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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
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 . 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.
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
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. Turkey
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.
Asterisks & Links of Interest