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Historical background

НазваниеHistorical background
Дата конвертации09.07.2012
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Historical background



In this work I'd like to tell about some traditions and beliefs of the pre-Christian period in Great Britain and Russia. In spite of all differences both of these cultures have many similar features. We can find them in old tales, songs and lyrics of old England and Russia.
Speaking of the pre-Christian period we should remember that during the last few centuries the peoples of Europe were under the great influence of pagan traditions and beliefs.
Paganism is a term which is usually understood as denoting any religious act, practice or ceremony which is not Christian. Anyone practicing paganism is usually known as a pagan. Today there are neo-pagans in Britain and Russia.

The word pagan comes from the Latin word “paganus” which means a country dweller. Paganism is based on polytheism. Pagans believe that there are the Gods and Goddess, various mysterious beings which inhabit all surroundings and, according to ancient beliefs, these play a meaningful role in everyday life. Each of them plays its own role in the world and is responsible for any sphere of our reality. Paganism covers a wide spectrum of ideas. Pagans worship nature and the Divine Force. Pagans are deeply aware of the natural world and see the power of the divine in the ongoing cycle of life and death. Pagan theology is based on every day experience, with the aim of Pagan ritual being to make contact with the divine in the world that surrounds them. It would be impossible to understand both British and Russian culture without taking into account old folk-customs and superstitions of ancient times. Pagan mythology is bright and mysterious evidence of old beliefs. It is hoped that these old legends will keep the mysterious spirit and charm of ancient times alive for generations to come.

The folks of Europe created a lot of fantastic images which inhabited all surroundings. Like most other folk, Russian and English peoples had an inexhaustible aspiration for mystery and supernatural forces. The belief in the pagan supernatural beings never quite died out even after strengthening of Christianity in Europe.




Each of supernatural beings is responsible for any sphere of everyday life and environment. They inhabited forests, lakes and rivers. Some of them were considered masters of land and sea. The best well-known are wood-goblins and water-sprites.

Wood-goblin, undoubtedly, is probably the best well-known characters of old Russian tales and legends.
He is a master of forests, looks like an old man and grazes with wild animals. The wood-goblin is hostile toward people. According to beliefs, he decoys them deep into the dense forest, abducts young women and sends illness.
The faith in a wood-goblin appeared when the Slavic tribes were settling woodlands, and was thought to be connected with the fear of the dense forest and powerful wild nature... Water-sprite lives in rivers and lakes. He is a master of waters. Water-nymphs are subservient to him. The water-sprite is pictured as an old man with a beard , his body is covered with water-plants.

According to some legends, the water-sprite possesses a fish-tail. His favorite places of residence are deep pools and water-mills. The water-sprites are considered dangerous beings, and people avoid meetings with them. Sometimes the water-sprites drag people under the water to their death.

The British Isles are also rich in folklore and legends about fantastic beings on land and sea. For example, Cocidius is a god associated with forests and hunting, and Latis is a goddess associated with water.

Kikimora is another being in Russian mythology which associated with forests or, sometimes, dwelling houses.
She looks like a small, untidy and unprepossessing woman and lives in dwelling-houses under the floor or behind the stove. A small girl, unchristened or damned by her mother, can become a kikimora. Wizards kidnap these girls and abandon them in random houses. The kikimora avoids meeting people but tries to play pranks at night. The kikimora can tangle yarn, break the dishes and steal hens, chickens and even children. In some legends the kikimora is represented as a wood-goblin's wife.




 Domovoy is a house-spirit in Russian legends. He looks like a small old man with a beard. Domovoy lives in dwelling-houses behind the stove or under the floor. In summer, he moves to a stable.  He supervises the house and looks after domestic animals, especially horses. Usually he is friendly to people and helps them about the house. The domovoy avoids appearing in somebody's presence, but he can make any noise under the floor or in any secluded corners of the house. Sometimes he plays tricks on occupants of the house. According to beliefs, it is considered that the domovoy is a master of the house...

Brownie is a widespread name for a fairy or supernatural creature; they were small in appearance and wore brown colored clothing. Like some other spirits they were thought to be attached to houses or families and could be helpful in menial household tasks. If offended they became malignant and mischievous, creating poltergeist activity.

To get rid of brownies all you had to do is leave them a new cloak and hood, they would take it and never be seen again. The brownies were found in both England and Scotland.

