Sunday 10 January 2016

Babji mlin - Grandmother's mill

Panjska končnica is the name used for the painted front panel of "kranji" beehives (Carniolan beehives).

This type of folk art, characteristic of Slovenia originally appeared in the Gorenjska and Slovenian Carinthia, and from there it spread to the entire territory of Slovenia. The oldest painted beehive panels date back to the middle of the 18th century and the last ones were painted just before the First World War. During this period, approximately 150 years, more than 50,000 of these painted beehive panels were made. The painting was usually done by self-taught naive painters who used mostly natural pigments and linseed oil, which made the colours more durable. There are more than 600 different known motifs which were painted on the beehive panels of which about half are religious.

One of the most interesting motifs found on the beehive panels is called "Babji mlin" meaning "Grandmother's mill". It depicts an old, ugly woman, being thrown into a grain mill by either a man or a devil. She comes out of the mill transformed into a beautiful young woman.

The history of this motif was explored by Niko Kuret in his work "Babji mlin, Prispevek k motiviki Slovenskih panjskih končnic". In it we can read that the earlier depiction of the "Babji mill" scene is the 1600 Dutch woodcut, depicting the scene taking place in a windmill. The copper engraving from Augsburg which dates to around 1630 and also depicts the scene in a windmill. In 1672 we have the first depiction of the "Babji mlin" in England in the book entitled "The merry Dutch miller and new invented windmill". The Munich museum has an engraving from 1800 depicting the "Babji mlin" scene entitled "The art of turning an old woman into a young one in a mill". There is also an engraving from Nürnberg dated to 1810 depicting the same scene and another engraving from 1810 from Berlin, which is the first known depiction of this scene taking place in the water mill. The color lithographs by Gustav Kühn from Neuruppin made around 1820-1830, in addition to rejuvenation of women also show the rejuvenation of men in a mill. This is also the period to which the oldest depictions of the "Babji mlin" from Slovenija were dated, the oldest being the one on a beehive panel currently kept in an ethnographic museum in Ljubljana, dated to 1861.

The "Babji mlin" motif is not only found depicted as a painting. It is also found in the form of dramatic performances, games, as part of carnival customs. The earliest surviving description of the "Babji mlin" dramatic performance is from the Cologne carnival from from 1850. The same scene was part of carnival procession in Swizerland until 1900, and in Brixlegg in Tirol the "Babji mill" was part of the carnival procession until 1862. The same tradition was recorded in Wipptal, Glurns, Innsbruck and many other parts of Switzerland. In the mid 19th century, "Babji mlin" was also described as being part of the carnival processions in many parts of lower Austria: Salzburg, Leibniz, Štajerska, Gradišće and Frohnleiten, a town in the district of Graz. In Slovenija "Babji mlin" was part of the carnival processions in many areas. Here is a depiction of the "Babji mlin" from Dobropolje, drawn based on the description of an eyewitness from the beginning of the 20th century.

This is a modern version of  the "Babji mlin" carnival scene from Radovljica Slovenija.

What is interesting is that there is actually a folk story about the magic mill which would "turn old women into young and grind (destroy) the evil ones". The same type of story was recorded in Slovenija, Germany, Austria, Switzerland and Czech republic.

I believe that the story depicting the "Babji mlin" scene existed first. The story was then enacted as part of the carnival and it was then depicted as a "curio" on engravings and paintings. But what does this strange scene represent?

As I said already in my posts "Baba - earthen bread oven", in Serbian and other Slavic languages, the word "baba" means baby, mother, grandmother, midwife, birth demon and eventually great goddess, Mother earth the mother of all of us.

