Friday, October 29, 2010

Full or partial entries of my blogs may be found at LatviansOnline + Forum Home + Open Forum – The 4th Awakening. If you copy this blog for your files, or copy to forward, or otherwise mention its content, please credit the author,, or

I suggest you look at the links imbedded in these blogs or at the end of the blog as an integral part of my argument.
The 4th Awakening

8 What Happened to Great-grandfather John?
The energy unleashed by the Herrnhuters among their Latvian brethren took time to consolidate itself, but when the tsar, the barons, and the Lutheran priesthood repressed them, they chose to die, and by doing so took a leap into the future.

In the geographic space that had been under the influence of the Herrnhuters in the last half of the 18th and first half of the 19th centuries, there occurred something that was a surprise.

No longer able to sing their Johns Songs anytime they wished, and those they could sing limited to Johns Day Festival and not a day beyond (this is like your radio station silencing your favorite singer), the pa-Yans or pagans had an inspired idea. When disbanded and forbidden to meet for choir practice, the remnant—now ecumenicalized and kind of secularized for lack of better words to describe their fate—talked among themselves and said: Let us do them one better and organize the First Latvian Song Festival. This was the first proto-song-cum-festival of the future Latvians.

It was not yet the Great Song Festival that most everyone knows today, but its trial run. In 1864 the choirs from a large number of towns round about Dīkļi (Dihkli), not much more than sixty miles from the Estonian border, where the Herrnhuters also had been a strong a presence, gathered for peasant Sing-A-Ding. It was a post-Awakening Halle-luiah or Lihgo (luiah) Fest. It would be derelict not to mention that the lead song at Dihkli was the Lutheran hymn “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God” (Dievs kung ir mūsu stiprā pils).

The Mighty Fortress of the Lord God sat on the Herrnhuters hat, and there was nary a stalk of straw left.

The barons and their ministers had prevailed in their belief. Since this writer’s great-grandfather lived not far from Dikli, he probably attended the festival, too. Or did he? His inn, where he had held Herrnhuter meetings burnt down one day some years before. Family history has it, that his wife (my great-grandmother) was making candles over a hot kitchen stove and spilt some of the wax on the stove, whence the flames then caught in the flax stuffing the floor cracks in the ceiling above. When I was a child, I believed that story. Now that I have grown up, I conclude that my great-grandfather and great-grandmother were fools (re: making candles over a hot stove below strands of flax hanging down from the ceiling) or they invented an explanation that any grownup could figure out was a politically motivated fib.

Thus, while one branch of my family was in on building the foundations of the future Latvia, they as Herrnhuters were discovered by the barons and Lutheran church to be Trojan Horses in their midst, at the very least de facto if not de jure. In short, the pa-Yans (pagans, peasants) were taking the Hut (hat) of the Herrnhuters a little too much for their own. The failure to mention them as present at Dikli suggests that repression stood at the back door and joined in the singing of “A Mighty Fortress is Our God”.


After the inn burnt down and great-grandfather died, his younger wife is said to have fertilized the baron’s fields with cow dung as she stood at the back of a horse-drawn wagon and pitchfork it over the field. The peasants are said to have said (my free interpretation): “Lookie here, the wife of starasts (overseer) is herself now slinging shit.” Mercifully, my great-grandfather was dead by then and my grandfather not yet a school teacher, a choir director, or among the first of wealthy men in Latvia thanks to his managerial skills put to good use in turning out a newspaper.

My grandfather participated in the 1985 Song Festival event. He presented a short play called “Fog” (Migla) for which he won 2nd prize. The play was a “how to” work, meant to tell the countryside audience (his target audience) that if it wished to prosper, it should abstain from alcohol. The spirit of Herrnhutian common sense dominates the play, though there is no mention of any past association with it.

End of parenthesis.

In 1873, nine years after the Dikli festival, the Riga Latvian Society launched The Great (my emphasis) SongFestival. The authorities watched it closely for signs of rebellion. No such signs appeared and the event went off smoothly enough. The next festival followed in 1880. Because the tsar was assassinated in 1881, the Great Song Festival had to wait until 1888, for its 3rd edition. The 4th Great Song Festival happened in 1895. Thereafter it has been performed, if wars and pestilences did not prevent it, five years.

