Death of the Ural Mari and an expedition to the world of the future
Death of the Ural Mari and an expedition to the world of the future

Anthropologist Natalya Konradova went to the Ural Mari and drank with their dead: the village dead remain active family members even after death. But this is not just a pagan exoticism, the Mari just remember what we forgot just a couple of generations ago - but most likely they will remember very soon.

“My neighbor died, and I dreamed in a dream,” one Ural Mari woman told us. Ordinary wire. I think, "Lord, why did I dream about this?" I called her daughter, and she said: “Do you know, probably why? We poked flowers over the grave, and they are made of wire!” They removed the flowers and then saw her again in a dream, in a beautiful dress."

Since psychoanalysis explained dreams with our repressed desires and fears, it has not been customary to retell them to strangers. The Mari living in the Urals have a different attitude to dreams: it is an important channel of communication with the dead. After death, a person does not go into oblivion, but are in a state similar to half-life. He cannot be met in reality, but he can be seen in a dream - as long as he is remembered. From the dead, you can receive important information from the afterlife, for example, a warning about future troubles, illness and death. Although much more often they come to ask or complain for something.

Once upon a time, sleep and death were just as meaningful in other traditions, and not only among the Mari. But in the 16th century, Ivan the Terrible took Kazan and subjugated all the peoples living on the territory of the khanate. Some of the Mari fled from violent Christianization and from the Russian army and fled from the Volga to the east, to the Urals. Thanks to their escape, their traditional culture has been well preserved.

It is the 21st century, behind several waves of migration, colonization and globalization, and in the Mari villages they still see prophetic dreams and pass on food to the dead.

Whatever the modern urban man thinks about the afterlife, no matter how he tries to avoid it, he is unlikely to achieve the same harmony with death that the village culture preserves. Having recovered from the shock at the sight of the exotic rituals of feeding the dead and the stories of meeting them, he will begin to envy the villagers. They remember well that someday they will die. And they know exactly what awaits them after death.

Most of all, the Mari ideas about the world of the dead are similar to those described by the American science fiction writer Philip Dick in the novel "Ubik". "Barbarism," says his character Herbert, "Funeral is a stone age." Herbert runs the Beloved Brothers Moratorium. His business is to keep the bodies of those who have already died, but for some time continue their "half-life" and can get in touch with the living. In the world of "Ubik" different people have different half-lives, after which the "final rebirth" occurs. And if relatives are ready to pay a large sum for the opportunity to continue communicating with the dead at this time, they order the services of the Moratorium.

Philip Dick created one of the most powerful descriptions of death for a person in urban culture - how it looks from the inside, from the other world, and how fragile the boundaries between worlds can be. He was looking for, if not eternity, then the consolation, which sooner or later looks for any city man. And at the same time, surprisingly accurately recreated the attitude towards death that can still be found in traditional village culture. Especially if you get away from the authorities, industries and cultural centers.

The similarity between Mari dreams and 1960s science fiction is not so coincidental.During this time, a new generation of Americans realized that rational Western culture no longer answered questions about the meaning of death. In search of answers, California and after it all of America fell ill with the topic of the expansion of consciousness - whether it be LSD, esotericism, yoga, space exploration or computer networks. And she began to intensively explore the experience of other cultures that have not lost touch with tradition, and therefore with the dead. Those who, half a century ago, were called barbaric. Therefore, in particular, communication with the dead in the Moratorium is maintained through a symbiosis of technologies - not only electronics, but also telepathy, the prospects of which were seen equally bright in the late 1960s.

During the funeral, the Mari try to put all the essentials with them to the deceased, which cannot be done without in the next world. There are things that they put in, because this has been customary from time immemorial - for example, three threads of different colors to swing on a swing, three sticks to drive away snakes and other animals, a towel, a bag of money (“so that I don’t ask for a loan from who, without money, where? "), sometimes a bottle of vodka to give to their relatives who died earlier. And there are personal items, beloved, which a person uses all the time during life. One deceased, for example, lacked a hairbrush and curlers, so relatives had to take them to the grave. Of course, it was not about the curlers in general, but about those that she used. Because nothing new, bought in a store, cannot be transferred to the next world - the deceased will not be able to use these things. “You can't bury in new things,” they explained to us, “and if, nevertheless, a person does not have old clothes, then we cut new ones. They bought him, for example, trousers and cut him with scissors so that he would not die in new clothes. And if buried in new clothes, a person cannot wear them, she does not reach him. How many times in a dream people dreamed: “Galoshes are not mine, I go barefoot”.