Boggart is most commonly found in the counties of Yorkshire and Lancashire.  The boggarts were spirits responsible for mishaps and poltergeist activity within the home and in the countryside. They would rearrange furniture, break pots and generally be blamed for 'things that go bump in the night'.

They were often found attached to families and could be helpful within the household until they were insulted in some way. The boggarts had the ability to shape-shift, and sometimes appeared in the form of animals. If offerings were left out for them they would not cause trouble.

The supposed ghosts of people were also called boggarts, and the word may be have been used to explain any strange phenomena in the past.




According to Slavic folklore, one of the most romantic beings of the dead world was water nymphs, or water spirits. Girls or young women could become water-nymphs after their premature or violent death. The water nymphs inhabited rivers and lakes.
Once a year, in summer, they could roam about the forests and fields, near lakes and rivers. According to the old beliefs, it was a dangerous period for everyone who dared to come to the forest or to be near to the rivers or lakes. According to legends, the water-nymphs decoyed people into the water and drowned them.
The sorrow for the premature death of these young women and girls, as well as, the horror before their sudden death, were embodied in these romantic beings...

Tales of mermaids have been around for centuries, and form a large part of legends, especially round the coastal areas of Britain, and the Northern Isles of Scotland. Their sighting was thought to be a bad omen, foretelling storms and rough seas. There are numerous folk tales describing their interaction with humans.

The descriptions of mermaids were not similar with Russian water-nymphs. Generally their upper body was that of a beautiful woman with long hair, and the lower half of their body from the waist down, was that of a fish. In many of the classic descriptions mermaids are to be found sitting on a rock just off the shore, combing their hair, singing sweetly and admiring their beauty in a hand mirror. Their beautiful singing brings men into their clutches much like the classical sirens, and the unfortunate victims are drowned, spirited to their world, or eaten in the depths of the sea.
In some tales mermaids are more benevolent, and have the ability to grant the gift of magical powers, but usually there is a still high price to pay. In one of the legends, a fisherman finds a mermaid on the shore. He helps her back to the sea and she offers him three wishes. She grants the wishes but almost pulls him into the sea; only by flashing a penknife before her (supernatural creatures are traditionally repelled by Iron) does she release her hold. After nine years of using his gifts the mermaid returns for him and he is compelled to the deep. Thereafter every nine years one of his descendants was said to be lost at sea.

As well as granting wishes there are tales of mermaids intermarrying with



humans and creating hybrid children with some powers of fairy. An old story attached to Ardrossan Castle in Ayrshire recounts how a sailor was shipwrecked just off the coast and found shelter with a mermaid in a sea cave. They became lovers and their son, by name of Michael Scott went to live in the castle. He owned a magical book inherited from his mother that gave him some magical powers.
Although most tales describe sea dwelling mermaids they were not restricted to the sea, and there are several examples of mermaids haunting rivers and deep pools. The mermaid appears on a specific date on the banks of lakes and rivers. According to Slavic folklore the water-nymphs appears on a specific day too. Usually it is the 7th of July. It is possible that the term mermaid was used to describe a wider range of supernatural water creatures.
Historically there has been belief in part fish and part human creatures for thousands of years. The first references to these creatures are in the form of the God Oannes, who was the lord of the waters worshiped at the beginning of civilization in ancient Babylon. There are several other fishtailed gods, but the classic mermaid known in Britain, is more likely derived from Celtic legend, folklore and local sea lore, in places where people were in contact with the sea as part of everyday life.


There are some characters in Western European mythology which are extremely popular even today. Legends about vampires and werewolves inspire many writers and script writers.
Vampire folklore within the British Isles is surprisingly scarce, this is mainly due to the fact that the contemporary image of a vampire (a charismatic bloodsucker with a black cape, a mesmerizing stare, and a penchant for young women; plus an aversion to holy water, garlic and crosses.) is relatively recent, being the result of Hollywood portrayals of vampires. The word vampire only came into the English language in 1732, its image developing in fictional works culminating in Bram Stoker's powerful novel Dracula. The main focus of vampire lore comes from Eastern Europe although variants of the vampire are found throughout the world. The real roots of the vampire are based on a mixture of early beliefs and folklore concerning death, the dead and disease. In many ancient societies there are dark traditions associated with the dead and with corpses, which have their reflection in vampire beliefs. The return of a phantom from beyond the grave is a common motif in most cultures, but folklore also tells of animated corpses returning in the small hours, and spreading disease to the living population. In many of these stories the dead person has committed some cardinal sin. Some tales even mention that the