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Monday, October 25, 2010

Full or partial entries of my blogs may be found at LatviansOnline + Forum Home + Open Forum – The 4th Awakening. If you copy this blog for your files, or copy to forward, or otherwise mention its content, please credit the author,, or

I suggest you look at the links imbedded in these blogs or at the end of the blog as an integral part of my argument.
The 4th Awakening

7 Metamorphosis of the Trojan Horse
The ferocity with which some Latvians cling to their Trojan horses (no doubt because the history of Latvia in practice is no older than 150 years) is of some interest. I am referring to the massive state sponsored song festivals that for all these 150 years have stolen recognition from village choirs. It speaks volumes about the exposure to the risk and, unfortunately, loss of community spirit in Latvia.

The argument for state sponsored unity is that the shallows of the Baltic are filled with pools of amber and antique folk designs. All one needs do is take off one’s shoes, come wade, and stir up the sand.

Unfortunately, the shipwreck of arch-Christi-yanity which necessitates these fetishistic objects to wash to the surface lies buried deep below the sand. Neo-Christianized, that is to say, Lutheranitized spectrs of proto-Latvian Gods fill the space of museum walls.

In the days when there were only horses and oxen, and the blue sky contained only clouds, swallows, larks, storks, and ravens—in short, when only things that were marvels of life energy alone ruled—a country man or woman looked down the road and saw in the person coming toward them various possibilities of who it might be. One possibility was that the stranger was a God or Goddess. Then again, it might be the neighbor coming for a visit. Then again it might be John the Messenger.

To be agreeable, you greeted the unknown, yet unrecognized traveler and said: “Labdien, Jāni!” (Good day, John) or “Labdien, Žane!” (Good day, Jane!) It was the custom of the proto-Latvians to address those they did not know by these names: John or Jane. [I realize that most readers have not thought of this possibility. Nevertheless, it was (let us allow that it was) a clever way to address a stranger. John and Jane (or Jānis and Žane) were names-addresses that by inflection of voice embraced a God (Dieviņš), a friend, or gave a friendly nod to a passing stranger who just might be John as the incarnation of the guide to the Land of the Dead.

Imagine that after a few thousand years of such a custom (because it was such a good custom) the stranger no longer greets you as Jānis and Žhane (Ivan and Zhena, Johann and Johanne, Jean and Joan, Ian and Jane), but said: “Sveiks, payan!” (Hello, payan!) You might protest. You might even block the road and ask just what the stranger means by addressing you in such a manner. You explain that this is “strange talk” in your part of the world.

Perhaps your challenge goes unanswered the first time. However, by the second or third time, the stranger blows a whistle and calls for his body guards. They wrestled you to the ground, and the stranger says to you: “Hence your name is for ever ‘pa-yan’ (No šī brīža tavs vārds ir Pa-yāns.) If you protest, we will give you a knock on your head and your name will take another drop in esteem, and you will be known as a ‘pagan’”.

This is about how the names of John and Jane (or perhaps before Jane it was Laima) went out of business. Yanis > pa-yahnis > pagan. Once the name change was securely instituted, the name was ready for further changes: it could become paisan (or perhaps “gentile”, re ‘yentils’), and sometimes came to mean a heretic, hence ready for the burning. In the days when persecution by burning was popular, you were burnt the moment that the name “John” (Jahnis) came to your lips. Joan of Arc’s fate is a good example of what those who honored the name of John and Jane or Joan endured.

After losing “Good day, John” as its daily custom, the community lost both God and man. This is not to say that there is anything wrong with names such as Idzis or Tanya, or yours and mine, whatever the name may be. It is simply that when I address you, my address no longer has the breadth it once had. Today our response is likely to be “friendly, but cautious and reserved”, in other words, impersonal. The stranger is probably only a Japanese tourist lost visiting the Latvian “sights” in Sigulda, saying “Hi! Hi!”

The name “pa-Yan” may well have been used as the generic name of proto-Latvians (and other Europeans) for a long time. The implicit slur of it was one of the psychological burdens that pushed the proto-Latvians into the mud. No doubt, soon “pa-yan” became “pagan”. One can hear many Latvians to this day proudly claim themselves to be pagans.

