Most scholars who attend the American Academy of Religion annual meeting have their travel and hotel rooms paid for, at least partly, by their institutions.
Some, however, don’t receive such support.
Dmitry Galtsin, a researcher in the Rare Books Department of the Library of the Russian Academy of Sciences. Galtsin has had a paper on “The Divine Feminine in the Silver Age of Russian Culture and Beyond” accepted by the the AAR’s Contemporary Pagan Studies Group, of which I have the honor to be co-chair, with Jone Salomonsen of the University of Oslo.
Although scholars of Pagan studies on the whole don’t seem to be a particularly wealthy bunch, they should nevertheless recognise the importance of building a dialogue between scholars operating in the Western world and their counterparts in Eastern Europe and the Russian Federation, in order to better understand and appreciate the growing multiplicity that exists within the phenomenon of contemporary Paganism. Arguably this is even more important in the current climate of growing political tensions between NATO and Russia.
It wasn’t long before the story, its characters and underlying mythic themes came to life in very tangible ways for me. Not only did I start to dream about the characters who would inform me of what their ‘future’ should hold, but other friends dreamed about them and sometimes it wasn’t easy to tell if they were the character from the book or being ‘gloved’ by a spirit or god they were aligned to mythically in the book. The characters have become what is known in the western Occult tradition as “egregores’” or thought-forms.
Consider this a follow-up to yesterday’s post on Russian dream rituals, which linked to an article whose author totally accepted the idea of spiritual practices with “very deep roots in pre-Christian culture.”
This book dispels the widely-held view that paganism [sic] survived in Russia alongside Orthodox Christianity, demonstrating that ‘double belief’, dvoeverie, is in fact an academic myth.
Scholars, citing the medieval origins of the term, have often portrayed Russian Christianity as uniquely muddied by paganism, with ‘double-believing’ Christians consciously or unconsciously preserving pagan traditions even into the twentieth century. This volume shows how the concept of dvoeverie arose with nineteenth-century scholars obsessed with the Russian ‘folk’ and was perpetuated as a propaganda tool in the Soviet period, colouring our perception of both popular faith in Russian and medieval Russian culture for over a century. It surveys the wide variety of uses of the term from the eleventh to the seventeenth century, and contrasts them to its use in modern historiography, concluding that our modern interpretation of dvoeverie would not have been recognized by medieval clerics, and that ‘double-belief’ is a modern academic construct. Furthermore, it offers a brief foray into medieval Orthodoxy via the mind of the believer, through the language and literature of the period.
From what I have seen in current Pagan studies, the concept is indeed widely accepted by today’s Russian Pagans and by some scholars as well. I may need to read this book.
Here I’ll try to give the “taste” of the authentic Russian tradition of dream work that has very deep roots in pre-Christian culture. Mainly the Russian tradition tells about highly practical dream incubation and tuning. The tuning rituals are connected to certain calendar dates and periods all over the year, days of the week, and time of the day. There is also very rich practice of using ‘magic’ objects and creating special situations for powerful dream incubation. My experience in teaching dream work shows that three days intensive in the nature is not enough to try at least either summer, or winter rituals.
Two of the grandmothers are less concerned, lying down in the grass in their shawls as their grandsons collect wood for the fire. “In [Orthodox] Church, you have to stand for hours. I can’t deal with that. The glade is better. Much more comfortable.”
Massive sacrificial feasts, accordions, sacred oaks and groves, priests in tall woolen hats, even a sort of Bigfoot reference — what’s not to like?
I have been reading chapters from a forthcoming book on revived Paganism in Central and Eastern Europe, which includes a chapter on the Mari by Boris Knorre, who writes,
Even during the Soviet times, within the isolated rural population of the Mari, certain elements remained well preserved: local and family prayers, reverence for the sacred grove and similar “private” practices of the tradition. In the 1990s, some urban intellectuals among the Mari initiated an active process of restoration of the native faith. The conduct of these Pagan rituals extended the boundaries of family tradition into public space, and at this time public communal sacrifices and prayers reemerged. In the Republic of Mari El, there are six hundred holy groves (kusoto), of which the majority have been taken under the protection of the state.
I look forward to being able to promote the entire volume when it is published.
The interesting part is a young shaman and his friend composing a sort of “house” music (or so the narrator describes it) to try to bridge contemporary sounds with the shamanic tradition, which was almost destroyed by seventy years of atheistic Communism. A little throat-singing comes in as well.
“Music helps me withdraw from the [trance] state,” says the shaman-musician.