Monday, January 11, 2016
Upon Whom the Ends
of the Ages Have Come…
a fantasy for an apocalypse
© Ludis Cuckold (2015)
15 What is a ‘Dandze’?
I had never heard of the word ‘dandze’ until I came across the word by accident in a dictionary of ‘nonacademic Latvian words’.* It is a word that proto-Latvijan peasants applied to worn out dancing and other shoes or any other perversely looking thing put to some perverse use. For some pareidolic reasons (no, not perverse) it also made me think it referred to a stanza of poetry.
*Dandze—a turn on the floor, also a worn out shoe or some crooked or flimsy thing. J. Kursite, “Neakadēmiskā latviešu valodas vārdnīca/ Vārdene”.
Most Latvians who I ask whether they know the word, give me a puzzled look. They have never heard of it. Nevertheless, when I give them the dictionary’s explanation, to which I add my own, a look of recognition comes to their face. You see, ‘dandze’ is a word not all that far removed from ‘daina’, which is a four line stanza of folk poetry.
Dainas exploded into existence shortly after the arrival of the Herrnhuters in Livonia, and began to rebuild the destroyed community in Vidzeme (Middleland). Through the Herrnhuter effort, proto-Latvians were brought to a previously unknown level of self-consciousness. Proto-Latvians awoke to themselves: O yeah! These poems speak to us! They represent the voice of our forebears! They mirror us.
This story about the recognition of a reconstituted Commons through an unexpected appearance of folk poetry—collected in the 19th century—brought to fore many eager collectors of said dainas. Apparently not recognized before the 18th century, their appearance in the 19th century was truly miraculous. Who would not wish to collect them? These were like gold nuggets in a stream gone dry.
There is but one major flaw with this story: The first reaction of the Latvian peasantry to the Herrnhuter reconstitutive effort was rebellion against their oppressors, the German barrons in service of the Russian tsar. As pointed out, the dainas did not appear in sufficient numbers to be collected until the 19th century. By that time, the Herrnhuters had largely disappeared, and their place was taken by a movement known as The New Current (Jaunā strāva), which also called itself The First Awakening, and thereby attempted to steal the wreath of laurels from the Herrnhuters. Somehow, the awakening of the proto-Latvian peasantry in the century before was forgotten.
Nevertheless, the miraculous folk poems were real enough, and this reality was taken to mean that they had existed since the beginning of the Indo-Europeans and were sometimes compared to Vedic poetry.
On the other hand, the Latvian language as known throughout the area that is Latvija today, appeared (out of an amalgam of languages) only in the 15th century, while the first written examples, religious texts written by German priests, appeared only in the 16th.
Moreover, there are other considerations that cannot be explained in a brief paragraph or two. In short, clearly the student of history is faced with a hop, skip, and a jump here, but go figure whether the skip did or did not come before the jump or hop.
In any event, the appearance of the miraculous dainas testified as to the success of the Herrnhuter effort among the demoralized Livonian Commons. The collectors all belonged to the New Currents movement, and were students or young scholars. They collected dainas (possibly also known as dandzes) by visiting the countryside, observing countryside festivals, and listening to the country folk have their say and play their songs. One of the favorite musical instruments used to be the ‘dooda’ or bagpipe. Whether ‘dandzes’ were sung is questionable, because neither countryside choirs or soloists were known to exist in the 15th century when Latvian became the common language of the area. If there were songs that had their own lyrics, these likely did not appear until the late 18th and early 19th century.
As already mentioned, the singing style of the peasantry in the countryside—when it began—resembled what the German pastors described: a people bleating like a herd of sheep. Because such performances were not anywhere close to the standards expected by church authorities, it is unlikely that words were attached to the songs, as these would not make proud either listeners or the singers.
However, the Herrnhuters apparently discovered a pattern to the Latvian language and were able to translate it into simple rhymes. While there is no definite proof of this, circumstantial evidence suggests that something like this did indeed occur.