Livonia, the Land of the Endearing Word and the folk song in which every other or third word was an endearment, has become a land where the name Idzis has replaced John. John may be still in use, but he is certainly never entertained to be a God. To imagine such a thing is beyond us. We much more readily think of a person as a heretic or heretical (ķecerīgs) and, for that matter, play at being subservient: “How may I serve you” (Kā varu jums pakalpot? A sus ordenes!)

Even if the above explains the evolution of “John” and how it fell and became nearly indistinguishable from the word “pagan”, we are yet to touch on some of the other meanings of the name. We need to grasp the embrace the name-word has.

 “John” was once also (as already suggested) identified with Death. John, It/He, meant the horrible Other. That is, it was our Other alright, but we kept this part of ourselves in check by an annual sacrifice of a goat or sheep. John were the shepherd went with the sheep. When sheep no longer sufficed as a sacrifice, and neither did children, the Johns sometimes offered themselves in sacrifice. In Turkey the jannisaries were known as particularly fierce, death take care, adversaries. Gendarmes, the police, still know that sometimes their job may put them at risk of their lives in the service of the community.

The enemies of John (and there were many of them and of all kinds) did other unpleasant things to him. They sent out criers throughout the land who told the people that Johns Songs were no longer to be sung anytime one pleased or when John came to town, but were to be collected and limited to the day of midsummer. Like Christmas songs, the songs of Johns were henceforth to be sung only during Midsummer festivities.

In due course, the Johns Festival would be (and was) renamed “Lihgo Festival”, and the songs would (did) become subject to easy manipulation and degradation. The “Lihgo Songs” of Soviet times were newly written, with just enough traditional songs left in the book to presume antiquity.

Even with such humiliating burdens, the Children of Johns held on. The Eucharist (? Yan-charist) of the Latvos—a slice of caraway cheese and a mug of mead—accompanies the celebrants of Johns Eve to this day. The trouble is that this Eucharist is no longer made at home, but has become a tasteless commercial product. Few remember (actually no one remembers, though a few may speculate) that Johns Eve and Day are arch-Christ-Yan and not pagan holidays.

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Friday, October 22, 2010

Full or partial entries of my blogs may be found at LatviansOnline + Forum Home + Open Forum – The 4th Awakening. If you copy this blog for your files, or copy to forward, or otherwise mention its content, please credit the author,, or

I suggest you look at the links imbedded in these blogs or at the end of the blog as an integral part of my argument.
The 4th Awakening
6 Awakening Inside a Trojan Horse (2)

Except for the intervention of the tsars, the barons, and the Lutheran church who came to stop the consciousness raising and healing begun by the Herrnhuters, the social fabric of Latvians would probably be more harmonious today or perhaps to a quicker understanding what ails it.

The baron rejection of the Herrnhuter movement did, in a manner of speaking, stop the iconoclasm of the native Herrnhuters (against the symbols of their pa-Yan past). Still, it was only a pause of a particular current in a much bigger and broader stream sometimes known as Positivism. The “good news” was bathed by it.

The political consequences of the repression by the Herrnhuters took the descendants of the Herrnhuters into territory their parents had feared to enter. While their parents had retreated behind a mask of submission when challenged, the descendants discovered the phenomenon of ethnicity. It scared the barons to the point where they showed it, which is why the “new” Latvos so quickly surged forward as a society. Of course, it was largely a city oriented society, because it was the city where the media crossed paths with the anonymous to everyone’s best advantage.

Ethnic costumes came into their own after the spiritually repressed Latvos began to wonder if they all shared in one language (among the various tribes) because they had once had a common ancestor. It was the idea that such an ancestor had existed that helped move the Latvos toward ethnocentrism . Given that most of the once Pa-yan population still seldom moved beyond a ten mile radius from home, it was a dizzying successful idea, not to say a money maker for the print media.

This is how ethnicity became the dominant feature of Latvian national identity. Paradoxically, it was the Lutherans who now hastened to cloak their repression of the Herrnhuters by replacing German ministers with Latvian ministers, thus, taking the credit for the First Awakening. Lutherans increasingly identified themselves with ethnic nationalism. So successful and accommodating was the slip-slide from Germanic orientation to a Latvian one that after Latvia declared its independence (1918), Lutheranism became the state’s official religion.

Other matters affected the psyche of the Latvos in yet other new configurations. The repression by the barons of the economic interests of Latvian pa-Yans caused many of the ethnic elements to identify themselves with money and power. This is why ethnicity and money are near identical objects of desire among Latvians to this day.

