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Slavic Fairies





Khorovod, or Choral, Songs 1

The Posidyelka, or Social Gathering ..... 32

TheBesyeda 36

Divisions of Songs . .39

Cossack and Eobber Songs 42

Soldier Songs 51

The Builinas, or Metrical Eomances . . . .55

Story of Svyatogor 58

Story of Sukhman 64

Euibnikof s Eesearches 67



/ Old Slavonic Mythology 80

y Perun 86

' Other Slavonic Deities ' .103


Ideas about the Soul 107

The Domovoy, or House-spirit .... . 120



House-changing Ceremonies ...... 136

The Eusalka, or Naiad 139

The Vodyany, or Water-sprite 148

The Lyeshy, or Wood- demon 153


The Baba Yaga, or Ogress 161

Koshchei the Immortal 164

The Witch . . .168

The Snake 172

The Water-king '178

Swan Maidens ........ 179

Tom Thumb 183



Kolyadki, or Christmas Songs 186

Gadaniya, or G-uessings . . . . . . .195

Ovsen and New Year Songs ...... 202

Feast of the Epiphany 207

Death of Winter 210

Eeception of the Spring . .211

Cuckoo Christening .214

Eastertide .219

Krasnaya'Gorka . 222

Dodola Songs .227

St. George Songs .229

Semik and Whitsuntide Songs ....

Midsummer Eites

>Kupalo .241

Funeral of Kostroma, or Yarilo . . . 244
Harvest Eites 247



, the Cattle-God 251

September Customs ........ 254

The Ovin, or Corn-kiln 257

Dmitry's Saturday -. . 260



A modern Peasant Wedding 263

Old Slavonian ideas about Marriage 282

Purchase of the Bride 283

Bride's Sorrow at leaving her Home 287

Her affection towards her Parents 292

Mitigation of Patriarchal Severity 293

Love Songs 295

A Bride's Complaint 303

Songs of Married Life 305

Mythical Wedding Guests 306



Death Weddings .309

TheRadunitsa 310

Modern Funeral Rites 313

Funeral Banquets 320

Ghost Banquets 321

Ancient Funeral Rites 322

Human Sacrifices 327

Strava and Trizna 331



Lament of Orphans
A Widow's Lament
Wailings at Graves


. 334

. 338




Zagadkas, or Enigmas

Zagov6rs, or Spells .

Buyan, the Elysian Isle

The stone Alatuir

Wizards and Witches

Amulets ....

Cattle- spells

Poisoners ....

Cattle-plague Spells .

Cholera and Small-pox


Vampires ....

History of Eussian Witchcraft

Mythological Explanations




(A.) List of Authorities
(B.) Note on Metres ,





BEFOEE entering upon the consideration of the more
important features of the poetical folk-lore of Russia
the relics of mythic and ritual song, the remains of
a wide- spread system of sorcery which have drifted
down to our days in the form of truncated spells,
exorcisms, and incantations, and the fragmentary
epics or metrical romances called Builinas before
endeavouring to fix the fleeting images they offer of
the past, it may be as well to tarry awhile in the
present; to trace a rapid outline of the general
aspect of Russian popular poetry ; to give some brief
account of the songs which are sung on ordinary
occasions by the peasantry, of the times and places
when and where they are usually to be heard, and of
what manner of persons they are who sing them.
And perhaps the simplest method of conveying this
information will be to describe in a few words what
are, so far at least as the younger members of the


peasantry are concerned, two of the most popular
institutions of Russia the Khorovod, or choral
dance, and the Posidyelka, or social gathering.

As soon as the long winter has fully passed away,
and the spring has made its welcome influence felt,
the thoughts of the younger members of every village
community in Russia begin to turn towards the
blended dance and song of the Khorovod. Before
long, what are called the vernal Khorovod s are
making their voices heard all over the land, to pass
successively into those of summer and autumn, before
they disappear at the approach of wintry weather.
Whence were derived these circling dances to the
sound of song, or at what period they gained
their hold upon the Slavonic peoples, neither history
nor tradition can say. All that the Russian peasant
cares to know about them is, that they formed the
favourite solace of generation after generation of his
ever-toiling and often suffering ancestors, and that
the songs which belong to them have been for the
most part carefully handed down from parent to
child from some remote period of time of which he
has but a very vague idea. Nor have the researches
of the learned thrown any very clear light on the-
sufy'ect, nothing definite being known even as to the
origin of the word Khorovod one of which the
equivalent, among many of the Slavonians, is the
simpler term Kolo, a circle.

But it is not on the history of the Khorovod that
it is proposed to dwell at present, but rather on the
songs associated with it, on the poetical delineations


of Russian social life for which it has offered itself
as at once canvas and frame, on the long series of
versified domestic dramas towards the performance
of which it has from immemorial times contributed
successive generations of actors. To the student of
the popular poetry of Russia the Khorovod is one of
the most instructive, as well as interesting, of the
institutions of the country. How rich in popular
poetry that country is but few foreigners are tho-
roughly aware. And indeed there are many of its
natives who have but a very slight idea of the poetic
wealth amassed by the great body of their country-
men the full appreciation, and the careful study of
the songs of the common people being among the
results of comparatively recent times.

A vein of natural and genuine poetry runs through
the thought and speech of the Russian peasant, and
so in the songs which accompany him through life
there is a true poetic ring. But it is not on their
poetic charm alone that their value depends. They
have the additional merit of frequently offering a
faithful picture of the manners of the people by or
among whom they are sung; of often echoing the
expressions, and embodying the sentiments, of the
many millions of Russian men and women of low
degree, with whose inner lives it is not easy to
become acquainted. As in the Builinas, or " metrical
romances," to which the people love to listen,
fragmentary epics dealing with the adventures of
princes and heroes, the dimly-seen form of the
historical past of Russia is supposed by most of their

B 2


commentators to reveal itself; so in the songs of
the villagers, by common consent, may be recognized
the principal features of the life led within the family
circle by the Russian peasants. On them, remarks
one of the principal collectors of his country's popular
poetry 1 , their songs have no slight influence. Com-
mencing at the side of his cradle, song accompanies
the Russian man during the games of his childhood
and the sports of his youth, and gives expression to
his earliest feelings of love. In the ears of the girls
it is always ringing; and if it depicts in sombre
hues the unwelcome change from maiden freedom
to wedded subjection, it also paints, in glowing
colours, the happiness of mutual attachment. To
the husband and wife it suggests many a form of
loving words, and teaches them how, with croons
about the " evil Tartars " of olden days, to lull their
babes to sleep, and to soothe the restlessness of their
elder children. Song lightens the toil of the working
hours, whether carried on out of doors, amid exposure
to sun and wind, and rain and frost, or within the
stifling hut, by the feeble light of a pinewood splinter ;
it enlivens the repose of the holiday, giving animation
to the choral dance by day and the social gathering
by night. The younger generation grows up, and
song escorts the conscript son to the army, the
wedded daughter to her new home, and mourns
over the sorrow of the parents of whom their
children have taken what may be a last farewell.

1 Kuibnikof, m. p. iii.


hen comes the final scene of all, and when the tired
yes are closed for ever, and the weary hands are
crossed in peace, song hovers around the silent form,
and addresses to its heedless ears passionate words
of loving entreaty. Nor does its ministering cease
even then, for, as each returning spring brings back
the memory of the past together with fresh hopes for
the future, song rises again above the graves of the
departed, as, after the fashion of their pagan ances-
tors, the villagers celebrate their yearly memorial of
the dead.

Who composed these songs no one can say, and
even what date ought to be assigned to them cannot
well be determined. The mythical fragments have
evidently come down from heathen times, bearing
.the unmistakable stamp of great antiquity; and
many of the ritual songs, including those relating to
marriage, have probably been sung for many hundreds
of years. But the majority of the songs with which
we have to do at present, those used by Khorovod
performers, must be referred, so far at least as their
present form is concerned, to a much later date.
Judging by their structure, says Tereshchenko 2 ,
these songs belong to different, but not distant
periods. A few of those which will presently be
quoted, such as the "Millet Sowing," the "Tit-
mouse/' and the " Poppy Growing," he attributes to
the ^Sixteenth Century, but the rest to the Seven-
teenth or Eighteenth. As to their composers, he

1 IV. 136,


continues, all that we can determine about them is
that they must have belonged to the common people,
for otherwise they never could have expressed with
so much sympathy the simple thoughts and feelings
of the villagers, or described with such accuracy, and
with so complete a freedom from artificial embellish-
ment, the commonplace occurrences of village-life.
The latter part of this criticism is not likely to be
disputed, but as regards the dates of the songs
Tereshchenko's arguments have not been universally
accepted as conclusive.

When a holiday arrives, in fine spring weather,
even the saddest looking of Russian hamlets assumes
a lively aspect 3 . In front of their wooden huts the
old people sit " simply chatting in a rustic row," the
younger men and women gather together in groups,
each sex apart from the other, and talk about their
fields and their flocks, their families, and their house-
hold affairs. Across the river they see their horses,
free from labour for the day, browsing in the green
meadows ; above the copse rises the blue cupola of a
neighbouring church ; beyond the log-houses a streak
of road stretches away into the distance, and loses
itself among the woods which darken the plain and
fringe the horizon. Along the village street and the
slope towards the river stroll the girls in their holiday
array, merrily wending towards the open space in
which the Khorovods are always held, and singing as
they go

Tereshchenko, IT. 136 140.


The beautiful maidens have come forth
From within the gates, to wander out of doors.
They have carried out with them a nightingale,
And have set the nightingale upon the grass,
On the grassy turf, on the blue flowers.
The nightingale will break into song,
And the beautiful maidens will begin to dance ;
But the young wives will pour forth tears.
" Play on, ye beautiful maidens,
While you still are at liberty in a father's home,
While you still lead a life of ease in the home of a

When the appointed spot is reached they form a
circle, take hands, and begin moving this way and
that, or round and round. If the village is a large
one a couple of Khorovods are formed, one at each
end of the street, and the two bands move towards
each other singing a song which changes, when they
blend together, into the Byzantium-remembering

To Tsargorod

Will I go, will I go.
With my lance the wall

Will I pierce, will I pierce.

After this they proceed with their games and songs
under the guidance of the Khorovodnitsa, or leader of
the dance. If they become tired of performing by
themselves, they invite the village youths to join
them, singing

The bright falcons have met in the oak-forest :
Into the greenwood have flown the white cygnets,
Fluttering about from bush to bush,


Pondering, considering,

" How shall we make ourselves nests ?

How shall we build ourselves warm nests ?"

Didi, Ladi, Didi, Ladushki !
" How shall we maidens form our Khorovod ?
How shall we fair ones begin new carols ?"

Often, however, the Khorovod remains composed
of girls alone, and then she who plays the male part
' in any of what may be called the little operettas which
they perform, sometimes adopts a man's hat or cap, in
order to be in keeping with her assumed character. Of
these brief metrical dramas, the number of which is
considerable, the following may be taken as speci-

In the Murmanka Shlyapa, the " Murman Cap 4 ," a'
drunken Pan, or Lord, comes staggering in, followed
by a Pan'ya, or Lady. Presently his cap falls off,
and he orders the Lady to pick it up. The chorus

From the Prince has come a drunken Lord,

He has dropped his Murman cap.

To the Lady young the Lord has cried,

" Come hither, come hither, Lady young,

Pick up, pick up, my Murman cap."

The Lady, in the pride of her maiden liberty,

" I, my Lord, am not thy handmaid;
I am the handmaid of my father
And of my mother."

* The Murmanki were large caps, richly adorned with fur, worn
in old times by the Grand Dukes and Boyars. The word may
possibly be corrupted from the name Norman.


The chorus recommences

From the Prince has come a drunken Lord,

He has dropped his Murman cap.

To his Lady young the Lord has cried,

" Come hither, come hither,

My Lady young,

Pick up, pick up,

My sable Murman cap."

By this time the Lady has become his wife, so she
no longer refuses to obey his commands, but replies
with humility,

"My Lord, I am thy handmaid,

I will pick up thy sable Murman cap,

And I will place it on thy daring head 5 ."

The idea of the despotic power of the husband is
expressed still more strongly in the favourite game of
"A Wife's Love.'* A youth and a girl, or more
frequently two girls, one of whom wears a man's hat,
take their place in the middle of the circle of singers,

who begin

Wife, I am going,
To walk through the bazaar 6 .
Wife, my wine,
Hard is thy heart.
Wife, I will buy thee
Muslin for a sleeve.
Wife, my wifie,
Hard is thy heart.
See, wife, here is
Muslin for a sleeve.

5 Tereshchenko, IV. 158.

" The Kitai-Gorod, or China-Town of Moscow, is part of the
bazaar outside the Kremlin. It takes its name from Kitaigrod in
Podolia, the birthplace of Helena, the mother of Ivan the Terrible.


The husband offers his present. At first his wife
will not look at it ; presently she snatches it from his
hand, and flings it on the ground. The chorus sings,

Good people, only see !

She does not love her husband at all !
Never agrees with him, never bows down to him.

From him turns away !

The second act is similar to the first. The husband
buys his wife a golden ring, but it fares no better
than his former present.

Then comes the third and final act, in which the
husband cries

Wife, I will go
To the bazaar
Wife, I will buy thee
A silken whip.

This time when he brings his new offering, and


There, wife,

Is your dear present !

She looks upon him affectionately, he gives her a
blow with the whip, and she bows low before him
and kisses him, while the chorus sings

Good people, only see !

How well she loves her Lord !
Always agrees with him, always bows down to him,

Gives him kisses.

And the satisfied husband concludes with the words,

Wife, my wine,
Soft is thy heart 7 .

7 Tereshchenko, IV. 238.


The subject of wife-beating plays a considerable
part in Russian popular poetry. The following song
may serve as a specimen of the manner in which it is

Across the Don a plank lay, thin and bending ;

No foot along it passed.

But I alone, the young one, from the hill,

I went along it with my true love dear,

And to my love I said :

darling, dear !

Beat not thy wife without a cause,

But only for good cause beat thou thy wife,

And for a great offence.

Far away is my father dear,

And farther still my mother dear ;

They cannot hear my voice,

They cannot see my burning tears 8 .

The "Millet-Sowing," the "Hedge" and the
" Beer-Brewing" will occur in a later chapter : the
" Geese," the " Sparrow," and many others of the
same kind, ought to be described among the "games"
of which the Russian people possess so rich a store,
rather than among their poems, and therefore we will
not dwell upon them at present, but there are a few
others in which historical allusions occur, and which
therefore seem to deserve especial attention. Such,
for instance, are the " Titmouse" and the " Oak

The subject of the first is marriage. The Bui-
finch, after many unsuccessful attempts, determines
to get married ; so his sister, the Titmouse, invites

1 Shein, I. 403.


the birds to her dwelling, in order that he may choose
a spouse. The person who represents the Bulfinch
wanders about inside the Khorovod, seeking for his
bride among its members, who sing

Beyond the sea the Titmouse lived; not grand,
Not sumptuous was her state but beer she

Bought malt, and borrowed hops. The Blackbird


And the distiller was the Eagle grey.
" Grant us, Lord, that we the beer may brew,
May brew the beer, the brandy may distil
We will invite as guests the little birds."
The widow Owl, though uninvited, came.
The Bulfinch wandered through the passages,
The Owl caressed the feathers of her head.
Among themselves the birds began to say,
" Why ever don't you marry, Bulfinch dear ? "
" Fain would I marry could I find a bride.
I'd take the Linnet only she's my mother.
I'd take the Titmouse only she's my sister.
I'd take the Magpie but she chatters so.
But there, across the water, lives the Quail :
Neither my mother nor my aunt is she :
Her do I love, and I will marry her 9 ."

This song is said to have been written during the
reign of Ivan the Terrible (A.D. 1533 1584) but to
have been prohibited for a time, on account of its
containing allusions to the life of a certain influential

In the " Oak Bench" a girl sits pensively in the
middle of a circle of young people who, with linked
hands, move around her, singing

9 Tereshchenko, iv. 280.


By the river side
Lies an oaken bench,
An oaken plank
On that oaken bench
Sits a fair young Swede,
In a blue pelisse,
With a girdle of silk.

Presently some of the youths leave the circle and
lay hands on her

There have come dragoons,

Young cavaliers,

They have seized, have laid hold of the Swedish


Have set her in a carriage,
Have taken her along the banks of the Moskva.

The prisoner begins to weep, on which some of
the youths console her, others strike up merry music,
and the rest break into a lively dance

The Swedish woman has begun to weep piteously,
But the dragoons console her,
They strike upon their drums,
They tootle on their fifes.

At the sight of so much merriment the captive
forgets her sorrows, and joins her warders in the
dance, while the chorus sings

The Swedish woman has grown more joyous,

The Swede has begun to dance,

And having danced she has bowed low.

Well done ! 0, ye dragoons !

Ye know how to seize a Swedish woman,

And at consoling a Swedish woman are ye expert 1 .

1 Tereshchenko, iv. 165.


This song is one of many similar relics of the war
between Peter the Great and Charles the Twelfth of

But such chants as this, although rendered in-
teresting by their historical associations, are not
remarkably poetic. It may be as well, therefore,
before going farther, to give some specimens of
songs which possess intrinsic as well as accidental
merit, prefacing them, however, by a few words of
deprecatory criticism.

There are two points in which these dramatic
sketches of Russian life may seem defective to foreign
-eyes they may appear to lack variety of form, and
still more to be wanting in contrast of colour. Nor
can it be denied that they are often monotonous and
sombre. In former days, at least, the ideas of their
composers not unnaturally revolved in a narrow
circle. In the choice of their themes, the popular
poets seldom ventured off the beaten track ; in the
treatment of their subjects they rarely deviated from
the ordinary method. And the tone of their compo-
sitions, undoubtedly, is apt to be painfully subdued.
Although one of the saddest features of Russian
peasant life, the slavery which weighed so heavily on
the mass of the people from the time of Boris
Godunof to that of Alexander II., is seldom, if ever,
alluded to in the popular songs, yet a settled gloom
too often prevails in many of the pictures they offer,
unbroken by a sparkle of high light, unrelieved by a
touch of warm colour. In this, however, they are
not out of keeping with the landscape of certain


parts of Russia, suggestive as they are of grey plains
dotted with sad brown huts, or of dark forests where
no sound is heard but the sighing of the wind
through the pines. But such drawbacks being ad-
mitted, it is only fair to recognize the merits also of
these songs of the people the untutored freshness
of their thought, the nervous vigour of their lan-
guage, the musical ring of their versification, their
complete freedom from the sickly affectation, the
wearisome sentimentality, and the tawdry ornamenta-
tion of the mock pastorals and spurious idylls of the
age in which very many of them were composed.
Unfortunately it is next to impossible to give in a
translation, however faithful it may be, any idea
of the greater part of these merits. The stuffed
nightingale of the taxidermist is but a poor
exchange for the living songster of the wood-

Love is, of course, the inspirer of the great majority
of these songs, but it is generally the darker side of
love which they reveal ; it is on its sorrows, its dis-
appointments, its betrayals, that they lay most stress.
The separation of lovers, for instance, is one of their
favourite themes. Generally it is a girl who bewails
her lot, lamenting over the departure of him who is
so dear to her. Such is the case, for instance, in
the following lyric

Valley of mine, sweet valley !
thou wide valley !
Within that valley
A Guelder-rose tree grew,


And on that tree

There sat a Cuckoo kookooing.

" Wherefore, my Cuckoo,

Art thou kookooing ? "

" Wherefore, sad maiden,

Art thou sorrowing ? ' 3

" How can I, poor Cuckoo,

Cease from kookooing ? "

" How can I, sad maiden,

Cease from sorrowing ? "

" One green garden had I

And that is withering ! '

66 One dear friend had I

And he is departing !

Alone does he leave me,

The young one, alone 2 ! '

Sometimes it is the youth who mourns for a lost
love stolen away from him perhaps by a richer rival.

" Why, Dove, art thou so joyless ? "

How can I, poor Dove, be joyous ?

Late last night my mate was with me.

My mate was with me, on one wing she slept,

Slept on one wing, embraced me with the other,

With the other embraced me, calling me her dear


" Dear beloved one ! Dovelet blue !
Sleep, yet do not sleep, my dovelet,
Only do not, sleeping, lose me, darling."
The Dove awoke, his mate was gone !
Hither, thither, he flung himself, dash'd himself,
Hither, thither, in homes of Nobles,
Homes of Nobles, Princes, Merchants.
In a Merchant's garden did I find my Dove,
In a Merchant's garden, underneath an apple-tree ;

3 Shein, i. 310.



Underneath an apple-tree, wounded sore with shot !
The Merchant's son had wounded my Dove,
Wounded her with a weapon of gold 3 .

But the desertion is generally on the part of the
good youth." The girl's heart remains faithful to
its love.

Misty is the sunlight, misty ;

None the sun can see.

Mournful is the maiden, mournful : .

None her grief can tell.

Not her father dear, nor her mother dear,

Nor her sister dear, dovelet white.

Mournful is the maiden, mournful.

' ' Canst not thou find a solace for thy woe ?

Canst not thou thy dear friend forget ?

Neither by day nor yet by night,

Neither at dawn nor by the evening glow ?"

Thus did the maiden in her grief reply

" Then only my dear love will I forget,

When my swift feet shall under me give way,

And to my side my hands fall helplessly ;

What time my eyes are filled with dust,

And coffin boards my bosom white conceal 4 ."

When her lover is taken from her, a girl is some-
times described as being so crushed by the blow that
she can no longer endure to live. Such a despair as
this is described in a song which commences with a
broken-hearted youth's complaint

" Keep watch no more by night, dear love,
The waxen taper burn no more,

Shein, I. 323. The last line is translated from another copy.
4 Sakharof, I. iii. 208.



No more await me at the midnight hour.

Ah me ! our sunny days have passed away,

The stormy wind has carried off our joys,

And scattered them across the open plain !

My father has arranged,

My mother has enjoined,

That I should take another as my wife !

There blaze not in the sky two suns,

Nor shine two moons,

Nor can the youth's heart two loves know.

My father I will not disobey,

My mother's behests I will fulfil.

And I will take another as my wife

Another will I wed Death early wooed,

Death early wooed by violence !"

Then melted into tears the maiden fair,

And thus with tears she spake :

" Oh thou, my love, my eye's delight!

No dweller in the white light will I be

When thou art gone, my source of hope !

The swan knows not two mates,

Two mates the dove knows not,

Nor I two loves."

No longer keeps she watch by night,

But still the waxen taper burns.

Upon the table stands a coffin new,

Within the coffin lies the maiden fair 5 .

A maiden whose parents wish her to marry a
stranger and give up her " hope, her heart's beloved,"
exclaims in her grief

Forth will I go
To the meadows green.
With outcry loud
On Harm will I call.

6 Sakliar-of, I. iii. 208.


" Come hither, come hither,

Ye beasts of prey !

Here is luscious food

Come tear me to shreds !

Only leave untouched

My beating heart,

And bear it away

To the hands of my dear one.

Ah ! there let him see

How fondly I loved him 6 ."

Sometimes it is death that steps in between two
lovers and separates them for ever. Here is part of
a song expressing the passionate grief of a youth
whose " dovelet dear," whose " sweet cygnet," has
passed away " at the rising of the bright sun."

winds, warm winds,
Warm autumn winds,
Breathe not, ye are not wanted here.
But hither fly ye stormy winds
From the Northern side ;
Asunder rend moist mother earth.
And furrowing the open field,
The open, sweeping plain,
Reveal to me the coffin planks,
And let me for the last of times,
To my beloved one say farewell 7 .

And here is a slightly modified extract from another,
in which is heard the wailing of a " fair maiden" at
the death-bed of her lover. As he lies there in his
last agony, at his right hand stand his father and
mother, on his left his brother and his sister. At the

c Sakharof, I. iii. 20(5. 7 Sakharof, I iii. 204.

c 2


head of his couch are his friends. " Opposite his
heart" stands the " fair maiden" weeping and bitterly

If God would grant my love his health,
Were it but for one idle day,
Though it were only for one little hour-
Then wonld I wander with my love,
Would tread the mossy turf,
Would pluck the flow'rets blue,
Would weave a garland for my love,
And place it on my darling's head.
Then homewards leading him in glad content,
Would say, " My hope, my love !
We two will keep together, love,
Nor part, my darling, till at death
We say farewell for ever to the light :
Leaving behind us some such fame as this
That we two loved each other tenderly,
And loyally, my love, together died 8 ."

To the tears of a wife the songs attach less impor-
tance than to those of " a dear friend," or of a mother
or a sister. In one instance a brave youth lies dead
beside a thicket in the plain

There weeps his mother as a river runs ;
There weeps his sister as a streamlet flows ;
There weeps his youthful wife as falls the dew.
The sun will rise and gather up the dew 9 .

And indeed a dying husband often seems to think
less about the sorrow of his wife than about that of
his parents and his children

8 Sakharof, i. iii 207. 9 Sakharof, i. iif. 209.


Not for iny kinsman do I grieve,

Nor for my youthful wife

But for my little ones I grieve.

My darling little ones are left,

Dear little tiny innocents,

To suffer pangs of hunger and of cold 1 .

Not only do the songs frequently describe the in-
difference which is likely to attend upon marriages
contracted without the intervention of love, but they
find a fruitful theme in the hatred into which that
indifference sometimes deepens. Many of the most
striking among them are devoted to tales of crime,
especially to stories of poisoning. One of them, for
instance, which is said to be founded on fact, de-
scribes with repulsive realism the murder of an old
husband by his young and faithless wife. But it is
generally the husband who makes away with his wife,
sometimes merely because he is tired of her, some-
times in order that he may fill her place with one
who is nearer to his heart.

It is generally by the agency of poison that a
husband rids himself of the wife who has become an

Thanks, thanks to the blue pitcher !

It has rid me of my cares, my longings !

Not that cares afflicted me.

My real affliction was my wife.

" Hast not thou long been ailing, wife ?

Get worse and worse then, wife,

Make haste to die !

Then shall I lead a freer life."

1 Sakharof, I. iii. 204.


I will take a sharp axe ;

I will seek the green copse ;

I will fell a young pine ;

I will build a new room ;

I will set in it a glazed stove,

And I will take to myself a young wife,

And to my children a cruel stepmother.

But the children answered him and said :

" Be thou burnt with fire, thou new room !

And do thou die, cruel stepmother !

But rise, rise again, our own mother dear 2 !"

In many cases the poisoner is a girl, who, driven
wild by passion or hate, avenges her real or fancied
wrongs by the deadly cup.

Through the meadow she went

The wicked one ;
She dug for an evil root.
" I dug for the evil root,

Deep, deep down !
I washed the evil root,

White, all white !
I dried the evil root

Dry, all dry !
I pounded the evil root,

Small, so small.
I dressed the evil root,

Dressed it and meant it
For my cruel love.
To the lot of my own dear brother

That evil root fell.

2 Shein, i. 358. The epithet applied to the stepmother is
a purely conventional one. Just as in the songs an axe is always
called sharp, a pitcher blue, a hand white, a girl beautiful, and a
youth or a horse "good," so is the stepmother always styled
likhaya, malicious.


At eventide, my brother

Began to moan.
At midnight, my brother

Called for the priest.
With the grey light, my brother*

Passed away.
" Bury me, my sister

Between three roads ;
The Petersburg and the Moscow

And the road that leads to Tver.
All who pass by

Will pray to God,
Andjon thee, sister,

A curse invoke 3 ."

In one song, which bears the stamp of a foreign
origin, and is probably of a mythical character, a
sister intentionally offers a deadly draught to her
brother, with the design of consuming him with fire.
He happens, however, to let a drop fall from the cup
on his horse's mane, which instantly begins to burn.
Thereupon he cuts off her head at once, remarking
that she is a snake and no sister of his. But this
piece of oriental savagery is merely a lyrical setting
either of ideas connected with the old and deeply
rooted belief in witchcraft, of which an account will
be given in another chapter, or of some mytholo-
gical fragment which has given rise to various stories
of a somewhat similar kind ; as, for instance, that of
Arthur's narrow escape from death at the hands of
Guendolen an incident which Sir Walter Scott bor-
rowed, in his "Bridal of Triermain," from the German

Shein, I. 328.


tale of how Count Otto of Oldenburg was invited by
a fairy maiden to drink from a magic horn, and how
he let a portion of the proffered beverage fall on his
white steed, the hair of which it immediately burnt
off 4 . But whatever may be its origin, it decidedly must
not be looked upon as in any way typical of the rela-
tions existing between brothers and sisters in Russia.
On these relations the Russian songs do not dwell
nearly so much as the Servian, but still there are to
be found among them expressions of brotherly or sis-
terly love or regret. Of such a nature is the follow-
ing lament, which is interesting, moreover, inasmuch
as it contains one of the allusions to the Tartars
those terrible enemies who used to overrun the land
which are to be met with in Russian popular poetry
so much less often than might have been expected.

In his garden green

A youth sowed flowers,

And ha\ing sown them, wept,

" Ah me ! blue flow'rets dear,

Who is to water you ?

To shelter you from evil frosts ?

My father and my mother are too old,

A sister had I once,

But she for water to the Danube went.

Was she drowned in the Danube's waves ?

Was she lost in the forest dark ?

Did the wolves her body rend ?

Or evil Tartars carry her away ?

In the Danube had she been drowned,

Turbid with sand the Danube's waves would roll

4 Thorpe's Northern Mythology, in. 128. Deutsche Sagen, 541.


If the wolves had her body rent,

Scattered across the plain her bones would lie.

If the Tartars had carried her off,

Surely some tidings would have reached my ears 5 ."

In one instance a husband's mere wish proves fatal
to his " evil wife." It must be remembered that
death was usually represented by the Slavonians,
unless under strong ecclesiastical influence, as a
female being.

Against my will was I married ;

I have taken an evil wife.

An evil one, not to my liking,

Neither in feeling nor thought.

Lovingly live with her that will I not.

Across the stream will I go,

Love will I make to the girls.

As for that wife of mine

I will go pray for her death.

Along the bank of the stream

Death, the beautiful, goes.

" Ho there ! My beautiful Death !

Turn thee back again, Death !

Make an end of my wife ! "

Scarce had I spoken when Death

Began her work with my wife.

Scarce had I time to look round

Shrouded in linen white was her corpse !

Struck was the stroke on the bell 6 .

One more extract may be given, in which an unna-
tural husband longs for his wife's death. The cry of
A oo 7 which occurs in it is the Slavonic equivalent

5 Sakharof, I. iii. 205. fl Shein, i. 356.

7 The vowel sounds a, u, pronounced as in Italian.


of the Australian Coo-ey, and is a call with which the
woods of Russia may be heard ringing in summer
and autumn, when the young people wander through
them gathering nuts and berries

Out in the dreamy woods,

There goes wandering a fair maiden,

That fair maiden, darling Mashenka.

Masha was gathering berries and mushrooms,

Ere she'd gathered her berries and mushrooms,

She lost her way in the gloomy forest,

Began to A-oo to her dear friend.

" A-oo ! A-oo ! Thou dear friend,

Not far art thou, dear ; wilt not thou answer to my


" I cannot answer to thy call,
For over me are watchers three
Watchers three three stern ones they.
The first watcher my wife's father,
The second watcher my wife's mother,
The third watcher my young wife."
" We will find him, we will consume him with fire ;
Consume him with fire; cast him into the swift


" Oh ! arise, thou terrible storm-cloud !
Strike dead my wife's father !
Pierce her mother with thy arrow,
Beat my young wife to death with the rush of rain I
But spare, spare, the fair maiden,
The fair maiden my olden love 8 ."

In the next song the " olden love" dies, and the
news of her death is brought to him to whom she
used to be dear, but with whom fate, has not allowed
her to be linked

1 Shein, i. 341.


From under tlie stone, the white stone,

Fire blazes not, nor pitch seethes,

But a youth's heart is seething.

Not for his father dear, nor for his mother dear,

Nor for a young wife well-beloved,

Seethes the heart of the youth;

But for a maiden well beloved,

For her who used to be his love.

" There had reached me broken tidings

That the maiden fair was ill.

Quickly follows them a letter

The maiden fair is dead.

I will sadly to the stable :

Lead my good my best horse forth,

Hasten to the church of God,

Tie my horse beside the belfry,

Stamp upon the mould.

Split open, damp Mother Earth !

Fly asunder, ye coffin planks !

Unroll, brocade of gold !

Awake, awake, maiden fair,

maiden fair, my olden love 9 ! "

A great number of the songs are devoted to the
sorrows of a young wife, condemned to live with an
old and uncongenial husband. The following is one
of the most characteristic of her complaints. It may
be as well to take this opportunity of remarking that
when poetry which deals with the various relation-
ships of married life has to be rendered into English,
the poverty of our own family nomenclature, com-
pared with that of Eussia, is very cramping to a
translator. Such odious terms as father-in-law,
mother-in-law, and the rest of the endearing appella-

9 Quoted from an old MS. by Shein, i n 324.


tions of a spouse's kinsfolk so ominously terminating
in law, are all but inadmissible, and it is absolutely-
impossible to find English equivalents for many of
the numerous Slavonic names for persons mutually
affected by the various degrees of consanguinity and
connexion. Inherited by the Slavonians from their
Aryan ancestors in Central Asia, they have been
retained by them in many instances all but intact,
and they remain among them to bear witness to the
strength of their domestic attachments, to the vigour
of their family life.


Fain would I be sleeping, dreaming :

Heavy lies my head upon the pillow.

Up and down the passage goes my husband's father,

Angrily about it keeps he pacing.


Thumping, scolding, thumping, scolding,
Never lets his daughter sleep.


Up, up, up, thou sloven there !
Up, up, up, thou sluggard there !
Slovenly, slatternly, sluggardish slut !


Fain would I be sleeping, dreaming :

Heavy lies my head upon the pillow.

Up and down the passage goes my husband's mother,

Angrily about it keeps she pacing.


Thumping, scolding, thumping, scolding,
Never lets her daughter sleep.



Up, up, up ! thou sloven there !
Up, up, up ! thou sluggard there !
Slovenly, slatternly, sluggardish slut !


Fain would I be sleeping, dreaming :

Heavy lies my head upon the pillow.

Up and down the passage steals my well-beloved one,

All so lightly, softly, keeps he whisp'ring.


Sleep, sleep, sleep, my darling one !

Sleep, sleep, sleep, my precious one !

Driven out, thrown away, married too soon 1 !

If the last song was dark with discontent, the next
is expressive of the utter blackness of despair. The
word rendered in it by sorrow is the Russian Gore
meaning misfortune, calamity, woe, a being who, as
will be seen farther on, often figures in the popular
tales as for instance, in that in which a poverty-
stricken wretch tries to keep up appearances by sing-
ing, and hears another voice in unison with his own,
for which he cannot account until he discovers that
it belongs to Gore to misery, who is keeping him
company. The fish into which sorrow is supposed
in the song to turn itself, is the Byelaya Ruibitsa, a
large Caspian fish, probably the largest with which
the poet was acquainted. .

1 Shein, I. 3:6.



Whither shall I, the fair maiden, flee from Sorrow ?

If I fly from Sorrow into the dark forest,

After me runs Sorrow with an axe.

" I will fell, I will fell the green oaks ;

I will seek, I will find the fair maiden."

If I fly from Sorrow into the open field,

After me runs Sorrow with a scythe.

" I will mow, I will mow the open field ;

I will seek, I will find the fair maiden."

Whither then shall I flee from Sorrow ?

If I rush from Sorrow into the blue sea

After me comes Sorrow as a huge fish.

" I will drink, I will swallow the blue sea :

I will seek, I will find the fair maiden."

If I seek refuge from Sorrow in marriage

Sorrow follows me as my dowry.

If I take to my bed to escape from Sorrow

Sorrow sits beside my pillow.

And when I shall have fled from Sorrow into the

damp earth

Sorrow will come after me with a spade.
Then will Sorrow stand over me, and cry triumphantly,
" I have driven, I have driven, the maiden into the

damp earth 2 ."

As these dolorous laments might leave on the mind
of the reader the erroneous impression that Russian
popular poetry is of a morbid character, it will be as
well to give at least one specimen of a love-song, in
which the pathetic does not deepen into the tragic.

The little wild birds have come flying
From beyond the sea, the blue sea.
The little birds go fluttering
About the bushes, over the open field,
All have their mates and rejoice in love.

2 Shein, I. 322.


Only the good youth, Alexandrushka,

A homeless orphan in the wide world,

Grieves like a pining cuckoo,

And melts away in burning tears.

The poor lad has no one,

No one in the wide world to fondle him,

No one ever brings joy to the orphan,

Uttering words of kind endearment.

Should he go out into the open field

There to trample underfoot his cares,

His misery and his bitter longing

His longing and his misery not to be shaken off

Or should he go out into the dark forest,

His sorrow will not fly away.

The heart of the good youth

Is eaten up with care.

He fades, he withers in his loneliness,

Like a blade of grass in the midst of a wild plain.

To the youth not even God's light is dear !

But Dunya dear has taken pity

On the poor fellow, on the orphan.

She has caressed the homeless one,

She has spoken to him terms of endearment,

The beautiful maiden has fallen in love

With the lad, Alexandrushka

She has covered him with her silken veil,

She has called him her darling, her beloved one

And his sorrow and sighing have passed away 3 .

During the summer months, as has already been
observed, it is in the Khorovods that songs are chiefly
to be heard, their period varying in different localities,
and being most prolonged in the neighbourhood of
towns or in places where manufactories bring together
large numbers of young people. In the villages, as

8 Tereshchenko. 11. 345. Sakharof, I. iii. 130.


soon as the harvest and other field-labours are over,
and the evenings begin to grow dark and long, com-
mence the social gatherings of the young people
called Posidyelki, Besyedui, Dosvitki, etc. In the
greater part of Russia the Posidyelka prevails so
called from poswyef, to sit awhile. This is how it is
described by Tereshchenko :

When the appointed evening comes, the village
girls take their work to a cottage selected for the
purpose, and there spend some hours in spinning
and combing flax, hemp, and wool. As they sit at
their work they lighten it with much laughter and
chattering, discussing their domestic affairs, or the
character *of their sweethearts, or they sing such

songs as

" Spin, my spinner !
Spin, idle not!"
" Gladly would I have spun,
But to the neighbour's I'm called
At the Besyeda to feast."

The green copse

All night moaned

But I, poor Dunya,

All night sat up,

Waiting for my love 4 .

At first they all spin away steadily, but about a
couple of hours after supper-time they throw aside
their work, and take to playing games. By degrees
the youths make their appearance, and exchange
greetings with the girls. After a time the distaffs,

> v Tereshchenko, v. 156.


spindles, combs, and hackles are put away, and the
young people begin dancing to the sound of reed
pipes, balalaikas, and other musical instruments, or
of songs sung by the girls in chorus, such as

> Remember, dear, remember,
My former love,
How we two together, my own, would wander,
Or sit through the dark autumnal nights,
And whisper sweet secret words.
" Thou, my own, must never marry.
I, the maiden, will never wed."
Soon, very soon, my love has changed her mind :
" Marry, dear, marry ! I am going to wed 5 ."

Sometimes the songs are of a very melancholy
nature, as, for instance :

Oak wood, dear oak wood,

Green oak wood of mine !

Why moaning so early ?

Low bending thy boughs ?

From thee, from the oak wood,

Have all the birds flown ?

One bird still lingers,

The cuckoo so sad,

Day and night singing kookoo,

She never is still.

Of the wandering falcon

The cuckoo complains.

He has torn her warm nest,

He has scattered her young,

Her cuckoolings dear.

In her lofty chamber

A maiden fair sits ;

By the window she weeps

6 Tereshchenko, v. 157.



As a rivulet flows,

As a spring wells she sobs.

Of the wandering youth

The maiden complains

From her father and mother

He lured her away

To a strange far off home.

Strange, far off, unknown,

He has lured her and now

Fain would fling her aside 6 .

In the middle of a series of such melancholy songs
as these, the girls will suddenly begin to dance.
" The performers (says Tereshchenko) stand facing
each other, and beat time to the music with their
feet; then they turn round in opposite directions,
change places, and anew stamp on the ground,
and anew turn round." If they dance to the sound
of song, the women and girls form a circle around
them, as in the Khorovod, and sing what are called
plyasovuiya pyesni, dance-songs from plyasdt', to
dance. Here is a specimen. In the original, each
alternate line is composed of the exclamation, Akh!
moy Bozhin'ka! followed by a repetition of the last
words of the preceding line :

Ah ! on the hill a pine-tree stands !

Ah ! dear Lord ! a pine-tree stands !
Under the pine a soldier lies !

Ah ! dear Lord ! a soldier lies !
Over the soldier a black steed stands,
With its right hoof tearing up the ground,
Water it seeks for its soldier lord.

6 Tereshchenko, v. 159.


" Water, my steed, thou wilt not find.

From the ground the soldier will never rise.

Gallop, my steed, by bank and brae,

By bank and brae, gallop on to my home.

There will come to greet thee a grey-haired dame,

That grey-haired dame is my mother dear.

There will come to greet thee a lady fair

That lady fair is my youthful wife

To greet thee will little lordlings come

Those little lordlings my children are.

They will join in caressing thee, my steed

They will join in questioning thee, my steed.

Say not, my steed, that I bleeding lie

But tell them I serve in my troop, dark steed,

In my troop I serve, my step I gain."

His death gains the soldier beneath the pine,

His death ! dear Lord ! beneath the pine 7 .

To the Posidyelki of Great-Russia correspond the
Little-Russian Dosvitki, so called because the young
people keep up their amusements do svita, till the
dawn, and the White-Russian Supretki. On spring
and summer evenings, also, are held social festivals
which often last all night, and which in White-Russia
are called Dozhinki, and in Little-Russia Vechernitsui
from vecher, evening. These Vechernitsui often
led in old times to quarrels, and even to murders,
among the hot-blooded Cossacks; but it is said that
it was always very rare for them to be accompanied
by any bad consequences so far as the girls who
took part in them were concerned. Each 'girl is
attended at these gatherings by her regular and
acknowledged sweetheart, and his attentions almost

7 Tereshchenko, v. 165.
D 2


always end in marriage. This is the case, also, at
the PosidyelM, Besyedui, etc., of Great Russia. A sin-
gular amount of liberty is conceded to the 1 rustic lover,
but he would meet with general reprobation were he
to take advantage of his position, and then attempt
to evade making amends for his wrong-doing.

Of the Besyedas in the Olonets Government one
of those outlying districts in the north-east of
Russia, in which the songs of old times have been
best preserved a very pleasant and picturesque
account has been given by Ruibnikof, a collector to
whom students of Russian folklore are deeply in-
debted. When October comes, he says, the young
men of each village choose some clean and spacious
cottage, and meet in it almost every evening during
the winter months. These gatherings commence at
seven o'clock, and last till a late hour. Each of the
men pays the owner of the cottage from two to
three kopecks a night for the right of entry, or from
twenty-five to thirty [from tenpence to a shilling] for
the whole season. When music is required, they
make a special collection for the purpose. As a
general rule the girls are admitted free, but in some
districts they pay their share of the expenses.

if we follow the guidance of Ruibnikof to one of
these merry gatherings, we find ourselves in a spa-
cious izba a term applied to the whole cottage as
well as to its "keeping-room". Its ceiling is made of
interlacing planks. On the left of the door is a brick
stove, with ample space between it and the wall, and
liberal accommodation for sleepers on the polati, or


raised flooring carried from the stove to the opposite
side of the room. Along the walls stretch benches, and
above them shelves. One of the walls is pierced by
three windows, the middle one of which, called the
red or fair window, is somewhat larger than the
others, and at the end of that wall is the corner of
honour where stand the iconui, or holy pictures, with
a lamp burning before them. The scene is lighted
up by a number of candles placed on the cross beams
and shelves.

Before long the room becomes full. Not only the
immediate neighbours, but also the lads and lasses
from the surrounding villages have met together,
some of them coming from places as much as eight or
nine miles distant. The girls occupy the benches
extending from the stove to the centre window,
dressed for the most part in thin chemises with
short sleeves, and in red sarafans, or stuff petticoats,
fastened at the waist with a girdle of ribbon. Round
their necks are thrown handkerchiefs of different
colours, but not so as to hide their necklaces of glass
beads. In their ears are large earrings, also of glass.
On their heads they wear a network of horsehair,
decorated with lace and beads, to which some add
a sort of ornamented coronet of glass beads. The old
people and the married couples sit near the stove and
take no active part in the amusements, unless it be that
here and there some old woman holds a lighted fir
wood splinter for the benefit of the guests. Near the
door stands the owner of the cottage and collects the
entrance-money. The young men stroll about on the


side opposite that occupied by the girls, most of
them dressed in blue caftans, though here and there
a burlak, a man who is in the- habit of working for
wages in Petersburg, wears a long surtout, " or even
a Palmerston-Paletot 8 ."

After a time the amusements of the evening begin,
games and dances following each other in regular
order, attended by songs, which are not chosen capri-
ciously at the will of the singers, but are accepted in
accordance with the dictates of established usage.
Hour after hour the singing goes on until the party
breaks up, the lights are put out, and, escorted by
their " dear friends, 5 ' the girls speed home across the

It would be easy to give picture after picture of a
similar kind, in which should be portrayed the
bright side of social life among those Russian peasants
who remain faithful to the old manners and customs
of their ancestors. But to do full justice to the sub-
ject a whole volume would be required, and not a
mere introductory chapter. And so we will tarry no
longer in the region of the picturesque, but will pro-
ceed to clear the way for the discussion of the mythi-
cal -and ritual or ceremonial songs which have to
follow, by giving a rapid sketch of some divisions of
the general subject which have not yet been noticed.

The songs which have been quoted in the preceding
pages belong for the most part to the class of those
called Golosovuiya (golos = voice) or Protyazhnuiya,

8 Ruibnikof, in. 127 429.


long drawn out (protyagdt* =-to prolong). One of
them, however that of the wounded soldier has
already been referred to the division of the Plya-
sovuiya, or dance-songs. The song in which the
wife begs not to be beaten except for good
cause, is ranked in the collection from which it is
taken among the Obryddnuiya, or Ritual and Cere-
monial Songs, inasmuch as it specially belongs to the
Obrydd [feast or ceremony] of the Toloka, or friendly
assistance rendered to a man by his neighbours at
harvest time. Of the Obryddnuiya Pyesni, by far the
most important class of Russian songs 9 , a detailed
account will be given farther on, those of a mythical
nature being taken together, and the Svddebnuiya
Pyesni, or Marriage Songs, [Svad'ba = marriage] of
which one or two specimens have already been given,
being discussed in a separate chapter, as also will
be the Zapldchki, or Waitings for the Dead. Of five
other divisions, to which a considerable space has
been devoted by Sakharof in his collection, it will be
sufficient merely to give a few specimens.

Of these five divisions, four comprise, together with
some others, the " Cossack Songs," " Robber Songs,"
" Soldier Songs," and " Historical Songs," most of which
may be arranged together as descendants or imitators
of the old semi-historical poetry of Russia. There
exist in the memories of the people, as has already been
observed, a vast number of poems called Builinas

* The word " song " is used here in the sense in which we gene-
rally employ it. The Russian term Pyesni is applied to poems
of all kinds, epic as well as lyric.


fragmentary epics, to which neither our metrical ro-
mances nor our historical ballads exactly correspond,
although they offer certain points of resemblance
and the historical songs, and most of the others of
which we have just spoken, are generally written in
the same style and metre as the Builinas, and often
contain scraps of poetry which have been borrowed
from them. As a general rule, however, there is not
much poetry to be found in the " Soldier Songs/ 5 or
" Historical Songs >! in Sakharof s collection. As
for the " popular poetry " laboriously produced now-
a-days in the towns, and unblushingly fathered upon
soldiers and gipsies, it is not worthy of serious notice,
contrasting as it does most unfavourably with that
which flowed spontaneously in olden days from the
well of Russian undefiled. Here and there, however,
in remote parts of the country, the old Slavonic faculty
of improvisation still lives among the peasantry, and
sometimes gives birth to metrical effusions which are
caught up by their hearers, and so added to the
common stock of current song.

" Almost every woman," says Ruibnikof, speaking
of the neighbourhood of Lake Onega, " can give ex-
pression to her feelings of distress, either by construct-
ing a new lament (zapldchka) t or by adapting an old
one to the circumstances/' And he proceeds to speak
of a zapldchka improvised by a young woman of the
neighbourhood. A first cousin of hers died, and all
the family bitterly lamented his loss. But his cousin's
grief was expressed in a lyrical form with such force
and clearness, that her zapldchka immediately ac-


quired notoriety, and was adopted by other women,
who now sing it whenever a similar calamity befalls
them 1 . Some idea of its nature may be obtained
from the following extract, which forms about a
third of the whole :

Against my mother do I make complaint,

Who did not let me go, unhappy me,

To him, the dear, the loved,

My cousin dear.

Grieving I would have sat

The sick, the painful bed beside.

Sadly would I have begged

My cousin dear to speak.

Perchance to me he might have spoken, said

If only just one secret word

Which I would then have sadly told

To my dear aunt beloved.

Unhappy that I am, I would have given

To death, swift-footed, keen,

My raiment gay,

My pleasant way of life,

And all my golden store ungrudgingly . . .

But never would have let my cousin dear depart 2 .

Of the Cossack and Robber Songs given by Sak-
harof, and the other songs called Udaluiya bold,
daring, courageous, etc. some are not a little pro-
saic ; but there are also many of them that are as
remarkable for their freshness and vigour, as for the
interesting nature of the historical allusions they
contain. The Cossack Songs are generally about the
Don or the Volga ; along the banks of those rivers
ride the Cossack horse, or on their waters float the

1 Euibriikof, in. xlvii. 3 Kuibnikof, in. 423.


Cossack boats. In one song a young Cossack, riding
away on a foray, sorrowfully parts from his betrothed ;
in another he sends from his last field a farewell
message to his home. In all of them breathe the
same feelings of courage, of loyalty, of independence,
the same attachment to a free life, the same con-
tempt for death. Of the Tsar himself they speak,
as a general rule, with devotion ; but his messengers
are not always treated with respect. One of the
songs, for instance, describes how a great Boyar
(probably a certain Prince Dolgoruky), starts from
Moscow for " the quiet Don Ivanovich," boast-
ing that he will hang up all the Cossacks. They,
suspecting his intention, meet together and form a
great circle, in the middle of which he takes his
stand and begins to read aloud " the Tsar's Ukases."
When he comes to the royal titles the Cossacks
all doff their caps, but he keeps his on,

Thereupon they rose in commotion,

Flung themselves upon the Boyar,

Cut off his proud head,

And threw his white body into the quiet Don ;

And having killed him, they said to his corpse,
" Eespect, Boyar, the Gosudar,
Don't go glorying or giving yourself airs before

Then they went to the Tsar with their confession :
" thou, Father orthodox Tsar !
Judge us according to a just decision,
Order to be done to us what pleaseth thee.
Thou art master of our bold heads 3 ."

3 Sakharof, i. iii. 238.


A subject which is frequently treated in the songs
is that of a Cossack who lies grieving in a dark
prison. In one instance he entreats his parents to
ransom him, but they say they cannot do so ; then
he turns to the " fair maiden" whom he loves, and
she immediately hastens to release him. In another
song a prisoner who has lain for twenty-two years
in "a dark dungeon without windows or doors,"
within the white stone walls of " the famous city of
Azof," hears " His Sultanic Majesty, the Turkish
Tsar himself" go by, and calls out to him, demand-
ing that he may be set free, adding,

If thou dost not order me to be let out,

I will at once write a letter,

Not with pen and ink,

But with my burning tears,

To my comrades on the quiet Don.

The glorious, quiet Don will rise in anger ;

The whole Cossack circle will fly to arms ;

They will shatter the Turkish forces,

And lead thee, Tsar, away into captivity.

On hearing this " His Sultanic Majesty" immediately
cries to his " field-marshals,"

" Set free the brave youth,
The brave youth, the Don Cossack,
Let him go to his Russian land,
To his White Tsar 4 ."

Of a more poetic nature is the following address
to the favourite river of the Cossacks :

4 Sakharof,_i. iii. 237.


Father of ours ! famous, quiet Don !

Don Ivanovich, our nourisher !

Great praise of thee is spoken,

Great praise and words of honour.

That thou didst swiftly run in olden days,

Swiftly but all clearly didst thou run.

But now, our nourisher, all troubled dost thou


Troubled unto thy depths art thou, Don.
Then glorious, quiet Don thus made reply,-
" How otherwise than troubled can I be ?
I have sent forth my falcons bright,
My falcons bright, the Don-Kazaks.
Deprived of them my steep banks crumble down,
Deprived of them my shoals are thick with sand 6 . 5 '

And so is this description of a battle with the
Tartars :

Beyond the famous river Utva,

Among the Utvinsk hills,

In a wide valley,

A cornfield was ploughed.

Not with the plough was the field ploughed,

But with keen Tartar spears.

Not with a harrow was the field harrowed,

But with swift feet of horses.

Not with rye, nor with wheat, was the field sown,

But that cornfield was sown

With bold Cossack heads.

Not with rain was it moistened,

Not with strong autumn showers ;

That field was moistened

With burning Cossack tears 6 .

Most of what have been styled the " Robber

6 Sakharof, I. iii. 240. * Sakharof, I. iii. 243.


Songs " are reminiscences of the famous insurrection
of the Don Cossacks, headed by Stenka Razin,
against the Tsar Alexis Mikhailovich. For several
years that insurgent chief maintained his power
along the course, not only of the Don, but also of the
Volga, forcing the merchant-ships which sailed down
that river to pay him tribute, and at times setting
the country in a blaze, from Simbirsk to the Caspian.
Both on land and on the rivers, as well as on the
Caspian Sea, he long set the forces of the Tsar at
defiance. Once he surrendered, and promised to
live peaceably, but he soon broke out into even more
furious revolt than before. At last he was beaten
near Simbirsk, and soon afterwards was taken pri-
soner and sent to Moscow, where he was put to a
cruel death in the year 1672. In one of the Songs the
Sun is entreated to rise " above the high hill, above
the green oak wood, above the landmarks of the brave
youth Stepan Timofeevich, called Stenka Razin," for
the thick fogs of night lie heavy on the hearts of the
insurgents :

Rise, rise, red Sun,

Give warmth to us, poor sufferers.

No thieves are we, nor highwaymen,

We are the workmen of Stenka Razin.

Our oars we wave a ship we board,

Our maces 7 we wave a caravan we seize,

A hand we wave a maiden we carry off 8 .

7 The Kisten is a metal ball to which a leather strap or a short
wooden handle is attached, a kind of " slung shot."

8 Sakharof, I. iii. 227.


The last survivor of a band which has been crushed
in fight makes his way slowly homewards through
the dark forests, sadly thinking of his comrades who
are either dead or in prison. Arriving at a river, he
is rowed across it by the ferrymen, but no sooner
does he reach the other side than he feels that death
is close at hand, so he cries,

Bury me, brothers, between three roads,

The Kief and the Moscow, and the Murom famed in


At my feet fasten my horse,
At my head set a life-bestowing cross,
In my right hand place my keen sabre.
Whoever passes by will stop;
Before my life-bestowing cross will he utter a pray
At the sight of my black steed will he be startled,
At the sight of my keen sword will he be terrified.
" Surely this is a brigand who is buried here !
A son of tha brigand, the bold Stenka Razin 9 ! "

When these freebooters are taken prisoners, they
make it a point of honour to maintain a defiant
demeanour in the presence of their capturers. One

8 Sakharof, I. iii. 226. The same idea occurs at the end of our
own ballad of " Eobin Hood's Death and Burial : "

" Lay me a green sod under my head,

And another at my feet :
And lay my bent bow by my side,

Which was my music sweet ;
And make my grave of gravel and green,

Which is most right and meet.
Let me have length and breadth enough,

With a green sod under my head :
That they may say, when I am dead,

Here lies bold Kobin Hood."


of them is asked by the Tsar himself whether he has
had many companions in his forays, and who they
were with whom he robbed and stole. This is his
answer :

" I will tell thee, source of hope, orthodox Tsar,
All the truth will I tell to thee, the whole truth.
The number of my companions was four.
My first companion the dark night,
My second companion a knife of steel,
My third companion my good steed,
My fourth companion a tough bow,
And my messengers were keen arrows."

Whereupon the Tsar compliments him upon his
knowledge of how " to steal and to make bold reply,"
and rewards him with " a lofty dwelling in the midst
of the plain, with two pillars and a cross-beam."

It is not always a freebooter whose courage in the
presence of his enemies is lauded in the songs. In
one of them it is a Knyaz Boydrin, a Boyar Prince,
who is going to the scaffold amid the tears of his
family, and who prefers death to the humiliation of
asking for pardon in another the bold criminal is
" a great Boyar, the Strelitz Ataman," condemned to
death " for treason against the Tsar's Majesty " an
allusion, no doubt, to the executions which took place
under Peter the Great, after the failure of the Third
Insurrection of the StryeVtsui, the Russian Prgeto-
rians, in the year 1698. As the Ataman [Hetman]
is being led to the block from the Kremlin

In front of him goes the terrible headsman,
Bearing in his hand a sharp axe ;


After him follow his father and his mother,

His father and his mother and his young wife ;

They weep as a river flows.

Their sobbing is like the sound of a rushing stream,

And amid their sobs they incessantly entreat him.

" child, dear child of ours !

Humble thyself before the Tsar,

Offer him thy confession.

Perchance the Gosudar Tsar will pardon thee,

"Will leave thy bold head on thy strong shoulders."

Hard as a stone grows the heart of the brave youth;

He stiffens his neck and defies the Tsar,

Not listening to his father and mother,

Not pitying his young wife,

Feeling no sorrow for his children.

He was led to the Red Field,

And there his bold head

Was struck off from his strong shoulders r .

Many of the songs are devoted to love. Here, for
instance, is the outline of a romantic story. A brave
youth leaves his native Ukraine, and enters into the
service of " the King of Lithuania," who shows him
great favour. The King has a fair daughter, whose
heart is won by the young Cossack, a fact of which
her father is made aware by the youth's " own evil
brothers," who repeat the idle boastings in which he
had indulged when under the influence of strong
drink. The King in his wrath orders his favourite
to be taken out at once to the place of execution. His
commands are obeyed, and the youth soon stands at
the foot of the gallows :

On the first step mounted the youth :

" Farewell, farewell, my father and my mother T

1 Sakharof, I. iii. 224.


On the second step mounted the youth :

" Farewell, farewell, my kith and kin !"

On the third step mounted the youth :

" Farewell, my sweet Princess !"

The Princess heard the voice afar off,

She hastened into her lofty chamber,

She seized her golden keys,

She opened a silver coffer,

She took two steel daggers,

And pierced her white bosom.

In the open field swings the brave youth,

On the daggers bends down the Princess and dies 2 .

The only consolation which the bereaved father can
find is that of cutting off the heads of the fatal

By way of conclusion, the following romance of
robber life may be given :

It was in the city of Kief

That there lived a rich widow :

Nine sons had she,

Her tenth child was a daughter dear;

Her did her brothers carefully bring up,

Brought her up and gave her in marriage,

To a young dweller by the sea,

To a rich Boyar.

He took her to the seaside,

And there they lived a year, two years,

But in the third year they grew weary,

And set off to pay her mother a visit.

They travelled one day, they travelled two days,

The third day they made a halt,

To cook kasha, and to let their horses graze.

It was not evil crows that flew down on them,

It was evil robbers who pounced upon them.

* Sakharof, I. iii. 230, 231.



The husband they put to death,

His child they flung into the sea,

His wife they kept as a prisoner,

And after that they lay down to sleep.

But one of their number did not lie down to sleep,

Did not lie down, but prayed to God,

And took to questioning the captive.

" Moryanka, Moryanka, Moryanushka 3 ,

From what city dost thou come ?

Who are thy father and thy mother ?"

The captive tells her story in the words with which
the song opens, to the horror of her listener.

With a loud cry exclaimed he then

" brothers, brothers of mine !

No mere dweller by the sea have we slain,

We have slain the dear husband of our sister !

No mere child have we flung into the sea,

But our own sister's son !

No mere seaside woman have we taken captive

We have taken captive our own sister !

Sister dear, our own sister !

Do not tell this to our mother.

We will find thee another husband,

We will endow thee more richly than before."

But with tears does the sister reply,

" With whatsoever ye may endow me,

Ye cannot bring my dear one back to life 4 ."

Of the Soldier Songs some refer to the wars with
Sweden, as, for instance, one in which " General

* Moryanka means a female dweller by the seaside. Moryan-
ushka is an affectionate diminutive of the word.
4 Sakharof, I. iii. 228.


Boris Petrovich Sheremetef " marches out of Pskoff,
and his troops " chase the Swedish general up to the
very walls of Dorpat;" and another in which a girl
tells her mother of a dream she has had how in a
vision of the night she saw a steep hill on which lay
a white rock ; and on this rock grew a cytisus bush,
on which sat a dark blue eagle, holding in its claws
a black crow. To which the mother replies that she
will explain the dream :

The steep hill is stone-built Moskva,

The white rock is our Kreml Gorod,

And the cytisus bush is the Kremlin palace ;

The dark blue eagle is our father the Orthodox Tsar,

And the black crow is the Swedish King.

Our Gosudar will conquer the Swedish land,

And the King himself will lead into captivity 5 .

Many of them refer to various military and naval
exploits, one describing how a Russian Admiral ter-
rified the Turks, another telling how the blood of
the infidels was poured forth at the taking of Azof,
and a third embodying the expressions used by the
Orthodox Tsar himself, as he steered across the Cas-
pian Sea one of a fleet of thirty Russian ships.

Some of the most interesting are devoted to the
soldier's sorrows. In one, for instance, we see the
young conscript enrolled among the " Imperial dra-
goons," and hear him lament as his long locks fall
>efore the official scissors :

" Not for my black curls do I mourn,
But I mourn for my own home.

5 Sakharof, I. iii. 232.

E 2


In my home are three sorrows,

And the first sorrow is

I have parted from my father and mother.

From my father and from my mother,

From my young wife,

From my orphaned boys,

From my little children 6 ."

In the days when long terms of military service
were the rule, a conscript was generally looked upon
as lost to his native village, and the occasion of his
departure was one of great sorrow and mourning.
Here is a song which used to be sung by the rela-
tions of a recruit when he took leave of his home,
in a district of the Archangel Government. The
inhabitants of the village, old and young, would col-
lect on such an occasion, and amid sobs and tears
would listen to the sad lament :

Warm, warm, red Sun !

Shine, shine, bright Moon [Myesyats] I

Together with the clear stars,

Together with the bright Moon [Luna],

So that we, the old thieves-bloodsuckers,

May be able to see to go to the dram-shop

To go to the dram-shop and take counsel :

From the rich to take and not to restore,

From the poor to take and so to ruin.

Beyond the brook, beyond the river,

In the house of an old widow

Is her only son Ivanushko

Of him will we make a soldier.

Good and pleasing is he by nature,

Favour has he found in the eyes of the girls,

Of service has he been to all the commune 7 .

* Sakharof, i. iii. 234. 7 Ruibnikof, ill. 460.


In another song we witness the setting out of a
mighty army :

The powerful army of the White Tsar,
Going, brothers, to the Prussian land.

Sturdily the soldiers march, " all joyous, all
powdered;" one only of them is sad, for after him
follows a fair maiden, bitterly weeping. "Do not
weep," he says, trying to comfort her,

Not thou alone art unhappy,

I also, the bold youfch, am sad

Going to a far-off land

To an unknown, far-off land

Do I go in the service of the Gosudar 8 .

In a third it is not for his own sorrows that the
soldier weeps. His tears flow for the mighty monarch
who is no more :

Ah ! thou bright moon, batyushka !

Not as in old times dost thou shine,

Not as in old, in former times,

For from the evening to the midnight hour,

From the midnight hour till the grey dawn,

Dost thou hide thyself behind clouds,

Dost thou cover thyself with black vapour.

So was it with us, in Holy Russia.

In Petersburg, that famous city,

In the church of Peter and Paul,

At the right side of the choir,

By the tomb of the Emperor,

By the tomb of Peter the First,

Peter the First, the Great,

A young sergeant prayed to God,

' Sakharof, i. iii. 235.


Weeping the while, as a river flows,
For the recent death of the Emperor,
The Emperor, Peter the First.
And thus amid his sobs he spake,
" Split asunder, damp mother Earth
On all four sides
Open, ye coffin planks,
Unroll, brocade of gold
And do thou arise, awake, Gosudar,
Awake Batyushka, Orthodox Tsar.
Look upon thy army dear,
The well loved, the brave.
Without thee are we all orphans,
Having become orphans, have we lost all
strength 9 ."

This song may serve also as a fair specimen of the
class styled " Historical." The faculty of composing
Builinas, or what are usually styled the real historical
poems of Russia, is supposed by some writers to
have existed among the people till the time of Peter
the Great, and then to have expired during the great
social revolution brought about by that monarch.
Of these Builinas whether of the Vladimir cycle,
or of the series referring to Ivan the Terrible, Alexis
Mikhailovich, and other Tsars who lived after the
Tartar period I hope at some future period to give
a detailed account. At present it is rather with
lyric than with epic poetry that I propose to deal,
and therefore I will not dwell any longer on the
"Historical Songs," and those of a similar nature.
But before parting with the subject, it may not be
amiss to say a few words about the Builinas and
their reciters,

9 Sakharof, i. iii. 232.


Until the beginning of the present century very few
persons even suspected that Russia could boast of
possessing a national epos. It was vaguely reported
that a considerable mass of more or less historical
poetry was floating about in the memories of the
people, but little had been done to secure and pre-
serve it. From time to time small collections were
made, one of the most interesting of which, so far as
English readers are concerned, is that which is now
at Oxford, having been formed by Richard James,
an English clergyman, a great number of whose
manuscripts are preserved in the Bodleian Library.
He was in Moscow in the summer of 1619, and spent
the ensuing winter in the extreme north, where he was
detained on his return home by way of Archangel.
His collection consists of six poems, chiefly relating
to events which had recently taken place in Russia 1 .

In the year 1804 there appeared at Moscow a book
which extended the growing knowledge that there
existed in Russia a rich mine of historical poetry.
This was the work entitled "Ancient Russian
Poems," containing 26 out of the 61 old " epic
poems " which purported to have been collected by a
certain Kirsha Danilof, towards the middle of the
18th century, at the Demidof mining works, in the
Government of Perm. Fourteen years later the entire
collection was edited by Kalaidovich. No farther
steps of any importance were taken till about twenty

1 Professor Buslaef has written an interesting article on these
pOBms. 1st. Ocherki, i. 470 548. They have been printed by
the St. Petersburg Academy of Sciences.


years ago the St. Petersburg Academy of Sciences
began to publish a rich collection of national songs,
and some ten years later the first parts appeared of
the two great collections made, the one by P. B.
Kiryeevsky, and the other by P. N. Ruibnikof. The
former is still in progress, the latter was completed
in the year 1867.

With respect to the contents of these two rich
storehouses of national poetry for the building up of
which the greatest credit is due to the patient ex-
plorers and collectors just mentioned, and their aiders
or supervisors, such scholars, forinstance, as Aksakof,
Bezsonof, Buslaef, Dahl,Kostomarof, and many others
the theory most in repute in Russia is that they
are all poetic relics of the past history of the country,
and that in them may be studied its successive phases,
from the far-off days of heathenism to the period of
social revolution under Peter the Great, when, toge-
ther with many other things appertaining to the past,
the faculty of composing " epic" poetry dwindled
away. But it should also be mentioned that another
theory exists, but meets with only scant favour, to
the effect that the poems which are regarded as re-
cords of Russia's earliest days are merely renderings
of eastern romances, which have been borrowed by
Russian minstrels from Mongol and Turkish sources,
and altered in accordance with Russian ideas. Into
the questions raised by the antagonism of these two
theories I hope, at the fitting time, to enter ; at pre-
sent I content myself with stating their existence.

According to one of the supporters of the first


theory 2 , the epos of the Builinas may be divided
into certain cycles, each of which has its own poetic
characteristics, and is to some extent expressive of
the outer and inner life, the actions and the senti-
ments, of its own period. The earliest of these cycles
is supposed, by the school of critics to which he
belongs, to be that which deals with the mythical
personages generally known as the " Elder Heroes,"
and considered to be " evident personifications of the
Powers of Nature." Closely connected with it is the
Cycle named after Vladimir the Great, and containing
a number of fragmentary epic poems chiefly relating
to the deeds of the " Younger Heroes " the Russian
Paladins of ancient days, whose somewhat shadowy
forms are seen grouped around that of Vladimir
himself, the Slavonic counterpart of Arthur or of
Charlemagne, as he holds high revel within the halls
of Kief.

Next in order of time to the Vladimir, or Kief
Cycle, is placed that of Novgorod, prized for the
pictures of life it is supposed to offer during the days
of that ancient Republic's pride and prosperity. The
fourth place is occupied by the Royal or Moscow
Cycle, which deals with really historic characters and
events, and ultimately resolves itself into the classes
of Historical and Soldier Songs of which notice has
already been taken.

As a specimen of the mythical Builinas, we may
take the story of Svyatogor. He is one of the most

9 See Maikof, " On the Builinas of the Vladimir Cycle," p. 1.


striking of the " Elder Heroes." His name is derived
from his dwelling-place, which is v svyatuikh goralch,
66 among the Holy Mountains." He is of gigantic sta-
ture, and his weight is such that the earth itself can
scarcely support him. His strength is so prodigious
that it is a burden even to himself. On one occasion,
however, it proves insufficient. Svyatogor, we are
told, has made himself ready to start on an expedi-
tion :

He saddles his good horse,
And he goes forth into the open field.
With Svyatogor is no one equal in strength,
And the strength through his veins
Courses with right living force.

Heavily laden is he with strength as with a weighty

See now, Svyatogor exclaims :

" Could I but find its equal in weight 3

I would lift the whole earth !"

Svyatogor riding over the steppe

Lights upon a little wallet 4 .

He takes his whip and pushes the wallet it does not

move :
He tries to move it with a finger but it does not

yield :
He grasps it from on horseback with one hand but

it will not be lifted.

8 Tyaga seems to mean here the equivalent of the earthly weight.
In order to lift the earth Svyatogor must find a standing-place
capable of supporting him when so heavily burdened. The remark
is somewhat similar to that attributed to Archimedes.

4 Peremetnaya Sumochka, a pair of wallets or bags, fastened
together so as to be thrown across the shoulders or the saddle.


" Many a year have I ridden about the world,

But to such a wonder has my riding never brought


Such a marvel have I never seen before ;
That a little wallet

Will not move, nor yield, not let itself be lifted !"
Down from his good steed lights Svyatogor,
With both hands he seizes the wallet,
Lifts the wallet a little higher than his knees :
But into the earth up to his knees sinks Svyatogor,
Down his white face pours a stream not of tears, but

of blood 5 .