corpse had fed on the blood of the local population, an echo passed right through to the modern vampire myth. Protections against vampires were numerous, and have their echoes in other folklore. Iron was thought to repel them, just as it was thought to repel many supernatural creatures. Garlic was also thought to be useful, probably because it was thought to have medicinal properties (it was also used during plague outbreaks) and was also a repellent for other denizens of the otherworld.
The drinking of blood is an important part of vampire folklore, and is a substance that is subject to taboos and superstition through out the world...
In the past when little was known about the mechanisms of diseases, especially infectious diseases and those that strike without warning, it was easy to blame them on some supernatural entity.
Many of the attributes looked for in a vampire grave: bloated well-fed bodies with long nails and blood red skin, are related to the natural effects of decomposition. Gases build up in the body causing it to become bloated, the blood breaks down to give a deep red appearance, and skin shrinks back to make nails, teeth and hair appear longer than in life.

The Vampire in Literature.

The strongest tradition about vampires exists in central Europe, where the first printed accounts of vampires appeared from the 17th century onwards, indeed the vampires of Eastern Europe were thought to have run amok during the 18th century, which has a parallel with the witch mania of Western Europe.
The real emergence of the vampire into common knowledge came with its appearance in the pages of fiction. The 1819 novel “Vampyre” - by Doctor John Polidori - Lord Byron's physician - was the first vampire of British fiction, then came Varney the Vampire written by Thomas Pecket Prest in 1847, as a series of Penny Dreadfuls, and then Bram Stoker's Dracula in 1897. Dracula - originally entitled The Undead - was based on the bloodthirsty Vlad VI, known as 'Vlad the Impaler' for his gruesome penchant of impaling his enemies on sharpened spikes. Vlad ruled in Transylvania during the 15th century.
Stoker brought together many separate strands of folklore for his book, and is responsible for defining the image of the vampire, which remains to this day. A few places in Britain will now forever be associated with Dracula, especially Whitby with its gothic abbey ruins, the place where Dracula came ashore as a black hound. Stoker had probably heard about the black dog that was supposed to haunt the cliffs of Whitby and utilized the legend for his novel.



The Phantom of Croglin Grange

Croglin Grange was stone house on the hill. The phantom of Croglin Grange is one of the most well known vampire stories in Britain.
The legend tells that Croglin Grange was in the hands of the Fisher family for many centuries. Then the Fishers moved from this house and put it up to let. After some months 2 brothers and sister called the Cranswells occupied the house. They loved their new home very much. One summer evening Miss Cranswell looked out of the window and noticed two points of light. She shut the window and closed the door and laid down in her bed. After some minutes of slumber she was suddenly awaken by rustling from outside the window. Suddenly she saw a figure of a man, pale, with bright burning eyes and blood red lips. He grasped her hair with his hands and put her head back as if to deliver a kiss...
The brothers, sleeping in separate rooms were awaken by a loud scream. In a moment they were before their sisters door. The door was locked so they smashed through... Upon the bed lay their sister, blood pumping from arterial gashes in her neck. They managed to stop the blood flow and revive Miss Cranswell, the next few hours were spent in the attempt to save her life. Miss Cranswell survived the attack, and when she was strong enough to travel they took her to Switzerland to be in the fresh mountain air after that awful accident .
One dark winters day Miss Cranswell returned to Croglin... Once more the figure of a man appeared at the window... This time the two brothers were lying in wait in the shadows, as the figure came to step into the room they both loosed shots at the creature. Not wishing to follow such a night creature into its domain the two brothers waited for daybreak. First thing in the morning they took Miss Cranswell to safety and gathered all the residents of the village. The men searched the graveyard near the village for any signs, and came into the old church... In the church they saw a horrific scene. There were human bones and remains of broken coffins in the church. One coffin stood alone in the corner. The villagers opened the coffin. Inside wrapped in clothes was what they assumed to be a vampire. Its eyes were cold and lifeless in the daylight, but a fresh pistol wound was gaping from one of the creatures’ legs. The villagers burned the coffin....


