Ancestral Slavic Spring Rites In Our Tradition

Rituals of remembrance of ancestors in the spring date back to ancient Slavic ideas that spring awakening of nature also wake up the dead ancestors  from winter sleep and return them to the places where they used to live, to live to see their relatives and descendants. According to the beliefs of our ancestors in those springtime days of returning from the heaven, the souls of our ancestors invisibly involved in the festivities, along with the living. The author of a remarkable work “People of Rus”, first published in 1901, argued that the custom of “oklikaniya” in peasant families, grandfather’s thought upon their young ones was still observed in 30-40-ies of the XIX century. A folklore ethnographic expedition center “Ministry of Culture of the Russian Federation” and “St. Petersburg Conservatory” (1999) confirmed that these tradition is still alive and still in the Leningrad, Pskov and Novgorod regions.


Surprisingly, at times, this ancient folk custom of honoring ancestors conquered kings and patriarchs of the church that tried to ban this festivity and tradition due to it’s pagan roots. For example some were prohibited by Ivan the Terrible. However, experiencing the days of “illegal”, some of these rites were still not sunk into oblivion, but rather they were carefully preserved by remote places of Mother Russia. To honor their ancestors – in folk memory means to store and transmit its descendants and their heritage.


During the meal family recalled the good works and the life of the deceased. Dead relatives, was considered to rejoice that the living come to them. Young have asked for the blessing of the dead ancestors, the elderly – their forgiveness. The celebration continued at home with the family. When these Radunitsa tradition originally had a magical function. Over time, the meaning of the magic was lost and forgotten. But retained its original function of preserving the living connection with the ancestors, honoring them, the preservation of ancestral memory, the rotation of the eternal circle of life.


Also they believed that if they don’t remember of their ancestors and give tribute to them in such way they might send upon these descendants multiple woes as plague, misery, sickness, loss of livestock, fire, and the like. Therefore, not only on Radunitsa but also throughout the whole week many housewives left the dishes on the table overnight for ancestors to dine, when suddenly they come to look into the home of their relatives.

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