Slavic myths. From Veles and Mokosha to the bird Sirin and Ivan Kupala

Slavic myths. From Veles and Mokosha to the bird Sirin and Ivan Kupala, by Barkova Alexandra.

I recently finished another book on Slavic mythology, but once again, it was primarily the author’s opinion with little scientific basis. I’ll keep searching, but overall, the picture is becoming clearer. It seemed to me that sources in Russian would be more informative.

The current territory of Russia was once a land where paganism thrived, with people worshipping idols and performing rituals until Vladimir the Great adopted Christianity. After this conversion, a dual faith emerged, where traditional rituals persisted alongside the construction of Christian churches.

The Mongol invasion resulted in the destruction of much of the mythology. Subsequently, we are left with sources like Pushkin’s works and fairy tales. The main phase of folklore collection began much later, during the Tsarist era. During this time, geographical societies conducted expeditions and corresponded with private folklore enthusiasts. From these efforts, Afanasyev compiled his fairy tales.

Surprisingly, the “Primary Chronicle,” a record of Kievan Rus’ from about 850 to 1110 AD, is the only known ancient written source. Other historical remnants include architecture and village life in Russia, along with a rich tradition of oral folklore. Notably, folk art in Kievan Rus was never documented in writing.

An interesting idea from the book is that many epics, which I previously understood as folklore, are actually the author’s interpretations. For instance, Vasnetsov’s painting of the three heroes and Pushkin’s tale of Tsar Sultan are artistic renditions rather than traditional folklore.

One of the most fascinating discoveries was about the hut on chicken legs. In reality, these huts were air burials, preserved through fumigation. Interestingly, the Russian words for “chicken” and “smoke” share the same root.

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