As popularly known, a werewolf is a person who is transformed into a wolf under the influence of full moon. The word werewolf is a contraction of the old-Saxon word “wer” (which means "man") and wolf--werewolf, manwolf. Another term lycanthrope, often used to describe werewolves, however, refers to



someone who suffers from a mental disease of fantasizing being a wolf. This

particular mental disorder is termed lycanthropy.
 Werewolves were believed to have two origins, voluntary and involuntary. Most werewolf tales describe men who turned into werewolves at night, voluntary werewolves were believed to be people who had made a pact with the when they devoured people and animals, and then returned to human form at daybreak. Night was a time of the devil.
 There were involuntary werewolves in mythology. Persons born on Christmas Eve were often thought to be werewolves. In some legends, a child who was born during a new moon was thought sure to grow up to be a werewolf. Some folk tales told of a mountain brook whose waters turned humans into werewolves.
 Wolves were known to attack man, as wolves during those times had no reason to fear man; guns were unheard of. In most of Europe, the fear of werewolves included wolfmen ("berserkers") who wore wolf’s skin and killed savagely. As Christianity slowly gained prominence, such beliefs were condemned as Satanic.
Philosophers and religious thinkers offered the theory that perhaps the person did not physically change into a wolf but had been tricked by Satan into acting like the creatures. Generally, though, most believe that only God has the ability to change the body or mind of man.
As the legend of the werewolf has evolved, the werewolf has become more wolf-like. This evolution has brought the idea of a physical transformation from man into wolf. In original literature and stories, the transformation from man to wolf happened through a changing of shape. The horror in this concept is not the shape, or changing of shape, of the werewolf, but rather the uncontrollable behavior. The change is the great horror when depicted in horror films. In current film, the transformation is often the most horrific moment of the picture. Physiological changes are actually observed occurring, including bone structure, skin texture, and emergence of fangs. Hair grows over the body, fangs enlarge, and pointy ears emerge from the head. The difference between the original werewolf and the werewolf of current films is not the behavior, for it has been relatively constant. Rather, the difference is in the physical transformation. The characters and myths of werewolves have long been present but to this day remain extremely vague. No one knows exactly what the werewolf is and why it is so horrific. Perhaps this ambiguity is due to the fact that the werewolf does not have a solid textual incarnation, but rather occupies legend and lore. The werewolf has never had such clear description in the way that Mary Shelley depicted the Frankenstein Monster and Bram Stoker defined the vampire with Dracula.



Werewolves simply are creatures possessed by a demon, very sick, or who, through some physical way, accrue the virus that leads to the cursed transformation. Despite efforts in film to create the horror of transformation as the primary terror of the werewolf, the real horror is in the mystery of the creature. When one's intentions or motivations are unknown, the results are feared. Dracula is horrific due to his nature, but at least his intentions are known. But werewolves will act out in ways that please themselves at the moment. This behavior and the cruelty are foreign [or at least disturbing] to all humans, and therefore the werewolf is alien, evil, and horrific.
We can find legends of werewolves in Russian mythology too. There is a term - "vlkodlak", from "vulko" as a wolf and "dlaka" as a hair.

Werewolves in Penza region

There are not many legends of werewolves in this region. But according to some reports many wizards could turn into the wolves or other animals. Usually the wizards lived in villages and the most part of peasants knew all of them. There were some places in Penza region which were known as favorite habitals of the wizards. For example, Stepanovka. This village is located less than 15 kilometers east of Zarechniy. Traditionally the village was known for its wizards and witches. Sometimes they turned into cats, dogs, wolves and even pigs. As a rule they didn't attack men in this shape but used this transformation as a kind of a camouflage.
 Stepanovka is situated in a place where there are many springs. According to old beliefs, springs, ravines and crossroads are dwelling-places of supernatural creatures.
Even today few old women from this village are known as witches.


Stories of phantom black dogs are very popular in Britain, almost every county has its own variant, from the Black Shuck of East Anglia to the Padfoot of Yorkshire.
In appearance the phantoms vary from region to region, but all of them are described as calf sized, with saucer eyes and a shaggy coat. Phantom dogs are not always black. Sometimes they are described as white, but still has saucer eyes and is as big as calf. The traditional fairy dog of Scotland is dark green in color, with a shaggy tail up its back.
There have been some attempts at classification; the folklorist Theo Brown



divided the black dog phenomena into three separate types A, B and C. (A)

Being a shape-shifting demon dog; (B) being a dark black dog calf sized with shaggy fur; and (C) a dog that appears in time with certain ancient festivals in specific areas of the country. In local traditions the black dogs are seen in

ancient churchyards, graveyards. Many of these places were associated with local superstitions. Sometimes black dogs are also seen as guardians of treasure, especially in Scotland. In summery it seems that the phenomena of phantom dogs is a complex mix of folklore, sightings, and local superstition, which has roots reaching far into the past. In many legends the black dogs are represented as devil's servants but in other stories they help people. These creatures are very popular in literature and cinema. Probably these legends inspired Arthur Conan Doyle and he wrote his famous "Hound of the Baskervilles".
Even today there are many stories about modern sightings of these strange creatures.