I believe that the "Babji mlin" is a depiction of a transformation of the ugly, barren, cold, old hag (winter earth) into a beautiful, fertile, hot, young woman (summer earth). This transformation, the end of winter and beginning of summer according to the old Celtic and Serbian calendar, happens on the St George's day, the day of Jarilo, Beltane, which falls on the 6th of May. I wrote about the significance of this date in my post about the Beltany stone circle. The celebration of the first day of summer was in Christianity replaced with Easter which falls right after the carnival during which the old woman is transformed into a young one in "Babji mlin". The carnival falls into the period just before the first crops are about to arrive. This is the time when the last winter reserves are being eaten and it is an imperative that the earth is rejuvenated, married, impregnated and that she starts giving birth to crops. So when the mother Earth is transformed into a fertile young earth in the the Babji mlin,  it is married to a young sun, Jarilo. This is the sacred marriage between the sun and earth which produces all life and is enacted during carnivals in Serbia and Croatia as the scene knows as "Baba i Djedi" (Grandmother and Grandfathers). 

Baba (Grandmother) and Djedovi (Grandfathers) Dalmatinska zagora mid 20th Century

Baba (Grandmother) and Djedovi (Grandfathers) Serbia mid 20th Century

But why is the regeneration of Baba, Mother Goddess, Mother Earth taking place in the mill?

In Serbia a mill is considered to be a magic place. Mill is said to have been invented by the devil himself. The devil is also believed to be permanently present in mills and that he sometimes takes shape of a miller. During famines and hungry days, like carnival, it is believed that the devils and vampires and ghosts (spirits of ancestors) congregate around mills and granaries. So as a seat of the devil (old god Dabog, the giving god, The Sky Father), a mill is an ideal place to rejuvenate Mother Earth and make her young and beautiful again. In Serbia there is a belief that rainbow draws its water and its beauty from the pool beneath the water mill wheel. The water which drips from the water mill wheel and the water from the pool below the water mill wheel is believed to have special properties. Girls wash themselves in this water which is called "omaja, omaha" because it is believed that it will make them beautiful and irresistible to men. Young people bath in the pool next to the water mill wheel on St George's day, Jarilo's day, the first day of Summer, the day when winter turns into summer, to gain health, fertility and beauty. If a woman can't have children, she goes to the water mill with her husband, he grabs some water from the pool below water mill wheel with rakes, and gives it to her to drink it. It is believed that this will make woman fertile. 

So mill is in South Slavic folklore considered to be the place which contains special powers particularly when it comes to rejuvenating and ensuring fertility. So there is no wander that the mill was chosen as the place where the scene of the the rejuvenation of the Mother Earth takes place. But there is another reason why the rejuvenation scene takes place in a mill. Mill is the place where grain is turned into flour. It is therefore directly linked with the grain fertility magic, and the Mother Earth is in agricultural societies directly linked to grain and bread. She is the Mother of Grain, the Spirit of Grain and the grain and ultimately bread itself.

This link is preserved in Slavic traditions and languages.

bа̏bičiti - to make, to tie grain sheaves
baba - sheaf of grain, wheat

To me a sheaf of wheat even looks like a woman. And if we know that in South Slavic languages baba is a fertile woman, a woman who had children, a mother then there is no wonder why a sheaf full of grain is called baba.

Czech: baba - last sheaf brought from the field
Lower Lusatian: baba - sheafs of linnen
Slovenian: babica - stack of sheafs left on the field
Russian: babka - stack of sheafs, sheaf
Bulgarian: babka - stack of 5,10,15 sheafs
Croatian: baba - top most sheaf on the sheaf stack

In Slovenija in the old times, during the harvest all the neighbors helped each other. First the reapers would come to the field and would begin to reap. The first sheaf of wheat was always raised to the sky, which is a remnant of the old sacrificial ritual of thanksgiving. The last sheaf, called baba, was believed to be the residence of the grain spirit. After the harvest this grain spirit had to be killed. The grain spirit was killed by hitting the baba sheaf with a hand. Men would then load the sheaves on to the cart. The ears of grain left on the field were considered to be sacrificial offerings to the grain spirit.

