Lithuania Folklore

The character of Lithuanian folklore is widely documented in popular poetry by dainos and pasakos and in rustic art proper by wooden crosses, fabrics and other household objects.

The dainos (from the verb dainuoti “to sing”) constitute the most abundant harvest of lyrical expression and at the same time musical expression with which the people express their feelings. The most common arguments of the dainos are those of an amorous nature. Vestuviu dainos or wedding chants take on a particular amplitude, which accompany and comment on the succession of primitive wedding ceremonies, from the period of the engagement to the passage of the woman in the house of the groom. It is worth noting in these songs the profound sadness with which the woman regrets the loss of her freedom and her innocence, generally symbolized with the fall of the green rue crown into the current of a river or into the sea. Another rich harvest of dainos is that of the raudos or funeral laments. Then there are the giesmes or sacred hymns, with a less varied character and a more scholastic tone that derives from the practices of worship. Dainos of pagan origin and inspiration are rare, but the few remaining impress with their originality. For Lithuania 1999, please check estatelearning.com.

Instead, abundant traces of primitive beliefs remained in the pasakos or stories. In this regard, the collections of J. Basanavičius take on particular value, who directed his researches in a special way towards the demonstration of a presupposed oriental animism of the race. Moreover, even in many of the decorations of the wooden crosses – the other great branch of Lithuanian folk art – they are still manifest signs of the primitive religious spirit of the Lithuanians and of the residues of the solar cult typical of oriental peoples. The same custom of planting these crosses seems to date back to the pre-Christian period, when an oak or lime tree trunk, depending on the sex, was used on the graves, decorated with horse heads, birds, stylizations of flowers and plants and other symbolic signs. The choice of the places where the crosses were erected is also significant: thus the cross planted along the streets seems to be a derivation of the ancient cult of Jergutelis, a patron deity of travelers. Very interesting are, in the wooden crosses proper, the small wrought iron terminal crosses which often, in addition to a foil weather vane on which the date of construction is engraved, they have stylizations of celestial bodies, such as the moon, stars and above all the sun. The solar emblem is undoubtedly one of the dominant decorative motifs in these crosses: it seems that the memory of the cult of fire constitutes one of the strongest aesthetic suggestions of the humble Lithuanian carpenter. It should be noted that Christ is often so diminished that he is almost lost in the intricacy and breadth of the ornamental developments. it seems that the memory of the cult of fire constitutes one of the strongest aesthetic suggestions of the humble Lithuanian carpenter. It should be noted that Christ is often so diminished that he is almost lost in the intricacy and breadth of the ornamental developments. it seems that the memory of the cult of fire constitutes one of the strongest aesthetic suggestions of the humble Lithuanian carpenter. It should be noted that Christ is often so diminished that he is almost lost in the intricacy and breadth of the ornamental developments.

In addition to the thousands of wooden crosses with which Lithuanians usually adorn their land, they erect votive chapels (also called krik š tai) for the countryside and often in the thick of the woods, where roughly carved statuettes are grouped, still called in some regions dievukai (little gods), perhaps because in ancient times they represented pagan divinities. Today they generally represent saints and more often the Kristus rupintojas or pensive Christ, an impressive and original figure of the Redeemer seated on a stump with his face reclined between the palms of his hands and elbows resting on his knees, in a deeply sad and meditative attitude.

The decorative motifs that the Lithuanians use in the ornamentation of the crosses are repeated with many variations in the fabrics: especially the aprons, the juostos or belts, the carpets, the scarves, the gloves, the tablecloths etc. These traditional ornaments reappear on skryn ė s, trousseau boxes, and in numerous other household items. In fabrics, the stylization of plants, flowers and rural objects, together with the most common geometric motifs, still bears the ancient name of ra š tai (scriptures).

The proverbs (patarlés) are also very interesting and important, almost all deriving from analogies between the life of men and animals and aspects of extended nature, and of which there are abundant collections.

Lithuania Folklore

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