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epocha

Romuva (church)

Romuva is a Baltic pagan organization, reviving the religious practices of the Lithuanian people before their Christianization. Romuva is an ethnic religion community that claims to continue living Baltic pagan traditions which survived in folklore and customs.

There are adherents of Romuva all over the world, but the religion primarily exists in Lithuania and the former Eastern Bloc nations. Romuva has close ties with sentiments of Lithuanian and Baltic nationalism. Lithuanian ancestry is not a prerequisite to acceptance by the Romuva religious community. Practising the Romuva faith is seen by many adherents as a form of cultural pride, along with celebrating traditional forms of art, retelling Baltic folklore, practising traditional holidays, playing traditional Baltic music, singing traditional dainas or hymns and songs as well as ecological activism and stewarding sacred places.

Etymology

The terms Romuva, Romovė and Ruomuva came from medieval written sources in East Prussia mentioning the pagan Baltic temple Romowe. The word may be derived from the Baltic root ram-/rām-, meaning 'calm, serene, quiet', stemming from the Proto-Indo-European *(e)remǝ-.

History

Medieval Lithuanian faith

The Quendlinburg chronicle mentions a missionary Bruno of Querfurt, who was killed along with 18 men by Yotvingians because of entering The Holy Forest. This was the first time the name of Lithuania was mentioned in written sources. Lithuanians came to history as very conservative representatives of ancient European paganism; they preserved this feature until the 14th and 15th centuries. They happened to be the last non-nomadic people in Europe practicing pristine Indo-European polytheism.

In the 13th century the pope Gregory IX declared crusades against Baltic tribes. This led to the destruction of the Baltic faith. Grand Duke Mindaugas was Christianized with his family and warriors in 1251 to get appreciation from Christian Europe. But Mindaugas still worshiped pagan deities as the Hypatian chronicle mentions. He sacrificed to the pagan Supreme God (*Andajus, later Dievas), Perkūnas, *Teliavelis (god of smiths), and *Žvorūna (goddess of forests and hunters).

Despite the baptism of Mindaugas, the whole of ethnic Lithuania was not Christianized, so the crusades were not stopped. In 1387 the whole of Aukštaitija was Christianized by Grand Duke Vytautas and his cousin Jogaila. The old pagan priests estate was annihilated along with archaic pagan Baltic culture. The same was done in 1417 in Samogitia. After the Christianization of Lithuania the real purpose of the Christian Teutonic order was revealed. The Order was fighting against the Balts not to bring a new faith, but to conquer new territories. Another consequence of the Baltic Crusades was the extermination of pagan Old Prussians.

In 1565 Valerijonas Protasevičius invited the Jesuit order to 'fight' with idolaters. This was the last step to destroy the ancient Baltic faith. Despite this Lithuanian peasants continued to practice paganism until the 18th century. Later pagan traditions were adopted by the Christian church, old deities were replaced by sainthood.

Revival

The Romanticism epocha started in the 19th century. This led Lithuanians to turn back to their old roots. The national revival started and Lithuanian intelligentsia idealised ancient paganism and folklore. Some historians wanted to prove the beauty of ancient polytheism and even started creating new aspects of Lithuanian mythology. One of the most famous of these was Theodor Narbutt who edited Ancient Greek myths and created new Lithuanian ones. In the beginning of 20th century ancient pagan traditions were still continued in folklore and customs. People were celebrating ancient pagan festivals mixed with Christian traditions. Such festivals include Vėlinės (day of death souls, common with Celtic Halloween), Užgavėnės (festival when winter ends and spring begins. People in Samogitia burn an idol called Morė and wear masks) and Rasos or Joninės.

Modern ethnic religion

In 1900 Vydūnas conceived Romuva in his drama 'Amžina ugnis' (The Eternal Fire). Since the play was performed in 1912, Romuva has become a symbol of Lithuanian (pagan) nationalism. Domas Šidlauskas-Visuomis (1878-1944) began to create Vaidevutybė (Baltic neo-paganism) in 1911. At the same time the Latvian ethnic religion movement Dievturi was started by E.Brastinis. The main problem was that the first movements were based on limited folklore sources and influenced by Far Eastern traditions such as Hinduism and Buddhism. Even so, the idea of Romuva didn't die during the Soviet occupation of Lithuania.

Soviet suppression of Romuva

The Lithuanian neo-pagan movement was stopped by Soviet occupation in 1940. The Soviet Union forcefully annexed Lithuania in 1940 and renamed it the Lithuanian Soviet Socialist Republic.

After Stalin's death the cultural life became more free. Due to the nationalist nature of Romuva, the faith was suppressed during the Soviet Occupation and many practitioners were executed or deported to slave labor camps in Siberia. A clandestine Romuva group is known to have existed within a labor camp in Inta, Russia. After the members were released and returned to Lithuania around 1960, Jonas Trinkūnas (born 1939) formed the Vilnius Ethnological Ramuva and began organizing public celebrations of traditional Lithuanian religious holidays in 1967 (the ancient Lithuanian festival Rasos was made). In 1971 the Soviets expelled the members from the university they attended and exiled the leaders.

