Page:The Folk-Lore Journal Volume 7 1889.djvu/93

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85
OF THE MORDVINS.

Since the spread of Christianity, however, he has begun to inquire of Russian priests on what day the feast of this or that saint is celebrated. On this account Mordvin feast-days are now partly held at the same time as the Russians hold theirs ; and the native divinities are getting confused with the saints of the orthodox Church. But the nature and character of each particular god determines the season of year in which he is fêted. Nowadays the pryavt generally fixes on the Friday (see note, § 1) after the day of the saint who has been equated with a Mordvin divinity. For Friday was the holy day of the heathen Mordvins.

Nicholas the Wonder-worker, one of the most important Russian saints, has been imported into the number of the Ersa and Teryukhans under the name of Nikola Pas. He is fêted on May 9 and December 6 (the feast-days of the Wonder-worker) with special offerings, and has taken the place of Ved mastir Pas in spring, and of Nasorom Pas in winter.

On January 1 (o.s.) the Russians of northern and eastern Russia hold the festival of Basil the Great. He is regarded as the patron saint of swine, and pork is accordingly eaten on that day. On the same day the Mordvins keep the festival of Taun ozais (pig ozais), the protector of swine, who is now called Velki Vasyai (Great Basil) in their prayers.

On January 28, Efrem Sirin's day, and on March 1, the day of Kosman and Damyan, it is customary with the Russians "to invite the guardian spirit of the house" by leaving groats for him on the stove. On those days the Mordvins also pray and make offerings at home, in January to Yurtava ozais, in March to Karda Syarko ozais, the divinities of the homestead (yurt) and of the farm land. In praying to the latter the Ersa also mention Kusma Damyan. Their offering of a hen to the divinity of the homestead reminds one of the Russian popular belief, that hens are sacred to Kusma Damyan, and of the custom of placing a roast hen on the table on their day.

On April 3, Nikita the Confessor's day, Russian fishermen sometimes kill a strange horse for the entertainment of the water-spirit.