From Book 8.2. RITES OF MARRIAGEI’ll describe a rite that was typical for pre-revolutionary Russia, so we can consider it and see how degraded society has become in regard to love.
Match-making among natives of the city of Perm. For Permians, marriage is complicated, involving various preliminary operations: when a father is seeking a bride for his son, he must obtain the consent of his superior and his parish priest. A marriage of this type is always decided upon without the groom’s participation, seemingly according to ancient custom, and it is determined only by the opinion of relatives and close acquaintances who are consulted. And it’s the fate of the future well-being of their closest relative that is being decided.
It so happens that the groom finds out who his intended is only at the engagement, and sometimes even on the wedding day; it rarely happens that a young Permian sets himself up with a bride on his own. The groom’s father himself sets his son up with a girl with an abundant dowry, and at the same time, he’s looking for character and good morals in the maiden he’s considering.
After a final decision is made about which girl to seek a match with, the actual matchmaking (korasyom) begins. This matter is always entrusted to the family elder or, if there is no elder, to the godfather, or else to one of the older relatives – and in general, to someone who’s knowledgeable about such business.
Next, we’re told how the matchmakers should speak and what they should say, but it seems to me that there is no point at all to these acts, since what’s most important has been violated right from the start.
As we see, there’s not the slightest hint of love between the young people when this rite is performed. It’s also a sad fact that they add God into the mix along with this humiliating way of treating the energy of Love.
When the groom is about to set off, his mother or the oldest female relative in the house comes to the table, which is covered with tablecloth, and places on it a loaf of bread set aside for blessing the groom, salt, beer and malted home-brew, and lights candles before the icons. The groom prays, bows to his mother and father on bended knee, soliciting their blessing and, having recited the Jesus prayer, he stands behind the table. All the visitors then come up to the table, reciting the same prayer and one after the other, they pass the gifts or presents they’ve brought across the table to the groom with both hands: roasted shoulder or a piece of raw pork, and always atop bread, and each one says as he does so: “Please accept these precious gifts, young prince,” accompanied by the prayer “O Lord, Jesus Christ” and so on. To this the groom replies to each person, “Amen to your prayer,” and then he accepts the gifts, also with both hands, and places them first on his head and then on the table. He plies each visitor with beer and home-brew, rarely with wine, while performing the Jesus prayer and repeating, “Cheers! Drink (whatever it is.)” Of course, each guest the groom addresses responds to this with the words, “Amen to your prayer” and, having accepted the glass, bows to the groom while repeating, “May God grant you long years, great happiness, may you live and be, gain happiness, beasts, a belly, bread and salt, win a princess fair, travel with the princess to the church, stand beneath golden crowns, and accept God’s law!” And then each guest drinks.
And here’s some more interesting information.
The girls of Perm rarely preserve their virginity, but the grooms don’t particularly care about that and don’t shy away from them. Quite the contrary, they’re eager to accept them, even pregnant ones, figuring that soon they’ll have a worker. They also say how the fathers of some families have decided that in their family, since they consider their daughters innocent, they feel insulted by an offer of marriage. They’ll berate the matchmakers and even drive them away. Sometime they even pummel them, saying, “What, is my daughter some blood-wite?”, (i.e., guilty of something.)
What you end up with is not someone who carries on the family line, someone conceived in love and essential, but a farm hand.
And many typical elements of the marriage rites show our ancestors to be savage barbarians. However I want to note that all the rites known to us are not traditionally Slavic, even those that are sometimes referred to as traditional in various literature. They date from the time when the wise rites that really were traditional were forbidden by the Church, without anything rational being offered in exchange. And here’s an example.
Removing the boots. According to widespread Russian custom, it was – and in some places still is – the practice for a newlywed wife to remove her husband’s shoes. In ancient times, this custom generally indicated submissiveness, a slave-like relationship and even humiliation, because who besides a total subordinate will remove someone else’s boots? From historical sources, we know that this custom existed during the time of Vladimir, and we also know that the Polotsk prince’s daughter did not want to remove her husband’s shoes.
The very same custom existed in German during the time of Luther: on the wedding night, the young wife would remove the boots and place them at the high point of the bed (on the headboard) as a sign of the husband’s dominance over the wife, of the man’s dominance over the (enslaved) woman.