Short structured verses became prototypes for a spoken and written form of expression. As noted earlier, the ‘endearing’ word* played a remarkable role in revealing the Latvian language to be a ‘religion’ (not generally recognized as such to this day), the theology of which was to dethingify the psychological tendency of words to turn near everything into things (as words of lawyers inevitably do). By incorporating the endearing word into a simple rhyme (often as many as five endearing words in a single stanza), proto-Latvians turned their dandzes or dainas into lyrical verses. Because the Herrnhuters also taught the peasants to read notes, the rhymes were on occasion sung. Such ‘dainas’ were easily memorized and became a form of packaged speech, that took place of what we in our time (20-21st centuries) know as casual conversation. Such ‘packaged speech’ still makes an appearance today, when the spokes person for a public gathering begins the presentation by reading a poem the words of which suit the occasion.
*The coupling of the ‘endearing’ word to German and happenstance sentence structures introduced in the 16th century facilitated the development of Latvia’s first literature—“handwritten books” and ‘preachings’**. Interestingly, the first known Latvian poet (Ķikuļu Jēkabs, 1740-1777, a weaver by trade) likely died in prison after placed there by the tsar for spreading seditiout ideas and contributing to peasant unrest) is of Herrnhuter origin. Interestingly, in a poem we would call patriotic. he knows not and speaks not of Latvija, but addresses himself to a country he knows as Middleland (Vidzemīte).
**The Herrnhuters did not have priests or ministers, but made use of ‘preachings’, which were testimonials of individual’s in contact with the Spirit or Holy Ghost. The preachers among Herrnhuters were ‘testamenters’, a word derived from ‘to testa’ (to be witness to) and ‘ment’, by touching, thinking, seeing, or hearing.
In his eagerness to discover for the Latvians their own cultural heritage, the foremost collector of dandzes (one Krishjohn/Christjohn, re Krišjānis Barons) fragmented the context of a dandze (possibly a string of stanzas strung together to form a thought cluster) by treating each stanza as a standalone ‘haiku’ poem. Sometimes he corrected the form of a stanza or a word according to his personal concept what the form or word ought to be. He called the stanzas—‘dainas’.
While a daina resembles a Japanese haiku poem, and may once have had the potential of being turned into a laconic poem like the haiku, the pretentions by under educated academicians that it was of ancient origin short circuited innovative potential and forced the fragments to stay in academic collections and were never let live—once the Herrnhuters were repressed by the Lutheran Church and some members of the New Current—a creative life on their own.*
*Following the first few decades of Latvija as a nation (1918-1940), dainas were taught in schools and later became part of the cultural heritage among the Latvijan diaspora. Still, the diaspora never taught itself or its descendants to continue to practice composing dainas. This was on the basis a) that nothing that was ‘ancient’ could be revived in a contemporary setting, b) no attribution of dainas to the work of the Herrnhuters was allowed, and c) that the words displayed a tendency toward sensitivity and gentleness, a no no in the capitalist society that Latvians were destined to be born into . Sensitivity and gentleness did not fit with the rough language projected by newspapers and was demanded by sales-men and -women trying to knock off the shelf the products of a competitor. This suited neo-Christian authorities to a T.
The Soviet occupation of Latvija and its dismissal of the Slavic-Baltic heritage of the wood to only restore it as of a factory worker, took example from Western anthropology. It ‘stalinized’-steeled-rigidified-brutalized-thingified the Latvian language. It also reclassified it as a tool of a hunters-robbers-warriors, or, alternately, a peasant environment.
Unfortunately, such a misconstrued model of Latvijan culture is upheld by the post-Soviet Latvijan government and a minority among the public in order to turn its young into Zionists. Such Zionism is grafted onto Latvijans through an organization called the Nationlal Guard, which teaches the young in the ways of the military and war at an early age. The budding young are then fond of issuing life threats to other Latvians, justifying themselves by pointing to ‘government opinion’ transmitted to them by way of their instructors. Surely such an opinion does not square with the culture of their forebears.
All this returns us to the question of whether dandzes are in fact synonymous with dainas?
Again I solicited the aid of pareidolia and was not denied. It turns out that the name for a stanza, sometimes spelled ‘stanzE’ has its equivalent in German. Indeed, since the German language was common in Livonia of the time, a dandze by pareidolic association seems rather comfortable with the Latvian word daina—even if with a derogatory punch.
