The Swedish Nobel Prize laureate, Selma Lagerlöf, wrote a fairy-tale novel for children with the purpose of teaching them about their homeland, translated into English as
The Wonderful Adventures of Nils
. It contains a dualistic cosmogonic naaration:
The Legend of Småland
. The material contained in it underwent a double folklorization. Its content: How the Lord together with Saint Peter created the Småland plateau. Saint Peter took the place of the figure of Satan. Similarly to the beliefs of other European peoples, both Hungarian and Russian Christian tradition als include apocryphal parabiblical narratives telling how God and Satan/Saint Peter together created the world and man. The
Legend of Småland
is a striking example of literary transplantation and adaptation.
„By steps, not leaps“ Pagan-Christian Religious Syncretism Among the Mainland Germans as a Consequence of the Elastic Christian Mission Strategy
. Teutonic tribes can hardly be said to have been predestined to take up Christianity since over six hundred years passed before all the Teutonic tribes were converted to Christian religion, as opposed to the ancient world, which needed less than half of that time to achieve the same. A determining event in the conversion of continental Teutons was the baptism of Khlodwig and his warriors in 498. The Francs regarded Christ as a new earthly king of heavenly origins, a famous and mighty hero who grants military success to those who believe in him. The conversion of the real German tribes to Christianity was an accomplishment of Charles the Great, whose mission however should not be regarded as completed through the sword only, as he made significant contributions to the establishment of Christian culture as well. Following instructions by the Pope, the Irish and later the Anglo-Saxon missionaries did not destroy the shrines of Pagan cult, but in the spirit of elastic missionary strategy they consecrated them as Christian ones. The idols, however, had to be destroyed. The teachings of Pagan and Christian religions intertwined in the minds of the „new people“ and thus a kind of Pagan-Christian religious syncretism came into being, which can be traced for centuries to follow. Traces of Paganism can be found, although in a harmless form, even today: in myths, folk tales, legends and superstitions. The diffusion of Christianity and the intrinsic, spiritual conversion of Germans were aided by rich and varied missionary literature.
Through their formal conversion to Christianity the German tribes belonged to the community of Christian civilization. In the consciousness of the ‘new people’, however, Christian beliefs existed in combination with pagan myths, thus forming a specific ethos, a kind of pagan and Christian syncretism, which can distinctly be traced in various fields of their culture. Great masses of people retained their magical-mythological view of the world for centuries, although it was gradually extended to include Christian elements. Pagan-Christian syncretism had developed among the Anglo-Saxons earlier and it was transplanted, together with the well-tried methods of conversion, to the Germans. In their healing activities Christian priests and monks had to rival with pagan magicians as a heritage of the past. For a time in the beginning (for centuries!), the newly baptized people regarded their priests and monks as magicians. The magic spells of paganism were turned Christian by clerical leaders of the new religion, who substituted such important figures of Christian religion as Jesus, Maria and a variety of saints for pagan gods and goddesses. The Second Merseburg Incantation was reworded in a Christian spirit and had the Lord’s Prayer as well as Ave Maria attached to it. Thus these prayers lost their original functions and became part of a series of magic texts. Knowing the Lord’s Prayer was an essential condition of conversion to Christianity. Formal representatives of the Christian Church inculcated it in people’s memory by attaching it to earlier incantations, for example the Second Merseburg Incantation. All this took place within the framework of the flexible mission strategy. The pagan-Christian text variations of this incantation existed not only in oral form among the people all over Europe, but were also included in medieval codices and therefore can be collected even today. The present article discusses the pagan-Christian, Hungarian text variations of the Second Merseburg Incantation in their widest context of German culture.
Ancient Times and Their Many Stories. Russian Apocrypha and Religious Folk Songs at the Intersection of Ancient Cultures.The Kiev-centred Old Russian State converted to Christianity in 988–989. The conversion of eastern Slavs did not happen in a moment however; rather it took place gradually and was the effect of a long and complex process of development. Christianity started to take root in Kiev Rus well before the 10th century. It is known that at the beginning of his reign Prince Vladimir Sviatoslavich I was dedicated to Pagan creed and even tried reforming it in order to consolidate the unity of his state. Christianization, the so called ’state christening’ was confined to towns first, as testified in a 11th century report by Ilarion, the first Russian speaking Metropolitan of Kiev:’ The sound of the apostolic trumpet and the Gospel filled all the towns…’ The population of villages became intrinsically and spiritually truly Christian only later, in the 15th-17th centuries. The Pagan-Christian religious syncretism of the period is often called’ double faith’, which is not the best term to describe a spirit and consciousness in the process of Christianization. In the name of its elastic mission strategy the clergy had significant initiatives contributing to Pagan-Christian syncretism. This unique consciousness and spirituality created its own ideal of beauty and determined the characteristic features of the culture of Russia before the Mongol invasion.
In church folksongs of Orthodox Russians, Friday appears in two forms. In the songs entitled “Friday”, the day appears in a personified form as Friday Woman (Piatnica). In the Russian church folksongs and prose texts which are called “On the twelve Fridays”, the day appears in an entirely different role. The Russian cultic veneration of the twelve Fridays can be traced back to the apocryphal writing “Sage of the Twelve Fridays” attributed to St. Clemens, a Roman. The apocryphal “Sage of the Twelve Fridays” of St. Clemens, which was rooted in a Roman Catholic religious-cultural background, was well-known throughout Europe. Variants of the texts of the Clemens-group appear in French, Provencal, Latin, Greek, German, Svabian in Hungary, Italian, English and Hungarian languages. Howewer, the legend of the twelve Fridays exists in another type as well. This is the Eleftherios-group. The group is named so because in these versions the list of the twelve Fridays is preceded by an introductory part, which is about the religious dispute between Eleftherios, a Christian and Terasios, a Jew.