Ilya Muromets, the representative of the younger
race of heroes, has been told by the mystic beings
who infused almost matchless strength into his for-
merly crippled limbs, that he might safely fight with
all the heroes he might meet except three or four
the first of the exceptions being Svyatogor. Accord-
ingly, after a time he saddles his good steed, and goes
out in search of adventures. One day, as he rides
afield, he sees a white tent beneath a tall oak, and
in the tent is a huge bed, on which he lies down.
Going to sleep, he slumbers on for three days and
three nights,

On the third day his good steed

Hears a loud roar from the northern side :

Damp mother earth staggers,

The dark forests rock,

The streams overflow their steep banks.

Then the good steed strikes the ground with its
hoofs, but cannot wake Ilya until it cries aloud with

6 Kuibnikof, I. 32.


a human voice, and tells him that Svyatogor is coming
to the tent. Ilya leaps to his feet, lets his horse go
free, and climbs up among the branches of the oak.
Thence he sees how

There comes a hero taller than the standing woods,

Whose head reaches to the fleeting clouds,

Bearing on his shoulders a crystal coffer.

The hero comes to the green oak,

Takes from his shoulder the crystal coffer,

Opens the coffer with a golden key :

Out comes thence a heroic woman.

Such a beauty on the whole earth

Had never been seen, never been heard of.

As soon as she leaves the coffer she proceeds to
spread a sumptuous table, and Svyatogor eats and
drinks, and then goes into the tent and falls asleep.
His wife comes out from the tent, sees Ilya in the
tree, and orders him to come down. This part of the
narrative is almost identical with a portion of the
story told in the first chapter of the " Arabian Nights,"
but the sequel is different. After Ilya has obeyed,

The beautiful one, the hero's wife,

Placed him in her husband's vast pocket,

And aroused her husband from his deep sleep.

The hero Svyatogor awoke,

Placed his wife in the crystal coffer.

Locked it with the golden key.

Sat upon his good horse,

And started for the Holy Mountains.

Then his good horse began to stumble,

And the hero struck it with his silken whip

On its stout haunches.

Then the horse said, with a human voice,


" Formerly I carried the hero and the hero's wife,
But now I bear the hero's wife and two heroes.
No wonder that I stumble !"
And the hero Svyatogor drew out
Ilya Muromets from his pocket,
And began to question him,
As to who he was and how he came
Tnto his deep pocket.

Ilya tells him all that has happened, and Svyatogor,
after making himself a widower, enters into a bond of
fraternity with him, adopting him as his " younger
brother," and instructing him in all the science with
which it befits a hero to be acquainted. The two com-
rades afterwards travel on together " to the Northern
Mountains," and on their way they come to a great

On this coffin was written this inscription,

" Whosoever is destined to lie in this coffin,

He will he down in it."

Ilya Muromets lay down in it ;

For him was the coffin too long and too broad.

Down lay the hero Svyatogor :

Him did the coffin fit.
Thus spake the hero,

" The coffin is made exactly for me.

Now lift the lid, Hya,

Cover me up."
Thus answered Ilya Muromets,

" I will not lift the lid, elder brother,

Nor will I cover thee up

No little joke is this thou art playing,

Intending to bury thyself."

Then the hero took the lid and closed the coffin
with it himself.

But when he wished to raise it,


In no manner could he do so.

He struggled and strove hard to lift it,

And he cried aloud to Ilya Muromets,

" Ah ! younger brother !

Surely my fate has found me out ;

I cannot lift the coffin-lid,

Do thou try to lift it."

Ilya Muromets tried to lift the coffin-lid [the story
goes on to say in prose], but what could he do !
Then thus spoke the hero Svyatogor,

" Lift up my sword of steel, and strike across the

But to lift Svyatogor' s sword of steel was beyond
the strength of Ilya Muromets. Then the hero
Svyatogor called to him and said :

" Bend down to the coffin, to the little chink that
is in it, and I will breathe upon thee with heroic
breath 6 ."

So Ilya bent down, and the hero Svyatogorbreathed
upon him with his heroic breath. Then Ilya felt that
thrice as much strength as he had possessed before
was added unto him, and he lifted the sword of steel,
and struck across the coffin-lid. From that mighty
blow wide flew the sparks, and where the sword of
steel had struck, on that spot stood out a ridge of

Again did the hero Svyatogor call to him

" I stifle, younger brother, once more try to strike
with the sword this time along the coffin-lid."

Ilya Muromets struck the coffin lid lengthways,
and there also there sprang up a ridge of iron.

Again the hero Svyatogor exclaimed,

" My breath deserts me, younger brother. Bend
down to the chink, and I will breathe on thee once
more, and will give over to thee all my great strength."

The breath (duM) was supposed to be intimately connected
with the soul (dusha).


But Ilya Muromets replied,

" Strength enough have I, elder brother. Were it
otherwise, and had I more, the earth would not be
able to support me."

Then spake the hero Svyatogor,

" Well hast thou done, younger brother, in that
thou didst not obey my last command. I should
have breathed on thee with the breath of the grave,
and thou wouldst have lain dead near me. And
now farewell ! Take to thyself my sword of steel, but
fasten to my coffin my good heroic steed. No other
than I can hold that steed in hand."

Then passed out of the chink his dying breath, and
Ilya bade farewell to Svyatogor, made fast his good
steed to his coffin, girded Svyatogor' s sword of steel
on his loins, and went his way into the open field 7 .

As a specimen of the romances which are referred
partly to the mythical cycle, and partly to that
named after Vladimir, we may take the story of the
hero Sukhman, as told in a Builina heard by Euib-
nikof near Petrozavodsk. One day a great feast is
being held at Kief, in Vladimir's palace. By the
evening the guests have waxed merry and boastful
over their cups.

"The fool brags of his young wife,
The idiots vaunt their wealth of gold,
But the wise man boasts of his old mother."

Only Sukhman utters no vaunt, sitting in silence at
the oaken table. Noticing this, Vladimir asks what
ails him; has he not received the wine-cup in his
turn, or has some drunkard insulted him, or has he
been allotted a lower seat than that to which his
father's merits entitle him ? He replies:

7 Euibnikof, I. 3342.


" The wine-cup came to me in its proper course,
And my seat is that which my father's son may

And no drunkard has insulted me.

Still, he says, he will not yield like the rest to
merriment and boasting; but this he will do : he will
bring to Vladimir a white swan, caught by his hands
without having been wounded. Having thus spoken,
he rises from table, quits the festal hall, saddles his
good steed, and rides away till he comes to a blue
sea, into which lead creeks with quiet waters. Creek
after creek does he examine, but in none of them
" swim either geese, or swans, or small grey ducks."
So, as he cannot think of returning empty-handed to
Kief, he determines to ride on to the banks of
" Mother Dnieper."

When he reaches that river, he sees that Mother
Dnieper is not flowing as she used to flow, but all
her waters are turbid with sand. " Why dost thou
not flow as of old, Mother Dnieper ?" he cries.
" How can I flow as of old ?" replies the river, and
then goes on to complain that she is beset by forty
thousand pagan Tartars, who are building bridges
across her.

" By day they build bridges ; by night I sweep

them away ;

Utterly at the end of her strength is Mother

Sukhman resolves to attack the infidels, so he sets
his horse at the river, and clears it at a bound.
Then he tears an oak out of the ground, and uses it
as a club against the Tartars, when he comes up


with them. Each swing of his terrible weapon " cuts
a street in their ranks," each backhanded sweep
"clears away a cross-street." At length all the
Tartars are killed, with the exception of three who
hide among the willow bushes which fringe the
Dnieper's shore, and await Sukhman, with arrows
fitted to their bowstrings. He follows them, and
puts them to death, but not before he has been
pierced by three arrows. Of these, however, he
makes light, pulling them out, and " applying poppy
leaves to his bleeding wounds."

On his return to Kief, when he is asked for the
"live and unwounded swan" he had promised, he
describes the victory he has obtained, but Vladimir
will not believe him.

He ordered his trusty servants,

Seizing Sukhman by the white hands,

To fling the brave youth into a dark dungeon.

And he sends his nephew Dobruinya to Mother
Dnieper, to make inquiries about Sukhman's con-
duct. Dobruinya visits the field of battle, sees the
bodies of the dead Tartars, and carries back to Kief
the fragments of the great oak which Sukhman had
shattered in the fight. Vladimir hears his report,
and cries :

" What ho ! my trusty servants !
Swiftly run to the deep dungeon ;
Lead Sukhman forth,
Bring him before my bright eyes.
I will show favour unto the youth
For this his great service,
And recompense him with towns and suburbs,


Or with tillages and hamlets,

Or with countless wealth of gold at will/

So they hasten to the dungeon, and tell Sukhman
that he is to reap the reward of his brave deeds.
And Sukhman comes out from the dungeon, and
goes forth into the open field-
But then spake the brave youth these words :
" The Sun 8 knew not how to show me favour;
The Sun knew not how to reward me ;
So now his bright eyes shall not behold me ! :
He tore the leaves of the poppy
From off his bleeding wounds ;
And thus did Sukhman speak :
" Flow on, 0, Sukhman-Biver,
From out of my burning blood ;
My burning blood shed uselessly 9 ! ' :

Having given these specimens of the contents of
the two great collections of national poems recently
published in Russia, I will attempt to convey some
idea of the manner in which those poems were col-
lected. The best method of doing so seems to be to
condense the graphic account of his exploring
journeys drawn up by one of the chief compilers,
P. N. Ruibnikof. How great was his industry may
be measured by the fact that its results fill four large
volumes. These contain 236 Builinas, the number
of verses in the entire work amounting to rather
more than 50,000. Kiryeevsky's collection, the
whole of which has not yet been published, is on
fully as great a scale.

8 SolnuisJiTco, or "Dear Sun," a name frequently given to Vla-
dimir in these poems.

9 Ruibnikof, I. 26 32.


In the course of the year 1859 Ruibnikof, who was
then employed upon Government business in Petro-
zavodsk, a town situated on the western shore of Lake
Onega, was informed that a number of old and curious
songs were preserved among the rural population of
the Olonets Government, and during the ensuing
winter he betook himself to the task of collecting
these " memorials of national poetry," making espe-
cial use of the opportunity afforded him by a visit
which he paid to the Shungsk Fair, whither he was
sent in search of certain statistics. Thither, he was
informed, numbers of KaliM (in modern days gene-
rally blind psalm-singers) formerly used to repair, and
there they would sit by the churchyard and sing
songs to crowds of listeners. But in the year 1850
" the police had begun to drive the singers away from
the churchyard, and would no longer allow them to
sing in the streets." At his urgent request, however,
the Police-master contrived to find a couple of min-
strels, and brought them to his lodgings. " When
they had warmed themselves and talked a little," he
says, " I began to ask them to sing any thing they
knew. At first they would not, but when I had my-
self recited something to them from memory out of
the Kniga Golubinaya, they began first one Stikh
(religious poem), and then another, and sang through
all the pieces they knew." From their dictation
Ruibnikof wrote down a number of poems. Eventu-
ally he induced the police authorities to cease from
harassing them, and so " from that time they again
appeared at the Fair, took up their old quarters by

F 2 J


the churchyard, and once more solicited alms from
the public by singing religious poems."

About the same time he became acquainted with a
celebrated Voplenitsa or professional " Wailer." The
Wailer is, as we shall see farther on, a personage of
no small importance in a Russian community, for it
is she who sees that old customs are religiously pre-
served at marriages and funerals, and on other solemn
occasions. She it is who teaches the bride to mourn
in becoming verse for the loss of her " maiden free-
dom," and prompts the widow and the orphan to
wail as befits them over the coffin or the grave of
the departed. The particular Wailer in question
enjoyed so widely spread areputation that she was often
summoned to remote spots, even to a district inha-
bited by Old-Ritualists, who kept up ancient customs
with great strictness, and were, as a general rule,
able to do their own " howling" for themselves. From
her he obtained a number of good wedding songs and
funeral " complaints."

But so far as Builinas were concerned, only
rumours reached his ears. The Shungsk people did
not care for such things. The Chinovniks (or civil
officials) thought his interest in them was a proof of
sheer idleness, the merchants gave up their minds to
business alone, and the rest of tne community seemed
to him to be by no means well disposed towards such
profane poetry as is represented by the Builina. In
that part of the country the Russian Puritans known
as Old-Ritualists abound, and they, according to
Ruibnikof, with whom, however, Hilferding has


recently declared himself completely at variance on
this point feel for secular poetry what was felt
in olden days by the Slavonic framers of the rules
drawn up for persons leading an ascetic life, who
were forbidden " to sing Satanic songs or to scan-
dalize the profane world."

But he was told that there was a certain tailor called
Butuilka (or the Bottle), who was in the habit of
roaming from village to village, and of singing Bui.-
linas as he worked. Ruibnikof immediately set off in
search of him, twice crossing Lake Onega on the ice,
and once traversing its waters in a wretched boat, but
he could not succeed in finding him. It was not till
1863 that he made the poetical tailor's acquaintance.

In the summer of 1860 Ruibnikof received a roving
commission to collect statistics about the Government
of Olonets. This gave him an excellent opportunity
of studying the manners and customs of the peasantry
in remote districts, and he profited by it to the utter-
most. It is well known, he says, how difficult it is
for a Bdrin a "gentleman" and how especially
difficult it is for a Chinovnik, or Government official,
to gain the confidence of the common people, or to
obtain from them any details about their way of
living. Still, if they see that their visitor respects
their customs, and is of a sympathetic nature, they are
by no means inaccessible. On the contrary, they
readily respond to his advances. It is an advantage
to the inquirer to wear the national dress. " But his
dress is not the main point. What he must do is to
respect the independence of the religious beliefs of


the people, the characteristics of their way of life, the
hard labour of the agriculturist and the artisan, and
at the same time to fling aside all bookish prejudices
and fine airs. In that case the peasant will not
refuse to recognize as a brother even a man who has
received a university education, and will readily tell
him all he wants to know." And so, " one fresh
May morning," having donned the dress of the com-
mon people, Ruibnikof went down to the quay at
Petrozavodsk, and began to look for a boat to take
him to the other side of Lake Onega. The ice had
scarcely had time to thaw, but boats had already
begun to arrive from different parts of the lake, laden
with butter, eggs, and meal, and manned by peasants
who gave their services as rowers in return for a free
passage. There was, however, only one boat from
that part of the shore to which he wished to go.
So in it, although it could offer but small accommoda-
tion, he was obliged to start. The boat left the quay
at night, rowed by three men and a woman, but had
not got far on its way when a strong head wind arose,
and about six o'clock in the morning the weary rowers
were glad to take refuge under the lee of a desolate
little island about eight miles from Petrozavodsk.
Ruibnikof landed and walked to a small hut intended
for the benefit of weather-bound mariners, but it was
full of peasants, for several other boats had been forced
to take shelter from the storm, so he made himself
some tea at a wood fire which was burning outside,
and then lay down to sleep on the bare ground.
Before long he was awakened by strange sounds.


Some one was singing beside the fire. He had heard
many songs, but never such a one as that to which
he was now listening. " Lively, fantastic, joyous, it
now streamed rapidly along, and now with broken
flow seemed to recall to mind something antique,
something forgotten by our generation." For
a time Ruibnikof remained betwixt sleeping and
waking, unwilling to move, " so pleasant was it to
remain under the influence of an entirely new impres-
sion." Half slumbrously he could see a group of
peasants sitting a little way off, listening to a song
sung by a grey-haired old man, with a full white
beard, keen eyes, and a kindly expression |of counte-
nance. When one song was ended another began,
which turned out to be one of the Novgorod Builinas.

When the second song came to an end Ruibnikof
got up and made acquaintance with the singer, a pea-
sant named Leonty Bogdanovich. He heard many
Builinas sung afterwards, he says, and that by skilled
minstrels, but their performance never again pro-
duced the strong impression which was made upon
him by the broken voice of the old singer to whom
he listened that stormy spring morning, on the deso-
late island amid the wild waves of Lake Onega.

After spending some hours in friendly chat with
the peasants, who formed a circle round the wood fire,
Ruibnikof agreed to change boats and to accompany
some of his new acquaintances to their village. One
of the party was the singer, who helped to speed the
hours by singing snatches of song to the men and by
gossiping with the women. His age was seventy


years " with a tail," but he was brisk and hearty,
though " he had known but few good days in his life."
About midday the boat came to the " Monk" a long
and narrow sandbank in the middle of the lake, much
dreaded in stormy weather and towards evening it
was gliding between the indented shores of a secluded
gulf, dotted with many islands. Here and there
appeared villages and hamlets, and along the edge of
the water were cottages, and little piers to which
skiffs were attached. On went the voyagers, Leonty
Bogdanovich singing the following song, in which
the rest joined in chorus

It is not the cuckoo that is mourning in the moist

Nor the nightingale that is sadly complaining in the

green garden,
Alas, it is a good youth who tearfully laments in a

time of need.

My mother can I not recall to mind,

And who was it who gave to me, the orphan, to eat

and to drink ?
To me, the orphan, did the Orthodox Commune give

to eat and to drink,
To me, the good youth, did mother Volga give to

My yellow curls did a beauteous maiden twine.

And late in the evening they landed below the
village of Seredka.

That evening as Ruibnikof was sitting in the cot-
tage of the old singer, Leonty Bogdanovich, who had
insisted on showing him hospitality, he was told by
his host that the two best skaziteli'Or reciters of


the neighbourhood lived close by, their names being
Kozma Ivanof Romanof and Trofim Grigorief
Ryabinin. " Take me to Ryabinin to-morrow morn-
ing," said Ruibnikof. " No," replied Leonty. " I
must give him notice first. He is a proud man,
and a stubborn one. If you don't persuade him be-
forehand, you'll get nothing out of him."

The next day Ruibnikof wandered about the vil-
lage, and made acquaintance with a number of the
cottagers, many of whom afterwards came to spend
the evening with him. While they were talking and
telling him stories, an old man of middle height,
stoutly built, with flaxen hair and a small grey beard,
stepped across the threshold. This was Ryabinin.

To Ruibnikof 's request that he would sing " about
some hero or other," he at first refused to accede.
" It would be improper to recite profane songs at
present," he replied, " to-day is a fast. One should
sing religious songs." Ruibnikof explained that
there could be no sin in reciting Builinas, which
treated of " ancient Princes and Holy-Russian
heroes," and at last Ryabinin allowed himself to be
persuaded, and first said and then sang one of the
epic poems. Such was the commencement of Ruib-
nikof 's acquaintance with a "reciter" from whom he
afterwards obtained three-and-twenty Builinas.

Ryabinin was well off for a peasant, having a good
allotment of land, and making a fair livelihood by
fishing. The other fishermen held him in great re-
spect " on account of his knowledge of epic poetry,"
and used to take it in turns to do his share of the


work when they were out fishing in common, in order
that they might listen to his songs. He had acquired
his stock of poetry partly by listening to an uncle
who was a celebrated "reciter," and to a certain
Kokotin, who kept a traldir, or tavern, at St. Peters-
burg, and who was a great lover of Builinas, of which
he had a collection in manuscript. But his chief in-
structor had been one Ilya Elustaf ef, the principal
reciter of the whole province of Olonets, " who knew a
countless number of Builinas, and could sing for
whole days about different heroes." The peasants
used to gather round him and say, " Now, then Ilya !
sing us a Builina." And he would reply, " Give me
a poltina (half a rouble) ; then I'll sing a Builina.'
And if one of the richer peasants produced the coin
the old man would at once commence his recital. In
this respect Ryabinin differed from him, for his pride
prevented him from taking money from Ruibnikof,
who says, " In spite of my urgent request, he would
not consent to receive any thing from me in return for
what he had taught me. When I, at my departure,
gave his eldest daughter a handkerchief, he imme-
diately presented me with an embroidered towel, and
thought fit to account for his gift, and the reception
of my present, as follows : c When friends part for
a long time, it is customary among us to exchange
presents by way of remembrance.' '

A few days after his arrival Ruibnikof made the
acquaintance of the other reciter, Romanof. This
was a blind, white-haired old man of ninety, who
lived in a rude hut with an old woman to wait upon


him. He had for his support the rent derived from
his allotment of ground, and also a sum of six roubles
allowed him yearly by the Duma or council. The rent
he received each year for his piece of ground was paid
in kind, and amounted to 20 poods of rye flour, the
pood being equal to about 3 Gibs. a pood of salt, a pood
of groats, and three loads of hay. Moreover he kept
a cow, and had money laid up for " a black day."

Romanof was very willing to sing, and when he was
invited to do so he poured forth Builina after Builina
which he had learnt in early days. In former times,
according to his account, it was customary for the old
men and women to meet together and make nets, and
then the " reciters " used to sing Builinas to them.

From Romanof fourteen Builinas were obtained by
Ruibnikof, who, after his return home to Petroza-
vodsk, kept up the acquaintance he had made with
him and with Ryabinin. Besides these two, he be-
came acquainted with several other "reciters," such as
Shchegolenkof, for instance, a tailor who wandered
about the neighbouring villages in search of work,
being too weak to undertake field-labour, and whose
niece also was able to sing several poems. On one
occasion Ruibnikof was taken to see another woman
who could sing. At first she refused to do so, but
eventually complied with his request while suckling
her babe. He is of opinion " that women have their
own balji starinui (women's old poems), which are
sung by them with special pleasure, but not so rea-
dily by the men," but this statement has been con-
tradicted by Hilferding. In another village an old


woman sang him a starina, having previously stipu-
lated for a small piece of money in return.

Among the other singers whom Ruibnikof turned
to account was Terenty Jevlef, a surly man of fifty,
living in a solitary hut he had constructed for him-
self; Andrei Sarafanof, a middle-aged man occupied
in fishing; and Peter Ivanof Kornilof, an elderly
blind man living with his relations, and deriving
a fair livelihood from the rent paid him for the use of
his share of the communal lands. On one occasion a
singer of local fame was summoned, who sent back
word that he was too ill to come. Euibnikof set off
in search of him, and arriving at his cottage was told
that he had gone off to the woods. Thither he went
in search of him, and having found him, asked him
why he had taken to flight in so unnecessary a man-
ner. The singer explained that he had got into
trouble about a fire in the woods, and that he had
fancied Ruibnikof was an officer of the law who had
come to inflict legal penalties upon him. As soon as
Ruibnikof had told him his real mission, the peasant's
fear left him, and he took his place beside the stump
on which his visitor had sat down, and then and there
sang him a Builina.

In one of the villages Euibnikof found an excellent
singer, JSTikifor Prokhorof by name, who sang away to
him during the whole of two evenings, his cottage
being full of peasants all the time. " The old people
listened silently, and the younger ones also sat
quietly, only now and then interrupting the story by
their exclamations. But at the most exciting pas-


sages they fidgetted a little on their seats, and bent
forwards towards the reciter, as, for instance, when he
told them how Ilya's son, not recognizing his father,
bent his toughbow and shot an arrow into Ilya's white
tent. From Nikifor Prokhorof, who gained his living
by field-labour, Ruibnikof obtained twelve Builinas.

In the town of Pudoj, as Ruibnikof was informed,
builine poetry used once to be held in great respect.
Sixty years ago the merchants and other townspeo-
ple, even the civil officials being included in the num-
ber, used to meet together in the evenings on purpose
to listen to Builinas ; but long before his visit they had
gone out of fashion. Fortunately he made the acquaint-
ance of a young man, Andrei Sorokin, who kept an
inn which his father had kept before him, and who was
in the habit of telling stories and reciting ballads to
his customers. " Travellers go to him in the even-
ing and often sit up all night listening to his Jong
stories about different heroes."

In the Kargopol district Ruibnikof found that
the KaliM, who looked on their singing and reciting
from a thoroughly commercial point of view, asked
payment for all that they contributed in the way of
ballad poetry or hymns. " Up to this time," he
says, " I had been accustomed to offer money of my
own accord in return for singing, especially when I
took away a peasant from his work. Some of the
singers refused to take my money, others accepted
it, either as a gift or as a recompense for their loss
of time."

One of the KaliM had a cottage of his own, but


scarcely ever lived in it, preferring to go about with
his comrades to fairs and markets, and there to gain
money by singing " spiritual songs." Along the
river Onega live numbers of sectaries, who are very
fond of such poetry, though they profess to object to
all that is mundane. In the Archangel Government,
however, where there are rich peasants in the villages,
this Kalika sometimes recited Builinas.

Sometimes an attempt was made to deceive Ruib-
nikof. A peasant named Bogdanof, for instance,
who had received some money from him for singing
Builinas, wanted to earn more, so he " recalled to
mind a number of fragments of tales, legends, and
traditions, and did his best to weave them into a
Builina." The result was unsatisfactory, but the
minstrel was not to be discouraged ; going to a Kabalc,
he fortified himself with strong liquors and returned to
the attack. Failing a second time, he betook himself to
a neighbour, who told him a starina, which he tried
to repeat to Ruibnikof, breaking down, however, at the
end of the first ten lines. Eventually he became so
troublesome that he had to be abruptly sent about his
business. Another time a village " scribe" brought
Ruibnikof half-a-dozen poems which he professed to
have heard, but which he had really transcribed bodily
from the printed collection of Kirsha Danilof. With
Butuilka (the Bottle) whose real name was Chukkoef,
Ruibnikof made acquaintance in 1863. He is the
possessor of a good piece of land, but his main income
is derived from tailor's work, in quest of which he
spends nearly the whole winter, wandering from


village to village in one of the districts bordering
on Lake Onega. He afterwards visited Euibnikof at
Petrozavodsk, and there sang to him all the Builinas
he knew.

In some of the districts around Lake Onega, as,
for instance, in those of Petrozavodsk andPudoj, the
remains of the old epic poetry are carefully preserved
by the rural population. Every peasant there " is
acquainted with the contents of some Builinas, and
with the names of certain heroes," and every intelli-
gent man of a certain age has a Builina or two com-
mitted to memory. Even if he thinks at first that
he knows nothing about them, he will, if he reflects
awhile, find at least fragments of them coming into
his mind. In some places they are chiefly retained in
the memories of the SkazUeli, or reciters, who sing
them from a love for poetry, in others they are only
to be heard from the Kaliki, who make a livelihood
out of them. As a general rule the singers have learnt
them from their fathers or grandfathers. Most of
the Kalild make a point of handing them down to
their children. " But the greater part of the reciters,"
says Ruibnikof, "leave no heirs for their poetic
stores, and in the course of twenty or thirty years,
after the deaths of the best representatives of the
present generation of singers, the Builinas, even in
the Government of Olonetz, will be preserved in the
memories of but a very few members of the rural
population 1 ."

1 Ruibnikof, in. pp. vi Hi. Hilferding, however, denies that
the Builinas are dying out.



AT some remote period, of which very little is known
with certainty, but when, it may be supposed, what
are now the various Slavonic peoples spoke the same
tongue and worshipped the same gods, some kind
of mythological system, in all probability, prevailed
among them, of which only a few fragments have
come down to the present day. Among these relics
of an almost forgotten past, by no means the least
important are the songs which have been preserved
by the people in their different dialects, handed
down as a precious heirloom from one generation
to another, and watched over with a jealous care
which has prevented them from entirely losing their
original characteristics. In ancient times they seem
to have belonged to some great mass of national
poetry, some collection of Slavonic Vedas, in which
the religious teaching of the day was embodied. Of
it, as a whole, there can now be formed only a dim
conception, but of several of its separate features it
is possible to gain at least some idea by studying and
piecing together the fragments of popular poetry


which exist, more or less abundantly, in every land
that is inhabited by a Slavonic population. Each
land has its own songs now, but there is such a
strong family likeness between all these memorials of
old times as clearly points to a common origin,
whether they come from the shores of the Baltic or
of the Adriatic, whether they form the heritage of
the " Orthodox >: Russian or Servian, or of the
" Catholic " Pole or Czekh. It is mainly with the songs
which are still current in modern Russia that it is
proposed to deal at present, but almost every in-
ference that may be deduced from their testimony,
with reference to the old days of heathenism, can be
supported also by that of their kin among the Sla-
vonic brethren of the Russians, as well as among
their Lettic cousins.

Before entering upon the subject of these songs
it will be as well to say a few prefatory words about
the mythological system which they illustrate ; to
attempt to sketch the principal features of the reli-
gious worship of the old Slavonians, and to convey
some idea of the process by which the venerable
deities whom they adored have, in the course of time,
become transformed into the capricious and often
grotesque beings with whom the superstition of the
Russian peasant peoples the spiritual world. The
task is not one which can be completed in a satis-
factory manner, for there is a lack of precise infor-
mation on the subject, and the writers who claim to
pronounce upon it with authority not seldom differ
among themselves. But it is to be hoped that the



remarks which are about to be made here will, at
least, help to render intelligible the fragmentary
songs which are to follow them.

The Slavonians says Solovief, in the introduction
to his " History of Russia " remember nothing about
their arrival in Europe, though tradition still speaks
even if history be silent of their early sojourn along
the banks of the Danube, and of their being compelled
to move thence, under the pressure of some hostile
force, apparently towards the north-east. So thick
are the clouds which hang over this period of their
history, that it is difficult to obtain any thing like a
clear view of what was happening before some of
their number built Novgorod on the shores of Lake
Ilmen, and others founded, near the conflux of the
Dyesna and the Dnieper, what was to become the
chief city of South Russia, and gave it the name of

About the time of the foundation of that city, the
country adjacent to the Dnieper seems to have been
inhabited chiefly by two great tribes, the Drevlyane,
or Foresters [Drevo ^ tree], and the Polyane, or
Field-people [Pole = a field], of whom the latter
were, as might be supposed from their name, the
milder and more civilized. Of the Drevlyane the old
chroniclers have spoken with great harshness, but
those writers may have been somewhat biassed by
their theological hatred of stiff-necked idolaters.

The religion of the Eastern Slavonians among
whom may fairly be included the ancestors of at
least a great part of the present Russians appears


to have been founded, like that of all the other
Aryan races, upon the reverence paid, on the one
hand to the forces of nature, on the other to the
spirits of the dead. They seem to have worshipped
the sun, the moon, the stars, the elements, and the
spirits whom they connected with the phenomena of
the storm, personifying the powers of nature under
various forms, and thus creating a certain number of
deities, among whom the supremacy was, sooner or
later, attributed to the Thunder- God, Perun.

These Eastern Slavonians seem to have built no
regular temples, and in striking contrast with the
Lithuanians, not to speak of some of the Western
Slavonians they appear not to have acknowledged
any regular class of priests. Their sacrifices were
offered up under a tree generally an oak or beside
running water, and the sacred rites were performed
by the Elders, or heads of family communities. The
modern Russian word for "family," Sem'yati
should be observed originally had the same meaning
as Suprugi, man and wife. The word which supplied
its place was Rod, which meant family in its widest
sense, including the whole of a man's relatives, his
Clan, as it were, or Gens 1 . The chief of the Rod
exercised the functions of priest, king, and judge.
Prophets seem to have existed in the persons of
certain wizards Volkhvui of whom very little is
known, but who probably resembled to a considerable
degree the Finnish Conjurors.

1 Solovief, Istoriya Rossii, T. .317.
G 2


The cultus of ancestors formed an important pa
of the religious system of the old Slavonians, who
attributed to the souls of the dead passions and
appetites like to those which sway the living, and
who attached great importance to the manifestation
of respect for the spirits of their forefathers, and
especially for that of the original founder of the
family. The worship of the Slavonic Lares and
Penates, who were, as in other lands, intimately
connected with the fire burning on the domestic
hearth, retained a strong hold on the affections of
the people, even after Christianity had driven out the
great gods of old ; but the spiritual beings to whom
reverence was paid gradually lost their original dig-
nity, until at last the majestic form of the household
divinity became degraded into that of the Domovoy
the house-spirit in whom the Russian peasant still
firmly believes, the Brownie, or Hobgoblin, who once
haunted our own firesides.

Such are the most salient points of the old Slavonic
mythology. We will now examine it a little more
in detail, commencing with the ideas attached by the
early inhabitants of Russia to those solar gods who
are supposed by many eminent scholars to have
originally held higher rank than the wielder of the
Thunderbolt, Perun 2 .

2 The following extract from Mr. Talboys Wheeler's description
of the religion of the " Vedic people " (" History of India," i. 8)
seems to be perfectly applicable to the primitive Slavonians.
" Their Gods appear to have been mere abstractions : personifica-
tions of those powers of nature on whom they relied for good


The most ancient among these deities is said to
have been Svarog, apparently the Slavonic counter-
part of the Vedic Varuna and the Hellenic Ouranos.
His name is deduced by Russian philologists from a
root corresponding with the Sanskrit Sur to shine,
and is compared by some of them with the Vedic
Svar, and the later word Svarga, heaven.

The Sun and the Fire are spoken of as his chil-
dren; the former under the name of Dazhbog, the
latter under that of Ogon'. According to an old
saying, Svarog is given to repose, deputing to his
children the work of creation and the task of ruling
the universe 3 .

That Dazhbog was the Sun seems clear, and it
appears to be proved that he was identical with
Khors, who is sometimes spoken of as a different
personage. The word Dazh is said to be the adjec-
tival form of Dag [Gothic, Dags, German, Tag~\ 9 so
that Dazhbog is equivalent to Day- God. That the

harvests. But from the very first there appears to have been
some confusion in these personifications, which led both to a
multiplicity of deities, and the confounding together of different

3 Buslaef, " On the Influence of Christianity on the Slavonic
Language," p. 50. Afanasief, " Poetic Views of the Slavonians
about Nature," i. 61', 65. Solovief decidedly identifies Perun with
Svarog. See his " History of Eussia," i. 82, 322. Buslaef, in his
" Historical Sketches," says " The epoch of Perun and Volos . . .
was preceded by another, one common to all the Slavonians the
epoch of Svarozhich, who among us in the East received the name
of Dazhbog." 1st. Och. i. 364. I shall not refer in this chapter
to the celebrated epic "On the Expedition of Igor," as I wish to
reserve that poem for a future occasion.


word Bog stands for God is already well known, as
also that it " reappears among us in the form o
Puck, Bogy, and Bug V

That Ogon', Fire, [pronounced Agon, = Agni],
was considered the son of Svarog, the Heaven, is
supposed to be proved by the evidence of a thirteenth
century writer, who says 5 of the Slavonians, " They
pray to Ogon', whom they call Svarozhich," or
Svarog' s son the " Zuarasici " mentioned by Diet-
mar. We shall see, a little farther on, how many
traces still appear to exist, in the speech and the
customs of the modern Russians, of the worship once
paid to Ogon', and on his account to the domestic
hearth, or to the stove which eventually took its
place a worship which was closely connected with
that of which the spirits of ancestors were the

We now come to the deity who ultimately became
the supreme god of the Slavonians Perun, the Thun-
derer. In dealing with him we shall by no means be
treading upon certain ground, but we shall at least
have escaped from the limbo to which the lapse of
time has assigned the dimly-seen form of Svarog.

Russian mythologists identify the name of Perun
with that of the Vedic Parjanya. Whether the latter
was an independent deity, or whether his name was
merely an epithet of Indra, does not appear to be
certain, nor are philologists agreed as to whether

4 G. W. Cox's " Mythology of the Aryan Nations," n. 364.

5 In the Slovo nyekoego Khristolyultsa.


Parjanya means " the rain " or " the thunderer ;"
but "it is very probable that our ancestors adored,
previously to the separation of the Aryan race, a god
called Parjana, or Pargana, the personification of
the thundering cloud, whom they believed to rouse
the thunder-storm, to be armed with the lightning,
to send the rain, to be the procreator of plants, and
the upholder of justice. Afterwards the Grseco-
Italian nation, bent on the adoration of Dyaus, forgot
him entirely ; the Aryans of India and the Teutonic
tribes continued to worship him as a subordinate
member of the family of the gods, but the Letto-
Slavonians raised him to the dignity of a supreme
leader of all other deities 6 ."

In the hymns addressed to Parjanya in the Big
Yeda he is called " the thunderer, the showerer, the
bountiful, who impregnates the plants with rain,"
and it is said that " Earth becomes (fit) for all
creatures when Parjanya fertilizes the soil with
showers 7 ." Sometimes " he strikes down the trees"
and destroys " the wicked (clouds)," at others he
" speaks a wonderful gleam-accompanied word which
brings refreshment 8 ," and gives birth " to plants for
man's enjoyment."

The description of Parjanya is in all respects

6 Dr. Gr. Biihler, in an excellent article " On the Hindu God
' Parjanya,' " contained in the " Transactions of the Philological
Society," 1859, pt. 2, pp. 154 168. See also his essay on the same
subject in vol. i. of Benfey's Orient und Occident.

7 " Kig Veda," v. 83. Prof. Wilson's translation.

8 " Rig Veda," v. 63. Dr. Biihler's translation.


applicable to the deity worshipped by the different
branches of the Slavo-Lettic family under various
names, such as the Lithuanian Perkunas, the Lettish
Perlcons, the Old Prussian PerJcunos, the Polish
Piomn, the Bohemian Peraun, and the Russian
Perun 9 .

According to a Lithuanian legend, known also
to other Indo-European nations, the Thunder- God
created the universe by the action of warmth
PerJmnas ids iszperieje. The verb perieti (present
form periu) means to produce by means of warmth,
to hatch, to bear, being akin to the Latin pario, and
the Russian parit' } .

In Lithuania Perkunas, as the God of Thunder,
was worshipped with great reverence. His statue is
said to have held in its hand " a precious stone like
fire," shaped " in the image of the lightning," and
before it constantly burnt an oak-wood fire. If the
fire by any chance went out, it was rekindled by means
of sparks struck from the stone. His name is not

9 According to Dr. Biihler the word PerJcuna is " exactly equi-
valent to a Sanskrit Parjana, to which the affix ya was added
without change of signification." With respect to the absence of
the k in the Slavonic forms of the name he says, " This elision
may perhaps be attributed to the position of the r. As a group of
consonants formed by rTc or rg would be in disharmony with the
phonetic rules established in the Slavonic languages, and the usual
transposition of the liquid was not effected, an unusual remedy
only could hinder the violation of the laws of the language."
Phil. Soc. Trans. 1809, p. 1G4. See also the Deutsche Mytho-
loyie, 156.

1 Afanasief, P. V. S. I. 249.


yet forgotten by the people, who say, when the thun-
der rolls, PerMns grumena, and who still sing dainos 2
in which he is mentioned. In one of these a girl who
is mourning for the loss of her flowers is asked,

Did the north wind blow,

Or did Perkunas thunder or send lightnings ?

In another it is told how when

The Morning Star held a wedding-feast,
Perkunas rode through the doorway,
Struck down the green oak.

And in a third the following myth is related about
the marriage of the Moon, a male deity in the Slavo-
Lettic languages :

The Moon wedded the Sun

In the first spring.

The Sun arose early

The Moon departed from her.

The Moon wandered alone,

Courted the Morning Star.

Perkunas greatly wroth

Cleft him with a sword.

" Wherefore dost thou depart from the Sun ?

Wandering by night alone ?

Courting the Morning Star ?"

Full of sorrow [was his] heart 3 .

Among the kindred Livonians a feast used to be
celebrated at the beginning of Spring, during which

2 Daina (plur. Dainos} is a Lithuanian word for a song. It is
not used, however, in the case of a song of a serious or religious
cast, which bears a special name.

3 Nessclinaim's Littauische Vol/cslieder, No. 2.


the following prayer is said to have been uttered by

the officiating priest :-

66 Perkons ! father ! thy children lead this faultless

victim to thy altar. Bestow, father, thy blessing
on the plough and on the corn. May golden straw
with great well-filled ears rise abundantly as rushes.
Drive away all black haily clouds to the great moors,
forests, and large deserts, where they will not frighten
mankind ; and give sunshine and rain, gentle falling
rain, in order that the crops may thrive 4 ! '

Among many of the Western Slavonians the name
of this thunder-god is still preserved under various
forms in the speech of the people. The White-Rus-
sian peasant to this day uses such expressions in his
wrath as " Perun smite thee ! ' ' and the Slovaks have
retained a curse, " May Parom show thee his teeth! 5:
that is to say, " May the lightning strike thee 5 ! '

In a most valuable collection of Lettish songs,
recently published at Wilna, in Lett and Russian,
there occur several allusions to Perkons, either re-
garded as the thunder-god or as the thunder itself.
In one we are told that

Father Perkons

Has nine Sons :

Three strike, three thunder,

Three lighten.

Another states that

/ Perkons drove across the sea,
In order to marry beyond the sea :

4 Quoted by Dr. Biihler from Lasicius, De Diis Samogitarum
I have not as yet succeeded in verifying the quotation.

5 Afanasief, P.V. S. I. 251.


Him the Sun followed with a dowry
Bestowing gifts on all the woods :
To the Oak a golden girdle,
To the Maple motley gloves.

And a third addresses the Thunderer as follows : -

Strike, Perkons, the spring

To the very depths

In it the Sun's daughter yesterday was drowned

While washing golden goblets 6 .

According to a Polish tradition, the mother of the
thunder is called Percunatele, a name which is ap-
plied in part of Russian Lithuania as an epithet of
the Virgin Mary, who is called Panna [Lady] Maria
Percunatele. In the Government of Yilna the second
of February is devoted to the Presvyataya Mariya
Gromnitsa, the Very Holy Mary the Thunderer, and
during service on that day the faithful stand in
church holding lighted tapers, the remains of which
they keep by them during the rest of the year,
lighting them before their holy pictures from time to
time when storms impend 7 .

In " Great-Russia," or Russia proper, the name of
Perun has disappeared from the memory of the
common people, and it has left scarcely any traces
behind. Only two Russian localities, says Schopping,
bear names which seem to be derived from his, and
one of them is in Kief, and the other in the Govern-

6 Pamyatniki Latuishskago Narodnago TvorcJiestva, etc., p. ,315,
316 (" Memorials of Lettish Popular Poetry," collected and edited
by Ivan Sprogis), Wilna, 1868.

7 Schoppiug's K. N. p. 195.


ment of Novgorod, both places directly under Varan-
gian influence his theory being that the Scandi-
navian rulers of Russia were the chief promoters of
the worship of Perun 8 . In their treaties with the
Greeks they swore by Perun and Volos, and some
commentators have supposed that the former was
the peculiar deity of the Scandinavian rulers, and the
latter that of their Slavonic subjects. At all events,
Yolos has retained his hold on the memory of the
Russian peasants, while Perun has become forgotten,
and his attributes have been transferred to the
Prophet Elijah and various Christian Saints 9 .

The descriptions we have of the appearance pre-
sented by the statues of Perun all come from the
west and south-west. In Kief, it is said, he had

8 Buslaef, however, a far higher authority, holds (1st. Och.
I. 360) " that Perun was a generally worshipped Slavonic deity long
before the division of the Slavonians into their Eastern and Western

9 The following facts will serve to show how treacherous is the
ground on which the antiquarian has to tread while endeavouring
to discover such remains as may elucidate the early history of
Slavonic Mythology. The name of the god Zuarasici, or Suarasici,
mentioned by Dietmar, was misprinted in Wagner's edition Luar-
asici. Led astray by this mistake, Schafarik, one of the most
erudite of Slavonic scholars, wrote the name Lua-Eazic, and ex-
plained it as meaning Lion-King. Afterwards, however, when the
spelling was corrected, he saw that the name was merely a slightly
altered form of Svarozhich. More unfortunate were the mistakes
mentioned by Schopping (R. N. p. 16), which derived a" god Uslyad,
or " Golden Moustaches," from a couple of words describing the
personal appearance of Perun, and evolved a mysterious deity
called Dazhb, or Dashuba, out of a common-place contraction of
Dazhboga, the genitive case of Dazhbog, the Day-God.


a statue of which the trunk was of wood, while the
head was of silver, with moustaches of gold, but
little more is known about it, except that it bore
among its weapons a mace. White-Russian tra-
ditions, says Afanasief, describe Peruii as ta]l and
well-shaped, with black hair, and a long golden beard.
He rides in a flaming car, grasping in his left hand a
quiver full of arrows, and in his right a fiery bow.
Sometimes he flies abroad on a great millstone, which
is supported by the mountain- spirits who are in
subjection to him, and who, by their flight, give rise
to storms. Perun, in many respects, corresponds
with Thor, and one of the points of similarity is the
mace which he bears, answering to Thor's hammer,
Mjolnir, the name of which may be compared with
the Russian words for a hammer and for lightning,
molot and molniya *. Ukko, also, the Finnish Thun-
der-God, has his hammer, and the Lithuanians used
to pay special honour to a great hammer with which
a certain giant perhaps Perkunas had freed the
Sun from imprisonment.

In the Spring, according to a White-Russian tra-
dition, Perun goes forth in his fiery car, and crushes
with his blazing darts the demons, from whose
wounds the blood is sometimes described as streaming
forth. That is to say, the lightning pierces the
clouds at that season of the year, and causes them
to pour forth rain.

The myth is one which the Slavonians doubtless

1 Deutsche Mythologie, 1171.


brought with them from some such climes as those
in which "anxious multitudes watch the gradual
gathering of the sky, as day by day the long array
of clouds enlarges ; but there is no rain until a
rattling thunderstorm charges through their ranks,
and the battered clouds are forced to let loose their
impetuous showers. ' This,' says the Veda, ' is
Indra, who comes loud shouting in his car, and
hurls his thunderbolt at the demon Yritra.' '

After Perun' s statue at Kief had been flung into
the Dnieper by St. Vladimir, and that at Novgorod
had been cast into the Volkhof 3 , and the people who
used to worship him had accepted just so much of
Christianity as left them what the chronicler called
" two-faithed," then his attributes were transferred
to a number of the personages whom the new reli-
gion brought into honour. In the minds of most of
the people he became changed into the Prophet Ilya,
or Elijah, from whose fiery chariot the lightnings

2 Mrs. Manning's " Ancient India," i. 16.

3 " The people of Novogorod formerly offered their chief worship
and adoration to a certain idol named Perun. When subsequently
they received baptism, they removed it from its place, and threw
it into the river Volchov ; and the story goes, that it swam against
the stream, and that near the bridge a voice was heard, saying,
' This for you, inhabitants of Novogorod, in memory of me ; '
and at the same time a certain rope was thrown upon the bridge.
Even now it happens from time to time on certain days of the
year, that this voice of Perun may be heard, and on these occasions
the citizens run together and lash each other with ropes, and
such a tumult arises therefrom, that all the efforts of the Governor
can scarcely assuage it." Herberstein, Mr. Major's translation,
vol. II. p. 26.


flashed and the thunders pealed as they had done in
days of yore from that of Perun. The fame of his
battles with the demons survived in the legends about
the Archangel Michael, the conqueror of the powers
of darkness, and other traditions relating to him may
be traced in stories told about the Apostle Peter, or
about Yury the Brave, our own St. George 4 .

Perun' s bow is sometimes identified with the rain-
bow, an idea which is known also to the Finns.
From it, according to the White-Russians, are shot
burning arrows, which set on fire all things that they
touch. In many parts of Russia (as well as of
Germany) it is supposed that these bolts sink deep
into the soil, but that at the end of three or seven
years they return to the surface in the shape of
longish stones of a black or dark grey colour-
probably belemnites, or masses of fused sand which
are called thunderbolts, and considered as excellent
preservatives against lightning and conflagrations.
The Finns call them Ukonkiwi the stone of the
thunder-god Ukko, and in Courland their name is
Perkuhnsteine, which explains itself 5 .

In some cases the flaming dart of Perun became,
in the imagination of the people, a golden key.
With it he unlocked the earth, and brought to light
its concealed treasures, its restrained waters, its cap-
tive founts of light. With it also he locked away in
safety fugitives who wished to be put out of the

4 Afanasief, " Poetic Views, 1 ' i. 251, 771.

5 Afanasief, " Poetic Views," i. 248. Grimm, Deutsche Mytlio-
loyie, 164.


power of malignant conjurors, and performed various
other good offices. Appeals to him to exercise
these functions still exist in the spells used by the
peasants, but his name has given way to that of
some Christian personage. In one of them, for
instance, the Archangel Michael is called upon to
secure the invoker behind an iron door fastened by
twenty-seven locks, the keys of which are given to
the angels to be carried to heaven. In another,
John the Baptist is represented as standing upon a
stone in the Holy Sea [i. e. in heaven], resting upon
an iron crook or staff, and is called upon to stay the
flow of blood from a wound, locking the invoker's
veins " with his heavenly key." In this case the
myth has passed into a rite. In order to stay a
violent bleeding from the nose, a locked padlock is
brought, and the blood is allowed to drop through
its aperture, or the sufferer grasps a key in each
hand, either plan being expected to prove efficacious.
As far as the key is concerned, the belief seems to
be still maintained among ourselves.

According to the mythologists, Perun's golden key
is the lightning with which in spring he rends the
winter-bound earth and lets loose the frozen streams
offices more usually performed by the sun or
pierces the clouds, and frees the rains which are
imprisoned in those airy castles. These spring rains
have always been looked upon as specially health-
giving, and from that idea, as some commentators
suppose, arose the myth of the Water of Life which
figures in the folk-lore of so many different races.


The Slavonic tales, like those with which we are
more familiar, abound in accounts of how a dead
hero is restored to life by means of this precious
liquid, which is sometimes brought by the Whirlwind,
the Thunder, and the Hail, sometimes by their types
the Raven, the Hawk, the Eagle, and the Dove.
But they differ from most of the similar stories in
this respect. They have two species of what is
called the " strong " or the " heroic ' water. The
one is called " the dead water " (mertvaya voda) ;
the other the " living [or vivifying] water " (zhivaya
voda). When the "dead water " is applied to the
wounds of a corpse it heals them, but before the
dead body can be brought to life, it is necessary to
sprinkle it with the " living water." When that has
been done, the corpse first shudders and then sits
up, usually remarking " How long I have been
asleep 6 ! '

In other stories the representative of Perun re-
covers gems or treasures which evil spirits have
hidden away within mountains or under deep waters
[that is to say, he brings out the lights of heaven
from behind the dark veil of winter, or from out
of the depths of the cloud-sea ?] Sometimes, how-
ever, it is Perun who dies, and then remains lying
veiled in a shroud [of fog ?] or floating over dark

' In tlic liamayana, the monkey-chief, Hanuman, is sent to the
Himalayas to fetch four different kinds of herbs, of which the first
restore the dead to life, the second drive away pain, the third join
broken parts, and the fourth cure all the wounds inflicted by
Indrajit's arrows.



waters in a coffin [of cloud, until the spring recalls
him to life ?] .

As among other peoples, so among the Slavonians,
the oak was a sacred tree, and was closely connected
with the worship of the thunder-god. The name
dub, which is now confined to the oak, originally
(like the Greek drus) meant a tree or wood, as may be
seen in such words as dubina, a cudgel. Afterwards
it was used to designate the hardest and most long-
lived among trees, and that which was consecrated
to the Thunderer, the oak. Its name in Servian is
grm, or grmov, a form which is evidently akin to the
Russian onomatopoeic word grom, the thunder. As
has already been stated, the fire which burnt before
the statue of Perkunas was fed with oak-wood, and
so profoundly did the old Lithuanians respect their
sacred oaks, which they carefully hedged around,
that, when they accepted Christianity, they protested
against those trees being hewn down, even when
they consented to their idols being overthrown.

The ideas which were associated with the fern in
other lands are current also in Russia. At certain
periods of the year it bursts into golden or fiery
blossoms, but they disappear almost instantaneously,
for evil spirits swarm thickly around them, and carry
them off. Whoever can gather these flowers will be
able to read the secrets of the earth, and no treasures
can be concealed from him. But to obtain them is a
difficult task. The best way is to take a cloth on
which an Easter cake has been blessed, and the knife
with which the cake has been cut, and then go into


the forest on Easter Eve, trace a circle with the
knife around the fern, spread out the cloth, and sit
down within the circle, with eyes steadily fixed upon
the plant. Just at the moment when the words
" Christ is arisen ! >: are sung in the churches, the
fern will blossom. The watcher should then seize it
and run home, having covered himself with the cloth,
and taking care not to look behind him. When he
has reached home he should cut his hand with the
knife and insert the plant into the wound. Then all
secret things will become visible to him 7 .

The fern-gatherer must remain in the magic circle
until he has secured the flowers, otherwise the de-
mons will pull him to pieces. They do all they can to
prevent his obtaining the fiery blossoms, attempting
to overcome him by a magic sleep, and causing the
earth to rock, lightning to flash, thunder to roar,
flames to surround the intruder, so that success is
rare. These magic blossoms, which appear on St.
John's day at Midsummer, as well as on Easter-day,
are called among the Croats, says Afanasief, by the
name of Perenovo Tsvetje, or Perun's Flower 8 .

The lightning was endowed by ancient fancy with
the faculty of sight, and the flash of the summer
lightning, when it gleams for a moment across the

T According to a tradition preserved in the Government of
Kherson. Afanasief, P. V. S. n. 379.

8 A number of similar traditions about the fern, gleaned from
German sources, will be found, in an English dress, in Mr. W. K.
Kelly's " Curiosities of Indo-European Tradition and Folk-lore,"
pp. 181 200.

H 2


heavens, and then hides itself behind the dark clouds,
is still associated by the people in many places with
the winking of an eye. Thus the Little-Russians
call the summer lightning MorgavJca [morgat 9 = to
wink], and say as they look at it, " Morgni, Morgni,
MprgavJco /" " Wink, wink, Morgavko ! ' The stories
of the Bohemians and Slovaks tell of a giant named
Swifteye, whose ardent glances set on fire all that
they regard, so that he is compelled to wear a
bandage over his eyes; and the Eussian stories
describe a wondrous Ancient with huge eyebrows and
enormously long eyelashes. So abnormal has been
their growth, that they have darkened his vision,
and when he wishes to gaze upon " God's world," he
is obliged to call for a number of powerful assistants,
who lift up his eyebrows and eyelashes with iron
pitchforks. In Servia he appears in the form of the
Yii, a mysterious being, whose glance reduces not
only men, but even whole cities, to ashes. Nothing
can be concealed from his eyes when they are open,
but they are almost always covered by their closely-
adhering lids, and by his bushy brows. When his
eyelids have been lifted by the aid of pitchforks,
his stare is as fatal as was that of Medusa. This
wielder of baleful regards is supposed to have been
one of the many forms under which the popular fancy
personified the lightning his basilisk glance, so
rarely seen, being the flash which remains hidden by
the clouds, till the time comes for it to make manifest
its terrible strength.

There is a well-known Lithuanian story, in which


Perun occupies an intermediate place between that
of a deity and of a demon. According to it a young
Carpenter once went roaming about the world with
Perkun and the Devil. Perkun thundered and flashed
lightnings, so as to keep off beasts of prey, the Devil
hunted, and the Carpenter cooked. After a time
they built a hut, and lived in it, and began to till the
land and to grow vegetables. All went well for a
while, but at last a thief took to stealing their turnips.
The Devil and Perkun successively tried to catch
the thief, but only got well thrashed for their pains.
Then the Carpenter undertook the task, providing
himself beforehand with a fiddle. The music he
drew from this instrument greatly pleased the thief,
who appeared in the form of a Laume, or super-
natural hag, and besought a music-lesson. The
Carpenter, under the pretence of making her fingers
more fit for fiddling, induced her to place them in a
split tree-stump, from which he knocked out a wedge,
and so captured her. Before he let her go he made
her promise not to return, and took away her iron
waggon, and the whip with which she had belaboured
his comrades.

Time passed by and the three companions agreed
to separate, but could not decide who should occupy
the hut. At last they settled that it should belong
to that one of their number who succeeded in fright-
ening the two others. First the Devil tried his
hand, and raised such a storm that he drove Perkun
out of the house. But the Carpenter held out bravely,
praying and singing psalms all night. Next Perkun


put forth all his terrors, and frightened the Devil
horribly by his thunder and lightning, but the Car-
penter still held his own. Last of all the Carpenter
set to work. In the middle of the night up he drove
in the Laume's waggon, cracking her whip, and
uttering the words he had heard her use while she
was stealing turnips. Immediately away flew both
the Devil and Perkun, and the Carpenter was left in
possession of the house 9 .

The statue of Perun, at Kief, stood upon a piece
of rising ground, on which were set up also the
images of several other gods Khors, Dazhbog,
Stribog, Simargla, and Mokosh. Of these Khors
and Dazhbog are supposed, as has already been
observed, to have been two forms of one deity, the
Sun-god, and Stribog was the God of Winds. Of
the others very little indeed is known. Simargla is
generally taken to be a corruption of Sim and Regl,
the names of two deities who are so shrouded in
obscurity that one commentator in default of all
trustworthy evidence has had recourse to a some-
what rash comparison of their names with those of
the Assyrian gods mentioned in the Second Book of
Kings [ch. xvii. ver. 30] : " And the men of Cuth
made Nergal, and the men of Hamath made Ashima 1 ."
In pursuance of a similar idea Mokosh has been taken
to be a female deity, and has been likened to Astarte.
But these are the wildest of conjectures. The name

9 Schleicher, LitauiscJie Mdrchen, 141-5.
1 See the Russian " Journal of the Ministry of National En-
lightenment," 1841, II. 37 39, 41 43.


of Stribog, the God of the Winds, is derived from
a word Stri ( = the air, or a certain state of the
atmosphere), and may still be recognized in various
geographical designations, such as Stribog' s Lake
(Stribozhe Ozero), etc.

On the other deities known to the Western Slavo-
nians there is no occasion to dwell at present, for they
do not figure in the popular prose or poetry of
Russia. Some of their names are probably syno-
nyms, and it will be sufficient to say of such forms as
Svyatovit, Radigast, and Yarovit that Professor
Sreznyevsky considers them as different appellations
of the Sun-god, preserved by various Slavonic races.
The belief attributed to the Western Slavonians in
the warring principles of good and evil, in Byelbog,
the White God, the representative of light and in
Chernobog, the Black God, the representative of
darkness is supposed by some writers to have once
been common to the whole Slavonic family, the
Russians included, for geography has preserved the
names of the antagonistic deities in divers places. In
Russia, for instance, there are the Byeluie Bogi, near
Moscow, the Troitsko-Byelbozhsky Monastery in
the diocese of Kostroma, and Chernobozh'e, in
the Porkhof district. Among the White-Russians
the memory of Byelbog is still preserved in the
traditions about Byelun. That mythical personage
is represented as an old man with a long white
beard, dressed in white, and carrying a staff in his
hand, who appears only by day, and who assists
travellers to find their way out of the dark forests.


He is the bestower of wealth and fertility, and at
harvest time he often appears in the corn-fields, and
assists the reapers. The adjective byeloi or byely
[from a root byel or bit] which now means white,
originally meant bright, as appears from such expres-
sions as byely svyet, or byely den, the white (i.e. bright)
light or day. In the same sense of the word the
moon is often spoken of as " white," and the horses
are " white 53 which draw the chariot of the sun 2 .
The intimate connexion between Byelbog and the
Light-god Baldag [Baldur, etc.] has been pointed out
by Jacob Grimm (Deutsche Mythologie, p. 203).

In the Russian songs several other mythological
names occur, but many of them are supposed to b^
merely special designations either of Perun or *of
Dazhbog of the thunder or of the sun such as Tur,
Ovsen', Yarilo, etc. These may be left to be dealt
with as they occur, but there are two names which
are very often mentioned, and about which some
discussion has arisen those of Lado and Lada. Of
these it may be as well to say a few words.

One writer has gone so far as to maintain that
Lado and Lada are merely two of the meaningless
refrains that occur in Eussian songs 3 . But the gene-
rally received idea is that Lado was a name for the Sun-
god, answering to Freyr, and that Lada was the Sla-
vonic counterpart of Freyja, the goddess of the spring

2 Afanasief, P. V. S. I. 9296.

5 Tereshchenko, v. 56, His merits as a compiler, and his de-
ments as a critic, have been ably pointed out by Kavelin, Collected
Works, iv. 3 20.


and of love. In Lithuanian songs Lada is addressed
as "Lada, Lada, dido musu deve /" "Lada, Lada,
our great goddess ! }: And the epithet dido, or great,
may account for the form Did-Lado, which frequently
occurs in the Russian songs. One Lithuanian song
distinctly couples the name of Lado with that of the
sun. A shepherd sings, "I fear thee not, wolf!
The god with the sunny curls will not let thee ap-
proach. Lado, Sun-Lado ! 5: In one of the
old chronicles Lado is mentioned as " The God of
marriage, of mirth, of pleasure, and of general happi-
ness," to whom those who were about to marry
offered sacrifices, in order to secure a fortunate union.
And nearly the same words are used about Lada, on
the authority of an old tradition. In the songs of the
Russian people the words lado and lada are constantly
used as equivalents, in the one case for lover, bride-
groom, or husband, and in the other for mistress
bride, or wife. Lad means peace, union, harmony,
as in the proverb, " When a husband and wife have
lad, they don't require also Idad (a treasure)." After
the introduction of Christianity the reverence that
was originally paid to Lada became transferred to
the Virgin Mary. On that account it is that the
Servians call her " Fiery Mary," and speak of her in
their songs as the sister of Elijah the Thunderer,
that is Perun 4 .

4 Afanasief, P. V. S. I. 227229, and 483.



FEOM the Gods of the Eastern Slavonians we may
now turn to the inferior inhabitants of their spirit-
world. In considering these we have no longer to
deal almost exclusively with the past, for they still,
to a considerable degree, retain their hold on the
faith of the Russian peasant, and, at least in out-
lying districts, maintain a vigorous existence. The
Church has waged war against them for centuries,
and has degraded and disfigured many of them, but
although their expression has in many cases become
greatly altered, yet their original features may easily
be recognized by a careful observer.

When Satan and all his hosts were expelled from
heaven, says a popular legenda 5 , some of the exiled
spirits fell into the lowest recesses of the under-
ground world, where they remain in the shape of
KarliJd or dwarfs. Some were received by the woods
[lyesa], which they still haunt as Lyeshie, or sylvan
demons, resembling fauns or satyrs ; some dived into
the waters [vodui], which they now inhabit under the
name of Vodyanuie, or water-sprites ; some remained
in the air [vozduJcli], and under the designation of
Vozdushnuie delight in riding the whirlwind and di-
recting the storm ; and some have attached them-
selves to the houses [doma] of mankind, and have

6 A popular tale is generally called a skazka in Russian. But
if it relates to religious matters it is called a legenda.


thence obtained the name of Domovuie, or domestic
spirits. The distinctions made between the various
groups of demons may be referred back to a very
ancient period, but their demoniacal character, and
the reason given for their appearance on earth, are
the results of comparatively recent ideas about the
world of spirits. At least, a very great part of the
opinions held by the peasants of modern Russia, with
respect to these supernatural beings, are evidently
founded upon the reverence paid by their forefathers
to the spirits of the dead. From it, and from the
ancient tendency to personify the elements, and pay
divine honours to them, seem to have sprung most
of the superstitions which to the present day make
ghostly forms abound in woods and waters and about
the domestic hearth. It is not necessary to dwell
at any length in this chapter on the ideas and the
customs of the Russian peasantry with respect to the
dead, for they will be more fitly discussed in that
devoted to " Funeral Songs," but, in order to account
for the characteristics of some of the inhabitants of
the Slavonic fairy-land, it will be as well to say some-
thing about the views which the old Slavonians held
with reference to the unseen world. It is especially
to the Domovoy or house-spirit, and the Rusalka, a
species of Naiad or Undine, that they apply.

In common with the other Aryan races, the Slavo-
nians believed that after death the soul had to begin
a long journey. According to one idea it was obliged
to sail across a wide sea, and therefore coins intended
for the spirit's passage- money were placed in every


grave. This practice is still kept up among the Rus-
sian peasants, who throw small copper or silver coins
into the grave at a funeral, though in many cases
they have lost sight of the original meaning of the
custom. To the idea of this voyage, also, some of
the archaeologists are inclined to turn for an explana-
tion of the old Slavonic custom of burning or burying
the dead in boats, or boat-shaped coffins.

According to another idea the journey had to be
made on foot, and so a corpse was sometimes pro-
vided with a pair of boots, intended to be worn
during the pilgrimage and discarded at its termina-
tion, a custom said to linger still among the Bohe-
mian peasants. Kotlyarevsky thinks that there is
reason to suppose that a conductor of the dead was
known to the old Slavonians, and as their Psycho-
pomp he is inclined to recognize the deity whom
Dlugosz mentions under the name of Nija, and com-
pares with Pluto, but whom another old writer calls
" The Leader 6 ." And Afanasief thinks that some
connexion may be traced between the dark dogs of
Yama, which guarded the road to the dwelling-place
of the Fathers, and the black dog which in Ruthenia,
when a dying man's agony is greatly prolonged, is
passed through a hole made in the roof over his head,
in the hope of thereby expediting the liberation of
the soul from the body 7 . But these are mere con-
jectures. What is certain is that the Slavonians
believed in a road leading from this to the other

6 Kotlyarevsky, p. 204. 7 Afanasief, P. V. S. in. 282.


world, sometimes recognizing it in the rainbow, but
more often in the Milky Way. To the latter various
names, associated with this old belief, are still given
by the Russian peasants. In the Nijegorod Govern-
ment it is called the " Mouse Path," the mouse being
a well-known figure for the soul. In that of Tula it
is the Stanovishche, the " Traveller's Halting-Place."
About Perm it is known as the " Eoad to Jerusalem ;"
the Tambof peasantry call it " Baty's Road," and
say that it runs from the " Iron Hills," within which
are confined the Tartar invaders whom Baty used
to lead the original idea having been, in all proba-
bility, that the path led from the cloud-hills in which
the spirits of the storm were imprisoned, for in the
middle ages the Tartars were commonly substituted
in legends for the evil spirits of an earlier age. In
the Government of Yaroslaf the Raskolniks say that
there is a sacred city hidden beneath deep waters, in
which the " Holy Elders" live, and that Baty's Road
led thither. The Holy Elders are the dead, whom the
Russian peasant still addresses as Roditeli, a term
exactly answering to the Yedic Pitris, or Fathers.
At the head of the Milky Way, according to a Tula
tradition, there stand four mowers, who guard the
sacred road, and cut to pieces all who attempt to
traverse it a myth closely akin to that of Heimdall,
the Scandinavian watcher of the Rainbow-bridge
between heaven and earth.

A third view of the soul's wanderings was that it
had to climb a steep hill-side, sometimes supposed
to be made of iron, sometimes of glass, on the summit


of which was situated the heavenly Paradise. And,
therefore, if the nails of a corpse were pared, the
parings were placed along with it in the grave, a
custom still kept up among the Russian peasantry.
The Raskolniks, indeed the Russian Nonconformists,
among whom old ideas are religiously kept alive are
in the habit of carrying about with them, in rings or
amulets, parings of an owl's claws and of their own
nails. Such relics are supposed by the peasantry in
many parts of Russia to be of the greatest use to a
man after his death, for by their means his soul will
be able to clamber up the steep sides of the hill lead-
ing to heaven 8 . The Lithuanians, it is well known,
held similar ideas, and used to burn the claws of
wild beasts on their funeral pyres.

Before ascending the high hill or crossing the wide
sea, the soul had to rise from the grave, and therefore
certain aids to climbing were buried with the corpse.
Among these were plaited thongs of leather and small
ladders. One of the most interesting specimens of Sur-
vival to be found among the customs of the Russian
peasantry is connected with this idea. Even at the
present day, when many of them have forgotten the
origin of the custom, they still, in some districts,
make little ladders of dough, and have them baked
for the benefit of the dead. In the Government of
Yoroneje a ladder of this sort, about three feet
high, is set up at the time when a coffin is being car-
ried to the grave ; in some other places similar pieces

' Afanasief, P. V. S. I. 120.


of dough are baked in behalf of departed relatives on
the fortieth day after their death, or long pies marked
cross ways with bars are taken to church on Ascen-
sion Day and divided between the priest and the poor.
In some villages these pies, which are known as
Lyesenki, or " Ladderlings," have seven bars or rungs,
in reference to the "Seven Heavens." The peasants
fling them down from the belfry, and accept their
condition after their fall as an omen of their own
probable fate after death. A Mazovian legend tells
how a certain pilgrim, on his way to worship at the
Holy Sepulchre, became lost in a rocky place from
which he could not for a long time extricate himself.
At last he saw hanging in the air a ladder made of
birds' feathers. Up this he clambered for three
months, at the end of which he reached the Garden
of Paradise, and entered among groves of gold and
silver and gem-bearing trees, all of which were fami-
liar with the past, the present, and the future 9 .

The abode of the dead was known to the old Sla-
vonians under three names, Rai, Nava, and PeMo.
They originally, it is supposed, had the same mean-
ing, but in the course of time the first and the last
became associated with two different sets of ideas,
and in modern Russian Rai stands for Heaven and
PeMo for Hell. The word Rai, in Lithuanian rojus,
is derived by Kotlyarevsky from the Sanskrit root
raj, and one of its forms, Vuirei, is compared by
Afanasief with the Elysian vireta of Virgil. Accord-

Afanasief, P. V. S. 124-5.


ing to many Slavonic traditions, this Rai, Iry, or
Vuirei is the home of the sun, lying eastward be-
yond the ocean, or in an island surrounded by the
sea. Thither repairs the sun when his day's toil is
finished ; thither also fly the souls of little children
[provided that they have not died unchristened], and
there they play among the trees and gather their
golden fruits. There, according to a tradition cur-
rent among the Lithuanians, as well as among some
of the Slavonic peoples, dwell the spirits which at
some future time are to be sent to live upon earth in
mortal bodies, and thither, when disembodied, will
they return. No cold winds ever blow there, winter
never enters those blissful realms, in which are pre-
served the seeds and types of all things that live upon
the earth, and whither birds and insects repair at
the end of the autumn, to re-appear among men
with the return of spring 1 . There seems to have
prevailed in almost all parts of the world a belief
in the existence of Happy Islands lying towards the
west, the home of the setting sun, but among the
Slavonians there appears to have been widely spread
some idea, due probably to the apocryphal books
about Alexander of Macedon, of eastern climes to
which they attached the idea of perennial warmth
and light. Thus, in Galicia, there still lingers a
tradition that somewhere far away, beyond the dark
seas, and in the land from which the sun goes forth
to run his daily course, there dwells the happy

1 For other details about tins happy land, see infra, p. 375.


nation of the Rakhmane. They lead a holy life, for
they abstain from eating flesh all the year round,
with the exception of one day, " the Rakhmanian
Easter Sunday." And that festival is celebrated
by them on the day on which the shell of a
consecrated Easter egg floats to them across the
wide sea which divides them from the lands in-
habited by ordinary mortals. The name of these
Easterns, who seem akin to Homer's " blameless
Ethiopians" explains itself. The people who were
Brahmans have become Rakhmane, and their name
has gradually passed, in the minds of the people,
into an expression for persons who are (1) joyous,
hospitable, etc., (2) soft, mild, etc., (3) dreary, weak-
minded, etc 2 .