The Latvians were good mimics of their enemies. Soon many achieved considerable economic success. Unfortunately, this made them also become enemies to the interests of their community. For some, money and power became ends in themselves, even as entry into its presence had been made possible through the rise of ethnic consciousness.

[A similar paradox exists to day. While in the past ethnic and economic interests traveled the same road, in the most recent election of the Saeima the economic interests took a drubbing from ethnically oriented Latvians. Does this mean that in the future economic interests will feel free to make new alliances? Or will ethnic interests permit themselves to think along economic lines and break taboos that hinder economic development, such as, for example, criminalization of hemp growing and harvesting?]

As we think of our present time, it is interesting to note that the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow—sought by Latvian politicians as if to share its contents with the Latvian people—is increasingly identified with Swedish banks. It is the latter which gave easy credit to Latvians and enmeshed them in debt. The banks encountered no serious opposition from Latvia’s legislators.

As the barons once bought off Lutheran ministers to affect the character of religion to their benefit, the political parties that constitute the Latvian government buy off the media today. The media then does all it can to make the truth become a mystery. Not that long ago a phony meteor, its hole dug by a mobile telephone company, fell in a Latvian potato field.

But let us return to the question of ethnicity. The absence of a sense of self rooted in historical experience and its replacement by nationalist myth has caused uninformed Latvians to dip into these waters of Lethe as if they contained the elixir of life.

The repression of the mind that started with the Herrnhuters continues to silence analytic criticism even in academia. Such criticism or analysis as there arises from those who ought to have a more learned view, never reaches the public ear, probably because it never receives support from its own midst. Indeed, it was the intelligentsia (the writers, artists, poets, teachers, journalists, etc.) who were among the first to take advantage of the repression of the Herrnhuters. It was the intelligentsia which saved its greatest enthusiasm for the search of ethnic origins campaigns. Its disinterest concerning the history of the Latvos before 1860 remains a phenomenon comparable to snow blindness to this day. It is at the root of the current zionationalist  government.

This raises the question of whether the Latvians still caught up by the so-called  “Jaunā strāva” (New Current) movement that emerged after the submergence of the revolutionary ideas implicit in the Moravian Brotherhood? The “New Current” movement had its beginning about the years 1860-1870. Though the Latvian people and their forebears have deep historical roots indeed, the overlay put in place by the folks who directed the New Current was meant to sever Latvians from their actual past. The actual was to be replaced with the mythical.

One hopes that the crisis of the Latvian self (some would call it a sacrificial crisis) continues to gather momentum and forces the government to invite independent historians to do research and reanalyze the history of Livonia whence Latvians emerged. The discoveries are likely to bring into view many unknown events, some trampled by fears, some true horror shows. There may emerge an understanding why the designation of one’s ancestors as “pagan” in stead of “pa-Yan” belittles Latvians. It may be time to recall that the Johns Festival is an arch-Christ-yan and not a “pagan” celebration.

A reanalysis of Latvian history—if it ever comes about—will place Latvians on a historical stage that has much greater depth than the present leadership of the state allows for. The zionationalist direction, which took root in the 1890s, but was better planted when the energies released by the Herrnhuter choirs were turned into one large centralized SongFestival(s) (first festival occurred in 1864 at Dikļi), must be reversed.

It would be a major miracle if Latvia’s choirs, that is to say, the spirit of the Latvian people as represented by the people who are part of the village and small town choirs, would—came the time for the next Song Festival--turn the streets of Riga into a theatre of choirs.

Asterisks & Links of Interest
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Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Full or partial entries of my blogs may be found at LatviansOnline + Forum Home + Open Forum – The 4th Awakening. If you copy this blog for your files, or copy to forward, or otherwise mention its content, please credit the author,, or
I suggest you look at the links imbedded in these blogs or at the end of the blog as an integral part of my argument.
The 4th Awakening

5 Awakening Inside a Trojan Horse (1)
Another way to look at Herrnhuter success in a society suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is to see it not only as its Savior, but as an aggressor. The aggressor appeared the moment the Saved had learned to stand up and push up against the doors of the heirs of the Teutonic Order, albeit be it as people dying on their feat. This distressed the German barons, because foreign labor workers were not then known.