Harvested grain was then dried on hay-racks called kozolec meaning goat. Sometimes a carved image of a goat made of wood, called God's goat, was affixed on the front of the  hay-rack. Bundles of wheat were hanged on its horns, and were left there until the new harvest. It was believed that such decorated hay-rack would not be struck by lightning. A goat was in fact an animal dedicated to Perun, Slavic god of thunder and lightning.

The last cart was usually loaded higher at the back and lower in front. A tall straw doll called Baba was placed with rakes at the rear of the cart. The cart driver would cup with a whip and cry out: "We brought the baba, give us drink for her."

I will talk more about the significance of the last sheaf in European tradition in one of my next posts. But it is important to note that in South Slavic languages the sheaf, the top sheaf, the last sheaf and the effigy, doll, made from the last harvested grain are all called baba.

I already wrote that baba is also the name for the traditional earthen bread ovenIt is baba (married woman, mother) that carries the baby in her belly (the bread oven). Baby (bread) needs to spend just right amount of time in the belly (oven) of the baba (mother, oven) in order to grow and develop properly. It is baba (mother in law, or any other older woman who has previous experience with birth, later professional midwife, bread making) that deliver the baby (bread). 

In Slavic countries baba is also name used for various ritual breads linked to ancestor worship. 

In Eastern Serbia baba is the name of the second smaller cake baked for Slava, the main ancestor celebration. Babica, Baburica is the cake baked for the soul of the deceased during Zadušnice, a ritual feast organized for the dead ancestors. In some parts of Serbia baba is a cake baked for Christmas, the day dedicated to the father Sun. In some other parts of Serbia baba is any ritual cake (bread)....In Czech republic baba, bapka is "a type of pastry", in Poland baba, babka (Baba wielkanocna), babica is "ritual pastry, round small bread", in Ukraine baba is also "ritual pastry". The fact that ritual breads are called baba shows direct link between the human and agricultural fertility magic and the ancestor worship, in which Mother Earth is the Great mother, Great Goddess, Baba. 

So far we have seen that in Slavic countries baba is the name used for sheaf of wheat, for bread oven and for ritual breads. Baba is also the name used for great goddess, Great Mother, Mother Eearth. Mother Earth who gives birth to wheat, year after year after year. But even Mother earth can get barren and infertile after years of giving birth to harvest after harvest after harvest. Just like an old woman who has given birth to many children eventually becomes exhausted, infertile and barren.

But there are two ways in which an old exhausted barren land can be rejuvenated, made young and fertile again: by water and fire. 

Floods bring and deposit nutrients which have been depleted by crops. Regular yearly floods ensure that the Mother Earth is rejuvenated every year and is fertile and fruitful as if she was a virgin land. It is no wonder then that it was in the alluvial and flood plains that grain agriculture developed and flourished in the early Neolithic times. The soil is sandy and therefore easy to work, it is rich and gives high yields, and it is regularly enriched with new flood deposits preventing soil depletion, which was the main problem for early farmers. I wrote about this in my post about Blagotin archaeological site. 

The vegetation burning is the other way to return the nutrients drawn out by the plants into the soil. By regularly burning of the plants in the autumn returns the nutrients back into the soil and makes it rich again. 

What is interesting is that the "Babji mlin", the scene in which an old woman is thrown into a mill only to emerge as a young woman on the other side, is not the only depiction of the rejuvenation scene. There are, according to Niko Kuret, two more depictions of the rejuvenation scene. In the first an old woman walks into a well only to emerge as a young girl on the other side. Is this a depiction of the floods rejuvenating Mother Earth? In the second, an old woman walks into a forge or an oven only to walk out as a young girl. Is this a depiction of the fire rejuvenating Mother Earth? 

So I believe that here we have discovered something very interesting. I believe that the the scene called "Babji mlin" is a remnant of the ancient fertility ritual related to the annual rejuvenation of the Mother Earth, Great Goddess. Every 4th of February, at the beginning of spring, she is transformed from the old, ugly, cold, barren winter Earth into the young, beautiful, hot, fertile Spring Earth. This transformation happens under the influence of her husband, Father Sky, Great God to whom she is then married on the 6th of May, at the beginning of summer. 

