Fire-light rituals of the Slavs
Fire-light rituals of the Slavs

The history of Russian fireworks began long before the fireworks themselves appeared. Fire, didn't it change the whole history and the entire way of life of mankind? To command fire is the lot of gods and people. But people only partially dominate the fire, quickly turning from its masters into victims. That is why absolute power over fire for people is associated with the intervention and assistance of the gods. Fire worship of the Slavs has its own, different from other peoples, rituals and images.

For all peoples in the distant past, the deification of fire and light, along with other natural phenomena, is a generally recognized fact. Among the Eastern Slavs, for example, many rituals were dedicated to Perun - the god of thunder and lightning or heavenly fire. The birth of Perun was marked by a powerful earthquake. In their rituals, the Slavs also honored the sun - God Yarilo, who was also personified on earth by fire.

The forerunners of fireworks were fiery and light shows. The simplest and earliest in origin was a brightly burning bonfire, lit by the people at the places of festivities on Christmastide, New Years, Shrovetide and other holidays. These festive bonfires, in turn, preserved the memory of the most ancient rituals of folk worship.

Ritual bonfire of the ancient Slavs (reconstruction)

The celebration by the Slavs of their most revered gods was associated with the alternation of the seasons, the observation of changes in nature. The most ancient rituals among farmers associated with the cult of the sun coincided with the main periods of labor activity - preparation for agricultural work, spring sowing, ripening and harvesting; they reflected in a figurative poetic form the connection between the creative labor of man and the creative forces of nature.

Later, under the dominance of the ideology of the Christian Church, they underwent significant changes or completely lost their former character. The festive bonfires mentioned earlier testify to the remnants and transformation of the most common folk rituals in ancient times.

Reconstruction of the pre-Christian tradition of the festive festivities of the Slavs

In the initial period of the Russian centralized state, many holidays, including those established by the church, still largely retained the ritualism of the pre-Christian folk cult.

In this regard, the most indicative is the holiday of the Nativity of John the Baptist, with the onset of which the people celebrated their traditional rituals (games) dedicated to the celebration of Ivan Kupala - the "god of abundance", with whose name the farmers pinned their hopes for a good harvest. The participants of the "merrymaking", decorated with wreaths and green branches, danced around the lighted bonfires.

Reconstruction of the pre-Christian tradition of the festive festivities of the Slavs

Gradually losing their cult significance, festive bonfires have become entrenched in folk life for a long time and over time they began to serve only as the usual fiery-light, decorative design of folk festivals. In this sense, they still exist in some regions of our country.

However, in the folk life there were also "fiery fun", which was arranged with the use of a plow. Plown, or lycopodium, is an evergreen herbaceous plant that looks like moss, creeping along the ground. This plant in various regions of our country has the names: dust, dust, sackcloth, mistletoe, puff, flock. The mature, dry spores of this plant give an instant lightning flash without smoke when ignited. Due to its qualities, the plounder was not so long ago used in some industries, including pyrotechnics.In the distant past, it served as a convenient and cheap material for organizing fiery and light spectacles by the people.


Of course, folk festive "bacchanalia" took place not only in Russia, but also in the everyday life of other peoples. However, it is curious that the foreigners who watched the "fiery fun" arranged during the Christmas, oil and other holidays with the aforementioned pipes and a lauren, called them "special fireworks".

In the 16th-17th centuries, more spectacular fire and light shows were staged by the Russian clergy in connection with the theatrical rites of church worship. They were supposed to clearly explain to the people the content of church dogmas, contribute to the disappearance of the remnants of the folk cult in their everyday life. In some theatrical church rituals, especially in the "actions", significant fire and light effects were arranged.

Three youths in a fiery cave

The Church has always given fire and light a symbolic or allegorical interpretation. Even the writers of the ancient Christian church constantly called God and Christ in their writings with the words: ignis (fire), lutep (light), etc. In particular, the Russian Church has maintained for several centuries that the external expression of "divine poly" is "sacred fire", i.e. an image that was then close to the people by the survivals of the folk cult preserved in their minds and everyday life. The theological and mystical meaning of the “sacred fire” is emphasized even in the official church documents of the 17th century.

In Slavic mythology, with a simplified everyday understanding of the symbolic meaning of fire, there is a deeper one associated with absolute truth. A well-known fairy tale story about how the main character is tested with boiling water (interpretation in the fairy tale "The Little Humpbacked Horse"), which combines the nature of fire and the nature of water. Such water rejuvenates a truthful, righteous person, and evil is simply boiled in it. Truth is the choice between life and death. Therefore, fire is also associated with truth, which, as it were, overcomes the conflict between "to be" and "not to be."


The ancient Slavs believed that a just cause is always associated with fire. (This is probably where the origin of the word "sincerity" should be.)

Today's fire worshipers carry us from history to the present. Every year there are more and more of them. They create fiery theaters, recreate ancient "acts" and play new mysteries with living fire (it is these modern reconstructions that are shown in the figures above). There is a real explanation for this, and it lies in the historical roots of Slavic paganism.

The mystery of fire in a mass ritual is to fit all the metaphors associated with it into a direct presentation of the fire itself. Ritual or theatrical performances with fire should bring to life the forgotten images on which all human culture rests.

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