Masguda I. Shamsutdinova's site


Who Brings Spring...

Growing and developing a child counts as one of the basic and most important parts of life in our Tatar society. The whole community bears responsibility for its future members. A woman in pregnancy is surrounded by a caring community. She is protected from the stresses of life, and all her wishes are granted. By the old beliefs, a pregnant woman must look only at beautiful things, and shouldn't see any ugliness. She is not allowed to yell at someone or to participate in funerals.

The first 40 days after birth are considered the most dangerous for a woman and her child. It is believed that in those 40 days, the soul takes root in a baby. Evil is surrounding the baby always, waiting for a moment to cause harm. You can't leave a child alone because evil spirits can replace a child with their own, stealing the human child, taking him to their own world, and leaving the changeling to spread evil in human society.

According to the beliefs of our nation, the name given to a child is very important to his future and destiny. His character depends on it. The name is a talisman. Many names come from ancient times and are connected with the Sun, the Moon, the Earth, and nature.

Celebrations like the festivals of the belly button or navel, of the cradle, of namegiving, the festivals of the first hair, of the first tooth, of the first step are not only rituals but also have a rational base - they connect a family to the whole community and allows the community to be informed of the child's progress and development.

Until a certain age, a child is considered innocent. Children do some of the magic rituals that would bring people closer to nature. These rituals were a very important part of community life. Rituals such as Welcoming the Spring, Crows' Wedding, Inviting the Sun, Inviting the Rain, Cuckoo Tea Party, Spring and Fall equinox were followed by traditional games, magic rituals, imitating birds' habits, and singing.

I was born in Tatar village, so I was a participant of such festivities. Here is my brief description of “ The Spring Sun” festival. In March, after the long, cold, and snowy winter, the rooks were the first birds that flew into our Tatar village. When I was a kid, I believed that rooks brought the spring on their wings.

Rook is the most abundant Eurasian bird of the crow family. It resembles the carrion crow in size and in black color, but the adult rook usually has shaggy feathers and has bare white skin at the base of its sharp bill. The species ranges discontinuously from England to Iran and Manchuria and is migratory ( Britannica.)

In the morning we gathered every kind of food by knocking on the doors of the villagers. Meanwhile, the boys went out from the village to find a special place for the rook festival. After that we met at the special place to prepare the “Karga Botkaso” or “Rook Porridge.” The boys, under the supervision of our grandparents, set fire to a great pile of logs. We put the food – honey, meat, tea, salt, milk, and so forth into a cauldron and stirred it up. We jumped over the bonfire. We danced, sang and imitated nature surrounding us. After different games, the cauldron was hung up over the red coals. Finally, the “Rook Porridge” was ready. But nobody ate this Kasha because it was not tasty. This Kasha would be given out to the rooks.Our parents never explained to us how to prepare tasty Botka at the “Spring Sun Festival.” Later I understood, that the porridge was prepared not for us, but for rooks who brought the spring on their wings.

December, 2004