The Legend of the Black Dog

Long ago in England there was a castle which was always guarded by soldiers. The guard room was just inside the great entrance of the castle and a passage led from it, through one of the old churches, to the Captain of the Guard's room. At the end of every day, the soldiers took turns locking the castle gates and carrying the key through the dark passage back to the Captain. About this time, a big black dog with rough curly hair would be seen sometimes in one room, next time in a different room. He did not belong to anyone there and no one knew anything about him. But every night, when the candles were lighted in the guard room and the fire was burning bright, he would come down the dark passage and lay down by the hearth.
He made no sound, but lay there until the break of day, when he would get up and disappear into the passage.
At first the soldiers were terrified of him, but after a while they got used to the sight of him and lost some of their fear, though they still looked upon him as something more than mortal. While he was in the room the men were quiet and no bad words were spoken. When the hour came to carry the key to the Captain, two men would always go together. No man would face the dark passage alone.
One night, however, one foolish fellow had drunk more than was good for him and he began to brag that he was not afraid of the dog. It was not his turn to take the keys, but – to show how brave he was – he said he would take them alone. He dared the dog to follow him. Let him come!" he shouted, laughing. "I'll see whether he be dog or devil!" His friends were terrified and tried to hold him back, but he snatched up the keys and went out into the passage. The black dog slowly got up from before the fire and followed him. There was a deathly silence in the guard room, no sound



was heard but the dashing of the waves on the steep rocks of the castle islet.
After a few minutes, there came from the dark passage the most unearthly screams and howls. The soldiers looked at each other in horror, but not one dared to move to see what was going on. Presently they heard steps, and the rash fellow came back into the room. His face was pale and twisted with fear. He spoke not a word, then or afterwards. In three days he was dead, and nobody ever knew what had happened to him that fearful night ... The black dog has never been seen again!


Baba Yaga is an extremely popular image in Russian mythology. The story of a bony heartless witch is widespread in all parts of Russia. The story of Baba Yaga is prime among many images of the Black Goddess. She is an old, ugly woman. She flies in her mortar with a broom at her hand, ready to sweep the clouds across the skies. She lives in a hut with chicken - legs. The hut can move and set in a new place. Today this image we can find in numerous Russian folk - tales, but in old Slavic legends she was the Goddess of Evil, and Slavs made bloody sacrifices to her. Baba Yaga is a very powerful creature but she seems isolated and abandoned.

Black Annis is a pagan goddess in Britain. In this image we can find many similar features with Baba Yaga... She took the form of a one eyed ugly woman, with sharp teeth, long black claws and a blue face. She lived in deep forests and liked to eat little children. Sometimes Black Annis was also identified with a huge cat.


A symbol of death and magic in Russian mythology, Koshchei the Deathless is a powerful wizard or who gains immortality by keeping his fiery soul hidden inside an egg. The egg is inside a duck, which is inside a hare, which is inside an iron chest, which is buried under a green oak tree, which is located on the island of Bujan on the wide ocean. Koshchei is probably more symbolic of the reluctance to loosen ones grip on life and pass gracefully into death. As such, he is a tragic villain with vexations analogous to Vlad Dracula. He is sometimes completely obliterated by powerful forces, yet his dry, bony body reconstitutes over and over again until the soul-bearing egg is crushed.
He is notorious for kidnapping mothers, wives and maidens, and for holding them prisoner in his various palaces. He even kidnaps Marena (Mara, Marya



Morevna), the Russian goddess of death, with whom he has a love relationship.
Koshchei's dwelling is beyond thrice-nine countries, in the thirtieth kingdom, where he is entertained by his captive women and the legendary self-playing harp. He is credited as the son of Vij (Lord of the Underground).