Shortly before events turned the Saved into the collapsed and, thus, a threat to the barons, Livonians were moving in a direction that was already discernible as one not what the German Herrnhuters had in mind. The Common Man of Liuonia, supported by the teachings of the Bible (1694, transl. by the German Lutheran Pastor Ernst Gluck) was beginning to have ideas about imitating the lords of the manor. After all, man is mime and mime is man. Whether by hook or crook, he who is envied most gets copied most.

Fortunately for the barons, the Russians attacked the Swedes and threw the evolution of self-consciousness among the Latuous off track. The movement toward a new identity in Livonia was inhibited by the Great Northern War (1700-1721), which was won by Russia. Early in the war (1702), Ernst Gluck—whom the Germans may have believed to be against their interests—was removed to Moscow. The German barons were permitted to stay. The Lutheran pastors, subservient to the interests of the barons, did not encourage the pa-Yans to read the Bible or anything else.

That is why thirty-five years after distributing Gluck’s Bible to the churches, 1730 arrived with only few of Latuous pa-Yans having an idea of how to read, let alone write.

The post-Great Norther War period is the time when even some of the German barons bega to be alarmed over the consequences of the  repression and degeneration that its work force had suffered. This is why General Hallert and Mrs. Hallert from Wolmar, Liuonia issued a cry for help. Mrs. Hallert, a good friend of a Mrs. Zinzendorf, exchanged letters with her friend and they visited together in Dresden. This is how Graf Zinzendorf became involved in the matter. In 1729, eight years after the treaty of Nystad, he sent one Christian David to Wolmar to check on how things stood there in person.

Ludwig Zinzendorf understood the importance of hands-on training and made a notable innovation: his missionaries were not to be ordained ministers, but artisans: carpenters, smiths, mast makers, innkeepers, and the like. He also had them learn the local language. These were rebellious ideas and a move against the status quo desired by the authorities, the Lutheran church among them. In 1736 the church expelled Zinzendorf from Saxony. This is how he came to Riga, Wolmar, and Tartu-Tallin  (before going on to America).

For the next hundred years the Herrnhuters worked with great success. Their emphasis on piety was as if tailor-made for the Latuous pa-Yans whose very language--with its ability to endear every noun (object) and even verb (action)--was pietistic in nature.

But there were difficulties. The barons and the Lutheran church were not happy over Zinzendorf’s activities. This is why about a hundred years later the same thing that had happened to Zinzendorf happened to the Herrnhuters: in 1843, the Russian government put down such strict conditions for continued Herrnhuter existence that their congregations ceased to exist.

All of which suggests that if the Livonian Herrnhuters had been let evolve as a community free from interference by orthodox Christianity, the character of the Latvian people would have evolved differently. With no religious censor sitting on their shoulders and watching their thoughts, the Latuous would have settled into a pious daily routine all their own. They would probably have let their Johns become their priests-ministers [on Johns Day every head of the Latvian household (saime) was and sometimes still is called Father Johns and Mother Johns]. It is possible that the endearing word, which has such a distinct and elevated presence in the Latvian language, would have led the newborn people toward a re-acquaintance of their arch-Christian ways.

Of course, no such thing happened. Something died. Nevertheless, while one hears that what did not happen does not matter and is lost for ever, maybe not quite so.

If the repression of the Herrnhuters interrupted the inner awakening of the Latuous, it could also perhaps turn it into an inner conflict, which may lead to a schizophrenic personality. Just what such a personality looks like none of us knows, because if it exists among us, it is always too close to us to be acknowledged or recognized. However, one characteristic of it is for the people who are suffering from it to experience continued discomfort with the way things have turned out to be. I comes with a sense of being lost.

If the Latvian Herrnhuters had prevailed, Latvians today would probably not be as ethnically oriented as they are. If the Second (~1900 to ~1918) and Third Awakening (~1980s~1991) were Herrnhuter led, the lead would have been provided by the meme of a subjectivism (piety) that is part of the Latvian language. It is unlikely to have chosen ethnicity as its flag bearer. The Moravian Brotherhood, dressed in the mantle of Herrnhut, was revolutionarily universalistic rather than ethnicically nationalist in its outlook.

For all the kudos that I give the Herrnhuters, the Herrnhuter movement unfortunately also encouraged iconoclastic activities in their Latvian communities. Many such activities were directed against the arch-Christian Children of Johns.

