Department of Ethnology and Cultural Anthropology

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Department of Ethnology and Cultural Anthropology ...

    Department of Ethnology and Cultural Anthropology

    Faculty of Arts, University of Ljubljana, Zavetiška 5, 1000 Ljubljana, Slovenia



    Ljubljana, September 6-8, 2007


Karen Bek-Pedersen

    Weaving Swords and Rolling Heads

     The Old Norse poem Darrađarljóđ portrays the macabre scene of a group

    of supernatural women weaving together men‟s intestines on a loom which has men‟s head for warp weights. While the women go about their weaving they appear to make prophecies about a distant battle taking place at the same time. Their grisly work at the loom seems to be very closely related to the violent death of men in battle.

     Images similar to this one turn up in a number of other sources from medieval Scandinavia: An archaeological find from Norse Greenland consists of a weaving tool depicting figures wielding swords, a saga describes a prophetic dream in which a head falls from the warp of a loom, and another story portrays an outright decapitation!

In each case the scene takes place in a „dyngja‟ – a separate room or

    space set aside mainly for weaving and considered to be particularly feminine. It is not thought to be a ritual space at all, yet it seems that a strong symbolism relating to ideas about fate is attached to this space: While it is an ordinary work space, which is generally mentioned only in passing in the literature, it appears simultaneously to be a place where major decisions concerning life and death are made. In the „dyngja‟ prophecies are made intentionally as well as unintentionally by the

    women who go about their everyday work.

    The examples mentioned here concern death, but others exist which appear to establish a link between the „dyngja‟ and birth. Both of these images textile-as-death and textile-as-birth find support in comparative

    material from other cultures.

    In my talk I want to carry out a close comparison of the different scenes from the relevant source material with a view to discovering whether the space which is the „dyngja‟ is coincidental or essential to these two images

    and the ways in which they are understood.

Vitomir Belaj

    Trefoil structures in the territory of Croatia

    Based on the observations of Andrej Pleterski related to the eastern Alps, according to which points that used to be dedicated to the pagan Slavic deities are frequently found in the groups of three and form a triangle characterized with fixed geometric features, similar analogous structures have been searched for and found in Croatia. That is the case in the area to the west from Varaždin, east from Zagreb, along the Bay of Kvarner, on the island of Pag, on the Mosor mountain near Split and on the peninsula of Pelješac.

     These structures are shown, analyzed and compared, and the conclusions considering their common features are attempted to be given. Also, the importance these structures had for the early South Slavic communities has been highlighted.

Olga Belova

    The Sacral Places in the Poly-Ethnic Cultural Space

    The paper presents some observations made in the process of field research in various regions of Ukraine (Podolia, Volyn‟, Bukovina) Belorussia (Grodno region) and Russia (Smolensk region) in the years 20012006. The aim of our project was to study different sides of ethno-cultural neigbourhood in these poly-ethnic regions, to gather folklore evidences of the former close contacts between Slavic and Jewish population on the territory of the Pale of Settlement.

    The impact of the remarkable culture of East European Jewry on the cultural traditions of East Slavic areas (the western parts of Russia, Ukraine and Belorussia) is hardly to underestimate. It was a unique civilization which was practically totally annihilated during World War II. Is it possible, after hundreds of years of Jewish history in East European regions, to find something that could remind the scholars (and not only them) of the former scales and richness of Jewish cultural heritage.

The phenomenon of the traditional East-European Jewish settlement (shtetl)

    was a unique cultural structure, which combined the elements of several ethnic and religious traditions: Jewish, Christian (Orthodox, Roman Catholic or Greek Catholic), and Muslim. In the former shtetls of the South-Western

    Ukraine and Western Byelorussia, where we conducted our field research in the last few years, the Slavic-Jewish neighbourhood had a long-termed history and traditions. During the long period of time when Jews and Slavs lived side by side, the unique mechanism of ethnic and cultural coexistence was elaborated this model of neighbourhood united the ethnographic

    reality with a set of folklore-mythological stereotypes based on the traditional ambivalent attitude to the “others” in the folk culture.