Omari and Gerbenshtein tell about how when they were in Moscow, the custom of removing the shoes was performed, along with the striking of the wife three times with a lash that had been placed in a cabinet along with gifts, even at the weddings of princes and boyars. This rite continued in Lithuania up to the Jagiellonian Era and nowadays is preserved in peasant culture.
As we see, removing the boots and considering the bride a slave have been incorrectly presented as a traditionally Russian rite. Slavery did not exist in Rus’ before the time of the princes. Consequently, this rite is not traditional for our people, but rather marginal and not accepted by the people.
But the following situation, which was standard for rites of marriage among many peoples, even in the 18th and 19th centuries, seems even more idiotic, cruel and immoral to me.
As soon as the last dish, i.e., the roast meat, was brought to the table, the best man would wrap the roast in a tablecloth along with a small loaf of bread and a saltcellar and take it off into the hay store-room to the bed, where the newlyweds, too, were led, following him. The father took his seat in the doorway of the store-room. After passing the bride from his arms into the arms of the husband, he would instruct her regarding seemly behavior and advise her how to live in matrimony. When the young couple reached the bed, the village head’s wife, who was dressed at that time in two fur coats – one worn the regular way, the other inside out – would sprinkle the young couple with a shower of grain, money and hops and feed them on the bed.
All the wedding’s participants would show up the next day in the morning, throw back the newlyweds’ blanket in a flash and determine, based on certain well-known indicators, that the bride had been a virgin.
We can consider this the most terrible and perverted part of the rite, even if the newlyweds love each other. In plain view of all the guests, the young couple, drunk and stuffed, has to go into a room and is obligated to consummate the marriage. The guests accompany them and send them off with lewd gazes, like perverts.
First of all, after all the pre-wedding and wedding bustle, flowing alcohol and voluminous food consumption, the couple would be best off refraining from any intimacy for some time, so they’d avoid conceiving a child in that state.
Second of all, really, why should the newlyweds be obligated to be intimate with each other on this day, and also have to account for their actions before the assembled guests? And what if this particular day happens to be inauspicious for the girl, for women’s reasons? Basically, all of this resembles the breeding of animals, and even worse.
No one would take it into their head to lead a bitch to a male dog, or a cow to a bull or a ewe to a ram if they weren’t in heat. But here, it’s, “Go on, do it, or you’ll bring shame on yourself.” Here’s a story that one seventy-year-old man told me when he learned I was studying various rites:
“I was living in a village when I got married. They arranged a love match for me. She was so quiet, and she was kind. She was called Ksyusha. She was nineteen then, and I was twenty. We spent half a year exchanging glances, she and I, and probably we fell in love.
“The first day of the wedding, when it was coming to an end, we were sent off to a separate room to sleep. They put a guard at the door, and in the morning we were supposed to appear holding our sheet in front of us to show everyone: did it have a virgin’s blood on it or not? The moment of truth came for Ksyusha and me. And I, well, maybe it was wedding night jitters, or maybe I’d eaten something bad, but I felt I wouldn’t be able to do a thing with Ksyusha. She tried this and that, and started awkwardly showing me her breast, and she kissed me, and then got totally undressed.
“But still none of the necessary things inside me responded to her caresses and her undressing. And I got even more embarrassed because of that. I sat down on the bed and turned my head to the wall. I hear how Kyusha’s come up and leaned her cheek against my back and is shaking, and her tears are running down my back. And right then I started crying out of grief, too. And so we’re sitting there on the bed and crying. And then I say to her:
“‘Don’t worry, Ksyusha, I’ll admit it to everyone that it’s my fault.’
“And she answers me, ‘Don’t do that. They’ll start laughing at you.’
“And before daybreak she took her finger and tore a hole herself where there needed to be one, and the blood flowed. After that, in the morning, we showed the sheet to the guests who’d come for some hair of the dog. And they were half-drunk, encouraging us and joking and shouting, ‘Bitter!’ before they downed their next shot.
“Ksyusha and I lived in the village for half a year and then left for the city and got divorced. And you know, nothing worked for me in that half a year. I married a different woman, and now I have four children – three sons and a daughter – and I have grandchildren. But I won’t forget that vile wedding, never in my life. But I still remember Ksyusha.”
Книга: Book VIII: Part 2: Rites of Love