RELATIONSHIP OF ESSENCE AND FORM
and vydija) Culture and its Perception
revival of something new begins with looking at the past. The past
discloses the wisdom and experience of the ages. We can see in the past
the essence, the original (paradisal) revelation. Essence is a hardly
perceptible aspect of existence, and when preserved and remembered becomes
a fortitude. In other words, we create our future by developing a new
form, new manifestations, a new way of life for the essence, the sap of
life. The relationship of essence and form defines our culture. The more
essence, the more freshness in human life and the less noticeable life
manifestations are. Avid vice versa: the less essence, the more
superficial, intrusive and clamorous of the life manifestations become.
Thus a culture matures into
what we call civilization. In other words, if we desire to come back
to the youth of culture we have to strive for the essence in old Lithuanian
It might seem that the old Lithuanian
culture left us very little: some songs, legends, tales, woven patterns,
customs, and traditions... However, after we measure that with our hearts,
we can tell that Lithuanian culture left us a lot: though a weak aspect
of existence one of great vitality. Due to its different manifestations
as compared to other countries, Lithuanian culture seems to have found
another way of being and this helped it to survive through all the misfortunes
of many centuries.
We are the inheritors of the old Baltic
culture, or to be more exact, of what has remained. In fact, we are
the people from the woods who came to live in a city. Only we are
already pulled out of the living tradition and live in the last light
of our culture, which is still vital, but no longer consciously perceived.
The collectors of folklore grew up in
the same culture, but they regarded songs, tales and customs as disappearing
antiquities. Foreign collectors of customs and folklore must have been
even further from a deep apprehension and conveyance of Baltic culture.
But they were the first critics of our religion, culture and customs.
Their negative attitude towards Lithuanian culture and its contemptuous
entitlement as "pagan" has to be mentioned, too. Only later,
in 18th century, more impartial studies based on scientific research
But their basis was the materialistic
worldview. Thus, as a consequence, the theory of evolution has been
transferred into the understanding of Lithuanian religion and culture.
After some time, our fellow countrymen joined the research work and
applied already known methods. Later, the research methods seemed to
have changed, as semiotics and structuralism appeared, but the very
essence of those methods remained the same, pervaded with the sense
of positivism, and based on the materialistic attitude of a civilized
person. This kind of research is just an external examination and evaluates
culture from a scientific point of view, disclosing not the examined
culture, but ones inability to understand the phenomena of internal
Still, our national customs and traditions
are created by people who considered themselves internal beings, prominent
above time and space. Baltic matricentric culture created a vital perception
of the world, which was interrelated with the ethically cognitive attitude,
characteristic of a feminine self. As far as the Lithuanian self was
concerned, it was not so important to define a concept or a phenomenon
precisely. The exterior forms of culture, songs, tales, legends, customs,
woven patterns, are only the attendants of essence. Essence was perceived
The manifestations of old cultures are
obscure and characteristic of many-layered symbolism. That is why it
makes so hard and even impossible to explain them from the materialistic
point of view.
World cultures are divided according
to two opposite trends. They can be named differently: Ethos and Logos,
external and internal, etc. Kant refers to this idea saying: "Two
things surprise me: the starry sky above and the moral rule inside."
Thus, some cultures analyze the external world, and others - the internal.
The latter cultures are quite complex and even more important, because
the progress of external cultures, as we all can see, have not made
anyone happier... It is important to realize that Lithuanian culture
is extremely internal.
The opposition between essence and form
helps us to describe any culture. Logos cultures are the ones of form
and possess clear, strict models. Lithuanian culture can be seen as
the culture of essence, which is directed inward and thus, hardly perceptible.
That is why our culture is so difficult to grasp. Moreover, it is almost
impossible to find its external manifestation just because any form
is too constricted to preserve all the aspects of essence.
First of all, any research of folklore
and customs has to be regarded with wonder and sanctity. This is the
holy realm of nation, the return to the cosmogonic origins.
Baltic culture is one of the oldest Indo-European
cultures, though it also has always existed right beside us. Until World
War I, Baltic culture could be found in Lithuania, which V.Toporov called
a storehouse of antiquities".