    The western parts of Ukraine and Belorussia are still abundant in material evidences of Jewish culture. One could feel the unique character of local Jewish communities through the shtetl streets, stately synagogue buildings, old cemeteries crowded with tombstones, that have miraculously survived ththe ravages of the 20 century.

    The Jewish component of the cultural landscape was the most evident but not the only one. Till nowadays the cultural landscapes of the former shtetls are determined by such elements as church buildings (Catholic or Orthodox Christian church and Jewish synagogue), cemeteries (“Polish” i.e. Roman Catholic or Greek Catholic, “Russian i.e. Orthodox, and the deserted Jewish necropolis). These sacral places form the outer boundary of the settlement. Today the material evidences of the Jewish culture still existed in the regions of the former Pale of Settlement, while the Jews who formed the majority of local urban population had already left their shtetls. But nevertheless the elements of Jewish culture preserved in folk memory and narratives of the Slavic neighbours.

    On the base of folklore narratives we analyze the modern Slavic and Jewish folk beliefs about the most relevant objects of cultural landscape. The great part of the local oral history of every former shtetl consists of the stories

    about the erection and destruction of churches and synagogues (the motives of miraculous appearance of the building); the stories about the rivalry of the Catholics and Orthodox or of the Christians and the Jews in getting the most appropriate place for the erection of the sacral building; memorates about the profanation of sacral places and objects (the motives of God‟s punishment for sacriledge);

    memorates about the local cemeteries (as the sacral and the fearful place at the same time) and the rules of behavior at these places, etc.; folk narratives about the types and forms of the Jewish tombstones (mazevot);

    folk narratives about the underground tunnels which unite the main cult objects (Christian and Jewish as well) in the single whole.

    These folklore evidences are supported by the “religious” practices such as visiting the synagogues and the Jewish cemeteries by the Slavic population. The material show that in the regions of Slavic-Jewish contacts there exist a kind of “folk hierotopia” (the system of forming the sacral space in the frames of the community), when all sacral objects possess equal significance. The cultural equality of the “own” and the “other” sacred objects does exist even when the ethnographic neighbourhood itself has become the fact of history.

    We can also come to a conclusion that the sacral landscape of the poly-ethnic area can be formed, developed, changed, and transformed by the inhabitants. At the same time the local oral history estimates the extent of “sanctity” of these objects and makes them the markers of the whole place.

Josef Bláha

    Mythic and social range of Olomouc (Moravia) from protohistoric age to the end of Middle-Ages

    Knowledge about sociotopographic evolution in Olomouc area, former political, religion, and culture centre of Middle-Ages Moravia, are summarized in the report. This knowledge insists on more than three decades of intense archaeological research of this place, and on evaluation of its results connected to topographic “quality” in Moravia (hydrogeological conditions, long-distance and local roads etc.) on the other hand.

    To allow the accomplishments of terrain research and observation to interpret, the author involved among sources of information, which however must be critically analyzed, multiform material exceeding boundary of pure archaeological and historical research. Concerning toponomastic knowledge, analyze results of consecration of Middle-Ages Olomouc churches (with special respect to sanctification to Archangel Michael) as well as local topographically hagiographic and folklore traditions bearing on among others vernacular piety.

    Today‟s Olomouc city area represents remarkable conglomeration vertical and horizontal qualities and aspects (complemented among others with water Morava river, lakes and swamps), which can be confronted with archaeological findings both synchronous and diachronically way. Special attention is paid to designating of social status in verifiable item terrain.

    Particularly vertical hierarchy with clear symbolic meaning can be exactly determined in Olomouc area, in which religious as well as social “cosmic” idea applies, with archaic and dominating cult centre in the middle so-

    called Michael hill (rock, water springs). It looks very likely that this base imagine about local “micro cosmos” formed, in communities living in narrower range around Olomouc from eneolith, in prehistoric or protohistoric age. So it cannot surprise, that it was explicitly expressed in th century. specific form of town pattern, sectionized in the first third of 13

