By Phoenix of Elder Mountain – It is the season of Maržanna, Mara, Maržena, Morena and all her Slavic names associated with the traditional Folk Ritual of many Slavic countries. I have invited our patrons on this page Grandmother Moon and Slavic Folklore Dreams over the years to participate with us. Most of you have made your personal small Effigy doll and done it in the tradition of your healing journey of what you need over the “season of night” (Autumn and Winter).
My work as a shaman with Marzanna each year is a six month (moon) ritual and ceremonies that is mandatory for the protection of our land here at Elder Mountain. Most Marzanna traditions are still practiced today, but like all ancient traditions, they have lost their shamanic ritualistic power of real protection and for the relationship to the consciousnesses of the earth mother (nature) and what roams between the worlds that we shamans experience and how to keep the winter moons safe.
Religions of the middle ages which challenged the world indigenous populations that were white, red, yellow, black and brown nations, could not have any competitors of their newer symbol of the “dying on the cross” and Morena and Marzanna represented a threat to their power and control, so she had to be forbidden, they only wanted the symbol of women as compassionate and loving mother, not powerful goddess over death.
So as in direct competition to male religions, this much more ancient ritual (which there will be no physical proof because she is burned in a ceremonial fire) she had to be banned and eradicated and even in some villages… corrupted. Even still, her rituals still survives today all over the world by balto-slavic people. The word Mor is the root of a very old Slavic word Mor meaning Death.
Morena a powerful grandmother (later changed to a beautiful young maiden), is the cold winter goddess of death and ruler of the underworld, who must journey to the underworld (shaman) and cross the river Smorodina (Smorod, meaning stench from the dead souls), through which you can only flee, guide and get to the other side. In many ways this small story is the story of all true shamans who cross the veils of life and death, where the karmic souls are prisoners in the underworld.
This is why many cultures do Autumn and Winter shamanic rituals to protect the waking plane from roaming shadow spirits. But now most are just light festivals or like Marzanna, reserved for fun and school children on one day of the original six months.
Today in modern times, Marzanna is still alive and well, but more associated with children and festivals of Spring and most of the tradition is focused around Spring and the end process of burning her to release winter. I do a serious shamanic working ritual each year not only for my own protection as a shaman because of the veil I am exposed to wherever I may live.
She is also a protector of the land in which we live and the clearing of what energies roam locally during the winter months, especially at night and around the full moons. I focus not on Spring (the end) but the entire six month process as a whole ritualistic ceremony. Its a very serious ceremony, in which children are not allowed because of the adult nature of shamanism of protection and healing.
My process is a duration of six months is the old prehistory rituals, when the season of night (Autumn and Winter) and the season of fire (Spring and Summer) where the two seasonal rituals of the ceremonial grandmothers. I start my building of my Marzanna each year on the day of the Autumn Equinox and do ritual and ceremony with her foundation or basic structure and set the intentions with each piece of what we need in Autumn and Winter. Every year is different for me because nature’s communication with the wind, the clouds, rain, snow, rivers, creeks and ponds all speak their magic and are all a part of the power that Marzanna will carry into the dark phase of the year of Winter.
My Marzanna seems simple as she stands around six feet tall, and when I her out to the field on the day of the Winter Solstice as she begins her work which represents the decades of my work and healing work put into her. When the Spring Equinox arrives, she is treated in the same traditional way that modern Slavs do their Morena or Marzanna and we welcome Spring and the rebirth of the year and is burned and thrown into the water.
Women have made effigies and talisman for thousands of years and today they are called dolls but still basically serve the same purpose when that doll effigy is not about anyone but you. When that doll becomes about someone else, outside the context of healing work, then its black magic and voodoo and reverse negative karmic action.
Those who ponder why we sacred artists do this, inspires curiosity about our past lives when we did the same things for the same reasons. Modern times are no different than today except we all have lifetimes of karma and we have used natures gifts inappropriately and brought death to the surface here with digging for oil. Well what comes with that death and power of the archaic grandmothers of the primeval eras of humanity.
To be connected to the awareness of birth, living, transformation, death and rebirth is a person who honors all things and understands natures cycles by working with it personally and with nature herself. This is a living planet with a natural mysticism that is alive if you can ‘see’ and if you participate in ritual enough years it becomes easier to see. These effigies are an expression of our soul and our ability to create and heal out of hardships and death. Beyond that, archaic ritual is a shamanic reality and before that, a dreaming culture reality, which all of this has sprung forth from our soul’s dreaming power because our soul exists beyond the physical, metaphysical.
In ancient times we used embroidery thread and in prehistory, we made effigies with actual braided hair. In modern times after the 12th century that was associated with black magic and voodoo, but most things were corrupted in the middle ages. Later horse hair was used in some fine weaving, and then eventually textile fabrics such as embroidery and tapestry dominated cultural life that was more domesticated.
My Marzanna is done the way it was done in prehistory, with some of my own hair I collect all year long. When I lead shamanic soul retrievals I also do a ritual with having those who come for the evening to snip off a piece of their hair and I burn it with the sage. I do this because in winter, we practice letting go which is physical sometimes but also symbolic of our “old growth” that needs to be released in order to prepare for the new, when spring arrives.
I attach some of my sacred necklaces, textiles and talisman and painted symbols to Marzanna and then remove them before I burn her. I also add things I have made or worked with during the year, like the leftover stalks of the lavender I harvested, the strings of rosehips and wild flowers I collect for my smudge. I add pieces of the abundance of nature such as pine cones, tree branches, wild grasses, twine, sticks, berries and more. I add each piece in a ceremony and work on building her for three months.
In this video you can see my Marzanna burn and in the flames the soul energy burnt by seeing the faces in the fire. I take my work extremely serious when building her with each piece, and the things I put on her is for a specific reason in what roams between the veils and the rituals that we do here in the north, south, east and west directions of the edge of the property.
