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Burning Marena and waking the bear at Maslenitsa

Maslenitsa (Shrovetide) was originally a pagan holiday. However, with the advent of Christianity, the vernal equinox (March 20-21) became a permanent fixture in Lent. Therefore, the nationwide consumption of pancakes now comes a month earlier.
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Alexey Kulikov

Maslenitsa (Shrovetide) was originally a pagan holiday. However, with the advent of Christianity, the vernal equinox (March 20-21) became a permanent fixture in Lent. Therefore, the nationwide consumption of pancakes now comes a month earlier.
The Slavs, who knew nothing of Easter or fasting, celebrated Maslenitsa at the end of March, when day and night become equal and every living thing awakes.

Alexey Kulikov

The Slavs, who knew nothing of Easter or fasting, celebrated Maslenitsa at the end of March, when day and night become equal and every living thing awakes.
The second Slavic name for Maslenitsa is Komoeditsa, now only remembered in remote villages of Belarus. “Kom” was another word for “bear”. The “honey-eater” was considered the ancestor of all people, and embodied the god of cattle, Veles, who was presented with gifts during Komoeditsa. Pancakes — the symbol of the sun and spring — were held in particular reverence.

Alexey Kulikov

The second Slavic name for Maslenitsa is Komoeditsa, now only remembered in remote villages of Belarus. “Kom” was another word for “bear”. The “honey-eater” was considered the ancestor of all people, and embodied the god of cattle, Veles, who was presented with gifts during Komoeditsa. Pancakes — the symbol of the sun and spring — were held in particular reverence.
Strictly speaking, Komoeditsa or Maslenitsa is a festival not only of spring, but of the bear.

Alexey Kulikov

Strictly speaking, Komoeditsa or Maslenitsa is a festival not only of spring, but of the bear.
How could it be Maslenitsa without an effigy? For pagans, effigies were imbued with deep meaning: they didn’t represent winter, as Christians thought, but Marena (or Marzanna) — the incarnation of evil and death. This Slavic goddess was associated with seasonal changes and the shift of day and night. Marena was placated all year round, and only at Maslenitsa did she become an object of reprisal for the Slavs.

Alexey Kulikov

How could it be Maslenitsa without an effigy? For pagans, effigies were imbued with deep meaning: they didn’t represent winter, as Christians thought, but Marena (or Marzanna) — the incarnation of evil and death. This Slavic goddess was associated with seasonal changes and the shift of day and night. Marena was placated all year round, and only at Maslenitsa did she become an object of reprisal for the Slavs.
Everyone stood in a circle and performed a round dance around a bonfire, in which gifts to ancestors were placed and Marena was burned.

Alexey Kulikov

Everyone stood in a circle and performed a round dance around a bonfire, in which gifts to ancestors were placed and Marena was burned.
A circle had special meaning for pagans. It represented the changing seasons and the cycle of day and night. People's lives also flow in a circle.

Alexey Kulikov

A circle had special meaning for pagans. It represented the changing seasons and the cycle of day and night. People's lives also flow in a circle.
All this was accompanied by songs and supplications.

Alexey Kulikov

All this was accompanied by songs and supplications.
Those gathered took turns to sip from a cup of kvass and entreat the gods to be merciful and provide warmth.

Alexey Kulikov

Those gathered took turns to sip from a cup of kvass and entreat the gods to be merciful and provide warmth.
Some of the kvass was poured onto the fire as a sacrifice to the gods and a gift to the Slavs’ forebears, followed by the burning of special ritual bread and pancakes.

Alexey Kulikov

Some of the kvass was poured onto the fire as a sacrifice to the gods and a gift to the Slavs’ forebears, followed by the burning of special ritual bread and pancakes.
A bear was led to the bonfire to the sound of singing, so that it too could partake in the festival.

Alexey Kulikov

A bear was led to the bonfire to the sound of singing, so that it too could partake in the festival.
March 1, 2014
Tags: maslenitsa, holidays

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