2015 | 64 | 3 | 535-550
Article title

Czynności na opak w tradycyjnej rosyjskiej obrzędowości apotropeicznej

Title variants
Reversed Actions in Traditional Russian Apotropeic Rituals
Languages of publication
The article presents the differing functions of reversed actions that are determined by the various areas of their use: in rituals of the annual calendar cycle, in transition rituals as well as in folk medicine. All share a common overriding goal: protecting “one's own” space in the macro- and microcosmic sense. In traditional Russian culture, retaining traces of ancient pagan notions mixed with Christian beliefs, every kind of reversed action (including walking backwards, changing location, direction or affiliation, turning fabric inside out, changing clothes) comprised a reversal of the state recognized as proper and normal, the effect of which was a violation of norms, disturbing the established rightful order. In the cosmic dimension, a lack of order in the universe, traditionally perceived as the opposition of two worlds – “our” visible one and the “other” invisible one – opened the boundary for creatures from the “other” world that were identified with the impure powers. In order to protect a person from the effects of their activities, various apotropeic actions were used which, according to folk tradition, posessed magical powers to drive away the forces of evil. In rituals of the annual calendar cycle, reversed actions appeared in carnival type rituals. Their function was to contront the anti-norms of “our” world (actions that were the reverse of those generally accepted) with the anti-norms of the “other” world (the rejected world of impure powers) and lead to the elimination of danger by rendering the two worlds and their members similar. In transition rituals, the function of such actions, resulting from the folk concept of fate and destiny, was protection of the immediate space around a person and assuring safety in various areas of life and activity. In contrast, in folk therapeutic practice, apotropeic reversed actions mapped out a repair of the broken order through simulating the exorcism of the demon of sickness from particular parts of the body (curative function) or preventing its “entry” into a person (prophylactic function).
Physical description
  • Uniwersytet Kazimierza Wielkiego, Instytut Neofilologii i Lingwistyki Stosowanej, ul. Grabowa 2, 85-601 Bydgoszcz, Poland,
Document Type
Publication order reference
YADDA identifier
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