The derivation of the second term for the home of
the dead, Nava, is uncertain. The word nav, nav'e,
means a mortal, and unaviti is to kill. Comparisons
have been made by the philologists between nava and
the Sanskrit and Greek naus, or the Latin navis, as
well as with nekus, but all that can be deduced from
such comparisons is that in nava there may possibly
be some reference to the sea traversed by the dead,
the atmospheric ocean across which the winds
breathe. The primary meaning of the third designa-
tion, Peklo, seems to be that of a place of warmth,
being derived from the same root -as Pech\ [as a
verb] to parch, [as a substantive] a stove, etc. After
a time it probably acquired the signification of the

2 Afanasief, P. V. S. in. 195318. Buslaef, 1st. Ockcrki, 492.



abode of bad souls only, and under the influence
of Christian teaching it became Hell, the subterra-
nean place of punishment in which evil spirits tor-
ment the souls of the wicked 3 .

Side by side with the traditions which point to a
distant habitation of the dead, there exist others in
which the grave itself is spoken of as the home of
the departed spirit. " Dark and joyless is our prison-
house," is the reply constantly made by ghosts when
questioned as to their habitation. " Stone and earth
lie heavy on our hearts, our eyes are fast closed, our
hands and feet are frozen by the cold." Especially
during the winters do the dead suffer; when the
spring returns the peasants say, " Our fathers enjoy
repose," and in Little-Russia they add, " God grant
that the earth may lie light on you, and that your
eyes may see Christ 4 !" It is this idea of residence
in the material grave that lies at the root of the cus-
tom of periodically visiting and pouring libations on
the tombs of departed relatives, with which we shall
meet in the section devoted to funeral songs/

The old heathen Slavonians seem to have had no
idea of a future state in which present wrongs should
be redressed, or griefs assuaged. They appear to
have looked on the life beyond the grave as a mere
prolongation of that led on earth the rich man re-
tained at least some of his possessions; the slave
remained a slave. Thus wedded people were sup-
posed to live together in a future state, an opinion

3 Kotlyarevsky, 199202. 4 Tereshchenko, v. 28.


on which some of the funeral ceremonies of the pre-
sent day are founded, and which, in heathen times,
frequently induced wives to kill themselves when
their husbands died. The Bulgarians hold the same
doctrine even at the present day, and therefore among
them widows seldom marry. Nor does a widower
often find any one but a widow who will accept him,
for in the world to come, it is supposed, his first wife
will claim him and take him away from her suc-

After death the soul at first remains in the neigh-
bourhood of the body, and then follows it to the
tomb. The Bulgarians hold that it assumes the
form of a bird or a butterfly, and sits on the nearest
tree waiting till the funeral is over. Afterwards it
sets out on its long journey, accompanied by an at-
tendant angel. The Mazovians say that the soul
remains with the coffin, sitting upon the upper part
of it until the burial is over, when it flies away. Such
traditions as these vary in different localities, but
every where, among all the Slavonic people, there
seems always to have prevailed an idea that death
does not finally sever the ties between the living and
the dead. This idea has taken various forms, and
settled into several widely differing superstitions,
lurking, for instance, in the secrecy of the cottage,
and there keeping alive the cultus of the domestic
spirit, or showing itself openly in the village church,
where on a certain day it calls for a service in re-
membrance of the dead. The spirits of those who
are thus remembered, say the peasants, attend the

i 2


service, taking their place behind the altar. But
those who are left unremembered weep bitterly all
through the day 5 .

In the mythic songs and stories current among the
old Slavonians the soul of man was represented
under various forms, by numerous images. Ancient
traditions affirmed that it was a spark of heavenly
fire, kindled in the human body by the thunder-god.
And in accordance with this idea the superstition of
the Russian peasant of to-day often sees ghostly
flames gleaming above graves, not to be banished till
the necessary prayers have been said still believes
that of a wedded couple that one will die the first
whose taper was first extinguished at the time of the
marriage ceremony. In the Government of Perm the
peasants hold that there are just as many stars in
the sky as there are human beings on earth, a new star
appearing whenever a babe is born, and disappearing
when its corresponding mortal dies. In Ruthenia a
shooting star is looked upon as the track of an angel
flying to receive a departed spirit, or of a righteous
soul going up to heaven. In the latter case, it is be-
lieved that if a wish is uttered at the moment when the
star shoots by, it will go straight up with the rejoicing
spirit to the throne of God. So, when a star falls, the
Servians say " Some one's light has gone out,"
meaning some one is dead.

Besides being likened to fire and a star, the soul is
often represented by Russian tradition as a smoke, or

5 Kotlyarevsky, 199.


vapour, or a current of air. In the StiJcM, or popular
religious poems, the Angel of Death receives the dis-
embodied spirit from " the sweet lips " of the righteous
dead, an idea which prevails also among the people
of South Siberia, who hold that a man's soul has its
residence in his windpipe. A shadow, also, is as
common a metaphor for the soul in Russia as else-
where, whence it arises that, even at the present
day, there are persons there who object to having
their silhouettes taken, fearing that if they do so they
will die before the year is out. In the same way, a
man's reflected image is supposed to be in com-
munion with his inner self, and therefore children are
often forbidden to look at themselves in a glass, lest
their sleep should be disturbed at night. In the
opinion of the Raskolniks a mirror is an accursed
thing, invented by the devil.

The butterfly seems to have been universally ac-
cepted by the Slavonians as an emblem of the soul.
In the Government of Yaroslav, one of its names is
dushiehka, a caressing diminutive of dusha, the soul.
In that of Kherson ifc is believed that if the usual
alms are not distributed at a funeral, the dead man's
soul will reveal itself to his relatives in the form of a
moth flying about the flame of a candle. The day
after receiving such a warning visit, they call together
the poor, and distribute food among them. In
Bohemia tradition says that if the first butterfly a
man sees in the spring is a white one, he is destined
to die within the year. The Servians believe that
the soul of a witch often leaves her body while she is


asleep, and flies abroad in the shape of a butterfly.
If during its absence her body be turned round, so
that her feet are placed where her head was before,
the soul-butterfly will not ba able to find her mouth,
and so will be shut out from her body. Thereupon
the witch will die. Gnats and flies are often looked
upon as equally spiritual creatures. In Little-E-ussia
the old women of a family will often, after return-
ing from a funeral, sit up all night watching a dish in
which water with honey in it has been placed, in the
belief that the spirit of their dead relative will come
in the form of a fly, and sip the proffered liquid.

A common belief among the Russian peasantry is
that the spirits of the departed haunt their old homes
for the space of six weeks, during which they eat and
drink, and watch the sorrowing of the mourners.
After that time they fly away to the other world.
In certain districts bread-crumbs are placed on a
piece of white linen at a window during those six
weeks, and the soul is believed to come and feed upon
them in the shape of a bird. It is generally into
pigeons or crows that the dead are transformed.
Thus when the Deacon Theodore and his three
schismatic brethren were burnt in 1681, the souls of
the martyrs, as the " Old- Believers " affirm, appeared
in the air as pigeons. In Volhynia dead children are
supposed to come back in the spring to their native
village under the semblance of swallows and other
small birds, and to seek by soft twittering or song
to console their sorrowing parents. The cuckoo,
also, according to Slavonic superstitions, is intimately


connected with the dead. In Little-Russia she flies
to weep over corpses. The Servians and Lithua-
nians look on her as a sister whom nothing can
console for the loss of a brother ; and in a Russian
marriage-song the orphan bride implores the cuckoo
to fetch her dead parents from the other world,
that they may bless her before she enters on her
new life.

It is evident, from what has been said, that the
views of the Old Slavonians about a future state
were not defined with any great precision, and it is
not easy to decide what were the exact opinions
they held as to the relations between the inhabitants
of this world and of the other. But there can be no"
doubt about their belief that the souls of fathers
watched over their children and their children's
children, and that therefore departed spirits, and
especially those of ancestors, ought always to be
regarded with pious veneration, and sometimes so-
laced or conciliated by prayer and sacrifice. It is
clear, moreover, that the cultus of the dead was
among them, as among so many other peoples,
closely connected with that of the fire burning on
the domestic hearth, a fact which accounts for the
stove of modern Russia having come to be considered
the special haunt of the Domovoy, or house-spirit,
whose position in the esteem of the people is looked
upon as a trace of the ancestor worship of olden
days. He is, of course, merely the Slavonic counter-
part of the house-spirit of other lands, but his
memory has been so well preserved in Russia, and so


many legends are current about him, that he seei
well worthy of a detailed notice.

Since the introduction of Christianity into Russia,
something of a demoniacal nature has attached itself
to the character and the appearance of theDomovoy,
which may account for the fact that he is supposed
to be a hirsute creature, the whole of his body, even
to the palms of his hands and the soles of his feet,
being covered with thick hair. Only the space
around his eyes and nose is bare. The tracks of his
shaggy feet may be seen in winter time in the snow ;
his hairy hands are felt by night gliding over the
faces of sleepers. When his hand feels soft and
warm it is a sign of good luck : when it is cold and
bristly, misfortune is to be looked for.

He is supposed to live behind the stove now, but
in early times he, or the spirits of the dead ancestors,
of whom he is now the chief representative, were
held to be in even more direct relations with the fire
on the hearth. In the Nijegorod Government it is still
forbidden to break up the smouldering remains of the
faggots 6 in a stove with a poker; to do so might be
to cause one's "ancestors" to fall through into
Hell. The term " ancestors 7 " is universally applied
to the defunct, even when dead children are being
spoken of. When a Russian family moves from one
house to another, the fire is raked out of the old
stove into a jar and solemnly conveyed to the new

3 Golovesliki (golova = head), the harder parts of logs j those
burning more slowly than the others.
7 Roditeli (rodit\ razhdaf to beget).


one, the words " Welcome, grandfather, to the new
home ! ' being uttered when it arrives. This and
the following custom have been supposed to point
to a time when the spirit and the flame were iden-
tified, and when some now forgotten form of fire-
worship was practised : On the 28th of January the
peasants, after supper, leave out a pot of stewed
grain for the Domovoy. This pot is placed on the
hearth in front of the stove, and surrounded with hot
embers. In olden days, says Afanasief, the offering
of corn was doubtless placed directly on the fire 8 .

In some districts tradition expressly refers to the
spirits of the dead the functions which are generally
attributed to the Domovoy, and they are supposed to
keep careful watch over the house of a descendant who
honours them and provides them with due offerings.
Similarly among the (non- Slavonic) Mordvins in
the Penza and Saratof Governments, a dead man's
relations offer the corpse eggs, butter, and money,
saying : " Here is something for you : Marfa has
brought you this. Watch over her corn and cattle,
and when I gather the harvest, do thou feed the
chickens and look after the house."

In Galicia the people believe that their hearths are
haunted by the souls of the dead, who make them-
selves useful to the family, and there are many
Czekhs who still hold that their departed ancestors
look after their fields and herds, and assist in hunting
and fishing. Directly after a man's -burial, according

8 Afanasief, P. V, S. n. 67.


to them, Ms spirit takes to wandering by nights
about the old home, and watching that no evil befalls
his heirs.

In Lithuania the name given to the domestic
spirits is Kaukas, a term which has never been
thoroughly explained. They are little creatures, like
the German kobolds, being not more than a foot
high. The peasants sometimes make tiny cloaks, and
bury them in the ground within the cottage; the
Kaukas put them on, and thenceforward devote their
energies to serving the friendly proprietor of the
house. But if they are badly used or neglected, they
set his homestead on fire. Similar little beings,
called Krosnyata, or dwarfs, are supposed to exist
among the Kashoubes, the Slavonic inhabitants of a
part of the coast of the Baltic. The Ruthenians
reverence in the person of the Domovoy the original
constructor of the family hearth. He has a wife and
daughters, who are beautiful as were the Hellenic
Nymphs, but their favours are deadly to mortal men.
In one district of the Yiatka Government the Do-
movoy is described as a little old man, the size of
a five-year-old boy. He wears a red shirt with a
blue girdle ; his face is wrinkled, his hair is of a
yellowish grey, his beard is white, his eyes glow
like fire. In other places his appearance is much the
same, only sometimes he wears a blue caftan with a
rose-coloured girdle. Every where he is given to
grumbling and quarrelling, and always expresses
himself in strong, idiomatic phrases. In Lusatia he
takes the form of a beautiful boy, who goes about the


house dressed in white, and warns its inhabitants, by
his sad groaning, of impending woe. When hot
water is going to be poured away, it is customary
there to give warning to the Domovoy, that he may
not be scalded.

The Russian Domovoy hides behind the stove all
day, but at night, when all the house is asleep, he
comes forth from his retreat, and devours what is left
out for him. In some families a portion of the supper
is always set aside for him, for if he is neglected
he waxes wroth, and knocks the tables and benches
about at night. Wherever fires are lighted, there
the Domovoy is to be found, in baths 9 , in places for
drying corn, and in distilleries. When he haunts a
bath (banya) he is known as a Bannilc ; the pea-
sants avoid visiting a bath at late hours, for the
Bannik does not like people who bathe at night, and
often suffocates them, especially if they have not
prefaced their ablutions by a prayer. It is considered
dangerous, also, to pass the night in a corn-kiln, for
the Domovoy may strangle the intruder in his sleep.
In the Smolensk Government it is usual for peasants
who quit a bath to leave a bucket of water and a
whisk for the use of the Domovoy who takes their
place. In Poland it is believed that the Domovoy is
so loath to quit a building in which he has once taken
up his quarters, that even if it is burnt down he still
haunts it, continuing to dwell in the remains of the
stove. And so they say there, " In an old stove the

9 The Kussian bath is something like the Turkish, only the
heat is moist.


devil warms," for the devil and the Domovoy are
often synonymous terms in the mouths of the people,
who regard Satan with more sorrow than anger. In
Galicia the following story is told " About the Devil
in the Stove :"

7 s There was a hut in which no one would live, for
the children of every one who had inhabited it had
died, and so it remained empty. But at last there
came a man who was very poor, and he entered the
hut, and said, " Good day to whomsoever is in this
house ! " " "What dost thou want ? " cried out the Old
One 1 . "I am poor; I have neither roof nor court-
yard," sadly said the new comer. " Live here," said
the Old One, " only tell thy wife to grease the stove
every week, and look after thy children that they
mayn't lie down upon it." So the poor man settled
in that hut, and lived in it peacefully with all
his family. And one evening, when he had been
complaining about his poverty, the Old One took
a whole potful of money out of the stove and gave it

In Galicia and Poland a belief is current in the
existence of an invisible servant who lives in the
stove, is called IsJcrzycki \Iskra is Polish for a
spark], and most zealously performs all sorts of
domestic duties for the master of the house. In
White-Russia the Domovoy is called TsmoJc, a snake,
one of the forms under which the lightning was most
commonly personified. This House Snake brings all

1 Dyed'ko, grandfather.


sorts of good to the master wlio treats it well and
gives it omelettes, which should be placed on the
roof of the house or on the threshing-floor. But if
this be not done the snake will burn down the house.
It rarely shows itself to mortal eyes, and when it
does so, it is generally to warn the heads of the
family to which it is attached of some coming woe.

"Once upon a time a servant maid awoke one >
morning, lighted the fire, and went for her buckets
to fetch water. Not a bucket was to be seen ! Of
course she thought ' a neighbour has taken them.'
Out she ran to the river, and there she saw the
Domovoy a little old man in a red shirt who was
drawing water in her buckets, to give the bay mare
to drink, and he glared ever so at the girl his
eyes burned just like live coals ! She was terribly
frightened, and ran back again. But at home there
was woe ! All the house was in a blaze ! '

It is said that the Domovoy does not like to pass
the night in the dark, so he often strikes a light with
a flint and steel, and goes about, candle in hand,
inspecting the stables and outhouses. Hence he
derives a number of his names. Sometimes he
appears as Vazila [from vozit 9 , to drive], the protector
of horses, a being in shape like a man, but having
equine ears and hoofs ; at other times as Bagan, he
is guardian of the herds, taking up his quarters in a
little crib filled for his benefit with hay. On Easter
Sunday and the preceding Thursday he becomes
visible, and may be seen crouching in a corner of his
stall. He is very fond of horses, and often rides


them all night, so that they are found in the morning
foaming and exhausted. Sometimes, also, he goes
riding on a goat. When a newly purchased animal
is brought home for the first time, it is customary in
several places to go through the following ceremony.
The animal is led to its stall, and then its possessor
bows low, turning to each of the four corners of the
building in succession, and says, " Here is a shaggy
beast for thee, Master ! Love him, give him to eat
and to drink ! ' And then the cord by which the
animal was led is attached to the kitchen-stove.

With the idea that each house ought to have its
familiar spirit, and that it is the soul of the founder
of the homestead which appears in that capacity,
may be connected the various superstitious ideas
which attach themselves in Slavonic countries to the
building of a new house. The Russian peasant
believes that such an act is apt to be followed by the
death of the head of the family for which the new
dwelling is constructed, or that the member of the
family who is the first to enter it will soon die. In
accordance with a custom of great antiquity, the
oldest member of a migrating household enters the
new house first, and in many places, as for instance,
in the Government of Archangel, some animal is
killed and buried on the spot on which the first log
or stone is laid. In other places the carpenters who
are going to build the house call out, at the first few
strokes of the axe, the name of some bird or beast,
believing that the creature thus named will rapidly
consume away and perish. On such occasions the


peasants take care to be very civil to the carpenters,
being assured that their own names might be pro-
nounced by those workmen if they were neglected or
provoked. The Bulgarians, it is said, under similar
circumstances, take a thread and measure the shadow
of some casual passer-by. The measure is then
buried under the foundation-stone, and it is expected
that the man whose shadow has been thus treated
will soon become but a shade himself. If they can-
not succeed in getting at a human shadow, they
make use of the shadow of the first animal that comes
their way. Sometimes a victim is put to death on
the occasion, the foundations of the house being
sprinkled with the blood of a fowl, or a lamb, or some
other species of scapegoat, a custom which is evi-
dently derived from that older one of offering sacri-
fices in honour of the Earth Goddess, when a new
house was being founded. In Servia a similar idea
used to apply to the fortifications of towns. No city
was thought to be secure unless a human being, or
at least the shadow of one, was built into its walls.
When a shadow was thus immured, its owner was
sure to die quickly. There is a well-known Servian
ballad one of those translated by Sir John Bowring
-in which is described the building of Skadra [the
Bulgarian Scutari] by a king and his two brothers.
At first they cannot succeed in their task, for the
Vilas pull down at night what has been built in the
day, so they determine to build into the wall which-
ever of the three princesses, their wives, comes out
the first to bring them refreshment. The two elder


brothers warn their wives, who pretend to be ill,
but the youngest of the ladies hears nothing about
the agreement, so she conies out, and is at once
seized upon by her brothers-in-law, and immured

A similar story is told about the second founding
of Slavensk. The city was built by a colony of
Slaves from the Danube. A plague devastated it, so
they determined to give it a new name. Acting on
the advice of their wisest men, they sent out messen-
gers before sunrise one morning in all directions,
with orders to seize upon the first living creature
they should meet. The victim proved to be a child
(Dyetina, archaic form of Ditya), who was buried
alive under the foundation-stone of the new citadel.
The city was on that account called Dyetinets 2 , a
name since applied to any citadel. The city was
afterwards laid waste a second time, on which its
inhabitants removed to a short distance, and founded
a new city, the present Novgorod.

The Domovoy often appears in the likeness of the
proprietor of the house, and sometimes wears his

2 This story was told some time ago by Popof in his Dosugi.
He called it " a Slavonian fable," but subsequent writers are in-
clined to look upon it as at least founded upon fact. A number
of similar legends, current in various lands, are mentioned by
Jacob Grimm in the Deutsche Mythologie, p. 1095 ; also by Mr.
E. B. Tylor, in his " Primitive Culture " (i. 9497), who holds that
it is plain " that hideous rites, of which Europe has scarcely
kept up more than the dim memory, have held fast their ancient
practice and meaning in Africa, Polynesia, and Asia, among races
who represent in grade, if not in chronology, earlier stages of


clothes. For lie is, indeed, the representative of the
housekeeping ideal as it presents itself to the Sla-
vonian mind. He is industrious and frugal, he
watches over the homestead and all that belongs to
it. When a goose is sacrificed to the water-spirit,
its head is cut off and hung up in the poultry-yard,
in order that the Domovoy may not know, when he
counts the heads, that one of the flock has gone.
For he is jealous of other spirits. He will not allow
the forest-spirit to play pranks in the garden, nor
witches to injure the cows. He sympathizes with
the joys and sorrows of the house to which he is
attached. When any member of the family dies, he
may be heard (like the Banshee) wailing at night;
when the head of the family is about to die, the
Domovoy forebodes the sad event by sighing, weep-
ing, or sitting at his work with his cap pulled over
his eyes. Before an outbreak of war, fire, or pes-
tilence, the Domovoys go out from a village and may
be heard lamenting in the meadows. When any
misfortune is impending over a family, the Domovoy
gives warning of it by knocking, by riding at night
on the horses till they are completely exhausted, and
by making the watch-dogs dig holes in the court-
yard and go howling through the village. And he
often rouses the head of the family from his sleep at
night when the house is threatened with fire or

The Russian peasant draws a clear line between
his own Domovoy and his neighbour's. The former
is a benignant spirit, who will do him good, even at



the expense of others ; the latter is a malevolent
being, who will very likely steal his hay, drive away
his poultry, and so forth, for his neighbour's benefit.
Therefore incantations are provided against him, in
some of which the assistance of " the bright gods "
is invoked against " the terrible devil and the stran-
ger Domovoy." The domestic spirits of different
households often engage in contests with one another,
as might be expected, seeing that they are addicted
to stealing from each other's possessions. Some-
times one will vanquish another, drive him out of the
house he haunts, and take possession of it himself.
When a peasant moves into a new house, in certain
districts, he takes his own Domovoy with him, having
first, as a measure of precaution, taken care to hang
up a bear's head in the stable. This prevents any
evil Domovoy, whom malicious neighbours may have
introduced, from fighting with, and perhaps over-
coming, the good Lar Familiaris.

Each Domovoy has his own favourite colour, and
it is important for the family to try and get all their
cattle, poultry, dogs and cats of this hue. In order
to find out what it is, the Orel peasants take a piece
of cake on Easter Sunday, wrap it in a rag, and
hang it up in the stable. At the end of six weeks
they look at it to see of what colour the maggots
are which are in it. That is the colour which the
Domovoy likes. In the Governments of Yaroslaf and
Nijegorod the Domovoy takes a fancy to those horses
and cows only which are of the colour of his own
hide. There was a peasant once, the story runs,


who lost all his horses because they were of the
wrong colour. At last the poor man, who was almost
ruined, bought a miserable hack, which was of the
right hue. " What a horse ! there's something like
a horse ! Quite different from the other ones !"
exclaimed the delighted Domovoy, and from that
moment all went well with the peasant. It is a
terrible thing for a family when a strange Domovoy
gets into a house and turns out its friendly spi-
ritual occupant. The new comer plays all the pranks
attributed to

" That shrewd and knavish sprite,
Call'd Robin Goodfellow,"

pinches sleepers as the fairies in Windsor Park
pinched Falstaff, but without equally good reason,
and renders life a burden to the haunted household.
Fortunately there is a means of expelling him, which
is to take brooms, and with them to strike the walls
and fences, exclaiming, " Stranger Domovoy, go
away home !" and on the evening of the same day
to dress in holiday array, and go out into the yard,
and call out to the original tenant of the hearth,
" Grandfather Domovoy ! Come home to us to
make habitable the house and tend the cattle !"
Another means is to ride on horseback about the
yard, waving a fire- shovel in the air, and uttering an
incantation. Sometimes the shovel is dipped in tar.
When the Domovoy rubs his head against it he is
disgusted, and quits the house.

Sometimes a man's own Domovoy takes to behaving

K 2


unpleasantly to him, for the domestic spirits have a
dual nature, answering to that which the old Slavo-
nians attributed to the spirits of the storm. The same
forces of nature which fattened the earth and made
it bring forth harvests, often manifested themselves
as destructive agents ; so the Domovoy, although
generally good to his friends, sometimes does them
harm, just as fire is at one time friendly to man, at
another hostile 3 . Every now and then, the peasants
believe, a house becomes haunted by teazing, if not
absolutely malicious beings, who make terrible noises
at night, throw about sticks and stones, and in
various ways annoy the sleeping members of the
family. When the regular Domovoy does this, all
he needs in general is a mild scolding. Various
stories prove the truth of this assertion. Here is
one of them. In a certain house the Domovoy
took to playing pranks. " One day, when he had
caught up the cat, and flung her on the ground,
the housewife expostulated with him as follows :
' Why did you do that ? Is that the way to manage
a house ? We can't get on without our cat. A
pretty manager, forsooth ! J And from that time the
Domovoy gave up troubling the cats."

One of the many points in which the Domovoy
resembles the Elves with whom we are so well ac-
quainted, is his fondness for plaiting the manes of
horses. Another is his tendency to interfere with
the breathing of people who are asleep. Besides

* See Grimm's Deutsche Mythologie, 569.


plaiting manes, he sometimes operates in a similar
manner upon men's beards and the back hair of
women, his handiwork being generally considered
a proof of his goodwill. But when he plays the
part of our own nightmare, he can scarcely be looked
upon as benignant. The Russian word for such an
incubus is Kikimora or Shishimora (the French
Gauche-mare). The first half of the word, says
Afanasief 4 , is probably the same as the provincial ex-
pression sMsh = Domovoy, demon, etc., The second
half means the same as the German mar or our
mare in nightmare. In Servia, Montenegro, Bohe-
mia, and Poland the word answering to mora, means
the demoniacal spirit which passes from a witch's
lips in the form of a butterfly, and oppresses
the breathing of sleepers at night. The Russians
believe in certain little old female beings called
Marui or Marukhi, who sit on stoves and spin by
night. No woman in the Olonets Government thinks
of laying aside her spindle without uttering a prayer.
If she forgot to do so the Mara would come at night
and spoil all her work for her. The Kikimori are
generally understood to be the souls of girls who
have died unchristened, or who have been cursed by
their parents, and so have passed under the power
of evil spirits. According to a Servian tradition the
Mora sometimes turns herself into a horse, or into a
dlaka, or tuft of hair. Once a Mora so tormented a

4 For the derivation of the word, see also Grimm's Deutsche
Mythologie, pp. 433 and 119K


man that lie ]eft his home, took his white horse anc
rode away on it. But wherever he wandered the Mora
followed after him. At last he stopped to pass the
night in a certain house, the master of which heard
him groaning terribly in his sleep, so he went to look
at him. Then he saw that his guest was being
suffocated by a long tuft of white hair which lay
over his mouth. So he cut it in two with a pair
of scissors. Next morning the white horse was
found dead. The horse, the tuft of hair, and the
nightmare, were all one.

The Domovoy generally turns malicious on the
30th of March, and remains so from early dawn till
midnight. At that time he makes no distinction
between friends and strangers, so it is as well to
keep the cattle and poultry at home that day, and
not to go to the window more than is necessary. It
is uncertain whether his short-lived fury at that
season of the year arises from the fact that he is
then changing his coat. Some authorities hold that
a kind of mania comes over him then, others that
he feels a sudden craving to get married to a witch.
Anyhow it is considered wise to propitiate him
by offerings. These gifts can take almost any
edible shape. In the Tomsk Government, on the
Eve of the Epiphany, the peasants place in a cer-
tain part of the stove little cakes made expressly for
the Domovoy. In other places a pot of stewed grain
is set out for him on the evening of the 28th of
January. Exactly at midnight he comes out from
under the stove, and sups off it. If he is neglected he


waxes wroth, but he may be appeased as follows : A
wizard is called in, who kills a cock and lets its blood
run on to one of the whisks used in baths ; with this
in hand he sprinkles the corners of the cottage inside
and out, uttering incantations the while. It may be
as well to remark, that while unclean spirits fear
the crowing of cocks, it never in any way affects the

Another way of pacifying the irritated domestic
spirit is for the head of the family to go out at mid-
night into the courtyard, to turn his face to the
moon, and to say, " Master ! stand before me as
the leaf before the grass [an ordinary formula], nei-
ther black nor green, but just like me ! I have
brought thee a red egg." Thereupon the Domovoy
will assume a human form, and, when he has received
the red egg, will become quiet. But the peasant
must not talk about this midnight meeting. If he
does, the Domovoy will set his cottage on fire, or will
induce him to commit suicide.

We have already mentioned the custom of literally
or figuratively sacrificing a victim on the spot which
a projected house is to cover. Generally speaking
that victim is a cock, the head of which is cut off
and buried, in all privacy, exactly where the " upper
corner" of the building is to stand. This corner,
opposite to which stands the stove, is looked upon
with great reverence by the peasants, who call it
also the " Great" and the "Beautiful." There
the table stands on which is spread the daily meal
in which the ancestors of the family were always


supposed to participate. In all probability, says
one Russian commentator, their images used to
stand close by, and were transferred to the table at
meal-time, but since the introduction of Christianity
they have been replaced by holy icons, or sacred
pictures. In that same corner every thing that is
most revered is placed, as Paschal eggs and Whitsun-
tide verdure. Towards it every one who enters the
cottage makes low obeisance. The peasants still
believe that the souls of the dead, as soon as the
bodies they used to inhabit are buried, take up their
quarters in the cottage behind the sacred pictures,
and therefore they place hot cakes upon the ledge
which supports those pictures, intending them as an
offering to the hungry ghosts. The sound of the
death-watch is believed to be as ominous in Russia as
in England. In Bohemia it is supposed to be caused
by such ghosts as have just been mentioned, who are
knocking in order to summon one of their descen-
dants to join them.

The threshold of a cottage is not so important as
its " front corner," but many curious superstitions
are attached to it. On it a cross is drawn to keep
off Maras (hags). Under it the peasants bury still-
born children. In Lithuania, when a new house is
being built, a wooden cross, or some article which
has been handed down from past generations, is
placed under the threshold. There, also, when a
newly-baptized child is being brought back from
church, it is customary for its father to hold it for a
while over the threshold, " so as to place the new


member of the family under the protection of the
domestic divinities." On the other side of the
threshold that power which produces peace and
goodwill in a family loses its influence, so kinsfolk
ought to carry on their mutual relations as much as
possible within doors. A man should always cross
himself when he steps over a threshold, and he ought
not, it is believed in some places, to sit down on one.
Sick children, who are supposed to have been afflicted
by an evil eye, are washed on the threshold of their
cottage, in order that, with the help of the Penates
who reside there, the malady may be driven out of

Allusion has already been made to the customs
observed when a Russian peasant family is about
to migrate into a new house. So strange are they,
that they are well deserving of a fuller notice.
After every thing movable has been taken away from
the old house, the mother-in-law, or the oldest woman
in the family, lights a fire for the last time in the
stove. When the wood is well alight she rakes it
together into the pechurJca (a niche in the stove), and
waits till midday. A clean jar and a white napkin
have been previously provided, and in this jar, pre-
cisely at midday, she deposits the burning embers,
covering them over with the napkin. She then
throws open the house-door, and, turning to the
"back corner," namely to the stove, says, " Wel-
come, dyedushka (grandfather) to our new home ! '
Then she carries the fire-containing jar to the court-
yard of the new dwelling, at the opened gates of which


she finds the master and mistress of the house, who
have come to offer bread and salt to the Domovoy.
The old woman strikes the door-posts, asking, "Are
the visitors welcome ?" on which the heads of the
family reply, with a profound obeisance, " Welcome,
dyedushka, to the new spot !" After that invitation
she enters the cottage, its master preceding her with
the bread and salt, places the jar on the stove, takes
off the napkin and shakes it towards each of the four
corners, and empties the burning embers into the
pechurka. .The jar is then broken, and its fragments
are buried at night under the " front corner." When
distance renders it impossible to transfer fire from
the old to the new habitation, as, for instance, when
the Smolensk peasants migrate to other Govern-
ments, a fire-shovel and other implements appertain-
ing to the domestic hearth are taken instead. In the
Government of Perm such " Sittings " take place by
night. The house-mistress covers a table with a cloth
and places bread and salt on it. A candle is then
lighted before the holy icons, all pray to God, and
afterwards the master of the house takes down the
icons, and covers them over with the front of his
dress. Then he opens the door which leads into
what may be called the cellar, bows down, and says,
" Neighbouring, brotherling ! let us go to the new
home. As we have lived in the old home well and
happily, so let us live also in the new one. Be kind
to my cattle and family !" After this they all set off
for the new house, led by the father, who carries a
cock and a hen. When they arrive at the cottage


they turn the fowls loose in it, and wait till the
cock crows. Then the master enters, places the
icons on their stand, opens the cellar-flaps, and
says, " Enter, neighbouring, brotherling !" Family
prayer follows, and then the mistress lays the cloth,
lights the fire, and looks after her cooking arrange-
ments. If the cock refuses to crow it is a sign of
impending misfortune. These customs are all of
great antiquity. The part allotted in them to the
icons dates, of course, from the time in which Chris-
tianity became the religion of the country, but a
similar part may formerly have been played by
images of domestic gods or deified ancestors. The
whole ceremony is one of the most striking relics of
that heathendom which once prevailed over the
entire face of the land, and which still crops up in
many of its remoter districts, sometimes half con-
cealed by a Christian garb, sometimes exposing
itself in downright pagan nakedness 5 .
/Next in importance to the Domovoy, but far supe-
rior to him in poetic interest, is the Rusalka. The
Rusalkas are female water- spirits, who occupy a posi-
tion which corresponds in many respects with that
filled by the elves and fairies of Western Europe./
The origin of their name seems to be doubtful, but
it appears to be connected with rus, an old Slavonic
word for a stream, or with ruslo, the bed of a river,
and with several other kindred words, such as rosd,
dew, which have reference to water. /They are

5 See Afanasief, P. V. S. II. 8386, 109, 110, 115119.


generally represented under the form of beauteous
maidens with full and snow-white bosoms, and with
long and slender limbs. Their feet are small, their
eyes are wild, their faces are fair to see, but their
complexion is pale, their expression anxious. Their
hair is long and thick and wavy, and green as is the
grass. Their dress is either a covering of green
leaves, or a long white shift, worn without a girdle.
At times they emerge from the waters of the lake or
river in which they dwell, and sit upon its banks,
combing and plaiting their flowing locks, or they
cling to a mill-wheel, and turn round with it amid
the splash of the stream. If any one happens to
approach, they fling themselves into the waters, and
there divert themselves, and try to allure him to join
them. Whomsoever they get hold of they tickle
to death 6 . Witches alone can bathe with them

In certain districts bordering on the sea the people
believe, or used to believe, in marine Rusalkas, who
are supposed, in some places, as, for instance, about
Astrakhan, to raise storms and vex shipping. But
as a general rule the Rusalkas are looked upon in
Russia as haunting lakes and streams, at the bottom
of which they usually dwell in crystal halls, radiant
with gold and silver and precious stones. Some-
times, however, they are not so sumptuously housed,

6 The verb ShchekotaC originally meant to utter loud, piercing
sounds, to laugh shrilly, and afterwards acquired the sense of
to do what produces shrill laughter, to tickle. See Afanasief,
P. V. S. ii. 339.


but have to make for themselves nests out of straw
and feathers collected during the " Green Week," the
seventh after Easter. If a Rusalka's hair becomes
dry she dies, and therefore she is generally afraid of
going far from the water, unless, indeed, she has a
comb with her. So long as she has a comb she can
always produce a flood by passing it through her
waving locks.

In some places they are fond of spinning, in others
they are given to washing linen. During the week
before Whitsuntide, as many songs testify, they sit
upon trees, and ask for linen garments. Up to the
present day, in Little-Russia, it is customary to hang
on the boughs of oaks and other trees, at that time
of year, shifts and rags and skeins of thread, all
intended as a present to the Rusalkas. In White-
Russia the peasants affirm that during that week the
forests are traversed by naked women and children,
and whoever meets them, if he wishes to escape a
premature death, must fling them a handkerchief, or
some scrap torn from his dress.

On the approach of winter the Rusalkas disappear,
and do not show themselves again until it is over.
In Little-Russia they are supposed to appear on the
Thursday in Holy Week, a day which in olden
times was dear to them, as well as to many other
spiritual beings. In the Ukraine the Thursday be-
fore Whitsuntide is called the Great Day, or Easter
Sunday, of the Rusalkas. During the days called
the " Green Svyatki," at Whitsuntide, when every
home is adorned with boughs and green leaves, no


one dares to work for fear of offending the Rusalkas.
Especially must women abstain from sewing or
washing linen; and men from weaving fences and
the like, such occupations too closely resembling
those of the supernatural weavers and washers. It
is chiefly at that time that the spirits leave their
watery abodes, and go strolling about the fields and
forests, continuing to do so until the end of June.
All that time their voices may be heard in the rust-
ling or sighing of the breeze, and the splash of
running water betrays their dancing feet. At that
time the peasant-girls go into the woods, and throw
garlands to the Rusalkas, asking for rich husbands
in return, or float them down a stream, seeing in
their movements omens of future happiness or sorrow.
After St. Peter's day, June 29, the Rusalkas dance
by night beneath the moon, and in Little-Russia and
Galicia, where Rusalkas (or MavJci as they are there
called) have danced, circles of darker, and of richer
grass are found in the fields. Sometimes they induce
a shepherd to play to them. All night long they
dance to his music : in the morning a hollow marks
the spot where his foot has beaten time. Some-
times a man encounters Rusalkas who begin to
writhe and contort themselves after a strange fashion.
Involuntarily he imitates their gestures, and for the
rest of his life he is deformed, or is a victim to St.
Vitus' dance. Any one who treads upon the linen
which the Rusalkas have laid out to dry toses all his
strength, or becomes a cripple ; those who desecrate
the Rusalnaya (or Rusalkas') week by working are


punished by the loss of their cattle and poultry. At
times the Rusalkas entice into their haunts both
youths and maidens, and tickle them to death, or
strangle or drown them.

The Rusalkas have much to do with the harvest,
sometimes making it plenteous, and at other times
ruining it by rain and wind. The peasants in "White-
Russia say that the Rusalkas dwell amid the stand-
ing corn ; and in Little-Russia it is believed that on
Whit- Sunday Eve they go out to the corn-fields,
and there, with joyous singing and clapping of hands,
they scamper through the rye or hang on to its
stalks, and swing to and fro, so that the corn undu-
lates as if beneath a strong wind.

In some parts of Russia there is performed, imme-
diately after the end of the Whitsuntide festival, the
ceremony of expelling the Rusalkas. On the first
Monday of the "Peter's Fast" a figure made of
straw is draped in woman's clothes, so as to represent
a Rusalka. Afterwards a Khorovod is formed, and
the assembled company go out to the fields with
dance and song, she who holds the straw Rusalka
in her hand bounding about in the middle of the
choral circle. On arriving at the fields the singers
form two bodies, one of which attacks the figure,
while the other defends it. Eventually it is torn to
pieces, and the straw of which it was made is thrown
to the winds, after which the performers return home,
saying they have expelled the Rusalka. In the
Government of Tula the women and girls go out to
the fields during the " Green Week," and chase the


Rusalka, who is supposed to be stealing the grain.
Having made a straw figure, they take it to the banks
of a stream and fling it into the water. In some
districts the young people run about the fields on
Whit-Sunday Eve, waving brooms, and crying,
"Pursue! pursue!" There are people who affirm
that they have seen the hunted Rusalkas running
out of the corn-fields into the woods, and have
heard their sobs and cries.

Besides the full-grown Rusalkas there are little
ones, having the appearance of seven-year-old girls.
These are supposed, by the Russian peasants, to be
the ghosts of still-born children, or such as have died
before there was time to baptize them. Such children
the Rusalkas are in the habit of stealing after death,
taking them from their graves, or even from the
cottages in which they lie, and carrying them off to
their subaqueous dwellings. Every Whitsuntide, for
seven successive years, the souls of these children
fly about, asking to be christened. If any person
who hears one of them lamenting will exclaim, " I
baptize thee in the name of the Father, and of the
Son, and of the Holy Ghost," the soul of that child
will be saved, and will go straight to heaven. A re-
ligious service, annually performed on the first Mon-
day of the " Peter's Fast," in behalf of an unbaptized
child will be equally efficacious. But if the stray
soul, during seven years, neither hears the baptismal
formula pronounced, nor feels the effect of the divine
service, it becomes enrolled for ever in the ranks of
the Rusalkas. The same fate befalls those babes


whom their mothers have cursed before they were
born, or in the interval between their birth and their
baptism. Such small Rusalkas, who abound among
the Little-Russian Mavki, are evidently akin to our
own fairies. Like them they make the grass grow
richly where they dance, they float on the water in
egg-shells, and some of them are sadly troubled by
doubts about a future state. At least it is believed in
the Government of Astrakhan that the sea Rusalkas
come to the surface and ask mariners, " Is the end
of the world near at hand ?" Besides the children
of whom mention has been made, women who kill
themselves, and all those who are drowned, choked,
or strangled, and who do not obtain Christian burial,
are liable to become Rusalkas. During the Rusalka
week the relatives of drowned or strangled persons
go out to their graves, taking with them pancakes,
and spirits, and red eggs. The eggs are broken, and
the spirits poured over the graves, after which the
remnants are left for the Rusalkas, these lines being

sung :

Queen Rusalka,

Maiden fair,

Do not destroy the soul,

Do not cause it to be choked,

And we will make obeisance to thee.

On the people who forget to do this the Rusalkas
will wreak their vengeance 7 . In the Saratof Govern-
ment the Rusalkas are held in bad repute. There

r Afanasief, P. V, S. m, 244.


they are described as hideous, humpbacked, hairy
creatures, with sharp claws, and an iron hook with
which they try to seize on passers-by. If any one
ventures to bathe in a river on Whit-Sunday, without
having uttered a preliminary prayer, they instantly
drag him down to the bottom. Or if he goes into a
wood without taking a handful of wormwood (Poluin),
he runs a serious risk, for the Rusalkas may ask him,
" What have you got in your hands ? is it Poluin or
PetrushJca (Parsley)." If he replies Poluin, they cry,
" Hide under the tuin (hedge)," and he is safe. But
if he says, Petrushka, they exclaim affectionately,
" Ah ! my duslika" and begin tickling him till he
foams at the mouth. In either case they seem to be
greatly under the influence of rhyme.

In the vicinity of the Dnieper the peasants believe
that the wild-fires which are sometimes seen at night
flickering above graves, or around the tumuli called
Kurgans, or in woods and swampy places, are lighted
by the Rusalkas, who wish thereby to allure incautious
travellers to their ruin ; but in many places these
wandering " Wills o' the Wisp " are regarded as being
the souls of unbaptized children,and so small Rusalkas
themselves. In many parts of Russia the Rusalkas
are represented in the songs of the people as pro-
pounding riddles to girls, and tickling and teasing
those who cannot answer them. Sometimes the
Rusalkas are asked similar questions, which they
answer at once, being very sharp-witted.

The Servian Vilas are evidently akin to the
Rusalkas, whom they equal in beauty, and generally


outdo in malice. No higher compliment can be paid
to a Servian maiden than to say that she is " lovely
as a Vila." But once upon a time, says a story, a
proud husband boasted that his wife was " more
beautiful than the white Vila." His vaunt was over-
heard by the spirit, who exclaimed,

" Show me thy love who is fairer than I, fairer
than the white Yila from the hill."

So he took his wife by the hand and led her forth,
and what he had said was true. She was three
times as beautiful as the Vila, and when the Vila
saw that it was so, she cried out,

" No great vaunt is it of thine, youth, that thy
love is fairer than I, the Vila from the hill. Her a
mother bare, wrapped her in silken swaddling-clothes,
and nourished her with a mother's milk. But me, the
Vila from the hill me the hill itself bare, swaddled
me in green leaves. The morning dew fell nou-
rished me the Vila ; the breeze blew from the hill
rocked me the Vila 8 ."

Another spiritual being of the same class is the
Poludnitsa. Among the Lusatians, under the name
of Prezpolnica or Pripolnica, she appears in the fields
exactly at mid-day (in Russian, Polden or Poluden
" half-day"), holding a sickle in her hand. There she
addresses any woman whom she finds tarrying afield
instead of returning home for mid-day repose, and
questions her on the cultivation and the spinning of
flax, cutting off the head or dividing the neck of an

' Quoted from Vuk Karadjich by Buslaef, 1st. OcA. i. 231.

L 2


unsatisfactory answerer. She seems to be akin to the
dcemon Meridianus, " the sickness that destroyeth in
the noonday 9 ." It is worthy of remark that the
Russian peasants make use of a verb, Poludnovaf , to
express the action of drawing one's last breath
"His soul in his body scarcely poludnoet" they say.
In the Government of Archangel tradition tells of
" Twelve Midnight Sisters (Polunochnitsas), who
attack children, and force them to cry out with pain 1 ."

The traditions of the Russian peasants people the
waters with other spiritual inhabitants besides the
Rusalkas. Their songs and stories often speak of
the Tsar Morskoi, the Marine or Water King, who
dwells in the depths of the sea, or the lake, or the
pool, and who rules over the subaqueous world. To
this Slavonic Neptune a family of daughters is fre-
quently attributed, maidens of exceeding beauty, who,
when they don their feather dresses, become the
Swan Maidens who figure in the popular literature
of so many nations. These graceful creatures, how-
ever, as well as their royal parent, belong to the
realm of the peasant's imagination rather than to
that -of his belief. But this is not the case with the
spirits who are called Vodyanuie, the male counter-
parts of the Rusalkas. In them he still believes,
and of them he often stands in considerable awe.

The Vodyany, or Water- sprite, like his kin spirit
the Domovoy, is affectionately called Dyedushka, or
Grandfather, by the peasants. He generally inhabits

9 Grimm, D. M. 1114.

1 Afanasief, P. V. S. in. 77. Buslaef, I. 0. 233.


the depths of rivers, lakes, or pools ; but sometimes
he dwells in swamps, and he is specially fond of
taking up his quarters in a mill-stream, close to the
wheel. Every mill is supposed to have a Yodyany
attached to it, or several if it has more wheels than
one. Consequently millers are generally obliged to
be well-versed in the black art, for if they do not
understand how to treat the water-spirits all will go
ill with them.

The Yodyany is represented by the people as a
naked old man, with a great paunch and a bloated
face. He is much given to drinking, and delights
in carouses and card-playing. He is a patron of
bee-keeping, and it is customary to enclose the first
swarm of the year in a bag, and to throw it, weighted
with a stone, into the nearest river, as an offering to
him. He who does this will flourish as a bee-master,
especially if he takes a honeycomb from a hive on
St. Zosima's day, and flings it at midnight into a mill-

The water-sprites have their subaqueous dwellings
well-stocked with all sorts of cattle, which they drive
out into the fields to graze by night. They have
wives and children too, under the waves, the former
sometimes being women who have been drowned, or
whom a parent's curse has placed within the power
of the Evil One. Many a girl who has drowned her-
self has been turned into a Rusalka or some such
being, and then has married a Yodyanv. OP the
occasion of such a marriage, or indeed of any sub-
aqueous wedding, the Yodyanies indulge in such


revels and mad pranks that the waters are wildly
agitated, and often carry away bridges or mill-dams ;
at least, that is how the peasants explain such acci-
dents as arise when the snows melt and the streams
wax violent. When a water- sprite's wife is about
to bear a child he assumes the appearance of an
ordinary mortal, and fetches a midwife from some
neighbouring village to attend her. Once a water-
baby was caught by some fishermen in their nets.
It splashed about joyously as long as it was in the
water, but wailed sorely when it was taken into a
cottage. Its capturers returned it to its father on
his promising to drive plenty of fish into their nets
in future a promise which he conscientiously ful-
filled. Here is one of the stories about a mixed
marriage beneath the waves. Except at the end, it
is very like that which forms the groundwork of
Mr. Matthew Arnold's exquisite romaunt of " The
Forsaken Merman." " Once upon a time a girl was
drowned, and she lived for many years after that
with a water- sprite. But one fine day she swam to
the shore, and saw the red sun, and the green woods
and fields, and heard the humming of insects and
the distant sound of church-bells. Then a longing
after her old life on earth came over her, and she
could not resist the temptation. So she came out
from the water, and went to her native village. But
there neither her relatives nor her friends recognized
her. Sadly did she return in the evening to the
water-side, and passed once more into the power of
the water-sprite. Two days later her mutilated


corpse floated on to the sands, while the river roared
and was wildly agitated. The remorseful water-
sprite was lamenting his irrevocable loss 2 ."

When a Vodyany appears in a village it is easy to
recognize him, for water is always dripping from his
left skirt, and the spot on which he sits instantly
becomes wet. In his own realm he not only rules
over all the fishes that swim, but he greatly in-
fluences the lot of fishers and mariners. Sometimes
he brings them good luck ; sometimes he lures them
to destruction. Sometimes he gets caught in nets,
but he immediately tears them asunder, and all the
fish that had been enclosed in them swim out after
him. A fisherman once found a dead body floating
about in the water, so he took it into his boat. But
to his horror the corpse suddenly came to life, uttered
a wild laugh, and jumped overboard. That was one
of the Yodyany' s pranks. A sportsman once waded
into a river after a wounded duck. The Yodyany
got hold of him by the neck, and would have pulled
him under if he had not cut himself loose with his
axe. When he got home his neck was all over blue
marks left by the Yodyany' s fingers. Sometimes
the Yodyany will jump on a horse and ride it to
death ; so, to keep him away while horses are fording
a river, the peasants sign a cross on the water with
a knife or a scythe. One should not bathe, say the
peasants, without a cross round one's neck, or after
sunset. Especially dangerous is it to bathe during

a Afanasief, P. V. S. n. 239.


the week in which falls the feast of the Prophet Ilya
(Elijah, formerly Perun, the Thunderer), for then
the Yodyany is on the look out for victims. During
the day he generally lies at the bottom of the deep
pools, but at night he sits on the shore combing his
hair, or he sports in the water, diving with a splash
and coming up far away ; sometimes, also, he fights
with the wood-sprites, the noise of their combats
being heard afar off. In Bohemia fishermen are
afraid of assisting a drowning man, thinking the
Yodyany will be offended and will drive away the
fish from their nets ; and they say he often sits on
the shore with a club in his hand, from which hang
ribbons of various hues : with these he allures chil-
dren, and those whom he gets hold of he drowns.
The souls of his victims the Yodyany keeps, making
them his servants, but their bodies he allows to float
to shore.

Sometimes he changes himself into a fish, generally
a pike. Sometimes, also, he is represented, like the
western Merman, with a fish's tail. In the Ukraine
there is a tradition that, when the sea is rough, such
half-fishy "marine people" appear on the surface of
the water and sing songs. The ChumaM (local car-
riers) go down at such times to the sea-side, and
there hear those wonderful songs which they after-
wards sing in the towns and villages. In other
places these " sea people" are called " Pharaohs,"
being supposed, like the seals in Iceland, to be the
remains of that host of Pharaoh which perished in
the Red Sea.


During the winter the Vodyany sleeps, but with
the early spring he awakes, wrathful and hungry,
and manifests his anger by various spiteful actions.
In order to propitiate him the peasants in some
places buy a horse, which they feed well for three
days ; then they tie its legs together, smear its head
with honey, adorn its mane with red ribbons, attach
two millstones to its neck, and at midnight fling it
into an ice-hole, or, if the frost has broken up, into the
middle of a river. Three days long has the Yodyany
awaited his present, manifesting his impatience
by groanings and upheavings of water. After he
has received his due he becomes quiet. Fisher-
men propitiate him at the same season of the year
by pouring oil on the water, begging him, as they
do so, to be good to them; and millers once a year
sacrifice a black pig to him. A goose, also, is gene-
rally presented to him in the middle of September,
as a return for his having watched over the farmer's
ducks and geese during the summer months.

As the Vodyany haunts the waters, so does "the
Lyeshy make the forest [Lyes] his home. He is
supposed by some critics to be one of the spirits who
belong to the realm of cloudland and storm, and they
hold that their hypothesis is confirmed by the fact
that he can assume different shapes, and alter his
stature at will, at one time making himself taller
than the trees of the forest, and at another shorter
than the grass of the field. He often appears as a
peasant dressed in a sheepskin, but ungirdled, as is
always the case with evil spirits, and with the left


skirt crossed over the right. One of his peculiarities
is, that he never has any eyebrows or eyelashes.
Sometimes, like a Cyclops, he has but one eye.
When he appears in his own shape, and without
clothes, he greatly resembles the mediaeval pictures of
the devil. From his forehead spring horns, his feet
are like those of a goat, his head and body are covered
with shaggy hair, which is sometimes as green as
that of the Rusalkas, his fingers are tipped with long
claws. In the Governments of Kief and Chernigof
the peasants divide the Lyeshies into two classes,
belonging respectively to the woods and to the corn-
fields. The one consists of giants of an ashy hue ;
the other of beings who, before the harvest., are of the
same height as the growing corn, and, after it, dwindle
away till they are no higher than the stubble.

The Lyeshy is malicious, and to those who do not
conciliate him he often does much mischief. One
of his tricks is to suck their milk from the cows.
In the Olonetsk Government it is believed that a
herdsman ought to give a cow every summer to the
Lyeshy : if he fail to do so, the revengeful spirit
will destroy the whole herd. In the Government of
Archangel it is held that if the herdsmen succeed in
pleasing the Lyeshy, he will see to the pasturing of
the village cattle. In Little -Russia, on the other
hand, he is supposed to be the protector of the

These wood-demons frequently quarrel among
themselves, using as their weapons huge trees and
masess of rock. The devastations, usually attributed


to hurricanes, are in reality, the peasants say, due to
these mighty combatants of the forest world. In
the Archangel Government a story is told of a
Lyeshy who quarrelled with two others of his race
about some forest rights. A battle ensued, in which
they overcame him, tied his hands so tightly together
that he could not move, and then left him to his fate.
A travelling merchant chanced to come that way,
and released the captive demon, who was so grateful
that he sent his benefactor home in a whirlwind,
and did much for him afterwards. When the Lyeshy
goes round to inspect his domains, the forest roars
around him and the trees shake. By night he sleeps
in some hut in the depths of the woods, and if by
chance he finds that a belated traveller or sports-
man has taken up his quarters in the refuge he had
intended for himself, he strives hard to turn out the
intruder, sweeping over the hut in the form of a whirl-
wind which makes the door rattle and the roof heave,
while all around the trees bend and writhe, and a
terrible howling goes through the forest. If, in spite
of all these hints, the uninvited guest will not retire,
he runs the risk of being lost next day in the woods,
or swallowed up in a swamp.

All the birds and beasts which inhabit the forest
are under the protection of the Lyeshy. His favourite
is the bear, his only servant, who watches over him
when he has taken too much of the strong drink he
loves so well, and guards him from the assaults of
the water-sprites. When the squirrels, field-mice,
and some other animals go forth in troops upo/n their


periodical migrations, the peasants explain the fact
by saying that the Lyeshies are driving their flocks
from one forest to another. In 1843 a great number
of migrating squirrels appeared in certain districts of
Kussia, and the neighbouring peasants said that it
was because a Lyeshy in the Vyatka Government had
gambled away all his squirrels to a brother demon in
that of Vologda, and the lost property was on its
way to its new master. Similar gambling transac-
tions are frequent among the water- sprites. Fisher-
men know at once why it is that certain fish suddenly
desert particular spots. They have been staked and
lost by the local Vodyany. But neither the Lyeshy
nor the Vodyany will use a pack of cards in which
any clubs occur. Any thing like the sign of the cross
[or Perun's hammer-mace] is distasteful to demons.
A sportsman's success in the woods depends, to a
great extent, on his treatment of the Lyeshy. In
order to please that wayward spirit, he makes an
offering of a piece of bread, or a pancake, sprinkled
with salt, and lays it on the stump of a tree. The
Perm peasants offer up prayers once a year to the
Lyeshy, presenting him with a packet of leaf- tobacco,
of which he is very fond. In some districts the
hunters make an offering to the Lyeshy of whatever
animal they first bag, leaving it for him in an oak
forest. One of the incantations intended to be used
by a hunter calls upon the " Devils and Lyeshies " to
drive the hares into his power, and its magic force is
supposed to be so great that the wood-demons must


The Lyeshy is very fond of diverting himself in
the woods, springing from bough to bough, and
rocking himself among the branches as if in a cradle,
whence in some places he is called Zuibochnik, [Zuiblca
= a cradle]. At such times he makes all manner of
noises, clapping his hands, shrieking with laughter,
imitating the neighing of horses, the lowing of cows,
the barking of dogs. So loud is his laughter, say
the peasants, that it may be heard for versts around.
In their opinion, when the winds make the woods
resound, the voice of the Lyeshy may be heard in
what ignorant people might think was the creaking
of branches or the crashing of stems; the sounds,
also, which are erroneously attributed to an echo are
in reality the calls of demons, who wish to allure an
unwary sportsman or woodcutter on to dangerous
ground, with the intention of tickling him to death
if they can get hold of him. For in this respect the
Lyeshies resemble their sisters the Eusalkas.

In olden days, when forests were larger and denser
than they are now, the Lyeshy used to be constantly
deluding travellers, and making them lose their way.
Sometimes he would alter the landmarks, or would
assume the likeness of some tree by which the
neighbours were accustomed to steer. Sometimes
he would himself take the form of a traveller, and
engage a passer-by in conversation. His victim
would chat away unconcernedly, till, all of a sudden,
he found himself in a swamp or ravine. Then
a loud laugh would be heard, and, looking round,
he would see the Lyeshy at a little distance grinning


at him. Sometimes by night a forest-keeper would
hear the wailing of a child, or groans apparently
proceeding from some one in the agonies of death.
His only safe course under such circumstances was
to go straight onwards, without paying any attention
to those noises. If he followed them he would pro-
bably fall into a foaming stream, which rushed along
where no stream had ever been seen before.

Wherever the Lyeshy goes, he always tries to
leave no track behind, covering the traces of his
footsteps with sand, or leaves, or snow. If by any
chance a passer-by strikes upon the Lyeshy' s recent
trail, he becomes bewildered, and does not easily find
his way again. His best plan is to take off his shoes
and reverse their linings, and it may be as well also
to turn his shirt or pelisse inside out. Besides
making travellers lose their way, the Lyeshy amuses
himself in many ways at their expense, blowing dust
into their eyes and their caps off their heads, freezing
their sledges tight to the ground, and so forth, so
that a popular saying conveys this advice, " Don't
go into the forest; the Lyeshy plays tricks there ! '
Worse than that, he often brings illness upon them,
so that when any one falls ill after returning from
the woods, his friends say, " He has crossed the
Lyeshy' s track." In order to get cured he takes
bread and salt, wraps them in a clean rag, and carries
them to the forest. On his arrival there he utters a
prayer over his offering, leaves it as a sacrifice to
the Lyeshy, and returns home with the firm convic-
tion that he has left his illness behind him.


Sometimes the Lyeshy is described as leading a
solitary life. Sometimes he has a wife and children.
The Lisunlci, or forest girls and women, are merely
female Lyeshies, hairy and hideous. A Little-Russian
story, closely resembling one told in Germany of a
Hohweibchen, tells how a woman one day found a
baby Lyeshy lying naked on the ground and crying
bitterly. So she covered it up warm with her cloak,
and after a time came her mother, a Lisunka, and
rewarded the woman with a potful of burning coals,
which afterwards turned into bright golden ducats.

If any one wishes to invoke a Lyeshy he should
cut down a number of young birch -trees, and place
them in a circle with their tops in the middle. Then
he must take off his cross, and, standing within the
circle, call out loudly, "Dyedushka!" "Grandfather!"
and the Lyeshy will appear immediately. Or he
should go into the forest on St. John's Eve, and fell
an aspen, taking care that it falls towards the East.
Then he must stand upon the stump, with his face
turned eastward, bend downwards, and say, looking
between his feet, " Uncle Lyeshy ! appear not as a
grey wolf, nor as a black raven, nor as a fir for
burning: appear just like me!" Then the leaves of
the aspen will begin to whisper as if a light breeze
were blowing over them, and the Lyeshy will appear
in the form of a man. On such occasions he is ready
to make a bargain with his invoker, giving all kinds
of assistance in return for the other's soul.

Sometimes the Lyeshies carry off mortal maidens,
and make them their wives. But whether they


intermarry or no, their weddings are always attended
by noisy revels and by violent storms. If the wed-
ding procession traverses a village, many of the
cottages will be injured : if a forest, a number of its
trees will fall. A peasant will rarely dare to lie down
to sleep in a forest path, for he would be afraid of a
wood-demon's bridal procession coming that way and
crushing him in his slumbers. In the Government
of Archangel a whirlwind is set down to the wild
dancing of a Lyeshy with his bride. On the second
day after his marriage the Lyeshy, according to the
custom prevalent in Russia, goes to the bath with
his young wife, and if any mortal passes by at the
time, the newly-married couple splash water over
him, and drench him from head to foot.


BESIDES the spiritual beings in whom the Russian
peasant actually believes as haunting his house, or
making themselves a habitation in the neighbouring
woods and waters, there are a few fantastic creatures
who belong for the most part only to his story-
world, with whom he is rendered familiar by tradition,


but on whose present existence he does not place
implicit reliance.

Of these apparently mythic personages, who play
important parts in the Skazlci, or popular tales, the
most prominent is the Yaga Baba, or, to use the more
popular form of her name, Baba Yaga 3 . She is a su-
pernatural being, who is generally represented un-
der the form of a hideous old woman, very tall in sta-
ture, very bony of limb, with an excessively long nose,
and with dishevelled hair. Her nose is sometimes de-
scribed as being of iron, as also are her long pendant
breasts and her strong sharp teeth. As she lies in her
hut she often " stretches across from one corner to the
other, and her nose goes right through the ceiling."
Her usual habitation is a cottage [izba, dim. izbushJca]
which stands " on fowls' legs," that is, on slender
supports. The door looks towards the forest, but
when the hut is adjured in the right words it turns
round, so that its back is towards the forest and its
front towards the person addressing it. Sometimes,
however, the Baba Yaga lives in a larger building,
round which stands a fence made of the bones of the
people she has eaten, and tipped with their skulls.
The uprights of the gates are human legs, the bolts
are human arms, and " instead of a lock there is a
mouth with sharp teeth."

When the Baba Yaga goes abroad, she rides in an
iron mortar. This she propels with the pestle, a sort

3 Bala stands for " woman ; " the meaning of the word Yaga (the
accent falls on the second syllable) is uncertain.



of club, and as she goes she sweeps away the traces
of her passage with a broom. According to some
stories the Sun, the Day, and the Night are her ser-
vants, trunkless hands wait upon her, the elements
fulfil her behests. She possesses a magic cudgel, a
single wave of which suffices to turn any living crea-
ture into stone, and she can always avail herself of
" fire-breathing horses," of " courier, [i. e., seven-
leagued] boots," of " self-playing gusli" of a " self-
cutting sword," and a " self- flying carpet." With
all these means and appliances she is able to secure
many victims, whom she cooks and eats, often steal-
ing children for her table, often supplying it also with
belated travellers.

The White -Russians declare that the Baba Yaga
flies through the sky in a fiery mortar, which she
urges on with a burning broom, and that, during the
time of her flight, the winds howl, the earth groans,
and the trees writhe and crack. At such times she
greatly resembles the Fiery Snake, which plays a
leading part in the Slavonic stories, and, indeed, the
Baba-yaga and the Snake often appear to be iden-
tical personages, different versions of the same nar-
rative employing sometimes the one name and some-
times the other for the same mythical being.

In the Ukraine the flying witch is usually called a
snake ; in a Slovak tale the sons of a Baba Yaga
are described as " baneful snakes." One of the
tastes which characterize the snake of fable is some-
times attributed to the Baba Yaga also. She is
supposed " to love to suck the white breasts of


beautiful women." Like the Snake, also, she keeps
guard over and knows the use of the founts of
"Living Water" that water which cures wounds and
restores the dead to life.

Sometimes three Baba Yagas are mentioned in a
story. In that case they are usually three sisters
who, in spite of their name, are not of an unkindly
nature, and who assist the " fairy prince " or other
hero of the tale, giving him good advice, and bestow-
ing upon him magic presents. These seem to be
connected with the " Prophetesses/' or " Wise
Women," who were looked upon with so much
honour in the old days of heathenism, and who be-
came degraded into vulgarwitches under the influence
of Christianity. But, as a general rule, the Baba
Yaga is described as a being utterly malevolent, and
always hungering after human flesh. According to
some traditions she even feeds on the souls of the
dead. The White-Russians, for instance, affirm that
" Death gives the dead to the Baba Yaga, with whom
she often goes prowling about. And that the Baba
Yaga and her subordinate witches feed on the souls
pf people, and by that means become as light as
spirits 4 ."

In some places, when the wind bows down the ears
of corn the peasants say that the Baba Yaga is run-
ning after children, with the intention of blinding

4 Afanasief, Skazki, I. 120. It has already been observed that
the Slavonians always represented Death as a female being, the
word representing death in each of the Slavonic languages in
Russian Smert' being of the feminine gender.

M 2


them or pounding them in an iron churn. Corn-
fields are specially haunted by the Baba Yaga, in
remembrance of whom, perhaps, the last sheaf in
harvest-time is dressed up in woman's clothes, and
called the Jitnaya Baba " the Corn-woman,"
answering to the German Kornpuppe, the Grosse
Mutter or Die Alte of the harvest-home. Russian
critics are inclined to identify the Baba Yaga with
Holda or Bertha or, at least, with the unfavour-
able representations of those once kindly deities.
The " wild," " iron" and " long-nosed" Bertha [Frau
Precht mit der latigen Nase] seems, indeed, to have
many points in common with the Baba Yaga, especially
as the latter is frequently represented as spinning.
The Servian Baba Yaga, known as the "Iron Tooth,"
carries about live coals in a pitcher, and burns the
distaffs of lazy spinners. To the mythologists the
Baba Yaga appears to be an impersonification of the
spirit of the storm. When she tears her way through
the forest, making the trees writhe and howl as she
passes, and sweeping away the traces of her pro-
gress with a broom, she is looked upon as the whirl-
wind. When as " a black cloud" she chases fugitive
heroes, she seems to be the thunder-cloud which
threatens to blot out the light of day.

Another strange being who figures in many of the
stories is " Koshchei the Immortal," who is con-
sidered to be a mythical representation of Winter.
His name is derived from the word Kost\ a bone,
whence comes Okostenyet' , to ossify, to make hard as
a bone or a stone, a figurative expression for " to


freeze." As the earth is locked up by the Winter say
the Russian commentators as the bright and bloom-
ing Spring cannot become visible till the wintry
season is past, so are beautiful princesses kept in
imprisonment by Koshchei, unable to show them-
selves to admiring beholders till his spell is broken
and his power is overthrown.

Sometimes it is a hero's mother whom Koshchei
suddenly carries off; sometimes it is his wife. In
either case she is kept a prisoner until the hero finds
out in what manner the immortal one can be ren-
dered mortal in what place his " death" can be
discovered and brought home to him. The secret
is always hard to detect, but sooner or later Koshchei
is generally induced to make some such revelation
as this, "My death is in such and such a place.
There stands an oak, and under the oak is a casket,
and in the casket is a hare, and in the hare is a
duck, and in the duck is an egg, and in the egg is
my death." And when, after many adventures, the
egg has been found and broken, Koshchei dies ; he
being " the Giant who had no heart in his body '
of the Norse Tale 5 , the Deccan Punchkin 6 , the Witch
of the German story 7 . Like the Baba Yaga, Koshchei
is, in the opinion of the mythologists, one of the many
forms in which is personified the Evil Spirit who
wars against sunlight and fair weather, and who

5 Dasent's " Tales from the Norse," p. 76.

6 Miss Frere's " Old Deccan Days," p. is.

7 Haltrich's Deutsche Volksmarchen aus dem SacJisenlande in
Siebenburgen, p. 188.


is usually personified in the Russian stories under
the form of a snake. In a Polish version of the
" Sleeping Beauty," it is Koshchei who carries off
the Princess, and throws her, as well as all the in-
habitants of her father's kingdom, into a magic
slumber. At last the destined rescuer comes, who con-
quers Koshchei and seizes his magic gusli. No sooner
is their music heard than the sleepers all awake
and return to busy life. Just as, say the mytholo-
gists, at the first sounds of the spring thunders, the
sleeping, as it were petrified, realm of nature awakes
from its winter slumbers. In a Russian story, Prince
Ivan lives happily with his wife the Queen Marya
Morevna (Mary, daughter of More, the sea), until
one day, during her absence, he enters a forbidden
chamber, and there finds Koshchei hung up and
bound with twelve chains. Koshchei begs for
water, saying he has hung there without drinking for
ten years; and when he has obtained it, and has
drunk his fill, he recovers his lost strength, bursts
his chains, and flies away, carrying off the Queen as
he goes. Fortunately the Prince obtains a magic
steed, which eventually fells Koshchei by a kick on
the forehead : so all goes well. The mythological
explanation of this story is, that Marya Morevna, the
fair Daughter of the Sea, is the Springtide Sun.
Koshchei is the storm which is bound by the iron
or icy chains of winter, and so has lost its strength.
But when he has drunk his fill, he regains his vigour,
bursts forth in a whirlwind, and carries off the fair
Queen, i. e., after the first spring rains the thunder-


storms begin to resume their strength, the winds
arise, the dark clouds gather, and the sunlight suffers
for a time eclipse. Then the Prince kills Koshchei
and carries off the sea's fair daughter. The thunder-
god Perun overcomes the storm-cloud, and the sun
shines out again.

In another Russian story, the description of the
manner in which Koshchei' s secret as to his death
is obtained from him still more closely resembles
that given in the Norse tale. He first declares that
his death resides in a besom, and then that it lies
in the fence which surrounds the house. His fair
captive has first the besom tipped with gold and then
the fence. At last he divulges the secret, and the
Prince gets hold of the fatal egg, and shifts it from
one hand to the other till it breaks, when Koshchei,
who has been " rushing from one corner to the
other," gives way and dies. In another variant a
snake is substituted for Koshchei, and its death lies
in a little stone within the yolk of the mystic egg.
In different versions of the story different animals
are represented as forming the chain which secures
the life of Koshchei, and of which the last link is
either an egg, or a stone inside an egg ; but Afanasief
points out that such animals are always chosen as
are frequently employed as types of the clouds the
boar, the bull, the hare, the duck. In one variant,
the mythological nature of the story is even more
clearly apparent, for it is expressly stated that the
hero was assisted in his search for the fatal egg by
the Thunder, the Wind, and the Hail.


Closely connected with Koshchei, and often identi-
cal with the Baba Yaga is the Vyed'ma, or Witch.
Her name, as well as that of the Vyedun, or Wizard,
springs from the root vyed, whence eyedat*," to know."
In the old heathen times the Vyed'ma was the
Vyeshchaya zhena, the wise or knowing woman, and
was held in high reverence. As prophetess, poetess,
medicine- woman, she exercised solemn functions;
she was supposed to control the elements, to be
able to compel the clouds to withhold or to pour
forth rain, to prevent the sun from shining, or to
gladden the earth with its rays. In times of drought
and famine, it is true, the whole race of warlocks,
conjurors, soothsayers, and the like, whether male
or female, seems to have suffered cruelly at the hands
of the furious populace ; but the divining profession
did not fall into utter disrepute until some time after
the introduction of Christianity.

