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Romuva: respect for live tradition in XXIst century

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They are reserved, but very sincere and frank people. They have swastikas on their necks and calm in their eyes. They belong to the community called Romuva.

The wheel of time has turned again. Very soon winter will meet spring and then we will all eagerly wait for the awakening, the new cycle of work and festivities. Midwinter is celebrated in January. Our elders still tell tales of how a beaver crawls out of his hole on that day and watches the air. If the day happens to be sunny the beaver gets scared of its shadow and runs back to his home. This means that the winter will be very long. If the day is overcast, the beaver goes for a stroll. After the walk he peacefully returns to his cave - this means that spring is just around the corner.

The month of January heralds the coming of spring. On January 26th 2008 the members of Romuva gathered to celebrate Midwinter. Romuva is a community of the old Lithuanian religion, continuing the traditions of ancient Baltic beliefs. The faith of the Balts honours nature, which is the home of the gods. The Gods are the highest essence. The relationship between man and nature is very strong. It is imperative to preserve the harmony between man and nature.

Baltic symbols are related to folk ornaments and archeology. Each of the people coming to the Midwinter celebration wore clothes in the style of ancient Balts or at least wore a traditional necklace with elements of the swastika, a piece of amber jewelery or a copper brooch. In all countries of the world the swastika is a sign of fire, light and happiness. In Baltic culture the meaning of the swastika depends on the direction of its spin – it may mean the fire of the sun, heavenly fire or the fire of the stars.

The gathered members of Romuva paid their respects to Gabija – the goddess of fire, remembered their ancestors and danced the dance of the serpent. All of this happened very simply: in the centre stood a table, covered with a linen tablecloth on top of it lay several pine branches and a burning candle. Everyone stood in a circle, performed religious rights and sung. The high priest (krivis) blessed each person and confirmed their participation in the ritual with a burning candle. Everyone was concentrated, quiet and participated with all their heart in the celebration. In this way the harmony with God, the gods, ancestors, nature and other participants is preserved.

As Jonas Trinkūnas the krivis himself recalls, the ancestors who practiced these beliefs never had any holy scriptures. The modern practitioners of the ancient beliefs turn to mythology, folklore and ethnological findings. Traditionally the members of Romuva do not blindly repeat the past – after all that is not the most important. The most important thing is the connection between the man, nature and god.Slowly but surely Romuva became a school for those with interest in folklore and ethnography. The krivis mentioned that young people are the most active, especially the high school and university students. Around 200 young people participate in summer camps organized by Romuva. In these camps they familiarize themselves with Baltic beliefs, traditions, they visit ancient holy places and sing traditional folk songs.

In a certain sense traditions are passed on. Today the fol ensemble “Kūlgrinda” has around 50 young singers. According to J. Trinkūnas, in “Kūlgrinda” they not only learn to sing, but also learn about the symbolism of the songs. This way the youths learn the things that have been unduly forgotten and swept away. They learn to respect their ancients. For a young member of “Romuva” such values as justice, industriousness, moderation and harmony, i.e. the ability to coexist with other people, are the most important. According to the krivis all these things are infused into and transferred over to the young members of Romuva.To sum up I will cite the words of a middle aged man, who participated in such a celebration for the first time: “These are true and honorable people, who deserve attention and respect”. One of the principal benefits of this community is that they value the traditions of the past and do not let them be forgotten. This is why we should be thankful to them.Asta GrigalavičiūtėPhotos: Donatas Babenskas


Translation: Vytautas Povilas Jurgaitis

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