By Phoenix at Elder Mountain Dreaming – I first give caution so you can be aware that all Dark Goddess work is challenging when one’s heart has pure intention, rather than seeking to get what you desire. Night medicines are to releases karmic toxins in a timely and slow manner, and for the person who builds a Marzanna with intention (the personal Marzanna) you will learn much from your creative and spiritual experience. I suggest making your Marzanna “very small each year” for at least 5-8 years, and this will give a “living” feel of how you and her responds from spring to winter solstice the following year.
Originally Marzanna falls under the Season of Night (Autumn and Winter) and is about detoxification and karmic purification, what I call the Letting Go medicines that lead to regeneration and yearly rebirth, both symbolically and energetically of your environment. The bigger Marzanna Effigies are for “whole community purification only” a village or town or city, so keep yours small.
Modern traditions of the doll effigy that are large are just for carnival or festival and a fun community with an old “feel” of tradition but not used in their origin shamanic ways of ceremonial rites that I do. Large Effigies were for a whole Slavic villages or today, even a city. A lot of the more serious Kukeri rites were actually Marzanna’s rites. These two split apart when Grandmother was pushed out by Religions and even Paganism.
So be aware and keep it small and then watch the entire year to come, keep track for next year, what was purified in your life, and karmically detoxed.
Elder Mountain Dreaming’s Marzanna Folk Ritual instructions:
For simple and individuals Effigies that align with you and your spiritual path:
Building your Marzanna (generally the first week of December)
Even though the simple almost lost tradition of Marzanna is done only built the Spring Equinox and then burned, I have much more reverence for the great Winter Goddess herself. My ceremonies as a shaman begin in Autumn and she is put out on the land to watch over the winter months and ‘then’ burned on the spring equinox.
You can start to build your Marzanna in December and finish her by the Winter Equinox. Take your time to build her with personal intention representing your life of releases (letting go), for transformation, letting go of an illness or a mental or emotional issues etc. She can also be used for karma releases if you are really suffering. Just make sure she is finished and don’t move her after the Winter Solstice where she will sit. Some put her in their garden, others on their indoor altar. Build her in steps or all at once on the New or Full Moons of the first week of December..
We start by finding 2 Strong and unbreakable Sticks and make them into a basic equal cross or religious type of cross and secure tightly with string, hemp or rope. Putting the two sticks together, should look like a person standing with their arms out. It represents you symbolically and your foundation as strong, grounded and secure along side this ritual.
Do a simple ceremony when you begin with the two sticks and the ties that keep them today, do some sage or sprinkle her with sage, or milk or anything feminine (such as perfume or natural oils or even flower essence) adding it to make her very personal as you begin to build her foundation.
Let the foundation sit for the whole moon cycle (first moon of Autumn with the intention you had stated out loud). If you do this as a group, each person can do the six moon building as a group effort of your individual Marzanna. The intention is the most important at the beginning, because it reflects your basic needs at this time of your life, and what will be in spiritual terms, your life’s path this year, until the spring equinox which is the day she is burned and all the six months are released (of your personal work and growth and hardships worked on).
Also during the Autumn, collect locally some season herbs or grasses, twigs, berries, evergreen on your favorite hikes and gather nature’s building supplies.
Next after her basic solid foundation (which is strong) comes the beginning of the covering of her body with the natural layering on her body and arms with dried straw or dried wild grasses from the fields or meadows that you collected the first moon. I add my left over bundled stems from the lavender that i dry and sage that I grow and offer some to Marzanna by adding them to her arms.
Tie all these things to her foundation sticks, and layer them up. I use my extra thick knitting yarns to tie them on or you can use rope or hemp rope which lasts a little longer when it burns (the yarn tends to burn too quickly) and some of your things may fall off before they are completely burned. I add the yarn and embroidery because that is part of my art as a shaman that I do.
Next are her clothing, necklaces (I make my madrone berry necklaces for her), and an old Slavic scarf. The color is important that you chose as you gather your fabrics, ribbons, etc to begin to decorate your Marzanna or you can stick with pure nature such as pine cones (which burn intense), straw and leaves on sticks (keeping the sticks thin). Leave enough room at the top of the stick for her head to fit. Be as creative as you want even with the face, and set an intentions for the creativity of your life as you dress her.