In the Skazkas, however, the VyecCma is not the
old Slavonian Wise Woman, but a witch of the worst
possible character, a female fiend always longing to
feed upon human flesh, as rapacious, but not so for-
midable, as the mother of Grendel, whom Beowulf
slew. In one story a witch who longs to get hold
of a boy called Ivashko [dim. of Ivan], gets a black-
smith to forge her "just such a thin little voice as
Ivashko' s mother has," and by its aid she entices him
into her power. The end of the story is nearly the
same as that of the Norse tale of Buttercup [Dasent,
p. 146], for Ivashko contrives to escape, after getting
the witch's daughter baked instead of himself.


One of the strangest of the stories of these devour-
ing harpies is. that of a witch who consumes every
thing on which she can lay her hands, so that at last
" only the walls remain" of the palace in which she
lives. Her brother, a young prince who had left
his father's home before she was born, is the only
member of her family whom she has not devoured.
He had been warned that his as yet unborn sister
would eat him if she could, and he had managed to
make his way to the abode of the " Sun's Sister,"
where he remained. On his way there he had
made the acquaintance of certain weird sewing
women, and of a " Leveller of Mountains" and an
" Uprooter of Trees," but finding that they must all
die some day, he had not stopped long with them.
At last he pays a visit to his old home, where he
sees no living thing except his sister, who receives
him with cordiality, and prepares to eat him. But
while she is " sharpening her teeth" he is warned of
his impending fate by a mouse, so he takes to flight,
and succeeds in escaping to the castle of his friend
and protector, the Sun's Sister. The witch arrives soon
afterwards, and, after some parley, proposes that he
and she shall be weighed against each other, outside
the castle, with the stipulation that the heavier of the
two shall be at liberty to eat the lighter. This is agreed
upon, and the Prince steps first into one of the scales.
His sister prepares to get into the other, but, says
the story, " no sooner did she put her foot into it
than up shot Prince Ivan, and that with such force
that he flew right up to the sky, and into the room


of the Sun's Sister. But the Witch- Snake remained
there on earth 8 ".

How little is known precisely about such witches is
plainly shown by the variety of explanations which
this story has called forth. Investigators who treat
it as a solar myth recognize the Dawn as the Sun's
Sister, looking upon the devouring witch as the
Night, who perpetually chases her brother the Day,
and is only driven away by the interposition of the
Dawn. One of the Russian songs, Afanasief remarks,
begins with the words,

Dawn, my dear little Dawn !
Dawn, Sister of the Sun !

In the Servian songs it is the Day Star who is the
Sun's Sister.

Those who consider the story to be a moral alle-
gory, it has been suggested, may look on the Prince
as the type of the soul of man, pursued by the Death-
Witch, who tries to seize it and carry it off to the
depths of her gloomy realm. Then comes a form of
judgment. The soul is weighed in the balance, and
if it is heavy with crime it goes down into the world
of darkness, but if it be light it flies aloft into the
realm of bliss, there to shine in heaven as a star.
This seems to be going rather too far, but there
appears to be good reason for supposing that the
Witch is Death, and the object of her chase is the
soul. In what seems to be a variant of the same story,
current in Little-Russia, a man sets out to seek "the

8 Afanasief, Skazki, vi. 57, p. 283.


island where there is no death." A wolf invites him
to stop, but, when he hears that the wolf is to die as
soon as she has uprooted an oak with her tail, he goes
on . In the same way he refuses the hospitable offers of
some women whom he finds sewing in a hut, and who
are to die when they have used up their needles, which
fill several huge boxes. At last he visits the Moon,
who says, " This is how I am. When the moon in
heaven is old, I am old; and when it is young, I am
young also." So the man stops with the Moon a
hundred years and more. At last Death, after con-
sulting the Wolf and the Sewers, comes to the Moon,
and asks for " her soul." " It isn't yours," says the
Moon ; but Death perseveres in her claim. At last
the Moon] takes the man by the head, while Death
seizes him by the feet, on which he shoots up into
the air, and becomes " a star which may be seen in
the sky near the Moon 9 ."

Somewhat of the same kind also is the Bulgarian
story in which the Sun falls in love with the fair
maiden Grozdanka. So on St. George's day he lets
down from heaven a golden swing, which remains
suspended close by her house. Small and great
swing away in it, till at last Grozdanka steps into it.
But no sooner has she done so than the golden swing
flies up to heaven, and bears the maiden [as the eagle
bore Ganymede] to her radiant lover 1 .

In the story of " Truth's Triumph," in Miss Frere's
" Old Deccan Days" [p. 50], much evil is wrought

9 Afanasief, P. V. S. in. 274. l Afanasief, Skazki, vm. 380.


by an evil spirit, a RaJcshasa, who has taken the
form of " an ugly old woman," closely resembling the
Vyed'ma or the Baba Yaga. She has long claws
instead of hands, " her hair hangs around her in a
thick black tangle," and she possesses a magic wand
with which she can work wonders. The hero of the
tale steals it, and when she chases him he waves it, and
causes, first, a great river to flow, then a high moun-
tain to rise, between him and her obstacles which
are frequently produced in similar emergencies by the
heroes of Russian tales, who generally have recourse
for the purpose to the agency of a magic comb, brush,
or towel.

The three embodiments of the Spirit of Evil, gene-
rally known as the Baba Yaga, Koshchei, and the
Witch, seem to be mere varieties of the general form
it assumes in the stories that of the Snake. Their
names appear to be interchangeable at will with that
of the great antagonist of the heroes of the Skazkas,
the terrible Fiery Serpent. In one variant of a story,
it is a Baba Yaga who pursues a band of fugitives ;
in another, it is the wife of a slain snake. Here
Koshchei is seen hanging in chains in the room
which the Prince is forbidden to enter, there a
fettered serpent meets the eye. The mythical being
who chases her brother up to the home of the Sun's
Sister is spoken of as a human witch until the
end of the story, but then she is called the " Witch-
Snake 2 ."

2 (

In process of time " (says Mr. Talboys Wheeler, speaking
of the "Scythic Nagas," in his History of India, I. 147) "these


The Serpent \_Zmy ei\ is described in the stories
as "winged," " fiery," "many-headed." Sometimes
he assumes a human form, becoming a youth of
marvellous beauty in the presence of his beloved, or,
when going to meet a foe, a warrior mounted on a
noble charger, with a raven perched on his shoulder
and a hound following at his heels. Sometimes he
bears the patronymic of Goruinuich, i. e. Son of the
Mountain [Gora = a mountain], in which case he may
be the lightning, looked upon as the offspring of the
aerial mountain, the cloud. In others he seems to
be intended for the cloud itself, as in a story which
mentions his blotting out the light of day. It seems
to be in the latter capacity that he is spoken of as
guarding treasures of bright metals and gleaming
gems, and as carrying off and imprisoning fair
maidens. In one story a snake is said to have stolen
the luminaries of the night. A hero cuts off its
head, and out from the slain monster issue "the
Bright Moon and the Morning Stars ;" and in an-
other the Bear and the " Ocean Monster" carry off
the Beautiful Princesses Luna and Zvyezda [Star] 3 .
But it is generally a mortal maiden with whom he
elopes, and whom he retains much against her will.
From such unions spring heroes of magic powers,
such as Tugarin Zmyeevich, and Yolkh Yseslav'evich,
of whom more will be said hereafter, and also

Nagas became identified with serpents, and the result has been a
strange confusion in the ancient myths between serpents and
human beings."

3 Afanasief, P. V. S. IT. 635.


fiendish shapes like the Kikimori, or Incubi, which
harass sleepers.

In the stories and songs the fair prisoner is ge-
nerally rescued by a hero who penetrates into the
castle of the Snake, and there fights and conquers
him, getting possession at the same time of the
"living water" [the rain?] on which depends the
snake's [or the cloud's] power. This hero is supposed
to be the Thunder-god, who disperses the Cloud and
frees the life-bestowing Rain and the fair Sunlight.
In some of the stories he bears a surname which
points to his connexion with the Deity of the
Hearth, being called Zapechny, or Zatrubnik, or
Popyalof from pecJi [the stove] , or truba [the stove-
pipe or chimney], or pepel [ashes]. Sometimes the
demon eats the maidens whom he carries off, the
stories frequently speaking of a beautiful princess
who is exposed like Andromeda, and whom a Sla-
vonic Perseus saves from a " seven-headed snake"
which is hastening to devour her.

In a few of the stories the Thunder-god himself ap-
pears under the form of a snake. The princely bride-
groom has been changed by the magic spells of a foe
into " a terrible serpent." But the loving bride
breaks the spell by a kiss, and the serpent turns into
a handsome prince, who marries his rescuer ; that is,
says Afanasief, the hot breath of the Goddess of
Spring recalls Perun to life, and brings about a
union fraught with happy consequences to the earth 4 .

4 See Grimm Deutsche Sag en, I. 13.


Sometimes a captive princess, enchanted by Koshchei
or some other mythic being, is turned into a snake.
In one story, the hero who rescues her has first to
remain for seven years shut up in a castle of metal
on a steep hill. At the end of that time the princess
recovers her former shape and beauty, i. e. at the
end of the seven winter months, passed in darkness
and seclusion, the Goddess of the Spring regains her
power, or her former charms are restored to the Earth.
The idea of a serpent as a terrible enemy is now pre-
served in Russia only in the popular literature. By
the common people of the present day snakes are there
looked upon with much respect and even affection.
" Our peasants," says Afanasief, " consider it a happy
omen if a snake takes up its quarters in a cottage,
and they gladly set out milk for it. To kill such a
snake would be a very great sin." And he goes on
to say that healing powers are still attributed to the
heads and skins of snakes. These ideas may have
been handed down from a time when serpent-wor-
ship prevailed among the Slavonians in general.
The Old Prussians are said to have worshipped a
fiery serpent over which priests kept careful watch.
In Poland and Lithuania, according to Kromer,
snakes were domesticated in the houses of the people,
who honoured them as Penates, and made offerings
to them of milk, eggs, cheese, and fowls. The Lusa-
tian Wends believe that snakes sometimes do men
good service, aiding them in growing rapidly rich,
and requiring nothing in return but simple offerings.
Among the most striking of the Russian Snake-


stories stories which seem to be clearly nature-
myths may be mentioned the tale of Ivan Popyalof,
in which it is expressly stated that " in that kingdom
in which Ivan lived there was no day, but always
night : that was a snake's doing." So when the
snake, a twelve-headed one, had been killed by Ivan
and his brothers, they cut off and destroyed its
heads, " and immediately there was bright light
throughout the whole kingdom." As a general rule,
however, it is not openly stated that the Snake-Cloud
has blotted out the light of day, or that "Winter has
imprisoned the Spring, but the idea is conveyed in
a mythical form, common to all Indo-European folk-
lore, the story relating that a fair Princess has been
carried off by the Snake. She is of course always
rescued by the hero of the tale, who finds out where
she is confined sometimes after having traversed
the kingdoms of copper, of silver, and of gold and
kills her serpent-gaoler.

In one of the stories a Seven -headed Snake carries
off a girl as she is taking food to her two brothers in
the forest. The elder of the two goes in search of
her, and arrives at the Snake's dwelling. He is at
first cordially received, but as he can neither eat iron
bread and iron beans, nor accomplish the tasks which
are set him to cut up a huge log without a
hatchet, and to burn it without fire he is killed by
the irritated Snake, who takes out his eyes and puts
them into a pot, and then hangs his dead body to a
beam. After a time the younger brother undergoes
the same fate.


As their mother is weeping one day, and com-
plaining to God, she sees a pea come rolling along.
Saying to herself, " This is a gift from God," she
eats it, and the result is that she bears a son, who
receives the name of Pokatigoroshek [from lcatit\
to roll, and gorokk, peas], and who eventually goes
to look for his two brothers. Arriving at the Snake's
dwelling, he devours the iron food which is offered
to him ; with a finger's touch he turns the huge log
into dust and ashes, and then he tries his strength
against the Snake. When he and the Snake grasp
each other's hands, his hand " only turns blue," but
the snake's is broken off. A mortal combat ensues, in
which he kills the Snake, and afterwards he obtains
the water of life, and resuscitates his dead brothers 5 .

In a Croatian variant of this story the Snake is
replaced by the Devil, Vrag, a word compared by
Grimm with the Old High- German warg, a wolf and
Pokatigoroshek becomes the being known in Russian
as Malchik-s-Palchik, our Tom Thumb [Malchik,
a boy, palchik dim. of palets\ a finger].

The part assigned in most of the stories to the
Snake, is, in some of them, given to a monster called
Chudo-Yudo [Yudo Judas: Cliudo now means a
marvel or prodigy ; in olden times it was synonymous
with Velilcan, a Giant], and it often corresponds in
some points with that filled by the Slavonic Neptune,
the Tsar Morskoi, or Sea King, who has already been
alluded to, but who is worthy of a more detailed

* Afanasief, Sknzki, in. 2, pp. 6 15.



notice, as also are his daughters, the Swan Maidens,
whose fair sisters are known in all lands.

In one of the Builinas, or metrical romances, the
following story is told of a Novgorod trader, named
Sadko : Once in a fit of dreariness, due to his being
so poor that he had no possessions beyond the gusli
on which he performed at festivals, he went down to
the shore of Lake Ilmen, and there began to play.
Presently " the waters of the lake were troubled, and
the Tsar Morskoi appeared,' ' who thanked him for
his music, and promised him a rich reward. There-
upon Sadko flung a net into the lake, and drew a
great treasure to land. Another of the poems tells
how the same Sadko, after he had become a wealthy
merchant, was sailing over the blue sea. Presently
his ship stopped, and nothing would make it move
on. Lots were cast to find out whose guilt was the
cause of this delay, and they fixed the blame upon
Sadko. Then he confessed that he had now been
sailing to and fro for twelve years, but had not
remembered to pay fitting tribute to the King of the
Waters, " to offer bread and salt to the blue Caspian."
Thereupon the sailors flung him overboard, and im-
mediately the ship once more proceeded on its way.

Sadko sank to the bottom of the sea, and there
found a dwelling entirely made of wood. Inside lay
the Tsar Morskoi, who said he had been expecting
Sadko for twelve years, and told him to begin play-
ing. Sadko obeyed, and charmed the Tsar, who
began to dance. " Then the blue sea was troubled,
and the swift rivers overflowed, and many ships with


their freights were submerged." The Ocean King
was so pleased with the music," that he offered
the hand of any one of his thirty daughters to the
musician. So Sadko married the nymph Volkhof,
that being the name of the river which runs past
Novgorod :

And at midnight, during his slumber,

He touched his young wife with his left foot

From his sleep arose Sadko.

He found himself under [the walls of] Novgorod,

And his left foot was in the river Yolkhof 6 .

In one of the prose stories a king, whom the chase
has rendered athirst, lies down flat on the ground
and drinks of the cool waters of a lake. " He drinks
and suspects no danger, but the Tsar Morskoi seizes
him by the beard," and holds him fast until he pro-
mises to give in ransom his infant son. When the
young Prince has grown up he is taken by his father
to the edge of the fatal lake, and there deserted.
Acting upon the advice of a friendly sorceress, he
hides among the bushes on the shore, and waits till
twelve pigeons arrive, which strike the ground, and
" turn into beautiful maidens, every one of them of
indescribable loveliness." They fling off their clothes,
run into the water, and there " play, laugh, splash
about, and sing songs." After a time arrives a
thirteenth pigeon, which also becomes a maiden,
fairer than all the rest. Her dress [sorochJca, a shift]
Prince Ivan steals. So when her sisters have re-

1 Kirsha Danilof, 343.



sumed their feathered garb, and flown away, she has
to remain behind, vainly searching for her missing
garment, until at last she cries,

" Whoever you are who have my shift, come here.
If you are old, you shall be my father. If middle-
aged, you shall be my brother. If of my own age,
you shall be my loved one."

Ivan appears, and she gives him a golden ring,
tells him she is Vassilissa the Wise, the daughter of
the Tsar Morskoi, and shows him the way to her
subaqueous abode. Then she assumes her pigeon-
shape, and flies away. Ivan enters the world beneath
the waters. " There the light is just the same as
with us. There the dear sun shines warmly, and
there stretch ploughed lands, and meadows, and
verdant groves." The Water-King receives him
angrily, and sets him various difficult tasks, one of
which is "to build a church of pure wax;" but he
performs them all, thanks to the aid of Yassilissa and
the ants, the bees, and others of her " trusty ser-
vants," and eventually he becomes her husband 7 .

The Water- King's daughters, who in this story
take the shape of pigeons, often appear under the
forms of ducks, geese, or swans. The pigeon was in
ancient times consecrated to the thunder-god, and,
as has already been observed, in some places Slavonic

7 Afanasief, Skazfci, VI. 48, pp. 205 213. The story is a Sla-
vonic counterpart of the tales De beiden Kunigeskinner, Kinder-
und Hausmarchen, 1 13) and " The Mastermaid," (Dasent's Norse
Tales, p. 81 ), but the Tsar Morskoi has more individuality than
the German king or the Norse giant.


children still sing to the rain, when they want it to
stop, " Do not come, rain ! Three pigeons will
come flying, will take thee on their wings, and will
carry thee into foreign parts." After the Russians
had become Christians, they retained their reverence
for the bird, but considered it -sacred to the Third
Person of the Trinity, instead of to Perun ; and so to
this day they look upon the slaying of a pigeon as a
great sin, one which will bring a murrain upon the
herds of its perpetrator. Pigeons are supposed to
bring good luck with them, and to assure the house
they haunt against fire. If a building does catch fire,
a white pigeon will extinguish the flames if it is
thrown among them ; on the other hand the flying
of a pigeon into a house through the window fore-
bodes a conflagration.

In some parts of Russia the swan, also, is looked
upon as a bird which ought not to be shot at, and
tradition affirms that " if a swan which has been
killed is shown to children, they will all die." In
one of the metrical romances a hero sees a wondrous
swan its plumage all golden, its head formed of
"red gold," set with pearls and is going to let fly
an arrow at it, when it cries aloud, "Do not shoot at
me!" comes flying up to him, and turns into a fair
maiden, who afterwards becomes his wife. In a
Bulgarian song a youth meets with one of the weird
beings called Vilas the South-Slavonian Rusalkas,
who, in return for a draught of water from the foun-
tains they guard, demand "the dark eyes " of those
who drink. But he does not allow the Vila " to


drink out his dark eyes." He seizes her by her
ruddy locks, throws her across his swift steed, and
takes her to his home. There he tears off her right
wing, shuts it up in a coffer, and makes her his wife.
Three years pass by, and she bears a son. At the
christening she is entreated to dance, but she re-
plies that she cannot do so properly unless she is
given back her missing wing. So it is restored to
her, whereupon she flies away and does not return.
Her husband's mother calls to her to come back,
asking who is to feed her child and rock its cradle.
To which she replies that if it cries for food she will
"suckle it with copious dew;" if it wishes to be
lulled to sleep, she will " rock its cradle with a gentle
breeze 8 ."

Somewhat akin to the story of how the Tsar Mor-
skoi demanded from the king his son, is that which
tells how another king had to give up both his son
and his daughter to Tsar Medvyed, or King Bear. In
vain does their father hide them away in an under-
ground retreat. The Bear finds them out and carries
them off. During his absence a hawk takes them on
its wings, and tries to fly away with them. But the
Bear returns, catches sight of them, strikes his head
against the ground, and sends forth a flame, which
burns the hawk's wings, and compels it to drop the
fugitives. An eagle next attempts to rescue them,
but meets with the same fate as the hawk. At last,

8 For a detailed account of " Swan-Maidens," see Baring-Gould's
" Curious Myths," etc., Second Series, p. 296.


however, a bull-calf succeeds in carrying them off
safely. Acting on its directions the royal children
consume it with fire, and from its ashes spring a
horse, a dog, and an apple-tree, all of which play
important parts in the second half of the story 9 .

The bear \_Medvy ed~\ is a well-known symbol of
the thunder, said to be chosen partly on account of
its fondness for honey [Med, which, in mythological
language means rain]. The hawk, the eagle, and the
bull, are all equally familiar symbols of the cloud.

In another version of the story there issues from
the ashes of the bull one of those supernatural dwarfs
who play so leading a part in the traditions of all
nations. The Slavonic Tom Thumb, Daumling, or
Petit Poucet, is generally known as the Malchik-s-
Palchik, the boy [MaFchik, from maly, small] who
is only as long as a finger \_palets, dim. paVchik'], or
as Mizinchik [dim. of Mizinets, the little finger],
just as the Old- Prussian name for a dwarf was Par-
stuck, from the Lithuanian pirsztas, a finger 1 . Some-
times, however, as in the story alluded to, he is called
Mujichok-s-Kulachok, the little Mujik as big as a
fist [our Pygmy, Kulak = Trvyfwy], or Mujichok-s-
Nogotok, Boroda-s-Lokotok, the little Mujik as big
as a finger-nail, with a beard as long as a fore-arm.
In any case he is taken to be an impersonification of
the lightning, his long beard being the storm-cloud.

For the Tsar Morskoi, also, as well as for his

8 As in that of " Katie Wooden-cloak," in Dasent's Norse Tales,
p. 420.

1 Deutsche Mythologie, 419.


daughters, the Swan Maidens, as plausible mytho-
logical explanations have been offered as have been
supplied in the cases of the Baba Yaga, Koshchei, the
Witch, and the Fiery Snake. But on some of them
it seems not a little hazardous to rely with any great
confidence. That many of the stories of the Russian
peasantry may not unwarrantably be resolved into
nature-myths will, I think, become apparent to any
one who carefully examines them. To such an exa-
mination I hope, in another volume, to devote fitting
space. At present I must be contented with merely
mentioning, without unhesitatingly adopting, the
theories propounded on the subject by the Russian
mythologists. This is not the place for a discussion
of the sources from which are derived the stories and
metrical romances current in Russia, nor for an in-
vestigation of their age ; but it may be stated here
that while some critics look on them as decidely
ancient, and regard them as the medium through
which the west of Europe has obtained much of its
popular fiction, there are others who hold that
those divisions of Russian folk-lore are comparatively
modern. What is certain is that they have been
more or less subjected to manifold influences, Scan-
dinavian, Byzantine, Arabian, Persian, Turkish, and
the like. And therefore the task of tracing a
Russian story through its wanderings from its far
off eastern home is by no means an easy one. But
before investigating its mythical meaning, it is as
well at least to attempt such a tracing, with a
view to reducing it as far as possible to- its original


form by relieving it of the foreign matter which
has adhered to it on its travels. When it has under-
gone that operation it is fit to be subjected to the
scrutiny of the comparative mythologist.

The case of the songs of the Russian people,
however, is different in this respect from that of the
stories and romances. Some of them especially
such fragments as have been preserved by the pea-
santry of the ancient ritual and mythical hymns of
their ancestors are evidently of very great antiquity,
and have probably been, comparatively speaking, but
little exposed to any foreign influence. From these
songs, therefore, it is allowable to expect some
evidence as to old times, and, in particular, as to the
religious ideas and the mythical teaching of those
Slavonians who, at some early period to which we
can assign no definite date, spread themselves over
the great plains in the north-east of Europe. Of the
songs which seem to be most closely connected with
those subjects I will now endeavour to give some
brief account. Unfortunately, the number of such
undoubted relics of Russian heathenism is by no
means great, rich as is the store of "folk-songs"
possessed by the Russian people.



EACH season of the year has its own songs set apart
for it in Russia, hallowed by old traditions, and
linked with customs of which the original meaning
has, in most cases, long been forgotten, but which
still retain much of that firm hold upon the popu-
lar mind which they possessed in heathen times.
In none of them are the traces of the old religion
more perceptible than in the songs which are sung
at Christmas-tide, chiefly in White-Russia and Little-
Russia, and which bear the name of KolyddJci. The
name of Kotydda, or Koleda, which is given to the
festival celebrated at that time has been explained
in various ways, being derived by one philologist
from Kolo, a wheel, and connected by another with
Koloda, a kind of yule log ; but others are decidedly
of opinion that it is merely an adaptation of the
Roman Kalendce, the word having been introduced
into the Slavonic languages by way of Byzantium ] .

1 The Croatian verb, Kolyadovati, means " to offer a sacrifice,"
but the word Koleda, as used by the Tver peasants, stands for " the
daily dole of alms to the poor." In Croatia the word has retained its
old heathen associations : in the Russian provinces it has yielded
to the influence of Christianity. See Schopping, R. N. p. 13.


However that may be, the festival which is called that
of Kolyada, and which the influence of the Church
has to some extent converted into a celebration of
the birth of Christ, seems to have referred in ancient
times to the renewed life universally attributed to the
Sun after the winter solstice, when the gloom of
the long nights begins to give way to the light of
the lengthening day. At that time, according to
popular tradition, the Sun a female being arrays
herself in her holiday robe and head-dress, takes her
seat in her telega, and urges her horses upon the
summer track. And to this solar goddess the
people have given the name of Kolyada, and a custom
used once to prevail in many places, and in some
may still be kept up, of representing her by a girl
dressed in white, who was seated on a sledge and
driven about from house to house, while KolyadJci
were sung by the young people who attended her,
and who had various presents made to them in re-
turn ; such gifts being supposed to have represented
the contributions to a sacrifice which used to be
made in the days of old. Here is one of the songs
still sung at the Christmas festivals :

Kolyada ! Kolyada !

Kolyada has arrived

On the Eve of the Nativity.

We went about, we sought

Holy Kolyada,

Through all the courts, in all the alleys.

We found Kolyada

In Peter's Court.

Round Peter's Court there is an iron fence,


In the midst of the Court there are three rooms :
In the first room is the bright Moon ;
Jn the second room, the red Sun ;
And in the third room, the many Stars.

The song then proceeds to explain that the Moon is
the master of the house, the Sun is the mistress, and
the Stars are their children, and concludes by wish-
ing them good health,

" For many years, for many years 2 ."

In all probability the celestial beings were origi-
nally introduced as objects of worship ; but as time
went by, and new religious ideas came into play,
they were employed merely for the purpose 'of lau-
datory comparison. At present they occur in many
songs under different forms, and are explained in
various ways. In a Ruthenian version, for instance,
they are likened to God, to the Son of God, and to
the Children of God, the last being, in all proba-
bility, the Angels. Instead of the Stars sometimes
appear " the Bright Dawns," or they are replaced
by the Rain. In one song they are " three kind
guests," and in another they are " three brothers
who have brought blessings with them from dis-
tant lands." In another of the Ruthenian Kol-
yadki, the Sun has a son, the young Ivan, who
speaks of the " Bright Dawn" as his sister. In
some of the songs, especially those sung in Bohemia,
Moravia, and Bulgaria, a Christian form is given to

8 Tereshchenko, TII. 56.


the idea. The Virgin Mary appears, either bathing or
washing vestments in the Jordan, and directly after-
wards she bears a son, and the angels come and carry
him away to heaven. Or she bathes her child, and
places him in the manger, and the doors of a temple
are opened, and lights are lit, and Christ Himself
serves at the altar. These legends are not supposed
to be of Christian origin, but are looked upon as old
heathen myths to which a Christian character has
been given, being akin to the Lithuanian idea of
Perun's mother daily bathing the weary and travel-
stained Sun, and sending it forth again bright and

The Maiden who appears in these songs as the
Virgin Mary is found in others guarding wine.
Heavenly birds, in a Little-Eussian KolyadJca, fly to
her, and would fain drink the wine. She awakes and
drives them away, saying that she has need of the
wine for her own wedding, and for that of her brother
and sister.

The steep hill gave forth, gave forth a sound.

On it as yet grew no silken grass,

Grew only green wine.

A lady fair guarded the wine,

Guarded the wine fell into a heavy slumber.

There came flying heavenly birds,

They plucked the green wine,

And wakened the fair lady.

Quickly did she hear that;

She waved at them her sleeve.

" Away with you afield, heavenly birds !

To me myself is the wine needful,


To give in marriage my brother and my sister,
And I myself am a young betrothed one 3 ."

In her the mythologists see the Dawn, to whom the
part of a manager of weddings is openly ascribed
in one Little-Russian song, in which it is said that

The Moon went wandering about the heaven,
And the Moon met the bright Dawn.
" O Dawn, Dawn ! wherever hast thou been ?
Wherever hast thou been ? Where dost thou intend

to live?"

" Where do I intend to live ? why at Pan Ivan's,
At Pan Ivan's in his Court,
In his Court, and in his dwelling,
And in his dwelling are two pleasures :
The first pleasure to get his son married ;
And the second pleasure to give his daughter in

marriage 4 ."

Pan 5 Ivan is supposed to be some celestial being,
marriages between the heavenly bodies being often
mentioned in Slavonic songs especially in those of
Servia, in one of which the Day-star, so closely con-
nected with the Dawn, arranges a marriage with the
Moon, and in another the " Sun's Sister" appears
as a bride, whose hand is gained by a youth in
whom some see the Morning-star. A similar youth
is found in a number of Little-Russian Kolyadki, in
which he is represented as besieging a town and
gaming from it a bride. He is tall and radiant, he
sits within a tent made of white silk, or rides on a

8 Sakharof, i. iii. 22. * Sakharof, i. iii 22.

6 The Little-Russian or Polish equivalent for the Great-Russian
Gospodin, the German Herr, the French Monsieur, etc.


horse with a mane of gold ; his sabre flashes like the
Sun, and so do the swords of his trusty comrades, who
enable him to drive away his foes and gain his bright
bride. In him Orest Miller sees the lightning which
pierces the dark clouds and rescues the fair sunlight
from eclipse, just as he recognizes some thunder-
bearer in the " proud youth" of one of the Ruthenian
KotyadM. In it we see a dark mountain, from behind
which come a flock of sheep, and after them fol-
lows a " proud youth" with three pipes, the sound
of whose piping exercises a magic influence over all
the realm of Nature.

The dark mountain has grown black,

From behind it has come forth a black cloud,

A black cloud a flock of sheep ;

After them has come forth a proud youth,

A proud youth to the foreground :

He has girded himself with a straw girdle,

From that girdle hang two or three pipes ;

The one pipe is of horn,

The second pipe is of copper,

The third pipe is of aurochs horn.

Oh ! when he began to sound the pipe of horn,

A voice went through the forest;

Oh ! when he began to sound the pipe of copper,

A voice went among the mountain tops ;

Oh ! when he began to play on the aurochs pipe,

There went up voices to the heavens 6 .

Some of the Russian Kotyadki, also, seem to refer
to the thunder-god, for they speak of the sacrifice of
a goat, one of the animals most frequently used as
symbols of the thunder. Here is one of them :

6 Afanasief, P. V. S. in. 757.


Beyond the river, the swift river,

Oi Kolyadka !

There stand dense forests :

In those forests fires are burning,

Great fires are burning.
Around the fires stand benches,

Stand oaken benches.
On those benches the good youths,
The good youths, the fair maidens,

Sing Kolyada songs,

Kolyadka, Kolyadka !
In their midst sits an old man ;
He sharpens his steel knife.
A cauldron boils hotly.
Near the cauldron stands a goat.
They are going to kill the goat.
" Brother Ivanushko,
Come forth, spring out ! '
" Gladly would I have sprung out,
But the bright stone ?
Drags me down to the cauldron :
The yellow sands
Have sucked dry my heart."

Oi Kolyadka ! Oi Kolyadka 8 .

Long after heathenish rites had been generally
discarded in Russia, they were kept up by the
Lithuanians, among whom it was customary for the
shepherds and shepherdesses to assemble and light
a great fire, round which they would sing religious
songs. Afterwards a goat would be brought to the
fire and sacrificed by a priest, the priestly class
existing among the Lithuanians. In all probability

r Literally " the fiery or inflammable stone," the epithet being
in general purely conventional.
' Snegiref, R. P. P. n. 68.


the sacrifice described in the song was actually per-
formed in old days in Russia as well as in Lithuania,
though its memory is now preserved in popular
poetry alone. Some writers, it should be mentioned,
are of opinion that this song belongs to the Mid-
summer, rather than to the Christmas festival, the
pig, and not the goat, being the animal generally
sacrificed in the winter 9 . The last few lines of the
song are very like, if not identical with, those which
occur in the story " of the Kid Prince," a Russian
counterpart of that of Briiderchen und Schwesterchen
in the Kinder- und Hausmdrchen.

In some of the KolyadJci may be found traces of
cosmogonic myths, as well as fragments of others
referring to the relations between the gods and man-
kind. To some of these deities Christian names have
been given, but the old heathen forms are plainly
apparent under the ill-fitting garb which a later time
has carelessly flung over them ; for instance, in this
Carpathian Kolyadka :

Afield, afield, out in the open field !
There a golden plough goes ploughing,
And behind that plough is the Lord Himself.
The holy Peter helps Him to drive,
And the Mother of God carries the seed corn,
Carries the seed corn, prays to the Lord God,
" Make, Lord, the strong wheat to grow,
The strong wheat and the vigorous corn !
The stalks there shall be like reeds !

9 See Schopping, It. N. p. 10. He says that the names Kolyada
and Kupalo were not unfrequently confused, and that the latter
feast to this day bears the name of the former in Dalmatia.


The ears shall be [plentiful] as blades of grass !
The sheaves shall be [in number] like the stars !
The stacks shall be like hills.

The loads shall be gathered together like black
clouds 1 ."

Here the Mother of God is evidently some such
benignant divinity as the Teutonic Holda. There is
a tradition among the Lusatian Wends that the
Virgin Mary and the infant Christ once passed by
a field in which a peasant was sowing barley, and she
said to him " God be with thee, good man ! As soon
as thou hast sown, take thy sickle and begin to reap."
In a little time came a crowd of Jews in pursuit of
her, and asked the peasant if he had seen a mother
and child go by. " She passed not long ago," he
replied, "just when I was sowing this barley."
" Idiot ! why that must be twelve weeks ago ! ' : ex-
claimed the Jews, seeing that the barley was now
ripe, and the peasant was reaping it, and they turned
back. The same story is told in a Little-Russian
Kolyadka, only the Virgin carries on her hand a hawk
one of the symbols of the Sun-god instead of
leading the infant Christ.

Perhaps the most curious of the cosmogonic Kol-
yadki is a Carpathian song, in which we find the fol-
lowing description of the creation of the world :

Once there was neither heaven nor earth,
Heaven nor earth, but only blue sea,
And in the midst of the sea two oaks.

1 Afanasief, P. V. S. in. 758.


There sat there two pigeons,

Two pigeons on the two oaks,

And began to take counsel among themselves>

To take counsel and to say,

" How can we create the world ?

Let us go to the bottom of the sea,

Let us bring thence fine sand,

Fine sand and blue stone.

We will sow the fine sand,

We will breathe on the blue stone.

From the fine sand the black earth,

The cool waters, the green grass.

From the blue stone the blue heavens,

The blue heavens, the bright sun,

The bright sun, the clear moon,

The clear moon and all the stars 2 ".

It is chiefly on Christmas Eve that the Kolyadki
are sung, but the Christmas festival itself lasts until
the Epiphany. The evenings during this festal
period, and indeed the whole space of time included,
bear the name of Svyatki, and to them belong a num-
ber of special games and songs. Their sacred cha-
racter dates back to the period of heathenism, and
on them it was customary, as it is now, for social
gatherings to take place at which games were played,
and songs were sung, and guesses were made about
the future. These guesses or divinings Gadaniya
are now for the most part kept up only among
girls who wish to know something beforehand about
their destined husbands. Sometimes a horse is led
across a piece of wood, and, according to whether it
stumbles or not, a conclusion is drawn as to the

2 Afanasief, P. V. S. n. 466.

o 2


character of the coining man. German writers of
the eleventh and twelfth centuries bear witness to
the fact that a similar divining process formerly pre-
vailed among the Baltic Slavonians, only in those
days it was a lance across which the horse was driven,
and the subject about which an omen was sought
was the issue of an impending war. Sometimes a
girl goes out into the street, and asks the first man
whom she meets what his (Christian) name is ; her
husband will bear the same name. Sometimes she
listens at the window of some neighbour's house;
the mirthful or melancholy tone of the conversation
she overhears serves to give her an idea of what will
be the nature of her married life. Sometimes " a
despairing maiden" takes a table into an empty room,
lays a cloth on it, and prepares it as for a meal only
neither a knife nor a fork must appear upon it. Then
she shuts herself up in the room alone, and calls to
her destined husband to come and sup with her.
According to tradition he may perhaps appear, he-
ralded by the sound of the night-wind beneath the
window, or by a tapping on the window pane or
the door, or even " by an evil odour." When he
comes the girl must keep her seat, and hold her peace
until he sits down at the table. Then she asks his
name, which he gives, taking something out of his
pocket the while. She is then to utter certain words,
on hearing which he will vanish, leaving behind him
whatever it was he had brought in his pocket. Un-
married ladies of a mature age will sometimes go
down to a frozen river by night, and sit there beside


a hole in the ice, straining their eyes and ears for
prophetic sights and sounds. She who is going to
be married within the year will see her destined
husband in the water ; she who hears a single thump
beneath the surface will remain un wedded. Such
are the uses to which these " guesses " are now
turned, but in olden times they seem to have referred
to other subjects, and especially to the weather which
the coming year was likely to bring with it. At the
season when the birth, or the renewed life, of the Sun
was being celebrated, thoughts of the harvest which
the next summer was to ripen would necessarily arise,
and to them may have been originally due the song
sung on those Christmas evenings, beginning

Glory to God in heaven, Glory !

This song is one of the most prominent among the
Kolyadki, for with it always commences the singing
of what are called the Podblyudnuiya Songs 3 . At the
Christmas festival a table is covered with a cloth,
and on it is set a dish or bowl (blyudo) containing
water. The young people drop rings or other trin-
kets into the dish, which is afterwards covered with
a cloth, and then the Podblyudnuiya -Songs commence.
At the end of each song one of the trinkets is drawn
at random, and its owner deduces an omen from the
nature of the words which have just been sung. The
Sldva, or " Glory" Song, is as follows :

3 Snegiref, R. P. P. in. 8. Tereshchenko (vn. 150) says that
the songs derived their name from the fact of their being sung at
table during a meal.


Glory to God in Heaven, Glory !

To our Lord on this Earth, Glory !

May our Lord never grow old, Glory I

May his bright robes never be spoiled, Glory !

May his good steeds never be worn out, Glory !

May his trusty servants never falter, Glory !

May the Right throughout Russia, Glory !

Be fairer than the bright Sun, Glory !

May the Tsar's golden treasury, Glory !

Be for ever full to the brim, Glory !

May the great rivers, Glory !

Bear their renown to the sea, Glory !

The little streams to the mill, Glory !

But this song we sing to the Corn, Glory I

To the Corn we sing, the Corn we honour, Glory !

For the old folks to enjoy, Glory !

For the good folks to hear, Glory 4 !

The word translated " Lord " in the second line is
Gosudar 9 , the term generally applied to the Emperor,
but it seems to be used here in the sense of head of
the family, lord of the household. Of the other songs
of the same class there are many which are very hard
to understand. The most intelligible are generally
those which refer to marriage, such as the following,
in which the divine blacksmith (Kuznels) is intro-
duced the Slavonic Yulcan, who became trans-
formed in Christian times into the double saint
Kuz'ma-Dem'yan [Cosmas and Demian].

There comes a Smith from the forge, Glory !
The Smith carries three hammers, Glory I
Smith, Smith, forge me a crown, Glory !
Forge me a crown both golden and new, Glory !

4 Sakharof, I. iii. u.


Forge from the remnants a golden ring, Glory !
And from the chips a pin, Glory !
In that crown Avill I be wedded, Glory!
With that ring will I be betrothed, Glory !
With that pin will I fasten the nuptial kerchief,

One of the legends about Kuz'ma-Dem'yan is, that
once, when he had just made a plough, a great snake
tried to attack him. But no sooner had it licked a
hole through the iron door of the smithy than the
Saint seized it by the tongue with his pincers as
firmly as St. Dunstan seized the devil harnessed it
to the plough, and forced it to plough up the land
" from sea to sea." The snake vainly prayed for a
draught of water from the Dnieper ; the Saint drove
it till it came to the Black Sea. That sea it drank
half dry, and then it burst 6 .

Some of the songs sung at this time have evidently
come from the regions inhabited by the South Slavo-
nians, as, for instance, those of which the refrain is,

vineyard, green and red !

or the following, in which the name of the man is as
foreign as that of the river,

By the Danube, by the river,

On the steep bank,

There lies an untuned lute, Kolyada !

Who shall tune the lute ? Kolyada !

Zenzevei Andryeyanovich

Shall tune the lute, Kolyada !

Zenzevei is away from home;

5 Sakharof, I. iii. 12. 6 Afanasief. P. V. S. i. 561.


He has gone to Tsargrad
To settle questions, to arrange agreements
Kolyada 7 !

Among the games in vogue at this season by far the
most interesting is that called " The Burial of the
Gold." A number of girls form a circle, and pass
from hand to hand a gold ring, which a girl who
stands inside the circle tries to detect. Meanwhile
they sing in chorus the following verses :

See here, gold I bury, I bury ;
Silver pure I bury, I bury ;
In the rooms, the rooms of my father,
Tlooms so high, so high of my mother.
Guess, maiden, find out pretty one,
Whose hand is holding
The wings of the serpent

The girl in the middle replies,

Gladly would I have guessed,
Had I but known, or had seen,
Crossing over the plain,
Plaiting the ruddy brown hair,
Weaving with silk in and out
Interlacing with gold.
O my friends, dear companions
Tell the truth, do not conceal it,
Give, oh give me back my gold !

My mother will beat me

For three days, for four :

With three rods of gold,

With a fourth rod of pearl 8 .

7 Sakharof, i. iii. 17.

8 Sakharof, I. iii. 21. There are many variants of the song, but
they do not differ materially.


The chorus breaks in, singing,

The ring has fallen, has fallen,
Among the guelders and raspberries,
Among the black currants.


Disappeared has our gold,
Hidden amid the mere dust,
Grown all over with moss.

All this is somewhat hard to comprehend, but the
explanation given by the mythologists is, that the
golden ring represents the sun, hidden away and, as
it were, buried by wintry storms and clouds, and that
this game the counterpart of "hunt the slipper,"
and many other recreations of the same kind is in
reality an ancient rite. It is evidently connected
with the custom prevalent among so many nations,
our own included, of hiding a ring (or a coin, or a bean)
in a loaf or cake, about the time of the New Year.

According to rustic tradition, all sorts of hidden
treasures are revealed at this period of the year.
During the " holy evenings " between the Nativity
and the Epiphany the new-born Divinity comes down
from heaven and wanders about on earth, where-
fore every sort of labour during that period is held to
be a sin. At midnight, on the eve of each of those
festivals, the heavenly doors are thrown open; the
radiant realms of Paradise in which the Sun dwells,
disclose their treasures ; the waters of springs and
rivers become animated, turn into wine, and receive
a healing efficacy ; the trees put forth blossoms, and
golden fruits ripen upon their boughs 9 .

9 Afanasief, P. V. S. in. 741.



Ideas of this kind were common to the Teutons
and to the Slaves, and a certain mysterious being,
about whom very little is known, but in whose
honour songs are still sung in Russia at Christmas-
tide, seems to have had several points in common
with one of the divinities known to German mytho-
logy. In the Kolyadki mention is made of a goddess
called Kolyada, although no such being appears in the
recognized list of old Slavonic deities, and her exist-
ence seems to have been accepted only by the
popular belief, not by any properly constituted reli-
gious authorities. Similar mention is made in another
set of songs, called Ovsenevuiya of another divine
being, also seeming to represent the Sun, to whom is
given the name of Ovsen ] . He is represented as a
" good youth," who appears together with the New
Year, making the way clear for it, and bringing from
Paradise rich gifts of fruitfulness, which he distributes
among mortals according to divine decrees. On New
Year's Eve boys go about from house to house,
scattering grain of different kinds, but chiefly oats,
and singing Ovsenevuiya Pyesni, such as the fol-
lowing :

In the forest, in the pine-forest,
There stood a pine-tree,
Green and shaggy.

Oh, Ovsen ! Oh, Ovsen !

This name (pronounced avsen) is derived by some writers from
Oves (pronounced av-yos), oats, and connected by others with
Vesnd, Spring. The Feast of Ovsen was originally on the first of


The Boyars came,
Cut down the pine,
Sawed it into planks,
Built a bridge,
Covered it with cloth,
Fastened it with nails.

Oh, Ovsen ! Oh, Ovsen !
Who, who will go
Along that bridge ?
Ovsen will go there,
And the New Year,

Oh, Ovsen ! oh, Ovsen 2 !

Another songs asks,

" On what will he come ?"

" On a dusky swine."
"What will he chase?"

" A brisk little pig."

This peculiarity seems to link Ovsen with Fro or
Freyr, the Teutonic sun-god, who possessed a boar,
Gullinborsti, whose golden fell made the night as
clear as the day, whose speed was that of a horse,
and who drew the car of the god 3 . In reference,
probably, to this idea, pigs' trotters, and the like,
used to be offered as a sacrifice to the gods at the
beginning of a New Year, and the custom still pre-
vails in Russia of preferring such dishes at that time,
and giving them away as presents.

The New Year, it may be as well to remark, began
in olden times with the month of March, and this
method of computation remained in force till A. D. 1348.

2 Sncgiref, K. P. P. n. ill. 3 Grimm, D. M. lui.


The commencement of the New Year was then
shifted to the 1st of September, an arrangement
which held good till the year 1700, when it was
made to begin with the 1st of January 4 .

In some of the songs the name Ovsen, or Govsen,
as it is sometimes written, occurs as a refrain under
the form of Tausen. Here is one, of a later date than
those which have already been quoted, in which the
names of Kolyada and Ovsen are coupled.

Peter is getting ready to go to the Horde,

Koleda Tausen !
Alexander fawns at his feet,

Koleda Tausen !

Do not go to the Horde, do not serve the king.
Serve thou the White Tsar.
Without thee surely can I not
Eat bread and salt,
Nor sleep upon a bed.
Now must I sleep in sorrow
On the bare boards,
On the warm stove,
On the ninth brick.

Koleda Tausen 5 !

Among the many strange customs preserved
among the people is a very singular one, kept up by
the peasants of White-Russia, by which they express
in a symbolical form the idea that the New Year
brings with it to each man his allotted share of weal
and woe. On New Year's Eve they lead about from

4 Tereshchenko, vn. 90.

8 Tereshchenko, vii. 123. The refrain occurs in the original at
the end of almost every line.


house to house two youths. One of them, called the
Rich Kolyada, is dressed in new and holiday attire,
and wears on his head a wreath made of ears of
rye; the other, whom they call the Poor Kolyada,
wears a ragged suit and a wreath made of threshed-
out straw. When they come to a cottage they wrap
up each of the two youths in long coverings, and tell
the owner of the house to choose one of them. If
his choice falls upon the Rich Kolyada, a song is sung
by his visitors, which states that a good harvest
awaits him, and plenty of money; but if he chooses
the Poor Kolyada, then the singers warn him that
he must expect poverty and death.

In Little-Russia, on the festival of the New Year,
a number of corn sheaves are piled upon a table, and
in the midst of them is set a large pie. The father of
the family takes his seat behind them, and asks his
children if they can see him. " We cannot see you,"
they reply. On which he proceeds to express what
seems to be a hope that the corn will grow so high
in his fields that he may be invisible to his children
when he walks there in harvest-time. A similar
custom is said by German writers of about the twelfth
century to have prevailed in their times among the
Baltic Slavonians, only in that case it was a priest
who hid himself behind a pile of sheaves 6 .

Another custom, most religiously preserved, is the
preparing of Kasha a favourite Russian dish made
of stewed grain for the New Year. Kasha in this

6 Orest Miller, Opuit, etc. I. 52.


case is used as a general expression for corn, or fc
the coming harvest, and is spoken of as a living per-
son, as some great lady who is met on the threshold by
boyars and princes, and who comes attended by two
other personages of importance, " Honourable Oats,"
and " Golden Barley." Here is one of the formulas
recited during the cooking of the New Year's Kasha.
" They sowed Buckwheat, they let it shoot up all the
summer long. Both fair and rosy did our Buck-
wheat grow up. They called, they invited our
Buckwheat to visit Tsargrad, to feast at the princely
banquet. Off set Buckwheat to visit Tsargrad, with
Princes, with Boyars, with Honourable Oats, with
Golden Barley. They awaited Buckwheat, they
tarried till its coming at the Stone Gates. Princes
and Boyars met Buckwheat, they set Buckwheat at
the oaken table to feast. As a guest has our Buck-
wheat come unto us 7 .

The singers of the songs about Ovsen receive
presents, standing in lieu of the old contributions
towards a sacrifice to the Gods, for which they ask
in some such terms as

The first day of the New Year being consecrated to
the memory of St. Basil the Great, the previous
evening bears the name of Basil's or Yasily's Eve.
In one of the Little-Russian songs it is said that
" Ilya comes on Yasily's Day," i.e. on Basil's or New
Year's Day comes the Sun-god or the Thunder-

7 0. Miller, CJirest. I. 5.


bearer, originally Perun, who, under Christian in-
fluences, became Elijah, or llya.

Ilya comes
On Vasily's Day.
He holds a whip
Of iron wire
And another of tin.
Hither he waves,
Thither he waves
Corn grows 8 .

An idea which is intended to be conveyed by the
custom of scattering seeds which is still kept up by
the singers of songs to Ovsen.

The SvyatJci the Christmas or New Year festi-
vities come to an end with the Feast of the
Epiphany, on the eve of which a curious custom
is observed. After dark, on the 4th of January,
the girls go out into the open air, and address this
prayer to the stars : r

Stars, Stars,

Dear little Stars !

All ye, Stars,

Are the fair children

Ruddy and white,

Of one mother.

Send forth through the christened world

Proposers of marriages 9 .

On the feast of the Epiphany, in some places, a
number of sheaves of various kinds of corn are heaped

Tereshchenko, vn. 109.

The Svat (or Svakha) is the man (or woman) who proposes
or arranges a marriage in Russia.


up in the courtyards after the morning service is
over, the cattle are driven up to them, and the corn
and the animals are sprinkled with holy water.
This appears to be a relic of a festival observed in
old times, when the cattle were first driven out
afield after the winter was past, and seems to speak of
a warmer clime as its birthplace, for sprinkling with
water is a somewhat unseasonable custom at a time
when every spring or stream is frozen. Not less
inopportune is the custom which prevails in some
parts of bathing on the occasion of " Meeting the
Spring," the bath often having to be taken in one
of the holes in the ice kept open for the purpose of
procuring water during the frosty season. Either
the custom has been imported from a southern land,
or the date of the festival has been altered.

Such an alteration has been brought about in
some cases by the Church, for the introducers of
Christianity into Russia found that certain festivals,
which the people had observed from time imme-
morial, occurred during the season of Lent. As the
Clergy objected to this, but were not powerful enough
utterly to abolish the feasts, they transferred them
to the week preceding Lent the Mdslyanitsa, or
" Butter- week," [Mdslo = oil or butter] answering to
the Carnival of Western Europe.

The songs appropriate to this season have almost
entirely disappeared, but some idea of their nature
may be obtained by a study of the customs apper-
taining to it, the songs and customs having always
been closely connected with each other. In some


parts of Russia a large sledge, drawn by twelve
horses, is driven about at this time, followed by
other sledges containing singers and musicians. On
the principal sledge is placed a pillar with a wheel on
the top, and on the wheel sits a man dressed in a
peculiar style, with bells and cymbals attached to his
clothes, and holding in his hands bread and a bottle
of spirits. He probably represents the Sun, of which
a wheel was so well known an emblem, and he
seems to be a male counterpart of the girl who, as
the representative of Kolyada, used to be driven
about in a similar manner on the days immediately
following the winter solstice.

In other places a sort of huge " Christmas Tree "
is carried round, an emblem of summer fruitfulness.
In Archangel an ox, resembling the French boeuf
gras, occupies the place of honour on the sledge ; and
in Siberia a ship, with sails spread, conveying a
figure representing "Lady Maslyanitsa," and a
bear 1 . As in mythical speech a ship generally means
a cloud, fraught with showers destined to enrich the
earth, and the bear is one of the familiar emblems of
the thunder-god, the Siberian equipage is looked
upon by the mythologists as a type of the storm-com-
pelling deity, who was supposed to make his power
specially felt about the time of the vernal equinox,
or an emblem of the productive powers of nature,
manifesting themselves at springtide amid wind and
thunder and rain.

1 Snegiref, R. P. P. n. 132.


In some parts of Russia the end or death of winter
is celebrated on the last day of the " Butter-week,"
by the burning of " the Straw Mujik " a heap of
straw, to which each of the participators in the
ceremony contributes his portion. The same custom
prevails in Bulgaria, accompanied by dancing round
the bonfire, the firing of guns and pistols, and the
singing of songs in honour of Lado or Lada, the
peculiar deity of Spring. There, also, during the
whole week, the children amuse themselves by
shooting with bows and arrows, a custom which has
descended to them from their remote ancestors, and
which is supposed, by some imaginative writers, to
have referred in olden times to the victory ob-
tained by the sun-beams the arrows of the far-
darting Apollo over the forces of cold and dark-

In every Slavonic country, indeed, there are to be
found, at this period of the year, traces of olden
rites intended to typify the death of Winter and
the birth of Spring or Summer. Some of them
have been preserved in customs almost identical with
those still kept up by various Latin or Teutonic
peoples ; as, for instance, the destruction of a figure
representing Winter or Death. In Poland a puppet,
made of hemp and straw, is flung into a pond or
swamp, with the words " The Devil take thee ! '
Then the participators in ^he deed scamper home,
and if one of them stumbles on the way and falls, it
is believed that be will be sure to die within the


year. In Upper Lusatia the figure of Death is con-
structed of straw and rags, and fastened to the end
of a long pole, to be pelted with sticks and stones.
Whoever knocks it off the pole is certain to live
through the year. Afterwards the figure is either
thrown into water, or taken to the boundary of the
village lands and flung across it : its bearers then
return home carrying green boughs or an entire tree,
emblems of the springtide life which has taken the
place of banished death. Sometimes the figure is
dressed in white, as if in a shroud, and in one hand is
placed a besom, in token of winter's sweeping storms,
and in the other a sickle one of the characteristic
signs of the goddess whom the Old Slavonians repre-
sented as reaping the living harvest of the world.
In Slavonia the figure is thumped with bludgeons,
and then torn in twain, just as a somewhat similar
puppet is treated in the middle of Lent in Spain
and Italy. In Little-Russia a female figure is carried
about, while springtide songs are being sung, and
then is set on fire, the villagers singing, while it
burns, joyous invocations to the Spring.

In many parts of Russia the 1st of March is the
day still set apart in deference to old customs for the
reception of the Spring. In the early morning the
women and children go out to the highest places they
can find, mounting the hills, if there are any in their
neighbourhood, or climbing on the roofs of barns
and other buildings, if the country -around is utterly
flat, and singing some of the numerous Vesnyanki,



Vesenniya Pyesni, songs appropriate to Vesnd, the
vernal season, such as,

Spring, beautiful Spring !
Come, Spring, with joy,
With great goodness :
With tall flax,
With deep roots,
With abundant corn !

In some places the girls go into water up to the
girdle, or, if the streams are still frozen over, take
hands round a hole in the ice, and dance, and sing,

healthful springtide water,
To us also give health !

And sometimes sick persons are brought down to
the banks of a river, and sprinkled with water, in the
hope that it may restore them to health. In other
places a similar custom prevails at a later period of
the year, on the Thursday in Holy Week, or on the
1st of May. In the Government of Tula, for in-
stance, the " Invocation of the Spring" commences
with the first week after Easter. Before sunset the
young people of a village go to the top of the
nearest hill, turn towards the east, silently repeat a
prayer, and then. begin the circling dance and song
of the Khorovod. The principal singer, holding a loaf
in one hand, and an egg painted red in the other,


" Beautiful Spring !

On what hast thou come ?

On what hast thou ridden ?"

" On a plough,

On a harrow."


Afterwards they all commence one of the chora]
songs :

All the maidens are in the street !

All the fair maidens in the broad street ;

One maiden is not there.

She sits in the upper room,

She embroiders a kerchief with gold,

She fastens a favour on a bridle.

Ah, a great sorrow !

By whom shall it be obtained ?

It shall be obtained by my destined husband 2 .

On March 9, the day on which the larks are" sup-
posed to arrive, the rustics make clay images of those
birds, smear them with honey and tip their heads
with tinsel, and then carry them about singing
songs to Spring, or to Lada, the vernal goddess of
love and fertility. The peasants have a springtide
calendar of their own, according to which on the
1st of March [o. s.] the Baibak, or Steppe Marmot,
awakes from its winter's sleep, comes out of its
hole, and begins to utter its whistling cry. On
the 4th arrives the Rook, and on the 9th the Lark.
On the 17th the ice on the rivers becomes so rot-
ten that, according to a popular expression, " A
Pike can send its tail through it." On the 25th the
Swallow comes flying from Paradise, and brings with
it warmth to the earth. On the 5th of April the
Crickets bestir themselves ; and on the 12th the Bear
comes out of the den in which he has slept away
the winter.

a r

Tereehohenko, T. 11.


Like the Greeks, the Romans, and the Teutons
the Old Slavonians seem to have greeted with special
joy the return of the swallow, " the bird of God,"
as it is called in Ruthenia, " the Virgin Mary's
bird," as the Bohemians name it, whose early arrival
foretells an abundant harvest, whose presence keeps
off fire and lightning, and the robbing of whose nest
brings down terrible evils on the head of the robber,
or at least brings out freckles on his face.

The cuckoo, also, is regarded with much respect in
Slavonic lands. In the Old Polish Chronicle of
Prokosz, quoted by Jacob Grimm in the Deutsche
Mythologie (p. 543), it is stated that the people be-
lieved that the God Zywie, the Lord of Life, used
to transform himself into a cuckoo, in order to ad-
dress the faithful with ominous voice. This deity is
the male counterpart of Jiva, the Slavonian Goddess
of the Spring, whose name is a contracted form of
Jivana, in Polish Ziewonia, that is, " the giver of life "
(jizn*). Many of the other stories about the cuckoo
and the swallow, mentioned by Mr. Kelly in his
" Curiosities of Indo-European Tradition and Folk-
lore 4 ," are known to the Russian peasants.

The name of the cuckoo is associated with a sin-
gular custom of great antiquity. A few weeks after
Easter generally during the seventh week, the time
of the Semik festival the village women and girls
meet together at some spot in the woods, and there
fasten to a bough a figure made of shreds and flowers,

Grimm, D. M. 723.

Page* 97 101. See also Grimm, D. M. 1088.


and supposed to represent a cuckoo, and underneath
it they hang the little pectoral crosses which all
Russians bear. Sometimes, instead of this, they pull
up by the roots the plant called " cuckoo-grass "
(orchis latifolia) , dress it up in a shift, and then bury
it in the earth underneath two semicircles of wood 6
set cross ways, which they cover with handkerchiefs,
and on which they hang crosses. In the Orel and
Tula Governments they place a small cross on the
figure of the cuckoo itself, and sing,

Gossips, darlings ! (kumushki, golubusliki) 5
Become gossips, love each other, make presents
to each other !

This is called the " Christening of the Cuckoos"
(kreshchenie kukushek). When two girls have kissed
each other under the decorated arch, and have ex-
changed crosses, they become " Gossips " for life,
as intimately connected as if, at the christening of
a child, they had become attached to each other by
the spiritual ties of co-godmothersbip. On the Semik
festival the villagers choose two young birch-trees
in a wood, bend them down, and fasten their branches
together into a circle, which they adorn with ribbons,
handkerchiefs, and the like. Above this circle they
place the figure of a cuckoo, or the dressed-up cuckoo-

6 Dugi. The arch springing from the shafts of a Russian cart
or carriage, above the head of the draught-horse, is called a
Dug a.

6 The word Kuma, dim. Kumuslika, is the French Commere,
Scotch " Cummer," our own " Gossip," originally a connexion by
common godmothership.


grass, and from the sides they hang crosses. Two
girls then walk in different directions round the birch-
trees, so as to meet at the leafy circle, through which
they kiss each other three times, and give each other
a yellow egg. Meantime the other women sing in

spotted cuckoo !

To whom art thou a gossip ?

"We will become gossips, kumushka,

We will become gossips, golubushka,

So that we may never be at variance.

They then exchange crosses, and divide the
" Cuckc-o " into two parts, one of which each of them
keeps in memory of the occasion. Afterwards the
whole party prepare and eat omelettes, and finish the
day with dance and song. In the Orel Govern-
ment, according to Tereshchenko, it is, or used to be,
customary for iuen also to enter into the state of
mutual cuckoo-gossipry 7 .

The time set apart for the " Christening of the
Cuckoos " coincides with that in which the souls of
little children who have died unchristened appear
under the form of small Rusalkas 8 seeking for the
baptism which is necessary for their salvation. Cou-
pling this fact with that of the soul being constantly
represented as a bird, and remarking that the cuckoo
is a common type in Russia of the orphan state,
Afanasief suggests that the " Christening of the
Cuckoos " ought, perhaps, to be regarded as a sym-

7 Afanasief, P. V. S. in. 226 228. Tereshchenko, v. 41.
1 See supra, chap. u. p. 144.


bolical rite having reference to the christening of
such children as have died unbaptized, and are there-
fore obliged to fly wailing through the air. The bap-
tismal idea must have originated during the Chris-
tian period of Russian history perhaps about the
time when, under the rule of Yaroslaf, the remains
of the sons of Svyatoslaf, the heathen princes Ya-
ropolk and Oleg, were exhumed for the purpose of
being baptized, after which they were interred within
a church ; but the kumovstvo, or gossipship, is, in all
probability, nothing more than a slightly altered form
of the old pobratimstvo, or mutual brotherhood by
adoption. To this day the Servians keep up a cus-
tom very similar to the Russian Cuckoo- Christening,
held at Eastertide in memory of the dead, with kiss-
ings through willow circlets, and exchanges of red
eggs, after which the men are called Pobrati,
" adopted-brothers," and the girls "/riends 9 ."

In Lithuania, says Tereshchenko, at Eastertide,
the young people of each village meet within some
cottage. There they first sing various songs, and
then they perform the cuckoo dance. A girl, whose
eyes are bandaged, sits on a chair, round which the
rest of the party dance in a circle. After each round
the men come up to her, and taking her in turn by
the hand, sing,

Queen Cuckoo kuku, kuku !
She replies,

I am thine, brother kuku, kuku !

9 Afanasief, P. V. S. in. 229.


Eventually she uncovers her eyes, leaves her seat,
and chooses three of the young men as her partners
in the dance. Before parting she gives each of them
a sash worked by her own hands, and they make her
a present in return. Thenceforward she calls them
her brothers, and they call her their sister. This
custom is supposed to be founded upon the popular
tradition of a sister who, in the olden days, felt so
keenly the loss of her three brothers, who all fell in
one battle, that she left her father's home and wan-
dered about the forest weeping bitterly, until a com-
passionate deity turned her into a cuckoo. In one
district the Lithuanian girls still sing,

Sister dear,

Mottled Cuckoo,

Thou who feedest

The horses of thy brothers ;

Thou who spinnest

Silken threads ;

Say, Cuckoo,

Shall I soon be married ?

The length of time during which the girl will have
to wait will be signified to her by the number of
repetitions of the Cuckoo's cry 1 .

Among many of the Roman Catholic Slavonians a
feast, originally in honour of the Spring, is celebrated
in the middle of Lent, and some traces of it are still
to be found among them even in Holy Week, the day
before Good Friday, for instance, being known to the
Bohemians as Green Thursday. Palm Sunday is known

Tereshchenko, v. 45 49.


in Russia as Verbnoe Voskresenie, Willow Sunday.
The verba, or sallow, was made use of at this time of
year long before it became likened to the palms or
olive branches of Christianity, children and cattle
being then, as now, beaten with its boughs, while such
songs were probably sung as that which is still to be
heard on such occasions in Little-Russia :

Be tall, like the willow ;
And healthy, like water ;
And rich, like the soil.

Even on Good Friday itself, in some places, the old
pagan practices show signs of life. Before sunrise
on that day it is customary for the Bohemians, says
Orest Miller 2 , to go into their gardens, and there,
falling on their knees before a tree, to say,

" I pray, green tree, that God may make thee
good," a formula which has probably been altered,
under the influence of Christianity, from a direct
prayer to the tree to a prayer for it. And at night
they run about the garden, exclaiming,

" Bud, trees, bud ! or I will flog you."

And on the next day, the Saturday in Holy Week,
they shake the trees, while the church-bells are ring-
ing, and go about the garden clashing keys. This
they do under the impression that the more noise
they make the more fruit will they get.

At Eastertide, according to a belief common to
Germans and Slavonians, the Sun is accustomed to

8 Opuit, etc. I. 48.


dance in the heavens, and so in Ruthenia the peasants
rise before the dawn, and climb high places in order
to witness the spectacle. In pagan times the gods
were supposed to walk the earth at Springtide, and
so the Russian peasant now believes that, from
Easter Sunday to Ascension-day, Christ and His
Apostles wander about the world, dressed in rags
and asking alms. In the Government of Smolensk
it is believed that Christ always visits the earth on
Thursday in Holy Week, and so, in readiness for the
heavenly guest, a particular kind of loaf is prepared
in every house. In most of the villages of White-
Russia songs are sung at this season in honour of the
Virgin, of St. George and St. Nicholas, and of the
Prophet Elijah, and eatables, adorned with green
boughs, are provided. Among the viands generally
figures a roast lamb or sucking-pig, the bones of which
are afterwards either scattered about the fields to pro-
tect the crops from hail, or are kept in the houses
to be burnt, during the time of the summer storms,
as a preservative against lightning.

On Easter Eggs, much as is thought of them in
Russia, it is unnecessary to dwell here at any length,
as they are so well known elsewhere and so much
has been written about them. But we may mention
the epithet given to the Paschal week in Russia,
that of Svyetlaya, " bright," one which [unless it is
borrowed from the Greek lamprd] may be derived
from those heathen times in which our own ancestors
worshipped the Goddess Ostara or Eastre, whose
name, suggestive of the East and its brightness, has


been preserved by us in that of Easter 3 . In Little-
Russia it used to be the custom at Eastertide to
celebrate the funeral of a being called Kostrubonko,
the deity of the spring. A circle was formed of
singers, who moved slowly around a girl who lay on
the ground as if dead, and as they went they sang,

Dead, dead is our Kostrubonko !
Dead, dead is our dear one !

until the girl suddenly sprang up, on which the
chorus joyfully exclaimed,

Come to life, come to life has our Kostrubonko !
Come to life, come to life has our dear one !

With the first week after Easter commences the fes-
tival of the Krasnaya Gorka, " the red, or bright little
hill," the epithet referring, like the red colour of the
Easter eggs, to the brightness of the spring, and the
name of" little hill " being given to it because it was
originally held, or at least inaugurated, on some high
place. It lasts from Low Sunday till the end of June,
and its chief feature is the Khorovod the circling
dance attended by choral song. The chief singer on
these occasions is a woman, who holds in her hands a
round loaf and a red egg each an emblem of the Sun.
Turning her face towards the east she begins one of
the vernal songs, which is then taken up by the
chorus, and in many places this is attended or fol-
lowed by the destruction of the figure of Death, or
Winter, to which allusion has already been made.

'* Grimm, D. M. 268.


Many of the songs are addressed to the Goddess of
Love, the presiding genius of the season, or at least
have reference to her influence, and in some places it
is customary to sing them under the windows of
young wedded couples. But the dead also are re-
membered at this season of the year. The old pagan
rites formerly performed in their honour are still
kept up in some parts of Russia. The festival called
Rddwwtisa, held at the same time with, or just after,
that of the Krasnaya Gorka, is chiefly devoted to the
memory of the dead. In certain districts the women
and girls still take food and drink to the cemeteries,
and there "howl" over the graves of their dead
friends and relatives. When they have "howled"
long enough, they sit down and proceed to eat, drink,
and be merry, deeming that the dead can " rejoice "
with them. After their meal, the fragments which
remain over are thrown to the evil spirits, in order
to prevent them from troubling the repose of the
dead, and with similar intent their flasks and drink-
ing-cups are emptied over the graves 4 . Then they
return home, dress themselves in holiday attire, and
go out to the Krasnaya Gorka, to commence their
songs and the games to which those songs form an

It has already been stated that the greater part of
these songs relate exclusively to love, or to other
subjects connected with social life, but there are also

1 Tereshchenko, v. 17. For further information on this subject
see infra, pp. 310 313.


some which may possibly have a mythical significa-
tion. In one of these a young man wanders with
uplifted hands in the space enclosed by the circle of
the Khorovod. The chorus sings,

Our bright Prince has gone,
Has gone around his city,
Has gone around his high city :
Our bright Prince seeks
His bright Princess.

He goes, the Prince goes,

Goes around the city.

He cuts, he hews

With his sword the gates.

Shall we soon, bright Prince,

Find the fair maiden ?

At this point the youth stands still, the chorus stops,
and he finishes the song as follows '.

Wherever I shall find
The fair princely maiden
To that princely maiden
Will I give a golden ring.

In this dramatic poem, with the leading idea of
which may be compared the " Passage of the King
and Queen " among the Czechs and Servians, or the
German "Maigraf and Maigrafin," Orest Miller,
[Opuit, I. 51] sees evident reference to the idea of the
Sun, as a bright Prince, piercing with his beams, as
with a sharp sword, the icy obstacles by which Win-
ter strives to keep him from his fair bride the Earth.

The most widely spread of the choral games be-
longing to the Krasnaya Gorka festival is that called


" The Sowing of the Millet," of which an account
will be given in the chapter devoted to songs relating
to marriage 5 . Of the rest we have already given
several examples in the first chapter 6 . In the
"Meeting," or " Coming together " (SJchodbishcJie), a
number of girls go out into the meadows, where they
are met by " the arrived ones " the game belonging
to the season at which the young men arrive in the
villages after their winter sojourn in the towns. A
circle of dancers is formed, in the middle of which a
young couple take their places, and then the others
move round them singing,

From one street comes a youth,

From another comes a fair maiden ;

Close have they drawn near to each other,

Low have they bent in greeting.

Then thus speaks the brave youth :

" Farest thou well, beauteous maiden?"

Smilingly the maiden answers,

" Well do I fare, dear friend ;

How dost thou fare alone without me ?

Long is it since I have seen thee,

Since that time when we two parted."

In the game called Pleten\ a word meaning a
wattled fence, the dancers stand up in couples, and,
with hands locked together after the manner of a
fence, form in line. Their leader begins the follow-
ing song :

Be twined together, fence, be twined together !
And do thou be coiled up, golden pipe !
Be folded up, rustling damask !

