Ancestor worship

Ancestor worship. The cult of the ancestors was a basic feature of the ancient pagan world view of the Ukrainian people. Every feast of the folk calendar commemorated the dead and was believed to serve a practical agricultural purpose. According to popular belief the clan (rid) was an indivisible whole, consisting of the living, the dead, and the unborn. Death was viewed as a departure or displacement in space, which did not sever the ties between the dead and the living. The ancestors participated in all the affairs and the agricultural work of the family. Commemorative meals or feasts were held at certain times of the year. The ancestors were invited to them and left at the end of the festive cycles. Every commemorative feast consisted of a summoning-invitational ritual, a greeting ritual, a communal ritual meal for the living and the dead, and a farewell ritual.

The most important family holiday in Ukraine, Christmas Eve, is closely connected with the clan cult and the commemoration of the dead. During the evening meal three spoons of each dish are placed in a special bowl for the departed relatives. The Epiphany Eve meal (holodna kutia) also has a commemorative function. In the spring the dead are remembered on Saint Theodore's day, the first Saturday of Lent. The main commemorative rite is the ‘sending-off’ (provody) of the dead, which is held on the Monday after Saint Thomas's Sunday. Various foods, colored eggs, liquor, and wine are brought to the graves of the ancestors. The dead are also commemorated on the eve and day of Pentecost. In the fall the dead are honored on three commemorative Saturdays: Saint Demetrius's, Saint Cosmas's, and Saint Michael's.

P. Odarchenko




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