Saturday, November 28, 2009

© Eso Antons Benjamins

59 The People of Johns (III)

According to “Heinrici Chronicon Livoniae”, Riga’s main function in the 13th century was to “vine Domini palmites extendere in gentibus”, that is, “to extend the vines of the Lord’s vineyard among the pagans”. This information and translation from Linda Kaljundi’s paper, re “Young Church in God’s New Vineyard ….(2004)” I am pleased that Heinrici uses the word “gentibus” instead of “pagan”. Heinrici’s “gentibus” in his context may be best translated as “tribesmen” from “gentes”, tribes, but the word “people” may be equally apt. Be that as it may, it is my sense that when the Balts refer to themselves as “pagans”, they do themselves an injustice, because they should be using the word “heretics” instead. Indeed, Latin “heretici” rather than “pagan” is the way most neo-Christian inquisitors referred to the arch-Christian church. It is my belief that the people and ruler Visvaldis of Jersika (see blog 58) were arch-Christians, i.e., heretics to the violence prone neo-Christians.

I stated in my previous blog that “Jersika’s defeat is taken political advantage of by various interests to this day, which is why information of the culture that likely prevailed in Jersika is repressed to this day”. What was Jersika’s culture about?

There remains in our time almost no physical evidence that Jersika ever existed. However, in a post dated July 18, 2008, at LOL’s “Latvians on Faith” [re: The Janis Festival and All About Janis, p. 6], I wrote a blog titled “Of Polyphonic Songs & Witches”. The post was on a review by Ilva Skulte which appeared in “Kulturas Forums”, and concerned Professor Martin Boiko’s monograph on the Lithuanian sutartines, spiritual songs from northeastern Lithuania. This region approximates the region of Jersika and most likely extends it. I found the review interesting and speculated that the word “sutartine” may have some relationship to Montsegur, the Cathar stronghold in the Sabarthes Mountains in Languedoc. (I suggest the reader turn to the site for greater detail.) Suffice to say, I speculated that there may be a linguistic relationship between the word “sutartines” to the Lithuanian word “sutarti”, which means to get along, to be in accord, to sing together, and that it may shed some light on the designs woven into belt from Lielvarde. After all, a belt binds. Moreover, the belt may have bound more regions than Jersika alone. The word “saturs” in Latvian means content, while “saturēt” means to hold, to hold together, to keep from disintegrating.

To return to Caterina Bruschi’s work (see previous blog) concerning the wandering heretics of Languedoc. According to Bruschi, Humbert of Romans, the Master General of the Dominicans (1254-1264) at the high point of the neo-Christian inquisition, not only referred to Prussia, but complained bitterly that the Dominican monks “…do not want to leave their land or kinfolk, or forget their own people….”, whereas the opposite is true (by implication) of the heretics, the itinerant preachers, who had no such inhibitions, but went from house to house and from region to region, and were in constant motion throughout most of their lives. It does not take much for one familiar with the traditions of the Latvian “Children of Johns” to see the relationship between these itinerant preachers and wandering Johns.

The neo-Christians of our day are not interested in undoing the work of bishop Albert. Their clergy are direct beneficiaries of arch-Christian repression. The archbishop of Riga, Jānis Vanags, for example says that “For a long time now, Johns Day is no longer a religious celebration, but a folk celebration.” It is nice to hear the archbishop admit that Johns was ever a religious celebration in Latvia. It is also good to hear that he is making a response to the neo-Christian fundamentalist Janis Sadovskis who proposed “prayer evenings” to counter Johns Eve celebrations and, came Johns Eve 2009 had his congregation burn Latvian books, especially those which emphasized Latvian cultural traditions.

What the Lutheran archbishop forgot is that the folk tradition (“tautiski svētki” in his words) is no longer a signifier for the people. Vanags himself states that “the absolute majority [of the people], among them [neo-]Christians, simply come together before an outdoor fire to meet, sing, eat, and celbrate.” The repression of arch-Christianity in which the archbishop is participating by spreading disinformation and denying any religious significance to Johns today is no longer effected by sleight of tongue substituting religious tradition with a “folk tradition”. The folk tradition, Vanags is referring to is now following the lead of Pop culture, which turns Johns into a day off from work and/or binging on alcohol.

Neo-Christians would like everyone to forget that the itinerant Johns (the holy men of proto-Latvians) loved their homeland just as much as the Dominican monks did (see above), however, their homeland was not limited to king Visvaldis kingdom. Rather, the kingdom of Jersika, was very likely still part of a borderless empire of which kingdoms were auto cephalic precincts, so determined by language, tribal myth, historical happenstance, and ever changing borders due to everyone becoming a migrant when survival was at stake. The Johns or itinerant preachers of Jersika and other kingdoms were not the only ones who moved, but the entire kingdom moved. This is the one thing that scholars, even Bruschi forget. It was not the “heretics” who moved in on (neo-)Christian spiritual territory, but neo-Christians protected by and hired by secular princes who moved to suppress itinerancy in the interest of princes desiring to establish secular territorial kingdoms. So called “patriotism” of today has become identified with a given territory in an extreme fashion, which is why it may also be called fascism. However, in king Visvaldis days, patriotism meant loyalty to the tribe. The tribe chose the king as its living totem, and generally it was the king who died for the tribe, rather than the tribe for the king or state as is the case in our days.

Some scholars argue [as Kaspars Klavins does (see blog 58)] that the violent past of the Latvian people ought to be viewed from “a constructive standpoint”, i.e., without a papal Livonia there would be no modern Latvia. He is of course right with but one caveat: the proto-Latvian people of the Jersika kingdom ceased to exist as a recognizable sovereignty people after their king’s humiliation. It is true that the king justified his submission to humiliation when in 1214, he lead an  uprising. When it failed, the proto-Latvian people of Jersika gradually blended into the forests. They stayed there for seven hundred years. When the “Latvians” reemerged, they were a different “people” from the ones whose living totem had been John. As I have pointed out, the new totem became Bear-jaw-breaker. Whether the Latvian people or neo-Christianized elite chose him is argument for another day.

Asterisk & Notes of Interest:

An interesting poll. Information on emigration figures figures.

On the theme of “more-equal-than-others: AnimalFarm. An eyeball view of Latvia (and its forests) companymap companymap ; satellite satellitemap.  While some sources claim that Latvia is 47% covered by forests, none of it is old growth forest. The Latvian news media provides little coverage of the rapid pace of deforestation. Anecdotal evidence of deforestation in progress from a neighbor: “There were fewer mushrooms this fall than last year. Forests we used to visit are gone.”

Of great interest to me: cocalear. The article at link pretty well presents my reasons for supporting the growing of Johns Grass to facilitate the tourist industry in the Latvian countryside.

These blogs tend to be a continuum of an idea or thought, which is why—if you are interested in what you read—you are encouraged to consider reading the previous blog and the blog hereafter.

Partial entries of my blogs may be found at LatviansOnline LatviansOnline  + Open Forum – ONLATVIANPOPULISM vs LATVIJASLABEJIE. If you copy this blog for your files, or copy to forward, or otherwise mention its content, please credit the author and

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