1 See infra, p. 283. * See pp. 8 10.


From behind the hills the maiden has driven out

the ducks.

Come away home, duckie !
Come away home, gray one ! . . .

When the chorus comes to an end the leading couple
lift up on high their joined hands. Then, as in our
own country-dance, the other couples pass under the
arch so formed, while the chorus sings,

Untwine, fence, untwine !
Uncoil, golden pipe !
Unfold, rustling damask !

The game called DON IVANOVICH is associated with
an old popular tradition, according to which the
rivers Don and Shat are the offspring of Lake Ivan.
Those who take part in it form a circle, and move
around the leader, who is supposed to represent Don
Ivanovich. As they go they sing a song, the
changes in which he follows with suitable move-
ments of his limbs. It begins

Now has our youth

Come along the street to the end.

Ah ! Don, our Don,

Don Ivan's son !

Ah ! they have called the youth,
They have called the bold one.

Ah ! Don, etc.
To feast at the banquet,
To sit at the gathering,
To take part in the games,

Ah ! Don, etc.

Eventually the song and game resolve themselves
into those already described (at p. 8), under the title
of " The Murman Cap."



Here is one more of the songs sung at this time of
year a song specially worthy of notice on account
of the hostile expressions it contains with respect to
Byzantium, a city which, after the conversion of the
Slavonians to Christianity, acquired a sacred charac-
ter in their eyes.

I will go up, I will go up,

I will go up to Tsar-gorod.

I will shatter, I will shatter,

With my lance will I shatter the wall !

I will roll away, I will roll away,

A barrel of treasure will I roll away !

I will give, I will give it

To my harsh father-in-law !

Be thou kind, be thou kind,

Like unto my own father dear !

I will bring out, I will bring out,

A pelisse of fox's skin will I bring out !

I will give, I will give it

To my harsh mother-in-law !

Be thou kind, be thou kind,

Like unto my own mother dear 7 !

In some of the songs which are now sung by the
children only, but which used not to be confined to
them alone, the rains which play so important a
part at this season of the year are either begged to
come, or entreated to go away. When the first
spring shower falls the children thus address it,

Shower, shower !
Get thyself ready to be seen.
Shower, let thyself go well.

7 Snegiref, R. P. P. in. 3746.


Pour, rain,

Over the grandmother's rye,

Over the grandfather's wheat,

Over the girls' flax,

Pour in bucketsful.

Rain, rain, let thyself go,

Stronger, quicker,

Warm us young ones.

And they make it promises, saying,

Dear rain, dear rain,

I will cook thee some borshch [soup],

I will put it on an oak.

Three pigeons will come flying,

They will take thee on their wings,

Will bear thee to a foreign land.

The spring rain was supposed to produce a bene-
ficial effect even upon the human body, and therefore
it was customary to wash in it. Its efficacy was
increased if it came attended by thunder. "St.
Peter [evidently Perun's successor] lifts up his voice
and gives us wine, that we may all drink our fill,"
says a Bohemian song. And in order to obtain that
celestial wine from the clouds, not only were songs
sung, but certain rites were observed.

Of such a kind are the well-known rites of Dodola
kept up among the Servians to the present day.
During a drought a girl, literally " in verdure clad,"
something like our own " Jack in the Green," but
having no covering beyond one of leaves and flowers,
is conducted through the village, her companions
singing meanwhile " Dodola Songs," and afterwards
the women pour water over her, she dancing all the

Q 2


time, and turning round and round. The people
believe that by this means there will be extorted from
the " heavenly women " the clouds the rain for
which thirsts the earth, as represented by the green-
clad maiden Dodola. The songs which are employed
upon this occasion begin with a prayer for rain, after
which they say,

" We pass through the village, and the clouds
across the sky. We go quicker, and the clouds go
quicker, but the clouds have overtaken us, and have
bedewed the fields." And again, " We go through
the village, and the clouds across the sky, and see,
a ring drops from the clouds ! '

A custom exists in Russia of catching rain that
falls during a thunder-storm in a basin, at the bottom
of which rings have been placed; in the Eiazan
Government, water that has been dropped through a
wedding-ring is supposed to have certain merits as a
lotion; and at a Little-Russian marriage the bride is
bound to give the bridegroom to drink from a cup of
wine in which a ring has been put. In Dalmatia
the same custom is kept up as in Servia, only instead
of a girl called Dodola, it is a young unmarried man
who is dressed up, and who dances and has water
poured over him. He is called Prpats, and his com-
panions, who are young bachelors like himself, bear
the name Prporushe. In Bulgaria the same part is
played by a girl, who must be just fifteen years old,
and who is called Preperuga or Peperuga, and among
the modern Greeks by a child of from eight to ten
years old, who is called Purpirouna. In Wallachia


the name has become Papeluga, as appears from the
song which the children sing in time of drought
" Papeluga ! Go into heaven, open the gates, and
send rain from on high, that the corn may grow
well ! J: In different parts of Germany similar customs
used to prevail, and Jacob Grimm [D. M. 560 562]
thinks that the Dodola and Purpirouna were origi-
nally identical with the Bavarian Wasservogel and
the Austrian PfingstJconig, whom he connects with
old rain-preserving rites, although the custom of
covering them with foliage, and then flinging them
into a brook, has now degenerated into a mere prac-
tical joke played off upon the lazy.

The name of Dodola is by some philologists derived
from do'it' = to give milk, Dodola being looked upon
as a bountiful mother, a type of teeming nature.
Others connect it with Did-Lado, from the Lithu-
anian Didis great, and Lado, the Slavonic Genius
of the spring. From the mention of a ring made in
the Dodola songs, and in others referring to storm
and rain, it is supposed that a golden ring, in
mythical language, is to be taken as a representation
of the lightning's heavenly gold.

The 23rd of April is consecrated to St. George of
Cappadocia, and is known as the Yurief Den (or
Yegorief Den) Vesenny, i.e. Yury's (or Yegory's) Day
in the spring. On it a festival is celebrated of a
national, as well as of an ecclesiastical character, and
to it are devoted a number of special songs, which
derive from it the name of Yegorief sidy a Pyesni.
Their mythical character is, in many cases, apparent


enough, serving to prove that the Christian hero, St.
George, has merely taken the place of some old
deity, light-bringing or thunder-compelling, who used
to be honoured at this time of year in heathen days.
It is not a slayer of dragons and protector of prin-
cesses who appears in these songs, but a patron of
farmers and herdsmen, who preserves cattle from
harm, and on whose day, therefore, the flocks and
herds are, for the first time after the winter, sent out
into the open fields. " What the wolf holds in its
teeth, that Yegory has giyen," says a proverb, which
shows how completely he is supposed to rule over the

fold and the stall. Here is one of the songs :


We have gone around the field,

We have called Yegory ....

" thou, our brave Yegory,

Save our cattle,

In the field, and beyond the field,

In the forest, and beyond the forest,

Under the bright moon,

Under the red sun,

From the rapacious wolf,

From the cruel bear,

From the cunning beast."

In Bulgaria a regular sacrifice is said to be still
offered up on the occasion, a ram being killed by an
old man, while girls spread grass on which the blood
of the victims is poured forth. A White-Russian
song represents Yegory as opening with golden keys
probably the sunbeams the soil which has been
hard bound all the winter.


Holy Yury, the divine envoy,

Has gone to God,

And having taken the golden keys,

Has unlocked the moist earth,

Having scattered the clinging dew

Over White-Russia and all the world 8 .

In Moravia they "meet the Spring ' with the
following song :

" Death Week ! [The Fourth Sunday in Lent the

time of the expulsion of Deaths Winter], what

hast thou done with the keys ?"
" I gave them to Palm- Sunday."
" Palm-Sunday ! what hast thou done with the

" I gave them to Green Thursday [the day before

Good Friday]."
" Green Thursday ! what hast thou done with the

" I gave them to St. George. St. George arose

and unlocked the earth, so that the grass grew

the green grass."

In White-Russia it is the custom on St. George's
Day to drive the cattle afield through the morning
dew, and in Little-Russia and Bulgaria the young
people go out early and roll themselves in it.

Besides the springtide Yurie/Den, there is another
St. George's Day in the autumn, or rather winter,
on the 26th of November. Upon that day, said a
tradition which prevailed in Russia up to the six-
teenth century, the people in a certain district by the
sea [Lukomorie] used to die to come to life again
upon the corresponding Saint's Day, in April.

Afanasief, P. V. S. n. 402


Before temporarily giving up the ghost, they were
in the habit of placing the wares they had on sale in
a certain spot, from which the neighbours who wanted
them took them away. The settlement of accounts
took place as soon as the owners of the goods came
to life again. This legend seems to be closely con-
nected with that which Herodotus found himself
unable to believe, of the people who lived beyond the
bald-headed and goat-footed races, and who slept
away six months of the year at a stretch a story
which Heeren supposed to have referred to the length
of the Polar night, and which has also been explained
as meaning that there were people who " lived in-
doors in comparative darkness half the year 9 ."

The mythical character of Yegory the Brave
becomes very apparent in some of the poems about
him which have been preserved among the people by
oral tradition. According to them he camo into the
world a strange child, for his arms up to the elbows
were of gold, and his legs up to the knees were of
silver, and his head was all of pearl. When the time
of his martyrdom came, his pagan foe, King Demi-
anishche, had him shut up in a deep dungeon, and
gave orders " that he should not see the white light,
nor perceive the red sun, nor hear the sound of bells
or of church-singing." So Yegory lay in utter dark-
ness for thirty years. Then " the red sun shone
warmly, and there came a thunder-cloud, and the
stormy winds arose," and swept away all the bolts

9 See Rawlinsoii's Herodotus, in. 172.


and bars of the dungeon, so that Yegory was able to
come out of it, and once more to see the white light.
After that he fought many battles, including one with
a fiery serpent, always coming off victorious, and
finally he killed the heathen king, from whose veins
poured forth such a torrent that Yegory stood up
to his knees in blood. All this, says Afanasief, is
nothing more than a poetic representation of the
struggle which takes place in spring between Perun
and the dark storm-clouds, which are crushed beneath
his mace, or pierced by the shafts of his lightning.
For a time the demon of wintry storms may hide
the sun, keeping him, as it were, imprisoned, but
the spring comes, the sunlight bursts out again in
all its glory, and the thunder-god once more goes
forth conquering and to conquer l .

On the Thursday of the seventh week after Easter
is held the feast called Semik (from sem = seven).
In heathen times a number of rites were performed,
and games were celebrated, during the month of May,
in honour of the Goddess of the Spring : after hea-
thenism had given place to Christianity, these games,
and some remnants of their accompanying rites, were
transferred with altered names to the festivals of
Ascension Day and Whitsuntide. And in that way
many of them have now become attached to the Semik

1 Afanasief, P. V. S. I. 699 704. It should, however, be stated
that the above-mentioned legend about Yegory has been preserved in
certain poems, which some critics assert to be of a different origin
from that of the songs to which the present chapter is mainly
devoted. The question will be discussed on another occasion.


holiday, held upon the Thursday before Trinity Day,
or Whit-Sunday. On that day the Russian villagers,
and the common people in the towns, go out into the
woods, sing songs, weave garlands, and cut down a
young birch-tree, which they dress up in woman's
clothes, or adorn with many-coloured shreds and rib-
bons. After that comes a feast, at the end of which
they take the dressed-up birch-tree, carry it home to
their village with joyful dance and song, and set it up
in one of the houses, where it remains as an honoured
guest till Whit- Sunday. On the two intervening
days they pay visits to the house where their " guest "
is; but on the third day, Whit- Sunday, they take her
to a stream, and fling her into its waters, throwing
their Semik garlands after her.

In the district of Pinsk, on Whit-Monday, the
peasant girls choose the handsomest of their number,
envelope her in a mass of foliage taken from birch-
trees and maples, and under the name of Kust
(shrub or bush) carry her about, just as the Dodola
maiden is carried about in Servia. In the Govern-
ment of Poltava, in Little-Russia, they take round
" a poplar," represented by a girl with bright flowers
in her hair. In the neighbourhood of Voroneje, at
Whitsuntide, it was the custom in old times to con-
struct a small hut in the middle of an oak copse, to
adorn it with garlands and flowers and fragrant
grasses, and to place inside it a figure made of
wood or straw, and dressed up in a male or female
holiday attire. To this spot the inhabitants of the
neighbourhood would flock together, bringing their


provisions with them, and would dance and make
merry around the hut.

In these instances the Semik birch-tree, the
" bush," the " poplar," and the "Whitsuntide puppet,
are all representatives of some Deity of the Spring
whom the people worshipped in olden days, and whose
memory still survives, although " the wearing of the
green" has been adopted by the Church, and the
birch-trees which once were put to pagan uses are
now turned into the ornaments of Christian temples.
All over Russia every village and every town is turned,
a little before Whit- Sunday, into a sort of garden.
Everywhere along the streets the young birch-trees
stand in rows, every house and every room is
adorned with boughs, even the engines upon the
railways are for the time decked with green leaves.
On the eve of Whit-Sunday the churches are dressed
in green as ours are at Christmas, and the next day
the women and children go to the morning service
carrying posies, which they preserve during the rest
of the year, deeming them a preservative against all
sorts of maladies.

In many places, especially in Little-Russia, the
young folks go out into the woods on Whit-Sunday,
singing in chorus this song, in which there is a strange
medley of Christian and heathen designations :

Bless, Trinity,
Mother of God !
We must go into the forest,
We must weave wreaths,
Ai Dido, Oi Lado !


We must weave wreaths,
And pluck flowers.

When the wreaths are ready they are exchanged be-
tween the youths and the maidens. The girls put
them on their heads, the lads adorn their hats with
them. In the evening, after the Khorovod games
are over, or on the following day, they go to a stream,
and throw their wreaths into it, singing the while

I will go to the river Danube,

I will stand on the steep bank,

I will throw my wreath on the waters :

I will go afar off and see,

Whether sinks, or sinks not,

My wreath in the waters 2 . . . .

If the wreath swims steadily, without running ashore,
its late wearer will marry happily and live long ; if
it circles around one spot, there is reason to fear
some misfortune, a broken engagement, or an unre-
quited love; and its sinking is a very evil omen,
foreboding that he or she who wore it will either die
soon, or at least go down to the grave unmarried.

The songs which are sung in the Khorovods on
these occasions frequently refer to a contest between
two apparently mythical personages, and two mythi-
cal names are mentioned in them those of Lado and
of Tur. About Tur very little is known, but there
seem to be reasonable grounds for identifying him
with Perun or with Freyr 3 . Lado, or Did-Lado,

2 Tereshchenko, VI. 169.

8 See Afanasief, P. V. S. I. 662, 663. The word tur (cf. taurus)
means an aurochs or bison.


as has already been observed, is generally supposed
to be the solar deity, or the god of the spring and
of love. One of the songs is as follows. A number
of girls form a circle and sing,

Ah ! on the grass, on the green turf,
Around a great city,
Strayed a bold youth.

While this is being sung, a girl, who wears a man's
hat, walks with an air of pride around the circle.
Then another girl, holding a handkerchief in her
hand, goes inside the circle, the chorus singing

Oi, Tur, the bold youth ;
He from out of the great city.
Has called the beauteous maiden
To contend with him on the grass.
Oi Did, Lado ! to contend.

Then the girl with the kerchief comes out and
deprives the other of her hat, and pretends to strike
her, the chorus singing,

The beauteous maiden has come out
And has overcome the youth;
Has dropped him on the green turf,
Oi, Did, Lado ! has dropped him.

The conqueror goes away, and the song ends as
follows :

The brave youth rising up,
Hid his face in his hands,
Dropped burning tears.
His grief he did not dare
To good people to tell.
Oi, Tur ! Did ! Lado ! to tell 4 .

4 Snegiref, R. P. P. in. 124.


The contest here described has been explained in
various ways. Some commentators think it is the
same as that mentioned in a Servian song, in which
the Lightning-Maiden struggles with the Thunder-
Youth and conquers him. Others, taking Tur to be
the solar deity, refer it to the substitution for the
daylight of the evening glow or the clear summer

Some traces of tree-worship may be found in the
song which the girls sing as they go out into the
woods to fetch the birch-tree, and to gather flowers
for wreaths and garlands.

Rejoice not, Oaks ;

Rejoice not, green Oaks.

Not to you go the maidens,

Not to you do they bring pies,

Cakes, omelettes.

lo, lo, Semik and Troitsa [Trinity] !

Rejoice, Birch-trees, rejoice green ones ! . . .

To you go the maidens !

To you they bring pies.

Cakes, omelettes.

The eatables here mentioned seem to refer to sacri-
fices offered in olden days to the birch, the tree of
the spring. The oak, to which no sacrifice is offered,
is the summer tree.

On the banks of the river Metch, near Tula, there
stands a circle of stones. These, according to popular
belief, were once girls who formed a Khorovod on
this spot, and who danced on Whit- Sunday in so
furious a manner that they were all thunder- smitten
into stone.


In some of these songs reference is made to the
bathing of a gaily-attired maiden, to whom is given
the name of Kostroma, and sometimes not only the
bathing but also the drowning of a " brave youth"
is vaguely mentioned. These allusions connect them
with the class of songs called Kupalskiya, which are
sung at Midsummer, and which are evidently rich in
mythical purport, though it is often difficult to ascer-
tain their exact meaning, as they have come down to
the present day in a very mutilated condition. In
popular speech the St. Agrafena [Agrippina], to
whom the 23rd of June is dedicated, is surnamed
Kupalnitsa, and St. John the Baptist, who is honoured
on the 24th, is known as Ivan Kupalo. The rites
which belong to these two festivals are also kept
up on the Feast of All Saints, the first Sunday after

The word Kupalo has been explained in different
ways, some philologists, for instance, connecting it
with Icupdtf bathe, and others with Mpa = a,
heap heaps of straw or brushwood being used for
the bonfires which in Russia, as in many other parts
of Europe, are the chief characteristics of these Mid-
summer festivals. Professor Buslaef points out the
fact that the root Imp conveys the idea of something
white, bright, and also rapid, boiling, as it were, ve-
hement in Russian yary, whence seems to be derived
the name of the similar mythical being Yarilo. Jacob
Grimm [Klein. Schrift. II. 250] compares Jcupa with
the German Haufe, and the Lithuanian Jcaupas, a
heap, leap as, a mound, etc.


In some parts of Russia an image of Kupalo is
burnt or thrown into a stream on St. John's night.
In others no image is used, but fires are lighted and
people jump through them themselves, and drive
their cattle through them. In Ruthenia the bonfires
are lighted by a flame -procured from wood by fric-
tion, the operation being performed by the elders
of the party, amid the respectful silence of the rest.
But as soon as the fire is " churned," the bystanders
break forth with joyous songs, and when the bonfires
are lit the young people take hands, and spring in
couples through the smoke, if not through the flames,
and after that the cattle in their turn are driven
through it. In Little-Russia a stake is driven into
the ground on St. John's Night, wrapped in straw and
set on fire. As the flame rises the peasant women
throw birch-tree boughs into it, saying,

" May my flax be as tall as this bough !"

The Poles still keep up the customs which were
described by a sixteenth century writer as being so
diabolical that " the demons themselves took part in
them." According to him the girls were in the habit
of offering grass as a sacrifice to evil spirits, after
which they wove wreaths out of it with which they
adorned their heads, and then they lighted fires and
" sang Satanic songs, and danced, and the Devil
danced for joy with them, and they prayed to him
and magnified him, and forgot God 5 ." This picking

6 Tereshchenko, v, 59.


of herbs and flowers on St. John's Day is com-
mon to various Slavonic peoples, as also is the
habit of washing in dew on the morning of the

Even at the present day, it is said, heathen rites
are secretly observed in some of the remote districts of
Eussia. However this may be, it is well known that
they prevailed in many places until a comparatively
recent period, a fact which accounts for the signifi-
cance attached to these Midsummer festivals in the
eyes of the people. Of thoroughly heathenish origin
is a custom still kept up on the Eve of St. John.
A figure of Kupalo is made of straw, the size some-
times of a boy, some-times of a man, and is dressed in
woman's clothes, with a necklace and a floral crown.
Then a tree is felled, and, after being decked with
ribbons, is set up on some chosen spot. Near this
tree, to which they give the name of Marena [Win-
ter or Death], the straw figure is placed, together
with a table, on which stand spirits and viands.
Afterwards a bonfire is lit, and the young men and
maidens jump over it in couples, carrying the figure
with them. On the next day they strip the tree and
the figure of thedr ornaments, and throw them both
into a stream.

To equally heathenish times also must be referred
the song which the peasants in White-Russia sing at
sunrise on St. John's Day:

Ivan and Marya
Bathed on the hill:
Where Ivan bathed



The bank shook ;
Where Marya bathed,
The grass sprouted.

That is, says Afanasief, [P.Y. S. in. 722] Perun and
Lada bathed in the dewy springs on the hills of
heaven. He shook the earth with his thunderbolts,
she made the grass grow in the fields.

Both Kupalo and the similar mythical being
called in the songs Yarilo appear to be intended at
times for the Sun or the Spring, at times for Perun.
According to a Bulgarian tradition, the sun, on St.
John's Day, loses its way, and therefore a maiden
appears who leads it across the sky, this maiden
being the Dawn. The Bulgarians assert, also, that
on the same day the sun dances and whirls swords
about, that is, it sends forth specially bright and
dazzling rays. In Lithuania it is supposed that on
that day the Sun, a female being, goes forth from
her chamber in a car drawn by three horses golden,
silver, and diamond to meet her spouse the Moon,
and on her way she dances and emits fiery sparks 6 .
The Servians assert that the sun stands still three
times on St. John's Day, and they account for its
apparent pause at the time of the summer solstice
by the fear which seizes on it at the thought of
its downward career towards winter. The mixture
of nuptial and funereal ideas connected with this
Midsummer festival gives it a double nature; one
set of its rites and songs being joyous, as if to exult

6 Tereshehenko, Y. 75.


over a marriage, and the other tragic, as if to lament
for a death. In the former case it appears to be
a mystical union between the elements of fire and
water that is celebrated ; in the latter the downward
course of the sun towards its wintry grave. It is
true that the feast of All Saints generally occurs
some weeks before the summer solstice, and there-
fore it might at first sight seem difficult to explain
as solar myths any allusions to decay or death that
may be conveyed in its songs and customs, were it
not well known that the Church arbitrarily altered
the time of many popular festivals, and may there-
fore in this case have transferred to the week after
Whitsuntide what were originally Midsummer cere-

The custom of rolling a blazing wheel on St. John's
Day, " to signify that the sun ascends at that time
to the summit of his circle, and immediately begins
to descend again 7 ," common to so many lands, is
observed also in some of the Slavonic countries
in Croatia, Carinthia, and Galicia 8 . To the same
festival in all probability belonged in olden days the
decidedly heathenish rites which in modern times
have been celebrated either in the week after Whitsun-
tide, or on the Sunday after St. Peter's Day, June
29. The Bacchanalian character of those rites made
the clergy anxious that they should not be observed

7 Quoted by Kemble from a mediaeval MS. See Kelly's
" Curiosities of Indo-European Tradition and Folk-lore," p. 58,
where a full account is given of similar customs in other countries.

8 Grimm, Deutsche Mytkologie, 590.

B 2


during the fast preceding that day, and so they have
been transferred to a period a little before or after
it. They bear the name of " The Funeral of Kos-
troma," or of Lada or Yarilo, and they evidently
symbolize the decay and temporary suspension of
the vivifying powers of nature as winter comes on.
In the Governments of Penza and Simbirsk the
" funeral" used to be represented in the following
manner: A girl was chosen to act the part of
Kostroma. Her companions then saluted her with
low obeisances, placed her on a piece of wood, and
carried her to the bank of a stream. There they
bathed her in the waters, while the oldest member
of the party made a basket of lime-tree bark, and
beat it like a drum. After that they all returned
home, to end the day with games and dances. In
the Murom districts Kostroma was represented by a
figure made for the most part of straw, and dressed
in female attire. This was carried to the water's
edge by a crowd which divided into two parts, of
which one attacked the figure and the other defended
it. At last the assailants gained the day, stripped
the figure of its dress and ornaments, trod it under
foot, and flung into the stream the straw of which
it was made. While this act of destruction was
going on, the figure's defenders hid their faces
in their hands, and seemed to deplore the death of

A similar custom prevails in the Saratof Govern-
ment, but the figure which is there escorted to the
grave is supposed to represent the Spring. In


Voroneje the people used to meet in an open place,
and decide who should represent Yarilo. Whoever
was chosen for that purpose was fantastically clad,
and had small bells fastened to his dress. Then,
holding in his hand a mallet an ancient emblem of
the thunderbolt he paraded around, dancing, sing-
ing, gesticulating; and after him followed a noisy
crowd, which eventually divided into two bodies, be-
tween which a kind of boxing-match took place.
In the town of Kostroma the people chose an old
man, and gave him a coffin containing a Priapus-
like figure representing Yarilo. This he carried out-
side the town, being attended on the way by women
chanting dirges and expressing by their gestures
grief and despair. Out in the fields a grave was
dug, and in it the figure was buried amid weeping
and wailing, after which games and dances were
commenced, calling to mind the funeral games cele-
brated in old times by the pagan Slavonians. A
similar custom used to prevail in Little-Russia, where,
before the figure was buried, it was shaken, as if
with the hope of awaking the dead Yarilo the
Slavonian representative of Adonis.

Some of the Russian archaeologists see in the
names Kostroma, Kupalo, and Yarilo, nothing more
than the designations of as many summer festivals,
and it cannot be denied that those names are of very
uncertain derivation Kostroma, for instance^ mean-
ing osier twigs, rods, etc., and Koster being a name
for certain weeds, such as tares or darnel [Koster
or Kostyor means a pyre] ; whence it is supposed


that the mythical being may have derived its name,
inasmuch as its figure was made of straw mixed
with weeds, twigs, etc. The general supposition,
however, seems to be that expressed by Afanasief
[P. Y. S. in. 726], who says that the names con-
veyed to the popular mind the idea of living beings,
similar to mankind, and that they appear to have
originated at an exceedingly remote period.

During the night before St. Peter's Day, June 29,
the people in some places do not go to bed at all,
but spend the hours in games, or in sitting by a fire
kindled on a high place and singing songs till the day
dawns, and then they anxiously watch the sun as it
rises, being under the impression that it dances in
the sky on that day as well as on Easter Sunday.
As soon as its first rays appear, the leader of the
choir begins to sing, and after him all the others
take up this song :

Oi Lado ! Oi Lad ! on the Kurgan
The Nightingale is weaving its nest,
But the Oriole is unweaving.
Weave or not at thy will, Nightingale !
Thy nest will not be woven,
Thy young ones will not be bred :
They will not fly through the oak forest,
Nor peck the spring wheat.
OiLado! Oi Lado 9 .

The 29th of July forms, in the popular calendar,
the first autumnal festival. That day, it is generally

8 Snegiref, E. P. P. IT. 67. Kurgan is a non-Slavonic word for a
tumulus. The Ivolga, or Oriole, being golden-plumaged, may
have been classed among the fire-bringing birds.


believed, cannot pass by without thunder. In olden
times it was consecrated to Perun, the thunder-com-
pelling deity ; since the introduction of Christianity
it has been transferred to Ilya, the Thunderer, as the
Servians call the Prophet Elijah. But, except among
the Bulgarians, there are no special songs devoted to
Ilya's Day.

During the harvest-tide many customs of great
antiquity are observed, most of which seem originally
to have been rites performed in honour of the deities
who were supposed to watch over the grain-crops.
Corn is a holy thing to Slavonic eyes ; they look upon
it as " the gift of God." In the Christmas festivities
the first song is sung in its honour : the peasant who
is going to make a new loaf says, " Lord, grant Thy
blessing ! 5!l as he takes the flour in hand, and he
would consider as a great sin the uttering of " bad
language ): ' addressed to any sort of corn, and also
the " messing " of bread, or the rolling of pellets
made of it. Such conduct God punishes, he thinks,
with death and famine. Moreover, if a man while
eating bread lets pieces fall to the ground, they are
collected by evil spirits, and if the weight of the heap
thus formed ever becomes greater than that of the
slovenly feeder himself, his soul, after death, will be
forfeited to the devil 1 . On the other hand, he who
shows fitting respect to his bread, eating it even when
it is stale and mouldy, such a one will not be injured

1 Afanasief, P. V. S. in. 763. A number of similar Bohemian
traditions are given by Grohmann in his Aberglauben und &e-
tranche aus Eohmen etc. pp. 102 104.


by the thunder, nor will water drown him, but
will live on, secure from poverty, to a green old

With the spring commences the season of field-
labour, which is inaugurated by a religious service.
Crosses, holy pictures, and banners, round which are
twined festoons of green leaves and flowers, are
carried in procession to the fields, and the priest
blesses the soil, and sprinkles it with holy water, a
ceremony which is repeated before the commence-
ment of the hay and corn harvests. At Candlemas
each peasant has a wax candle specially consecrated,
and this he carefully preserves, in order to bear it to
his plot of land at seed-time and harvest. On Lady-
Day, and on the day before Good Friday, small loaves
are consecrated, which are afterwards placed near,
or crumbled up among, the seed-corn. When the
sowers go into the fields to sow r they bend low
towards the east, the west, and the south, uttering
prayers each time, and flinging a handful of corn.
Until this ceremony has been performed they do not
begin their regular work of sowing.

In the Government of Vladimir there exists a
custom called " Leading the Ears of Corn." About
Trinity Sunday, when the winter rye is beginning to
ear, the fields are solemnly visited by the peasants.
The young people of each village meet together and
draw up in two lines, linking their arms in such a
manner as to form a kind of bridge, along which
trips a little girl adorned with ribbons of various
hues. The couples past whom she has gone run to


the end of the lines and take up their places again, so
that the bridge of arms is always renewed until the
corn-fields are reached. There the girl jumps down,
plucks a handful of ears, runs with them to the
village, and throws them down close to the church.
On their way to the fields the performers sing,

The Ear has come to the corn-field,
To the white Wheat-
Be thou produced abundantly
Eye with Oats,
With Wheat, with Buckwheat.


The Ear is going to the young corn,

To the white Wheat.

Where the Queen has gone,

There the Rye is thick.

Out of the ear a measure,

Out of the grain a great loaf,

And of the half-grain a pie.

Grow, grow,

Eye and Oats

Flourish richly

Father and Son.

When the crops have ripened, the mistress of each
household goes out afield, bearing bread and salt
and the Candlemas taper, and begins to reap the
harvest. The first sheaf which she gathers is called
the Imyaninnik 2 , and is taken home and set in the
place of honour near the holy pictures ; afterwards it

2 Imya = name ; Imyaninui = name-day, day consecrated to
the saint after whom a person is named. Imyaninnik, one who
celebrates his name-day.


is threshed separately, and its grain is in part mixec
with the next season's seed-corn, in part set aside
as a preservative against evils. Its straw is used as
a specific against diseases of cattle. In some parts
of Little-Russia it is a priest who commences the
reaping. At the end of the harvest the reapers go
to the fields and collect any ears which may have
been left uncut. These they weave into a crown,
adorned with gold tinsel and with field-flowers, and
place it on the head of the prettiest girl of their party,
after which they visit the house of the owner or tiller
of the soil, headed by a boy who carries a sheaf
decked with flowers, and sing,

Open, master, the new gates,
We bring a crown of pure gold,
come out, even on to the balcony,
ransom, ransom, the crown of gold,
For the crown of gold is woven.

In some Governments, as in those of Penza and
Simbirsk, the last sheaf is dressed up in woman's
clothes. In White-Russia the harvest-home feast is
known by the name of Talaka 3 , a name which is
given also to a girl who plays the leading part in it,
as may be seen from the following song :

Good evening, Talaka !

Take, take from us

This sheaf of corn,

And put on, put on

This fair crown with flowers.

3 Toloka in some parts of Eussia means the gathering of the
hay or corn harvest by the united labour of a man's neighbours, and
Tol6k is a threshing-floor, or a corn-field left to lie fallow.


With these good things we will go

To the Lord and Master,

We will bring to him

Thy good fortune into his rooms.

He, the Lord and Master,

Will make ready for us the DojinoJc [Harvest-home].

When the Talaka is brought in procession to a house,
the master and mistress come out to meet her with
low salutations, and the offering of bread and salt.
Then she is invited indoors, and given the place of
honour during the ensuing feast, at the end of which
she takes off her crown, and gives it to the master
of the house.

In olden times these customs were probably of a
sacrificial nature the sheaf, for instance, which is
now taken home and placed under the ikona, or holy
picture, having originally been intended, in all pro-
bability, as an offering to the gods. A very evident
trace of sacrifice is manifest in the custom of leaving
patches of unreaped corn in the fields, and of placing
bread and salt on the ground near them. These ears
are eventually knotted together, and the ceremony is
called " the plaiting of the beard of Volos," and it is
supposed that after it has been performed no wizard or
other evilly-disposed person will be able to hurt the
produce of the fields. The unreaped patch is looked
upon as tabooed ; and it is believed that if any one
meddles with it he will shrivel up, and become twisted
like the interwoven ears. Similar customs are kept
up in various parts of Russia. Near Kursk and
Voroneje, for instance, a patch of rye is usually left


in honour of the Prophet Elijah, and in another dis-
trict one of oats is consecrated to St. Nicholas. As
it is well known that both the Saint and the Prophet
have succeeded to the place once held in the estimation
of the Eussian people by Perun, it seems probable that
Yolos really was, in ancient times, one of the names of
the thunder-god 4 .

Volos in olden times was known as the God of
Cattle, and in that capacity he, together with Perun,
is appealed to in the oath by which Svyatoslaf ratified
his treaty with the Greeks. Various explanations of
his name have been offered, Sabinin connecting it
with that of Odin, which sometimes passed in the
mouths of the people, through the form Woden or
Wode into that of Wold orW61,and Prince Yyazemsky
connecting Veles, one of the forms of the name,
with the Greek )8eXtos, d/k'Xios = 17X105. Afanasief
considers that the name was originally one of the
epithets of Perun, who, as the cloud-compeller the
clouds being the cattle of the sky was the guardian
of the heavenly herds, and that the epithet ultimately
became regarded as the name of a distinct deity.

In Christian times the honours originally paid to
Volos were transferred to his namesake, St. VLas, or

4 For a similar custom, anciently observed in Mecklenburg in
honour of Woden, see Grimm's Deutsche Myihologie, p. 141.
Dr. Mannhardt, in an article recently published (in Eussian) by
the Moscow Archa3ological Society, suggests that, in ancient times,
the Slavonians may have plaited their beards in Assyrian fashion,
and adduces in support of his suggestion the testimony of an urn
found in a Wendish tomb near Dantzic in 1855, on which is repre-
sented the face of a man with a barred or chequered beard.

VOLOS. 253

Ylasy [Blasius], who was a shepherd by profession.
To him the peasants throughout Russia pray for the
safety of their flocks and herds, and on the day con-
secrated to him [February 11] they drive their cows
to church, and have them secured against misfortune
by prayer and the sprinkling of holy water. At the
same time they carry offerings of butter to the church,
and place them in front of St. Ylas's picture a
custom which has given rise to the saying " Ylas's
bread is in butter 1"

In times of murrain, when the villagers are " ex-
pelling the Cow-Death " in solemn procession, they
almost invariably carry with them the picture of St.
Ylas, singing as they go a song which will be quoted
in full hereafter, calling on the epidemic to depart,
seeing that St. Ylas is going through the village.

With incense, and with taper,
And with burning embers.

The 1st of September is called Semen Den\
Simeon's Day, being consecrated to St. Simeon Sty-
lites. He is popularly known as Simeon Lyetopro-
vodets, or year-leader, inasmuch as the Russian year
formerly began with his feast. After Christianity had
been introduced into Russia the 1st of March was
for some time accepted as the commencement of the
Ecclesiastical year, and the 1st of September as
that of the Civil year. In 1348 a Council held at
Moscow decided that the latter of these two days
should be accepted, both by Church and State, as
their New Year's Day, and accordingly it held that


position, as has already been stated, until the year
1700 5 .

The first week of September bears the name of
Seminskaya Nedyela or Simeon's Week, and it is also
known as the Bab'e Lyeto or Woman's Summer.
Some critics have derived the name from that of the
cluster of stars called in Russia Baba [the Pleiades],
which is apparent at that time of year ; but it seems
really to be due to the fact that, after the harvest is
over, and all field-work is ended for the year, the
babas, or women, betake themselves to what is called
special " woman's work ' : (bab'i rabotui), such as
spinning, etc. At this season the peasants predict
what the coming winter will be like, judging by the
abundance or rarity of the gossamer webs the
German Alteweibersommer [D. M. 744] in the fields.
By the Carpathian Slavonians this season of the
year is called Bobbin Moroz the Woman's Frost ; and
a legend is current among them of an old sorceress
who was frozen to death on the heights, a story
which may have been invented in order to explain
the strange appearance of one of those stone female
statues which used to stand by the roadside in some
parts of Transylvania.

In the villages near Moscow the peasants extin-
guish all their fires on the eve of the 1st of Septem-
ber, and light them anew the next morning at sunrise,
the kindling being performed by the " Wise Men " or
"Wise Women" of the neighbourhood, who employ

* Tereshcheiiko, in. 10. See supra, p. 203.


special incantations and spells on the occasion. On
this day the swallows are supposed to hide or bury
themselves in wells. It is also set aside for a very
singular funeral ceremony performed by the girls in
many parts of Russia. They make small coffins of
turnips and other vegetables, enclose flies and other
insects in them, and then bury them with a great
show of mourning 6 . An equally strange eustom is
the expulsion of tarakans 7 , which takes place on
the eve of St. Philip's Fast, when a thread is fastened
to one of these obtrusive insects, and all the inmates
of a cottage, with closed lips, unite in drawing it out
of doors. While the " expulsion " is going on, one
of the women of the family stands with dishevelled
hair at a window, and when the tarakan nears the
threshold she knocks and asks,

" On what do ye feast ?" [before beginning to fast];
to which the reply is,
" On beef."

" And the Tarakan on what ?" she continues.
" The Tarakan on Tarakans," is the answer.

If this ceremony is properly performed, they think
it will prevent the tarakans from returning. The
" Old Believers," however, deem such acts of expul-

8 It has been already mentioned that the soul was often repre-
sented by the heathen Slavonians as a fly, gnat, or other insect.
See supra, p. 118.

7 The Tarakans are a kind of cockroaches. They must not be
confounded with some other insects of a sturdy nature, and not
easily to be expelled, or in any way subdued, which the people
call Prusdki or " Prussians."



sion wrong, thinking that the presence of such insects
brings with it blessing from on high.

September is apt to be a gloomy month in Russia
as far as the weather is concerned. And as the
weather has its influence on the spirits, a number of
proverbs are current with reference to the month,
such as, " As surly as September," " September's
spleen has seized him," or "He has Septembrian

But a good deal of merriment takes place among
the peasants, however ungenial the weather may be,
this being the season for commencing such autumn
games as the following, which is called " The Beer
Brewing." The younger women of the village, fol-
lowed by a festive rout, go from cottage to cottage,,
offering braga millet-beer first to the old, and then
to the young. Afterwards the choir-leader com-
mences the following song, during the singing of
which the girls imitate the gestures of a drunken
man :

On the hill have we brewed beer,
Lado mine, Lado, beer have we brewed !
For that beer shall we all meet together,
On account of that beer shall we all part asunder :
That beer will make us all bend the knee in dance,
That beer will cause us to lie down to sleep.
For that beer shall we stand up again,
On account of that beer shall we all clap our hands.
With that beer shall we all become drunken,
Now on account of that beer shall we all take to
quarrelling 8 .

8 Tereshchcnko, v. 146.


With September begins also the threshing-season,
The day on which a farmer begins to thresh his corn
is looked upon, in many parts of Russia, as the name-
day of his ovin. [The word, which is closely con-
nected with the German Of en and our oven 9 , means
the corn-kiln, or place in which the corn is dried
before being submitted to the flail]. On the pre-
ceding evening he begins to heat the ovin, and next
morning he calls together the threshers, and regales
them with kasha. After the meal they stick a few
ears into each corner of the barn or corn-kiln, in
order that their labours may prove richly productive,
and then they fall to work, usually commencing with
the sheaf which was gathered the first at harvest-
time. The ovin has always enjoyed a share of the
respect paid to the domestic hearth. In olden days
it seems to have been customary for the peasants
" to pray under the ovin" for that practice is ex-
pressly forbidden, together with many other hea-
thenish customs, by the " Ecclesiastical Ordinance"
of St. Vladimir, and one of the old' chroniclers says
of the people that " they pray to Fire under the ovin."
In the Orel Government it is still usual to kill a
fowl in the ovin on the 4th of September ; in some
other places a cock is sacrificed there on the 1st
of November. In the Government of Yaroslaf a
peasant who feels a pain in his loins [wm], will go

' Ulfilas translates the Greek K\ij3avo<s by Auhns, in Matt. VT.
30, where our version has " cast into the oven." The Salvonic
equivalent used in the Ostromir Gospel (A..D. 1056-7) is peshcfi,
the modern pech, a stove.



to the lower part (podlaz) of the ovin, rub his
against the wall, and say,

Father Ovin, cure my utin.

Hence the old proverb says, " Churches are not
like ovins : in them [i. e. the former] the holy
pictures are all alike," i. e. it's all one whether
you pray in your own parish church or in any
other. But the old heathen worship of the domestic
hearth, or of the ovin, was confined to such
places only as belonged to each individual wor-

The 6th of September is one of the two principal
days the other being the 6th of December set
aside for the celebration of the Bratchina, or bro-
therly feast [brat = brother], held at the common
expense. On each of those days the villagers go in
a body to church, and there offer a large candle and
have a service performed for the gaining of all things
good. Afterwards they feast together and entertain
hospitably their friends from the neighbouring vil-
lages. The relics of the meal are given to the poor,
and any bread-crumbs that may remain undisposed
of are tossed into the air, in order to propitiate the
unclean spirits that might be tempted to destroy the
trees or the cornfields.

Various other feasts of a similar nature are held
after the harvest is over, such as the Ssuipchina,
one to which the feasters contribute the necessary
ingredients [ssuipaf =. to pour in together] . On these
occasions offences which may have been committed


during the summer, such as trespassings and the like,
are forgiven, and much good-will crowns the feast
unless it ends in a quarrel brought about by drink.
Meanwhile the young people betake themselves to
their circling dances, and sing such convivial songs
as the following :

At the feast was I, at the gathering,

Mead I drank not, nor small beer.

Vodka delicious I drank, I drank.

Not in a cup, nor a glass,

But a bucketful I drank, I drank.

Home I went without wandering,

But to the yard when I came, there I staggering

Clung to the posts of the door.

Oaken door-post of mine,

Hold me up, the drunken woman,

The drunken woman, the tipsy rogue 1 .

The 8th of September, in the year 1380, was a
memorable day for Russia, for on it the great victorv
was gained at Kulikovo by Dmitry Donskoi over the
forces of the Tartar Khan Mamai. In memory of
the Christian warriors who fell upon this occasion a
solemn festival was instituted by the conqueror, and
was held for many years between the 18th and the
26th of October. In 1769 Catherine II. ordered
the day of its celebration to be changed to that of
the commemoration of the beheading of St. John the
Baptist, August 29. The battle of Kulikovo having
been fought on a Saturday, the day of its comme-
moration has received the name of Dmitriefskaya

1 Tereshchenko, v. 149 152.

s 2


Subbota, Dmitry's Saturday a name now given by
the peasants to the autumnal festival they hold every
year in remembrance of their ancestors and dead
relatives. If at that time a thaw follows the first
frosts of winter, the people say, Eoditeli otdokhnut,
" the Fathers enjoy repose," for they hold, as will be
seen in the chapter on Funeral Songs, that the dead
suffer from cold, as well as from hunger, in the grave.
On the day of the commemoration the peasants
attend a church service, and afterwards they go out
to the graves of their friends, and there institute a
feast, lauding amidst many tears the virtues and
good qualities of the dead, and then drinking to
their eternal rest. So important a feature in the
ceremony is this drinking, that it has given rise to
a proverb, " One begins for the repose of the dead,
and one goes on for one's own pleasure." It is
customary on such occasions to hand over a por-
tion of the articles provided for the feast to the
officiating ecclesiastics and their assistants, a fact
to which allusion is made in the popular saying,
" It is not always Dmitry's Saturday with priestly

During the part of the winter preceding that Christ-
mas festival of Kolyada with an account of which the
present chapter commenced, the principal amuse-
ments of the younger members of a village community
are found in the Posidyelki which have already been
described. It is to a great extent at these social
gatherings that the courtship of young Russians
of the agricultural class is carried on courtship


which, in the great majority of cases, leads to a mar-
riage, some day after the cares and toils of harvest
are over. How many relics of the past are still
preserved in the customs attendant upon a Russian
marriage, and how rich it is in old songs, the next
chapter will attempt to show.



HAVING formed some idea of the various other divi-
sions of the Obryddnuiya Pyesni, or Ritual Songs
many of them relics of pagan worship or mythical
doctrine which, after having undergone a more or
less serious change, have come down to our own
times, and still live in the memories and on the lips
of the Russian peasantry we will now proceed to
glance at that mass of popular poetry which is closely
connected with the social life of the people, specially
consecrated to days of family joy or mourning. The
principal occasions on which songs of this kind may
be heard are those of a wedding or of a burial, and
therefore it is mainly to the marriage and funeral
customs of the Russian people that this chapter and
the next will be devoted. The Marriage Songs
alone are numerous enough to form a bulky volume;
but all that can be done here is to attempt, in a
hasty sketch, to convey some idea of their nature and
their worth.

Before introducing the songs themselves, it will be
necessary to give some account of the marriage
customs and rites which they, for the most part,


accompany and illustrate. These customs differ
somewhat in the various districts of Russia, but their
purport is always the same, however much their form
may have been warped by time or accident. Teresh-
chenko has devoted to the subject a volume of 618
pages, giving a detailed account of the mode of con-
ducting a marriage in nine distinct Russian provinces,
as well as in Little-Russia, White-Russia, and Li-
thuania. In the rapid sketch of a peasant wedding
in the present day which I am about to give, I
shall partly rely upon the animated picture drawn
by Ruibnikof [in. 347-409] of a marriage in the
neighbourhood of Lake Onega, and partly upon that
contained in the eighth chapter of Tereshchenko's
exhaustive treatise.

In the districts to which Ruibnikof s account
refers, " the marriage ceremony has developed," he
remarks, "into a complete scenic representation,"
of which, in order to understand it aright, it is
necessary to be familiar with this list of


The Knyaz [Prince], i. e. The Bridegroom.
The Knyazhnd, or

Knyaginya 1 [Princess], i. e. The Bride.
The Tmsyatskif [Captain

or Chief], i. e. The chief of the Bride-
groom's party.
The Druzhlri [drug friend], i. e. The Groomsmen.

1 In Russian an unmarried princess is called Knyazlma, a married
one Knyaginya.

2 Tuisyacha = 1000.


The Baydre 3 [Lords], i. e. The male members of

the bridal cortege,
called also Poyezzhane
\_Poyezd = cortege] .

The Boydruini [Ladies], i. e. The female members of

the cortege, called also

TIcLeVoplenitsa* [Wailer] 5 i. e. The mistress of cere-
monies, who directs
the whole course
of the wedding, so
far as what takes place
in the bride's house
is concerned.

These are the principal characters, but besides
them there are also the Svat and Svakha, the male
and female match-makers, and a number of youths
and maidens who attend upon the bride and bride-
groom. In some districts, it should be observed, the
Voplenitsa is unknown.

The bride and bridegroom, in the districts of
which Ruibnikof speaks, have generally become
acquainted at the gatherings called Besyedas, and
have glided into a sort of informal engagement,
during which they have been known as a paroclilca,
or pair. At last, having ascertained that the girl's
family will not object, one autumn or winter day the
lover has begged his father or godfather to go to her

3 This term is also applied to all the members of the bridal

4 Vopit 1 = to wail or sob. She is also called the Plakalshchitsa,
(plaJcaf to cry). More will be said about her in the next


parents and ask for her hand. So the envoy has set
out on the Svdtanie, or match-making, attended by
various other members of the bridegroom's family.

They always start at night, and they choose a bye-
way, so as not to meet any one, for a meeting would
be an evil omen. Having arrived at the house of the
bride's father, they knock at the window and ask for
admission. Milosti prosim> " Do us the favour," is the
ordinary reply. When they have come in they are
asked to sit down, but they refuse. " We have not
come," they say, " to sit down, nor to feast, but to
ask in marriage. We have a Dobry Molodets*, a brave
youth ; you have a Krdsnaya Dyevttsa, a fair maiden.
Might not the two be brought together?' 3 The
parents of the bride return thanks for the compli-
ment, on which the visitors take off their caps and
sit down to a meal. When it is over the match-
makers ask for a final answer. The parents at first
plead for delay, but, if they see no objection to the
match, eventually give their consent. Upon this a
candle is lighted and placed before the holy picture,
and the contracting parties, having crossed themselves
and uttered a prayer, strike hands on the bargain,
and settle the matter. After the Rukobitie [ruled, a
hand; ~bit\ to beat] the girl generally begins to
lament, and to entreat her relatives to break off the
engagement. Let them do what else they will with

5 This is the stereotyped term in the songs for their heroes.
D6bry = good ; Molodets = (1) a youth ; (2) a young bachelor ;
(3) a gay, daring, brave young spark or springald : in this sense
the word is often accentuated Molodets.


her, she cries, she will be tlieir faithful servant;
only let them not send her away into a land of
strangers, and so forth ; or perhaps her wailing takes
a narrative form :

Not two ravens have flown together in the dark

Nor have two warriors ridden together in the open


But two match-makers have met within my home,
In the chief, the revered corner, the place of honour.
The first of them is my father dear,
The second is a match-maker from the abode of


They have taken close counsel together,
They have lighted candles of pure wax
Before the wonder-working picture,
And have crossed their bright eyes,
And have struck hand upon hand . . . 6 .

In the districts of which Tereshchenko speaks, the
Svdtanie is performed somewhat differently. Very
often it is the girl's family which makes the first
move, its members sending a Svakha, or female
match-maker, to suggest the idea of the marriage to
the youth's parents. They receive her as if in total
ignorance of her designs, and she at first pretends to
have dropped in accidentally. Presently, however,
she proceeds to business. If the idea proves accept-
able, the youth's parents in their turn send a Svat
to carry on the parleying. An agreement is soon
arrived at between the two families, and then the
young people make each other presents, and their

6 Kuibnikof, in. 3^0.


engagement is celebrated by a feast, at which only
cheerful songs are sung, such as

The nightingale flew

To the coppice green,

To the birch woods bright.

To a spray, without heeding,

The nightingale flew.

That spray so alluring,

That verdure enchanting,

The nightingale pleased,

The songster delighted :

He will not depart from it now.


And so the song goes on to say, introducing the
names of the youth and the maiden Luka Ivanovich,
without any settled purpose, came to Efim's house,
and then saw the fair Prascovia Andreevna, and,
having seen her,

Part from her he cannot,
But wed her he will 7 .

Two days after the hand- striking, continues Ruib-
nikof, begins the ceremony of poruchenie, elsewhere
called obruchenie, or betrothal. During the interval
the bride, as she may now be called, visits her rela-
tives, attended by half a score or a score of other
girls, with whom she sings various songs and
zapldchki, or laments.

Towards the end of the second day arrive the
bridegroom and his friends. The Tuisyatshj and
groomsmen lead the way, and, having left the bride-
groom and the rest of his escort at some house in the
village, go straight to the bride's house, where they

7 Tereshchenko, n. 117 124.


entreat her friends to get her ready as soon as pos-
sible. This being promised, after a fee has been
paid to the VopUnitsa, the recognized directress of the
ceremony, the bridegroom arrives with his festive
train, and the whole party sit down to a table covered
with a white cloth and provided with bread and salt.

Meanwhile the bride has been adorned in wedding
apparel, with a fata, a sort of veil, on her head and
covering her face. When she is ready her friends
form a procsesion, and bring her in state to the table
at which the guests are seated. In front, together
with the Bozhatka, or Godmother, go the Peredov-
shchiki and Peredovshchitsui, the " Foremen" and
" Forewomen ' : \jpered or pred = before] . The bride
follows, leaning on the arms of two girls called
Pristavlenitsui \_Pristdvit = to set over, etcJ] When
the procession draws near to the table, the leaders
open out on both sides, and the bride is led up to
it, while the chorus of girls, standing in one of the
corners, sings what are called Pripyeval'nuiya songs
\_pripyev = accompaniment of song, or refrain ; prip-
yevdtf = to accompany with singing].

The Tuisyatsky then asks the bride's relatives to
unveil her, saying, " We have come to see not a
veil, but a bride." They comply, and the unveiled
bride bends low to the bridegroom's relatives in
general, and to the Tuisyatsky and the "Young
Prince" in particular. "Is the young Princess lyubd
[pleasing] to you ? " ask the " Foremen." The
bridegroom expresses his satisfaction by a silent
inclination of the head, but his escorters cry loudly


"Lyubd, Lyubd " [She is, she is pleasing]. "But ask
the young Princess," they continue, " if our young
Prince is lyub to her." The bride replies by a low
bow or salaam (Russian peasant women do not curt-
sey, but bow low as the men do, in oriental fashion),
but her attendants exclaim " Lyub, Lyub " [He is,
he is pleasing].

The bridegroom now rises from the table, and
hands to the bride a tray with two glasses of vodka,
the Russian whiskey. She takes them round the
bridegroom filling them as they are emptied first
to her own relatives, then to those of the bride-
groom. When all have been served, the young people
help themselves, and, having signed a cross over their
eyes, strike their glasses together, the bridegroom
trying to lift his glass highest, so as to pour some of
its contents into the bride's glass, his friends ex-
claiming, if he is successful, Ai-damolodets, "There's
a fine fellow ! " After this the bride retires from
the table, and the Voplenitsa intones a song begin-

Grant Thy blessing, Lord God,

On the holy, and happy hour,

On the prosperous time and season. . . .

Meanwhile the bride sits on a bench, and the women
of her family lament over her, bewailing her impend-
ing departure to " the land of strangers." When they
have finished, the bride herself begins to sing sadly,

No leisure have I to be sitting here,
To be talking and chattering.



The season for work has come,

The mowing time and the haymaking. . . .

Then she rises, takes the tray with glasses, and
again makes the round of the guests, whose praises
meanwhile the Voplenitsa sings, ending with those of
the bridegroom, who is helped last, describing how-
He sits there bright as a burning taper;
When he speaks it is like the giving of roubles.

His ruddiness is taken from the sun ;
His fairness from the white snow.

His cheeks are like the crimson poppy,

His bright eyes are the eyes of a hawk,

His brows are black with the blackness of a sable.

Then comes the poruchenie, the act of betrothal.
" Its essence," says Ruibnikof, " consists in this, that
the bridegroom, having lifted a glass of vodka to his
lips, should take the hand (rukd) of the bride, and
press it." After this the glasses are removed from
the table, and the bridegroom offers to the bride a
casket of presents. She takes it away from the
table, but immediately brings it back, remarking that
the key does not accompany it. The Voplenitsa ad-
dresses the bridegroom, singing,

Thou hast given a coffer of metal work,
Now give the golden key.

The bridegroom unlocks the casket, and the bride
carries it off, inspects the gifts, and then usually re-
turns her thanks in song :


Wherefore, young son of thy father,

Hast thou given me a coffer of metal-work ?

No Priest's child am I,

No Deacon's child am I,

But the child of a simple peasant.

After this she again offers spirits to the bridegroom's
relatives, who soon afterwards, having been feasted
and presented with various gifts by her family, retire
to their homes. When they have left, the bride
goes the round of her own relations, serving them
with drink, and receiving gifts from them from the
men ribbons and kerchiefs, and from the women
shifts and pieces of different stuffs, and the like.

After the betrothal come two or three Vecherinki,
or social gatherings, of which the last, on the eve of
the wedding, is the most important. In the central
provinces of Russia this is known as the DyevwJmik,
[dyeva, dyevitsa = a maiden] . Of this " girls' party ' :
we will now give a description, following the account
given by Tereshchenko [n. 126 130]. The day before
the wedding the bride's unmarried friends meet at
her house, and spend the evening with her, bewailing
her coming departure, consoling her in her grief, and
inspecting her wedding-dress and presents. When
it grows dark a number of candles are lighted, and
Khlyeb-sol', bread and salt, and Karavai, a particular
kind of cake, are placed on the table. The girls then
lead the bride to a raised seat, and group themselves
around her in a ring. One of their number wraps the
bride's head in the wedding-veil, and leads the songs,
in which, accompanied with many tears, they describe


her impending departure from among them, and the
altered form of life which she will have to adopt. After
a time they take off the bride's veil, and begin comb-
ing her " ruddy tresses." Unmarried Russian girls
wear their back hair hanging in a long, single plait,
adorned with ribbons and sometimes, especially in
Little-Russia, with flowers. This plait, called Jcosd 8
is a maiden's chief ornament, the cherished object of
her care, the principal source of her girlish pride.
Its unplaiting is a sign of the change which is coming
upon her, for married women do not wear the Jcosd.
Their back hair, if it is not cut short, is worn in two
plaits, which are generally wound round the head,
and concealed under a kerchief.

During the unplaiting of the Jcosd the girl who
superintends the operation begins to sing,

my plait, my plaitiing,
My dear plait,
Ruddy and golden !

And the girl who is assisting her replies,

Early is it to unplait thee,
And for the long journey,
The long one to prepare thee !

When the bride's tresses have been combed out, and
her Jcosd is about to be plaited anew, she sings,

Not for gold do I mourn,
Nor mourn I for bright silver.
For one thing only do I mourn.
For the maiden beauty
Of my ruddy Jcosd.

8 Kosoi = slanting, bent. Kosd has several meanings, signifying
for instance, a scythe, a curved spit of land, etc.


To which one of her friends replies,

Weep not, weep not, dear Prascovia,
Make not unhappy the fair maidens,
Stain not with tears their white faces,
Nor break the strength of their hands !
Not for ever shall we remain unmarried,
Singing of our maiden freedom.

While the Jcosd is being replaited the chorus sings,

thou my dear, my ruddy Jcosd I
thou my dear, my silken JcosniJc 9 !
Do thou plait, my bride,
Plait thy braid, ever so finely,
Tie the knots, ever so tightly !

When the plait has been braided as tight as possible,
and tied with blue laces, the bridegroom's brother, the
Svakha, or some other personage deputed for the pur-
pose, arrives, and begins bidding for it. To the sale
of the Jcosd a great many songs are devoted, such as,

It was not a horn that in the early morning sounded ;

It was a maiden her ruddy braid lamenting.

Last night they twined my braid together,

And interweaved my braid with pearls.

Luka Ivanovich Heaven requite him !

Has sent a pitiless SvaJcJia hither.

My braid has she begun to rend.

Tearing out the gold from my braid,

Shaking the pearls from my ruddy braid.

The intending purchaser stands at the door, and
bows to the company. Then he tries to get at the
Jcosd, but the girls keep him off, while the bride
weeps and sobs. Turning to her brother, or to one
of the girls who represents him, she entreats him to

9 The Jcosnik is the bunch of ribbons at the end of the Jcosd.



defend her, and not to sell her kosd, or at all events
not to sell it cheaply. The girls sing,

Stand to it, brother !


Brother, hold out !
Sell not thy sister
For a rouble, for gold.

The brother replies,

Dear to a brother is a sister,
But dearer still is gold.

Then in chorus the girls exclaim,
Tartar of a brother !


The purchaser now goes up to the bride, and lays
hold of her kosd, throwing money on the table as a
sign that it has been sold and bought. This sale, in
the north-east districts to which Ruibnikof's account
refers, takes place the next day, just before the bride
goes to the church.

After the sale of the Jcosd has taken place, the
girls sit down to table, and sing the Karavai [cake]


The Karavai

For all the family is fit.

Let the young Princess,

Taste it to-morrow ;

Then will the young Prince

Love the young Princess.

In some places it is believed that if the bride tastes
the cake on the eve of the wedding her husband will
not love her. After the cake song, a number of others
are sung, their tone being generally in accordance
with the feelings displayed by the bride.



One of the most poetic of the ideas to which the
ceremonies of this girls' party gives expression, is
the division by the bride of her krdsota among her
maiden companions. The word usually means
" beauty," but, on this particular occasion, it is
applied to " a kind of crown made of ribbons and
flowers," which is placed on the table before the
bride. It is intended to represent the ornaments
which she used to twine in her braided hair in her
girlish days, and so to typify the maiden liberty which
she is about to exchange for the subjection of married
life. Of the songs devoted to this subject, the
number of which is very great, the following is a fair
example :

my friend, beloved companion,
Whither shall I send my beauty ?
Shall I let it go into the woods ?

Soon will it lose its way.
Shall I let it go into the meads ?

Long will it wander about.
Shall I let it go down to the stream ?

There will its feet be set fast.

1 will give my beauty

To my dear companion,
To that sweet fair maiden,

Dear Olinka.
With her my beauty

Will find a shelter ;

The darling one will be lapped in ease.
. A mother of her own has she,

A father of her own ;
Brothers has she, bright falcons,

Fair swans are their wives 1 .

1 Tereshchenko, n. 323.
T 2


After supper the girls retire for the night, to
return the next morning and prepare the bride for
the marriage ceremony.

We will now proceed with Ruibnikof's account.
Part of the day preceding the marriage, he says, is
spent by the bride in paying farewell visits to her
relatives. To her godfather she addresses the fol-
lowing zaplachka, or lament :

I have come to thee, my bright Sun,

Beloved parent Godfather,

I, the young one, have come to thee,

To bend low my forehead, and bow down.

Do thou forgive me, father dear !

I have been a giddy girl ; . . . .

Bless me, father dear,

With an enduring benediction !

And before her godmother she sings,

Farewell, my own,

Thou never-enough-to-be-looked-on Sun !

Bless me, my mother,

Bless, and be not angry ;

Remember not, my own,

My girlish follies,

My careless words !

Some of the bride's relatives spend the night before
the wedding in her father's house. In the morning
she awakes them with laments devoted to that pur-
pose. Afterwards she addresses one of her married
friends, asking her what parting with one's kith and
kin (rod-plemya) is like. The reply is that-
Hard is it to part
From one's kith and kin,
From one's father and mother.


Hard is it to become accustomed

To another family,

To another father and mother ....

Presently the Svalcha begins^to unplait her braided
hair for the last time, amid much wailing song.
When the operation has been performed, the bride is
arrayed in wedding attire. Meantime, in some places,
the bridegroom and his friends or the friends only,
the bridegroom having gone on to the church have
come to the house, and are waiting in the Syeni 2 at
the open doors. They beg that the bride may be
brought to them, and at last, after their request has
been many times repeated, the " Princess " appears,
attended by her relatives and attendants, but stops
short at the door. Again the bridegroom's friends
demand the bride, but are told first to " Cleanse the
threshold ; then will the young Princess cross the
threshold." On this the bridegroom's friends place
some copper coins in a bowl, and offer them to the
bride's relatives, who take a grosh or two apiece, and
then open their ranks, and let the bride pass through
into the Syeni. There they all "pray to God," and
then if the bridegroom is present lead the young
people up to each other. The bridegroom places one
hand on the bride's head, and with the other turns
her round three times " as the sun goes," while in

2 This word is a very difficult one to translate. In the houses of
the " gentry " it means the antechambers, or rooms through which
admission is gained to the reception-rooms. In a peasant's house
it represents the space not devoted to the " keeping-rooms." I
have sometimes translated it by " the passages."


doing so, if lie is adroit, he gives her a kiss. Then
they enter the " living-room," and sit down to table,
after the bridegroom has given a present to the
children of the family, who have previously occupied
all the places, in order to induce them to give up
their seats. About this time, in the districts of which
Euibnikof speaks, takes place the sale of the bride,
which, in the province referred to by Tereshchenko,
occurs at the girls* party on the previous evening.
The Tuisyatsky makes the purchase, handing money
to the bride's female relatives till they pretend to be
satisfied, on which the groomsmen cry, " Ye have
sold the bride : she is yours no more." After this
they prepare to go to church, but not before the
bride has received her mother's last blessing. This
is conferred at various times in different districts,
but always in the same manner. The mother takes
the holy image from the corner of honour, and blesses
her daughter with it. To this ceremony the last
lines refer in the following song. The word Sudd-
ruinya, which occurs in it, is an abbreviation of Gosu-
ddruinya, lady or mistress :

" Matushka ! what is that dust on the plain ?
Sudaruinya ! what is that dust on the plain ?"
" My child, the horses have galloped about :
My darling, the horses have galloped about."

" Matushka ! guests to our courtyard have 'come !
Sudaruinya ! guests to our courtyard have come !"
" My child, do not fear, we will not give thee up :
My darling, fear not, we will not give thee up."

" Matushka ! now they are mounting the steps !
Sudaruinya ! now they are mounting the steps !"


" My child, do not fear, we will not give thee up ;
My darling, fear not, we will not give thee up."

" Matushka ! into the house 3 have they gone !
Sudaruinya ! into the house have they gone !"
" My child, do not fear, we will not give thee up ;
My darling, fear not, we will not give thee up."

" Matushka ! at the oak table they sit !
Sudaruinya ! at the oak table they sit."
" My child, do not fear, we will not give thee up;
My darling, fear not, we will not give thee up."

" Matushka ! down has the picture 4 been taken !
Sudaruinya ! down has the picture been taken !"
" My child, do not fear, we will not give thee up;
My darling, fear not, we will not give thee up."

" Matushka ! see, they are blessing me now !
Sudaruinya ! see, they are blessing me now ! "
" My child! may the Lord be ever with thee !
My darling ! may God be ever with thee 5 !"

As soon as the young couple arrive in the church,
says Tereshchenko, the priest begins the wedding
service. Over the heads of the bride and bridegroom
the groomsmen hold crowns [vyentsui, whence the
rite is called vyenchanie, or crowning]. The crowns
must be allowed to press to some extent on the
head, for if, in order to prevent the bride from being
wearied, her crown is kept actually above her head,
the peasants augur ill for the happiness of her

8 The novaya gornitsa, literally, " the new apartment," but the
epithet has no real meaning.

4 The obraz, or icona the sacred picture taken down from the
wall, in order to be used in the maternal benediction.

5 Tereshchenko, u. 134.


married life. But if it is allowed to drop on IK
head, terrible misfortunes are expected. Omens are
looked for also in the burning of the tapers which
the young people hold in their hands.

When the nuptial benediction is pronounced the
priest puts the wedding rings on their fingers, and
then, having joined their hands with a piece of white
linen, he leads them round the reading-desk. After-
wards he three times gives them red wine to drink,
and tells them to kiss each other. The ceremony is

over 6 ,

The bridegroom now leads his bride, says Ruibni-
kof, to his home. On the top of the steps leading
into the house his father and mother meet the
young couple, and bless them with bread and salt,
while some of the other relatives pour over them
barley and down, and give them fresh milk to drink ;
the first that they may live in harmony and happi-
ness, and the second " that their children may be
not black, but white." The young people enter the
house and sit down on a bench, the Princess [now
no longer called Knyazhnd but Knyaginya, as being
a married woman] hiding her face from sight with a
handkerchief. Then comes her mother-in-law, or an
aunt, takes away the handkerchief, divides her loosely
hanging tresses into two parts, and sets on her head
the PovoiniJc, or married woman's headdress. After
that begins the Knyazhenetsky Stol or " Princely
Table," the " wedding-breakfast J: of Russian pea-

' Tereshchenko, n. 136 137.


sant life, which is celebrated with great mirth and
spirit. Towards the end of it the young couple
retire to their chamber, round which, in old times, one
of the party, called a KlyetniJc, used to watch.

The next day, after having taken a bath, the
young wife makes presents to the relations of her
" Prince," and to the TuisyatsJcy, and a little later
her husband goes to his mother-in-law's house, where
she offers him an omelette. It is customary for him
to make a hole in the middle of the omelette, into
which a groomsman pours maslo butter, or oil and
then breaks the pot from which the maslo was taken.

Some days later a dinner is given by the bride's
mother to all the relatives on both sides, at the end
of which a number of presents are made. And at
the end of a week the bride's family are entertained
by the bridegroom. Finally each of the persons who
took part in the wedding invites the young couple
either to a dinner or an evening entertainment.

[Ruibnikof asked how much the poorest peasant would have to
pay when his daughter was married, without counting church fees,
and the following list of expenses was made out for him :
For entertainments, etc. . . . 8 to 10 roubles

For 1 or 2 vedros of spirits . . . . ' 8 16

(The vedro being about 2| gallons).

To bridegroom's father, 3 shirts and 3 towels . 2 5
To bridegroom's mother, 6 shifts and 10 towels 4 7
To bridegroom's parents, a counterpane each . \ 1 ,,
For presents to Tuisyatsky . . . . 1 1-fc
To the bryudgi, a shift each . . . 2 6

To others, towels and shirts . . . . 2 6

Or from about 4. 7 . 8*. to 81. 6s. of our money,


So much is this tax felt by the poorer peasants, that in some cases,
says Ruibnikof, they allow their daughters to make " run-away
marriages," in order that the expense of a regular wedding may
be avoided. In such cases the marriage is formally solemnized in
a church, but the domestic rites are omitted.]

This sketch of the nuptial customs of the present
day will, I hope, assist in rendering more intelligible
than they would otherwise have been, the specimens
of marriage songs which will follow. Some of them
are specially interesting and valuable, inasmuch as
there may be discovered in them traces of the habits
and customs of the heathen Slavonians with respect
to marriage, a subject on which no great amount of
direct light has been thrown by history.

The earliest of the chroniclers of Old-Russia, the
monk Nestor, writing towards the close of the
eleventh century he died about A.D. 1114 states that
very different ideas, with respect to wedlock, pre-
vailed in heathen times among the various Slavonic
tribes in the neighbourhood of the Dniester.

There were the Drevlyane, he says, who were un-
acquainted with marriage, but who " carried off girls
at the water," probably taking advantage of their
coming out to the river for water 7 . Among several
other tribes, he remarks, such as the Syeveryane, for
instance, a milder custom prevailed. Their young
men were in the habit of carrying off their brides, it
is true, seizing upon them during the religious festi-

7 Solovief thinks that the words " among them there was no
marriage," merely mean that the Drevlyane paid no attention to
the wishes of the families from which they took their wives. 1st.
Ross. T. 74.


vals which they celebrated from time to time in the
villages, but then the capture or abduction was per-
formed with the consent of the girls themselves. The
Polyane, on the other hand, had regular marriages, on
the occasion of which a dowry was paid, namely, a sum
of money given to the bride's parents in return for
their consent. For if the bride was not captured, at
all events she was purchased. This custom is -sup-
posed to be typified in the game and choral song
called " The Sowing of the Millet." The singers
form two choirs, which face each other and exchange
winged words. This song, it is as well to remark,
belongs to the class of those devoted to vernal rites,
a fact which may account for the invocation of Lado,
the deity of the Spring and of Love, which is repeated
after every line of the original.
The first chorus begins,

We have sown, we have sown millet,
Oi Did-Lado, we have sown !

