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Pagan Russia, or What were the religious customs before the adoption of Christianity
Pagan Russia, or What were the religious customs before the adoption of Christianity
11 centuries to waste …

In 988 Russia adopted Christianity. 11 centuries have passed since that time, pagan traditions are still preserved in our daily life. What keeps their strength and influence? Popular memory that preserves ancient customs, or a secret power hidden from our understanding?

One way or another, rituals praising the power of nature have become firmly established in our habits. Often, paying attention to signs, celebrating holidays or observing traditions, we do not even know where they originate from. Christianity in Russia was extremely tolerant of other religions. That is why there was a mixture of Orthodox and pagan holidays, which helped to preserve the ancient culture for many centuries.

Pagan customs that have survived to this day

Ivana Kupala

Old Russian traditions are woven into Orthodox culture from the very first big holiday - the Nativity of Christ. Since ancient times, the so-called carols fell on the day of the winter solstice. People sang songs dedicated to the son of the sun, Kolyada. By this they asked to send a rich harvest in the new year, which will bring prosperity to their home. Later, the holiday was timed to coincide with Christmas Eve. But the tunes have retained their main meaning - to thank the higher powers for all the good in the past year and to call prosperity and health to the family in the new one.

Maslenitsa is one of the most beloved folk festivals among the Slavs. On Shrovetide week, people bake pancakes symbolizing the sun. Thus, they bring the arrival of spring and warm days closer. The holiday necessarily ends with the burning of a scarecrow. This ritual is designed to drive away winter and frost. Our ancient ancestors sang on this day Yarilo, the sun god. It was believed that eating a pancake, a person tastes a piece of the sun's heat. In the Christian tradition, this holiday is called Cheese Week and ends with the beginning of Great Lent.

Christmas carols

On the day of the summer solstice, the Slavs had a holiday, also dedicated to the sun god. It has survived to this day under the name Ivan Kupala. Traditionally, on this day, people jumped over bonfires and swam in rivers to cleanse themselves. The girls wove wreaths of herbs and threw them through the water to find their betrothed. The church timed this tradition to the Nativity of Ivan the Forerunner, and bathing began to symbolize the rite of baptism.

Pagan traditions that have not survived to this day


But no matter how strong the folk traditions were, under the influence of a new religion or in connection with a change in life, many of them ceased to exist. Historians restore them from various sources, trying to recreate the life of the ancient Slavic peoples bit by bit. Of course, customs were very different in different territories and among different tribes. But most of them are associated with the worship of gods, symbolizing the forces of nature. They also had a direct dependence on the season, which was cyclically divided into the period of sowing, ripening and harvesting.

So, most agricultural holidays were songs, dances and offerings of gifts to the gods of the sun, rain, wind. By this they tried to invoke the weather that will help to get a rich harvest. After the harvest, procreation festivities began. These days they are called wedding. The ceremonies were festivities of residents of neighboring villages, which often ended with the kidnapping or ransom of girls. As such, there were no weddings in ancient times, and a man could have two or three wives.

A funeral pyre on boats

The birth of children is the most important event in the life of every family. The midwives took delivery.The gender of the child depended on what exactly the umbilical cord was cut with. In addition, the children were not given names. Until adulthood, they were called nicknames to protect them from the evil eye and evil spirits. Farewell to the departed played an important role in the life of our ancestors. According to the ancient Russian tradition, the bodies of the dead were not given to the earth, but burned in fire. The funeral pyre was built on special boats and launched along the river. In drier areas, this was done on land, and the ashes of the deceased were collected in a special vessel and placed on pillars or buried in mounds.

Bringing demands to the Native Gods is an ancient Slavic tradition. It was performed on the days of major holidays or before important events in the life of the tribes, as well as before ceremonies or appeals to higher powers. This ritual was an offering of gifts to gods and spirits. At the same time, anything could be a gift, because each family had a different income. They were often carried out by magi or ministers. For this purpose, whole Pantheons of gods were erected, on which the tribes worshiped their idols.

Echoes of paganism


The signs widespread among the Slavic peoples are also a response to paganism. After all, the Christian Church does not allow such superstitions. There are many habits that many do not even notice in their daily life:

- sit on the path; - hold on to an object before starting an important task; - fear of taking out the garbage at night; - unwillingness to sweep the floor after guests leave, and much more.

All these are nothing more than rituals. They are designed to appease or not anger various spirits of nature.


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