Monday, November 19, 2012

Lithuanian Spirits of the Harvest


We are putting together the most extensive list and study of fairies online.

Javinė (Lithuanian)
The goddess of the grain barn she was a household fairy type figure who protected barns and food storage.

Jievaras
A Lithuanian female spirit of the grain fields, she was offered bred and cheese in return for a good harvest. Believed to reside in the last bit of uncut rye so that during the harvest woman would leave a few small patches of grain uncut for her to reside in. These would later be braided and offerings of bread and salt left under them when the harvest was finished.

Laukų dvasios (Lithuania)
Sprits of the field who could appear as nude woman, Kiškis (hare), Meška (bear), Lapė (fox), Katinas (tomcat), Bubis, Bubas, Bubė, Baubas, Babaužis, Bobas, Maumas (bugaboo), Raudongalvis (red-headed), Raudongerklis (red-throated), Žaliaakis (green-eyed), Paplėštakis, Guda, Dizikas, Smauglys (boa), Ruginis (spirit of rye), Papiokė, Pypalas, Žebris, Arklys (horse), Vilkas (wolf).

Mother Žeminyke (Lithuanian)
The spirit of the good harvest. If a good harvest is desired one should sprinkle bread crumbs in the fields and pray to Mother Žeminyke to make the grain grow.

Rugių boba
The last cut rye or wheat sheaf in the field. Typically imagined and female and often portrayed as a motherly figure to which chickens might be sacrificed.

Information extracted from "The Golden Bough"

According to another account, every Lithuanian reaper makes haste to finish his task; for the Old Rye-woman lives in the last stalks, and whoever cuts the last stalks kills the Old Rye-woman, and by killing her he brings trouble on himself. In Wilkischken, in the district of Tilsit, the man who cuts the last corn goes by the name of “the killer of the Rye-woman.” In Lithuania, again, the corn-spirit is believed to be killed at threshing as well as at reaping. When only a single pile of corn remains to be threshed, all the threshers suddenly step back a few paces, as if at the word of command. Then they fall to work, plying their flails with the utmost rapidity and vehemence, till they come to the last bundle. Upon this they fling themselves with almost frantic fury, straining every nerve, and raining blows on it till the word “Halt!” rings out sharply from the leader. The man whose flail is the last to fall after the command to stop has been given is immediately surrounded by all the rest, crying out that “he has struck the Old Rye-woman dead.” He has to expiate the deed by treating them to brandy; and, like the man who cuts the last corn, he is known as “the killer of the Old Rye-woman.” Sometimes in Lithuania the slain corn-spirit was represented by a puppet. Thus a female figure was made out of corn-stalks, dressed in clothes, and placed on the threshing-floor, under the heap of corn which was to be threshed last. Whoever thereafter gave the last stroke at threshing “struck the Old Woman dead.” We have already met with examples of burning the figure which represents the corn-spirit.

In Wolf Form
WE begin with the corn-spirit conceived as a wolf or a dog. This conception is common in France, Germany, and Slavonic countries. Thus, when the wind sets the corn in wave-like motion the peasants often say, “The Wolf is going over, or through, the corn,” “the Rye-wolf is rushing over the field,” “the Wolf is in the corn,” “the mad Dog is in the corn,” “the big Dog is there.” When children wish to go into the corn-fields to pluck ears or gather the blue corn-flowers, they are warned not to do so, for “the big Dog sits in the corn,” or “the Wolf sits in the corn, and will tear you in pieces,” “the Wolf will eat you.” The wolf against whom the children are warned is not a common wolf, for he is often spoken of as the Corn-wolf, Rye-wolf, or the like; thus they say, “The Rye-wolf will come and eat you up, children,” “the Rye-wolf will carry you off,” and so forth. Still he has all the outward appearance of a wolf. For in the neighbourhood of Feilenhof (East Prussia), when a wolf was seen running through a field, the peasants used to watch whether he carried his tail in the air or dragged it on the ground. If he dragged it on the ground, they went after him, and thanked him for bringing them a blessing, and even set tit-bits before him. But if he carried his tail high, they cursed him and tried to kill him. Here the wolf is the corn-spirit whose fertilising power is in his tail.
Sometimes it appears to be thought that the Wolf, caught in the last corn, lives during the winter in the farmhouse, ready to renew his activity as corn-spirit in the spring. Hence at midwinter, when the lengthening days begin to herald the approach of spring, the Wolf makes his appearance once more. In Poland a man, with a wolf’s skin thrown over his head, is led about at Christmas; or a stuffed wolf is carried about by persons who collect money. There are facts which point to an old custom of leading about a man enveloped in leaves and called the Wolf, while his conductors collected money.