Some popular characters in mythology are positive, kind and strong at the same time. They fight with satanic host…


A hero of Russian bylinas, the greatest bogatyr. He is the son of a farmer, and was born in village Karacharovo, near Murom. As a child Ilya Muromets was ill and could not even move before 33 years. Later he was cured by an old singer, and a Svyatogor-bogatyr, dying, gave him his strength. Muromets went to the capital to be a warrior of Prince Vladimir the Red Sun. He defeated Solovey-Razboynik, a monster who lived in forests and which could kill people by screaming. Therefore Ilya became the Vladimir`s chief bogatyr.


King Arthur is a positive character in British mythology. The legend of Arthur is one of the most popular and well known of British legends. From early brief passages to the mythic epic we know today, the story of Arthur has long been a source of inspiration to writers, poets and artists. The first real mention of Arthur is by a monk named Nennius, who was living in Bangor in the 9th century. He describes twelve battles, one in which 960 men die by Arthur's hand. Legends about Arthur and his knights are the most popular.

We can draw a parallel between images of Arthur and Ivan Tsarevich.


The main hero of Russian folklore, owner of magic abilities, who defeated various monsters and enemies. Ivan Tsarevich (Ivan the Prince) is the third son of Tsar Vyslav of Gorokh and Vasilisa Prekrasnaya. The main legends about him show his struggle against Koshchej for the wife (Marya Morevna) and his expedition to catch Zhar-Ptitsa (the Firebird) who used to steal golden apples from the Tsar's garden.

^ Sacred and legendary sights


There are a number of places in Britain and Russia which ones are traditionally coupled to legends. Some of them are real historic sights.


Stonehenge is probably the most recognizable and enigmatic place in Britain. This is one of the Europe’s biggest stone circles that is 10 or 12 meters high. The earliest part of Stonehenge is approximately 5000 years old. The Druids priests in Britain used Stonehenge for a calendar. They introduced it about 2000 years ago. There are the Druids in Britain today, and every June a lot of them attended Stonehenge.

The structure of Stonehenge has fascinated people for centuries, and there are many theories as to what purpose it was put to by ancient man. The stones have inspired many legends and folklore over the centuries. Much of the folklore seems to try and explain the origin of the circle structure as the work of giants, gods or wizards. It was probably easier to accept this than to believe that a past culture could have better technology. During the Middle Ages Geoffrey of Monmouth, whose colorful writing have had great influence on British mythology, wrote that the stones were originally brought from Africa to Ireland by a race of giants. They were then transported across the sea by the magic of Merlin during the beginning of the Dark Ages. They were needed as a monument to the treachery of Hengist, a Saxon leader who killed Prince Vortigern. The heel stone is said to have been thrown by the Devil at a monk who was spying on him between the stones. The stone pinned the unfortunate clergyman to the ground by his heel. Other folklore suggests that the stones are uncountable, a baker tried to count them by placing a loaf of bread on each stone. He came up with a number but then made the mistake of going through the whole process again, and could never get the sets of numbers to tally.

Stonehenge has stimulated a great deal of debate over the years, from experts and laymen alike. The first account that the stones may have been aligned to key dates was by William Stukeley, who noted that the axis of the earthen avenue aligns to where the sun rises on the longest day. In the 1960's an astrophysicist called Gerald Hawkins studied Stonehenge alignments by computer, and

^ Sacred and legendary sights


concluded that it was constructed as a megalithic calendar. Although the alignments of the stones are not razor sharp in accuracy, they are accurate enough to have been used by megalithic man for ceremonial and astronomical purposes.


The stone circle and henge that surrounds the village of Avebury, is only one in a series of monuments concentrated in this small area. The site is a remnant of a ritual Neolithic landscape, which still survives although degraded with time and the actions of over zealous groups in past centuries. What remains of the circle now is only a small proportion of what must have been an awe-inspiring place when it was in use over 4000 years ago. There seems to be little folklore associated with the stone circle itself, that being reserved for single stones and other features in the landscape.
The Devils Chair is one of the most massive stones within the structure; it sits where the West Kennet avenue joins the circle. So named because of the natural seat formation in the stone, young women used to sit here on May Day Eve (Beltane) and make a wish. There have been some strange sightings in the locality of the stones. Small figures have been seen moving within the stones in the moonlight, and a woman called Edith Olivier heard music and saw lights amongst the stones whilst driving through the village at night. She took the lights to be those of a fair.There are some places in Russia which ones are considered as sacred sites. But they are not so famous as, for example, Stonehenge…


Arkaim is the name given to the site of an ancient town in the Southern Urals, dated to the 17th-16th centuries BC. Some Russian scientists tell that it was a sacred place and furthermore the home of proto-Slavs. As they say the discovery of the "Land of Cities" in the southern Urals area of Russia was a major archaeological sensation of the late twentieth century. A compact group of fortified settlements dating from the Bronze Age (2000-1600 BC) have been found here. Each city comprises dwellings, manufacturing areas, mines and a necropolis. But today there are not any serious evidential facts to prove an importance and historical meaning of Arkaim.

