Masguda I. Shamsutdinova's site


The Genesis of Kazan

An old Mordovian poem “The Foundation of Kazan” translated in Finnish by Otto Manninen and in English by Andrew Bentley. The poem tells the story how the city of Kazan was founded with help of human sacrifices. Finally the individual Marja is sacrificed for the for the society. This poem goes back to Finno-Urgian roots to the heathenistic festivities and habits. Magical practice and rituals including sacrifices. According to these rituals the founding of a new community could only start by calling up favorable spirits of gods. This is done by drums and by spoken words of peculiar nature and rhythm. These words do not follow any poetical patterns. They even do not have any linguistic form – they represent the feeling of the calling up situation. They send the magic man, shaman to a trip to the trance in which he gets the answers how to build the foundlings of Kazan.

Off to dance went Marja dainty,
Charming Marja with her comrades;
The girlfriends found a way to tell her,
Laid bear the truth to hapless Marja:
“You most-loved father, Marja fair one,
Has pledged you to the walls of Kazan.
Your father- fosterer, Marja dear one,
Has yielded you to the foot of Kazan.”
Marja left to hurry home wards,
Entered the dwelling, crossed the threshold.
There lay the breadwinner tightly sleeping,
Father-guardian, sleeping soundly.
Marja sat down at his forehead,
Bent and whispered, speaking closely:
“What sweet dream has overcome you?
What deep slumber so contains you?
Drive away your dream? Oh father,
Shake off your sleep, oh father dearest,
For I have seen a dream most horrid,
A vision foul, a nightmare wicked,
That I was pledged to the walls of Kazan,
Borne to lie at the foot of Kazan!”
“Patience, child, while I explain it;
Patience, Marja, while I tell you.
The village elders held their meeting –
Called me in to talk things over.
First with sweet red wine they plied me:
All my common sense it fled me:
All my wisdom it too left me.
I did pledge you, my child Marja,
Promised you indeed to Kazan.
“Since you promised, father-cherisher,
Your own child, oh father-guardian,
Let the ground give way beneath you,
Drown you, swallow you for ever!
Let the heavens open on you,
Drop a hail of stone upon you!”
Marja’s mother, matron-guardian,
Marja’s bearer, begetter, spoke thus:
“Be now patient while I heat water,
Prepare a bath for my child Marja:
I intend to wash my daughter.
I will also cook sweet porridge,
Serve it, feet my Marja with it:
Marja’s heart I will thus strengthen.”
The bath she heated, mother-guardian,
Warmed the water, bathed her in it,
Bleached her white as finest millet
‘till she shone like choicest corn seed.
“Bringst thou not your daughter, Sjomai?
Usher forth the fair one – Marja!”
“Fathers of village, forebears:
Governors of the village, guardians;
Today has been my day for bathing,
Tomorrow I have spared for eating!”
From the milk of her own bosom,
From its golden creamy substance
Fairest Marja’s gentle mother
Cooked a tasty porridge, and so
Strengthened Marja’s poor heart with it.
To her bed she led her daughter,
Brought for her a downy pillow,
Laid a soft white blanket o’er her,
Covered her with dappled furskins,
Marja closed her heavy eyelids;
Sleep come soon o’er fairest Marja.
“Patience, child, though I too pledge you;
Patience, child, while I deliver you,
Offer my own to the walls o Kazan!
Let Kazan take your beauty:
Yours shall be this town’s fair likeness!”
Beneath the walls they bore fair Marja,
Dug the trench they carved a grave-pit
Where they shut in precious Marja.
These the words which last she uttered,
Which with parting breath she muttered:
“Worms may eat my living father,
Maggots eat my living mother!
No atonement, no-blood money
Must change hands for seven years hence
From this the day of my sad leaving,
This the day of death, of burial.”