Tuesday, October 5, 2010

The Payans of Latvia

Full or partial entries of my blogs may be found at LatviansOnline http://latviansonline.com/forum/ + 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 http://esoschronicles.blogspot.com/, http://melnaysjanis.blogspot.com/, http://the-not-voter.blogspot.com/ or http://the4thawakening.blogspot.com/

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 slightly redacted blogs from a previous series, re “The Not-Voter”. One of the theses underlying “The Not-Voter” was 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 a kind of “Introduction” is meant give the reader a quick overview of what is—yet is ignored by the media and politicians—unique about Latvia.

1 The Payans of Latvia or
A Story From The Beginning

Asterisks & Links of Interest

The original pronunciation of the word “pagan” was, very likely, “payan”. While the origin of the word is disputed by scholars, “payan” fits well with the Latvian sense of the meaning inherent in such a pronunciation: it is not just about “pagans”, but “pa-yans”, Yans turned into perpetual underdogs.

Payan = pa + yan. When given the Latvian sense of the word, it translates as a prefix + the Latvian name for John, i.e. Jahnis or yan.

The prefix “pa” precedes many Latvian words; for example, pa-dot (to hand over), pa-skriet (to make a run for it), pa-domāt (to think it over), etc. Rather than say “dot”, “skriet”, or “domāt”, which inflects the word with a declarative sense and easily becomes a command, the prefix softens the brunt of the word. Like the postfix that endears the noun, [as in “gald-inysh” (dear table), “akment-inysh” (dear stone), “saul-īte” (dear sun), “Jānītis” (dear Johnny)], the prefix “pa-” is more often used in spoken than written language. That is to say, “pa-” inflects the word with subjective judgment.

An interesting side effect of a word prefixed by “pa-” is that it not only enables conversation to progress more easily, because it avoids declarative speech [as, for example, in “dod man” (give me) vs “pa-dod” (half-a-please-give-me)], and may, when necessary, inflect the word with irony, especially if “pa-” precedes someone’s name. Thus, if we put “pa-” before Yahn (John), it suggests that something is not right with John or Yahn because, at the very least, he is somehow a subordinate.

“Pa-yahn”, therefore, is a word that suggests that John or Yan is not fully the John or Yan one expects him to be, and that something is missing. Because the consonant J may slip-slide and be pronounced as G or Dzh, it becomes possible for pa-yahn to be pronounced pa-gan. The Latvian adjective “yancihgs”, meaning one with a chip on the shoulder, obverses in “gentile” (yen or yan + tile), coming to mean one with the tail between one’s legs. Not surprisingly, attempts have been made to stop the slip-slide of pronunciation, which is why the name “Jesus” was once written “Iasu”. This avoided pronouncing the word as “Gesus” (or Geez).

In any case, the word “pagan” has come to mean—among the Latvians at least—the obverse of an uptight person, perhaps a hedonist. The word also carries about it the suggestion of presenting an alternative religion to “straight” religion. Unfortunately, the latter refuses to understand religion as coming with responsibilities, but has become another instance of the dissolute buying from the Pope an indulgence. Of course, in our time an indulgence is more likely to mean going on a shopping spree.

Whatever it was that once forced John into humiliation and named him a pa-John, pa-yan, or pa-gan, is presumed to be lost to the present. Nor do we care what it was that once constituted Latvian history, whether it is the history of a word or the history of the evolution of a people.

The humiliation of John or Yanis that is implicit in his renaming is by no means complete. Even as we write, the Latvian people are being cast as peasants-pagans rising to become “good” Christians (whether Catholics, Russian Orthodox, or Protestants) agreeing to rewrite their true history into myth, and now under the protective shield of mighty NATO rising to become full, but indistinct members of an administrative center of the European Union known as Latvia.

However, not so fast up the mountain. Let us shift down to second gear. If we can find one word that has an alternative and better explanation than we were made to believe, might there not be others?

For example, did you know that proto-Latvians—those Latvians who made up a “people” before the Latvians made themselves a nation—knew themselves as The Children of Johns (Jāņu bērni)? The Latvian folk songs say so. And did you know that the Children of Johns were once (in Livonia-Livland) known as Letowici? And did you ever suspect that the Letowici came from the Moravian (Herrnhuter) parishes of the Brethren at  Letowic? [Enter the link and scroll to p. 365 ff.]

Did you know that the names Lett and Latvis came in use later, after the Great Northern War (ended 1721, Peace of Nystadt)? Did you know that the Latvian genomes  are Finno-Ugrian, and that the Latvian language is a grafted onto this base? Did this happen after the Great Northern War killed off, i.e. more than traumatized and demoralized the Livs in Vidzeme, who were then absorbed by Latgalians who came to the devastated land?

Interestingly, the history books of
Latvia approximate the truth of what happened only after about 1860. Is this one of the reasons why the present government of Latvia is reluctant to allocate funds for a new and updated history book for Latvians, and why the state and church in Latvia are not truly separated, but continue to be intertwined with a reactionary orthodox Christian world view?

If the answer is yes, a history book of Latvia written today would, most likely lie about what happened during the first half of the nineteenth century and earlier. If you care a whit about the Latvian psyche as it was before a hundred and fifty years ago, and want help the Latvian people untwist the effects of repression that keeps their outlook on the world from developing, read on.
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