Broader St. Michael‟s church area (by which Dominican convent was thfounded in the beginning of 13 century) was put to test chthonic

    character of pre- as well as protohistoric divinities worshipped here appears to be very likely. This thesis is among others supported by interpretation of Michael‟s consecration with reference to water cults (numerous inspirational and in our culture generally non-reflected parallels can be found in late-antic or early-Christian Mediterranean). In Olomouc case it is interesting, that monastery tradition documented lingering on of archaic tradition about healing and miracle properties of water springing from rock under church and convent, which was however “discovered” by St. Hyacint, the founder of the monastery. Modified “legend” relates even to spring in near chapel of thSt. John Sarkander this saint was martyred here in first half of 17

    century (!). This enlightens new discovered legend about “bandit” hiding in

    cave on the Michael hill very likely archaic myth about dragon expresses

     it has a number of parallels, Among others with obvious relation to mentioned chthonic “mother” divinity, worshipped in this case just in the


Rather extensive adjacent area of so-called “Předhradí” and “Hrad” (steep

    brow defended plateau) was evincible made use of for cult (however relation to so-called Michael hill is unknown). The place is becoming taboo by the ending of Hallstatt era and it‟s used as a meeting-place up to thbeginning of 9 century (many archaeological arguments can be showed

    for this thesis). At that time, the Great Moravia state is forming and this countryside, for three centuries inhabited by Slavs, is Christianized. The thfortified sway centre in south of Olomouc from the end of 7 century was

    destroyed and one of the most important foot-hold of Great Moravian empire was constituted in “Předhradí” and “Hrad” area. Cult “stabilitas loci” undoubtedly acted here very strong former over-region centre of pre-

    Christian cult was transformed to one of the Moravian bishopric. However pagan traditions can be observed in local archaeological material up to the th12 century imported loam eggs (“pisanki”) and rattles and even

    mercantile (?) St. Blažej church (relating to pagan Volos?) evidences of

    strong Russian influence.

Lina Būgienė

    Concept of sacred time and space in Lithuanian belief legends

    Folk belief legends as folk narrative texts representing traditional worldviews and popular ideas regarding world organization and certain global order are very popular and numerous in Lithuanian folklore. The Lithuanian Folklore Archives boast large collections of legends, reaching to tens of thousands of texts, both traditional and modern ones, recorded th century until nowadays. These narratives are since the end of the 19

    usually centered on some supernatural experiences lived out by the human beings; among their most typical features, emphasis on the alleged credibility of the narrated events should be named. Not all of these texts specifically indicate the exact time and place of the narrative action; but certain legendary chronotope based on mythical thinking is nevertheless inherent in these legends. The subject of analysis here would embrace particular moments of time and space, or rather, their “knots” depicted as

    endowed with certain sanctity (i.e. most frequently marking the borderline between the human and the supernatural realms of existence).

    Although remnants and traces of very archaic worldviews, originating in pre-Christian beliefs, may also occasionally be spotted in the legendary material, especially in the older recordings (e.g. the idea of rivers and springs that run Eastwards, i.e. “against the Sun”, and therefore possess magic healing powers, etc.), most of the material essentially deals with daily reality of the traditional rural community of Catholic peasants, typically comprising the majority of the Lithuanian countryside throughout the period when these narratives were recorded. From the bulk of these texts, certain basic understanding of the division of time and structuring of space may be conceived. Especially revealing in this respect are the legends telling of people breaking various taboos, like someone going to swim, fish or hunt on the Mass time and therefore suffering various misfortunes, or working (e.g. spinning, milling) on Sundays or Thursdays, and the like. There are particular moments in time that are believed to be almost “programmed” for supernatural experiences; among them, both midnight and midday may be named, also, particular dusk time after sunset, especially on certain weekdays, and the entire festive days of the calendar cycle, e.g. Christmas and Christmas Eve, Easter, Midsummer, All Saints‟ Day and other annual and Church festivals may be listed as being charged with particularly strict rules of human behavior and various taboos that were imposed by the traditional society on its members. The folk legends could be used to serve for either reinforcing or dismantling of these taboos.

    Along with certain “marked” moments of time, the surrounding space and landscape also had numerous “marked” points in the eyes of the members of traditional rural society. In this respect it should be noted, that not only such places as churchyards, chapels, cemeteries, ancient burials, mounds, etc. were practically charged with sacral qualities, but also numerous other everyday localities and even household buildings (bridges, crossroads,

    barns, saunas, etc.) could unexpectedly turn out to be inhabited by some supernatural beings, spirits or ghosts, which all demanded reverence and certain qualifications in dealing with them.