It was not only the holy trees which were cut down. It was also a time when “Johnny, Son of the Sun” became “Johnny, Son of God”, and when the folk songs which referred to Johnny (the Preaching Man) were collected from wherever they were to be found, where after it was decreed that they be sung on Midsummer’s Eve only. This left the rest of the days of the year free to sing hymns to the figure of Jesus removed to heaven. decades later, we are beginning to understand that the decapitation of John in the “Good News New Bible” makes possible the removal of Jesus to Heaven—because there is no one left among the spiritual authorities on Earth to object.

The Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, which the tearing apart of spirit and flesh engendered among the pa-Yans, became manifest in the mind’s eye of the Latvian Herrnhuters as a stream of blood flowing from the wounds of Jesus. Finding no way to reunite them, the Latuous became iconoclasts of their own culture. We see traces of this not only in the famed proto-Latvian traitor Kaupo, but also in such Latvians as Pumpurs, Stuchka, Rainis, and many more of the builders of “new” Latvia. First John was replaced by Lachplesis (Destroyer of Bears), then came Ulmanis (an attempted reincarnation of John and Bear Destroyer in one person), and last, came John as Jesus in Heaven again, but both impotent beyond cure.

Iconoclastic activity acted also against the interests of the Latvian language itself. As mentioned above, the endearing word and the John who came to be called Johnny, were quite literally showed the door by the Latvian communications media. In the name of objectivity, the formerly “dear tree” had to be called tree. Even Dear Dictator, with its implicitly profound irony, has to be called Dictator now.

With the iconoclastic activity at last come to an end, the question is: with all subjective language gone by the wind and effectively dead, why not exchange Latvian for English?

Asterisks & Links of Interest
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Sunday, October 17, 2010

Full or partial entries of my blogs may be found at LatviansOnline + Forum Home + Open Forum – The 4th Awakening. If you copy this blog for your files, or copy to forward, or otherwise mention its content, please credit the author,, or

I suggest you look at the links imbedded in these blogs or at the end of the blog as an integral part of my argument.
The 4th Awakening

4 A Short-sheeted History
The Awakening of Latvians by the Herrnhuters is not recognized by Latvian historians as an Awakening. When Latvian historians refer to the First Awakening, they chose to ignore the Herrnhuters except as a force in the deep background. It appears that the Herrnhuters are too removed from the deliberate struggle to raise Latvian ethnic self-consciousness even though the German barons and the Lutheran ministers were very worried that this was what in fact was happening.

In the foreground of Latvian school books, the students are presented with certain university students or writers who dared call themselves “Latvian” [Latvietis (Latweetis)] or wrote patriotic poems. The official period for the First Awakening, with the stamp of approval from government and academia, begins in the 1850s and ends about 1880.

In real time, the First Awakening began with the 1730s and the period mentioned by the government and academic historians was its culmination. Without the Awakening initiated by the Herrnhuters, it is unlikely that there would have been a Latvia or Estonia today.

The avoidance of real time history, and reducing what is left of it to a date after the 1850s, has enabled the Latvian government to create and then perpetuate the country’s history as an ethnic myth. A state mired in myth is helpful if the intent of the state is to wrest power from the people. Such a state presents itself as “The State” (Valsts). In The State, all ministers and members of parliament are men and women in always clean shirts and polished shoes. They bear the stamp that marks them as “beyond suspicion” of corruption.

A nation, always under the control of an ever “nice” government, is likely to haves many mythical versions of the country’s history in its archives, even as it leaves everything that happened during the first half of the 19th century in a fog.

To give credit where credit is due, let us list some of the achievements of the long neglected Herrnhuter movement.

a)     The Latvian community was created with the help of the Herrnhuters (originating in the Moravian Brotherhood). The Herrnhuters began the revival of the Livonians in 1727 with the arrival from Herrnhut of one Christian David.

b)    The Herrnhuters brought Latvians (or the Latuaus or Latowice) together by introducing among them choir singing. Singing was used by the Herrnhuters as a recruiting tool. This troubled the German barons and Lutheran ministers. As a result, repression of thought and action was never far from the minds of these elites.