The rules for wiring to the next world are quite strict, although not complicated. It is important to collect everything you need so that you do not have to transfer it again, make a window in the coffin so that the deceased does not complain, and also behave correctly. For example, neither during the funeral, nor immediately afterward, one should not cry, because then "they walk around very anxiously in the next world." So one woman complained in a dream to her neighbor that she was lying in the water, because the living were crying too much for her. And another deceased, on the contrary, never dreams of his widow, because her tear fell on his coffin during the funeral. You can't cry - the connection will be broken.

But the most important thing in the relationship of the Mari with their dead is food. To remember them is to feed them. And most of the complaints they report when they dream are about their hunger. And if a dead person walks around hungry in the next world, this is not only inhumane towards them, but can also threaten with minor troubles. One dead man demands food all the time - he ordered seven flatbreads for the widow, then sauerkraut, then mushrooms.

“Whatever he wants, then I bring him,” she told us, “If you don’t feed, you dream!”

Besides dreams, when the dead are fed on demand, there are special days of the year when all the villagers commemorate their dead. Firstly, it is Thursday during the "Mari Easter", in the spring, when the dead leave the cemetery to stay at home. In Mari, this holiday is called "kugeche" and has almost nothing to do with Christian Easter, although it falls on the same week. The dead, even the most dear ones, should not be allowed into the place where the living live, therefore on Thursday night, just before dawn, they are fed in the house, but outside the mat, the ceiling beam that separates the living room from the outbuildings. It is best to feed the dead in the entryway. They light candles, often homemade ones, crumble food, pour vodka and say "this is for you, Petya" - otherwise the treat will not reach the addressee. The dead often show themselves - if a candle or a lighted cigarette crackles cheerfully, then he likes it.“How many dead, for example, a grandmother's in the family, we had in the family - so many candles were put in the ashes. And then she begins to treat. Starts early. The oven stokes, pancakes, dyed testicles. He puts down the candles and lights, calls them by name and says: "Oh, before that, son Misha was delighted - he is on fire." Then they saw him off."

The food is then fed to pets: if the deceased has eaten, then it is no longer alive.

So they walk until the beginning of June, when Semik comes - parental day. On Semik, the dead are escorted to the cemetery, where they are fed goodbye again and asked not to return until next Easter. "After Easter until Semyk, as they say, the spirit of the dead is free."

Semik is already something familiar. This happens not only among the Mari, but also in Russian villages. And once it was everywhere, among the Slavs and Finno-Ugrians, but the tradition naturally goes away, it is almost gone. Today, many townspeople still go to the cemetery on Easter and on parental Saturday before Trinity. Sometimes they even put an egg on the grave, a piece of bread, put a shot of vodka. It is customary, grandmothers did it, and they would like to be done that too. That is, they would bring food and feed. What the townspeople, of course, hardly think about.

In the tradition - as it was described at the beginning of the 20th century by the ethnographer Dmitry Zelenin - Semik was intended not for all the dead, but only for those who died not by their own death, ahead of time. Such dead people lived out their "half-life" between the worlds and were especially dangerous - they could bring drought, flooding, loss of livestock and disease. Therefore, they had to be looked after in a special way - to feed them on special days, to bury them not in common cemeteries, but, for example, at road junctions, so that everyone passing by could throw an extra stone or branch on the grave. Otherwise, they got out of the ground and came to the village. Today, even in the Mari villages in the Urals, where the tradition is best preserved, those who died not by their own death are almost indistinguishable from ordinary deceased, and all relatives are fed on Semik. Be sure to sentence so that they leave and do not bother.

The Mari still have boundaries between this world and the other. It is not so easy to cross them, and if this happens, then something important has happened. There is no need to go to the cemetery once again - it opens only on the days of the funeral and to Semik. And most importantly, the dead, be they the most beloved and dear ones, cease to be themselves - they lose the properties of a human personality and become agents of the other world. The deceased characters of Philip Dick act in a similar way - with the only difference that they only get in touch when they call the living and no longer manifest themselves in their world. “We - those who are here - penetrate each other more and more, - the heroine of“Ubika”describes the transition from half-life to rebirth, that is, final death, - More and more of my dreams are not about me at all … I have never seen it in my life, and I do not do my own thing …"

All village life is permeated with rituals to protect this world from the world of the dead. During the funeral, “Easter,” and Semik the deceased are persuaded to go back, not to interfere with the living, in no case to help them. ““Don’t help the cattle look, we’ll see it ourselves!” Because they help in their own way, it turns out. On the contrary, they help,”- this is how the villagers explained it to us. Leaving the cemetery during the funeral, it is customary to burn the deceased's excess clothes and step over the smoke so that the deceased remains in place, and does not run after them back to the village. Leaving the gates of the cemetery, you need to subdue the local spirits so that they perform their security functions well.