    Finally, it should be emphasized, that according to Lithuanian folk narratives, only the junctions of particular moments of both time and space could be regarded as “sacred”. Time and space alone seldom possess such qualities. Therefore it is reasonable to talk about existence of the mythical chronotope directing actions and perceptions of traditional human beings, depicted in the folk legend texts.

    Mihály Hoppál

    Weltanschauung, Belief System and Everyday Knowledge Revisited The concept of time and space in every culture are deeply connected to the system of beliefs of the given culture under study. As it was earlier labelled the worldview or Weltanschauung are a culture specific system of beliefs which contains a large set of everyday knowledge. There is a hidden dynamics between knowledge and belief by the help of which our everyday decision are governed. In our paper therefore we shall start with a working definition of belief, which is a mental conception of ourselves and of the world which we consider to be right and, though we do not prove it, we choose the modes and results of our actions in accordance with is. The authors make a clear distinction between knowledge and belief, in contrast with some researchers who do not consider this strict distinction relevant, although without this it is impossible to do justice to the question of beliefs. In the study they deal with two groups of problems: 1) certain basic features of human nature, which are closely related to belief; 2) important experiences which induce man to rid himself of his beliefs, namely of his mental contents believed to be right, but unproved, and replace them with ones that are proved and known to be right.

Katja Hrobat

    Categories of space in the image of Baba

    The contribution analyzes different categories of space through the perspective of a mythical image called Baba. The analysis primarily draws

    on materialized forms of tradition in stone monoliths. Nevertheless, other traditions concerning Baba and originating from this same space, namely

    the Mediterranean area of Slovenia, will be analyzed at the same time.

The image of Baba conceals a representation of an old woman, who is in

    the case of Rodik manifested in the natural stone monolith in the image of a woman with exaggerated attributes. Nearby the so-called stone monoliths or toponyms specific rituals were performed, as for example immolations or celebrations of Midsummer Eves. Stone monoliths called Baba were in one

    way or the other connected with water, both in the Croatian (J. Vince Pallua 1995/96) and Slovenian coastal region.

    The tradition on Baba offers at least three different aspects through which different correlations of the mythical image with space can be detected. The first aspect is the analysis of positioning in spatial structures. In the area of Rodik certain similarities with the case from Velebit in Croatian coastal region can be discerned: in both cases the pattern of a monolithic Baba and a toponym the Lake appear, as well as the indications of aboriginal traditions. A further analogy comes from Prilep, Macedonia, where Baba

    an imposing monolith on the top of the acropolis from the Hellenistic and late Antiquity period is positioned facing the monastery Treskavec, which is erected on the cult place of Cybele, Artemis and Apollo (S. Zogović

    typescript). While the name Treskavec itself, with its legend of the golden apple, indicates thunder and lightning, the tradition has it that the storm originates also from a pre-Christian cult space Jezero (the Lake) above Rodik.

    The second point of departure of the space analysis is a tradition, according to which the Baba supposedly bestrode above the village of Rodik with her feet on two of the nearby hills. When she farted she caused the wind, when she pissed she caused the rain, and when she lifted her skirt the weather cleared up (Peršolja 2000). The analogies with Macedonia are of considerable interest, where, according to the old custom, the newlyweds had to crawl under the oldest woman in the village, who was given the name Baba and who stood up on a chair and small tub. We may also encounter the image of the transition of pairs through somebody's legs in numerous dances. We are interested in the significance of the spatial transition through the legs of both man and a mythical figure. The third aspect is represented by an interesting threat from the Slovenian and Croatian coastal region, namely that it is necessary to smooch the

    sniffing Baba and (…) blow up her behind on the first visit to a certain town,

    in our case the town of Trieste. Babas are frequently positioned in the

    immediate vicinity of archaeological settlements. J. Vince Pallua (1995/96) assumes that Baba presents itself as a certain genius loci, a protectress of

    a certain place. On entering the area under her protection, one has to pay respects to her, perhaps in a similar manner as in the sources on the life of St. Georgius Agioritis, where the saint is invited to make a bow to the local pagan idol (Čausidis 1994: 27-28).