Kapishche is a name of sacred places where Slavs committed the solemnities. Sometimes scientists find stone idols in these places.

^ Pagan holidays

Pagan holidays occurred during all months of the year. Through the holidays of the year people celebrated the cycle of life, death, and rebirth, apparent in nature as well as human life. Here I survey only two holidays: Halloween in Britain and Ivan Kupala, in Russia.


The pagans who lived in Britain two thousands years ago celebrated their
New Year on 1 November. Then the Christians came and people celebrated  "Hallowmas ",a three-day festival between 31 October and 2 November.
  31 October was called All Hallow's Eve, and slowly the name changed to Hallowe'en.
  In November, winter is near, and hundreds of years ago people believed that bad spirits, like ghosts, came in the winter. They wanted the bad spirits to go away, so they made fires outside and used big autumn fruit or vegetables to make jack o'lanterns. The name "jack o'lantern" means "Jack of the lantern". A lantern is a kind of light, and some people think Jack was a night watchman who had one of these lights. To make a jack o'lantern, people cut a hole in a large fruit- usually a pumpkin. Then they put a candle in the hole, and cut a face in the side so the light was easy to see.
  Another thing people did, to make the bad spirits go away, was to dress like witches and ghosts. Children still do this if they go to Hallowe'en parties. People often put up decorations for Hallowe'en parties, and play games. The decorations are usually black (for dark night and death) and orange (for the autumn vegetables).


Midsummer Day, the 24th of June on old style. The birthday day of St. John Baptist. The popular belief was that the night before the Ivan Kupala's Day (St.John Baptist's Day) trees would move from place to place and talk among themselves; animals and even herbs would also talk to each other, because that night they would obtain magic power. To gain this power, people would gather herbs to be used for medicinal and sorcery purposes. Also, the plants were believed to be able to point to hidden treasures (in particular, the mythological fern flower); they were expected to protect from all sorts of troubles. To make sure that the herbs had the magic and medicinal effect, it was important to gather

^ Pagan holidays


them in the right place at the right time following all rituals including singing special songs. The night before the Kupala's Day people built fires, dance around them and jump above them. Those who could jump especially high were supposed to become happier. The holiday was also associated with the sun; therefore, there existed a tradition of throwing from the hills the wheels covered with straw and put on fire.




Neo-Paganism is a revival and reconstruction of ancient Nature religions adapted for the modern world. It is a religion of the living Earth. Neo-Paganism is a natural religion, viewing humanity as a functional organ within the greater organism of all Life, rather than as something special created separate and "above" the rest of the natural world. Neo-Pagans seek not to conquer Nature, but to harmonize and integrate with Her. Neo-Paganism should be regarded as "Green Religion," just as we have "Green Politics" and "Green Economics." Paganism is a Nature-based religion, and Pagans revere the Earth as a living Mother Goddess. The essential goal of any living organism is to reproduce; indeed that is the prime criterion for defining "life."

Paganism is a broad, eclectic, contemporary religious movement that encompasses ecstatic, polytheistic and magical religions. Today, it is termed ‘Neo-paganism’ to illustrate its connection to and difference from the pre-Christian pagan religions. There are several forms of Neo-paganism, including Wicca, Neo-Druidism and Astrau. Neo-paganism is a broad term which encompasses many diverse and differing religions, but most have several common themes which identifies them as Neo-pagan.

