Marzanna, a Yearly Winter Ritual

By Phoenix of Elder Mountain – It is the season of the grandmothers, the season of the night, the snow queen, the bone grandmothers and bone mothers, and we invite you to join us at your private home or your own spiritual circle, to make your Marzanna effigy again this year. Traditionally she is a Slavic and Balkan winter effigy and her many names are many:

She has many names, her Polish name is Marzanna (pagan), her religious name is the Black Madonna (her religious name), her folklore and fairy tale name is Baba Jaga; Polish folklore says she is also called Mora, Zmora Końska, Mara, Nocnica, Dusznica, Moréna, Mora or Marmora. In Lithuania she is called Morė, Morana (in Czech, Bulgaria, Slovene, Serbian, Bosnian, Croatian), Morena (Slovak, Macedonia). Maslenitsa is her celebration in  (Russia), Mara (Belarus, Ukraine).

Her Seasonal Rites are winter’s death, its rebirth and the dreaming which takes place between this world and the dream worlds (energy worlds of our soul and astral bodies).  Long ago the ancient people called this time, the time of the sleeping people who hibernated and dreamed over the three moons of winter. She is the one who transitions into her rebirthed self of the eternal elder into renewal called Kostroma, Lada and Vesna on the Spring Equinox! The archaic Sisters.

She is also the grandmother of the of the Midnight Sun (Winter), and her ceremonies of the Kolovrat which means to spin or moving circle, symbolizing the Round Dance, the Slavic Dance of Happiness. In pre-pagan times, she is the dance of the spinning winter moons around the earth, who in turn spins around the sun in their dance of death and rebirth.

Her names are also many in their cultural forms: In Ukraine, who celebrate the deepest and most festive time, call her Kolyadá. Koliada, Kalyada in Belarusian (Каляда); Bosnian, Croatian, Czech, Slovak, Slovene call her Koledsa; Russians call her Коляда, Kolyada and even the modern song and its own dance, the Kolinka (Калинка https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DxuOQxZaEYQ) is very apparent by the words to the song of snowberries and sleep its a winter joy; Lithuanian call her Kalëdienë. Bulgarians, Macedonians and Serbians call her Коледа, Kashubian and Kòlãda; Lithuanians call her Kalėdos and Kalėda; in Polish she is called Kolęda; Kolenda, Kolędowanie; Romanians call her Kolinda.

It is all to honor the great dance of death and then our deaths and struggles turning into life at spring, and the seasonal balance returns each year upon mother earth and within us. These are the traditional Folk Ritual and Rites of many Slavic and Balkan countries and I have invited you patrons again this year to participate with us. If you chose, join our email list so you get your reminder again each winter! (eldermountiandreaming@gmail.com).

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) and I suggest you continue, because all dark winter goddess rituals are not easy, nor are they fluffy and all warm and cozy. This is real work and real releases and clearings.

My work as a shaman with Marzanna each year is a six month (moon) process and ritual and ceremonies done as I built her on each of the new and full moon, which is mandatory for the protection of our land and the region here at Elder Mountain. As a dreamer (shaman) I have a lot of my time dealing with keeping shadows at bay. But most Marzanna traditions are still practiced today, but like all ancient traditions, they have lost their shamanic ritualistic powers of real protection and for the relationship to the consciousnesses of the earth mother (nature).

marzanna 2017 - 2.jpg
Elder Mountain’s Marzanna Autumn/Winter 2017/2018

There are a few who still take her seriously to protect their villages, and what roams between the worlds that we shamans experience and how to keep the winter moons safe. The word Mor is the root of a very old Slavic word Mor meaning Death and in shaman’s terms (not shamanic terms), the shamans cleans and purify shadows which is a death ritual.

Morena a powerful grandmother (later changed to a beautiful young maiden), is the cold winter elder goddess of death and ruler of the underworld in shaman’s terms, 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 because the veils are thinner in winter.  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 her burning to release winter. I do a very serious shamanic working ritual each year with her, not only for my own protection as a shaman but wherever I live.

Lithuanian Mara

To be connected spiritually to the whole process of our life, is to touch the awareness of birth, living, transformation, death and rebirth as a person who honors all things and understands and lives by the 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.

Marzanna and kidsThese 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.

My Marzanna is done the way it was done in prehistory, with some of my own hair I collect all year long and add it to her. 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 to attract shadow, not to repel them, this way they are entrapped. Then I remove some of the beads before I burn her and wear them the next year. I also add things I have made or worked with during the year, like the leftover stalks of lavender I harvested, the strings of rosehips and wild flowers I collect for my smudge and summer dried lemons.

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. You can work on her for a shorter time like one month or three months if you are new at it.