Cock Form
Near Udvarhely, in Transylvania, a live cock is bound up in the last sheaf and killed with a spit. It is then skinned. The flesh is thrown away, but the skin and feathers are kept till next year; and in spring the grain from the last sheaf is mixed with the feathers of the cock and scattered on the field which is to be tilled. Nothing could set in a clearer light the identification of the cock with the spirit of the corn. By being tied up in the last sheaf and killed, the cock is identified with the corn, and its death with the cutting of the corn. By keeping its feathers till spring, then mixing them with the seed-corn taken from the very sheaf in which the bird had been bound, and scattering the feathers together with the seed over the field, the identity of the bird with the corn is again emphasised, and its quickening and fertilising power, as an embodiment of the corn-spirit, is intimated in the plainest manner. Thus the corn-spirit, in the form of a cock, is killed at harvest, but rises to fresh life and activity in spring. Again, the equivalence of the cock to the corn is expressed, hardly less plainly, in the custom of burying the bird in the ground, and cutting off its head (like the ears of corn) with the scythe.


In Hare Form

In East Prussia they say that the Hare sits in the last patch of standing corn, and must be chased out by the last reaper. The reapers hurry with their work, each being anxious not to have “to chase out the Hare”; for the man who does so, that is, who cuts the last corn, is much laughed at. At Aurich, as we have seen, an expression for cutting the last corn is “to cut off the Hare’s tail.” “He is killing the Hare” is commonly said of the man who cuts the last corn in Germany, Sweden, Holland, France, and Italy. In Norway the man who is thus said to “kill the Hare” must give “hare’s blood,” in the form of brandy, to his fellows to drink. In Lesbos, when the reapers are at work in two neighbouring fields, each party tries to finish first in order to drive the Hare into their neighbour’s field; the reapers who succeed in doing so believe that next year the crop will be better. A small sheaf of corn is made up and kept beside the holy picture till next harvest.


As a Goat
FURTHER, the corn-spirit often appears in the form of a goat. In some parts of Prussia, when the corn bends before the wind, they say, “The Goats are chasing each other,” “the wind is driving the Goats through the corn,” “the Goats are browsing there,” and they expect a very good harvest. Again they say, “The Oats-goat is sitting in the oats-field,” “the Corn-goat is sitting in the rye-field.” Children are warned not to go into the corn-fields to pluck the blue corn-flowers, or amongst the beans to pluck pods, because the Rye-goat, the Corn-goat, the Oats-goat, or the Bean-goat is sitting or lying there, and will carry them away or kill them. When a harvester is taken sick or lags behind his fellows at their work, they call out, “The Harvest-goat has pushed him,” “he has been pushed by the Corn-goat.” In the neighbourhood of Braunsberg (East Prussia) at binding the oats every harvester makes haste “lest the Corn-goat push him.” At Oefoten, in Norway, each reaper has his allotted patch to reap. When a reaper in the middle has not finished reaping his piece after his neighbours have finished theirs, they say of him, “He remains on the island.” And if the laggard is a man, they imitate the cry with which they call a he-goat; if a woman, the cry with which they call a she-goat. Near Straubing, in Lower Bavaria, it is said of the man who cuts the last corn that “he has the Corn-goat, or the Wheat-goat, or the Oats-goat,” according to the crop. Moreover, two horns are set up on the last heap of corn, and it is called “the horned Goat.” At Kreutzburg, East Prussia, they call out to the woman who is binding the last sheaf, “The Goat is sitting in the sheaf.”


According to one view, the corn-spirit, who has been caught in the form of a goat or otherwise, lives in the farmhouse or barn over winter. Thus, each farm has its own embodiment of the corn-spirit. But, according to another view, the corn-spirit is the genius or deity, not of the corn of one farm only, but of all the corn. Hence when the corn on one farm is all cut, he flees to another where there is still corn left standing. This idea is brought out in a harvest-custom which was formerly observed in Skye. The farmer who first finished reaping sent a man or woman with a sheaf to a neighbouring farmer who had not finished; the latter in his turn, when he had finished, sent on the sheaf to his neighbour who was still reaping; and so the sheaf made the round of the farms till all the corn was cut. The sheaf was called the goabbir bhacagh, that is, the Cripple Goat. The custom appears not to be extinct at the present day, for it was reported from Skye not very many years ago. The corn-spirit was probably thus represented as lame because he had been crippled by the cutting of the corn. Sometimes the old woman who brings home the last sheaf must limp on one foot.

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