c)     The Herrnhuters introduced the practice of democracy by teaching Livlanders to select church officials and other community leaders by drawing lottery tickets from among qualified participants (which practice, one may argue, was a form of one party system superior to the present multi party democratic system. The Herrnhuters, most of who came from Germany, were aware that the people of Livland used at least two distinct languages. German was the lingua franca of Livonia.

d)    The name of Latvia may derive from the Herrnhuter community in Latowice (1565). Upon the dissembly of the community by the Lutherans, the community was forced to move on, and may have taken the name of Latowice with them to Livonia-Livland. On the other hand, perhaps the name Latuous or Lotavica were about the land since the days of Jersika. As I pointed out in the preceding blog, one Antonio Possevino, a legate of the Pope mediating one of the many wars between the Russians, Poles, and Swedes, referred to Latvians as Loutous.

A quick aside: the consonant V in the name of Livonia, was originally written as U, thus—Liuonia. Perhaps the V simplified both spelling and pronunciation. If so, then “Latuous” may have been pronounced Latvous, which sounds almost identical with that of Latvis.

So, who were the Herrnhuters? What was it that they had that could get under the skin of the Livonians in ways that the Lutheran Church (“the church of the barons”) could not? We will discuss this question more in blogs in the future, but here is something to set the stage with:

The Herrnhuters are an outgrowth of the Moravian Brotherhood. The Moravian Brotherhood looks to its origins not just in the writings of John Wycliff (1224-1384), the reformist Englishman, and his Lollard preachers, but to the fact that they all were “leftovers” of the Cathars, the Bogomills, the people of Robin Wood, and many others who were decimated about the time the Pope waged the Albigensian crusade (1209-1255).

This residue of arch-Christianity (which following the crusades and the Inquisition went underground) began to reemerge among  neo-Christians almost as soon as they were made scapegoats and sent into exile by the unholy alliance of secular princes and their “good news” religion. The arch-Christians and their holy men, the Johns, if not turned immediately into ashes, found themselves in the wilderness. Nevertheless, they began to reemerge almost as soon as they were dismissed. If John Wycliff was among the first to emerge, the Moravian Brotherhood, led by John Huss soon followed. And there were other remnants as well, such as the Children of Johns of the Latuous, the latter who continued to hide in the forest until the Herrnhuters persuaded them to emerge into the open.

No doubt, the residue or whatever remained of arch-Christianity emerged from the woods to greet the Herrnhuters significantly transformed. They now more or less accepted the neo-Christian theology. They no longer stressed that the so-called Resurrection that they objected to was highly suspect, and was meant to remove John Jesus from Earth to Heaven where He could better sit on his hands. Even so, their reemergence was spirited and worried the authorities. This is one reason why John Wycliff, though he hand-wrote the first English edition of the Bible (1380) and was an academician of renown, did not quite make the grade with the neo-Christian establishment. After he died and his flesh had rotten away from the bones, his bones were dug up, burnt, and the ashes thrown in the river). Nor was any greater approval extended to John Huss (1369-1415), who came to a burning end on the scaffold. Nor were the 30,000 Huguenots killed on St. Bartholomew's Day in 1572.

In short, while the neo-Christians have done what they can to repress any notion that they were preceded by something we may call arch-Christianity, a remnant of the repressed survived in the forest and eventually reemerged as Protestants. The reemergence of the Children of Johns in Livonia no doubt was part of this reemergence. They also were more oriented toward the arch-Christian way of thinking than were those who came from the Christendom of NeuBurg.

That is why the NeuBurg Lutherans were in conflict with them from the very beginning, and why eventually they succeeded (with government help) in repressing them. In terms of the Big Picture, this is why the history of Latvia before 150 years is virtually unknown.

They way to further back is blocked by the forest of “The Times of Lawgiving” (Mehrnieku laiki). If anyone gets to the other side of this forest, he comes to a precipitous drop into ancient history, where every attempt to portray reality meets up with a heroic posture—whether of man or woman.
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Friday, October 15, 2010

Full or partial entries of my blogs may be found at LatviansOnline + Forum Home + Open Forum – The 4th Awakening. If you copy this blog for your files, or copy to forward, or otherwise mention its content, please credit the author,, or

I suggest you look at the links imbedded in these blogs or at the end of the blog as an integral part of my argument.