To which the other replies,

But we will trample it, trample it,
Oi Did-Lado, will trample it.

Then they sing alternately,

1 . But with what will ye trample it ?

2. Horses will we turn into it.

1. But we will catch the horses.

2. What will ye catch them with ?

1. With a silken rein.

2. But we will ransom the horses.

1. What will ye ransom them with ?

2. We will give a hundred roubles.


1. A thousand is not what we want.

2. What is it then ye want ?
1. What we want is a maiden.

On this one of the girls in the second choir goes
over to the first, the two sides singing respectively,
" Our band has lost," and " Our band has gained."
The game lasts until all the girls have gone over
from one side to the other 8 . In a corresponding
Servian song the winning side says in plain terms,
" If ye will not give us a maiden, we will take one
by force."

To the forcible carrying away of the bride seems
to refer, says Orest Miller, " a long series of
nuptial songs from all parts, not only of Russia, but
of the whole Slavonic world." In them the bride-
groom is spoken of as a foreigner and a stranger,
who has been wafted, Heaven knows whence, by a
black cloud, and who is surrounded by brave com-
panions, hostile to the bride. Even among the
Czekhs, whose ideas have been considerably modified
by foreign influences, the arrival of the bridegroom
is still announced by the words, " The enemy is
near at hand." " The bridegroom, that evil thief, has
come," says a Vologda song. In Russia he is often
called, also, after the invaders of the land, the Tartars
or the Lithuanians.

In order to get at the bride the bridegroom has " to
batter down the walls of stone," to " let fly the arrow
of pearl," to " shatter the guarding locks." She

8 Sakharof, I. iii. 27.


looks upon him as her destroyer, for whom she must
unplait her maiden braid, by whom her girlish beauty
will be ruined. One of the many acts in the long
drama, as it were, which is performed at every pea-
sant wedding, consists in a representation of the
attack and defence of the bride. Thus, in Little-
Russia, when the bride's tresses have been un-
plaited, and the cap is being put on her head, she is
bound to resist with all her might, and even to fling
her cap angrily on the ground. Then the grooms-
men, at the cry of " Boyars, to your swords ! " pre-
tend to seize their knives and make a dash at the
bride, who is thereupon surrounded by her friends
who come rushing to the rescue 9 .

In some parts of Russia, on the eve of the mar-
riage, all the doors of the house and the gates of the
yard are closely shut, and when the bridegroom
comes they are not opened until after long parleys,
which evidently refer to the purchase of the bride,
Numbers of the songs refer to such bargains. One
of them, for instance, tells how the " match-makers "
arrived, and how, taking aside the bride's father,

9 " The hurling of old shoes after the bridegroom among our-
selves may be a relic of a similar custom. It is a sham assault on
the person carrying off the lady, and in default of any more
plausible explanation, and we know of none such, it may fairly be
considered as probable that it is the form of capture in its last
state of disintegration." For an exhaustive account of " the
origin of the form of capture in marriage ceremonies," see the
erudite book from which this somewhat doubtful suggestion is
taken, Mr. J. F. McLennan's " Primitive Marriage." Edinburgh,
1865, 8vo.


They began to inquire about the white swan,
Began to fix the price of her dear unfettered free-

Then thus does the father fix the terms,

" Let her freedom be set at a hundred roubles,

And her ruddy tresses at a thousand,

But the beauteous maiden is beyond all price."

On hearing this the chief of the match-makers
begins to brag, and promises the father shall receive
" towns with their suburbs, and villages with their
surroundings." Finding this of no avail, he tries"
the effect of flattery, praising the residence of the
stubborn father, and the gait and speech of his
young son. But, continues the fair cause of the

Not on that account would my father give way,

Nor would he barter away my dear unfettered free-

But cunning was the evil one, the chief manager of
the marriage.

Close up to my father did he press,

Low before him did he bow down,

Promising him, once and again,

Forty measures of green wine,

Forty casks of mighty beer.

On that my parents did give way,

And bartered away my freedom and liberty

For that sweet green wine,

For those small wine cups.

Ruinously did they drink away their possessions,

And squandered my freedom on debauchery 1 .


1 Kuibnikof, in. 353 354.


In the olden days, to which these songs are sup-
posed to refer, women were not thought worthy of
any great respect, and if the bride's parents were
unwilling to part with her it may have been because
they did hot like the idea of losing a useful servant,
or of transferring to other people " a living broom
or shovel" to make use of a popular Slavonian de-
finition of a woman. In those patriarchal times a
daughter was utterly at the mercy of her parents,
and they might even sell her if it so pleased them.
And in one sense it may be said that it did please
them so to do, only the girl's purchaser was her
future husband, and the purchase-money formed a
species of dowry for their benefit.

But although her parents have treated her cruelly
in thus bartering away her liberty for money, yet the
bride mourns bitterly at having to part from them.
They may have betrothed her during her infancy,
swinging her away from them in her cradle the
Russian cradle being suspended instead of being
placed on rockers according to the expression used
by a young wife in the following song :

my Father !
O my Mother !
When did ye ruin me ?
Then did ye ruin me,
When my mother bare me,
And having borne me, laid me in the cradle,
And three times swung me.
The first time, alas !
To an unknown land.


The next time, alas !

To an unknown father.
The third time, alas !

To an unknown mother 2 .

But it grieves her to have to leave her old home,
to give up her maiden liberty for a wife's state of
subjection, and to pass from among kindly and
familiar faces into a circle of unfriendly strangers.
Such are the expressions used in one of the numerous
songs of which some account has already been given,
those sung during the unplaiting of the bride's Jcosd,
or plait of hair :

In the house of my own father,

In the house of my own mother,
I used to comb you, ruddy tresses

Amidst the oaks afield.
I used to wash you, ruddy tresses,

In fountain water cool.
I used to dry you, ruddy tresses,
On the steep red steps in front of the house,
In the rosy light of the rising sun.
But now in that unknown, far off land,

In the house of my husband's father,

In the house of my husband's mother,
I shall have to comb you, ruddy tresses,

Within a curtain'd recess.
I shall have to wash you, O ruddy tresses,

In the wave of my bitter tears.
I shall have to dry you, ruddy tresses

In the longing of my grief 3 .

2 Orest Miller, Chrestomathy, I. 20. Quoted from a Pskof col

3 Orest Miller, Ckrest. I. 21. Quoted from a Perm collection.
I have taken the liberty of turning the kosd into " tresses.'


When she thinks of the family into which she
is about to marry, the bride (in what are supposed
to be the older songs) shudders, looking upon its
members as " bears," or as " piercing thorns and
stinging nettles." On the other hand, she is looked
upon by them in an unfavourable light, being con-
sidered a " she-bear," a " cannibal," a " sloven," and
so forth. In one song, for instance, a girl complains
as follows :

They are making me marry a lout

With no small family.
Oh ! oh ! oh ! oh dear me !
With a father, and a mother,

And four brothers

And sisters three.

Oh ! oh ! oh ! oh dear me !
Says my father-in-law,

" Here comes a bear ! "
Says my mother-in-law,

" Here comes a slut !"
My sisters-in-law cry,

" Here comes a, do-nothing !"
My brothers-in-law exclaim,

" Here comes a mischief-maker !"
Oh ! oh ! oh ! oh dear me 4 !

She complains bitterly of the conduct of her father
and mother. In a Siberian song a daughter says
that her parents have " locked up their stony hearts
in a coffer, and flung the keys into the blue sea ; and
in a Galician song a young wife says that her wishes
have been utterly set at nought by her relatives, for,

4 Shein, I. 331.



He whom I love truly
Stands there outside.
To one whom I have never seen
Have they given my hand.

Better would it have been for her, she says, if her
father had taken his sharp sword and struck off " her
ill-fated head," than that he should have condemned
her to captivity in an unknown land ; for whither
she is going she knows no more than a leaf driven
before the wind. In some of the Bohemian nuptial
songs a very sombre future is held up before the
eyes of the bride. " Wait a little, dark-eyed maiden,"
they say to her ; " thou art destined to weep without
ceasing. After the first week of married life not a
day will pass without tears. And when a month has
gone by, thou wilt weep even more." No wonder
that the bride, finding all her appeals to her parents
fruitless, turns to her brother, and, as we have already
seen, entreats him to help her.

In some places, as has been mentioned before,
during the betrothal ceremonies a present of money
is made to the bride's brother. In Galicia, when he
accepts it the chorus sings,

Thou Tartar, brother, thou Tartar !
To sell thy sister for a thaler,
Her ruddy hair for a piece of six,
Her fair face for nothing at all.

Sometimes, however, the bride takes a more busi-
ness-like view of the transaction, as, for instance, in
the song which (in the Saratof Government) her


companions sing while the bargaining with the brother
is going on :

It is dark, dark out of doors,
But darker still in the upper chamber.
The Boyars have seized the gates,
They bargain, bargain for Dunya.
Bargain, bargain, brother,
Do not sell me cheaply !
Ask for me a hundred roubles,
For my maiden tresses ask a thousand,
But my beauty is beyond appraising.
Enter Boyars !
Enter Boyars ! .
Long have we expected you 5 .

While the trading is going on, the bridegroom, in
many districts, stands outside the door, even if it be
in the depth of winter, and must not come into the
house till the bargain is struck.

Finding her appeals to her father and brother use-
less, the bride indulges in imprecations against the
Svatui, and SvaJchi, the male and female arrangers and
managers of the marriage. In one song she entreats
her father to take the Svat out of doors, " and comb
his head with a harrow ;" in another she begs her
attendant maidens to fasten a sharp knife in her hair,
so that when the SvaJchi come to unplait it they may
cut their fingers. And in return for the service the
chief Svat has done her she hopes there may be

To him forty sons,

And to him fifty daughters.

That the sons may never get wives,

And the daughters may find no husbands.

5 Tereshchenko, n. 344.
U 2


Sometimes these imprecations are uttered, not by
the bride, but by the friends of her girlhood, who,
on the eve of her wedding, assemble at her house for
the Dyevichnik, or girls' party, of which a description
has been given. Among the numerous songs sung
on that occasion, bewailing the approaching loss of
the bride's "maiden freedom," and the "beauty'
with which that freedom is associated, is one 6 in
which a being called the "White Kika" threatens to
destroy the bride's maiden beauty, the KiJca being
here most likely a type of married life, for that word
means some sort of head-covering in many Slavonian

The songs about maiden freedom convey a favour-
able impression of the manner in which the Old
Slavonians used to treat their daughters. Not only
her mother is constantly spoken of by the bride
in terms of warm affection, but her father also.
" Where hast thou grown up, Kalinushka," asks a
Galician song [the Kalina being the guelder-rose],
" that thou hast become so slim and tall, and that
thy foliage has spread so widely?" "In the meadows
beside the fountain, beside the cool waters, away from
the wild winds, and from the scorching sun."

" Where hast thou grown up, maiden, that thou
hast become so beautiful ?" " In my father's house,
in the pleasant shade."

" Whatever the father-in-law may be like," says
one song, " he never can be the same to you as your

6 A Vologda song.


born father;" or as another more poetically expresses
it, " However warm the winter may be, yet for all
that it is not the summer." But the songs which
most graphically depict the affection existing between
parents and their daughters are those which have
special reference to the case of an orphan bride. In
them she grieves bitterly at the thought that she has
no parent to bid her God-speed on' her new path in
life, but she is not without some hope that her father
or mother will stand beside her in ghostly shape
on the day of her wedding, if not to give her away,
at least to bestow a blessing upon her.

my brothers ! ye bright falcons !
Enter into the church of God !

Strike three times on the bell !
Split open, damp mother earth !
Fly asunder ye cbffin-planks !
Unroll, brocade of gold !
And do thou rise up, father, batyushka !
Say farewell, and give me thy blessing !

1 am borne away by my own, my brothers,
Give me thy blessing, father, batyushka 7 .

In one of the Little-Russian songs a dead mother
transforms herself into a rain-cloud, and pours a
fruitful shower over the village in which her daugh-
ter is about to spend her married life. It seems
from the songs, says Orest Miller [Opuit. I. 114], as
if the severity with which parents treated their
daughters in the old "patriarchal" days, and the

7 Ruibnikof, III. 363.


state of dependence in which they held them, ha<
become greatly altered as time passed by. In what
some commentators suppose to be the oldest relics of
Slavonian nuptial poetry, the bride is purchased from
her relatives by a stranger, whom she is compelled,
much against her will, to follow to his home ; and
there she is treated by his family in a manner which
makes her look back with fond regret to the rela-
tives she has left behind. But in another group of
wedding songs, later in date than the first it is sup-
posed, but still ancient, the bride is represented as
being allowed to choose a husband for herself, and
she looks forward to being treated by his relatives as
kindly as by her own.

In the songs which are now sung by the bride, or
addressed to her, at the time of her wedding, the old
complaints are still kept up, but they are for the most
part conventional, and have but little or no real
meaning. The bride is still expected to weep and
wail at the idea of leaving her father's house, and the
bridegroom still, by deputy, goes through a form of
bargaining for her, but these customs are but symbols,
survivals from a period of sterner domestic relations.

The following account of how her mother coun-
selled Maryushka Efimovna [Mary, the daughter of
Euthymus] may be taken as a specimen of the nup-
tial songs which refer to the brides' s right of selection,
and which are more in accordance with modern sen-
timent than most of the marriage poems :

Her mother has counselled Maryushka,
Has given counsel to her dear Efimovna.


" Go not, my child,

Go not, my darling,
Into thy father's garden for apples,
. Nor catch the mottled butterflies,

Nor frighten the little birds,
Nor interrupt the clear- voiced nightingale.

For should'st thou pluck the apples

The tree will wither away ;

Or seize the mottled butterfly,

The butterfly will die.
And should'st thou frighten a little bird,

That bird will fly away;
Or interrupt the clear-voiced nightingale,

The nightingale will be mute :

But catch, my child,

My dear one, catch
The falcon bright in the open field,

The green, the open field."

Maryushka dear has caught,
Caught has the dear Ef imovna,
The falcon bright in the open field,
The green, the open field.
She has perched him on her hand,
She has brought him to her mother.
" Mother mine, Gosudaruinya,
I have caught the falcon bright 8 ."

In another song her mother leads Maryushka from
the terem, or women's chamber, into the room in
which the guests are sitting, " the young men in
bright array," and there makes her sit down by her
side, saying,

" Choose, my child,
My dear one, choose,

8 Sakharof, i. iii. 124.


Out of unknown guests a known one,
Out of the youths a youth in bright array.
For with that youth thou hast to lead thy life,
To lead thy life, and me, thy mother, to forget."

Then the maiden chooses, and tells her mother on
whom her choice has fallen, ending with the words,

With him, dear mother, will I lead my life,
But thee, my mother dear, I never will forget 9 .

Sometimes a girl who is awaiting her lover's visit,
sings thus :

Go down, ruddy sun !

But rise, thou gleaming moon !

And shine through all the night,

Through all the dark night shine,

On all the road, on every path !
So may'st thou yield thy light to my betrothed,

To my dear love Ivan ;
That so he may not miss his way,

Nor have to turn again,
Nor wander in the forest lost,

Nor in the river drenched ;
So that no evil men on him may fall,

No savage dogs may drive him far away.
Away from him my life is weary,
Away from him my life is sad 1 .

When her lover leaves her for a time he gives her
a golden ring \_persten', a signet-ring, or one set
with gems, from perst, a finger], and receives
from her a gold ring in exchange \KoVtse, a plain

9 Sakharof, I. iii. 125. l Sakharof, I. iii. 123.


circlet, like our own wedding-ring, from Kolo, a

It is not a falcon flying across the sky,
It is not a falcon scattering blue feathers,
But a brave youth galloping along the road,
Forth from his bright eyes pouring bitter tears.
He has parted from his home,
The Lower-River track, through which
In all her beauty Mother Volga flows.
He has parted from the maiden fair,
And with her as a token left

A costly diamond ring ;
And from her has he taken in exchange

A plighting ring of gold.

And while exchanging gifts thus has he spoken,
Forget me not, my dear one,
Forget me not, my loved companion.
Often, often gaze upon my ring ;
Often, often will I kiss thy circlet,
Pressing it to my beating heart,

Remembering thee, my own.
If ever I think of another love,
The golden circlet will unclasp :
Should' st thou to another suitor yield,
From the ring the diamond will fall 2 .

Sometimes she tells her companions that their
turn will come, and lovers even better than her own
will be theirs, but that she shall not envy them, so
contented will she be with her lot. She does not
now look on her suitor as her enemy, or her pur-
chaser. He is her loved one, who showers gifts on
her relatives. And those relatives, instead of regard-
ing her as a mere " living broom " to be sold into cap-

2 Shein, I. 303.



tivity, prize her, and mourn at having to part with her.
When she goes to her new home her father-in-law
shows himself in the light, not of " an evil bear,"
but of a loving parent. So happy is she that she
prefers drinking water with her husband to indulging
in mead with her mother.

Beyond the hill Khveklunka is weaving wreaths

Her mother sends messengers after her.

" Come, Khveklunka, to drink mead."

" I will not come, mother, to drink mead.

To me to drink mead, is drought,

But to weave wreaths, is beauty."

Beyond the hill Khveklunka is weaving wreaths

Samuska sends messengers after her.

" Come, Khveklunka, to drink water."

" To thee will I come, Samuska, to drink water.

With thee to drink water, to me is beauty ;

Without thee to weave wreaths, to me is drought


In a number of Little-Russian songs, indeed, she
finds her lover far kinder than her parents, for they
refuse to help her when she is drowning.

As the maiden sank,

She called to her father,

" father dear !

Do not let me drown. . ."

" My dear child,

I cannot swim,

I dare not go into the river."

Then she appeals to her lover, who immediately re-
plies in the most prompt as well as sensible manner,

" My dear girl !

3 A White-Russian song. Tereshchenko, n. 561.


I dare go into the water,
And I know how to swim,"

and then proceeds to save her.

As soft and romantic a sentiment as breathes in
some of the Great-Russian songs which have been
quoted, makes itself felt also in the corresponding
utterances of the other Slavonic nations. In one of
the Moravian songs a mother, who is vexed at her
daughter's readiness to get married, paints a very
gloomy picture of the husband who is awaiting her,
and of all his family, constantly remarking " It was
you yourself who would have him.'* To which the
girl replies, " Yes, I chose the rose blossom for my-
self. That betrothed of mine is dearer to me than
all the world beside." So much in Bohemian songs
does many a girl love her betrothed, that for his sake
she willingly parts with her green wreath the type of
maidenhood being ready to place it in his hand "if
only he will always love and cherish her till death
itself." In one of the Servian songs a bride is asked
if she does not grieve at leaving her mother. " Why
should I grieve ?" she replies. " In my loved one's
house, I am told, I shall find a still better mother."
In another a mother is represented as bitterly
grieving over the daughter who is about to leave
her, but the daughter herself feels little sorrow, she
longs so to be with her bridegroom.

We have seen from some of the songs that among
the Russian peasantry considerable liberty of action,
with reference to the choice of a husband, has long
been conceded to girls. In this respect the despotism


of fathers has greatly altered since the patriarcha
times, to the severe tone of which so many of the
wedding songs bear witness. And the seclusion of
women which was practised by the Boyars during
the " Moscow period," a custom introduced by them
from the East, and borrowed from them by the mer-
chant class, seems scarcely to have been known to the
peasantry. Among what may be called the higher
and middle classes, it used to be customary for a
bridegroom not to see the face of his bride until
after the nuptial as well as the betrothal ceremonies
had come to an end, but the young people of the
lower classes seem never to have had to submit to
any such restrictions on their elective privileges.
For a long time, at all events, there has been full
freedom of intercourse between the young men and
maidens of the Russian villages. The houses of the
peasants are not, as a general rule, large enough to
allow their women much seclusion, and as it is cus-
tomary for men and women to work together in the
fields, the barriers between the sexes, which it would
be difficult to maintain at home, cannot well be set
up out of doors. But the occasions on which the
young people in Russia most easily form acquaint-
ance with each other are the summer Khorovods and
the winter Posidyelkas which have been described
in the introductory chapter. At these, as has
already been remarked, the youths and maidens have
every opportunity of falling in love, and of com-
mencing a courtship which, as a general rule, termi-
nates in a marriage.


Of the numerous songs referring to such love-
matches one specimen has been given at p. 31.
Here is another of the same kind. It is supposed to
be sung by a chorus of girls, in honour of a bride-
groom who rejoices in the name of Andrei Polikar-
povich, the bride's name being Avdotya NikoMevna.

As from her nest,

Her warm little nest,

A young bird has fluttered forth,

And down from the apple-tree bough

Has flown away to the open fields,

The green fields, the grassy meadows;

There has plucked up by the roots a blade of grass,

Then flung the blade of grass aside ;

But afterwards has cropped, the little bird has


Has plucked a poppy blossom ;
And, having plucked, has fallen in love with it.
So from the terem, the terem,
From the fair, the lofty terem,
The fair, the lofty, the bright,
From under her mother's care,
Has come forth the fair maiden,
Has come forth, has hastened out,
The sweet fair maiden, Avdotyushka.
Out into the wide courtyard
Has gone the sweet Avdotyushka,
Into the green garden and grove of cedars.
The dear Nikolaevna has sat down
At the new, the oaken table,
Has looked round at the guests, the new arrivals,
All the new arrivals, strangers to her.
And she has chosen herself a bridegroom.
Not a single one of those there was to her liking.
Avdotyushka has chosen for herself,
Nikolaevna dear has chosen for herself,


Has chosen thee Andrei, our master,

Thee Andrei Polikarpovich.

And now, having chosen, she has fallen in love,

Fallen in love with him, grown proud of him.

" Oh ! how fond I am of him !

Oh ! how dear he is to my heart !

Oh ! how I can never be tired of looking at him !

Oh ! how I can never gaze at him enough !

Oh ! how I never want to part with him 5 !"

The right of choosing their husbands, which is at
least partially enjoyed by Russian peasant girls, is
claimed by their sisters in other Slavonic lands.
Even among the Slovenes, who are said still,
as of old, to call their young girls " shovels J! and
" brooms," and among whom a bride is obliged, the
day after her marriage, to do all the menial work of
the household herself even among them a girl is
seldom called upon to marry an utter stranger.
As a general rule her hand is asked for by some
young man who has made her acquaintance at
the games in which both sexes take part. One of
the marriage customs still kept up among the Slo-
venes serves to prove that women were anciently
looked upon by them as the servants of their
husbands, but also shows that the wife's position
became improved at some later period. After a
marriage the bride is obliged to take her husband's
boots off a custom which prevails in Russia also
but having done so she hits him over the head with
one of his boots, by way of a protest against the idea

* Sakharof, I. iii. 122.


of inferiority implied in the function which she has
just fulfilled. If a Slovene bride, indeed, contrives
to reach the church porch before her husband, after
the marriage-service is over, she hopes that she will
enjoy a life-long supremacy over him an idea which
is shared by brides in many lands. In Russia the
struggle between young married people is as to which
of the two shall be the first to tread on the cloth
laid down for the bride and bridegroom to stand on.
But the idea of a wife's possible supremacy over her
husband would be impossible, one would suppose,
among people who took so low a view of the social
status of women as appears to have prevailed among
the heathen Slavonians. In every land a young wife
is liable to the distaste for her new home, the long-
ing after that of her girlish days, which is expressed
in the following song. The first two lines are what
is technically called a Pripyevka something which
accompanies the song, generally a refrain, here a
prelude. Like the PrisJcazka, which often stands at
the head of the $kazlca, or tale, it usually has
neither meaning of its own, nor connexion with what

Through the currant bushes
There flowed a stream,
What time my mother
Bare me, the unhappy one.
Having chosen unwisely,
She gave me in marriage,
To go to a distant,
Unknown home.
My father-in-law


Scolds me for nothing ;

My mother-in-law,

For every trifle.

I will flee, dart away;

In a cuckoo's shape :

I will fly to my home,

To my father's home.

In his garden green

Will I take my place,

On the apple-tree

My mother loves.

I will cuckoo cry,

I will sadly wail,

Till my wailings sad

Make all eyes weep,

Till the garden is drowned

In bitter tears.

Through the passages
My mother speeds ;
Her daughters-in-law
She rouses up.

" Up, up ! in haste,

My daughters dear !

What bird is that

In our garden there? J:

" I will shoot it dead,"

Cries her eldest son.

" I will drive it away,"

Cries her second son.

Says the youngest son,

" I will go and look

If it may not be

Our sister sad,

From among strange folk,

From her far-off home, strange




" Come, come, sister,
Into our chamber come.
Tell us about your sorrows,
Ask us about ours 5 ."

It must not be supposed that all the Russian mar-
riage songs are of this mournful cast of thought.
Here, for instance, is one of happier tone, intended
to be sung in honour of the husband's father (Ivan
Ivanovich) and mother (Anna Ivanovna) :

Our young Boyaruinya has strolled through the


In her hands she held an embroidery frame.
On the frame was stretched a piece of rose-coloured


Three patterns has the Boyaruinya embroidered.
The first pattern she embroidered
The morning dawn with the white light.
The second pattern she embroidered
The bright young moon with the stars.
The third pattern she embroidered
The red sun with its rays.
The morning dawn with the white light,
That is love and agreement with one's wife,
Great love from all one's heart.
The bright young moon with the stars
Is Ivan with his sons,
Dear Ivanovich with his falcons.
The red sun with its rays
Is Anna with her daughters
Dear Ivanovna with her swans 6 .

6 Shein, i. 339. In another version of the same song it is not
her brothers who make such harsh observations, but her sisters-
in-law, while her "born sister" comes to her aid.
6 Quoted from a Perm collection by Orest Miller, direst. I. 27.



And here is another in which a very poetic view is
taken of the relative positions of husband and wife :

" Little did I, the young one, slumber at night,

Little did I slumber, but much did I see in sleep.

Just as if in the middle of our courtyard

There grew a cypress tree,

And another sugar- sweet tree ;

And on the tree were golden boughs,

Golden boughs, and boughs of silver."

Then spake the head of the household, the master.

" I, my soul, will explain to thee thy dream . . .

The cypress tree that is I who am thine,

The sugar-sweet tree that is thou who art mine :

And the boughs on the tree are the children who
. are ours,

Our children, children dear 7 . 5 '

In the olden time the celestial divinities were sup-
posed to be favourers and protectors of marriage, and
the first nuptial crown was attributed to that hea-
venly framer of all manner of implements who forged
the first plough for man. And so in some of the
songs one of which has been quoted [p. 198] a
prayer is offered up to a mysterious smith, beseech-
ing him to construct a golden nuptial crown, and out
of the fragments of it to make a wedding-ring, and a
pin with which to fasten the bridal veil.

In another song a divine being is asked to come
to the wedding, and to forge such a marriage as may
be firm, strong, long enduring, eternal one on which

7 O. Miller, CJirest. I. 28, from the Perm collection.


the wind may blow without scattering it, and the rain
may beat without washing it away, and which the
sun may dry without turning it into dust.

In one of the songs mention is made of a golden-
horned stag one of the forms, perhaps, of the solar
deity who promises to be present at a marriage, and
to light up the whole courtyard with his antlers. But
the mythic personages who are usually invited to a
wedding, with a view towards reaping the benefit of
their powers as metal-workers, are the saints Cosmas
and Demian the Christian heroes who, as we have
seen, have usurped the place occupied in heathen
times by the Slavonic Vulcan. Here is one of the
songs in which their names occur :

Kuzma and Demian, Oi Lado ! Oi Lado !

Give us to drink to the wedding, Oi Lado, Oi Lado !

From Khalimon's to Peter's court

Lead three foot-paths.

Along the first path

Goes Kuzma with Demian.

And along the second path

The most Holy Redeemer Himself.

But along the third path

Has gone Khvatei with Alinya.

He takes her by the right hand,

And leads her to the court of God,

To the court of God ; to the wedding 8 .

Thus do Christian and heathen names still clash
in the wedding songs of the Russian peasantry, just
as, in the funeral songs to which we are now about

8 From the " Ethnographical Collection " published by the Rus-
sian Geographical Society. Ft. vi. Bibliog. Ukaz. 13.

x 2



to direct our attention, ideas founded on the Chris-
tianity of the present wi]l be found strangely con-
fused with those belonging to the heathenism of the
past. 9

9 Kavelin thinks that many of the wedding songs now preserved
among the common people were, in all probability, originally com-
posed for and sung at the weddings of Princes and Nobles. Many
of the allusions in the songs seem to him to point to such an
origin ; among others the frequent mention of the terem, the
upper room set apart for the women of the family, which is gene-
rally supposed to have derived its name from the Greek word
teremnon, a room. Some of the marriage customs, he suggests,
are relics of ancient religious rites. Of such a nature, for instance,
is the progress around a fire, outside the house, often performed
when the bridal procession returns from church. But those which
are connected with ecclesiastical ceremonies, it should be stated,
probably come from Christian Greece, the Russian vyenclianie, or
crowning, for example, answering to the Greek stephanosis.

As regards the complaints of the modern bride about the " far-off
land " into which she is about to be carried, when, perhaps, she is
not going to leave her native village, Kavelin remarks that in olden
times marriages seem not to have been contracted between members
of the same community, who were looked upon as all forming one
family ; and therefore girls really had to go far from home when
they married. And as each communtty looked upon all others as
possible foes, so the bride who married into a different clan might
fairly consider that she was going among not only strangers but



FfiOM the gaiety of the epithalamium we now ab-
ruptly pass to the melancholy of the dirge. Mar-
riage and death were often brought into strange
fellowship by at least some of the Old Slavonians.
Strongly impressed with the idea that those whom
the nuptial bond had united in this world were
destined to live together also in the world to come,
they so sincerely pitied the lot of the unmarried dead,
that, before committing their bodies to the grave,
they were in the habit of finding them partners for
eternity. The fact that, among some Slavonian
peoples, if a man died a bachelor a wife was allotted
to him after his death, rests on the authority of
several witnesses, and in a modified form the practice
has been retained in some places up to the present
day. In Little-Russia, for instance, a dead maiden
is dressed in nuptial attire, and friends come to her
funeral as to a wedding, and a similar custom is
observed on the death of a lad. In Podolia, also, a
young girl's funeral is conducted after the fashion of
a wedding, a youth being chosen as the bridegroom
who attends her to the grave, with the nuptial


kerchief twined around his arm. From that time
her family consider him their relative, and the rest of
the community look upon him as a widower. In
some parts of Servia when a lad dies, a girl dressed as
a bride follows him to the tomb, carrying two crowns;
one of these is thrown to the corpse, and the other
she keeps at least for a time 1 . And so the ideas of
the Old Slavonians about the grave were not always
of a sombre nature, nor are those of the Russians of
the present day. A proof of this is afforded by the
strange combination of grief and rejoicing which
characterizes the festival of the Bddunitsa. This is
held soon after Easter, the tenth day after Easter
Sunday being generally devoted to it in North-east
Russia. At that time of year the dead " Fathers "
are supposed to feel some relief from the cold of the
long winter, and from the idea of their " rejoicing J:
most etymologists derive the name of Rddunitsa
[radost* = joy, rddovat'sya = to rejoice].

This seems doubtful 2 , but thus much is certain, that
the festival has always been one of a partly mirthful
nature. In olden days it seems to have commenced
with heathen rites, after which the relatives of the
dead wept and wailed 'for their loss. Then a feast

1 Kotlyarevsky, 58, 231.

2 Kotlyarevsky, in his excellent work " On the Funeral Kites of
the heathen Slavonians," compares the name of Uddunitsa with a
supposed Sanskrit word radanh = sacrifice, offering, from the root
rddh t to complete, sacrifice, etc. But on this M. Lerch remarks
that no such word as radanh exists in Sanskrit. (Perhaps rddhana
may have been intended.) The author, he says (as quoted by
Afanasief, P. V. S. in. 790), probably meant the Zend word radanh


was celebrated over the graves, on which were scat-
tered and poured some portions of the viands and the
drinks, and revels commenced which lasted long.
All these features are to be distinctly traced in the
festival celebrated by the modern Russians, only
Christian have been substituted for heathen rites at
its commencement. On the second Tuesday after
Easter, crowds flock early in the morning to the
cemeteries, carrying with them small bundles, and
there celebrate the commemoration of their dead.
He who does not have a PaniJcMda, or requiem, sung
in honour of his departed " Fathers," is held to com-
mit a grievous sin, for the omission is the cause of
great pain and distress to their sad ghosts, who
would have attended the service, and have received
from it much solace. Moreover, it is generally be-
lieved that if the end of the world shall at any time
happen to coincide with the performance of one of
these requiems, the souls to whom the service refers
will go straight to Paradise, along with those of the
persons at whose request it is being performed.

After the service the mourners visit their ancestral
graves, and wail there, uttering loud invocations to
the dead. Then they eat and drink to their repose,
moistening the earth with beer, meal, or spirits, and
strewing crumbs of their viands over it. Among

to which a Sanskrit rddh-as might correspond. But the guttural
n before h in Zend has nothing in common with the sound n in the
syllable ni of Rddunitsa. He thinks, however, that both rddunitsa
and rddovafsya may spring from the same root as rddanh and
rddh-as. [Doctrinally, though not etymologically, the Rddunitsa
may possibly have been linked with the Indian Srdddha.~\


other things thus offered to the dead are coloured
Easter Eggs, and on that account some of the pea-
sants call the act of commemoration their Khristoso-
vanie with their departed relatives : for when people
meet at Easter they kiss each other joyfully three
times, one of each couple saying, " Christ is risen !"
and the other replying, " He is risen indeed !" and to
perform this rite, which is often attended with the
presentation of Easter eggs, is called Kkristosat'sya*.
Newly -married couples frequently take such eggs
with them at this time, and visit the tombs of their
respective parents, in order to ask for the parental
blessing upon their union.

After this, in Little-Russia, where, as well as in
White-Russia, says Tereshchenko, the joyous nature
of the festival is most clearly seen, singers of a
semi-ecclesiastical nature, seminarists and the like,
are invited to chant "spiritual songs" to funereal
strains. Thereupon the mourners take to weeping,
and wailing piteously. Then the senior of the party
calls on the secular minstrels who are in attendance to
perform. They begin with funeral songs, on hearing
which the grief of the mourners bursts forth anew.
All of a sudden the musicians strike up a lively tune.
In a moment all sorrow is forgotten, merriment takes
its place, and the rest of the day is devoted to songs,
dances, and strong drinks. " Beer was drunk at the
Carnival," says a proverb, "but it was after the
Radunitsa that heads ached." The memorial cakes,

3 See " Russia in 1870," by W. Barry, p. 171 ; a Look containing
a great deal of useful information about the Russian peasantry.



it should be remarked, must be supplied in odd num-
bers, in threes, fives, and so forth, and must be eaten
without sauce. If any one is too poor to provide
them for himself, his richer neighbours are expected
to furnish him with what is necessary 4 .

Before speaking about the relics of old poetry re-
lating to the dead which have been preserved in the
memories of the Russian peasantry, it may not be
amiss to say a few words with respect to the heathen
rites celebrated at funerals by the Old Slavonians,
and to point out such traces of the influence of those
rites as are to be found in the customs still kept up
at funerals among the modern Slavonians, especially
among the Russians. This subject has been so ex-
haustively treated by Kotlyarevskyin the erudite work
to which we have already referred, that little more is
required than to give a summary of his conclusions.
We will begin with the customs which are still ob-
served on the occasion of a death in a Slavonic vil-
lage. They vary, of course, to a certain extent,
according to the nationality and the religion of the
villagers, but still a marked similarity is to be found
in the descriptions which have been written of them,
whether the describer had in view the inhabitants of
Great, Little, or White-Russia, the various Slavonic
subjects of Austria or of Turkey, or such scattered
fragments of the stock as the Kashoubes of the
Baltic and the Wends of Lusatia. It need hardly
be observed that, under the influence of modern ideas,

4 Tereshchenko, v. 27 30.


old customs are fast dying out in all much-frequente<
neighbourhoods, and that, when it is said in the fol-
lowing sketch that such and such practices occur, it
is not always meant that they are of notorious and
constant occurrence.

When the course of a Slavonic peasant is evidently
all but run, those who are in attendance on the sufferer
do their best to mitigate his dying agony. For this
purpose they often take the patient from his bed, on
which they think he would " die hard," and stretch
him on the floor, sometimes on the bare earth, some-
times on a couch of straw. This practice is common
to nearly all the Slavonic peoples, among several of
whom there prevails also the custom of clearing the
way for the departing spirit. Thus in some parts of
Euthenia they make a hole in the roof over the suf-
ferer's head, and in Bulgaria they sweep off the dust
and cobwebs, and all else that is attached to or
hanging from the ceiling. Some of the Slovaks also
fumigate the dying person with burning grass, under
the impression that his soul will flyaway together with
the smoke, as with something of a kindred nature.

"When all is over, the window is immediately
opened, and sometimes a cup of water is set on the
sill for the use of the departing soul. Some Slavo-
nians place bread there also, and others set apart a
chair as a resting-place for the spirit. As a general
rule a lighted candle is placed by the side of the
corpse, or in its hand.

Within the house in which the dead man lies all
labour ceases, so that his rest may not be disturbed.


Some of the family prepare the body "for its long
journey;" others go round with the tidings of death,
or engage themselves in completing any thing that
the defunct may have left unfinished. The Western
Lusatians still keep up an old custom which used to
be general among the Baltic Wends, of announcing
a death by passing a black wand from hand to hand
through the village. Among the Polish Mazovians,
as soon as a peasant is dead, it is customary for his
heir to make the round of his homestead, and an-
nounce the change of ownership to its buildings, its
trees, and its live-stock, saying, "Your former
master is dead. I am your new one now.' J The
Lusatian Wends make a similar announcement to
their bees also.

The body is generally washed after death, but
in some parts of Ruthenia and Carniola this must
be done while the dying person is still alive. In
some places a burial garment, a Sdvan, or shroud,
is put on at once, but in others, among the South
Slavonians for instance, this dressing is deferred
till a later period. Great care is taken to provide
the dead man with what he requires on his long
journey, especially with a handkerchief or towel,
which is tied round the neck or waist, and with a
coin, which is placed in the hand of the corpse, or
wrapped in the handkerchief. The Russian pea-
sants say that the dead man will require the hand-
kerchief to wipe his face with after his long jour-
ney, and the coin for the purpose of buying
a place in the other world; but the money, if


not the handkerchief, was undoubtedly intended for
the ghostly ferryman, the Charon of the Slavonic
spirit world. The custom of providing money for
the corpse has always been universal among the
Slavonians, but practice varied with regard to the
disposal of the coins, which were sometimes used for
the purpose of closing the eyes of the dead, some-
times thrown into the grave at the burial. The
practice of furnishing the corpse with the parings of
human and other nails, to be used by the climbing
spirit, has already been mentioned. [See p. 110.]

In all Slavonic countries great stress has from
time immemorial been laid on loud expressions of
grief for the dead. These was formerly attended by
laceration of the faces of the mourners, a custom
still preserved among some of the inhabitants of
Dalmatia and Montenegro. The keening begins im-
mediately after a death, continues until the body
has been laid in the grave, and afterwards breaks out
afresh at certain intervals.

As a general rule a wife laments for her husband,
a daughter for a parent, a mother for a son, and a
sister for a brother. If there is no relative to per-
form the duty, it devolves upon a stranger. But in
some places the lamenting is done by deputy, a pro-
fessional mourner being called in for the purpose. This
may be in accordance with the idea, prevalent among
so many different nations, that a man's relatives
must not mourn for him, that their tears would
cause him discomfort or even pain. At the present
day, however, the Russian PlaJcal \shchitsa > or Public


Waller, is generally employed at a funeral merely
because she is better acquainted with the conven-
tional expressions of grief than the relatives of the
dead person can be expected to be. All Slavonic
peoples are rich in stores of the wailings used on
such occasions, but it is among the Little-Russians
and the Servians that they flourish most luxuriantly.
After the dead man has been properly dressed, his
body is set in some appointed place, and all who are
present kiss him and say farewell to him, and drink
to his prosperous journey. Liquor is provided for
this purpose, and with it is brought bread, for bread
(or corn) plays a considerable part in the funeral
rites. The Pinsk peasantry, for instance, when they
take the corpse from the bench on which it is usually
laid, strew corn on the place it has occupied, and
set bread on the spot which its shoulders have

Among most Slavonian peoples at the present day
the corpse is put into a coffin, but the practice is
not universal. Neither the Bulgarians nor the Mon-
tenegrines use regular coffins, but they employ planks
in their graves. The Russian word for coffin, grob,
[Lithuanian yrabas, Gothic graban,~\ did not ori-
ginally bear that meaning, but signified something
dug out.

The old heathen Slavonians commonly placed their
dead in hollowed-out trunks of trees. Such a trunk
is called koloda, and by that name a coffin is known
in many of the provincial dialects of Russia. The
Slovenes used these trunk-coffins up to the begin-


ning of the present century, and to this day the
Raskolniks of the Chernigof Government still inter
their dead in them.

The corpse was often carried out of the house
through a window, or through a hole made for the
purpose, and the custom is still kept up in many
parts. Among some of the Hungarian Slavonians it
was customary to tap three times with the coffin at
the corner of the izba, or at the threshold of the
doors, and the Czekhs used to shake the bier above
the threshold, or sign a cross with it. For under the
threshold live the domestic deities, the guardians of
the family, the souls of ancestors. In some places
the old custom is still observed of placing on the
threshold an axe, or some other implement, the axe
corresponding to the hammer to which, in Scandina-
vian mythology, a consecrating influence was so often
attributed. When the corpse of a rustic proprietor
is being carried out, it is customary in some parts of
Poland to let loose all his cattle, that they may take
leave of their old master.

In some places, after a man's body has left the
house, his widow takes a new pitcher, and breaks it
to pieces on the earth, and afterwards strews oats
over the ground traversed by the funeral procession.

In former times the corpse is said to have been
conveyed on sani, a sledge ; whence comes an old
Russian phrase, " to sit in a sledge," meaning " to
be at the point of death." But by the term sani
was probably meant, not the modern sledge, which
is used only in winter, but a light sort of vehicle


employed at all seasons of the year. A mare was
seldom used for the conveyance of the corpse, for
fear she might prove barren for the future.

The funeral rites have always been performed be-
fore sunset. The sun had to show the disembodied
spirit the way to its future abode. After dark the
ghost would have been obliged to wander about,
painfully seeking its way. Among some of the
Croatians it is customary to open the v coffin before
it descends into the tomb, in order that the sun-
beams may warm it.

As regards the ceremonies performed at the grave
itself, we will pass over them for the moment, to
recur to them when we are dealing with the old burial
customs of heathen times, and will now proceed to
those which follow the actual interment, and in the
first place to the rites of purification. Of these no
written evidence exists ; their nature can be gathered
only from the customs of the people, among which
are the following : The bed on which the dying per-
son lay is carried out of the house, the straw of which
use has been made is burnt, and the cottage itself, or
its principal room, is strewed with corn. Among the
South Slavonians the mourners, on their return from
the funeral, are met by an old woman, who carries a
vessel containing live coals. On these they pour
water, or else, having washed their hands, they take
a live coal from the hearth, and fling it over their
heads. In R-uthenia they look steadfastly at the
stove, or place their hands on it. In olden times the
Bohemians, when returning from a funeral, avoided


looking back, and were accustomed to throw sticks
and stones behind them. The Lusatian Wends still
make a point of placing water between themselves
and the dead as they return from a burial, even
breaking ice for the purpose if necessary.

Among the Servians neither the spades which dug
the grave, nor the cart and horses which conveyed
the coffin, are brought into the farm-yard, but the
horses are turned loose into the pastures, and the
other accessories of the burial are left for the space
of three days outside the gates; otherwise they
might introduce death into the homestead.

After the purification comes the funeral banquet,
the partakers of which eat and drink to the memory
of the dead. This is the descendant of the ancient
Strava, which will presently be described; but
that meal was held either on the grave or near it,
whereas its modern representative generally takes
place in the house in which the death occurred. The
Bulgarians, however, still celebrate it near the grave,
and in the Pinsk Government some of the funeral
party are in the habit of rising from table in order to
finish the meal above the tomb.

With this feast the funeral rite may be said to
close. But the departed one is not soon forgotten.
In olden days a memorial banquet was held in his
honour on the third, sixth, ninth, and fortieth day
after his death, and on its anniversary, and he was re-
membered also in the feasts celebrated at springtide
in memory of the Fathers, the collective family dead.
To these feasts it was customary to invite the dead,


standing before the open door. Silently the living
sat down to table, they ate without using knives,
and they threw portions of the food under the table
for their spirit- guests. What fell by accident was
the share of orphan souls who had no friends to
nourish them. After a time the unseen banqueters
were escorted out, and their hosts turned their atten-
tion to drink and merriment.

The customs of the present day are of an equally
heathenish nature; some of them, indeed, seem to
be even older than those just described. In the Go-
vernment of Pinsk the peasants at their memorials
cover a table with a white cloth, and in the middle
of it place a vessel in which vodka, or whiskey, is set
on fire. They also throw salt on burning coals, and
listen to its crackling. When the memorial cakes
are ready the oldest of the party walks round the
house, gazes at the family graves, and invites the
ancestors to the feast. On his return the rest of the
party stand silent for a time, as if listening to spiri-
tual accents, and then begin to eat, taking care to
pour out for the dead the first three spoonfuls of each

But even stranger than this custom is one kept up
in some parts of the Government of Olonets, in which
the inhabitants of a village sometimes celebrate
a joint festival in honour of their collective dead.
Having chosen a house for the purpose, they spread
three tables, one outside the front door, one in the
passage, and one in the izba itself. Then they go
out of doors as if to meet their unseen guests, and



return escorting them into the house with the words,
" Ye are tired, our own ones ; take something^to eat."
After sitting down to the first table they pass on to
the second, and then enter the izba. There the mas-
ter of the house says to the ghostly visitors, " Doubt-
less ye have grown cold in the moist earth, and on
the road, perhaps, it was not warm. Warm your-
selves, our own ones, at the stove." Thereupon the
living guests take their seats at table. Just before
the end of the repast, when the Idsel (a sort of pud-
ding) is served, the host " opens the window, and
lets down into the street the linen in which the dead
had been lowered into the grave," and then the whole
party begins to escort the unseen visitors from the
stove into the outer air, saying, "Now it is time for
you to go home, and your feet must be tired : the
way is not a little one to travel. Here it is softer
for you [i. e. along the linen]. Now, in God's name,
farewell!" And the dead are supposed to descend
by means of the linen, just as, on the day of their
burial, they had been let down into the grave 5 .

From these interesting specimens of survival, we
will now turn to the rites of which they are fragments,
those with which the Old Slavonians, while yet
heathens, celebrated the burial of their dead.

Though the subject is one of great interest I
do not purpose to enter at all deeply into it, for
the evidence which its Russian investigators have

6 Tereshchenko, in. 123. Taken from Dashkof s " Description
of the Olonets Government."


brought together with regard to it is almost en-
tirely derived from foreign and well-known sources,
and my main object in the present work is to render
intelligible to the general public the speech of exclu-
sively Slavonic witnesses. It will be sufficient,
therefore, merely to allude to what has been said
about Slavonic funerals by Greek, Arabian, Teutonic,
and other writers to mention how the Emperor
Maurice [f A.D. 602] in his Strategica explained why
the wives of Slavonian warriors refused to survive
their husbands; that Theophylactus, early in the
seventh century, relates how the Roman General Pris-
cus penetrated into the Slavonic territory, and cap-
tured " the king of the Barbarians," one Mousokios,
who had been celebrating a brother's funeral with
too many wine cups a piece of evidence which is
valuable, and would have been still more so had
it been clearly stated that Mousokios was really a
Slavonian ; that the statement of Theophylactus was
copied by Theophanes and by Anastasius the Libra-
rian [about A.D. 886] ; that Saint Boniface [A.D. 755]
testified, that among the Slavonic Winedi, or Wends,
the marriage tie was so strong that wives killed
themselves when their husbands died, a passage
which has given rise to much discussion ; that
during the first half of the tenth century the Arabian
travellers, Ibn Dosta, Masudi, and Ibn Fozlan, gave
full accounts of Slavonic burials, including some sen-
sational descriptions of the sacrifices which attended
them, some of which accounts were afterwards incor-
porated into his own work by Leo the Deacon ; that

Y 2


Dithmar, Bishop of Merseburg [A.P. 1018], wrote on
the subject, and made one remark in particular to
which reference will presently be made ; that Otto,
Bishop of Bamberg [A.D. 1125], has left behind him
some valuable pieces of evidence in his letters forbid-
ding burials in woods and fields, and other heathenish
customs ; that from the writings of Cosmas of
Prague, who died in 1125, copious information is to
be gained ; and that the Latin poem by Klonowicz,
called Roxolania, published at Cracow in 1584, con-
tains a graphic sketch of a funeral among its pictures
of Ruthenian life in the sixteenth century. The testi-
mony borne by Menetius, or Meletius, in 1551, in his
letter De sacrificiis et ydolatria veterum Borussorum,
and repeated by Lasicius in his work, " De Diis Samo-
gitarum" is too well known to require more than
a passing reference 6 .

Having thus alluded to some of the chief autho-
rities on the subject, we will pass to the consideration
of a few of the most important facts which their
evidence appears to substantiate, such as the follow-
ing : that the old Slavonians sometimes buried and
sometimes burnt their dead; that, in some cases at
least, human sacrifices were offered on the occasion
of a burial, and that it was not an uncommon occur-
rence for a man's widow to kill herself, or allow
herself to be killed, at his funeral; and that the burial
was followed always by a feast, and sometimes by
martial games, in honour of the dead.

6 Kotlyarevsky, pp. 42 153.


The question as to whether the Old Slavonians
disposed of their dead by interment or by crema-
tion has given rise to much discussion, and a great
amount of writing has been bestowed upon the ad-
verse theories of Dobner and Anton ; the first of
whom asserted that the Slavonians buried, whereas
the Teutons burnt, while the second maintained an
exactly opposite opinion. Some writers, moreover,
have explained that the Slavonians, while Nomads,
used to burn their dead, but took to burying them
when they accepted a settled form of life. Others
have divided the heathen Slavonians into two reli- /
gious sects, each of which had its own ideas about
burial. Others, again, have held that the Slavonians
used to burn their dead so long as they were
heathens, but gave up the practice on becoming
Christians ; and a fourth set of scholars have sug-
gested that rich Slavonians used to be burnt, while
poor ones could only get buried. After duly weigh-
ing all these arguments, Kotlyarevsky arrives at the
conclusion that there never was any general rule, but
that some Slavonians buried without burning, while
others first burnt their dead, and then buried their
ashes, acting in accordance with old family tradi-
tions. In excavating, it is not uncommon to find
traces of both customs in the same tomb : near the
remains of a corpse interred without cremation lie
the ashes of one which has been calcined or at least
partially burnt.

As regards the spots in which they deposited
either the bodies or the ashes of their departed rela-


tives, various customs seem to have prevailed. Some-
times hills, and especially caves in hills, were chosen
as burial-places. In very remote times it is possible
that they may have buried the remains of their dead
within their dwellings, under the threshold, the spot
still selected by many of their descendants for the
burial of unchristened babes. The Baltic Slavonians
and the Czekhs are known to have chosen fields
and forests for this purpose. General cemeteries do
not seem to have been known (except for strangers)
among the heathen Slavonians, for no ancient word for
such places occurs in any Slavonic dialect 7 ; and the
excavations which have been made in Slavonic lands
bear out this idea, the tombs having almost always
been found to stand either singly or in family groups.

Whether the Slavonians ever sent their dead afloat
on an actual sea it is impossible to say, but the geo-
graphical position of most of them renders such an
idea improbable, so far as the European period of
their history is concerned. The term nav' for a dead
person is supposed by some writers to imply ideas
connected with navigation, and there seems to be
reason for supposing that boats, or at least boat-
shaped cases, were used for the reception of corpses
at funerals, but these boats may merely have been
intended to allude to the (atmospheric) sea which
the soul had to cross after death.

From the accounts of the foreigners who have
written on the subject it may be gathered that it

7 Kotlyarevsky, p. 227.


was customary among the old Slavonians to place
the boat, or other wooden case containing the corpse,
on a pyre, which, after the family had taken a last
farewell of the dead, was lighted by one of their
number. It has been supposed, but it is not certain,
that a particular kind of wood was always used on
such occasions that, namely, of the thorn, one of
the trees connected with the lightning.

Together with the corpse various objects were
burnt, or buried. The dead took with them to the
other world, according to the popular belief, their
favourite horses and other animals, their dress, their
arms, and their ornaments, and many other things
which were likely to conduce towards their comfort
and happiness in the grave. Of certain material
aids to the aspiring soul, such as leather thongs,
ladders, and nail-parings, mention has already been
made. But by far the most important among the
companions of the dead were the human beings who
either killed themselves, or were put to death, upon
the occasion of a funeral.

The fact that, in Slavonic lands, a thousand years
ago, widows used to destroy themselves in order
to accompany their dead husbands to the world of
spirits, seems to rest on incontestable evidence ; and
at an earlier period there can be no doubt that ee a
rite of suttee, like that of modern India," prevailed
among the heathen Slavonians, the descendant, per-
haps, as Mr. Tylor remarks of "widow- sacrifice >:
among many of the European nations, " of an ancient
Aryan rite belonging originally to a period even


earlier than the Veda 8 ." According to Ibn Dosta, i
some places it was customary for the dead man's
favourite wife to hang herself, in order that her body
might be burnt with that of her lord ; in others she
was expected to allow herself to be buried alive with
his corpse. To this practice there are many- allu-
sions in the songs and the customs of the people.
Among the latter may be reckoned the so-called
" marriages " between the living and the dead, which
have already been mentioned, and among the former
those Moravian songs in which the dead are described
as rising from their graves, and carrying off their
wives or their betrothed, the Builina in which the
dead Potok is buried together with his living wife,
and some other poems of a similar nature.

In addition to being accompanied by his widow,
the heathen Slavonian, if a man of means and dis-
tinction, was solaced by the sacrifice of some of his
slaves. The fullest description of what occurred on
such an occasion is that given by Ibn Fozlan, who
declares that he was an eyewitness of what took
place. According to him, when one of the " Kus-
sian " merchants, with whom he became acquainted
in Bulgaria, died, " they asked his girls which of them
would die with him. One answered that she would,"
whereupon she was handed over to the care of the
two daughters of an old woman who had the appear-
ance of a " yellow, wrinkled witch," and who bore the

1 E. B. Tylor's " Primitive Culture," I. 421 ; where the subject
is discussed at length.


name of " The Angel of Death." They kept watch
over her till the final moment in which " the woman
called Death's angel fixed about her neck a twisted
rope, which she gave two men to pull," and at the
same time drove a knife in between her ribs, so that
she died. Her dead body was then placed beside
that of her lord, in a ship which had been taken
from the river for the purpose, and which was
propped up by four trees and surrounded by
" wooden images of men and giants." With the
human corpses were placed those of a dog, two
horses, and a pair of fowls, and finally the ship was
set on fire.- Just before the girl was killed, says
Ibn Fozlan, she cried out three times, saying,
" Look ! there do I see my father and my mother !"
and again, " Look ! I see all my relations sitting
together there !" and finally, " Look ! There is my
lord ! He sits in Paradise. Paradise is so green,
so beautiful ! By his side are all his men and boys.
He calls me : bring me to him !" And after all was
over the "Russians" scoffed at their Arabian friend
as belonging to a race who buried their dead, and so
gave them as a prey to worms and corruption ;
whereas they themselves burnt their dead at once,
and so obtained admittance for them without delay
into Paradise. The whole of the narrative is remark-
ably interesting, but unfortunately it is not quite
clear who these " Russians " were. Ibn Fozlan de-
scribes them as the filthiest people he had ever seen,
and Rasmussen repudiates them as Scandinavians
on account of the want of modesty attributed to their


king ; but some Russian critics think they must have
been Varangian traders 9 .

Above the spot on which the funeral rites were
celebrated, a mound was heaped. Ibn Dosta says
that the ashes of the dead were collected the day
after the cremation, and placed in a memorial urn,
which was set up on the mound. Ibn Fozlan, on
the other hand, states that the mound was piled
above the funeral pyre. In some of the tombs
which have been explored, vases have been found
containing bones which showed traces of fire; in
others, the remains have been discovered of bodies
which seem to have been interred, and then to have
had mounds piled above them. In olden days every
one who was present at a funeral deemed it a
religious duty to assist in the erection of the mound,
just as now every bystander throws a handful of
earth into the grave.

Upon the mound, it is supposed, a memorial was
set up in the shape of a tent, or small wooden house,
in which not only the soul might find rest and
shelter when visiting the body in which it used to
abide, but also the relatives of the dead when they
came to mourn over his remains. Traces of this
custom are still to be found in Russia. In the

9 Ibn Fozlan's narrative was published in 1823 by the Russian
Academy of Sciences, with a German translation by C. M. Friihn.
Rasmussen had previously translated it into Danish, and an English
rendering of his version appeared in the 4th vol. of " Blackwood's
Magazine." Ibn Dosta' s work was published for the first time in
1869, at St. Petersburg, with notes and a Russian translation by
the editor, Prof. Chwolson.


Government of Chernigof, for instance, the White-
Russians still, in spite of ecclesiastical prohibitions,
erect over graves a kind of log-hut. Such a con-
struction is known in some other districts as a
Golubets, a term sometimes applied to the roofed
cross commonly set up over a grave.

Among most of the Slavonic tribes, directly after
the funeral rites were over came the Strava, the
memorial feast, held above the grave, or close beside
it. According to Jacob Grimm 1 , the name Strava
is one of Gothic origin, and means a funeral pyre
[from straujan = sterner e\ . But Kotlyarevsky claims
it as a Slavonic word.

Among some of the Slavonians was celebrated
the solemn rite of parting with the dead, called the
Trizna. Its name and its nature are both involved
in some uncertainty, but the former is supposed to
be akin to terzanie, laceration ; and, as regards the
latter, we know that it took the form of a meal of
some kind, followed by games and contests, horse-
races and personal combats. It was a form of
honouring the dead which could only have prevailed
among a warlike people such as in a like manner
honoured a dead Patroclus or Beowulf and there-
fore it does not seem to have been known to all
the Slavonians. Those of the south were partially

1 Kleinere Schriften, IT. 239. The words in which Jornandcs
describes a part of the ceremonies performed at the burial of Attila
are well known. " Postquam talibus lamentis est deflectus, stra-
vam super tumulum ejus, quam appellant ipsi, ingenti conimessa-
tione concelebrant." De Getarum Oriyine, cap. 49.


acquainted with it, and it is known with certainty to
have existed among the Russians. With the course
of time it passed into the form of the Strava, and
now lives in the memorial meal which follows a
Russian funeral.

After the tomb had closed over the body or the
ashes of the dead, it did not always remain intact.
From time to time it was opened for the reception
'of new tenants, for the heathen Slavonians often
buried in one such receptacle the remains of many
generations, their respect for it increasing with the
number of protecting "Fathers" whose abiding-
place it became. This custom has been kept up in
some Slavonic countries till the present day ; and
sometimes a corpse which has not lain long in the
ground has to make way for a new comer. Csaplo-
vics states that he was himself an eyewitness of the
following occurrence : A Slovene, whose mother
had died, dug up the corpse of his father, collected
iis bones, washed them with red wine, tied them up
in a clean white towel, placect the "bundle on his
mother's coffin, and then buried the remains of his
two parents together 2 . A similar practice prevails
in Bulgaria, where, it is said, if no relative dies
within the space of three years, the family tomb is
opened, and any stranger who happens to expire is
buried in it a custom due to the lingering influence
of the old idea, that the grave required a victim.

That of the rites celebrated every spring by the

2 Slavonien, I. 184, as quoted by Kotlyarevsky, p. 252.


Old Slavonians in memory of their dead, many traces
are still to be found in the customs of their descen-
dants, has been shown in the account given of the
Rddunitsa, and of such entertainments as the Olonets
villagers offer to their family ghosts. To these
descriptions may be added one more, that of the old
Russian practice of burying, at the commencement
of every spring, the bodies of the unknown and un-
cared-for dead which had accumulated during the
winter in the Ubogie domui "poor-houses" set
apart for the reception of the bodies of friendless
strangers, or of persons who had been murdered or
who had died suddenly, and, in fact, for the remains
of all the waifs and strays of humanity. During
the winter these corpses lay in pits dug within the
" poor-houses;" in the spring charitable people met
together, took the dead bodies from their temporary
resting-place, and buried them decently in con-
secrated ground. There was a cemetery near
Moscow called the " Potter's Field " in allusion
to that which was bought with the thirty pieces of
silver "to bury strangers in " to which the cha-
ritable citizens were wont to resort on the seventh
Thursday after Easter, there to dig graves for the
bodies, and to have divine service performed for the
souls, of the friendless dead. They did not know
the names of those for whom they prayed, says
Karamzin, but they trusted that God would know,
and would let their prayers be of good effect.

And now let us turn to the poetry itself to the
complaints, funeral wailings, or keens, uttered at


the death or the burial of a relative, or, at a later
period, over his grave pldchld, zapldehM, etc. \_plaltat\
~to cry], or Prichitan'ya \j)richitdt' = to read beside,
to complain]. The songs with which a bride bewails
the loss of her girlish freedom are called Prichi-
tan'ya, and so were those in which mothers used to
lament the departure of their sons to the army. At
times, as has already been shown, these zapldchJci
are improvised on the spot, but most of them have
been handed down by tradition from a very remote
age. Such, for instance, are those in which the
lightning is represented as rending graves open, and
the spirits of the dead as manifesting themselves to
mortal eyes in the form of birds. The following
will serve as a specimen of this class :

From the side of the East

Have risen the wild winds,

With the roaring thunders,

And the fiery lightnings.

All on my father's grave

A star has fallen, has fallen from heaven .

Split open, dart of the thunder,

The moist mother Earth!

Do thou fall to pieces, mother Earth,

On all four sides !

Split open, coffin planks,

Unfold, white shroud,

Fall away, white hands,

From over the bold heart,

And do ye become parted, sweet lips !

Turn thyself, my own father,

Into a bright, a swift-winged falcon ;

Fly away to the blue sea,

To the blue sea, to the Caspian.


Wash, off, my own father,

From thy white face the mould.

Come flying, my father,

To thy own home, to the lofty terem ;

Listen, my father,

To our songs of sadness! 3

It was generally a friendly ghost that thus revisited
the earth beneath the pale glimpses of the moon,
being usually the spirit of a parent who sympathized
with a child, and longed to do it good service.
But there were cases, also, to which the Skazki,
or stories, bear frequent witness, in which the dead
assumed a baleful shape, and, as vampires, or were-
wolves, ran riot through the world, thirsting for
human blood. It was generally a wizard, or witch, or
some other disreputable character who behaved in this
manner after death, but even the spirits of persons
who had led blameless lives might be induced, if
proper respect was not paid to them, to revenge
themselves on their forgetful survivors. The spirit
invoked in the za/pldchhi is usually that of a parent,
who is entreated to be present at the wedding of an
orphan bride, or at least at the time when the bride
and bridegroom are betrothed by the joining of hands,
and the parental blessing is bestowed on her : such
is the case, for instance in the following lament :

There are who will give me to eat and to drink,
But to bless me, the young one, there is none ;
Neither the father dear who nourished me,
Nor the mother dear who bare me.

3 Quoted by Orcst Miller, direst. I. 11, from a Perm collection.



See, my sunlight, my own brother,

If from the Nikolsk oak-wood

Comes not the father dear who nourished me.

For my father dear promised,

At the moment of swift death,

In his very last hour,

To be at the striking fast of hands,

At the last farewell,

At the life-long blessing *.

The same complaint, the same longing for the
parental blessing, is heard in the wailings of a girl
who, in rude and untutored language, laments a
mother's death :

There stands a green oak on the hill,

There is no wind, and yet it shakes,

There is no rain, but it is wet.

Many, many on the green oak,

Many a branch and spray is there,

Many a green branch ;

Only the green oak

Has no golden top,

No gilded vane,

Such as now -it ought to have

At this very time,

Or in the summer fair,

Or in the ample spring.

Much has the fair maiden,
Much wealth of kin,
Many and many a relative,
Many a close friend,
Many a near neighbour.
Only the fair maiden
Has no mother dear,
Such as she now needs,

4 Kuibnikof, in. 423.


At this very time,

For the great marriage-blessing.

There are who will give her to eat and drink,

But to bless her there is none 5 .

The next zapldchka also a very unpolished one
gives utterance to the grief of a mother who bewails
the death of a young child.

I will sadly go

To my own, my loved one,

My own heart's love. . . .

Now on this day

The sun burns not as in summertide,

Warms not as in the spring.

With what a fall have I let fall,

With what a loss have I lost !

I will go this day,

In sorrow and tears,

To my loved beloved.

" Tell me, my loved,

" Why hast thou deserted

" Thy mother forlorn ?

" Not a word can I gain,

" Not a single secret word,

" To my careworn heart !

" Oh listen, my loved one,

" My own, my darling child !"

Now am I indeed a mother ill-fated !

A cuckoo ill-starred in a green pine-wood,

Such am I, ill-fated, unhappy 6 .

But the most remarkable among the group of
" complaints " from which we have been quoting,
that collected by Ruibnikof in the neighbourhood of
Lake Onega, are the two which are intended to be
sung at the funeral of the father of a family. One of

5 Ruibnikof, ITT. 423. 6 Ruibnikof, in. 417, 418.



them, at least, seems worthy of being translated in
full, although it runs to some length. The language
in which it is written proves, say Russian critics,
that it is of great antiquity. I have rendered it
word for word, without attempting to trim it.

After the body has been washed and dressed, it is
placed upon a table, and the relatives gather around
it. Then, turning to the widow, they address her
in song. In the case of poor people the following
form is used :

Wert thou sitting by the painful bedside,

Wert thou present at the parting of the spirit,

When the soul was divided from the white body ?

And how did swift Death come to thee ?

Came she as a beggar-woman, a wandering cripple,

Or as a brave youth, brisk and burly ?

Or as a stout burlak from Petersburg 7 ?

The widow replies :

Had I been living in a rich and ample state,
Then I should have been sitting by the painful


And I should have seen swift Death.
Had she come as a wandering cripple
I would have spread the hospitable table,
I would have fed the wandering cripple,
And she would have left me my wedded spouse.
And if she had come as a brave youth, brisk and


I would have clothed her in coloured vestments,
And would have shod her with goatskin boots,
And would have given her a silken girdle.
If she had come as a stout Petersburg burlak,

7 The lurldk is here a man who goes up to the city to work for


I would have given her uncounted wealth of gold,

And she would have left me my wedded spouse.

But as I live in an accursed and unhappy condition,

With little children dear, the cause of many cares,

In our house there is no hospitable table,

In our house are no sweet dainties,

Neither are there clothes for youth,

Nor goatskin boots for the feet,

Nor uncounted wealth of gold.

So I did not see my lawful spouse,

When the soul was divided from the white body.

Too great for the peasant- woman's strength is

her toil,

Too great for her mind are her accursed cares.
Well nigh all the thoughts in my head are in


The untimely light fades from my eyes.
How shall I bring up my dear little ones
Without my wedded spouse ?
Shall I lose myself in the dark forest,
Or fling myself into some round lake,
Or drown in a swift brook,
So as to get rid of my great misery ?
If I become a wandering beggar,
And rid myself of my great misery in the open field,
Then from my great misery
Would spring up thick forests :
No room would there be there for my misery :
The neighbours living around would forbid it,
For their fertile corn-fields would be covered over.
If I were to get rid of my great misery
In a glorious wide lake,
There would be never-moving rocks under the

waters of the lake,

And on the meadows stones that never gave way :
So there would be no room for my misery ;
It would become an obstacle to the fishermen.
Were I to get rid of it in the whirling river Svir,

z 2


Roaring cataracts would become fixed there
There too would be no room for my misery,
For stagnant would become the spring waters in
the rivers.

I will take my dear children [and see],

Whether moist Mother Earth will not split open.

If moist Mother Earth splits open,

Straightway will I and my children bury ourselves
in it,

So hateful is it to me, the miserable one,

To remain in this home life.

Do thou forgive me, my wedded spouse

Thou and I have taken counsel together,

But never didst thou speak to me about this swift

I would not have given thee up, my wedded

I would have given up my dear children,

And so have preserved my wedded spouse.

Split open, moist Mother Earth,

And be thou open, new coffin-planks,

And come flying from heaven, Angels and Arch-

And set the soul in the white breast,

And speech in the wise head,

And white light in the clear eyes !

And do thou arise, my wedded spouse ;

I have won-thee-by- asking from the Lord God.

Make the sign of the cross, according to what is

Bow low, according to the fashion of the wise,

Pay me greeting !

Not alone have I invited thee,

But with me I bring thy dear children :

And let us return to our home life,

For now has this life become weariness.

It is plain that my wedded spouse remains angry

With me, on whose head are many miseries.


I have remained in my husband's house,

Bread and salt have I not set eyes on,

And my misery have I not diminished but increased.

Clearly this thing cannot be,

That one dead shall return from the grave :

An orphan must I be without my husband 8 .

The companion song is of a similar nature, but is
intended to be employed in well -to-do households.
It is one which I would fain translate at equal length
with its predecessor, but I fear to trespass on the
patience of my readers, to whom I can convey but
little idea of the merit of the original, depending as
that does to a great extent upon the charm of its
simple, unaffected, but archaic language, in which so
much expression is conveyed by daring diminutives
which would be utterly void of meaning to our minds
were an attempt made to translate them, and upon the
measured verse in which it moves, moulded in a form
which holds together and sustains without cramping,
and strengthens without impeding.

The preservation of poems so lengthy as are these
widows' wailings is, for the most part, due to the
jealous care of the professional mourners. In some
parts of Russia their profession is unknown, and
there the songs are dying out most quickly, but in
the remote districts in which Ruibnikof made his
collections, in the neighbourhood of Lake Onega, the
PlaJcal' shchitsa, or Voplenitsa [yopit* = to sob or
wail], the professional " Crieress " is a personage
of no small importance. She it is, says Ruibnikof,
who " watches over the genuineness of social rites ;
8 Ruibnikof, in. 410413.


it is she who guides the course of marriages, funera
and memorial feasts/' On the day of betrothal, the
PlaJcaV shcMtsa attends the bride, and sings zapldchki
expressive of the sorrow a young girl feels at leaving
her family and going into " a strange and far-off
land;" and during the whole course of the ceremonies
preceding that which takes place in church, she
settles every detail, and intones almost every song.
At a funeral, also, she renders invaluable aid, by
seeing that all the traditional ceremonies are observed,
and by supplying the sad songs in which the relations
of the dead are expected to express the grief they
feel at their loss. It was from the lips of an excellent
specimen of her class, a PlaJcal' 'shchitsa, who was so
celebrated for her zapl&chki, that she was frequently
invited into outlying districts and even into one,
the natives of which were famous for their knowledge
of such lore, and their faculty of improvisation that
Ruibnikof gathered some of the best of his nuptial
and funereal laments.