The deeper we get into the culture, the
less differences we see among cultures. One can say that all cultures
have or had a deep layer, which would contain the idea of Paradise,
uniting old cultures. But this is too difficult for us to perceive,
because of our rational thinking and limited worldview outlook. Our
ancestors had a visual thinking, and their worldview was panoramic,
all-including. We can see only a part (sector) of the existential panorama.
And our ancestors could perceive all the existential phenomena, though
not so keenly as modern physicists, who are able to observe the elementary
particles of the matter. In other words, people of old cultures could
unite all the phenomena of natural and human life, where everything
merges into the pattern of indissoluble relations.
RELATIONSHIP OF FAMILY AND CALENDAR FESTIVALS
The Rėda Cycle and The Concept
Most important events in
nature and human life
The depths of existence and the mystery of life can be best experienced
in a family. The events of family life open gates into this wonderful
world of things and forms. The most brilliant years of childhood are passed
in family our and everyone matures for marriage in it, too. The family
also sees us off to Anapilis
(the Other world). Birth, marriage and death are events that were considered
especially important in our old culture.
Death would arouse no fear. On the contrary, it was as natural and sacred
as the coming of a new living being. Along with birth and death, one more
great event of life, marriage, was an opera magnum in Lithuanian culture.
Different nations have similar
marriage customs. There is nothing surprising about that because marriage,
death and birth are those events of human existence that, in essence,
touch equally not to count the kinship relations of a nation, the lives
of people from different nations. That's why the customs of birth, marriage
and death reveal such depths of existence where all natures and cultures
of great importance happens during marriage and death. The essential overturn of human
existence occurs then.
most important events of human life, birth, marriage and death, which are
similar in their overturn, are called transformations. The general idea of
all the festivals and family customs and rituals helps us to understand
that calendar holidays are also transformations.
other words, calendar holidays are the metaphysical experience of the
most important events of human life, which correspond to the changes
in nature. Transformation is the basis for the events of human life,
calendar holidays, and also for the cycle of agricultural work (ploughing,
sowing, reaping, swingling of flax) and domestic work (weaving, baking
bread or making butter). Lithuanian culture is depends on the perception
of transformation, which allows us to experience all the events of nature
and human existence as an entire, related chain.
The Rėda cycle was established in accordance
with the above-mentioned similarity of calendar holidays and main events
in human life.
world of a Baltic person, and thus of the archaic Indo-European person,
relied upon the life of a plant: as quiet, mysterious and involved in a
rhythmic change. In spring, a
plant wakes up and renews itself from winter sleep. The vegetation period
begins. Out of the vaults of the severe
Had, Kora comes back to the arms of mother Demeter (Persephone).
This is the time of GAVËNIA (Užgavėnės),
the most joyful festival of the year. As can be seen in the denomination
(derived from gauti(s), gyvėti,
gaivėti - to become animated), this festival is one of
renewal, vivacity, birth, entrance into the gaja
(viability, vitality) world.
sun shining with bigger intensity matures herbs, and the ears of rye
become harder and harder. Thus, in four months, at the end of June, the kupa
(abundance, luxuriance, culmination) point is reached. This is the turning
point in the plant life. A plant becomes mature enough to begin (rasdinti)
a new life. Rye becomes dewy; above fields, there is a cloud of pollen.
RASA (Dew) is the mystery of appearing, coming, beginning. At the same
time, it is the culmination of the cosmic drama. From this time on sunrays
will warm the surface of earth less and less intensely, days will become
shorter, and nights longer, until ILGĖS comes. After a plant has
fulfilled its highest purpose of giving new life, it begins to decay
(Mara). ILGĖS is the gate into Mara
world (world of decline), the eternal tranquility.
is getting thicker and thicker, the world is going into the abyss until
the Rėda cycle reaches its
lowest point. This is KALĖDOS (Christmas), the point of greatest fatigue,
the triumph of Mara. This is the
moment at which the infant Jesus came. But also, Kalėdos
is the advent of hope. The promise, Salvator,
cherished in the comfort of the manger, reverses the Rėda cycle. It is at the time of Christmas Eve when the turning point
occurs: a step upwards, up to light, to hope.
the Balts pre-Christian Christmas is a rehearsal, just a repetition of
what is going to happen. The recovered sprout with regained green power
breaks through the snow crust, violets twinkle everywhere in the slopes.
