming aware and consciouss of this almost forgotten era, especialy the way the people led their lives in these times, is something that can help us go through the crisis we are in.

Defining Culture

Culture (Latin: cultura, lit. “cultivation”)[1] is a modern concept based on a term first used in classical antiquity by the Roman orator, Cicero: “cultura animi”. The term “culture” appeared first in its current sense in Europe in the 18th and 19th centuries, to connote a process of cultivation or improvement, as in agriculture or horticulture. In the 19th century, the term developed to refer first to the betterment or refinement of the individual, especially through education, and then to the fulfillment of national aspirations or ideals.

In the 20th century, “culture” emerged as a central concept in anthropology, encompassing the range of human phenomena that cannot be attributed to genetic inheritance. Specifically, the term “culture” in American anthropology had two meanings:

(1) the evolved human capacity to classify and represent experiences with symbols, and to act imaginatively and creatively;

(2) the distinct ways that people living in different parts of the world classified and represented their experiences, and acted creatively.[3]

Hoebel describes culture as an integrated system of learned behavior patterns which are characteristic of the members of a society and which are not a result of biological inheritance.[4]

Culture can be defined as the shared patterns of behaviors and interactions, cognitive constructs, and affective understanding that are learned through a process of socialization. These shared patterns identify the members of a culture group while also distinguishing those of another group. [2]

The main aspects of a culture can be divided as follows:
Language (and dialects)
Religion (spirituality)
Technology 
Cuisine
Aesthetics (art, music, litterature, fashion and architecture),
Values and ideology,
Social conventions (norms, taboos, etiquette)
Gender roles
Recreational activities (holidays, festivals, etc)
Commercial practices
Social structures

The human expressions, percieved as a culture, can take place in so many ways, shapes and forms… the followings are some examples (some include others)

folklore, myths, epics, legends, tales, books, poems, riddles, traditions, beliefs, lore, use of plants, cuisine, celebrations, festivals, carnivals, rites, dances, chants, hymns, clothings, embroidery, jewelry, ornaments, architecture, carvings, city organisation, behaviors, rituals, ceremonies, mores, customs, norms, taboos, etiquette  …and what else ?

 

Defining Folklore

Folk+Lore = Folklore

according to dictionary.com…
Folk
noun
1. Usually, folks. ( used with a plural verb ) people in general : Folks say there wasn’t much rain last summer.
2. Often, folks. ( used with a plural verb ) people of a specified class or group : country folk; poor folks.
3. (used with a plural verb ) people as the carriers of culture, especially as representing the composite of social mores, customs, forms of behavior, etc. : The folk are the bearers of oral tradition.
4. folks, informal.
a. members of one’s family; one’s relatives: All his folks come from France.
b. one’s parents: Will your folks let you go ?
5. Archaic. a people or tribe.

Lore
noun
1. The body of knowledge, especially of a traditional, anecdotal, or popular nature, on a particular subject: the lore of herbs.
2. learning, knowledge, or erudition.
3. Archaic.
a. the process or act of teaching; instruction.
b. something that is taught; lesson.

Folklore
noun
1. the traditional beliefs, legends, customs, etc., of a people; lore of a people.
2. the study of such lore.
3. a body widely held but false or unsubstantiated beliefs. (why false ?)

according to Collins dictionary
1. the unwritten literature of a people as expressed in folk tales, proverbs, riddles, songs, etc.
2. the body of stories and legends attached to a particular place, group, activity, etc.
3. the anthropological discipline concerned with the study of folkloric materials.