It is chiefly at the time of the Pomniki, or com-
memorations of the dead, in the arrangement of which
also the PlakdU shcMtsa in some districts takes a
leading part, that the Prichitaniya, or lamentations
for the dead, of which we have already spoken, are
to be heard. On those occasions it is customary for
women to go out to the graves of their relatives, and
there to wail or keen, or, as the Russians express it,
golosit \_golos voice]. Throwing themselves on the
grave, says Tereshchenko, they first shake their heads
over it for a few minutes, and begin whimpering, then


they take to wailing a little, and at last, throwing
both arms about the mound, they press their bosoms
to it, raising their voices all the time, louder and
louder still, until they may be heard over the whole
of the cemetery. Here is a specimen of a Priehitame,
intended to be recited over a grave on the twentieth
of April, early in the morning. These lamentations,
it should be observed, though of a decidedly poetical
nature, do not assume a metrical form.

" ye, our own fathers and mothers ! in what have
we angered you, our own, that you have no welcome
for us, no joy, no parental charm? thou sun,
bright sun ! Rise, rise at midnight, make bright
with joyous light all the graves, so that our de-
parted ones may not sit in darkness, nor languish
in woe, nor endure endless longing.

"0 thou moon, bright moon ! Rise, rise at eventide,
make bright with joyous light all the graves, so that
the departed may not in darkness consume their
bold hearts, nor in the darkness go sorrowing about
the white world, nor in the darkness pour forth
burning tears to their dear children.

" And, wind, wild wind ! do thou arise, arise at
midnight, bring to our dear departed the welcome
tidings, that for them all their kinsmen are painfully
longing, that on account of them all their kinswomen
are steeped in sorrow 9 ."

And here, by way of conclusion, is a specimen
of an orphan's wailings above her mother's grave:

" mother dear that bare me, with sadness
longed-for one ! To whom hast thou left us, on
whom are we orphans to rest our hopes ? From no
quarter do warm breezes breathe on us, we hear 110
words of kindness. Good folks turn away from us,

9 Quoted by Orest Miller from Sakharof, n. vii. 23.


our kinsfolk renounce us ; rust eats into our orphaned
hearts. The red sun burns in the midst of the hot
summer, but us it heats not : scarcely does it warm
us, O green mother-grave ! Have a care for us,
mother, dear, give us a word of kindness ! No, thou
hast hardened thy heart harder than stone, and hast
folded thy uncaressing hands over thy heart.

" my white cygnet ! for what journey hast thou
prepared and equipped thyself, from which side may
we expect thee ?

" Arise, ye wild winds, from all sides ! Be ye
borne, winds, into the Church of God ! Sweep
open the moist earth ! Strike, wild winds, on the
great bell ! Will not its sounds and mine awaken
words of kindness 3 ? "

1 Quoted from Dashkof by Tereshchenko, in. 102, 103. An
interesting description of a Russian cemetery on one of the "Parents'
Days" is given by Madame Romanoff in her "Rites and Cere-
monies of the Greco-Russian Church," p. 247.

There is a striking resemblance between the Russian zaplacJiTci
and those myrologia of the modern Greeks, of which Fauriel gives
so Tnler^sting an account in the introduction to his Chants popu-
laires de la G-rece Moderne. The myrologion, he says, " is, in
the full sense of the term, a poetic improvisation inspired by grief."
Almost all Greek women possess the faculty of improvisation to
some degree, but excellence is of course rare, and a good " myrolo-
\ gist " holds in her own village a distinguished position. In Asiatic
Greece and in the Islands there are professional myrologists whose
functions are very similar to those of the Russian " wailers." The
Myrologia are now sung by women only, but in olden times men
also sang them. Several specimens are given in Passow's Carmina
popularia Qrcecice recentioris. See also Tozer's " Researches i
the Highlands of Turkey," n. 241.



THE ideas which were prevalent among the heathen
Slavonians with respect to the life beyond the grave,
and their belief in the close communion of mortals
with the inhabitants of the spiritual world, are of
themselves sufficient to account for the wide- spread
and deeply rooted belief in the supernatural powers
of necromancers and other dealers in magic, the re-
mains of which are to this day very plainly manifest
in Russia. But when, in addition to these causes,
we consider the great influence which the Finnish
races have had upon the Slavonic in the North-
east of Europe the Finns being, of all European
peoples, the most addicted to conjuring we ought
not to wonder at the fact that the Russians used to
be no less remarkable for a steadfast faith in the
powers of sorcery and witchcraft than were our own
forefathers. Nor is it unintelligible the isolation of
villages, and the dearth of education being taken into
account why their descendants, the peasants who
now till the soil of Russia, should be as prone to
superstition, as responsive to the influence of the
imagination, as obedient to the impulse of a morbid


fancy, as those benighted Orientals of whom Mr.
Tylor tells us, who still believe in spirit-rappings, and
planchette-writings, and wizard-elongations 1 . Much
time and space would be needed by any one who
should undertake to describe the relics of the magical
arts of their ancestors which the Russian peasants
still preserve. At present I propose to give merely the
briefest possible sketch of the history of witchcraft
in Russia, as illustrative of some of the songs sung
by the people, and of a branch of Russian folk-lore
which is closely connected with the popular poetry,
the zagovorui, or spells prefacing it with a few
remarks upon the zagddki, or riddles, in which the
people delight so much, and to which in old days i
high degree of importance was attached.

Except at one period of the year, the propounding
or guessing of riddles is looked upon merely as an
amusement by the Russian peasantry, but during the
SvyatJci, the Christmas festivals, it resumes some-
thing of its old dignity, and to some extent claims to
be performed as a duty of an almost religious cha-
racter. For in olden times the zagddka, the " sense
riddle," as Mr. Tylor calls it \_gaddt* = to guess], was,
in the Slavonic, as in other lands, an enigma fraught
with mythical meaning, an oracular utterance, clothed
in dark language, but full of enlightenment to those
who rightly understood it. And therefore the zagddki
which have come down to our time, corrupt and
mutilated as their present forms in many cases are,

i p r i m itive Culture," i. 131 141.



frequently serve to throw light upon the mythological
ideas of the old Slavonians, often yield us fragments
of their mythological language. For to many of the
zagddJd may be applied the expression used by Pro-
fessor Max Miiller in speaking of certain proverbs,
that they are " chips of mythology." They origi-
nally were condensed myths, as it were, or at least
mythical formulas, and by their means a number of
cosmical myths have been preserved in compact
forms, unnoticed by the casual observer, but easily
to be recognized by the experienced eye. In them
an illiterate peasantry have unconsciously preserved
the views about " God's world " current among their
remote ancestors, the questions which daring specu-
lators in far-off ages had asked and had tried to
answer with reference to the great forces of nature 2 .
It was on account of this close connexion between
the zagddka and the myth, that the propounding of
riddles was attributed by the Slavonians to such
mythical beings as the Russian Rusalkas or the Servian
Yilas; all of whom were supposed to be thoroughly
versed in enigmatical lore, and who treated the un-
fortunate mortals who could not read their riddles
aright with as scant courtesy as was shown by the
Sphinx to the travellers who preceded GEdipus.
S The oldest zagddlci seem to have referred to the
elements and the heavenly bodies, finding likenesses
to them in various material shapes. In some of
what appear to be the most ancient of their number,

. 3 Afanasief, P. V. S. I. 25.


the sun is compared to a dish of butter, whic
suffices for the whole world; or the crescent moon to
" a crust of bread hanging in a larder, which the
dogs bark at but cannot reach;" or the stars to "peas
scattered about a mat." In a Lithuanian zagddka
the sky is likened to " a sieve full of nuts;" and the
same idea is found in one of its Slovak cousins, in
which there is also mentioned one very big nut which
is the moon. Of a more poetic nature are those
Russian zagddki, in which the stars are likened to a
fiery inscription on the surface of the sky, as, for

a There is inscribed a writing on blue velvet, and
to read that writing is given neither to priests nor
to deacons, nor to wise moujiks 3 ."

Equally poetic is that Slavonic version of "Humpty
Dumpty," in which a golden ship [the moon], sail-
ing across the [heavenly] sea, crumbles into frag-
ments [the stars], which neither princes nor priests
can put together again. A somewhat similar idea
is conveyed by the tradition shared by the Russians
with many other nations, that God uses the old
moons to make stars of.

Among the animals which figure in the zagddki,
the horse and the cow occupy prominent places.
Sometimes [as the moon] the horse traverses the
[celestial] sea without wetting its hoofs ; sometimes
[as the thunder] it tears along, making the earth

3 Afanasief, P. V. S. I. 52. An interesting account of the riddle
among savages is given by Mr. E. B. Tylor, " Primitive Culture,"
I. pp. 81 85.


tremble beneath it. A black cow frequently repre-
sents the night, and a white one the day, as in the
following instance :

" A black cow has overthrown the whole world
but a white cow has set it up again."

Birds also are frequently mentioned. Sometimes
the night, as

" A bird has waved her wing, and shut out all
light with a single feather."

Sometimes the stars move like " a bevy of swans,"
or the sun stands afar off in the heavens, as

" Sits on an ancient oak a bird which neither king
nor queen nor maiden fair can seize."

And sometimes fire appears in the guise of "a red
cock" an idea expressed also in the popular saying,
" to set the red cock free," i. e. to light the fire.

But perhaps the most interesting of the mythical
zagddki are those in which the sun and moon, the
dawn, the thunder, and the storm, are likened to
human beings. In some of them the dawn \_Zarya]
is represented as a fair maiden who has lost her
keys. The moon takes no notice of them, but the
sun picks them up. The keys are, of course, the
dew, which the moonlight does not affect, but the
sunbeams dry up. In one variant they are lost by
the Zarya when she shuts the [heavenly] gates. In
this case she probably is the after-glow of sunset,
which is called in Russian the vechernaya (or even-
ing) zaryd.


Here is one of the many forms of this zagddka :


The fair maiden, the Dawn, went wandering
through the forest, and dropped her keys. The
moon saw them, but said nothing. The sun saw
them, and lifted them up."

Sometimes the moon is a shepherd and the stars
are his sheep, or they are goats which hide when they
see the dawn :

" There were goats crossing a bridge. They saw
the dawn, and plunged into the water."

The following about fire, earth, and water, is
a fair specimen of a large but common-place class :

" There are three brothers. The first eats, and
is never full. The second drinks, and is never
satisfied. The third plays, and is never tired of

The next is a poetic, though not a novel per-
sonification of day and night :

" A sister goes to pay a brother a visit. But he
hides himself from his sister."

An idea closely akin with that of the dialogue in
the Rig Yeda, in which the Night implores her
brother [the Day] to make her his wife, but he
refuses, saying, " They have called it sin that a
brother should marry his sister 4 ."

Finally, we may quote an enigmatic description of
death, which, in its allusions at least, is thoroughly
Slavonic :

4 See Prof. Max Miiller's " Lectures on the Science of Language,
Second Series, p. 510.


In the ocean-sea,

On the island Buyan,

Sits the bird Yustritsa.

She boasts and brags

That she has seen all,

Has eaten much of all.

She has seen the Tsar in Moscow,

The king in Lithuania,

The elder in his cell,

The babe in his cradle.

And she has not eaten that

Which is wanting in the sea 5 .

Of the zagddki which do not seem to have any
claim to be considered mythological, many may
appear, at first sight, nonsensical ; but that is gene-
rally either because their readers are unaware of the
similarity between certain objects mentioned in them
which was apparent to their framers, or because, in
the course of time, some of their words have been
unconsciously altered by their reciters. For in-
stance, it would be difficult to find the meaning of
this dark saying,

" The ox in the cattle-shed has a haycock on his
horns, but his tail is out of doors in the woman's

did we not know that the ulchvat, or oven-fork,
is often spoken of as " the horned one." In this
instance a woman is holding it by the handle, while
its horns support a pot taken from the oven.

The same difficulty would be met with in compre-
hending the following enigma :

6 Sakharof, I. ii. 91. For Buydn, sec infra, p. 374.


" The bay mare went about the field, came t
is come into our hands,"

were we not aware that the sieve therein alluded to
is made of horsehair, and that a part has been taken
by the enigmatist for the whole.

As specimens of verbal corruption may be quoted
the following riddles about a besom, and a comb.
The vyenik y a whisk or besom, is supposed to be
described in the words,

" Hither Mitya, thither Mitya, and went under
the bench."

There seems to be no sense in calling a besom
Demetrius [Dimitry, dim. Mitka and so Mitya'], but
the saying is made reasonable by reading

" Hither swept [mete or metyo], thither swept, and
went under the bench."

One of the uses of a comb one to which the Rus-
sian peasant, unfortunately, too often has good reason
for turning that instrument is alluded to in the
saying " Tsar Kostyantin [Constantine] drives
horses across a fence." The metaphor is, in other
respects, only too intelligible, but why should a
comb be named Constantine? The explanation is
clear when the Little-Russian variants are con-
sulted, as for instance the enigmatical statement
that " The toothed kostyan drove pigs over a hill"
kostyan, or kostyanoy, meaning " made of bone"
\_kost* mbone], and so being an epithet thoroughly ap-
plicable to a comb. In the Great-Russian riddle for the
rational kostyan has been substituted the like-sound-


ing but quite meaningless name of Kostyantin, (dim.
Kostya) Constantine 6 .

Among the Russian peasantry these riddles have
always enjoyed great popularity. Khudyakof has
printed a collection of them, 1705 in number, in the
sixth volume of the " Ethnographical Collection
[slornilc]" of the Russian Geographical Society, and
has prefixed to it a valuable essay containing much
information on the subject. Among other things,
he mentions that, in the Government of Pskof, on
the occasion of a marriage, the bridegroom and his
friends are not allowed to enter the bride's cottage
until they have answered all the riddles her friends
propound to them ; and in one of the villages in the
Yaroslaf Government, on similar occasions, a bargain,
of which the bride is the subject, is concluded be-
tween the Druzhka, or groomsman, and the "seller of
the bride " riddles, answered by gestures instead
of in words, taking the place of coin.

The Oriental tales about riddles, which spread
so widely during the middle ages, were fully appre-
ciated in Slavonic lands ; many of them, indeed,
so impressed the popular mind, that to this day the
Russian peasants retain among their own stories
some of those which they borrowed, centuries ago,
about such foreign personages as Solomon and the
Queen of Sheba, or the Sultan whom a Croatian ver-
sion of a familiar tale represents as ordering a sup-
posed Abbot to solve three problems the last being

* Afanasief, P. V. S. I. 23.

A a


" What am I thinking," to which the answei
"You think I am the Abbot, but I am really the
cook." Of more interest than such avowedly bor-
rowed stories are those in which, not Oriental poten-
tates, but Russian historical characters, such as Ivan
the Terrible or Peter the Great, are introduced. In
one of these, for instance, a number of tribute-bear-
ing kings and princes propound certain riddles to
Ivan the Terrible, offering to pay him twelve barrels
of gold if he finds them out, on the condition that if
he is unable to solve them he is to lose his throne.
By the aid of an old man, to whom he promises one
of the barrels, the Tsar is enabled to give the requi-
site answers, but he afterwards cheats his benefactor
by filling two thirds of the barrel with sand. His
device is at once seen through by the sage, who says
to the dishonest monarch, " Thou hast introduced
treason into orthodox Russia, and thou wilt never
be able to root it out 7 ."

Still more interesting are the riddle- stories be-
longing to the class of old Slavonic skazkas, tales
which have formed part of the heritage of the people
from time immemorial. In a Russian version of a
wide-spread story, a princess says to her father,
" Permit me, my father, to guess riddles : if I guess
any one's riddles, let his head be cut off."

Her request being granted, various suitors set
conundrums, and lose their heads. At last the in-
evitable Ivan-Durak, Ivan the Foolish, the Slavonic

7 Afanasief, Skazki, viu. 455 459.


" Boots," the youngest of the stereotyped " Three
Brothers," enters the perilous lists. On his way to
the palace he sees a horse in a cornfield, and drives
it out with a whip, saying " Here's a riddle !" A
little farther on he kills a snake with a lance, and
makes a similar observation. When he is confronted
with the princess he says to her, " As I came to you
I saw by the roadside what was good ; and in the
good was good, so I set to work and with what was
good I drove the good from the good. The good
fled from the good out of the good." The puzzled
princess pleads a headache, and postpones the unrid-
dling till the next day. It arrives, and Ivan favours
her with his second enigma.

" As I came to you, I saw on the way what was
bad, and I struck the bad with a bad thing, and of
what was bad the bad died."

Whereupon the Princess accepts Ivan 8 .

In a manifestly mythical story a Slavonic Pene-
lope [the Earth?] who is constantly annoyed by
suitors, is sitting at table with them one day, when
she sees the glasses every now and then dashed
from their lips by an unseen hand. She guesses
in a moment that her Ulysses [the Sun, or the
Thunder-god, whom winter has long kept away?]
has returned, wearing the invisible-rendering cap
which she had given him. Looking out of window,
she sees that "in the garden all the tree- tops are
budding," and so, feeling sure that her surmise is


8 Afanasief, Skazki, n. No. 20.
A a 2


correct, she immediately propounds a riddle to her

" I had a self-acting casket with a golden key. I
lost the key and despaired of finding it, but now that
key has come back of its own accord. Whosoever
guesses this riddle, him will I marry."

The " Tsars and Tsareviches, Kings and Princes,"
long rack their " wise heads" over the zagddlca,
but they cannot make it out. Then the Queen ex-
claims, " Show thyself, my dear love !" and her hus-
band doffs his cap, " takes her by the white hands,
and kisses her sweet lips."

" Here is my riddle," then cries the Queen : " The
casket am I, and the golden key is my true husband."
So the suitors had to drive away home 9 .

By way of conclusion I will give one of the
numerous songs, the theme of which is the zagddka.

A maiden fair was strolling in a garden,

Gathering rosy flow'rets was the maiden.

By that way a merchant's son came driving.

" ISTow may God be with thee, beauteous maiden,

God be with thee, rosy flow'rets gathering!"

" Many thanks ! merchant's son ! Thanks many ! "

" Shall I ask thee riddles, beauteous maiden ?

Six wise riddles shall I ask thee ?"

" Ask them, ask them, merchant's son,

Prithee ask the six wise riddles."

u Well then, maiden, what is higher than the forest ?

Also, what is brighter than the light ?

Also, maiden, what is thicker than the forest ?

Also, maiden, what is there that's rootless ?

9 Afanasief, Skazki, vm. 147.


Also, maiden, what is never silent ?

Also, what is there past finding out ? '

" I will answer, merchant's son, will answer,

All the six wise riddles will I answer.

Higher than the forest is the moon,

Brighter than the light the ruddy sun.

Thicker than the forest are the stars.

Bootless is, merchant's son, a stone.

Never silent, merchant's son, the sea,

And God's will is past all finding out."

" Thou hast guessed, maiden fair, guessed rightly,

All the six wise riddles hast thou answered.

Therefore now to me shalt thou be wedded,

Therefore, maiden, shaltthoube the merchant's wife 1 ."

The zagddka has now completely lost the venera-
ble character it once possessed, being degraded from
the lofty realm of mythological philosophy to the
humble field of popular amusement ; but time has not
dealt so hardly with the relic of heathenism to which
we will next turn our attention, the Zagovor, the
Slavonic Spell, Rune, or Incantation. The riddles
belonged to the people in general, and no one had any
special interest in maintaining their accuracy, and
handing them down to posterity intact. But the
spells were the peculiar property of a small body of
sorcerers, who watched over them with jealous care,
and delivered them to their successors as precious
heirlooms from which nothing was to be taken
away, for the whole virtue of the zagovor depended
upon its absolute correctness. If any change was
made in its wording its pronouncer became as power-

1 Quoted by Prof. Buslaef as a song heard in Moscow. Istor .
Ockerki, I. 33.


less to kill or to cure as was Groa when, in lier joy at
recovering her husband, she forgot the Runes which
would have loosened the stone from Thor's head 2 ,
or as the Finnish deity in the Kalewala, "Waina-
moinen, when he was unable to remember the magic
words that would have stanched his flowing blood 3 ,
and so was obliged to bleed on till an old wizard
with a stronger memory came to his aid. In order
not to be placed in so unpleasant a predicament the
Russian sorcerers of whom more will be said farther
on used frequently to commit their spells to writing.
Some of these manuscripts still exist, but none of
them, it is said, can be referred to an earlier period
than the eighteenth century; for, until the time of
Peter the Great, the Church and the State agreed in
strongly objecting to sorcerers, and when they burnt
them they unfortunately burnt their manuscripts
also 4 .

Among the old Slavonians, as among all other
peoples, spoken words were supposed to possess
certain magical powers. In their figurative language
the lips and the teeth are often spoken of as locks, of
which the key is the tongue. When that has once
unloosened them, out shoots the word, like an arrow
from a bow, and it is capable of flying straight to,
and acting directly upon, the object at which it is
aimed by its utterer. " A word is not a sparrow,"
says a Russian proverb; " once let it fly out, you will

2 Deutsche M.ythologie> 348, 1197.

3 Castren, Finnische Mytlwlogie, p. 249.

4 Afanasief, P. V. S. I. 45.


never catch it again 5 ." In olden times countless
magical formulas, for good or for evil, seem to have
been known to those persons who were originally
styled " Wise Men" and " Wise Women," and after-
wards wizards and witches. Many of these spells have
come down to our times for the sorcerer's occupa-
tion is not yet gone in Russia, though his class only
exists now where it formerly flourished and large
collections of them have been formed by various
careful gleaners in the field of folk-lore.

The name under which these spells are generally
known is that of zagovorui. ^ As " sprechen, sing en,
become besprechen, besingen, schworen beschworen,
jurare conjurare, cantare incantare, etc. 6 " so the
Russian govoritf, "to speak," becomes zagovorit 9 , one
of the meanings of which is to conjure, to utter a spell
or zagovor a form of words in which, though now
written as prose, there is always rhythm, and some-
times rhyme. In primeval times the zagovorui may
have been mere prayers [molvif = to speak, molitva
-= a prayer], which, as years went by, degenerated
into spells. At first sacred hymns bless and implore
the gods ; at a later period they demand from them
(zaJdinayut) what their utterers desire, and are
known as spells, zaJdindniya or zagovorui 7 .

These spells were no doubt originally preceded by

5 Afanasief, P. V. S. I. 404. 6 Deutsche Myihologie, 1173.

7 Afanasief, P. V. S I. 414, who refers to Prof. Kuhn's remarks,
[Herabkunft des Feuers, p. 147], as to how the power of prayer
as a personification in the Brahmanaspatis takes Indra's place, and
the personified worship destroys dragons, etc.


rites, but the rite long ago stiffened into a verba
formula. The zagovor generally begins with a nar-
rative, in which often occur highly poetic descriptions
of nature. The utterer goes forth "in the early
morn" to " the open field ;" there he bows to all four
quarters, but eventually turns his face " to the
eastern side;" he washes himself in the morning
dew, dries himself in the sunlight, and becomes
" clothed with the clouds," and " girdled with the
countless stars." Sometimes he strikes the stars,
which are represented as silver nails, or covers him-
self with the brazen heaven. Then he addresses
himself to the elements, asking the earth Mother
Earth, bright with flowers and full of vigorous life
to make his life bright and vigorous ; asking the
strong blue sea to strengthen him, and the wild
winds to brace his courage, and the stars the eyes
of heaven to make his eyesight keen 8 .

As regards the world-wide custom of turning
towards the east before praying, it will be enough to
say that it still prevails in many parts of Russia
among the peasantry, .who are also of the opinion
that it is from the East that sick people must look
for alleviation of their complaints. In Bohemia it
used to be required of persons who were about to
take an oath, that they should do so looking east-
ward, appealing, as it were, to the rising sun. And
a similar idea lay at the root of the custom of pro-
nouncing the zagovor, in most cases, at the hour of

Orest, Miller, Opuit. i. 75.


sunrise. Sometimes, however, these spells were
probably intended to be uttered at other hours,
at moonrise, for instance. To this day the Russian
peasant, when he sees the new moon, will say,

" Young moon ! God give thee strong horns and
me good health ! '

As the stars, also, are frequently addressed in the
zagovorui, it is very likely that some of the spells were
spoken at night, and others may have been meant to
accompany the sunset or the gloaming.

The spells were originally uttered in a loud, clear
voice. Now-a-days manyof them are always whis-
pered, a practice which may have been derived from
the Finnish sorcerers, who have had so great an
influence on Russian superstition, or it may have
gradually crept in as the subject of conjuring
assumed more and more the character of something
secret and forbidden. The addresses to the elements,
the celestial luminaries, and the various forces of
nature, which they contain, were of old the prayers
with which the heathen Slavonian worshipped his
elementary gods, and were meant to be, as it were,
" spoken on the house-top," not whispered in the
secrecy of the closet. And so still in the muttered
speech of the rustic who desires to be freed from
some trivial annoyance, or to be gratified by some
small gain, may be heard the echo of the words
with which his far-off pagan ancestor greeted the
return of day, or watched the sinking of the
western sun, or "blessed the kindly light" of
the " gleaming moon " and the " many stars," or


acknowledged the past aid, and implored the future
assistance of those heavenly beings whom he adored
beings to whom, perhaps, in immemorial times,
when what are now the many Aryan nations formed
but one people, his and our ancestors offered their
simple worship somewhere far away in Central Asia.
" Dost thou hear, Sky ? dost thou see,
Sky ? " cries the peasant of to-day, addressing the
Svarog, the Ouranos, the Varuna of old religion.
" ye bright Stars ! descend into the marriage-cup,
and in my cup let there be water from a mountain
spring. thou fair Moon ! bow down to my klyef,
[kind of store-room]. thou free Sun ! dawn upon
my homestead. ye Stars ! deliver me, the servant
of God so and so, from drink ! Moon, turn me
from drink ! Sun, draw me from drink !"

" righteous Sun ! do thou in my foes, my rivals,
my opposers, in the powers that be, and public
officials, and in all people of godly mouth and heart,
parch up evil thoughts and deeds, so that they may
not rise up, may not utter words baleful for me !"

Or, -addressing the zaryd, the dawn and gloaming,

" Ho, thou morning zaryd, and thou evening zaryd /
fall upon my rye, that it may grow up tall as a
forest, stout as an oak ! J:

" Mother zaryd [apparently twilight here] of morn-
ing and evening and midnight ! as ye quietly fade
away and disappear, so may both sicknesses and
sorrows in me, the servant of Grod, quietly fade and
disappear those of the morning, and of the evening,
and of the midnight ! *


Here is an address spoken by a lover to the winds.
" In the ocean sea, on the "island Buyan [i. e. in the
cloud-island sailing over the heavenly sea?] there
live three brothers, three winds : the first northern,
the second eastern, and the third western. Waft,

winds, bring on the servant of God (such and
such a maiden) sorrow and dreariness [suWiota
dryness], so that without me she may not be able to
spend a day nor pass an hour ! '

The force of the zagovor sometimes depends upon
the assistance of the heavenly and other bodies ad-
jured, as may be seen from the following spell to
prevent swarming bees from wandering afar 9 .

" I take a bee, I place it in the hive. But it is not

1 who place thee there ; the white stars place thee ;
the horned moon, the red sun, they place thee and
keep thee still."

When heathenism was dethroned by Christianity,
these ancient adjurations were so far altered, that for
the names of the elementary deities were substituted
those of the Saviour, the Virgin Mary, the Apostles,
and various saints and martyrs. Sometimes the old
and the new names occur together, as we have seen
is often the case in the mythical songs ; but there are
also instances in which, while the archaic form of the
zagovor is preserved, its tone has become to all ap-
pearance thoroughly Christian ; so that it has even
found its way, under the heading Molitvui, or prayers,

9 Zagov6rs about bees are very common. In the DeutscJie
MytJiologie, 1190, J. Grimm says that as he has met with no
German Bienenseyen, he will quote a Latin one.


into the church books called trebniki, both Russian
and Servian, of the 15th 17th centuries l . This is
a different case from that of the well-known poem of
the MerseburgMS., in which a spell intended to cure
a lame horse is preceded by an account of how, as
Baldr rode through a wood in company with other
Teutonic deities, his horse met with a sprain ; a
poem which, in this instance, has preserved its
heathen complexion intact, although it figures in a
copy of " Hrabani expositio super missam" but is
generally found in as Christian a tone as that of the

Jesus reed sig til
or our own

The lord rade,

And the foal slade, etc. 2

The copyist in the case of the Merseburg MS.
may have wished to stand well with the old powers
as well as with the new, but in many of the variants
of the spell its heathen character had probably been
forgotten. The mixed nature of these superstitious
formulas is best shown, perhaps, in some of those
preserved by the wilder sects which discredit the
Russian Raskol, or general body of dissenters from
the Established Church, and are too often carelessly
identified with the respectable though bigoted body
of Old Believers, the Russian Nonconformists.
Here is a specimen of the strange adjurations in

1 Afanasief, P. V. S. i. 420, from whose pages the greater part of
this account is condensed.

2 Deutsche Mythologie, pp. 1180 1183.


use among the Skoptsui, the most fanatical, in all pro-
bability, of the Raskolniks who now exist in Russia :

" Forgive me, Lord ; forgive me, holy Mother
of God ; forgive me, ye Angels, Archangels, Cheru-
bim and Seraphim, and all ye heavenly host ! For-
give, sky; forgive, damp -mother- earth ; forgive,
sun ; forgive, moon ; forgive, ye stars ; forgive, ye
lakes, ye rivers and hills; forgive, all ye heavenly
and earthly elements 3 !"

In this case it is easy to see that the alteration
which has taken place is one of heterogeneous com-
bination, not of corruption or decay.

After the old prayers had passed into spells, their
magical properties were often supposed to be auto-
matic, no longer depending on the aid of the divinities
they invoked, but acting, for good or for evil, by the
force of their own inherent attributes. Zagovorui of
this nature generally end with the phrase, " My word
is firm ! " or " My word will not pass away for ever !"

" May my words be sticky and tough, firmer than
stone, stickier than glue or resin, salter than salt,
sharper than a self-cutting sword, tougher than steel.
What is meant, that shall be fulfilled 4 !"

It has already been mentioned that the mouth is
defined in metaphorical language as a lock the

3 Quoted by Afanasief from Nadezhdin's Report on tlie SJcoptsui
Heresy, one of the many valuable documents, it may be worth
remarking, reprinted in London by the late Alexander Hertsen at
the " Free Russian Press."

4 Afanasief, P. V. S. i. 420.


Russians use padlocks to a great extent of which
the tongue is the key. That idea is expressed in the
following termination of a zagovor :

"For these words of mine [my] lips and teeth
[are] a lock ; my tongue, the key. And I will fling
the key into the sea [but] remain thou lock in the

Here is one of a slightly different nature :

"I, the servant of God, 5 will make fast thrice
nine locks. I take out from the thrice nine locks
the thrice nine keys. I fling those keys into the
clear ocean-sea; and from that sea will come
out a golden-finned, copper-scaled pike, and will
swallow my seven-and-twenty keys, and will sink into
the depth of the sea. And no one shall catch that
pike, or find out the seven-and-twenty keys, or open
the locks, or do hurt to me the servant of God 6 ! "

The range attributed to the force of the zagovor is
as wide as that with which the Lieder and Runen used
to be credited, and the Russian spell was supposed
to be fully capable of performing most of, if not all, the
actions of which, in speaking of its Teutonic equiva-
lents, Jacob Grimm has given so long a list 7 , or which

6 In these spells the words " servant of God" are intended to
be followed by the name of the utterer, or of some other person.

6 LOG. cit. p. 422. With these Zagov6r-terminations may be
compared the ending of a Parsee Patet from the Khordah-Avesta
(Bleek's translation, p. 171) " This heavenly Patet (or confession-
formulary) shall be a fast brazen wall like as the earth is broad,
the mountains high, the heavens strong, that it may keep the gate
of hell fast in bonds," etc.

7 Deutsche Mythologie, p. 1176.


used to be claimed as the effect of the songs of Odin.
These were, apparently, mythical in their origin, but
the figurative language of the spell has been inter-
preted literally at a later period. In some of the
Russian zagovors, however, remarks Afanasief, their
mythical character is still plainly visible, and he
quotes, in illustration, two spells against toothache.
The first is as follows :

" thou young moon ! test the dead and the
living : the teeth of one who is dead, do they ache ?
Not at all ache the teeth of one dead, [whose] bones
are tanned, [whose] teeth are mute .... Grant,
Lord, that the teeth of me, the servant of God,
may become mute, may never ache ! "

The other spell must be three times pronounced
by its utterer while he bites at the portal of the
church :

" As this stone is firm, so may my teeth also be-
come stony harder than stone ! "

In the first spell, says Afanasief, the sufferer, who
wishes his teeth to be mute as in death, addresses
the moon, remembering the ancient character of a
ruler in the land of the dead, which it, as the nightly
luminary, used to bear. In the second, his appeal to
the stone of the church portal is supposed to be a
reference to that of which in older days the stone was
a symbol, the hammer of Thor or Perun, which could
turn all things into stone the hard-hitting thunder-
bolt 8 . But all this seems very doubtful.

8 P. V. S. I. 426.


But in order to convey an idea of the peculiar
nature of the zagovors, it will be necessary to give
some specimens of those among their number which
are of the greatest length, and which contain most
mythical allusions those for which the Russians
proudly claim a greater fulness and a more poetic
colouring than is generally to be found in the
Teutonic Runes. Before doing so, however, I will
quote the following short spell, in order to introduce,
in connexion with each other, two names about
which some remarks must presently be made, the
" island Buyan," and the "white stone Alatuir."
Here is a specimen of the numerous zagovors used
for the cure of cuts, stabs, etc :

" In the sea, in the ocean, on the island, on Buyan,
lies the white burning stone Alatuir. On that stone
Alatuir there sits a fair maiden, a masterful sewer.
She holds a steel needle, threads it with a silken
thread, of reddish-yellow hue, and sews together
bloody wounds. I charm the servant So-and-so
from cuts. Steel, stand aloof, and thou, blood, cease
to flow 9 .!"

I will not dwell at present on the mystic stone,
Alatuir, but it should be mentioned, in order that an
allusion in the next zagovor may be intelligible,
that from the elysian isle of Buyan comes toslcd, grief
or longing. This may at first sight appear to be a
strange dweller in what is represented as a land of
eternal light and life. But the longing here alluded

9 Sakharof, I. ii. 27.


to is that which springs from love, and leads to
marriage, and therefore it is that it derives its origin
from the same source as beings associated with all
that is bright and joyous. Here- is



I, the servant of God , stand still, uttering

a blessing.

I, crossing myself, go from the room to the door,
from the courtyard to the gates.

I go out into the open field, to the eastern side.
On the eastern side stands an izba [cottage or room],
in the middle of the izba lies a plank, under the
plank is the LONGING.

The Longing weeps, the Longing sobs, waiting to
get at the white light. The white light, the fair sun,
waits, enjoys itself, and rejoices.

So may He wait longing to get to me, and [having
done so] may he enjoy himself and rejoice ! And
without me let it not be possible for him to live, nor to
be, nor to eat, nor to drink ; neither by the morning
dawn, nor by the evening glow.

As a fish without water, as a babe without its
mother, without its mother's milk, cannot live, so
may he, without me, not be able to live, nor to be,
nor to eat, nor to drink; neither by the morning
dawn, nor by the evening glow ; neither every day,
not at mid-day, nor under the many stars, nor toge-
ther with the stormy winds. Neither under the sun
by day, nor under the moon by night.

Plunge thyself, O longing ! gnaw thy way,
longing, into his breast, into his heart ; grow and
increase in all his veins, in all his bones, with pain
and thirst for me l I

1 Sakharof, I. ii. p. 34, No. 02.


In some zagovors the longing is said to spring from
underneath the stone Alatuir, whence it is borne on
the wings of seventy- seven aerial beings called both
birds and winds. In some cases its bearers are
styled " The Three Brothers," in others " The Seven
Brothers," who are implored " to gather together
from all the white world the griefs of widows, of
orphans, and of little children." In some of the
charms a lover addresses to fire and storm the fol-
lowing appeal : " Take from me my longing ; carry it
away, and do not drop it, but make it enter into such
and such a female heart." In one of the zagovors
three mystic smiths are mentioned, who assist in
forging hooks, by which one person can be " attached"
to another.

In a Siberian zagovor a " Fiery Snake " is invoked
for the kindling of amorous longing. With this idea
may be compared the popular belief, that with the
beginning of every January that is, at the end of
the festival in honour of the return of the sun to-
wards summer the Fiery Snake begins to fly, enters
into the izba through the chimney, turns into " a
brave youth," and steals by magic the hearts of fair
maidens. In one of the Servian songs, a girl who
has been carried off by a fiery snake calls herself
his " true love."

All this, says a bold mythologist, is explained by
the fact that in mythical language the Fiery Snake is
one of the forms of the lightning. The blooming
Earth, fructified by the rains poured forth during
the first spring storms, is turned in the myth into


the bride of the Fiery Snake. But the wedder of
nature became looked upon at a later period as the
patron of weddings -among the children of men ; and
so the inducing of love-pangs naturally became
ascribed to the Fiery Snake.

Sometimes the powers of darkness are represented
as having to do with the creation of amorous desire.
Some of the zagovors begin, " I rise up without ut-
tering a blessing," and they go on to invoke " the
demon Sanchak," and sometimes the " longing " is
borne on the wings of seventy-seven demons, instead
of as many winds. But all this is said to be of a later
date. Originally, however, there was opposed to the
fiery snake and the vivifying winds a malignant
" spirit of the whirlwind" [duJch-vikhor 9 ^, which con-
gealed instead of melting, and was invoked by
evil conjurors in order to produce coldness between
man and wife.

Some of the charms are meant to preserve men
from drunkenness, which the sun, the moon, and
the stars are called upon to keep away ; others to
gain the good will of a superior, or to ensure safety
during a campaign. Here is a specimen of the latter
class :

The red sun has come forth from beyond the Cas-
pian Sea, the moon has gone up into the blue sky,
the clouds have drawn together from afar, the dark-
blue birds have met in the stone-built city.

Within that stone-built city did my mother bear
me, and while bearing me thus did she speak :

" Be thou, my child, sound and unhurt, whether
by guns, or by arquebuses, or by arrows, whether

lib 2


by wrestlers, or by boxers. May the champio'ns n
challenge thee, nor smite thee with weapons of war ;
neither piercing thee with lance or spear, nor cleaving
thee with halbert or hatchet, nor crushing thee with
an axe, nor stabbing thee with a knife.

" May the old delude thee not, may the young
men do thee no harm ; but mayst thou be before
them as a hawk, and may they be as thrushes. And
may thy body be firmer than stone, thy shirt than
iron, thy breast than the stone Alatuir.

" And mayst thou at home be a good father,
abroad a brisk youth, in war a brave soldier ; in the
outer world a source of pleasure, in the upper
chamber of the maidens an ornament, at the nuptial
feast [a guest] without a trace of guile ; and [mayst
thou live] with thy father and mother in peace, with
thy wife in concord, with thy children in harmony."

But perhaps the most interesting, and certainly
the most poetic of the spells, are those which are
intended for the relief of sufferers from a longing
that is of a different nature from that produced
by amorous impulse, for the solace of friends and
relatives who have been torn asunder, and especially
of parents who have been deprived of children.
As a specimen of these may be taken the following


I have sobbed away the day I his own mother,
the servant of God in the lofty parental terem [upper
chamber], from the red morning dawn, looking out
into the open field towards the setting of my red
sun, my never-enough-to-be-gazed-on child. There
I remained sitting till the late evening glow, till the
damp dews, in longing and in woe. But at length


I grew weary of grieving, so I considered by what
spells I could charm away that evil, funereal grief.

I went into the open field, I carried with me the
marriage cup, I took out the betrothal taper, I
fetched the wedding kerchief, I drew water from
the well beyond the mountains. I stood in the
midst of the thick forest, I traced an unseen line,
and I began to cry with a piercing voice,

" I charm my never-enough-to-be-gazed-on child,
over the marriage cup, over the fresh water, over the
nuptial kerchief, over the betrothal taper. I bathe
my child's pure face with the nuptial kerchief, I wipe
his sweet lips, his bright eyes, his thoughtful brow,
his rosy cheeks. With the betrothal taper I light
up his long kaftan, his sable cap, his figured girdle,
his stitched shoes, his ruddy curls, his youthful face,
his rapid gait.

" Be thou, my never-enough-to-be-gazed-on
child, brighter than the brilliant sun, softer than a
spring day, clearer than fountain water, whiter than
virgin wax, firmer than the fiery stone Alatuir.

" I avert from thee the terrible devil, I drive away
the fierce whirlwind, I keep thee away from the one-
eyed Lyeshy [or wood-spirit], from the stranger Do-
movoy [i. e. from the house- spirit of another family],
from the evil Vodyany [or water -spirit], from the
witch of Kief, and from her evil sister of Murom,
from the beckoning Rusalka, from the thrice-accursed
Baba Yaga, from the flying Fiery Snake. I wave
away from thee the prophetic raven and the croaking
crow, I screen thee from Koshchei-Yadun, from the
wily enchanter, from the spell-weaving wizard, from
the daring magician, from the blind soothsayer, from
the hoary witch.

" And thou, my child, by night and at midnight,
through all hours and at the half-hours, on the high-
way and the byway, when sleeping and when waking,
bo thou concealed by my abiding words from hostile


powers and from unclean spirits, preserved from
untimely death and from misfortune and from woe,
saved from drowning when on the water, and kept
from burning when amid the flames.

" And should thy hour of death arrive, do thou, my
child, remember our caressing love, our unsparing
bread-and-salt, and turn towards thy well-loved
birth-place, bend thy brow to the ground before it
with seven times seven salutations, take leave of
thy kith and kin, and fall into a sweet, unbroken

"And may my words be stronger than water, higher
than the mountains, heavier than gold, firmer than
the fiery stone Alatuir, more powerful than heroes.

" And he who tries to beguile or to cast a spell over
my child, may he be shut up beyond the mountains
of Ararat, in the lowest gulfs of hell, in boiling pitch,
in burning flame. And may his spells be for him no
spells, his deceit be no deceiving, and his guile lead
to no beguiling 2 ."

We will now return for a time to the " Isle of
Buyan," and the " White Stone Alatuir."

Far away amid the ocean waves, according to
Slavonic tradition, lies the isle called Buyan, one
of the many forms of the Uai, or Paradise, of which
mention has already been made, the Slavonian coun-
terpart of that happy land which figures in the
mythology of all the Aryan nations. In that eastern
isle is the home of the sun, which goes there every
evening after it has set, to rise from it again with
the return of morning. In Buyan are collected, says

2 Sakharof, I. ii. 19. Every one who is interested in the subject
of spells should read Professor Kuhn's excellent article on Indische
und germanische Segensspruche in the 13th vol. of the Zeitschrift
fur vergleickende Sprachforscliung.

BUYAN. 375

Afanasief, all the mighty forms of the spring-tide
storms, all the mythical personifications of thunder,
wind, and tempest. There are to be found " the
Snake older than all snakes, and the prophetic Raven,
elder brother of all ravens," and the Bird, the
largest and oldest of all birds, with iron beak and
copper claws, and the Mother of Bees, eldest among
bees. That is to say, continues Afanasief, there lies
the Lightning Snake, and broods the Tempest Bird,
and swarm the Thunder Bees who bless the longing
earth with the honey of rain 3 .

On Buyan, also, stands a dripping oak, under
which lies the snake Garafena [perhaps a corruption
of Goruinich, Son of the Mountain, the name usually
borne by the snake of the Russian fable], and there
sits the divine maiden, Zarya [the Dawn, or the
Spring- tide Sun, or a Thunder-goddess?]. Thither
turned the Old Slavonian with prayers, entreating
the gods to preserve him from wounds and from
diseases, to inspire him with martial courage, to

' The word Buyan was originally, says Afanasief, an epithet
only of the fabled isle, but afterwards it became looked upon as its
name. Even now, instead of Buydn-ostrofis written buevoi-ostrqf.
The root bui is synonymous with yary, which includes ideas of
what is burning, ardent, passionate, fruitful, vernal, etc. The verb
bui/at' means to grow luxuriantly. The adjective buiny, when
applied to fields, is equivalent to fruitful, etc.; when to the wind, it
means stormy, etc. ; and when to a hero's head, it stands for bold,
daring, etc. [P. V. S. n. I3l]. Some connexion between Buyan
and the grave may be suspected from the fact that bui and bui-
viskche mean the fenced-in ground around a church, in which the
dead used to be buried, and buevo is a name for a cemetery. [P. V. S.
II. 140.]



bless him with success in love, in hunting and fish-
ing, and in household affairs.

On Buyan is found the white stone Alatuir, the
name and the nature of which have been discussed
at some length by various Slavonic scholars, who
have not, however, entirely dispelled the mystery
which hangs about them. The zagovors generally
describe it as lying on the Buyan isle, but sometimes
they merely say, " On the sea, on the ocean, lies the
fiery stone 4 ." From under it flow rivers of healing.
On it originally was wont to sit either a " fair
maiden who sewed up bleeding wounds " supposed
to be the Dawn, or the bird Stratim, the meaning
of whose name has not yet been discovered or some
other mythical being. Bat under the influence of
Christian ideas the locality of the stone was altered,
and with it the character of its occupants. Some-
times, for instance, we find a spell in which the
stone has been transferred to the neighbourhood of
the river Jordan, and over it rises " a golden
church," or a throne of gold occupied by " the
Lord Himself," or by " the Holy Mother of God,"
or by one of the Apostles, or by some member of the
heavenly host. Or near it stands a sacred grove
composed perhaps of cypresses the cypress having
been the tree of which the cross was made or
a golden staircase up which the Archangel Michael
is ascending to heaven. But whatever else has
been changed, the idea of, warm, blazing light is
always connected with the stone. " Look, wife,

4 The epithet goryuch means inflammable, easily set on fire.


on the blue sea," says a husband in a national
song, when leaving his wife for ever; " when the
fiery white stone grows cold, then will I come
home ;" meaning that he will never return. Some-
times, instead of the epithet " fiery white," the
designation Idp [kipyef =. to boil, foam, seethe, etc.]
is applied to the stone.

Various suggestions have been made with regard
to the etymology of the word Alatuir. One writer
compares it with the Greek elektron, the Russian
yantar [amber], and another with alabastros, each
supporting his argument by the fact that the word he
suggests represents something specially bright. The
alabaster theory seems to have fallen to the ground,
but the identity of the words alatuir and yantar seems
to be generally admitted, though it is difficult to see,
as Afanasief remarks, why such magical properties,
should have been attributed by the Old Slavonians
to amber 5 . It may be that, as Buyan seems to have
been turned from an epithet into a proper name, so
Alatuir may, in the course of time, have changed its
meaning, which possibly was at first " amber-like."

And now it is time that we should turn from the
spell to its wielder that having gained some fami-

5 P.V.S. ii. 148, 149. In a note to this passage (in. 800, SOl)
Afanasief remarks, " The Russian alatuir and the Greek r/Ae/erpov
are derived from a root which in Sanskrit is found under the form
ark (^aAjc), to flash, to emit rays (ark-as = light, the sun, crys-
tal, etc. : ^Ae'/c-Tcop = the sun, i. e. the shining one, r/Ae/crpov =
shining metal (a mixture of gold and silver)" and so = Alatuir
in its form latuir or lak-tuir. Dahl in his great dictionary looks
on yantar as a Tartar form of ulcJctron.


liarity with the language of Sorcery, we should mak
the acquaintance of the Sorcerer himself. And
having done so, it may be worth our while to trace
his spiritual pedigree, to test his own claims, and
those of his predecessors, to magic power, and to
attempt to account for the readiness with which,
century after century, those claims were admitted.
Such an investigation will lead us back to the region
whence we started, for if we perseveringly trace
backwards up the stream of time the ancestral line
of that poor creature, the Sorcerer of to-day,we shall
find ourselves at last in the presence of those ill-de-
fined but still majestic shapes of gods, under which
the fanciful reverence of the heathen Slavonians
seems to have personified the powers of nature.

But a little time ago every Russian village had its
wizard, almost as a matter of course, and to this day
it is said there is not a hamlet in the Ukraine that
is not reported to keep its witch. In the vicinity of
the great cities the supernatural, as revealed by the
professors of the black art, may have lost its attrac-
tive hold upon the popular mind ; but out in the open
country the Koldun still holds his own, the Vyedfma
still retains her power 6 . To him and to her the
rustics still have recourse in their troubles, still


6 Of the numerous names for the wizard and the witch, those of
Vyedun and Vyed'ma, springing as they do from a root -vyed,
answering to the Sanskrit vid, mean people who know, having ex-
actly the same primary signification as two other terms applied to
them, Ztnakhar* and ZnakharTca (znaf = to know). Of another
like couple of synonyms, Koldun and ILoldurfya, the root has not


trustfully turn for such advice and aid as may enable
them to obtain blessings and ward off evils. They
are supposed to be able to look into the future, and
to decipher the hidden meaning of omens and augu-
ries ; to possess charms which will cure the diseases
of the body and calm the troubles of the mind ; and
even to be capable of controlling the elements, of
bestowing the gift of fertilizing rain, or of ruining
by the curse of drought or storm. The faith, in
short, which was once professed in every European
land, and which was the cause in them of so many
thousands of terrible deaths, is still held in Eussia,
where, however, it has seldom assumed the virulent
aspect which it used to wear farther west.

In Russia, as in many other lands, the common
people look upon diseases as evil spirits, to be driven
away by purification with fire and water, and so the

yet been satisfactorily made out. Professor Sreznievsky thinks
that the JLoldun was anciently the sacrificer to the gods, for in
Croatian Kaldovati means to offer a sacrifice, and a Kaldovants is a

Besides these names there are those of the Charovmk or Charod-
yeets (fern. Charovnitsa, etc.), the dealer in chdrui, spells or magic ;
of the Kudesnik (fern. Kudesnitsci), the worker of wonders,
(chudesa = kudesa) ; and finally of the Volkhv (fern. Vlkhva,
Volkhvitka) , a term which was used by Nestor as a synonym of
Kudesnik, and which Professor Buslaef considers as having had
the same meaning as zhrets, a heathen priest, deriving VolkJiv from
a root akin to the Sanskrit valg = to shine, and zhrets from
zhryeti, to burn, and comparing TlkTiva with the like-meaning
Scandinavian name of volva, vola, vala. See Afanasief, P. V. S. I.
405 409, in. 423 426; and Buslaef, Vliyanii XLhristianstva,
pp. 21 24.


popular practice of physic is founded on a theory of
fumigations, washings, and sprinklings, attended by
exorcisms of various kinds. Some of the strangest
of the magical practices to which the peasants have
recourse are those which they employ as a defence
against the attacks of the malignant beings whom
they identify with the cholera, the small-pox, and the
cattle-plague. Of some of these rites an account will
presently be given. Against the evil influence of an
angry house-spirit, or of nightmares and other bale-
ful demons, the Wise Men and Women contend in
various ways, all highly prized by the peasants : they
keep away fevers from a house by washing the
lintels of its doorways, and by performing certain
magical rites in the fields they prevent insects and
other vermin from hurting the crops. For the success
of a wedding, the presence of the wizard is in many
places considered indispensable 7 . His duty is to
preserve the young couple and their friends from the
attacks of hostile magicians; and so, in the Govern-
ment of Perm, the bride is always attended by a zndk-
harka, and the bridegroom by a zndkhar', who goes
in front of the bridal procession, and anxiously pries
around, whispering to himself the while. The people
imagine that he is contending with the evil spirit
which pursues newly-married persons, and attempts to

7 By the peasantry, of course. Their superiors in social rank
are said to have been wont in former days to lay equal stress on
the presence of a general. Satirists declared that the confectioner
who contracted for the wedding-breakfast always asked his cus-
tomers whether they supplied " their own generals."


ensnare them. In some districts, when a wedding is
being celebrated, all the doors and windows are care-
fully shut, and even the chimney is stopped up, to
prevent malicious witches from flying in, and doing
the bride or bridegroom an injury.

As in other countries, so in Russia, according to
the opinion of the peasants, wizards and witches are
greatly addicted to stealing the dew and the rain.
These they either hoard or pour forth at their dis-
cretion. Thus, for instance, there is a story in South
Russia of a wizard who could control the elements.
Once, in harvest-time, a storm-cloud was seen moving
towards the fields where he and his fellow- villagers
were at work. They hurried homewards, but he
stopped where he was, saying there would be no
rain, though all the sky was black with clouds. Pre-
sently there gallops up to him a black rider on a
black horse. " Let go !" he cries imploringly to the
wizard, who refuses to do so. The clouds take a
lighter hue, and the peasants this time look for a hail
storm. Up rides a second horseman, " all white and
on a white steed," and cries, "Let go, please do !"
" No, I won't," replies the wizard. " Do let go ;
there's no holding out!" exclaims the white rider.
At last the wizard sends him on to the other side of
the corn-field, where in a little time a hail-storm
comes pelting down 8 .

With whirlwinds, also, the wizards have a great

8 A Bohemian version of this story is given by Grohmann,
Aberglauben . . . aus Bohmen, etc., p. 34.


deal to do. The Russian peasant generally attributes
such winds to the wild dances in which the devil
indulges when celebrating his marriage with a witch ;
but sometimes, he thinks, a wizard is being whirled
about in the " dust-spouts " which may be seen in
summer in the open plains. And so if a sharp knife
be thrown with good aim at one of them, it will fall
to the ground streaming with blood. There is a
Little-Russian story of a peasant who flung his
hatchet at one of these revolving columns, in which
it stuck, "just as if it were in a tree," and by which
it was carried off into space. Some little time after-
wards the peasant, while making a journey, happened
to spend a night in a cottage, the owner of which
lay ill in bed, having cut himself, said his family,
with a hatchet. As the guest lay down to sleep, he
caught sight of something gleaming under a bench,
and recognized it as the hatchet he had lost. Im-
mediately he knew that he had wounded a wizard,
so in fear of his life he fled from the cottage into the
darkness 9 . When our sailors fire cannon at water-
spouts they, of course, do so for purely philosophical

In Little-Russia the witches are reported to steal
from the sky its rain and dew, which they carry off
in pitchers and bags, and hide in their cottages. A
long time ago one of their number, it is said, did this
to such an extent that not a single rain-drop fell in
a whole summer. Having to go out one day, she

9 Afanasief, P. V. S. in. 448.


gave strict orders to the girl whom she left in charge
of the house not to meddle with the pitcher which
stood in the corner. But no sooner had she dis-
appeared, than the girl opened the pitcher and peeped
in. Nothing was to be seen inside, only a voice was
heard coming from it, " Now there will be rain !"
The frightened girl ran to the door, and, sure enough,
the rain was coming down "just as if it were rushing
out of a tub." The witch came running home, and
closed the pitcher, when the rain stopped in a
moment. "If the pitcher had stood open a little
longer," she said to the girl, " the whole of the
village would have been drowned 1 ." In some ver-
sions of the same story the witch forbids certain tubs
to be touched. When they are opened by an inqui-
sitive visitor they are found to be full of frogs,
toads, water-snakes, and other vermin, which set
up a strange croaking and crawl away in different
directions. Immediately the blue sky turns black,
and a terrible storm arises, only to be quelled by
the return of the witch, and the restoration of the
toads and their companions to their prison-tubs.

In some places, and especially in Little-Russia,
the witches are supposed to steal and hide away, not
only the rain and dew, but even the moon and stars.
With particular eagerness they attempt to do so
during the festivals of Kolydda and of Kupdla, [i. e.
at the times of the winter and the summer solstice] ,
when the principal gatherings of unclean spirits and

1 Afanasief, P. V. S. m. 450.


their families take place. There was once a village,
they say in the Chernigof Government, in which
there lived as many as a thousand witches, and they
went on clearing the sky of stars until there were
none left " to light up our sinful world." Then God
sent St. Andrew [one of the Christian successors
of Perun], who struck with his mace, and that wicked
village sank into the earth, the place it had occupied
becoming a swamp 2 . Akin to these witches must
have been the heroine of the following spell :

The maiden fair
Through the forest went.
Evil she muttered,
Herbs she collected,
Roots she extracted,
The moon she stole,
The sun she ate.
Aroynt her, hag !
Aroynt her, witch 3 !

In Russia, as elsewhere, the objects by means of
which a sorceress flies through the air are those
which are connected with the domestic hearth the
brooms and besoms used for sweeping up ashes, and
the equivalents for our tongs, poker, and shovel.
A Russian witch always keeps by her a supply of
water which has been boiled together with the
embers of a kupala pyre, or Midsummer bonfire.
When she wants to fly she sprinkles herself with
this, or she rubs herself under the armpits and the

2 Afanasief; P. V. S. in. 455. 3 Afanasief, P. V. S. in. 456.


knees with an ointment, the chief ingredient of which
is the magical herb tirlich, or gentian. Sometimes
witches cleave the air in the cauldrons wherein they
prepare their magic broths, or, like the Baba Yagas,
they skim along in mortars, sweeping away their
traces with a broom.

The witches generally hold their meetings on
"bald hills," though in Servia they haunt threshing-
floors for this purpose. And their chief gatherings
take place three times a year ; at springtide, and at
the periods of the summer and winter solstice.
According to Sakharof the witches begin to seek
their try sting-place on the 26th of December. On
the 1st of January they wander about with un-
clean spirits, and on the 3rd, returning from
their wanderings, they take to milking cows. In
Ruthenia it is believed that on the Feast of the
Annunciation [March 25, the day on which spring
subdues winter], witches and vampires are born.
On St. George's day [April 23], and on the " Kupala
night" [June 24 both days originally consecrated to
Perun] wizards and witches collect on a bare hill,
and there hold diabolical orgies. Sometimes they
may be followed thither. In the Ukraine they tell
how a certain soldier happened to see a witch, in
whose house he lodged, preparing herself for flight.
After she had gone he followed, her example, and was
immediately caught up, through the chimney, into
the sky and on to the "bare hill." Thero he
watched the revels for some time. At last his land-
lady caught sight of him, and in? mediately told him

c c


to be gone, if lie valued his life, without a moment's
delay. " Here is a good steed," she cried; " mount
and be off." Away he was borne home by the good
steed, which he tethered at the end of his journey.
The next morning he saw that the tether was attached
to a log.

It is unnecessary to go into the details of these
meetings of witches and wizards, for they differ but
little from those of such assemblies as the well-
known Walpurgisnacht and other Teutonic gather-
ings of demons and their earthly associates. In
Russia, as in other lands, the connexion between
sorcerers and devils is very close, and when a wizard
is about to die, evil spirits enter into him, and tear
his life out with terrible agonies. With him all
nature seems to suffer. The earth shudders, the
winds howl, the wild beasts roar, and flocks of crows
and ravens, or rather of evil spirits in their forms,
throng the roof and chimney of the house, seize
the soul of the dying wizard or witch, and, with
wild cries, bear it away to the other world.

Among the defensive weapons employed against
witchraft, some of the most important are the dif-
ferent objects connected with the domestic hearth,
or supposed to refer in some way to the lightning.
Thus a kochergd, or stove-rake, if suspended at the
door of a cottage, will prevent any wizard who may
have gained admittance from getting out again. As
in Germany, on the first nights in May, so in Russia,
on the eve of the Epiphany, says Afanasief, crosses
may be seen chalked on every door and window.


These are to keep off witches, who fear every symbol
of the Thunder-god's hammer, as, for instance, the
sallow, the aspen-stake, and the fern. If any one
takes a willow or aspen-twig with him to matins
on Easter day, say the peasants in the Poltava
Government, and looks at the congregation through
it, he will see all the wizards and witches among
them turned upside down 4 . In the Chernigof Go-
vernment it is believed that if, on the last day of
the Mdslyanitsa any one takes a piece of cheese,
wraps it up, and carries it about with him during the
whole of Lent, then on Easter eve the witches of
his village will appear to him, and ask for cheese.

To a wizard who dealt in nduzui, or amulets,
[uzui =. ties ; uzel a knot; uzit 9 = to tighten], was
given in old times the names of Nduwik or Uzol'nik.
These amulets generally consisted of various mate-
rials, such as herbs, roots, embers, salt, bats' wings,
heads and skins of snakes, etc., which were tied up
in small packets, and hung round the neck. Some-
times a spell was written on a piece of paper which
was attached to the pectoral cross worn by Russians.
After the introduction of Christianity, incense [Iddon]
entered so largely into the composition of these
amulets that they received from it the general desig-
nation of IddonJci. These amulets are still in great
request among the peasants, especially among those
who have to undertake long and hazardous journeys.
In olden days it seems to have been customary to

4 Afanasief, P. V. S. in. 497.

c c2


take young children to a witch, who provided them
with suitable amulets.

The efficacy of these tied or knotted amulets de-
pended to a great extent upon the magical force of
their knots. To these knots frequent reference is
made in the spells. Here is one, for instance, in-
tended to guarantee its employer against all risk of
being shot:

" I attach five knots to each hostile, infidel
shooter, over arquebuses, bows, and all manner of
warlike weapons. Do ye, knots, bar the shooter
from every road and way, lock fast every arquebuse,
entangle every bow, involve all warlike weapons, so
that the shooters may not reach me with their
arquebuses, nor may their arrows attain to me, nor
their warlike weapons do me hurt. In my knots
lies hid the mighty strength of snakes from the
twelve-headed snake 5 ." With such a spell as this it
was supposed that the insurgent chief, Stenka Razin,
had rendered himself proof against shot and steel.

Sometimes the amulet is merely a knotted thread. A
skein of red wool wound round the arms and legs is
supposed to war doff agues and fevers; and nine skeins,
fastened round a child's neck are deemed a preserva-
tive against scarlatina. In the Tver Government a
bag called vydzlo is fastened round the neck of the
cow which walks before the rest of a herd, in order to
keep off wolves. Its force binds the maw of the wild
beast [vyazdf = to bind] . In accordance with a simi- v

* Afanasief, P. V. S. in. 434.


lar idea, a padlock is carried three times round a herd
of horses, before they are allowed to go afield in the
spring, he who carries it locking and unlocking it as
he goes, while these magical words are being uttered,
" I lock from my herd the mouths of the grey wolves
with this steel lock." After the third round the
padlock is finally locked, and then, when the horses
have gone off, it is hidden away somewhere till late
in the autumn, when the time comes for the herd to
return to winter quarters. In this case the " firm word' '
of the spell is supposed to lock up the mouths of
the wolves. The Bulgarians have a similar method
of protecting their cattle against wild beasts. A
woman takes a needle and thread after dark, and
sews together the skirt of her dress. A child asks
her what she is doing, and she tells him she is sewing
up the ears, eyes, and jaws of the wolves, so that they
may not hear, see, or bite the sheep, goats, pigs, and
calves. In the Smolensk Government, when cattle
are being driven afield on St. George's day, the fol-
lowing spell is used :

" Deaf man, deaf man, dost thou hear us ? "

" I hear not."

66 God grant that the wolf may not hear our

" Cripple, cripple, canst thou catch us ?"

" I cannot catch."

" God grant that the wolf may not catch our
cattle !"

" Blind man, blind man, dost thou see us ? "

" I see not."

" God grant that the wolf may not see our cattle 6 ! "

Afanasief, P. V. S. III. 437.


Sometimes the amulet locks away hurtful things
from a man's body. A net, from its affluence of
knots, was always considered very efficacious against
sorcerers ; and therefore, in some places, when a
bride is being dressed in her wedding attire, a fishing-
net is flung over her, to keep her out of harm's
way. With a similar intention the bridegroom and
his companions are often girt with pieces of net, or
at least with tight-drawn girdles, for before a
wizard can begin to injure them he must undo all the
knots in the net, or take off the girdles. The girdle,
with which the idea of a snake is frequently con-
nected, has some mystic sympathy with its wearer,
and therefore the peasants in some parts believe, that
if a sick man's girdle be taken off, and thrown on the
highway, whoever picks it up and puts it on will
have its former wearer's diseases transferred to him-
self 7 . The knotted surface of a harrow (made of
interwoven branches) gives it great power against
witchcraft. The best way to catch a witch is to hide
under a harrow, and angle for her with a bridle.

Russian cows have always been as liable as those of
other countries to be drained of their milk by witches.
During the Christmas SvyatJci the peasants object to
letting their cattle leave the cow-sheds, for fear of
attacks from the powers of darkness. On the 3rd
of January the witches return from their Sabbath in
a state of ravenous hunger, and are to be debarred
from the cow- sheds only by means of a church taper

1 A similar belief is said to be still prevalent in


attached to the doors. Crosses chalked upon the
eve of the Epiphany are also very useful. On St.
Vlas's [Blasius's] day [Feb. 11] it is necessary to
sprinkle the flocks and herds with holy water, for at
that time, in Little-Russia at least, werewolves, in
the shape of dogs and black cats, suck the cows,
mares, and ewes, and slaughter their male com-
panions. On St. George's day in April, and again
during Whitsun and Trinity weeks, the danger is no
less to be dreaded. At Midsummer bonfires are
made of nettles, etc., and the horned cattle are driven
through the flame, in order to keep off wizards and
witches, who are then ravenous after milk. On the
30th of July witches frequently milk cows to death,
dying themselves afterwards of a surfeit.

A witch can milk a cow from a great distance. In
order to do so she sticks a knife into a plough, a post,
or a tree : the milk trickles along the edge of the
knife, and continues to do so till the cow's udder is
emptied. On the eves of St. George's day, Whit-
Sunday, and -Midsummer day, witches go out at night
without clothing, and cut chips from the doors and
gates of farmyards. These they boil in a milk-pail,
and so charm away the milk from those farms. Care-
ful housewives are in the habit of examining their
doors, and of smearing any new gashes they find in
them with mud, which frustrates the plans of the
milk-stealers. In such cases the witches climb the
wooden crosses by the wayside and cut chips from
them, or lay their hands on stray wooden wedges.
These they stick into a post in the cattle-sheds, and


press them with their fingers till milk flows from them
freely, as from a cow's udder. As in Germany, so
in Russia, witches often bear milk-pails on their heads.
In Lusatian Wendish a witch is called KJwdojta
[doit 1 =to milk], from her nefarious dealings with her
neighbours' cows.

As a farmer's cows are exposed to the attacks of
the witch, so are his crops to those of the wizard,
who sometimes takes a handful of ears of corn, bends
them down to the ground, and ties them together
with a string; or he twists them round toward the west,
the quarter with which is connected the idea of death,
and fastens them in that position. This ceremony,
which is done only with malicious intent, is of course
entirely different from the somewhat similar rite styled
" the plaiting of the beard of Volos." [See p. 251.]
The wizard's proceeding is called making a zakrut.
[zakrutit* = to twist] . The old church books called
trebniki contain prayers intended to be employed
against the zakrut. After they had been said, it was
formerly the custom to pull it out with a church
cross, and so to deprive it of its power to do harm.
Now-a-days it is customary to hire the services of a
friendly wizard, who cuts an aspen-stake, splits it
asunder, and pulls out the enchanted ears with it.
Afterwards the zakrut is set on fire with a holy taper,
and the aspen-stake is driven into the spot it had oc-
cupied, the latter proceeding giving rise to terrible
pains inside the hostile wizard 8 .

'Afanasief, P. V. S. in. 516.


Besides destroying crops and cattle, the dealers in
magic were supposed to be able to bring disease and
death upon mankind. The Kashoubes along the
Baltic still attribute most illnesses to sorcery, and in
former days such an explanation of plagues, and mur-
rains, and other evils of a like nature, seems to have
been generally accepted. The Russian peasants be-
lieve that wizards and witches can bring destruction
on men as well as beasts, letting loose on their ene-
mies evil spirits, which manifest themselves in
hiccoughs, ravings, and fits, or wreaking their ven-
geance upon them by means of poison. The victim
who accepts a beverage from the hands of a witch,
will perhaps swallow with it the " Fever-Sisters" or
other demons of torment, who will become trans-
formed within him into snakes, toads, or mice, and
will suck dry his veins, and bring him, amid pro-
longed agonies, to the grave. Sometimes, instead of
sending evil spirits to torment a man internally, a
witch is supposed to change him by night into a
horse, and ride him over hill and dale until he is all
but dead with fatigue an idea of which Gogol has
made excellent use in his story of the Vy. At other
times she is believed to ride on his spirit, while his
body sleeps. In that case he finds himself utterly
exhausted the next day, though he knows nothing
about what has been done to him.

As a general rule, however, wizards and witches are
supposed to destroy their victims by means of poison
distilled from herbs and roots. The girl who poisoned
her brother by mistake, when she merely intended to



kill the lover who had offended her as described in a
song already quoted probably belonged to the same
class as the wilfully murderous sister of the following
weird story :

A brave youth splintered chips.

A fair maiden gathered the chips,

Gathered and set them on the fire,

Baked snakes and distilled poison.

The sister thought her brother to kill.

Into the midst of the court she went,

Filled a cup betimes,

Offered it to her brother dear.

" Sister, be thou the first to drink."

" Brother, I drank when pouring forth,

Wishing good health to thee."

A drop fell on the horse's mane,

The horse's mane began to burn.

Down from his good steed leaped the youth,

Drew from its sheath his sabre keen,

Struck off his sister's head.

" No sister true of mine art thou,

But a snake from under a log."

Faggots he piled in the midst of the court,

And her body white he burnt,

Till nought but ashes remained.

Her dust he scattered across the plain ;

No voice would he suffer to mourn 9 .