Of course, we are not talking about zombies and other living dead from the movies. Nobody really sees the Mari deceased, but his presence can be detected by some signs. If you do not let him take a steam bath in time, he will overturn the basin. If you do not feed Semik or Semik on Easter, he, invisible, will come into the house and then small children will start crying. Everything that happens in this world, especially troubles, has its reasons in the other world.

To avoid these troubles, you need to feed the dead on time and fulfill their requests.

And all this applies only to the villagers. A village is not just a street with houses, a shop, a school or a club. This is a special space, within which its own laws and rules work. When entering or leaving a village, it is worth asking the spirits for protection.

Coming to the cemetery, feed its owner and a couple of subordinate spirits. It is better to be silent when crossing the river. On certain days of Easter, you cannot clean the house, on others, you must go to the bathhouse. There are quite a few of these rules, but they are valid only within the boundaries of the village. In general, they talk with spirits all the time, for which the Mari are often considered sorcerers. It does not matter with what words to pronounce the request: there are no special spells for small household magic. “We are linguistic, we pray with our tongues,” one Mari woman told us, explaining that we would not find ready-made texts.

The Mari who have moved to the city can come to Semik to the village cemetery, where their relatives are buried. But the dead will never pursue them in the city - their opportunities are limited to the village in which they died and were buried. They wear in the next world only what they wore during life, and visit only those places where they were before death. A city dweller may also dream about them, but they are unlikely to come to his apartment to throw basins or scare children. The connection between their body and their ghost is very strong, just like Philip Dick's - a conversation with the deceased is possible only on the territory of the Moratorium, where his frozen body lies.

Nobody really knows what is happening in the next world. The dead who come in dreams do not talk about this, but it is not customary to question them. Elder Mari sometimes promise to dream of relatives after their death and tell, but they never fulfill their promises. There are times when it is possible to look beyond. We have met such stories twice. One happened to a woman who fell into a coma for two weeks and ended up in the next world. There she communicated with the dead, who categorically forbade her to retell their conversations after returning to the living. The only thing they asked to be conveyed was that one should not be buried in a red dress. “Fabric with white and black thread that was weaved - only these dresses of the deceased can be worn. And red is not allowed, because then they will stand in front of the fire. They will burn. " This is what the woman said after she came out of the coma. But since then she also died, and we got this story in the retelling of her neighbor. Another case was that of a man who was about to commit suicide. And it was also retold by a man who took the rope off him and thereby saved him: “He came, he says, to the gate, and they threw needles at him there. If, they say, you manage to collect it within a certain time, we will let you go. And there another deceased, Vasily, helped, he says, to collect. And he made it. While I took him off the hinge, brought him back to his senses, he said he had a dream about it”.

Learning such stories, we were at first amazed at their exoticism. In our expeditions, each time we dug out more and more details of the afterlife, all new dreams and stories about the dead, who are always somewhere near the living - just call. It seemed to us that we had discovered a world in which everything that we read in the most fantastic and terrible fairy tales happens in reality. Not being Mari, we fought against fear not with conspiracies, but with jokes, but every time on the way back, leaving on the highway, we felt relief - the effect of the Mari other world does not apply here. This is how city dwellers behave, deciding to learn more about life and death in the countryside. Because if they themselves visit their relatives in cemeteries and crematoria, they simply bring flowers there.

But in general, the behavior of the surviving villagers is historically the norm rather than the exotic.And flowers in the cemetery are also a sacrifice to deceased ancestors, remnants of old cults, when the deceased had to be fed regularly and generally maintain good relations with him. The modernization of death began relatively recently, and for the time being we also curtain mirrors so that the dead do not enter the world of the living, and we see our deceased relatives in dreams. Although we are in no hurry to tell our neighbors about this, with whom we are often not familiar. The only difference is that the Mari did not forget the meaning of these actions, because for centuries they protected their culture and religion from strangers.

Urban mobility and anonymity are unlikely to ever fully return to old cults. And while everything goes to the fact that we will prefer the Philip Dick option, where new technologies defeat the old magic. In this sense, the memorial Facebook pages are the first messages from the future Moratorium.

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