Again, the life cycle repeats its course: Gavėnia,
what about the human existence involved in this cycle, in the traps of carma?
Is a human being just part of nature? Is it possible for human beings to
escape from this vicious cycle, and find the super solution of the
antipode nokti - nykti (to ripen
- to vanish, fall into decay)?
beings reach the RASA point facing evil in the consecrated cycle and
fighting it. Sometimes people win this fight. The blossom of fern bursts
into bloom, and vydūnas
gains vyda, one of the divine
abilities to see inwardly. Is that the victory over Mara (mortality)? Flames of chastity can destroy the antipode of
fire and water and give hope, as these are non-scorching flames and
diffuse the sensation of eternity out of the blossom of fern. Only this
hope has not acquired any form, remaining in a state of esa (being,
staying). Aisa is derived from
this word, meaning the gloom, sadness of esa,
which is so characteristic of original nature. And only the stroke of
lightning above Golgotha, only the whisper of bloody lips: - It's
done! for the first time in history, could break through the karma
scull and harm it. It's done! - And the promise of the Rasa
night acquires body, form, existence. The essence of Rasa acquires the form of redemption and turns into a little white
circle, of which everybody at least here in Lithuania, partakes eat. Only
human weakness disturbs the wish to die in the presence of this mysterium magnum...
is the universal, cosmic process of the Rėda
Cycle. GAVĖNIA, RASA and ILGĖS are parallel to birth (baptism),
marriage and death (funeral). These are the three most important
transformations in human life, which decide human existence within its
visible scale. That is why the concept of transformation means so much.
Human life is the sequence of different
transformations, which are connected by durable and rather stable periods:
infancy, sisterhood, matrimony. These are static periods and cause little
danger in the ethical sense, because they follow the course decided
by traditions and protected by cultural morals. At the moment of transformation,
a person faces chaos. One is left alone here and must choose between
good and evil. That's why there is a threat of chaos. In order that
the discordance should not invade community existence, the transformation
zone in human life has been regulated and restricted. This is the essential
task of moral culture. To put it strictly, moral culture is the teaching
of how to go through transformation points.
main Baltic calendar festival RASA is celebrated at the end of June.
Usually, its time of celebration is associated with the solstice, that is,
the time of the longest day and shortest night. But also, there is another
less perceptible reason. RASA is held when the rye is covered with dew (is
blooming). This is the culmination of the vegetation thriving, kupa,
when a plant is mature enough to give new life. In our latitudes, the
vegetation kupa coincides with the midsummer night.
Kupa point is also the threshold between the accumulation of vitality
and the loss of it. After having fulfilled the essential task of prolonging
life, the biological organism is no more necessary. After the fecundation,
biological life falls into decay. Only humans, as not only biological
beings, can search for the super solution of this antipode of death
and life and ascend the spiritual realm. The RASA festival in its deepest
sense is the festival of the beginning of all creation and one of metaphysical
experience in marriage transformation. This festival is the key to the
greatest existential antipode: the mystery of life and death.
If marriage and Christmas transformations
are the turning points in life, life and death could be regarded as
true existential transitions destroying previous life forms, a goblet
into which the life essence is poured. Birth and death transitions are
so crucial as to be considered the beginning and end of life.
People of the internal culture regard
existence not as the sum of different parts, but as the interrelated
whole. This is the universal law of both animate and inanimate nature:
new forms are born from the ruined old ones. Death is the renovator
of life and the carrier of life.
critical points of the vital vegetation rhythm are the basis of calendar
festivals. However, the sacredness of the festivals is decided by the
metaphysical experience of human events. The axis of ancient Lithuanian
festivals was not the natural powers or everyday concerns (like fertility
or fruitfulness), but the everlasting sacred moments of human existence.
reviewing archaic Baltic culture, one notices the universality of the
transformation phenomenon. The Rėda
Cycle includes the cycles of various duration: the natural change of
the year cycle and the corresponding calendar festivals of human life
such as birth, marriage and death; also the twenty-four hour cycle:
morning, noon, evening, midnight.
The all - including change can be seen
everywhere: in the vibration of microcosm or in the enormously long
occurrences of macrocosm, which happen according to the same universal
model of transformation which was known to all the archaic cultures.
