Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Two Postcrossing arrivals from Belarus

I seem to get a disproportionate number of Postcrossing cards from Belarus. Which is perfectly cool. It's neat to see how many people in that nation are involved in the international exchange of postcards. The country even has its own official Postcrossing stamp!

I especially liked the two recent cards that I received from Belarus, because they had ties to culture and folklore.

This card came from Anastasija (Nastya) in Brest, a city of 300,000+ in extreme western Belarus.1 The English subtitle for this postcard illustration is "How a hen saved a rooster." Anastasija writes in her note: "Our country has a rich history and there are a lot of fairy-tales [that] were translated from our language to other languages. This tale is one of the most popular in our culture."

I haven't yet found the specific tale that she and the postcard are referring to. I did, however, find one website that states: "In Belarusian folklore, the rooster is a heroic character, and comes to protect weak people. It crows with a sound like 'Ку-ка-ре-ку.'"

It does look, though, as if the hen (and not the rooster) is the heroic character in this folk tale.

This postcard is from Kate, age 16, in Grodno, which is also in western Belarus, north of Brest.

She writes:
"Postcard depicts Kupala Night. Kupalye — an ancient folk festival associated with the summer solstice. It is celebrated on the night of 6July7.2 Kupalye holiday was considered magical. On this day, nature blossoms, mermaids came out of their hiding places, boys and girls ... sang, danced, jumped over the fire, which eliminates the various afflictions and diseases. Girls wove wreaths of flowers. [They] make wishes and [throw] wreaths into the river. Also, people searched [for] paparotuika flower (flower of happiness) at night."3

Wikipedia adds: "Girls may float wreaths of flowers (often lit with candles) on rivers, and would attempt to gain foresight into their relationship fortunes from the flow patterns of the flowers on the river. Men may attempt to capture the wreaths, in the hope of capturing the interest of the woman who floated the wreath."

1. Brest was formerly known as Brest-on-the-Bug (because of the Bug River), which is a seriously cool name.
2. Regarding the date, Wikipedia states that Kupala Night "is celebrated in Ukraine, Belarus and Russia currently on the night of 6/7 July in the Gregorian or New Style calendar, which is 23/24 June in the Julian or Old Style calendar still used by many Orthodox Churches."
3. Other possible spellings I found for the Flower of Happiness include paparats-kvetka and Kvetka paparatsi. I believe it is what we might call the fern flower.

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