What is the meaning of the word dvoeverie, and how is it significant in Russian folk culture? What are examples of the phenomenon? How does one conduct a psychoanalytic analysis of the tale “The...

What is the meaning of the word dvoeverie, and how is it significant in Russian folk culture? What are examples of the phenomenon? How does one conduct a psychoanalytic analysis of the tale “The Feather of Finist, the Bright Falcon," collected by Alexander Afanasyev, using Bettelheim, particularly his discussions of “Sleeping Beauty”-type tales and animal spouse tales? How does the Russian tale differ from what Bettelheim describes?

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Tamara K. H. | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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The term dvoeverie translates to "double-belief," or "dual faith" (Encyclopedia of Russian Histry, "Dvoeverie"). In the 1860s, historians began using the term to describe Christian communities' continuation of pagan beliefs and rituals. Such continuation can particularly be seen in Slavic cultures, such as Russian culture. The reason why pagan culture became preserved within the Christian religion in Slavic countries like Russia is because, in the middle ages, such as between the 7th and 12th centuries, Christianity was seen as being practiced only by the nobility in the most prosperous cities, like Moscow. However, even the peasants wanted to embrace the ideas of salvation, baptism, masses, and new Christian holidays. Nonetheless, while "Christianity may have offered a hope of salvation, and of blissful afterlife in the next world, but for survival in this world, for yearly harvest and protection of cattle, the old religious system with its fertility rites, its protective deities, and its household spirits was taken to be necessary"; therefore, Slavic peasants, like Russian peasants, began practicing a religion that mixed both pagan and Christian elements ("Slavic Mythology").

In Russian folk tales like "The Feather of Finist, the Bright Falcon," we can see dvoeverie being portrayed in both the Christian ideals and the reliance of magic. The tale celebrates Christian virtues such as the modesty exhibited by Maryushka, the respect she pays to her father, her honesty, and her unconditional love. The celebration of Christian virtues, like self-sacrifice and unconditional love, can particularly be seen in Finist's final speech; he also degrades antithetical values, like falsehoods and trickory: "Which do you think is real love, the one that is unconditional or the one the that is based on deception and lies?"

But along side the celebration of Christian virtues, Maryushka also uses magic to catch herself a husband showing us that pagan magic was still valued in Russian peasant culture as a means of acquiring the necessaries of life, such as harvests and husbands. Examples of pagan magic we encounter are Maryushka throwing down the feather of Finist the Bright Falcon to turn it into a handsome man, Baba Yaga giving Maryushka a silver plate and egg to help her on her journey in finding Finest, Baba Yaga's sisters likewise giving Maryushka gifts to take on her journey, and a talking wolf appearing to offer to carry Maryushka to the far away kingdom. All of these magical elements assisted Maryushka in finding and winning her husband in some way, showing us how important pagan magic was to Russian peasants alongside Christian virtues.

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