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Christian analogues of Old Church Slavonic holidays, or why the church could not defeat Maslenitsa and Ivan Kupala
Christian analogues of Old Church Slavonic holidays, or why the church could not defeat Maslenitsa and Ivan Kupala

Christianity, introduced in Russia by Prince Vladimir in 988, actually put an end to the development of the solar cult. For a long time the new religion could not oust the remnants of paganism from the consciousness of the people. Some Slavs remained faithful to Dazhdbog, Khors and Perun, others mixed the two faiths, “merging” their gods with Christian saints, and still others worshiped brownies. Such a term as dual faith appeared, with which the clergy fought for a long time. To "erase" the ancient Slavic traditions, the church and secular authorities prohibited the old holidays at the official level or tried to customize them.

Prohibition of old holidays and the Slavic calendar

Baptism of Russia

And to this day in Russia, Christianity peacefully coexists with the echoes of pagan beliefs. For example, the Mari managed to preserve the original folk traditions, despite the centuries-old Orthodox domination in Russia. Formally, they are considered Christians, but in fact they remained polytheists. Certain ethnic groups, for example, the Chimari, can be called indisputable pagans. In principle, they do not get baptized and do not accept a religion imposed by other religions.

During the formation of Christianity, dual faith in Russia was a common phenomenon, and far from always it bore the character of peaceful coexistence. The development of Christianity during that period was characterized by high tolerance for well-established folk traditions. But despite this, the princely power used force against the defenders of paganism, for example, if they intimidated people and began to sow confusion.

After the adoption of Orthodoxy in Russia, two chronological systems operated simultaneously - the old and the new. Neither the church nor the authorities liked the fact that the holidays were celebrated on two calendars. Confusion in the creation of chronicles caused particular discontent. Some chroniclers worked according to the Slavic calendar, while others kept records according to the new system.

In order to coordinate the order of chronology in relation to the Julian calendar, by order of Ivan III in 1384 (in Summer 6856 from the creation of the world), the date of the celebration of the New Year was approved - March 1. From that moment on, all the chroniclers, including Nestor, worked only according to the Julian system of chronology. But even after the ban on the old calendar, people continued to celebrate the Slavic New Year (September 1). In response to the persecution and prohibitions in Russia, troubles became more frequent, people did not want to completely abandon traditions and fought to preserve the ancient cult. Ivan III was forced to accept a decree to honor, along with Christianity, the old pagan faith of his ancestors. Duality officially existed in Russia until the 17th century.

In order to eradicate the pagan cult peacefully and unite as many Slavs as possible in a common religion, the church began to "adjust" the calendar to the daily life of people and replace the old customs with Christian holidays. Such a substitution led to a confusion of the Christian faith and pagan rituals, people began to celebrate church holidays, honoring Orthodox saints, but continued to observe the traditions of the old faith of their ancestors.

John the Baptist Day

Putting wreaths on the water on Ivan Kupala Day

The Orthodox holiday of Ivan Kupala replaced the Old Slavic Day of Kupaila.The celebration of the summer solstice and the highest flowering of nature is an ancient pagan tradition, when on the night of July 6-7, people glorified the God of the summer sun (Kupaila), who came into its own after spring. The Christian holiday of Ivan Kupala (July 7) got its name in honor of John the Baptist, who bathed Jesus Christ in the Jordan River during his Baptism.

Unlike the Slavic holiday in honor of Kupaila, the day of John the Baptist has nothing to do with the God of the sun, but it is supposed to be celebrated in the temple and with prayers. But even after the official cancellation of the day of Kupaila and the adoption of a new holiday, it was not possible to eradicate the centuries-old Slavic traditions. Despite the condemnation from the church, mass festivities with jumping over bonfires, throwing candles and wreaths down the river and other symbolic actions are still taking place on this day.

Nativity of the Blessed Virgin

Icon "Nativity of the Most Holy Theotokos"

Before the adoption of Christianity in Russia, on September 22, the Slavs traditionally met the Day of the Autumn Equinox (Oat or Veresen) and thanked God of the autumn sun for a generous harvest.

During the development of Christianity, instead of Ovsen in Russia, they began to celebrate a church holiday - the day of the Nativity of the Most Holy Theotokos, which fell on September 21. It is believed that the Mother of God protects farmers, sends well-being in the family and helps mothers. Among the Eastern Slavs, this day was also dedicated to the celebration of the completion of field work. Only instead of the God of the autumn sun, the Mother of God was honored and thanked for the harvest.


Christmas carols

All over the world Christmas is celebrated on December 25th. The Russian Church celebrates this day according to the old style (Julian) - January 7. The tradition of Christmas divination and carols, which invariably begins on January 7 and ends at Epiphany, came to us from the pagan world.

Since ancient times, on December 25, the Slavs have honored the sun god Kolyada and welcomed the new sun, which was born after the winter solstice. On the Christmas day of the baby sun, people (mostly villagers) jumped over the fire, sang carol songs and walked around neighboring courtyards with a figurine of the sun.

With the advent of Christianity, the day of Kolyada changed to Christmas, but the ritual part of the ancient Slavic holiday has been preserved until our days.

Cheese week

Marena stuffed animal as the main symbol of farewell to winter

Orthodox Maslenitsa (cheese week) originated from the Old Church Slavonic Komoeditsa. Festive events began 7 days before the equinox and continued for another week after it. According to one of the beliefs, the name of the holiday comes from the word "coma" - round loaves or pancakes, which were baked by older women in families. According to another legend, the first pancake was brought to a bear. In ancient times, bears were called comas, hence the well-known saying “the first pancake - coma (coma)”.

On the spring holiday, the Slavs organized mass festivities to appease the sun God and ask for a good harvest. At the temple, large tables were set, and round pancakes and sun-shaped cakes were an obligatory dish. Another important attribute is the stuffed Marena, the burning of which symbolized the final departure of the evil and cold winter.

The church fought this holiday especially actively, but unsuccessfully, so it decided to adapt it for itself and in the 16th century introduced a 7-day Maslenitsa. The pagan Komoeditsa fell during the period of fasting, when any entertainment activities were prohibited by the church. The clergy "moved" their cheese week closer to the beginning of the year, thereby setting aside this holiday a week before fasting. As a result, the traditional two-week events in honor of Komoeditsa were reduced to 7 days. Thus, a new Orthodox holiday was introduced to replace the old pagan one, but it was not possible to erase its traditions. This is evidenced by the annual Maslenitsa festivities throughout Russia, which exactly repeat the rituals of Komoeditsa.

Day of Elijah the Prophet

The image of the Prophet Elijah on a fiery chariot

On August 2, the Orthodox Church honors the prophet Elijah, who lived in the 9th century BC. Along with Nicholas the Pleasant, he is one of the most popular saints, he is considered the patron saint of fertility and harvest.

Before the adoption of Christianity, the Slavs celebrated Perun's Day, which later "transformed" into the Day of the Prophet Elijah, incorporating many ancient Slavic traditions. Ilya, recognized as the lord of thunder, heavenly fire and rain, organically replaced the thunderer Perun, born of Svarog. Based on this similarity of images, icon painters often depicted Elijah on a golden chariot with fiery horses flying upward.

On this day, no significant rituals were performed, but since ancient times, on the holiday of Perun (Elijah the Prophet), people have postponed any work in order to pay respect to the patron saint of fertility and avoid punishment in the form of rain and thunder.

For political reasons, even the Christian Byzantine emperor I had to give my daughter to the pagan Prince Vladimir the Baptist.

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