Your Marzanna of course is more traditional of what is done today in most Slavic countries and as the winter soon approaches I encourage you to join in the artistic and healing aspects of Marzanna. This is an amulet or effigy which reflects both you and the great mother (light and dark) goddess. Take photos and share if you want and I will add to this photo group.
Traditional Marzanna or Morena Folk or Peasant Rituals
Marzanna (in Polish), Morė (Lithuanian), Morena (Czech, Slovak, Russian) and also Mara, Maržena, Morana, Moréna, Mora or Marmora is a Baltic and Slavic Goddess associated with seasonal agrarian ancient death and rebirth rites of nature. She is associated with death and winter and is often described as the Goddess of death. To this day in some regions of Poland, there is a festival held where an effigy of Marzanna is made in the month of March, and is burned to welcome springtime from winter.
This is known as The Burning and Drowning Ritual of Marzanna. The tradition of burning or drowning an effigy of Marzanna to celebrate the end of winter is a folk custom that survives in the Czech Republic, Poland and Slovakia. For many years, the Burning and Drowning of Marzanna was held on the fourth Sunday of Lent and it was not until the 20th century that the date 21 March was fixed, which coincidentally is the day of the vernal equinox (20–21 March). The rite involves preparing a doll dressed in female clothing, which can then be set on fire, drowned in the river, or both.
The Church tried to Christianize the tradition of Marzanna and replace it by burning Judah or throwing Judah puppet from the churches’ roof on Holy Wednesday. This tradition is cultivated in some Polish regions, but Marzanna tradition is known much better all through Poland. In the Czech Republic or Poland, this is often performed during a field trip by children in kindergartens and primary schools.
The effigy, often prepared by the children themselves, can range in size from a puppet to a life-size dummy. This ritual represents the end of the dark days of winter, the victory over death, and the welcoming of the spring rebirth. It concerns the “drowning of Marzanna,” a large figure of a woman made from various rags and bits of clothing which is thrown into a river on the first day of the spring calendar. Along the way, she is dipped into every puddle and pond …
Very often she is burned along 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. There are of course many superstitions associated with the ceremony: you can’t touch Marzanna once she’s in the water, you can’t look back at her, and if you fall on your way home you’re in big trouble. One, or a combination of any of these can bring the usual dose of sickness and plague.
Grandmother represents the Winter Stage (Dark Moon) phases of life, the Death and Rebirth stages of life and in this very ancient Ritual of the Burning of Marzanna during the first few days of Spring, she represents the archaic dark primordial grandmothers releasing winter into the rebirth of the maiden’s spring. The Winter Goddess, who is the original Snow Queen is a Slavic Goddess associated with seasonal agrarian rites based on the idea of death and rebirth of the nature and woman herself.
She is associated with death and winter and often described as the goddess of death. The 15th century Polish chronicler Jan Długosz likened her to Ceres, the Roman goddess of agriculture. Her name is derived from the same Indo-European root as Latin mors ‘death’ and Russian mor ‘pestilence’. Some authors also likened her to mare, the celestial horse spirit of Slavic folklore, associated with dreams and sleep paralysis (astral travel). In some Russian dialects the word ‘mara’ means ‘phantom’, ‘vision’, ‘female Prophet’ or female Visionary.
The tradition of burning or drowning an effigy of Marzanna to celebrate the end of winter is a folk custom that survives in Poland, Slovakia and the Czech Republic. Typically taking place on the day of the vernal equinox, the rite involves setting fire to a female straw effigy, drowning it in a river, or both. In Poland, this is often performed during a field trip by children in kindergartens and primary schools.
The effigy can range in size from a small doll size effigy to a life-size goddess statue out of straw. This ritual represents the end of the dark days of winter, the victory over death, and the welcoming of the spring rebirth.
The “Drowning of Marzanna,” a large figure of a woman made from various rags and bits of clothing which is thrown into a river on the first day of the spring calendar. Along the way, she is dipped into every puddle and pond … Very often she is burned along 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, mothers, women and the baba elders.
Carrying out Morena (Marzanna) is a Slovak Tradition, a custom first written down in the 16th century, from previous folk traditions of the Goddess. It says that the youth carried an effigy of the Goddess, made of two wooden sticks in the shape of a cross in tangled harvested wheat and straw. This effigy dressed in festive traditional costume and a singing by the whole village as they carried her to the river.
Behind the village threw her off a bridge into the water, or burned in a bonfire as the symbol of winters end, and springs renewal, that from death comes rebirth. While people believed that death, winter was to be survived, the goddess cultures influenced this folk custom of local slavic regions to make it through long winters. The original faith of ancient Slavs and Slovaks were banned by male religions and many withdrew into seclusion for fear of persecution with their ancient honoring of a goddess.
Morena in winter gains power as the old sun god Dažbog experiences his death. Her flying chariot drawn by snow-white swan represents death and those who dream of large spirit swans will have witnessed a loved one’s soul carried over to the other side (from old Slavic folk lore).
Marena is dressed in white as snow as the keeper of gates to heaven and the hair and complexion of her is the same. Her Ceremony is in late winter until spring, where the underworld experiences natural cycle of decay, and we honor Morena, to pay respect to the forces of mother nature, and then in the spring honor the growing Dažbog. Morena’s animals and avian are wolves, ravens and swans, as a symbol of winter’s death and then its rebirth. Her Majesty marks the time when we honor our ancestors by paying respect to all the Slavic the Goddesses.
Sources: Photo by Czlowiek Kamera; Dragovid; Wiki, Elder Mountain, Slavic Folklore Dreams; “Morana” by Игорь Ожиганов; beksinski.dmochowskigallery.net