Internal (vidija and vydija) Culture and its Perception

 The 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 culture.  
      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 were initiated.  
      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 one’s inability to understand the phenomena of internal culture.  
      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 by intuition.  
      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.

            The Rėda Cycle and The Concept of Transition
            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 meet.  
      Something of great importance happens during marriage and death. The essential overturn of human existence occurs then.  
      The 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.

In 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.  
      The 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.  
      The 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.  
      Darkness 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.  
      However, 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, revival, vivacity.  
      And 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)?  
      Human 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...  
      Such 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.  
      The 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.  
      The 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.  
      The 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.  
      While 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.

Also, 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.

The ornament, which expresses the harmony of constant change (of motion, vibration), shows the essence of the world structure, or Rėda.  
      The 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.  
      A 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.  
      The 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.  
      Ethical 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 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 one’s 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.

    The article was prepared referring to the lectures 
of Algirdas Patackas and Aleksandras Žarskus