Egypt Has the Pyramids; Siberia has the Shigir Idol

Photo from the Siberian Times.

Why the comparison between countless tons of quarried stone and “the oldest wooden statue in the world,” estimated at 9,500 years before present? In each case, there are those who believe that the structures (particularly the Great Pyramid) and the sculpture from the Ural Mountains contain secret codes.

The tall statue is made from larch wood and its surface is marked by a variety of lines and faces. These must mean something, researchers claim, but explanations vary  from faces of spirits to encoded navigational information to a form of ancient writing something like Ogham or runes.

An article in the Siberian Times rounds up some of the speculation:

Expert Svetlana Savchenko, chief keeper of Shigir Idol, believes that the structure’s faces carry encoded information from ancient man in the Mesolithic era of the Stone Age concerning their understanding of ‘the creation of the world’. . . .

Professor Mikhail Zhilin, leading researcher of the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Archeology, explained: ‘We study the Idol with a feeling of awe. This is a masterpiece, carrying gigantic emotional value and force. It is a unique sculpture, there is nothing else in the world like this.  It is very alive, and very complicated at the same time.

‘The ornament is covered with nothing but encrypted information. People were passing on knowledge with the help of the Idol.’

He is adamant that we can draw conclusions about the sophistication of the people who created this masterpiece, probably scraping the larch with a stone ‘spoon’, even though the detail of the code remains an utter mystery to modern man. . . .

Some have claimed the Idol includes primitive writing, which, if true, would be amongst the first on Earth, but there is no consensus among experts who have studied the Urals statue.

Read the rest here.

Help a Russian Scholar of Paganism Attend the AAR


Dmitry Galtsin

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.

But he needs help with the travel expense of flying all the way from St. Petersburg to San Diego. To quote my blogging colleague Ethan Doyle White,

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.

He has an IndieGoGo campaign going. Please toss a few dollars in the can, and you can receive a copy of his presentation.

Around the Pagan Blogosphere, 25 August 2013

Some bookmarked links are piling up, so let’s clear them away.

¶ Lee Morgan: What happens when a writing project turns mysteriously magical:

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.

¶ Via Forging the Sampoa link to a post on “The Survival of Animism in Russia — and its Destruction in the West,” which, given the source, you know will focus on Finnic peoples,

¶ But never underestimate Russian xenophobia, now aligned with resurgent Orthodoxy, which has led, among other things, to the closing of the only Mari-language primary school that served this partly-Pagan nation.

¶ The list of polytheistic devotional books (and some Pagan SF) published by the Biblioteca Alexandrina  continues to grow. I have one and should get a couple of others.

Critiquing “Double Belief” in Russian Paganism

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.”

I had not realized this, but Routledge published a book critiquing the idea of “double belief”  (dvoeverie) three years ago: Stella Rock’s Popular Religion in Russia: ‘Double Belief’ and the Making of an Academic Myth.

From the catalog:

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.

UPDATE: From a review in Alternative Spirituality and Religion Review by Kaarina Aitamurto:

The validity of the myth has been increasingly called into question in recent decades. Rock’s contribution, however, is ground-breaking in its extensive and methodologically solid approach.

Russian Seasonal Dream Rituals

I missed Orthodox Christmas by  a day, but here is an article on Russian Pagan dream practice.

 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.

More on “Europe’s Oldest Paganism”

Following up on last July’s post about Mari Paganism, here via Forging the Sampo is another contemporary journalistic article with links.

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.”

You will find the same article linked as well as other material at the MariUver blog.

The Khan of the Winter


The King of the Winter — Sakha Republic (NE Siberian) ritual costume.

This man is costumed as the King (or Khan or Bull) of the Winter, as envisioned in the Sakha Republic of northeastern Siberia.

Here is the translation of the page about him in the Turkish Wikipedia, with a link to the photograph.

The Turkic people of Sakha were originally followers of shamanic traditions before being converted to Orthodox Christianity, and some are going back.

There seems to be a suggestion in the Wikipedia text that the bull horns might have been originally mammoth tusks, which would make more sense for that part of the world.

The website English Russia has a selection of photos of winter life there as well. “Yakutia has turned cold into brand!”

Europe’s Oldest Paganism

At Forging the Sampo, a link to a short documentary video on the revived Pagan religion of the Mari people of the former Soviet Union. (Wikipedia entry on Mari-El.)

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.