What do you think? 

Friday 1 January 2016

Partholon and the great flood

Storm Frank causing havoc across the country

This is a headline form one of the Irish newspapers. Storm Frank is the sixth to hit Ireland since the start of the winter. Huge areas or arable land are under water an so are thousands of houses in towns close to coast, rivers and lakes. These are just some of the images that show the extent of devastation caused by the cumulative effect of this winter's bad weather.

I feel so sorry for all the poor people who are currently being literally flooded out of their houses. And this is not the first year that Ireland has been experiencing such bad weather. I think that this is now third or fourth winter in a row that Ireland has been battered by storms and if it continues like this, a lot of areas in Ireland will become unsuitable for human habitation and will have to be evacuated. And there is very little anyone can do....

Looking at the above images reminded me of something I read in the old Irish annals. 

The old Irish annals tell us that the first race that lived in Ireland were Fomorians. Then the flood came. Then, after the flood, came the people of Partholón. 

In the "Annals of four masters" we find these comments regarding the life of Partholon and his people in Ireland:

From the Deluge until Parthalon took possession of Ireland 278 years....

The age of the world, 2520 (2680 BC) Parthalon came into Ireland

The Age of the World, 2545 (2655 BC) Rudhruidhe, son of Parthalon, was drowned in Loch Rudhruidhe, the lake having flowed over him; and from him the lake is called.

The Age of the World, 2546 (2654 BC) An inundation of the sea over the land at Brena in this year, which was the seventh lake eruption that occurred in the time of Parthalon; and this is named Loch Cuan.

The Age of the World, 2820 (2380 BC) Nine thousand of Parthalon's people died in one week on Sean Mhagh Ealta Edair, namely, five thousand men, and four thousand women. Whence is named Taimhleacht Muintire Parthaloin. They had passed three hundred years in Ireland. Ireland was thirty years waste till Nemed's arrival.

The Age of the World, 2850 (2350 BC) Nemed came to Ireland.

Seathrún Céitinn's Foras Feasa ar Érinn says that Patholon arrived to Ireland in 2061 BC, Annals of Four Masters says that they arrived at 2680 BC. So basically Partholon arrived sometimes in the second half of the 3rd millennium. 

It seems that Partholon and his people also perished in another flood 300 years after they arrived to Ireland which was 300 (278) years after the great flood. Maybe this second flood was another local weather event, like what we are seeing this winter in Ireland. But maybe the above descriptions are actually describing "the flood" and the dates and names got somehow mixed up in some of the Irish annals over the millenniums. I believe that the later could be the case considering that the two Irish annals that talk about the arrival of Partholon give drastically different arrival dates. Seathrún Céitinn's Foras Feasa ar Érinn says that Patholon arrived to Ireland in 2061 BC, Annals of Four Masters says that they arrived at 2680 BC. But also because we actually know when the "great flood" actually did hit Ireland. 

In the book "The Secrets of the Irish Landscape" we read that according to the dendrochronological research done in Ireland on Irish bog Oaks in the Lough Neagh area, during the period between 2354 BC and 2345 BC the oaks completely stopped growing and showed bark changes which indicate that they were submerged in water. 

It seems that it started to rain and it didn't stop for 10 years. This probably caused complete collapse of agriculture and famine. And the end of what ever culture existed in Ireland at the time. It is very interesting that the date of this catastrophic weather event falls, according to the Annals or Four Masters, right after the date of the demise of Partholon's people and the date of the arrival of Neimhid. So was this "a flood" or "the flood"?

