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2009 | 42 | 77-90

Article title

MYTHOLOGY IN THE CONTEMPORARY LIFE OF NORTH-RUSSIAN VILLAGES (Mytoloogilist pohjavene kylaelus tanapaeval)

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The article, which is based on materials collected in the course of the four summer expeditions of the Marc Bloch Russian-French Centre for Historical Anthropology (RSUH) in 2003-2006, attempts to answer the question to which degree have mythological conceptions preserved their topicality among the population of North-Russian villages; which folklore texts have been actively preserved in their repertoire; and how these texts have been adapted in modern life. Relying on informant narratives, the authors agree that irrespective of the introduction of general literacy and mass media and even at the onset of the 21st century, many women in these North-Russian villages still live as if in an enchanted world where there is no clear boundary between the living and the dead, where the forests are the realm of spirits of nature, and family conflicts are believed to result from the casting of 'evil eye' by some elderly female relative. The majority of the narratives have been collected from women and specifically reflect women's perspective to the situation. While the main focus of the article is dream narratives, the authors also discuss the topicality of mythological beliefs for the modern people. In the community which has been deprived of religious understanding of what will happen after death, dreams play a rather important role because they are the only available and the most trustworthy evidence of the world beyond the grave. The content of these beliefs, however, is bound to transform in a society where churches have been demolished, icons have been destroyed or removed, and atheism has been officially endorsed for dozens of years. Despite contemporary adaptations, the texts collected by the authors are rather archaic in nature. The fact that they are still part of active repertoire points to the viability of folk culture in the villages under investigation. And still, rituals such as communicating with the deceased relatives or casting an 'evil eye' at weddings continue to be practised not because of sociological or cultural reasons but also of personal psychology. It could be agreed that individual mythology feeds on isolation and misfortune in life.







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  • Andrey Toporkov, Estonian Literary Museum, Vanemuise 42, 51003 Tartu, Estonia


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