Friday, April 6, 2012

Oral tradition. Folk Stories Geneis and Finding Sacred Art

 I wrote before that during middle Ages some ideas took lives on their own (proto- sciences). Today I will talk about folklore.

There is folk current in European Christianity, for example the  folk Catholicism. Secular or pagan  stories which were liked were appropriated, so, the Christian/religious current and the pagan/secular one created very interesting stream.

One  story is form Ukraine, and Belarus,( if I am right), and it is about a bird: the raven. It tells that "the raven’s plumage was very colorful as a rainbow, and even was radiating rays. Raven was a true bird of Paradise." When the paradise was no more, the land become barren, and the raven become black. But his plumage will be back in its full glory the moment the Paradise is back on Earth. Medieval art represented Paradise as radiant and colorful, cathedrals and basilicas were earthly representations of ideal of Paradise.

Other legends relate to concrete objects,  art which were found and installed in local churches and enjoyed special devotion. Typical motive: the sculpture, for ex. a Black Madonna, or an  icon was lost during turmoil, than was found in a miraculous way. Or even appeared in a miraculous way from the beginning, without being lost. The finders were the animals, such as cattle, or an owl, or a sheep. It appears to me that the animals are the most frequent finders of religious art, but I am not a folklorist, and those are just my original studies. My formal studies in this subject are limited, were part of my anthropology class, and dealt with the subject of art objects which were subject of veneration in Catholicism, and especially those relating to healing. I don't claim special knowledge here, (reading and listening stories passed as part of living oral tradition).

Sometimes instead of the animals young children are the finders.find the art taken then to the local church, or a blind woman. The story about the blind woman whose blindness was healed when she stood in the river and the crucifix was floating on the water, the Jesus on the crucifix talked to her and she was healed. It relates to one small village in Poznan region, Poland. This particular story has variants, including the treasure which was dug up by the oxen. The finders are somehow innocent, or under-priviledged. Those stories represent the idea that the divine is very accessible, and approachable through intuition, no special intellectual training is needed.

But lets go back to the story about the blind women. When the women was told by Jesus on the crucifix he wanted to stay at the local church (common motive, the holy one depicted decides on location where he/she wants to stay). The crucifix was pulled out of the river and put on a cart which was supposed to be pulled by oxen. But the load became so heavy, the oxen couldn't pull the cart even a a single step forward. They just were stepping in place. They tried and tried, but couldn't move, were just digging deeper and deeper into the soil. And this is how the oxen dug up the chest with golden treasure, from which the money was spend for renovation of the church. The chest is still exhibited in the church; the crucifix itself is in Gothic style, dated by art historians as created during early 15 c. The church itself became a local pilgrimage site. The crucifix was moved to other churches, richer and more impressive.The crucifix appeared in a miraculous way back in its humble church which was chosen at the beginning. This is also common: the artifact wants to stay in one and only place. But always I didn't visit this place, I didn't see the crucifix and the chest, but I listen to the story told by very old people. Maybe one day, I will visit this place too.