Believe or not, the Ussher chronology, a chronology of the history of the world, which was written by James Ussher, the Archbishop of Armagh (Church of Ireland) in the 17th-centurygives in its list of dates2348 BC as the date for the biblical flood. This date falls right in the middle of the above major weather event. Ussher claimed that he determined the date of the flood from a literal reading of the Bible. But did he actually use Irish annals instead? And if so did he mistook a local Irish flood for the "biblical" global flood? Is there another record of a great flood that happened around 2348 BC? Well there is actually. 

Ancient Chinese records recorded a "great flood" which occurred at exactly the same time. They say that during the reign of the First Emperor, Yao, who came to the throne in 2357 BC,  there were "huge floods that overtopped the mountains".

The floods started in the 12th year of his reign (2346 BC) and lasted for 9 years. This corresponds almost exactly with the actual dendrochronological records from Ireland.

Now let me make something clear here. One of my friends said in his comment on my article: "there have been innumerable local 'floods' throughout history and pre-history, of course, and they would seem global to those being flooded- but a global flood is a scientifically impossible event. There is simply not enough water on Earth for such a thing to occur, and there never has been."

I actually agree with this. The problem is in what people understand when they read "global flood". The flood can be global if there is a global weather event which causes intensive long term rain which inundates the rivers and lakes. Both Irish, and Chinese sources talk about huge local floods, not global submersion. And for Ireland we actually have dendrochronological records that prove that this actually happened during the period 2354 - 2345 BC. Biblical flood could have been just the description of the same thing in the near east. The weather event was global, and we have proof of this from around the world and we have the records of this event with dating from the Irish and the Chinese annals which correspond to the actual dendrochronological records. So it is possible to have a global weather event which can cause large local floods globally. 

This event was probably caused by the fragmented asteroid or comet impact, which caused a kind of "nuclear winter" which lasted for 9 years. It also caused the emergence of the belief in the stone sky, firmament. I will talk about the belief in the stone sky in one of my next posts.

Anyway back to Irish floods.


What happened exactly in Ireland around the time of the great flood? 

Well there are two possible scenarios. 

The first scenario is that Partholon and his people did arrive to Ireland in 2680 BC as the Annals of Four Masters says. They spent 300 years in Ireland and perished during the great flood (2354 - 2345 BC). Well maybe not all of them perrished. The Irish annals say that after the people of Partholon died out, Ireland "thirty years waste" until Nemed arrived with his people. Nemed was said to have been the descendant of Tait, Partholon's brother. If the people of Partholon were skilled sailors, miners, metalworkers and traders, they probably kept contact with their old country, probably even regular trade contacts. So maybe when Ireland was devastated during the flood, the refugees from Ireland went back down south, maybe back to Montenegro, or even further back to Pontic region. 

The second scenario is that Partholon and Nemed arrived together, but not in 2680 BC as the Annals of Four Masters says, but in 2061 BC as Seathrún Céitinn's Foras Feasa ar Érinn says. This would then fit the first entry about Partholon: "From the Deluge until Parthalon took possession of Ireland 278 years...."

If "the flood" was in the period 2354 - 2345 BC, then 278 (300) years after "the deluge" is 2076 BC (2054 BC) -  2067 BC (2046 BC) . The date that the Seathrún Céitinn's Foras Feasa ar Érinn gives as the date when Patholon arrived to Ireland, 2061 BC, falls right into this interval. This is very interesting. 

Both scenarios correspond well with the dates of the Montenegrian tumuluses containing the golden cross discs (3000 - 2700 BC) and with the dates of the golden cross discs found in Ireland (2500 - 2200 BC).

So did Partholon arrive to Ireland before or after the great flood? What do you think? The thing is this is not even the most important thing. The most the important thing here is that the Irish annals preserved the date of this flood pretty accurately for almost four and a half thousand years...Think about it. 3500 years of oral history only recorded 1000 years ago...Not myth, history...How many other examples of this do we have around? 

I will talk more about this in my future posts. 

In the meantime I want to recommend the book "Climate Development and History of the North Atlantic Realm" by Gerold Wefer in which he explores these climate events and their causes. It is a very interesting read.