During the Cold War most organized Romuva activity was largely based in North America. However, by 1988 when the power of the Soviet Union was waning and Lithuanian independence was on the horizon, Romuva groups began reorganizing in the Baltic nations and practising their religion in the open.

Independence

Romuva was recorded as an Ancient Baltic faith community in 1992 after independence in 1990. Under the auspices of the Law on Religious Communities and Associations which was passed in Lithuania in 1995, Romuva gained recognition as a "non-traditional" religion. Lithuanian law requires a minimum of 25 years of existence before such a religion can receive the state support reserved for "traditional" religions.

Beliefs

Romuva is a polytheistic pagan faith which asserts the sacrality of nature as well as the practice of ancestor veneration. Adherents of Romuva believe that the souls of those who die continue to exist in the afterlife and stay with the living family and descendants. Confession is based on preserved Lithuanian pagan customs and archaic pre-Christian folklore.

Compare with Celtic and Vedic beliefs.

Feasts

Romuva feasts are based on traditional archaic Lithuanian customs preserved in authenthic form, folklore. All these feasts are based on rhythms of nature and containing ancient agrarian rituals. Year is a circle marked by two sun solstices and two equinoxes and in such way divided into 4 periods. During these periods intermediate feasts are celebrated.

  • Pusiaužiemis (celebrated in January) is change of nature (cosmos) in winter. All the hibernating creatures wake up and declare about possible climatic conditions. Grass-snake is important mythological creature which crawls on festive table and hallows food. This means a good yield and luck coming new year. Romuva officiates rites to thank Gods and dances traditional grass-snake dance preserved in folklore.
  • In February Romuva celebrates The day of Gabija (family and household goddess), The day of Perkūnas (Thunder-god), Užgavėnės and The day of Pilėnai.

Užgavėnės is one of the most ancient Lithuanian folk feastes celebrated since prehistoric times containing worship of totem animals and ancestors.

Ancient Užgavėnės rituals:

  • Eat of festive fat food and masquerade.
  • Horse race
  • Destruction of feminine or masculine kind of idol symbolizing bad winter spirits
  • Fight of two spirits Lašininis and Kanapinis simbolizing fight of winter and spring. Kanapinis always wins.
  • play of funeral and wedding.
  • various folk magic practices

Important mythological figures in Užgavėnės are Bear, Heron, mythical deities and spirits of underworld or connected with death and spells: Ragana and Velnias (deities of underworld), witches, demons, animals-spirits, ethnic minorities symbolizing strangers from the other side.

The day of Pilėnai simbolizes old Lithuanian faith against Christianity and crusaders.

  • In March Spring equinox is celebrated.
  • In April Jorė is celebrated. Jore is festival of spring Thundergod Perkūnas who awakes nature and fertility.
  • In May Milda festival is celebrated. Milda is probably in 19th century invented Lithuanian love goddess, anyway traditional may feasts are connected with love, delight and youth. In villages Gegužines are celebrated during the whole month. Important mythological creature during May feasts and Milda is Cuckoo. She is zoomorphic shape or symbol of Laima, goddess of birth and destiny. She is one of the most important deities in Lithuanian folklore, similar to ancient Greek Ananke (mythology) and moirae when Laima appears in trinity.
  • In June Summer solstice (Rasos, Kupolinės) is celebrated.
  • In July The day of Mindaugas crown is celebrated.
  • In August Žolinė (The day of Grass) is celebrated. This feast was adopted in Christianity and marked as Mary assumption. In Lithuanian tradition Žolinė was the day of natural vegetation and Mother Earth - Žemyna.
  • In September the autumn equinox and The day of Perkūnas is celebrated. In Lithuania the autumn equinox is marked as day of Baltic solidarity.
  • In October The day of Krivis (Lithuanian pagan supreme priest) is celebrated.
  • In November the Day of all souls is celebrated. Its ancient Lithuanian witer feast containing worship of ancestors' spirits.
  • In December Kūčios and Kalėdos is celebrated, also The day of Praamžius (God Of The Beginning). It is witer solstice.

Rituals

The Baltic aukuras or "fire altar" is a stone altar in which a fire is ritually lit. Participants wash their hands and face before approaching the aukuras, and then they sing dainas or ritual hymns as the fire is lit. Food, drink, grasses and flowers are offered to the flame as the group sings the dainas. After the primary offering, participants offer their own verbal or silent contributions which are carried to the Gods and ancestors with the smoke and sparks of the flame. See also Rig Veda hymns to the fire altar.

Most of ritual hymns are preserved in Lithuanian folk tradition as folk calendar ritual songs also Romuva reconstructed some hymns for rites of gods worship. Reconstruction is based on ritual texts found in written sources, like Matthäus Prätorius and traditional archaic folk melodies. Some hymns of gods worship survived in folk tradition.

Romuva deities

Romuva centres

Žemaičių Alka

This was originally planned to be rebuilt on Birutė hill in Palanga but was not agreed by the mayor of Palanga. Instead, it was built on a hill near Šventoji which also has 11 sculptures of Pagan Gods. There are four main festivals in a year:

See also

References

External links

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