The subject of the paper is a folk prayer, a German popular text, which was collected by Zsuzsanna Erdélyi from a Swabian woman in Hungary. The prayer is a modern textual version of late medieval ars moriendi. It can be regarded as a folk prayer as it was in use among the common people, but its authorship cannot be linked to the common people. The author might have been a person from the lower clergy, with profound knowledge of theology and the Bible. This religious text satisfied a spiritual need among the people, as it was read out by the bed of the dying person, thus assisting the soul in reaching heaven. If the dying person recited it, or if it was read out to him, the prayer promised delivery from sin and automatic salvation without clerical mediation. No wonder such prayers were disapproved of and even banned by the Church.
The oldest textual variant of the Russian religious folk song “Forty pilgrims and one more pilgrim” dates from the mid-eighteenth century. The song is a special type of apology, produced by pilgrims for their own laudation and glorification, with the intention to raise the respect of people for them. The wife of the Grand Prince of Kiev wanted to commit adultery with the spiritual leader of the pilgrims, for which God punished her with a severe disease, most probably with leper. The symptoms of the wife’s disease and the circumstances of her recovery indicate that the pneuma-theory, the most ancient concept of the origin of diseases, was familiar to the Russians. In connection to the religious songs analyzed in my paper I found medical practices similar to those in Hungarian folk culture and in the ancient medicine of the Lamaist Tibet. On the basis of this, it can be claimed that the disease of the wife of the Grand Prince was caused by some internal or external “evil wind”. Consequently, the treatment was connected to the wind as well.
Singing mendicant beggars (kaliki perechožie), who, for the most part, were blind or crippled and could be found everywhere in Russia before the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution, were only later, i.e. secondary, carriers of Russian religious songs (duchovnye stichi). The primary composers and performers of Eastern-Slavic religious folk songs were mediators between the Orthodox Christian Church and the people. Mendicant pilgrim beggars in Old Russia regarded themselves as those among the few selected by God. They practised their vocation of begging alms with approval from Jesus Christ. They “were baptized into Christ and clothed themselves with Christ”. From this, it follows that treating beggars to a meal or giving them alms was the same as treating Christ and giving the alms to him. The holy beggars of Old Russia were pilgrims: mendicant icons of Christ. With their life, they were meant to encourage others to purify their own icon-like quality received from God, and thus become similar to Christ.
In this paper I focus on dualistic creation stories, but without an attempt at an all-European overview. The analysis is confined to Swedish, Hungarian and Russian cultures, and references are made to various genres of literary fiction, folk legends, religious folk epic songs and annals. In the background of these examples the religious ideology of medieval bogomilism can be traced. “The Legend of Småland”, a chapter in Selma Lagerlöf’s children’s novel “The Wonderful Adventures of Nils”, draws on a dualistic cosmogonic myth of apocryphal traditions. This myth represents a modified variant of an etiological, dualistic belief. Satan is replaced by Saint Peter, who is believed to have created the mountains, which are symbolic of chaos, in the plain called Småland. In contrast, the plain was created by God. In the mythological view of the world, the plain is symbolic of the world of order, i.e. cosmos. The motif of soil or sand brought up from the bottom of the sea as well as the cooperation of the Creator and his Demiurge in the creation myth may be part of the ancient heritage in Hungarian mythology, or the motifs of the dualistic creation myth may have been borrowed later in the new homeland from nearby or distant neighbours whose tradition had been deeply affected by bogomilism. In the Russian Primary Chronicle, at the year 1071, an apocryphal story can be read in which magicians (‘volchvy’) present their ideas concerning the creation of man in accordance with the dualistic concept of Bogomils. The human body was created by Satan, from a bunch of straw hurled down from Heaven by God, and it was God who placed the soul in the body. Certain textual variants of “The Book of the Depths” (‘Golubinaja kniga’), a Russian religious folk epic, describe the single combat between Truth (‘Pravda’) and Falsehood (‘Krivda’). This combat can be interpreted, although indirectly, as the Bogomil tenet of the fight between Logos (Jesus) and Satan.
“I Have Seen a Wonderful Dream…”: “The Dream of the Most Holy Mother of God” Great Russian religious folk songs in Christian folk piety and magical practices. A possible source, and the oldest one, of the dream motif in “The Dream of Mary” is the dream of Mundane, which was reported by Herodotus and can be traced as far back as the ancient Persian times. It has however a more concrete relation to the tree of Jesse (Isaiah 11, 1–2), based on the prophecy of Isaiah, in which some very important events of the History of Redemption may also be represented instead of the ancestors of Christ. The closure has a function of key importance in the texts of “The Dream of the Mother of God”. Indulgence or pardon and remission of sins were often termed as the same, thus the differences in their meanings were lost. The closure suffered a distortion when people started to regard the heavenly powers (Christ and the Mother of God) as distributors of indulgence and started to use the prayers as well as songs deemed useful in the closures for magical purposes. The Russian adoption of the theme resulted in a complete loss of the Russian equivalent of “indulgence”.