Make her head by stuffing straw or natural found things in a pillow case or be creative. Draw a face on her that represent you as a goddess, it can be cheerful, serious, curious etc. All of us are artisans and are creative in our various ways – so set your creative intention along with your regular new moon intention if you are participating in that, let that be your guide as you decorate her. After all, you are really building a mirror of self to sustain the six moons of Autumn and Winter this year.
SEASON OF DEATH & STILLNESS – WINTER
Marzanna, Maslenitsa, Morena and Mara and all her many names, we honor the deep silence of Winter as her spirit, and its stillness to reflect our practices to bring ourselves into natures quiet season of silence, snow, quiet, retreat. Winter Solstice marks the 3 long months of the “ending” of the whole year and on the Winter Solstice, place her where she will sit for the 3 moons of winter.
SEASON OF REBIRTH – SPRING
Day of the Spring Equinox, Burning and(or) Drowning of Marzanna
I do both the burning and the drowning as I set my Marzanna in the pond, the same pond I do the Summer Solstice shamanic Kupala’s simpler traditions of thankfulness of the abundance and beauty of the natural summer season along with my own inner beauty.
With everything cleared out of the Winter Moon’s we have now arrived at the New Year of Mother Earth which the Ukraine’s are basically the only half ritualized people left of the Slavic peoples to celebrate it as such and I have always aligned with this as my ancestors are from the Lemko Carpathian and Sub-Carpathian religions of the Poland/Ukraine border.
On the day of the Spring Equinox we take Marzanna and burn her or toss her into the River (our emotional life) or water and begin our “personal” new year as the flowers bloom and trees bud of mother earth’s new year.
At the ceremony of burning or tossing, while she burns or flows down a river, you get to review your whole year to let it go in a state of purification commence and release (fire and water symbolism enacted)… the last spring, summer, autumn and winter sort of floods in with dream images, intentions, feelings of last year and it is honored in this ways of who we are authentically as we grow and shed the skin of last year!
MODERN TRADITIONS Marzanna Maslenitsa Morena Mara
The tradition of burning and/or drowning of Marzanna is and was held on the fourth Sunday of Lent and it was not until the 20th century that the date of the Spring Equinox, 21 March was fixed. The rite involves preparing a large effigy or small doll dressed in female clothing, which can then be set on fire or thrown into a river or both. I prefer both, for water and fire re present’s both soul and spirit.
The Church (fathers) tried to Christianize Marzanna’s traditions and replaced it by burning Judah or throwing a Judah puppet from the churches’ roof on Holy Wednesday… but Slavic and Balkan people have a stubborn streak for a good reason, even unconsciously if they are a Catholic or Christian, when it comes to messing with their pagan and peasant traditions even if they did merge it into the church and church celebrations. These traditions were carried forth from pain, blood and sweat to save them.
I am thankful for that, now if only we can get the Eldest women today to dress in their own ritual Slavic dresses (rather than men dressing as women in rituals), we would be really be getting somewhere in Slavic and Balkan traditions of the Winter and Summer Solstice and Spring and Autumn Equinoxes.
In the Czech Republic and Poland, this folk tradition is often performed as a festival put on by adults for children in primary schools. The effigy is often prepared by the children themselves, and can range in size from a puppet to a life-size effigy. This ritual represents the end of the dark days of winter, the victory over death and the welcoming of spring’s rebirth.
The “drowning of Marzanna,” a large figure of a woman made from various rags and bits of clothing which is burned or thrown into a river on the first day of the spring is also dipped into every puddle and pond along the way. Very often she is burned with herbs before being drowned and a twin custom is to decorate a pine tree with flowers and colored baubles to be carried through the village by the girls.
A video for the Spring Folk Rituals and Rites of Burning and Drowning my Marzanna in the pond at Elder Mountain. Marzanna (Polish), Morė (Lithuania), Morena (Czech, Slovak, Russian) and Mara, Maržena, Morana, Moréna and Marmora is a Baltic and Slavic Goddess whose ritual is associated with the seasonal and natural uncultivated and undomesticated ancient rites of woman: birth, transformation, death and rebirth.
For More Ideas on what Marzanna looks like, take a look at my Marzanna Pinterest
~ Good Blessings to you! Phoenix