By Phoenix at Elder Mountain Dreaming – 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.
I first give caution so you can be aware that all Dark Goddesses, when one’s heart has pure intention, rather than selfishness or wanting wisdom without walking the experiences to get it, releases karmic toxins for the person who builds her with intention (the personal Marzanna). So I suggest making your Marzanna “very small each year” for at least an 5-8 years, 6 inches -3 feet and this will give your a “living” feel of how she responds from spring to winter solstice the following year.
The bigger the personal Marzanna, the more the releases throughout the year. Large Marzanna Effigies, 5-10 feet are only for “whole community purification only” of 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 pagan and shamanic ways of ceremonial rites. Large Effigies were for a whole Slavic villages or today, even a city. Purification still occurs on small levels but only at children level as spiritual beings because modern Marzanna and all her other names are for festival and carnival to show children, that families attend. 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:
FOUNDATION – Building your Marzanna on the First New Moon of Autumn :
You can start to build your Marzanna anytime between the day of the Autumn Equinox through the day before the Winter Solstice or stagger it through all 3 moons and take your time to build her with personal intention representing your life of release, transformation, letting go or letting go of an illness.
Just make sure she is finished and don’t move her after the Winter Solstice where she will sit. Collect through the Autumn, season locally on your favorite hike and gather the nature’s building supplies. All supplies to build Marzanna comes from nature only and you start with finding 2 Strong and unbreakable Sticks and make them into a basic cross and secure tightly with string, hemp or rope, this foundation must be strong and secure. Putting the two sticks together, like a person standing with their arms out. It represents you 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).
CREATIVITY – The Second New Moon of Autumn
Next after her basic solid foundation (which is strong) and has sat for a month, 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 comes her clothing, necklaces (I make my madrone berry necklaces for her), and an old Slavic scarf or a regular 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 CHANGES, WINTER – Third New Moon of Autumn until the Winter Solstice
Most people make their new year resolutions at the New Years, but with Marzanna, Maslenitsa, Morena and Mara and all her many names, we honor the deep silence of Winter 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. Once she is built, set your Marzanna on your altar, if she is 2 or 3 feet tall, I suggest outside in your garden or somewhere like a balcony if you live in an apartment.
SPRING’S REBIRTH – 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!
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.
~ Good Blessings to you this Spring and all your Four Seasons to come this year ! Phoenix