The 4th Awakening

This new series of blogs by Eso Anton Benjamins, aka Jaņdžs, introduces itself with three redacted blogs from a previous series, re “The Not-Voter”. One of the theses underlying “The Not-Voter” is that it is better for a voter who does not know the history of his-her nation to cast an empty ballot (not-vote) than presume to vote. The republication of these blogs as an “Introduction” is meant to give the reader a quick overview of what is—despite deliberate avoidance of the subject by the media and politicians—unique about Latvia.

3 Blessings from Herrnhut

When in 1729 one Christian David came from Herrnhut (about 90 km east of Dresden, Germany) to Livonia, one would think nothing would come of it. The behavior of the German barons had made Latvians skeptical of all Germans, and why should this one be better?

Yet by 1736, when Graf Ludwig Zinzendorf, a German nobleman who took the plight of the peasants (aka as pagans and paYans) seriously, and was the man who had sent Christian David as a scout ahead of him, himself came to Livonia, the Livonian paYans were ecstatic.

Though Zinzendorf came at the invitation of General and Countess Hallert of Wolmar (Valmiera), his concern over the dismal conditions of the paYans was genuine. Though Zinzendorf’s journey included visits to other towns and cities [Konigsberg, Riga, Tartu (Tallin)], it appears that Wolmar or Valmiera was the focal point.

One ecstatic paYan wrote to Ludwig (letters were written on a first name basis): “My heart is ashamed to send you this message to your heart. Although I do not know you [, Ludwig,] by physical appearance, yet I have felt your language and your witness. My spirit is craving to see you face to face as you are God’s priest and blood-witness.”….

Another wrote to Ludwig: “I feel that it would be unbearable to live without the Lamb. ‘The wounds that filled with blood [and of which you speak] are dear to my heart.’” *

These and many other letters speak of a people suffering from what in our day is known as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Though PTSD is generally discussed with regard to soldiers exposed to violent combat, it also affects millions of people who are not only stressed by military violence, but must endure physical hardships almost beyond endurance even as a “normal” civil society. The Livonian peasants (Estonians and Latvians) were so affected not only by the Great Northern War, but by the German barons who had survived the war and now desired to prosper again.

However far we may be today from the experience of the Livonians whose misery compelled them to embrace the Herrnhuters, we cannot doubt that the despair of the rank members of the movement was as real as a stigmata--if not yet on one’s body, then constantly in one’s mind eye.

The message of salvation brought to the Livonians gave the paYans hope that however mysterious “salvation” may be (and whatever it means), the fact that it was spoken and offered by a noble, was hope worth solid gold. As wrote yet another movement member: “…Although being under fierce rulers over me, and also knowing my own feebleness, nevertheless I am holding on to the Man of wounds and blood [, Ludwig]; and all the daily tests and even slavery count very little when the Lamb is my strength….”

In their enthusiasm that someone was interested to come and “save” them, some Herrnhuters tore down the symbols of their forebears. Members of the Herrnhuter church (they met in the guest room of traveler inns) cut down the holy trees of their forebears. It was barely noticed (and we are taught not to notice this even today) that names of ancestor Gods mentioned in folk songs changed their name. Perkons became Peter; Laima became Māra; Saulīte or Saule became Dievs. The friendly Latvian Dieviņš was also renamed Dievs. Jānis or John was no longer known as Saules dēls (son of the Sun), but Son of God.

In spite of the changes in their theology, the Herrnhuters grew in self-awareness. Their emotions are so earnest that it is only with difficulty that one returns to “normal” space and is able to reflect on and regret the loss of the people’s former culture. It is clear that the people themselves were glad to suffer its loss if it helped them to escape their misery and pain.

The Herrnhuters gave the struggle of the paYans the name “Awakening”. If the English synonym of “Awakening” is “Revival”, the latter no longer adequately describes the sense that the word “Awakening” had for the Livonians. In Latvian it was a word that meant not only awakening for a day, but for life and to the community.

The literary activities of the Herrnhuters, who taught reading and writing, brought nightmares to the orthodox Lutheran clergy. The latter succeeded in persuading the secular authorities to confiscate and destroy many of the Herrnhuter books. In 1843, Empress Elizabeth I, Peter the Great's daughter, ordered the Herrnhuter brotherhood closed. While the brotherhood hung on and the order to close the shop was relaxed, the movement never fully recovered from the openly practiced repression by the secular and religious authorities.
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