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A fascinating exploration of an ancient system of beliefs and its links to the evolution of dance.
From southern Greece to northern Russia, people have long believed in female spirits, bringers of fertility, who spend their nights and days dancing in the fields and forests. So appealing were these spirit-maidens that they also took up residence in nineteenth-century Romantic literature.
Archaeologist and linguist by profession, folk dancer by avocation, Elizabeth Wayland Barber has sleuthed through ethnographic lore and archaeological reports of east and southeast Europe, translating enchanting folktales about these “dancing goddesses” as well as eyewitness accounts of traditional ritualstexts that offer new perspectives on dance in agrarian society. She then traces these goddesses and their dances back through the Romans and Greeks to the first farmers of Europe. Along the way, she locates the origins of many customs, including coloring Easter eggs and throwing rice at the bride. The result is a detective story like no other and a joyful reminder of the human need to dance.
|Publisher:||Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.|
|Product dimensions:||7.20(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.70(d)|
About the Author
Elizabeth Wayland Barber is the author of Women’s Work and The Mummies of Ürümchi. Professor emerita of archaeology and linguistics at Occidental College, she lives in California.
Table of Contents
Introduction: Dancing as Life 1
How dance was thought to bring life
Geographical Maps 5
Part 1 Dancing the Year: The Ritual Cycle of Fertility 11
1 Swan Maidens, Mermaids, and Tree Spirits 13
Introduction, through folktales, to some Dancing Goddesses (vily, rusalki, willies, etc.) of eastern European folklore
2 Marking Time 28
How nonliterate farmers devised and kept their agricultural (seasonal) calendar
3 To Bring the Spring 37
Fertility rituals of early spring
4 Dancing Up a Storm 61
Dance ritual of leaf-clad orphans to end drought; problems of rain and hail
5 Crazy Week-Rusalia Week 69
Fertility rituals of Semik, Trinity, and Rusalia Week; dance brotherhoods of Rusalia; perils of Mad Wednesday
6 Flowers with Powers 91
Plants the willies love and hate; plants to heal, protect, and bewitch
7 Midsummer Rusalii 99
Fertility rituals of St. John's Night: herbs, water, fire; child's sleeve dance
8 Friday, St. Friday 110
Curious history of the weekday sacred to female deities
9 The Twelve Days of Christmas 125
Midwinter Rusalii, during intercalary Twelve Days: propitiating good and bad spirits for the New Year (and whence came our Yuletide customs)
Part 2 Bride-Dancing for Fertility: The Frog Princess 149
10 The Cosmic Arrow 151
Finding a bride
11 Bride Testing 161
Rituals testing a girl for marriage. Can she make the food and clothing?
12 Trial by Dance 174
Is she strong enough to do all the farm work, too?
13 The Magic Sleeve Dance 183
More relics of dancing Swan Maidens
14 Second Skins 201
15 The Hut on Chicken Legs 210
Old witches keeping ritual knowledge, training young women
16 Koshchey the Deathless 225
Shamans and wizards, battling for communal good
Part 3 Dancing Back through Time 233
17 Medieval Traces 235
Medieval evidence for rituals and beliefs
18 Roman Showbiz 252
Roman evidence for the rituals
19 Dancing with the Greeks 267
Classical and Archaic Greek evidence; Dionysos and Thrace
20 Back to the Bronze Age 291
Minoan and Mycenaean evidence; from Indo-European horse rituals to a child's hobbyhorse
21 Dancing at the Dawn of Agriculture 313
Evidence that this whole belief system began with the first farmers of Europe, 6000-3000 BC
Part 4 Gotta Dance! 335
22 Keeping Together in Time 337
What cognitive science has learned about human dance; trance-dancing and firewalking
23 Dancing the Time Warp 352
Possibilities of reconstructing the dances
Epilogue: Dancing Divinity 363
Parallel stories from Greece and Japan of angry fertility goddesses made to laugh by obscene dance: dance restores life
Appendix: Bracelets from Kiev with Ritual Motifs 369
Illustration and Credit List 395