Sometimes the poisoning is supposed to be effected
on a large scale, as when an epidemic is introduced
by means of unholy science. In that case recourse is
had to magic, to counteract the designs of the mali-
cious sorcerer. The rites which are performed by
the Russian peasants in order to ward off an attack

' Sakharof, I. iii. 202. See also supra, p. 23.


of the cattle-plague are very striking, whether they
are intended to prove efficacious against an evil
spirit invoked by a human will, or one that acts of
its own accord. In olden days, it is said, when such
a disease broke out in E/uthenia, it was customary to
seize some old woman who was suspected of dealing
in magic, and to bury her alive, or to fling her into a
river, having previously fastened her up in a sack
along with a cock, a dog, and a black cat. After
that it was expected that the epidemic would dis-
appear. Not long ago, an opinion was expressed by
the peasants, that if the first cholera patient were to
be buried alive, the disease would lose its power. In
some villages a hole is dug in the earth at the precise
spot on which the first victim to cattle-plague has
fallen, and in it they bury its remains, with a live
dog, cat, and cock fastened to its tail. The Com-
mune recompenses the owner of the dead beast for
the loss of its hide. In the Nijegorod Government
the Siberian Plague is supposed to be kept at a
distance by ashen stakes being driven into the ground
at crossways, and the remains of a dog, calcined for
the purpose, being scattered about the village. Some-
times, when a murrain is dreaded, the assembled
peasants drive their herds overnight into some farm-
yard, and keep watch over them till morn. Then
the cattle are counted, and if a beast which no
one claims is found among them, it is looked upon
as the Cow Death in person, and is immediately
burnt alive. Sometimes the popular fancy personifies
the Cow Death under the form of a haggard old


woman, against whose attacks various precautions o
a heathenish kind are taken. "When a village is
alarmed lest such a murrain should fall upon its
herds, the men are all ordered to shut themselves up
in their cottages. Then the women meet together,
clad only in white shifts, having their hair hanging
loose about their shoulders in striking resemblance
to the Prophetesses of heathen times and provided
with the various utensils connected with the hearth,
such as brooms, shovels, and the equivalents for
pokers and tongs. In some places, also, they carry
scythes and sickles, and other instruments used in
their daily avocations, but this seems to be an inno-
vation of later date. The oldest woman among them
is then yoked to a ploiigh, and she must draw it
three times round the whole of the village, the rest
of the party following after her, and singing the
songs set apart for such occasions. It is supposed
that the malignant spirit whom they recognize in the
cattle-plague will be unable to cross the lines thus
traced by the plough, or to get at the cattle, which,
during the ceremony, have been kept shut up within
the village. Here is one of their songs, many of
which are quite unpresentable :

From the ocean from the deep sea . . .

There have come out twelve maidens.

They have gone on their way, by no short road,

Up to the steep, the high mountains,

To the three old Elders . . .

" Get ready the white oak tables . . .

Sharpen the knives of steel,

Make hot the boiling cauldrons,


Cleave, cut unto death,
Every life under the heavens ! ):

The Elders comply with the request of the Twelve
Maidens, and all living things are put to death.

In those boiling cauldrons,

Burns with an inextinguishable fire

Every life beneath the heavens.

Around the boiling cauldrons

Stand the old Elders ;

The old Elders sing

About life, about death,

About the whole human race.

The old Elders give

To the whole world long lives.

But on the other, on evil Death,

The old Elders fix

A great curse.

The old Elders promise

Eternal life

To all the human race 1 .

The Three Elders, says Orest Miller, are evidently
beneficent divinities, but it is not clear who the
Twelve Sisters are. They are often mentioned in
exorcisms, many of which are intended to be used
as a protection against the attacks of these "Evil
Shakers," as they are called; shakers of mankind,
that is to say. Sometimes each one has her own
name, that of some special disease. In the exorcisms
preserved in writing, most of which show evident
signs of having been submitted to Christian influences,
these weird sisters are called the Daughters of

1 Orest Miller, Opuit, I. 10.


Tereschenko, in his description of the Opakkuvatiie,
the ploughing rite \_pakhdtf =. to plough] used as a
preservative against the cattle-plague, gives a few
additional details. In the villages of which he speaks,
the procession is headed by a young girl who car-
ries the image of St. Blasius Vlas, the Christian
representative of the old Slavonic deity Volos,
the patron-god of cattle 2 . Behind her walk the
rest of the female villagers, those in the front row
carrying besoms and handfuls of hay and straw.
Next comes an old woman, riding on a broomstick,
her locks dishevelled, a single shift her only cover-
ing : around her are several women and girls with
stove-irons. The third row is composed of women
who shout, dance, gesticulate, and beat frying-
pans. A number of old women, bearing lighted fir-
splinters, form a circle around a widow, who wears
a horse-collar round her neck and nothing else, and
the old woman yoked to the plough. In front of
each farmyard the procession halts, while its mem-
bers knock at the gates, and, amid the din of beaten
pots and pans, exclaim " Ai, Ai ! cut, hew the Cow
Death ! Ai, Ai ! cut, hew ! There she goes ! Ai,
Ai!" If a dog or a cat happens to rush out it is
killed on the spot, being taken for the cattle-plague
in person.

Another rite, of an equally heathenish nature, is
considered efficacious against various epidemics. The
female inhabitants of a village heap up two piles of

2 See supra, p. 251.


refuse at midday, one at each end of the street,
and set them on fire at midnight. To one of these
bonfires the girls, in white shifts, .with loosely flow-
ing hair, drag a plough, one of their number follow-
ing the rest and carrying a holy picture. To the
other bonfire a black cock is taken by the older
women who wear black petticoats and dirty shifts
and carried three times round the flames. Then one of
the women seizes it, and runs away with it to the other
end of the village, the rest following and screeching
" Ah ! Ai ! Atu ! disappear, perish, black disease ! j:
When she reaches the glowing heap at the other end,
she flings the bird into it. While it is burning, the
girls, after heaping dry leaves on the fire, take hands
and dance round it, repeating " Perish, disappear,
black disease ! " The women then drag the plough
three times round the village 3 .

Near Mtsensk, in the Government of Orel, the
Cow Death procession is headed by three girls who
carry a picture of St. Vlas, with a taper burning in
a lanthorn before him, or a censer containing live
coals and incense. After them walk three widows,
and in some places three soldiers' wives. As they
go round the village they sing,

Death, thou Cow Death !

Depart from our village,

From the stable, from the court !

Through our village

Goes holy Ylasy,

With incense, with taper,

With burning embers.

3 Tereshchenko, vr. 4t.


We will consume thee with fire,
We will rake thee with the stove-rake,
We will sweep thee up with the broom,
And we will stuff thee with ashes.
Come not to our village !
Meddle not 4 with our cows,
Nut-brown, chestnut, star -browed,
White-teated, white uddered,
Crumpled-horned, one-horned !

After them follow the other women, one dragging
a plough which another directs, and a third riding
on a broomstick, while the others carry, and strike
together, various utensils, chiefly of iron. The rest
of their proceedings resemble those which have al-
ready been described, but their narrator adds that
" if a man falls in their way, they set upon him
furiously. It has often occurred that the man thus
met has not at a cheap rate made good his escape
from them 5 ."

One of the stories about the Cow Death relates

A peasant was driving from a mill, at a late hour.
Towards him comes crawling an old woman and

" Give me a lift, grandfather ! '

"Where to?' :

" There, my own, to the village you're going to

" And who are you, grandmother ? "

" A doctoress, my own ; I doctor cows."

4 CJiur here translated " meddle not " is now an excla-
mation, or a word meaning a border or boundary, but was once
the name of a friendly deity resembling the Roman Terminus.

8 Etnograf. Sbornik, vi. Mezhof's article, pp. 63 65.


" And where have you been doctoring?"

"Why I've been doctoring at Istomina's, but
they're all dead there. What was to be done ? They
didn't call me in till a little time ago, and I couldn't
manage to stop the thing."

The peasant gave the woman a seat on his cart,
and drove off. Coming to a cross road he could not
remember the way, and by this time it had begun
to grow dark. Uttering a prayer, the peasant took
off his hat and crossed himself. In a moment there
was no old woman to be seen !

Turning into a black dog, she ran into the village.
Next day three cows died in the outside farm ; the
peasant had brought the Cow Death there 6 .

Under such circumstances, according to Teresh-
chenko, instances of voluntary immolation have been
known. In a village attacked by an epidemic, " the
men and women have been known to cast lots, and
the person on whom the lot fell has been buried alive
in a pit, along with a cock and a black cat."

In the month of February, according to the
Russian peasants, the Cow Death wanders through
the villages in the guise of a hideous old woman,
withered and starved in aspect, bearing a rake in her
hands. Sometimes, however, as we have seen, she
takes the form of a black dog or cow, and, among
the Slovenes, of a mottled calf. In the Tomsk
Government the Siberian murrain is represented as
a tall, shaggy man, with hoofs instead of feet, who
usually lives among the hills. The Bulgarians have
a tradition that when the cattle-plague, or the small-
pox, wishes to depart from a village, she appears to

6 Tereshchcnko, VI. 42.



some one in his sleep, and orders him to convey her
to such and such a place. The person thus desig-
nated takes bread smeared with honey, salt, and a
flask of wine, and leaves them, before sunrise, at
the appointed spot. After this the epidemic disap-
pears, having accompanied the bearer of the food
out of the village.

The rites which serve to keep away the cattle-
plague are supposed to be efficacious against the Cho-
lera also. In Ruthenia that disease is personified as an
old woman, with a hideous face disfigured by suffering.
In the Vladimir Government she bears the name of
the Dog Death. In Little-Russia it is affirmed that
" she wears red boots," that she can walk on water,
that she is perpetually sighing, and that at night she
haunts villages, exclaiming, " Woe was ; Evil will be."
In whatever house she passes the night, there she
leaves not one soul alive. In some villages they
think that the Cholera comes " from beyond the
sea," and that she is one of three sisters, all clad
in white shrouds. Once a peasant, going into a
town, gave a lift to two of the sisters in his cart,
on which they sat, " holding on their knees bundles
of bones. One of them was going to slay in Kharkof,
and the other in Kief 7 ."

One of the strangest superstitions about disease is
that which is connected with small-pox. In some
places the Russian peasants hold that it is sinful to

T Afanasief, P. V. S HE. 114 116. A number of similar super-
stitions are given in the Deutsche Mythologie, art. Pest, pp. 1133


vaccinate children, such a deed being equivalent to
impressing upon them " the seal of Antichrist."
Moreover it is believed that whoever dies of small-
pox " will walk in the other world in golden robes."
For this belief even the professional wizards can give
no reason, grounding their faith entirely on tradition.
Professor Buslaef accounts for it in the following
manner : The modern Greeks, he says, personify
small-pox in the guise of a supernatural female being,
and the Servians call her bogine, or goddess. And
the ancient Greeks knew of a spectral creature called
Alphito (aX^LTO), " a spectre, or bugbear with which
nurses frightened children " Liddell and Scott), a
name supposed to be akin to that of the German
Elbe, or the English Elves. The kindred word
Alphas (aX<os) also meant a skin disease, apparently
a form of leprosy. Professor Buslaef thinks that
the small-pox was originally represented as a female
being with whom was connected the idea of white-
ness or light, and that from that idea arose the
notion of her victims being clad, after death, in
bright or golden robes.

The power of dealers in magic to transform them-
selves or their victims into various shapes is widely
spread in Russia, and plays an important part in the
popular mythology of the country. A person thus
changed bears the name of oboroten [oborotif = to
turn], or, when changed into a wolf, of volkodldk
[volk = wolf, dlaka = a tuft of hair, and so a hide 8 ].

' This is Afanasief's explanation (P. V. S. in. 527). Dahl sug-
gests volk and Mrtta, the latter word signifying something shaggy,



Werewolf stories are so well known among all
nations 9 , that it is unnecessary to give a detailed
account of the proceedings of the Russian volkodlaJci.
But it may be as well to mention that the collection
of laws, etc. called the Kormchaya Kniga states that
in these transformed beings the people used to see
no mere mortals, but " chasers of the clouds."
Afanasief connects them with the olcrutniJci^ir maskers
disguised as various animals, who used to parti-
cipate in the religious games of the Old Slavonians,
and who still, though their original signification is
forgotten, play a part in the rustic festivals at
springtide and Christmas. So strong an odour of
heathenism still hangs about them, that the peasants
think the wearing of a mask at the Christmas Svyatld
is a sin, one which can be expiated only by bathing
in an icehole, after the benediction of the waters.

Connected with the idea of transformation is the
belief, common among the Russian peasantry, that
all witches have tails, and all wizards have horns,
and that a werewolf may be known by the bristles
which grow under his tongue. Such dealers in
sorcery take various shapes, but generally, says
Afanasief, those of the animals known as symbols
of the cloud and the storm. In the Ukraine witches

a hide, etc. The Great-Russian volTcodldlc becomes, says Afanasief,
in Little -Russian vovkulak, in Bohemian wlkodlak, in Servian
vukodlak in Dalmatian vakudluk, in Bulgarian vrkodlak, in Lett

9 A long list of references is given by Mr. Tylor in his " Primi-
tive Culture," i. 279284.


assume a canine form ; their long teats trail on the
ground, a fact on which Afanasief lay s stress, remark-
ing that the bosom, udder, or teat, was a well-known
mythological synonym for a rain- cloud. Cats are
generally thought uncanny in Slavonic countries, the
Russian peasants believing that evil spirits enter into
them during storms, and the Bohemians holding
that a black cat at the end of seven years becomes
either a witch or a devil 1 . The owl is considered
to be of a demoniacal nature, while the dove is so
pure and holy that no witch is able to assume its

Of all living creatures, magpies are those whose
shapes witches like best to take. The wife of the
false Demetrius, according to popular poetry, escaped
from Moscow in the guise of a magpie. As a general
rule, no such bird is to be seen in that city, its race
having been solemnly cursed by the Metropolitan
Alexis, on account of the bad behaviour of the
witches who often assumed its plumage. At the
present day the peasants often gibbet a dead mag-
pie, just as our gamekeepers do, but it is in order
to scare away witches from stables and cow-sheds.
Besides changing into the birds and beasts, of which
mention has been made, Russian witches often assume
the forms of stones, hay-cocks, or balls of thread
that is to say, observes Afanasief, of various objects
mythologically connected with clouds.

There is a Bohemian tradition, however, that the devil invented
mice in order to destroy " God's corn," whereupon God created
the cat.


Here is a specimen of a zagovor to be employee
by a wizard who desires to turn into a werewolf :

" In the ocean sea, on the island Buyan, in the
open plain, shines the moon upon an aspen stump,
into the green wood, into the spreading vale.
Around the stump goes a shaggy wolf; under his
teeth are all the horned cattle ; but into the wood
the wolf goes not, in the vale the wolf does not
roam. Moon, moon ! golden horns ! Melt the bullet,
blunt the knife, rot the cudgel, strike fear into man,
beast, and reptile, so that they may not seize the
grey wolf, nor tear from him his warm hide. My
word is firm, firmer than sleep or the strength of
heroes 2 ."

In this spell, says Buslaef 3 , the aspen stump is
mentioned because a buried werewolf or vampire
has to be pierced with an aspen stake. The expres-
sion that the wolf has all the horned cattle in or under
his teeth resembles the proverb now applied to St.
George, "What the wolf has in his teeth, that
Yegory gave " St. George, or Yegory the Brave,
having taken the place which was once filled by the
heathen god of flocks, the Old Slavonic Volos.
And the warm hide of the werewolf is in keeping
with his designation VolJcodlaJc, from dlaka, a shaggy

There is, of course, a great difference between the
voluntary and the involuntary undergoers of trans-
formation. Dealers in the black art who have

2 Sakharof, I. ii. 28. 3 Istor. Ocherki, I. 3G.


turned themselves into wolves are, for the most part,
ravenous destroyers of all that falls in their way,
but people who have been made wolves against their
will seldom disgrace their human nature. Such
gentle werewolves as these attach themselves to
men, and by tears and deprecatory pawings attempt
to apologize for their brutal appearance. Unless
driven beyond endurance by hunger, they never slay
and eat, and when they must kill a sheep, they seek
one belonging to some other village than that in
which they used to live. There once was a youth,
says a Polish tradition, who was loved by a witch,
but he scorned her affection. One day he drove
into the forest to cut firewood, but no sooner had
he swung his axe in the air than his hands turned
into wolf's paws, and in a short time his whole body
bristled with shaggy hair. He ran to his cattle, but
they fled in terror ; he tried to call them back, but
his voice had become a mere howl. In another
instance a witch turned one of her neighbours into
a wolf, and he stated, after he had regained his
former shape, that during the period of his trans-
formation he made friends with a real wolf, and
often went out hunting with him, but that he never
forgot that he was really a man, though he had lost
the faculty of articulate speech. The White-Eussians
have a tradition that once, when a wedding party
were thoroughly enjoying themselves, they were all
transformed by some hostile magician the bride-
groom and the other men into wolves, the bride into
a cuckoo, and the rest of the women into magpies.


Ever since that time the metamorphosed bride ha
flown about seeking for and lamenting her lost
bridegroom, and moistening the hedges with the
" Cuckoo's tears," which we less poetically style
" Cuckoo's spittle."

In order to produce such an effect as this on a
wedding party, the hostile wizard, it is generally
believed, must girdle each member of it with a
leather strap or piece of bast, over which unholy
spells have been whispered. According to a Ru-
thenian story, however, a witch once gained her end
by simply rolling up her girdle, and hiding it beneath
the threshold of the cottage in which the wedding
festivities were being held. Every one who stepped
across it immediately became a wolf. In order to
effect the cure of an involuntary werewolf, it is
necessary either to strip off his hide, or to remove
the magic girdle or other amulet which has reduced
him into his brute state. In one of the Russian
stories a black dog behaves in so reasonable a
manner, that the people to whom it has attached
itself take it to a wizard for relief. Acting upon
his advice, they heat a bath as hot as possible, and
scald the dog's skin off. No sooner is this done
than the dog turns into a young man belonging to a
neighbouring village, whom an old sorceress had
bewitched 4 .

Witches and wizards constantly metamorphose
people by the touch of a magic wand, stick, or whip.

4 Afiinasief, P. V. S. in. 549 553.


Sometimes, however, even this is not essential. In
Ruthenia, at least, it is believed that a wizard, if he
only knows a man's baptismal name, can transform
him by a mere effort of will, and therefore a man
should conceal his real name, and answer to a
fictitious one. Such a power as this is supposed by
the Russian peasantry to have been employed upon
one occasion by the Apostles Peter and Paul. As
they were passing over a bridge one day, " a bad
woman and her husband," who had agreed to frighten
the holy travellers, and had dressed themselves up
in sheepskins turned inside out, ran at them,
roaring like bears. " Then the Apostles said, { Go on
roaring from this time forward and for ever ! ' and
at that very instant the mockers were turned into
bears 5 ."

More terrible even than the werewolf, but closely
connected with him, as well as with the wizard and
the witch, is the dreaded Yampire. It is in the
Ukraine and in White-Russia so far as the Russian
Empire is concerned that traditions are most rife
about this ghastly creation of morbid fancy. There
vampires are supposed to be such dead persons as in
their lifetime were wizards, witches, and werewolves ;
or people who became outcasts from the Church and
its rites, by committing suicide, for instance, or by
drinking themselves to death ; or heretics and apos-
tates, or victims of a parental curse. The Little-
Russians, on the other hand, attribute the birth of a

5 Afaiiasief, P. V. S. in. 552.


vampire to an unholy union between a witch and
a werewolf or a devil.

The name itself has never been satisfactorily ex-
plained. In its form of vampir [South-Russian
upuir, anciently upir], it has been compared with
the Lithuanian wempti = to drink, and wempti, wampiti
= to growl, to mutter, and it has been derived from
a root pi [to drink] with the prefix u av, VOL. If
this derivation is correct, the characteristic of the
vampire is a kind of blood-drunkenness. In accord-
ance with this idea the Croatians call the vampire
pijawica; the Servians say of a man whose face is
coloured by constant drinking, that he is " blood-
red as a vampire;" and both the Servians and the
Slovaks term a hard drinker a vlJcodlaJc. The
Slovenes and Kashubes call the vampire vieszcy, a
name akin to that borne by the witch in our own
language as well as in Russian. The Poles name
him upior or upir y the latfcer being his designation
among the Czekhs also.

" There is a whole literature of hideous vampire
stories, which the student will find elaborately dis-
cussed in Calmet," says Mr. Tylor [" Primitive Cul-
ture II., 175], who thinks that " vampires are not mere
creations of groundless fancy, but causes conceived
in spiritual form to account for the specific facts of
wasting disease." Some writers, however, of whom
Afanasief is one, explain the vampire stories mytho-
logically. Of their explanations some account will
presently be given.

In the opinion of the Russian peasant vampires,


as well as witches, exert a very baneful influence on
the weather. To them, and to werewolves, are
attributed the presence of storms, droughts, famines,
cattle-plagues, and similar evils. Where such un-
holy beings wander, one woe succeeds another. But
worse than their evil effect upon the weather one
which they produce in common with the spirits of
all persons who have died by violence worse than
their attacks upon cattle, are their terrible dealings
with mankind. As a specimen of the Russian vam-
pire stories, the following, heard in the Tambof
Government, may be taken :

A peasant was driving past a grave-yard, after
it had grown dark. After him came running a
stranger, dressed in a red shirt and a new jacket,
who cried,

66 Stop ! take me as your companion."

" Pray take a seat."

They enter a village, drive up to this and that house.
Though the gates are wide open, yet the stranger
says, " Shut tight !" for on those gates crosses have
been branded. They drive on to the very last house :
the gates are barred, and from them hangs a pad-
lock weighing a score of pounds ; but there is no
cross there, and the gates open of their own accord.

They go into the house ; there on the bench lie
two sleepers an old man and a lad. The stranger
takes a pail, places it near the youth, and strikes
him on the back ; immediately the back opens, and
forth flows rosy blood. The stranger fills the pail
full, and drinks it dry. Then he fills another pail
with blood from the old man, slakes his brutal thirst,
and says to the peasant,

" It begins to grow light ! let us go back to my


In a twinkling they found themselves at the grave-
yard. The vampire would have clasped the peasant
in its arms, but luckily for him the cocks began to
crow, and the corpse disappeared. The next morn-
ing, when folks came and looked, the old man and
the lad were both dead 6 .

According to the Servians and Bulgarians, unclean
spirits enter into the corpses of malefactors and other
evilly-disposed persons, who then become vampires.
Any one, moreover, may become a vampire, if a cat
jumps across his dead body while it lies in the
cottage before the funeral, for which reason a corpse
is always carefully watched at that time. In some
places the jumping of a boy over the corpse is con-
sidered as fatal as that of a cat. The flight of a bird
above the body may also be attended by the same
terrible result ; and so may in the Ukraine the
mere breath of the wind from the Steppe 7 .

The bodies of vampires, of wizards, and of witches,
as well as those of outcasts from the Church, and of
people cursed by their parents, are supposed not to
decay in the grave, for " moist mother- earth" will
not take them to herself. There is a story in the
Saratof Government of a mother who cursed her
son, and after his death his body remained free from
corruption for the space of a hundred years. " At
last he was dug up, and his old mother, who was
still alive, pronounced his pardon ; and at that very
moment the cprpse crumbled into dust 8 ."

6 Afanasief, P. V. S. in. 558.

7 Afanasief, P. V. S. in. 559568. 8 Afanasief, P. V. S. in. 565.


Every one knows that when a vampire's grave is
opened no trace of death is found upon its body, its
cheek being rosy and its skin soft ; and that the best
way to destroy the monster is to drive a stake through
it, when the blood it has been sucking will pour forth
from the wound. The Servian method of discovering
its grave may not be so well known. According to
Vuk Karadjic 9 it is customary to take an imma-
culately black colt, and drive it through the church-
yard. Over the vampire's grave it will refuse to
pass. The whole village then turns out, the vampire
is dug up, pierced with a white-thorn stake, and

committed to the flames.


It is worthy of remark that the stake with which
the vampire's corpse is pierced must be driven into
it by a single stroke. A second blow would reani-
mate it. This idea is frequently referred to in the
Eussian sJcazJci and other Slavonic stories, in which
it is customary for the hero to be warned that he
must strike his enemy the snake, or other monster,
once only. A repetition of the blow would be cer-
tain to prove fatal to himself.

Sometimes, instead of blood-sucking vampires,
heart-devouring witches trouble the peasant's repose.
A Mazovian story relates how a certain hero was
long renowned for courage. But at last one night a
witch struck him on the breast with an aspen twig
as he lay asleep ; his breast opened, and out of it
she took his heart, and inserted a hare's heart in its

Quoted by Afanasief, P. V. S. in. 576.


place. The hero awoke a trembling coward, an
remained one till the day of his death. Another
Polish story of a similar nature tells how a witch
substituted a cock's heart for that of a peasant.
From that time forward the unfortunate man was
always crowing 1 . Sometimes the witches did not
eat the hearts they stole, but merely exposed them
to a magic fire so as to create love-longings in the
breasts from which they had been taken. The idea
still survives, as Jacob Grimm remarks, in our ex-
pressions of "giving" or "stealing one's heart 2 ."

A fondness for human flesh is attributed to ogre-
like beings all over the world, so there is nothing
remarkable in the depraved appetites of the super-
natural man-eaters of the Slavonic tales. Somewhat
singular, however, is one group of stories in which
a dead wizard or witch is described as coming to
life at midnight, and desiring to eat the person who
is watching beside the bier. The body has generally
been enclosed in a coffin, secured with iron bands,
and conveyed to the church in which the watcher
has to read aloud from Holy Writ above it all night
long. As the clock strikes twelve a mighty wind
suddenly arises, the iron bands give way with a
terrible crash, the coffin-lid falls off, and the corpse
leaps forth, and with a screech rushes at the doomed
watcher, of whom, as a general rule, nothing remains
next morning but bare bones. His only chance of
escape is to trace a magic circle around him on the

1 Afanasief, P. V. S. in. 571. 2 DeutscJie Mythologie, 1035.


floor, and to remain within it, holding in his hand a
hammer, the ancient weapon of the thunder-god.
Here is one of the stories of this class from the
Kharkof Government. " Once, in the days of old,
there died a terrible sinner. His body was taken
into the church, and the sacristan was told to read
psalms over him. The sacristan took the precaution
to catch a cock, and carry it with him. At midnight,
when the dead man leaped from his coffin, opened
his jaws wide, and rushed at his victim, the sacristan
gave the bird a pinch. The cock uttered his usual
crow, and that very moment the dead man fell back-
wards to the ground a numb, motionless corpse 3 ."

It would be easy to quote many stories of this kind,
for Slavonic folk-lore abounds in them, but I will not
do so now, preferring to devote such space as re-
mains to me to a brief sketch of the history of
Russian witchcraft. What has been said will pro-
bably give some idea of the wizards and witches of
modern times ; the following remarks may serve to
convey a similar idea of those of a remoter period.

In very distant times, it is supposed, the Slavo-
nians, like many other peoples, placed great faith in
the power of certain spells to rule the elements, to
turn away storms, and to provide sunlight or rain
according as either might be requisite ; they even
deemed such utterances necessary in order that the
day might succeed to the night, and the summer follow
the winter. These charms were then known only to

s Afanasief, P. V. S. m. 584.


professed seers. At first the persons who wer
acquainted with them were looked upon merely as
exceptionally wise people. A koldtin afterwards a
wizard in the bad sense of the word was originally,
as we have seen, a kind of priest. For even if the
Old Slavonians recognized no separate caste of priests,
at all events, as time passed by, there arose a special
class of men and women who preserved the secret
of composing such charms and incantations as were
held to sway the seen and the unseen world. The
hoarders of this mystical lore were generally old
men, but the gift of divination was usually ascribed
to women, and especially to young maidens, the
volition of whose fresh, pure minds was supposed to
exercise a magic influence over the forces of nature.
But when Christianity drove out the Slavonic
deities, all the old dealings with the spirit- world were
declared illicit, and those who were versed in them
fell into dishonour. The Koldun became a mere
conjuror or wizard, who by his spells realized unholy
gains, and the Vyeshchaya Zhend, the Divining
Woman or Prophetess, turned into the feared and
hated Vyed'ma, or witch. Their nature and their
occupation became equally degraded : the witches,
for instance, for private gain milking their neigh-
bours' cows ; whereas, in old times, they milked the
heavenly cows i.e. they drew down rain from the
clouds for the general good. As in pagan days
many sacrifices were offered up on high places,
especially at three fixed times in the year, so in
after- days it was supposed that often on mountain


tops, and especially at those very times, the wizards
and witches held unholy revels, characterized by just
such music, dancing, and feasting as used to accom-
pany the heathen festivals 4 ; as the smoke of other
sacrifices formerly rose to heaven from the domestic
hearth, so witches came to be associated with the
various implements connected with the hearth, and
were supposed to ride on the broom or the oven-
fork, and to soar into the air through the stove-
pipe or the chimney 5 .

It has been mentioned already, that although the
wizard and the wise woman were generally respected
in heathen times, yet there were occasions when
they sank in the estimation of the people, who some-
times even carried their disrespect so far as to bury
them alive in sacks, each attended by a dog, a cat, and
a cock. But if they were liable to such treatment,
it seems to have been only at times when the popular
judgment was unhinged by some great calamity,
such as a drought or a pestilence. As a general rule
they stood high in the opinion of the masses, and
their exaltation was attended by material advantages,
so that it is scarcely to be wondered at that they
watched the progress of the new religion with par-
ticularly unfavourable eyes, and did all that they could
to impede it. On the other hand, the Christian
hierarchy set them down as " devilish vessels," by
the aid of which Satan was enabled to prolong his
unwelcome resistance.

* Afanasief, P. V. S. 483.

* Orest Miller, Opuif, etc. T. 07 09.



The introduction of Christianity by St. Yladimii
was not allowed to take place without a struggle.
The inhabitants of Novgorod, for instance, broke
into revolt, and those of Rostof, about the year
1070, put St. Leontius to death, and forced the
Bishops Theodore and Hilarion to fly for their lives.
Still more closely connected with the subject of the
present chapter is the fact that, during the eleventh
century, several risings against Christianity were
instigated by dealers in magic. Thus in 1071 a
wizard appeared in Kief, and prophesied that at the
end of five years the Dnieper would flow backwards,
and that the Russian and the Grecian lands would
change places. Certain "ignorant persons," says
the chronicler, gave heed to his words, but " the
faithful " laughed at him, saying, " the devil plays
with thee for thy ruin;" and in truth the wizard
disappeared one night and left no trace behind.
Another wizard, also, who appeared at Rostof in
1091, soon perished, and at Byeloozero two warlocks
were seized by an armed force, and put to death,
their corpses being left a prey to the beasts of the
forest. At Novgorod, during the rule of Prince
Glyeb, an insurrection was stirred up by a wizard,
who gave out that he would publicly wa]k across
the river Volkhof. Many of the townspeople took
his side, and wanted to kill their bishop ; but that
courageous prelate put on his robes, seized a cross,
and called upon the faithful to follow him. So
the people were divided into two bodies, the Prince
and his drujina, or military companions, following


the bishop, while the common herd sided with the
wizard. Then the Prince hid an axe under his dress,
and drew near to the wizard, and asked him

" Knowest thou what will happen in the morning,
and in the evening ? "

" I know all things," answered the wizard.

" Knowest thou what is going to take place now ? "

" I shall perform great wonders."

At this point of the argument the Prince drew out
his axe, and struck the wizard with such force that he
immediately fell dead. Whereupon the people gave
up all faith in him, and went quietly home 6 .

Even after the adherents of heathenism had given
up what they saw was a hopeless struggle, and
Christianity had become the recognized religion of the
Russian people, the old gods retained a hold, if not
upon the affections, at least upon the fears of those
" ignorant persons " who formed the great mass of
the rural population. What had occurred at an
earlier period in many other European lands was
now repeated in Russia. Many a peasant who went
publicly to church, privately worshipped the ancient
objects of his allegiance, the old pagan rites being
long kept up in sequestered nooks within dense
forests, or by the side of lonely streams. At the same
time, in Russia, as in other countries, even the
" faithful " proselytes of the new religion could not at
once forget the teaching of the old, so they retained
a mass of familiar traditions, chiefly of a mythical
nature, but they substituted in them for the names of

Afanasiof, P. V. S. UT. 5% 599.

E e 2


their elementary gods and demigods, others which
they took from the calendar of the Church. The
consequence was a confusion of ideas which justified
the epithet " two-faithed " which an old ecclesiastical
writer bestowed upon the Russian people.

The superior clergy did all they could to remedy
what they naturally considered a serious evil, levelling
from time to time severe denunciations against the
believers in " conjurors, witches, and wizards," and
the performers of " demoniacal rites." In the twelfth
century, the Metropolitan loann ordered that no
practiser of magic should be allowed to participate in
the sacraments of the church. The book of laws called
the Kormchaya Kniga, according to a copy dated 1 282,
inflicted a six years' exile from church on persons
addicted to " pagan practices," such as dealings in
witchcraft and the like, and similar restrictions were
laid on the indulgence of a leaning towards spiri-
tualism by a series of ecclesiastical ordinances. But it
was in vain that St. Cyril rebuked his flock for
having recourse in illness to " accursed women," and
that the Metropolitan Photius, in 1410, besought his
clergy to " induce their congregations to abstain from
" listening to fables, and frequenting wicked women."
The wizards and witches held their own, just as
the people, in spite of the remonstrances of their
pastors, continued the " satanic games," attended by
dance and song, which had come down to them from
their heathen ancestors.

The clergy were more successful in their attacks
on the books of a superstitious nature, mostly of


Byzantine origin, which they placed upon their Index.
Many of these, of which Afanasief gives a full account,
extending over six pages, were destroyed by orthodox
fire, and with them not a few of the persons whose pro-
perty they were. In 1227, for instance, a chronicler
relates how four wizards were burnt to death at Nov-
gorod. In 1411 the people of Pskoff burnt " twelve
divining women," probably because a deadly epidemic
was then ravaging the country. Sometimes, however,
witches were only beheaded, or, as we have already
seen, buried alive in a sack with various animals. Ivan
the Terrible greatly harassed the dealers in magic,
but, if tradition is to be believed, they had their re-
venge. In the winter of 1584 a comet appeared
which the Tsar, whose health was fast failing, took
to be a sign of his approaching death. In order to
obtain more certain information on this point, he ap-
pealed to the sorcery which he had tried to extermi-
nate, sixty wizards from the north of Russia being
brought together for his convenience in Moscow.
There every attention was paid them, but in spite
of this they prophesied that he would die on the
18th of March. On the morning of that day he felt
himself stronger than usual, so he sent to tell the
wizards that he intended to put them to death as false
prophets. But they, probably remembering the cele-
brated Ides of March, received his message with con-
tempt ; and their behaviour was justified by the fact
that the Tsar was soon afterwards seized by a fit in
the middle of a game of chess, and died before he
had time to carry out his intention.


This story is an evident fable, but the sufferings
of persons accused of witchcraft in Russia are proved
by incontestable evidence. The number of such
victims to the superstitious terror of the civil and
religious authorities seems to have been small, com-
pared with that of the multitudes who perished in
other lands, but the story of their martyrdom is
sufficiently sad. At one time we find Ivan the
Terrible slowly roasting one of his generals, Prince
Mikhail Vorotuinsky, in order to extort from him
a confession of having attacked the royal health
through the agency of " whispering women." In
vain did the unfortunate sufferer protest his inno-
cence. The Tsar listened to his agonized expres-
sions, and then raked the coals nearer to his victim
with his curved staff. At another time we read of
cruel sufferings undergone by persons charged with
having bewitched members of the royal family by
means of magic practices brought to bear upon the
traces of their footsteps. At various times we meet
with accounts of the executions of men and women
from whom confessions of dealing in magic had been
wrung by torture. One of these, a woman named
Fedosia who was put to death in 1674, declared her
innocence on the scaffold, saying that she had accused
herself only because she could not endure her
torments. The annals of the law courts contain
numerous cases of persons accused of having thrown
others into convulsions, or at least of having
afflicted them with hiccoughs. These convulsions
were sometimes fictitious, being assumed for the


purpose of ruining an enemy by a charge of witch-
craft. Even at the present day in the north of
Russia, says Afanasief, the hiccough is supposed to
be a demon inflicted on the sufferer by means of
sorcery, and persons afflicted with epilepsy and St.
Vitus's dance are regarded as the victims of hostile
enchantments, and are called MiJcusM. As late as
the year 1815 a charge of this kind was brought
before a legal tribunal in the Pinejsk district. A
peasant named Mikhail Chukharef was accused of
afflicting his cousin, Ofimiya Lobanova, with " an
evil spirit " in the shape of a hiccough. The accused
pleaded guilty, stating that he had, after removing
the cross he wore round his neck, whispered a certain
spell over salt. The formula he used was as follows :
"Lodge in such and such a person, ye hiccough-pains !
tear and torture him to the end of time ! As this salt
shall dry up, so may that man also dry up ! '" and
the salt thus enchanted was to be scattered on the
road along which the intended victim had to pass.
The court sentenced Chukharef to undergo thirty-
five blows of the knout, as well as " a public church
penance 7 . }

In 1715 Peter the Great gave orders that in
future UikusJii, or " possessed people," should be
subjected to an examination, so as to find out whether
they were really " possessed," or were only feign-
ing " possession J: (JdikusJiestvo) as did a certain
Varvara Loginova, a carpenter's wife in St. Peters-

r Quoted from MaksimoPs "Year in Siberia," by Afanasief,
P. V. S. III. 66.


burg, who, after accusing a number of persons o
having bewitched her, ultimately confessed, in 1714,
to having been an impostor throughout. In 1770,
in the Yarensk district of the Government of Vo-
logda, several persons were accused of having be-
witched certain girls and women, and were flogged till
they confessed their guilt. One of the women of their
number stated in her confession how she had acted
on her victims namely, by means of worms which
the devil had given her. Some of these worms she
produced, and her judges forwarded them to the
Senate. On examination these diabolical worms turned
out to be simple maggots, whereupon the Senate
ordered the " possessed woman >! to be flogged,
turned the provincial judges out of their seats, and
gave orders that in future similar complaints were
not to be listened to 8 .

But though the law has long ceased to examine
such charges, they still command attention among
the peasantry. The belief in vampires, also, re-
tains its hold upon the popular mind, and the old
custom of digging up those among the dead who are
suspected of unfavourably affecting the weather is
to this day observed, it is said, in remote localities.
While the Slavonians were heathens they all seem to
have been in the habit of resorting to this practice,
and even after they had accepted Christianity they
retained their original theories with respect to the
influence of the dead upon the elements.

* Afanasief, P. V. S. in. 637.


In the thirteenth century Serapion, Bishop of
Vladimir, was obliged to utter sharp reproofs of
those superstitious men who would not allow the
bodies of drowned or suffocated persons to rest in
their graves, but exhumed them on the ground that
they caused drought and scarcity ; and in the six-
teenth century a similar reprimand was considered
necessary by Maxim the Greek. The false De-
metrius was suspected by the people of dealing in
witchcraft, and when, after his burial in the early
part of May, 1606, a strong frost set in, hurtful to
cornfields, gardens and orchards, they attributed it
to his demoniacal influence. His dead body had
been exposed for three days to public view, stretched
on a table along with a reed-pipe, a mask, and a
bagpipe, objects generally associated with jugglers
and " transformers ; >! and it had afterwards been
buried in one of the " poor-houses," the winter re-
ceptacles of the bodies of the unknown and friend-
less dead. Thence the populace tore his remains,
and having consumed them with fire, mingled his
ashes with gunpowder, and shot them from guns
into the air. It is but a little time ago, if common
report may be believed, that the peasants of any dis-
trict in which a drought had long prevailed were
in the habit of digging up the corpse of some person
who had died from excess of drink, and of sinking
it in the nearest swamp or lake, with the full belief
that this proceeding would ensure the fall of rain.
About three years ago the prospect of a bad harvest,
caused by continual drought, induced the peasants


of a village in the Tarashchansk district to have
recourse to the following means of procuring better
weather. They dug up the body of a Easkolnik, or
Dissenter, who had died in the previous December,
and had been buried in the village graveyard. Some
of the party then beat it about the head, exclaiming,
" Give us rain ! " while others poured water upon
it through a sieve. Then they put it back into the
coffin and restored it to its resting-place 9 . All that
can be said in excuse of such a practice as this is,
that it is not as bad as that which so long prevailed
in England, as well as in other lands, of testing a
woman suspected of witchcraft by flinging her into
a pond or river. The Servians are said still to keep
up the practice, and it is asserted that among the
Euthenians bordering on Hungary a witch was
drowned in this manner as late as 1827. But, as
has already been remarked, sad as are the records
of the sufferings inflicted among Slavonic nations
upon the victims of a fear of witchcraft, they are
far less tragic than those which tell of the thousands
upon thousands of innocent persons whom a similar
fear, in lands tenanted by Teutonic and Latin races,
condemned to torture and to death. The Eussian
peasant sometimes murdered in his blind wrath; the
legal tribunals of his country too often behaved
with dull cruelty; but neither among the populace
nor on the bench does there ever seem to have been
found so persistent a murderer as our own Hopkins

9 Afanasief, P.V. S. in. 572574.


the Witchfinder, nor can any Russian laws on the
subject of witchcraft be fairly charged with the
cold-blooded malignity which characterizes the pages
of the " Malleus Maleficarum."

From the dreary picture of fanaticism and super-
stition offered by the records of trials for witchcraft
always so monstrously terrible, whether they took
place in Russia or in any other land it is a relief
to turn to the speculations in which some comparative
mythologists have indulged, while endeavouring to
account for the belief which gave rise to those trials;
a belief of world-wide extent and of the most
venerable antiquity. Disinclined to accept such
theories as that supported by Mr. Tylor, who
considers that " witchcraft is part and parcel of
savage life 1 ," and apparently looks upon the belief
in it rather as the rank growth of an untilled soil
than as the decayed form of one of the results of
ancient mythological culture preferring to trace
back such stories as those of witches who felo-
niously milk their neighbours' cows to the poetic
ideas of the primeval Aryans about storms and
clouds, rather than to explain them by a partnership
in the superstitions of the most degraded of African
and American savages these writers have applied to
witchcraft traditions another system of explanation,
a similar one to that which has restored to order and
meaning so many of the apparently wild and irrational
myths of old religion.

1 " Primitive Culture," I. 125.


A considerable part of the twenty- sixth chapter
of that work of Afanasief s which has been so fre-
quently quoted in these pages, is devoted to an
attempt to prove that the wizards and witches of
modern days are, as a general rule, the represen-
tatives of the priests and the priestesses, or the " wise
men" and "wise women," of pagan times; and also
that the greater part of the superstitious ideas now
connected with them are remnants or survivals of a
mythical system, in which were expressed, in figura-
tive language, the views of the ancient Slavonians
about.the forces of nature, the strife of the elements.
Whether his arguments are or are not conclusive, I
leave to more competent critics to decide. It will
be sufficient here to mention a few of their most
striking points.

The Koldun and Vyed'ma he considers whether in
their modern forms of wizard and witch, or in their
old capacities of priest and prophetess as types of
certain atmospheric forces or phenomena, and as the
human inheritors of a reverence originally paid to
the demons of cloud-land. Therefore it is, in his
opinion, that they are supposed to direct the storm-
cloud, to guide the whirlwind, to dispense the rain
and hail, to be able to steal the dew or to hide the
lights of heaven, to love to glide above the surface
of the earth, to gather on the bare hill-side, to whirl
to and fro in a wild dance, and to change at will
from one form to another ; therefore it is that
dealers in magic are mentioned in old Slavonic
documents as " cloud-compellers" ollcikoprogon-


niki \_6blalco = cloud, gonydt 9 = to chase], a word
closely associated with the epithet of Zeus, nephe-
legeretes 2 .

The steeds on which wizards and witches make
their aerial journeys are of a nature to suggest some
connexion with the element of fire, either as burn-
ing on the domestic hearth or as flashing across the
vault of heaven. Such are, according to Russian tra-
ditions closely akin in this respect to those of Teu-
tonic or Lettic extraction the broom (in its different
forms of metld, pomelo, and vyeniti), the poker (Jco-
chergd), the tongs (ukhvdt = oven-fork), the shovel
(lopdta), and the rake (grabli). On these the wizard
or witch flies fast, resembling in rapid course the
swift winds which sweep the clouds from the sky,
or rake them together in masses which at times are
rent by the fiery dart of the lightning. So closely
are some of these implements still associated in
parts of Russia with the storm, that the peasants
often try to frighten away an ominous cloud by
flinging a frying-pan out of doors, together with a
broom, a shovel, or a poker.

Sometimes Russian traditions represent witches
as riding to the Midsummer festival, not only on
wooden or metal instruments, but also on actual
horses. These, as well as all the other animals with
which the popular fancy associated dealers in magic,
are supposed to have been meant, in mythical lan-
guage, for types of the cloud and the storm. The

3 The word occurs in the Kormchaya Kniga in a copy dated
A.D. 1282 and in the Domosfroi.


wolf, the cat, and the snake constantly figure in
Russian stories as the associates of the witch or the
Yaga Baba, and the cock, the well-known symbol of
fire, plays in them an important part.

The wizards of Russian storyland are usually re-
presented as old men with long beards and flashing
eyes, and the witches like the German Hexen either
as hideous old hags, or as young and fair damsels ;
just as in ancient times the clouds were depicted,
in the language of poetry, as bearded demons, or as
female forms, whether nymph -like or haggard. Ac-
cording to Russian tradition, a witch, when she
gathers dew, or milks cows, or performs any other
unholy deed, is always clothed in a long white shift,
and has her hair loosely flowing over her shoulders.
In this array she strongly resembles the Vilas,
Rusalkas, and other fairy beings of aqueous nature,
whose occupation it so often is to spin and weave, pro-
ducing filmy textures which seem not unlike the clouds
which now veil, and now melt away before the sun-
light. As not only by spinning and by weaving,
but also by other womanly employments, such as
washing, milking, and the like, were the actions of
the elementary forces of nature represented in ancient
mythical language; so at last it became usual to
associate women rather than men with the idea
of commanding the elements ; and thus it was more
usually a witch than a wizard who was supposed to
be on terms of familiarity with the inhabitants of
the invisible world 3 .

' Afanasief, P. V. S. in. 466469.


Of all these womanly employments that of milking
is the most prominent, and, according to some com-
mentators, the most evidently mythical. The vulgar
witch of to-day steals the milk from the earthly
cows of her neighbour ; her prototype was wont to
milk the heavenly cows, that is to say, to draw the rain
from the clouds. In the Government of Kief, it is
affirmed that witches by night, when good folks
sleep, " go out of doors, wearing long shifts and
with dishevelled hair, trace a line with their hands
round the starry sky, and eclipse the moon with
clouds (or steal it); then, on the approach of a storm,
they betake themselves to milking the cloud-cows
themselves, and milk them so violently that from
their teats, together with milk, there begins to flow
blood (another metaphor for rain) 4 ." In some vil-
lages, also, the witches are said to chase the moon
into a cow-shed, and there to milk cows by her light;
and the Bulgarians have a tradition to the effect
that sorceresses can take the moon (luna) out of the
sky, which accounts for lunar eclipses, and that she
is then turned into a cow, which they milk, thus
eventually obtaining such butter as heals otherwise
incurable wounds.

In a similar manner, according to Afanasief, the
stories about werewolves and other transformed
creatures, and also about vampires, may be accounted
for. As the clouds shift their plastic shapes, now
" backed like a weasel," and now resembling a

4 P. V. S. III. 488.


whale, so the mythical beings, under whose forms
the philosophy of our ancestors personified the forces
of nature, were originally supposed to undergo rapid
metamorphoses, and the power of similar transfor-
mation was eventually attributed to the human beings
who, in many respects, replaced them in popular
belief. Thus, in the Ukraine, there lingers a tradition
that a werewolf who is touched with a pitchfork or
a flail immediately resumes his human form : this
is explained as meaning that the thunder-god strikes
a blow with his mace [the lightning], which tears
the wolf's hide from his opponent [or disperses the
cloud] 5 .

In the case of vampires, their sucking of blood is
explained by Afanasief in the same manner as the
draining of milk by witches. When winter con-
demns all nature to a temporary death, the thunder-
god and the spirits of the storm sleep a sleep like
that of death in their cloud-coffins. But with the
return of spring they assume renewed life, and draw
rain from the clouds, or, in mythical language, suck
blood from sleepers 6 . According to this sytem of
interpretation, some glimmering may be obtained,
he thinks, of the original meaning of what, if taken
literally, seems a needlessly improbable story that of
the vampire father who eats all his daughters but one;
her escape being effected by her throwing off, as she
runs, various portions of her dress, each of which her
too fond parent has to tear up and then restore to its

' Afanasief, P.V. S. in. 556. ' Afanasief, P. V. S. in. 5f>4.


original form, before he can recommence his furious

Whether these explanations are sound or not, they
have at least the merit of ingenuity. Moreover, it
would be a relief to our feelings if we could suc-
ceed in resolving the werewolves, vampires, and
other demoniacal creatures, who have so long made
night hideous, into not only harmless, but even
beneficent elements recognizing in their laidly
lineaments the shapely features of the mythical
beings under whose forms our Aryan ancestors
personified the powers of nature. But before in-
dulging in the pleasure of a belief in such desirable
transformations, it may be as well at least to re-
member the existence of very different hypotheses on
the subject. Even if we do not altogether agree
with Mr. Fergusson 7 , that none of the serpents and
dragons, none of the dwarfs and magicians and such
like creatures, are of Aryan extraction, that " all
the fairy mythology, in fact, of the East and West,
belongs to the Turanian races," yet we may find, in
his and in similar arguments, reason enough to
make us pause before considering the opposite theory
conclusively made out.

And if it would be hazardous to form rapid con-
clusions with respect to our own familiar fairies, still
more dangerous would it be to decide hastily in the
case of foreign demigods and demons. Great caution
is requisite on the part of every one who undertakes
to evolve a mythological system from a mass of
7 Tree and Serpent Worship, p 73.



popular traditions. In no case is such caution mo]
urgently demanded than in that of a student who has
to deal with materials of so mixed a nature, and of so
doubtful an extraction, as are the songs and stories
of the Russian people.

Of that people I trust I have not conveyed an un-
favourable idea. The nature of my work has led me
to speak frequently of their foibles, to dwell at length
upon their superstitions. But it is not by such weak-
nesses as these, which are to some extent common
to all mankind, that we ought to judge of a pea-
santry who have always been signally remarkable
for family affection, for reverence towards age, for
sympathy with misfortune who have retained for
centuries, even under the pressure of that system of
slavery which has but recently been overthrown, so
keen a sense of loyalty, so warm a love for their
native land.

In one of the most popular of the Russian stories
a Slavonic variant of a world-wide tale the hero
sits for thirty years beside his father's hearth, a
helpless cripple, incapable of active life. But, at the
end of that time, he is not only cured by two mystic
personages, disguised as beggars, to whom he has
given a draught of water, but he is endowed by them
with gigantic strength. So, when he has risen from
his lowly couch, he goes forth into the world, a noble


conqueror, overcoming infidels, and slaying monsters,
and freeing Christian prisoners, and in all ways suc-
couring the needy and the oppressed. In the career
of Ivan Muromets this Slavonic counterpart of the
Norse AsJcepot the Russian people are said to have
long recognized, in accordance with a vague tradi-
tion, a symbol of their own national life. For cen-
turies, the story ran, they were doomed to remain
inactive and despised. But the time would come,
it proceeded to say (if reliance can be placed
upon a somewhat improbable report), when they
would shake off their lethargy, and put on irresist-
ible might, and enter upon a warlike progress
through the world, conquering and to conquer.

It may be that the prophecy is destined to receive
a fulfilment, but one of a peaceful nature. The
common people of Russia may figuratively be said
to have lain long among the ashes. For nearly ten
times the thirty years of the tale the great mass of
the population was " fastened to the soil," debarred
by law from anything like continuous progress.
Now, at last, thanks to the unwearied efforts of what
was once but a small body of statesmen, thanks,
above all, to the forethought and the courage of the
present Emperor, the land has been freed from the
plague of slavery, and the millions whom its dead-
ening influence had benumbed have the prospect
opened out before them of a wider and a higher
existence. They may be destined, like the long
crippled Ivan Muromets, to mighty struggles termi-
nating in decisive victories. But the struggles may

rf 2



perhaps be of the nature of those by which the
labourer and the artisan work out their honest liveli-
hood; the victories may prove of that priceless order
by which men, having overcome their own besetting
sins, emancipate themselves from a moral thraldom
which is by no means less degrading than a physical


The following are the Russian books to which I
am principally indebted. In alluding to them in
the foot-notes to the present volume I have fre-
quently given only the initials of their titles, just
as I have often represented the words Deutsche
MytJiologie by the letters D. M.

AFANASIEF. Poeticheskiya Vozzryeniya Slavyan na Prirodu.
[Poetic Views of the Slavonians about Nature.] 3 vols.
Moscow, 1865-69. 8vo.

Narodnuiya Russkiya Skazki. [Popular Russian Tales.]

Third edition. 8 Pts. Moscow, 1863. 8vo.

BEZSCXNOF. Kalyeki PerekJiozMe. [Wandering Psalm-singers.
A collection of their songs.] 6pts. Moscow. 1860-62. 8vo.

BTJSLAEF. Istoricheskie Ocherki, etc. [Historical Sketches of
National Literature and Art.] 2 vols. St. Petersburg, 1861.

-- Vliyanii KJiristianstva na Slavyansky Yazuik. [On
the Influence of Christianity on Slavonic Language.] Moscow,
1848. 8vo.

DAHL. Poslovitsui Eusskago Naroda. [Proverbs of the Russian
People.] Moscow, 1862. fol.

Narodnuiya Skazki. [Popular Tales collected by-
village Schoolmasters.] Moscow, 1863. 8vo.

KASTOBSET. NacJiertanie Slovanskoi MitJiologii. [Outline of
Slavonic Mythology.] St. Petersburg, 1841. 8vo.

KAVELIN. SocUneniya. [Collected works.] 4 vols. Moscow,

KHUDYAKOF. Velikorusskiya Skazki. [Great-Russian Popular
Tales.] 3 pts. Moscow, 1860*62.


KIRYEEVSET. Pyesni solrannuiya P. V. ~Kiryeevskim, etc. [Songs
collected by P. V. Kiryeevsky. Edited by P. A. Bezsonof
and others.] Second edition. Parts 1 8. Moscow, 1868,
etc. 8vo.

KOTLYAREVPKY. O PogrebaVnuikh OluicJiayalcJi

Slavyan. [On the Funeral Customs of the heathen Slavonians.]
Moscow, 1868. 8vo.

MAIKOF. Builinalcli Vladimirova Tsikla. [On the Builiuas of
the Vladimir Cycle.] St. Petersburg, 1863. 8vo.

. -- Velikorussklya Zaklinaniya. [Great-Russian Spells.]
St. Petersburg, 1869. 8vo.

OREST MILLER. Opuit Istoricheskago Obozryeniya EussJcoi
Slovesnosti. [Attempt at an Historical Survey of Kussian
Literature Part 1. Section 1. Second edition.] St. Peters-
burg, 1866. 8vo.

---- Khristomatiya, etc. [Chrestomathy, appended to the
"Attempt, etc."] Parti. Section 1. Second edition. St.
Petersburg, 1866. 8vo.

Ilya Muromets. [Hya of Murom and the Heroes of

Kief.] St. Petersburg, 1869. Eoyal 8vo.

Pyesni solrannuiya P. N. Ruibnilcovuim. [Songs
collected by P. N. Euibnikof. Edited by P. A. Bezsonof,
etc.] 4 vols. Moscow, 1861-67. 8vo.

SAKHAROP. Skazaniya RussTcago Naroda. [Utterances of the
Eussian People. Third edition.] 2 vols. 1 St. Petersburg,
1841. Eoyal 8vo.

Pyesni Russlcago Naroda. [Songs of the Eussian

People]. 5 vols. St. Petersburg, 1838-39. 12mo.

SCHOEPPING (or Shepping). Mitliui SlavyansJcago YazuicJiestva.
[Myths of Slavonic Heathendom.] Moscow, 1849. 8vo.

Russlcaya Narodnost\ etc. [Eussian Nationality in its

Superstitions, Eites, and Popular Stories.] Moscow, 1862. 8vo.

SHCHEPETN". Ob IstocliniJcaTcJi i formaJch RussTcago Basnosloviya.
[On the Sources and Forms of Eussian Mythology.] 2 pts.
Moscow, 1859-61.

1 I possess, unfortunately, only the first volume. The second I
have never even so much as seen, so rare has the book become.


SHEIN. Russlciya Narodnuiya Pyesni, [Russian Popular Songs,
collected and arranged by P. V. Shein.] Vol. I. Moscow,
1870. Royal 8vo.

SNEGIEEF. EussJcie Prostonarodnuie PrazdniM, etc. [Kussian
Popular Festivals and Superstitious Rites.] 4 vols. Mos-
cow, 1837-39. 8vo.

SKEGIEEF. EussTcie v svoikh Poslomtsakh. [The Russians in their
Proverbs.] 4 vols. Moscow, 1832. 12mo.

SOLOVIEF. Istoriya Eossii. [History of Russia. 2 ] Fourth edition.
Moscow, 1856, etc. 8vo.

TEEESHCHENKO. Suit Russlcago Naroda. [Manners and Customs
of the Russian People.] 7 vols. St. Petersburg, 1848.
8vo. 8

2 In progress ; only about twenty-one volumes have as yet
been published.

8 Students who wish to compare the folk-songs of the Russians
with those of the other Slavonic peoples will find the following
books of great service. To avoid typographical difficulties I have
translated their titles :

KOLBEEG. " Songs of the Polish People." Warsaw, 1857. 8vo.
WOJCICKI. " Songs of the White-Croatians, Masures, etc."

2 vols. Warsaw, 1836. 8vo.
KAEAJIC. " Servian Popular Songs." 5 vols. Vienna, 1841-65.


SUSIL. " Moravian Popular Songs." Brunn, 1860. 8vo.
HATTPT AND SCHMALEE. " Folk-Songs of the Wends in Upper

and Lower Lusatia " [in Wendish and German.] Grimma,

1841-43. 4to.
ZEGOTA PAULI. " Songs of the Ruthenians in Galicia." 2 vols.

Lwow, 1839-40. 12mo.


A few words about the measures of the songs may be considered
useful. The following specimens are given by Sakharof in his
Pyesni Russlcago Naroda *.

The Khorovod Songs are as follows :

(1) A Mbl



A mui



But we


have sown.

(2) SanaeTH

Cfl HJieTGHb



sya pleten*


Become woven


become woven.

(3) AH BO noat

AH BO nojit.

AH BO neat


Ay vo polye
Ay vo polye



Ay vo polye,

Ah, afield.

The " Dance Songs " are usually . in one of the following
metres j

(1) Bo noat 6e

Vo polye be
Afield, a



reza sto



1 II. 51 53.




Poydu mlada
I will go, the young one

(3) Ax%, yTymita

Akh, utushka

Ah, duckie

(4) KaK-B y naci.

Kak u nas
How with us


po Dunayu.
by the Danube.




vo sadochku.

in the gardenling.

Of the Svyatki songs, sung at Christmas, Sakharof gives the
following specimens in his Skazaniya RussTcago Naroda 1 9 the
work to which such frequent reference has already been made :

(1) lI^yKa uiaa

H3T. Houa




k BiiwaepI

KaK'B na in,y

K'li HCIIiyH

ua ccpe6panaa.

Shchuka shla

iz Nova


Ona khvost


iz Byelaozera.

Kak na shchu

kye cheshuy

ka serebranaya.

A Pike came
She [her] tail
How on the Pike

out of
[are] scales

from Byeloozero.

I. m. 10.


(2) PacTBOpro

I knead


a KBaiiiOH

ya kvashon
the dough

Ky na

ku na donuishkye.
on the donuishka.

(3) AX-L TW ctii | MaTH, MyHH | u,y, neKH | imperil ;
Kt Te6t 6y - Ayrt ro CTH nena amihie :
Kt Te6t 6y J ^yTL B-L aanxaxt J KO MH* Bt canorax-L,

Akh tui cyey | mati, muchi | tsu, peki | pirogi :
K tebye bu -- dut go | sti necha j yannuie :
K tebye bu | dut v laptyakh | ko mnye v sapogakh.

Ah [do] thou sift | mother, flour, | bake | pies :

To thee will be guests | not | expected :

To thee will be | in lapti | to me in boots.

(4) H a 30./IOTO

HHCTO cepe6po
I ya zoloto
Chisto serebro
And I gold




/^o nero Te6t

Do chego tebye
O Pearl
Whither to thee









bury, bury,
bury, bury.



Dokatitisya ?
round [and able to roll.]
to roll thyself.


Alatuir, the White Stone, 37.
Amulets, 387.
Ancestral Worship, 260.

Baba Yaga, ogress or witch,

Bab'e Lyeto, or women's sum-
mer, 254.

Bear King, story of the, 182.

Beauty song, 275.

Besyeda, or social gathering,
description of, 36.

Betrothal customs, 267271;
rings, 297.

Bratchina, or brotherly feast,

Bread, superstitions concerning ?

Bride, purchase of, 290, 291.

Builinas, or metrical romances,
cycles of, 57; story of Svyato-
gor, 58 63 ; collections of,
63 : Ruibnikof 's journey in
quest of, 6476.

Burial of the Gold, game and
song of, 200.

Burning of Corpses, 325 330.

Buy an, the Happy Isle of, 37.

Byelbog, the White God, 103.

Capture of Bride, 283286.
Cattle-plague, spells against, etc.,

Christening of Cuckoos, 215


Christening of Eusalkas, 144.
Christmas songs, 186.
Coffins, 317.
Corn, superstitions concerning,

247 : leading ears of, 248.
Cossack songs, 42 44.
Cuckoos, traditions about, 214 ;

christening of, 215217.

Danilof, Kirsha, 55.

Dawn, 188, 190, 349.

Dazhbog, the Day-god, 85.

Dead, commemoration of the,
260, 310313; funeral rites,
313320; banquet to the,

Dmitry Saturday, commemora-
tion of souls on, 260.

Dodola, 227229.

Domovoy, or House-spirit, 120

Dyevichnik, or Girls' party, 271.

Easter, 219.
Elijah's Day, 247.
Epiphany, Eve of the, 207.
Expulsion of Tarakans, 255.

Fern, traditions about the, 98.
Fire-worship, 257.
Foundations, sacrifices at, 127.



Funerals : of Kostroma, 244 ; of
Yarilo, 245 ; wedding-funerals,
309 ; modern funeral customs,
313 320; funeral banquets,
320; feast to ghosts, 321;
ancient funeral rites, 323
327; human sacrifices at, 328,
329 ; the Strava and Trizna,
331, 332; burial of strangers,
333 ; songs about the dead,

Gadaniya, or guessings, 195.
Glory song, 198.
Guessings, 195.

Harvest, opening of the, 249 ;

harvest-home feast, 250, 251.
Hell, Slavonic ideas about, 113.
Historical songs, 54.
Ilouse, ceremonies attendant on

a change of, 137.
House-spirit, see Domovoy.

Ibn Fozlan, account of a burial

by, 328.

Hya's, or Elijah's Day, 247.
Hya Muromets, 59 63.
Insect burial, 255.

James, Richard; his collection
of Eussian historical poems,

Kasha, or stewed grain, 205.
Khorovods, or circling dances to

songs, 2, 613 ; 223226.
Kikimora, or Nightmare, 133.
Kirsha Danilof, 55.
Kolyada Songs, 186201.
Koshchei the Immortal, 165


Kosa, or maiden braid of hair,

272275, 288.
Kostroma, funeral of, 244.
Kostrubonko, 222.
Krasnaya Gorka, or Red Hill,

222, 223.
Kupalo, Midsummer feast of,

Kulikovo, battle of, 259.

Laume, story of a, 101.

Lado and Lada, the deities o:

the Spring and of Love, 105,

Leading ears of corn, rite of,


Love-spells, 369.
Lyeshy, or Wood-demon, 153


Malchik - s - Palchik, or Tom
Thumb, 181, 183.

Magpies, 405.

Marriage : list of the dramatis
personce at a, 263 ; the pro-
posal and striking of hands,
265 ; the betrothal, 267271 ;
the girls' party, 271275;
the wedding day, 276280;
expenses of a peasant wedding,
281 ; ancient Slavonic ideas
about marriage, 282 ; capture
or purchase of bride, 283
286; her sorrow at leaving
her home, 287292; her
feelings towards her parents,
292295 ; freedom of choice,
295301 ; wife's family posi-
tion, 302 ; a bride's lament,
303, 304; songs about a happy
marriage, 305 ; . mythical wed-
ding guests, 306308.



Maslyanitsa, or " Butter-week,"
208, 209.

Mavkas, or Little-Bussian fairies
or water-nymphs, 142, 143.

Midsummer Customs, 239 246.

Mythology : Old Slavonic
Deities, 8084, 102 ; Svarog,
85 ; Dazhbog and Ogon', 85,
86 ; Perun, 86102 : Byelbog,
103 ; Lado and Lada, 105 ;
spirit-world, 106 ; ideas about
the soul, 107 118 ; Paradise,
111 ; the Rakhmane, 112 ; the
Domovoy, or House-spirit,
120139; the Eusalka, or
Naiad, 139146 ; the Vila and
Poludnitsa, 147; the Vod-
yany, or Water-sprite, 148 ; the
Lyeshy, or Wood-demon, 153
160 ; the Baba Yaga, or
Ogress, 161 164 ; Koshchei
the Immortal, 165 167 ; the
Vyed'ma, or Witch, 168-
172; the Snake, 173177;
the Water-king, 178 : Swan
Maidens, 179; Tom Thumb,
183 ; Kolyada rites, 186201 ;
Ovsen, 202204; New Year,
205207 ; the " Butter Week,"
209; the death of Winter,
210 ; reception of Spring, 211
213 ; Cuckoo christening,
214218; Tree- worship, 219;
Easter and the Krasnaya
Gorka, 220227 ; Dodola,
228; St. George songs, 229
-233 ; Semik and Whitsun-
tide, 233239 ; Kupalo and
Midsummer, 239243 ; fune-
ral of Kostroma, or Yarilo,
244 246 : traditions about
corn, 247 ; leading ears of

corn, 248, 249; the harvest,
250, 251; plaiting Volos's
beard, 251 ; Volos's name,
252 ; St. Vlas, 253 ; the Wo-
men's Summer, 254 ; expulsion
of Tarakans, 255 ; the Ovin, or
corn-kiln, 257 ; Dmitry Sa-
turday and ancestral wor-
ship, 259, 260 ; mythological
riddles, 348350 ; the Isle of
Buyan, 37 ; the White Stone
Alatuir, 37 ; witchcraft, 37 ;
personification of cattle-plague,
cholera, small-pox, etc., 395
403 ; werewolves and vam-
pires, 403415, 428433.

New Year songs and customs,

Nightmare, 133.

Ogon', or Fire, 85.

Orphans, songs about, 293, 334.

Ovin, or corn-kiln, respect paid

to, 257.
Ovsen songs, 202204.

Paradise, Slavonic ideas about,

Parjanya and Perun, 86.

Perun the Thunder-god, com-
pared with Parjanya, 86 ;
Lettic songs about, 88 91 ;
his statues, 93 ; myths about,

Perkunas, 8891, 101.

Pigeons, traditions about, 181.

Plakal'shchitsa, or Wailer, 342.

Poludnitsa, 147.

Posidyelka, or social gathering,

Potters' Field, near Moscow, 333.



Prichitaniya, or laments, 343,

Pripyevka, prelude or refrain,303.

Purchase of a bride, 273, 274,
283286, 290, 291.

Purification, rite of, after a fune-
ral, 319.

Badunitsa, or commemoration

of the dead, 222, 310313.
Eain, effect of witchcraft on, 383.
Bakhmane, or Brahmans, legend

of the, 113.
Biddies, 346356.
Bobber songs, 45 47.
Bukobitie, or striking of hands

before marriage, 265.
Busalkas, or Water-nymphs, 139

146, 216.

Semik, feast of, 233.

September customs, 253 256.

Small-pox, Bussian ideas about,

Snakes, stories about, 173 176.

Soul, Slavonic ideas about the,

Soldier songs, 51 54.

Songs: general sketch of Bus-
sian songs, 1 ; their influence
on the people, 4 : their age,
5 ; their themes, 14 ; classes
of, 39 ; Cossack songs, 42 ;
Bobber songs, 45 ; Soldiers'
songs, 51; historical songs,
54 ; metres of, 77 79.
Mythic and Bitual songs, 186 ;
Kolyadki, or Christmas
songs, 187201 ; Ovsen
and New Year songs, 202
207; Spring songs, 212;
Krasnaya Gorka Khoro-

vods, 223 226; songs about
St. George, 230 ; Semik and
Whitsuntide songs, 236
238 ; Midsummer songs,
239 246 ; Harvest songs,
249 251 ; Autumn songs,
256, 259.

Marriage songs, 262 ; Betro-
thal songs, 266 271 ; Kosa,
or Maiden-tresses songs,
272275, 288; Bridal-be-
nediction songs, 278 ; the
"Sowing of the Millet," 283 ;
bargaining for a bride
songs, 286, 287, 220, 291 ;
love songs, 295 302 ; a
bride's lament, 303 ; happy-
marriage songs, 305 ; songs
about Cosmas and Demian,

Funeral Songs; Lament of
orphans, 334 337 ; of wi-
dows, 338 340 ; wailings
above graves, 343, 344 ; a
riddle-song, 356 ; a witch-
craft song, 394; cattle-plague
songs, 396, 399.

Sowing of the Millet, song of
the, 213.

Spells, see Zagovors.

Spring songs, 212.

Stars, song to the, 207.

Stenka Bazin, songs about, 45.

St. George, traditions about, 229

St. John's Day, 240242.

St. Peter's Day, 246.

St. Philip's Fast, 255.

Strava, or funeral feast, 331.

St. Simeon, 253.

St. Vlas, 253.

Sun, stories about the, 242.



Sun's Sister, story of the, 169.
Svarog, or Ouranos, 85.
Svarozhich, or the Sun, 85, 86.
Swan-maidens, 148, 179.

Tarakans, expulsion of insects
called, 255.

Threshold, traditions about, 136.

Tom Thumb, Slavonic counter-
part of, 177, 183.

Toothache, spells against, 367.

Tree- Worship, 219, 238.

Trizna, or funeral feast, 331.

Tsar Morskoi, or Sea-king, 178

Tur, 236238.

Vampires, 409415, 432.
Vasily's, or New- Year's Day, 203

Vodyany, or Water-sprite, 148

Vii, a Servian mythical being,

Vilas, Servian mythical beings,


Volos, the Cattle-god, 251, 252.
Voplenitsa, or Wailer, 342.
Yyed'ma, or Witch, 168170.

Water of Life and Death, 97.
Water- sprite, see Vodyany.
Water-nymph, see Eusalka.
Werewolves, 403409, 432.

Whirlwinds, connexion of witch-
craft with, 382.

Whitsuntide customs, 233235.

Widow's lament, 338.

Widow-sacrifice, 327330.

Winter, death of, 211.

Witchcraft : stories about
witches, 168 170 ; Eussian
names for wizards and witches,
378 ; their power and functions,
380; dealers in amulets, etc.,
387; milking of cows by
witches, 390 ; destruction of
crops by wizards, 392 ; poi-
soning, 393 ; werewolves,
403 408; vampires, 409
415 ; history of witchcraft in
Eussia, 417427; mytholo-
gical explanation, 428 433.

Wood-demon, see Lyeshy.

Yarilo, funeral of, 245.
Yegory, or St. George songs,

Zagadkas, or Eiddles, 346 356.
Zakrut, or twisting of ears of corn

by a wizard, 392.
Zagovors, or spells, 357; against

toothache, 367 ; against cuts,

368 ; to produce love, 369 ;

against a mother's grief, 372 ;

against wild beasts, 388.