Neo-pagans are usually polytheistic or duo theistic. That is, they believe in two or many gods. Wiccans are duo theistic and worship the Goddess and the God, also known as the 'huntress' and the 'horned one.'   The Druids, on the other hand, are polytheistic and worship aspects of nature such ‘the river’, ‘the sky’, and ‘the sun.’ Most are nature centered worshipping pre-Christian deities. Many of these pre-Christian religions have been changed and revived so that they have a greater relevance to contemporary lifestyles. Neo-pagans have introduced various new concepts to these ancient religions as well as changing and modifying pre existing traditions. New concepts include; dynamic and diverse personal beliefs, lack of institutionalization, a search for spiritual fulfillment and encouragement and acceptance of diversity. Many Neo-pagan religions have previously been wiped out and have been reconstructed from ancient sources. Neo-pagans (like ancient pagans) have a deep respect for nature. This stems from their belief that The Gods are immanent. Neo-pagans believe that the Divine is everywhere, not only above us, but all around us and within us. Their religion centers around the earth and her seasonal cycles.



The most prevalent Neo-pagan religion is Wicca.. This is a revived form of pre-Christian Goddess worship. Wiccans, as do most Neo-pagans observe four main seasonal days which celebrate the miracle of nature and give thanks to the

Goddess for her gifts. As a result of their love of nature Wiccans, and many other Neo-pagans, prefer to worship whilst they are immersed in nature, so they are closer to the Goddess. Many Neo-pagans such as Wiccans and Druids practice magic. Magic played an important role in these religions and was seen as a conscious direction of ones will to create change. Wiccans practice magic in ‘magic circles’ during certain powerful phases of the moon. Many Neo-pagans believe in and are governed by the ‘Wiccan Rede,’ that is, "An it harm none, do what thou wilt." This Rede, was in essence a code of practice, which effectively prevents practitioners of magic from harming anyone.

Neo-paganism in Russia is not so widespread as in Britain. There are only few groups of Neo-pagans in Russia. They conduct the role games, wearing fantastic costumes. Often their role games are based on Tolkien’s books or other literary sources. It’s necessary to say that all these “role games” are not real pagan traditions. But we can find some signs of the pagan revival among various peoples of the Middle Volga (Mari, Chuvash, Mordva, Tatars), the Far North (Komi), and Siberia (the Altai Territory).

As for Penza Region we can observe some old pagan traditions in Mordovian villages, in Kizhevatovo, for example. This is an old Mordivian village, Seliksa in the past, not far from Zarechniy, where the inhabitants keep many pagan traditions. Usually they can be observed in funeral ceremonies or some other cases of everyday life.




In this work I’ve given characteristics and descriptions of some popular folk beings. Writing about sacred and legendary sights and pagan holidays I try to draw a parallel between British and Russian pagan traditions and beliefs. As we can see there are many similar features in this aspect. This fact is an evidence of a common historical background of British and Russian pagan traditions. These traditions exert influence on different trends of art. We can find pagan images in literature and cinema, in customs and superstitions of modern people. The common character of some old traditions and beliefs shows the unity of human culture in general…


By D. Saphonova




Wood-goblin, water-sprite, Cocidius, Latis, kikimora

Domovoy, brownie and boggart

Water-nymphs and mermaids


-The Vampire in Literature

-The Phantom of Croglin Grange


- Werewolves in Penza region

Black dogs in Britain

Baba-Yaga, Black Annis


Iliya Murimets

King Arthur

Ivan Tsarevich



The Averbury Complex

Arkaim, a kapishce



Ivan Kupala




History of Pagan Europe”

by Prudence Jones, Nigel Pennick.

Gods and Myths of the Romans”

by Mary Barnett.

"Fairy-Tale Plots and Contemporary Heroes in Early Russian Prose Fiction."

by Gary Cox.

When Russia Learned to Read”

by Jefferey Brooks

Some Reflections on Russian Literature in the 18th Century: Religion and Poetry”

by Hans Rothe

Язычество Древней Руси”

Б. Рыбаков

Русский Народ: его обычаи, обряды, предания, суеверия и поэзия.”

М. Забылин

Traditions and beliefs of Old Russia in illustrations by Anna Shadchneva



Historical background iconHistorical background

Historical background iconMilevsky Oleg Anatolievich, Doctor of Historical Sciences, Professor, Department of Socio-Historical Disciplines, Surgut State Teachers University. В 1991 г в нашей стране вышла книга
В статье рассматривается общественная деятельность и педагогическое наследие С. Рачинского, являющегося одним из основоположников...
Historical background iconДокументы
1. /V_Propp - Historical roots of magic f.txt
Historical background iconДокументы
1. /V_Propp - Historical roots of magic f.txt
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