Ivan Marija Hrovatin

    The beginning of time, from Chaos to Cosmos in the space of

    settlement in Slovenia

    The foundation of the settlement is the beggining and the origin of a community. It is an important moment, a moments usually noted in tradition. It is the beginning of a new time - of the time in which we live, and it is also the beginning of a new arrangement of the place - the arrangement in which we live. Is the point of transition from Chaos to Cosmos.

    In Slovenia we have oral tradition about the beginning of a settlement: in the beginning there was a lake (Chaos) and after the dragon's death (and the liberation of waters) the settlement was founded - so the version of the cosmogonic fight within the idea of the cyclic renovation of the world. In the paper are presented and interpreted the elements of the structure of these beliefs and the elements of its manifestation in the landscape such as toponyms, cult places and elements of natural evironment.

Annette Kehnel

    Times of suffering - spaces of humiliation. The "powers of weakness" in European inauguration rituals.

    The paper starts off from the observation, that times of suffering (humiliation, prostration, trials, beatings, condemnation to silence and fasting etc.) form a surprisingly steady part of rituals performed, when it comes to the 'transfer power' or 'change of status'. These elements have often been described - both for European and non-European Communities - already in the late 19^th cent. (J. G. Frazer). Victor Turner, in his elaboration on van Genneps 'rites de passages' identified special times for these ritually produced states of weakness: namely the central period within the process of ritual transformation, the liminal phase. It seems that all over Europe special transforming powers are ascribed to suffering and weakness, set free by collective ritual activity in order to complete the proper transfer of powers. An archetype of the idea that ultimate power is attained by ultimate powerlessness can certainly be found in the Christian idea of redemption achieved by means of utter suffering and weakness as portrayed in the icon of the messiah dying on the cross. In the paper it is suggested to look at the spatial and material dimension of these "powers of weakness". I will concentrate on the locations of this ritual impotency primarily in medieval inauguration rites, taking up historical examples such as the curial /sedes

    stercorata/, the ground floor of St. Mary's church in Aachen, the Carinthian inauguration stone, the imperial crown (Reichskrone), etc. It is hoped to contribute in some small way to a better understanding of the shared elements in the European concepts of power by describing times and

     places of the "powers of weakness" within the ritual transfer of power.

Mare Kőiva

    Symbolic Time and Place

    The paper discusses the temporal and spatial relationships in charms and demonstrates the cognitive map of such charms on the example of some specific types.

    The charm texts entail descriptions of various mythical spaces and creatures inhabiting these: three maidens/sisters/maids in the sky; apostles, Jesus or sickness demons on the journey; the abode of the sun, the moon and the stars in the form of a golden paddock and a large dish; the black man rising from the sea or appearing on the coast; the giant primeval ox, the North and the Underworld as abodes of the dead and demonic sicknesses; the forest, swamp, sea, stones, trees, tree stumps, and Toonela, land of the dead, as places from where hostile creatures and sicknesses have come and where they can be sent back to.

    A separate category of charms that govern healing and social relationships are ones that are associated with biblical locations: the Red Sea, Jerusalem, the Jordan River, the garden of Gethsemane, etc. Characteristically, in historiolas a link between the mythical, semantically significant space, time, event and the actually existing space, time and event is being created (e.g. fire is told to stand still as Christ stood when St. John baptized him in the Jordan).

    The verbal part of a healing ritual may be built upon impossibility. In such formulae, the world which cannot ordinarily exist is being described. Charms were recited at specific times and in specific places, the nature of which varies depending on the type, but nevertheless included certain fixed elements. The symbolic dialogues and rituals accompanying these are quite closely linked to the ritual year: bringing Christmas (or the New Year) inside, cajoling winds at the end of the year, shaking apple trees for good harvest, repelling hunger, etc.

    Preventive rituals include grinding flies on St. Matthew‟s Day, snakes on St Matthew‟s Day or St. George‟s Day; binding a wolf‟s muzzle on St.

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