If the transformation model depicted
in the picture below is extended by joining sequent transitions into
the compact chain, the picture of molecular structure is formed. It
is the basis of biological life, as the chromosome, comprising molecular
rods of deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) structure.
the transformation chain is composed of brain neurons. The geometrical
expression of this transformation chain is the basis of Lithuanian (and
not only Lithuanian) patterns.
ornament, which expresses the harmony of constant change (of motion,
vibration), shows the essence of the world structure, or Rėda.
wisdom of our ancestors says that the next existential stage, which
follows transformation, is not only its continuation. It differs in its
fundamentals. This is already a new phase of life, a period of higher
quality. To be more precise, every transformation is supposed to advance everyone
into higher quality. However, it is necessary to complete the transformation
successfully. The further success and meaning of human life depends
on the fulfillment of transformation. Our ancestors knew this and valued
highly the existential human transformations. Rituals and customs regulated
the fulfillment of every transformation. After the disintegration of
archaic customs, it is necessary now to speak about the conscious apprehension
and fulfillment of transformation.
special emphasis must be laid on the fact that transformation is irreversible.
Its irreversibility represents the principle of cosmic evolution, guarantees
harmony and fullness in human life and the disclosure of human spirit.
transformation model and especially the Rėda
Cycle seem to require a cyclic time pattern, in which everything is
subordinate to the recurrence. Modern civilization is based on a linear
understanding of the flow of time. Such a point of view was stimulated by
the materialistic perception of the world development: from simple to
complex with the line gradually rising. The Rėda
Cycle expresses the cyclic flow of time. And through the irreversibility
of transformation also a new quality followed after the transformation,
bringing the linear time direction into the cyclic flow of time. In
fact, like a cart the circle goes round, but the cart moves forward.
and moral regulations in the conscious human life are the major factor
that guarantees a decisive jump into new quality, and its irreverence in
the unstable transformation. Thus we can draw this conclusion: a person is
supposed to submit to the moral norms not because he/she is told to, but
for his/her own sake. If we agree that God's commandments also express the
laws of existence, it makes sense then that sin is not an offence against
God, but simply a resistance to the laws of life, which leads only to the wrecking of himself.
What has been said so far is the wisdom
not only of our Baltic ancestors. This is ancient Indo-European knowledge,
which, however, has not been retained equally in different countries.
Most often it is found to have been expressed in more externally.
THE SIGNIFICANCE OF MARRIAGE IN THE OLD BALTIC CULTURE
axis of our ancestral culture was marriage. A majority of all folklore
songs (about 80%) deal with marriage. The descriptions of marriage customs
are the longest ones, and the greatest attention is paid to them. The
family was an attendant of one's moral life, a custodian of customs
and the center of economic activity. The whole structure of a community
depends upon the family harmony. It is the basis of not only a nation
or a state, but also of the whole world structure.
There is one more reason, why marriage
transformation was considered special. It is related to ones consciousness
at the transformation moment. This is where the quality of birth and
death transformation is decided, as dependent on the consciousness of
marriage transformation. Sometimes we consider death transformation
as the most important one and requiring good preparation for the ascent
into heaven. This is true on the one hand, but on the other, marriage
is the only transformation when anyone can participate consciously.
The correctly apprehended marriage transformation is like a "death"
and a "resurrection" into a new life. The wedding mystery,
which was performed by our ancestors to all the rituals and the conscious
accomplishment of the marriage transformation nowadays was and still
is the very basis for a harmonious family. Also, it is a fatal encounter
with the death experience. Thus, marriage transformation is like a preparation
for the death transformation, which is too mysterious to guarantee the
maintenance of our consciousness.
The marriage transformation guides young
people to the Greatest Secret of Existence: Birth. A Couple becomes
like a tree of life, a vertical bridge with the help of which a new
human being comes down to earth. S/he cannot reach this world of time
and space without our help. God invites us to collaborate with Him in
the creation of new life, the most wonderful event of life. In other
words, children do not come out of us, but through us, I. e. parents
only "dress up" the God-sent soul with earthly "clothes",
the body. The relationship between marriage and birth transformations
requires the conscious marriage experience.
Life and the well being of families and
the whole nation remain dependent upon the successful fulfillment of
the marriage transformation.
article was prepared referring to the lectures
of Algirdas Patackas and Aleksandras Žarskus