Your Marzanna of course can be 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 and make her small. 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.

marzanna face

Building your Marzanna,
Morena, Mara Folk Effigy or Doll

“FOUNDATION AND RESPECTING WINTER’S DEATH”
We start by setting our intention for our Marzanna, after all she represents you and what you wish to heal over the winter. We look for our our sticks (look at the photos in this article to get ideas) and start off by making a cross out of the sticks or straw and try to make her small or no bigger than a foot or two tall. Setting the intention of your foundation is the most important because it reflects your basic needs of your foundation in life at this time of your life, wherever you may be in life. Then set her on your altar and ask a god or goddess to bless her when the foundation is done and let her sit there a few days.

“STRUCTURE” 
Seek outside at a park or nature or even your yard and collect some autumn or winter field flowers, straw, wheat or any wild flowers that have dried. Also pine cones, wild grasses to begin to add to your basic structure. Set intention as well on the structure of your life and what you add to your Marzanna. What sort of structure you want to practice (keep it simple) that will add to your monthly moon intention. Structure can be simple, like remembering to say thanks or being grateful for who you are and the good things in your life, even if you are having a difficult time. For those who are very structured, add a breath meditation or anything that helps you be peaceful in the winter season to come.

“CREATIVITY”
Now is the fun part, gathering fabric, colors, ribbon, etc to decorate your Marzanna doll. You can make her bright and cheerful or make her serious with only nature items. Be as creative as you want. All of us are artisans in various ways such as good cooks, creative cooks, artists, painters, musicians, story tellers, etc. We all have something that we can share and be creative. So set the creative intention along with your regular new moon intention if you are participating.

“CHANGES”
Most people make their new year resolutions in the second Moon of Winter but that is like starting a race at the end of the race. Winter is a time of stillness and quiet but the age of advertising and technology has reversed this and lit everything up. You can realign and reclaim the quiet season slowly with your moon energy, and the stillness of winter this month, and start by setting Marzanna now that she is finished, on your altar, in your garden or somewhere special. We build a huge one of the left overs of the garden and our individual ones in our Moon Circle here, we keep on the altar.

“DEATH / COMPLETION”
Let Marzanna sit in the quiet Winter Months in your garden or you alter inside your home until the day of the Spring Equinox.

“REBIRTH”
Burning of Marzanna 
On the Spring Equinox we take Marzanna outside and Burn her or toss her in the River (water is our emotional life) and burn her. The true New Year of Nature (Mother Earth) then begins  !

marzanna staw

Jana Hojáková – Carrying out Morena (Marzanna) a Slovak Tradition

To this day we keep the ceremony of Morena, 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.

Religions of the middle ages, could not have any competitors of their dying on the cross and Morena, 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, as a much more ancient ritual she had to be banned. Even though they tried, her rituals still survives today all over the world by Balto-Slavic people.

Marzanna 2015 2016.jpg
Elder Mountain’s Marzanna spring equinox 2015/2016

Mor is the root of a very old slavic (Mor = Death), Morena a beautiful but cold winter goddess, death and ruler of the underworld where journey to the underworld one must cross the river Smorodina (Smorod = stench from rotting carcasses), through which you can only flee, guide and get to the other side by a shaman woman or man. Morena in winter gains power as the old sun god Dažbog experiences his death.

marzanna river

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 also dressed in white as snow as the keeper of gates to heaven and the hair and complexion of her is the same. She is the original snow queen but not the evil version that is modern.

 

Japanese woodblock prints - Swans (date unknown) Koson Ohara.jpg
Japanese woodblock prints – Swans (date unknown) Koson Ohara

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.

Traditional Marzanna or Morena Folk or Peasant Rituals

6ad3b3ae222a95d2e20a194a71d6447aThe 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.

13925003dcd6f09376a4b33ec1baabe3

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.

marzanna-2016-building-her-4
Elder Mountain’s half built Marzanna autumn and winter 2016/2017

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.

marzanna slovak

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.

98ce1f6e043de2e8c6b1549c1f5a53d7Morena 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

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3 Comments Add yours

  1. caileachmac5 says:

    I Colleen(girl,maiden mother)Cailin(celtic/virgin)Cailleach(crone). I love this! I am tattooed with Kali. She is the goddess of death and rebirth/creation vs destruction. Also I wear Santa Muerta (goddess of or saint of death). So thank you for yet another connection with who I belong -Marzanna, Morena!

    On Thu, Nov 24, 2016 at 2:11 AM, Elder Mountain Spiritual Artist Residency wrote:

    > Elder Mountain Spiritual Artist Residency posted: “Maržanna, Mara, > Maržena, Morena and all her Slavic names is associated with a traditional > Folk Ritual of many Slavic countries. When I do my Marzanna each year, I do > the six month (moon) ritual as a shaman that is mandatory for the > protection of our land ” >

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I remember doing this ritual as a child. And, if she didn’t flow down the river quickly and smoothly, winter was going to linger…

    Liked by 1 person

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