An example of the ‘dead end’ that fragmentation of a thought cluster of dandzes into dainas result in, is offered by the first president of ‘renewed’ post-Soviet Latvija, one Vaira V. Freiberga (VVF). Known for her (and her husband’s) extensive work in further fragmenting dainas into topics that touch upon the Sun (an ancient Goddess in Latvian mythology), the work remains still-born, because VVF (she was removed from Latvia by war and by her parents at the age of two years) has no intimate idea or the imagination to leap the gap that makes Latvians a community or Commons discovered for them with the help of the Herrnhuters.
As one Latvian of the countryside once upon a time put it: “They Christened me Peter, placed on my head a half-done wreath of oak leaves (a dandze*), and sang me a melody.” Another ‘Daisy’ complained that her betrothed was not the man she had hoped for, because he came to their wedding wearing his ‘dandžu’ (wornout) boots.
*Dandze—a turn, as on the dance floor, but by extension a turn or half a turn of almost anything. In the context of the above, it stands for a badly made wreath of oak leaves (possibly a small branch bent into a circle and tied with a string), which its receiver likens to a worn out shoe on his head (J. Kursite, “Neakadēmiskā latviešu valodas vārdnīca” ). Another form of a daina is a ‘ligo’, which is a daina sung only at the Midsummer Love Fest.
The ‘renewed’ post-Soviet Latvian State (1990-…) gives every sign it will remain true to the anti-Herrnhuter acrobatics of the State sponsored (Catholic) theology of a century and more ago.
What made Herrnhuters so successful among disoriented Livonian peasants of the 18th century, was their practice and encouragement of auto-cephalic consciousness. Such consciousness came to the Herrnhuters via the long forgotten Romanian Bogomils, who by a complex route had reached the West as far as Occitania (a strip of land north of the Pyrenee Mountain chain that connected the Meditterraneas Sea with the Atlantic) whence they turned north toward the Netherlands and England, where they became known by various other names. Their remnants and ideas survived in many places, not least among the Lolllards and the Diggers and writings of Gerrard Winstanley of England in the year 1649-50*.
*Diggers & Winstanley, my information here from Christopher Rowland’s article, ‘Upon Whom the Ends of the Ages have Come’. In “Apocalypse Theory”, edited by Malcolm Bull, Blackwell, 1995. YouTube has a number of informative links.
The Herrnhuters were eager to pass their traditions and theology to the war ravaged (Great Northern War—1700-1721) Livonians. Perhaps they were aware that the Westphalian Peace Treaty, signed three-quarters of a century before, had sounded the death knell of their church, wherefore reviving the Livonians was their last chance to demonstrate the power of the spirit acting without the enhancements of violence that is a commonplace addition to the ‘good(s)’ today.
At the end of the Great Northern War, the Latvian State was still some two hundred years in the future. The Latvian government was established only after the defeat of the Russian tsar’s armies in WW1. The Latvijan government—to catch the advantage of a moment—had to be formed in haste, which made its bureaucracy wish to present itself and Latvija as a mirror image of western capitalist governments (more Baltic German than Latvijan) rather than a government dedicated to the nurture of a Commons of its own. This is how the city (Rīga) gained over the countryside for the second time and is actively continuing with its destruction to this very day.
Historians forget that Rīga, the capital of Latvija, echoes to the word ‘Liga’. While Rīga derives its name from Līga, the latter a name that means an association or league (like the Hanseatic League). But Liga* is also a word that stands for an illness, plague, or wound. It is very likely that in the mind of the common folk, Līga came to stand for an plague in their midst, which is why its name was changed by Catholic church authorities to Rīga.
*Liga—as in ligament, a tissue that connects joints, a plague.
My discovery of the deliberate falsification of my forebear’s history came after I sent my DNA to a lab in the United States. I was surprised to see the results show that today most of my genetic relatives live in and about Bosnia in the Balkans and northeastern Italy.
My grandfather never mentioned that his forebears had come from the Balkans. Or he was never told of this by his forebears, which is hard to believe, or, to escape persecution through exclusion by the dominant Lutheran faith, he hid the facts from his family, which may well be the truth.
It was after this discovery that I began to pay attention to the Herrnhuters, a Christian sect deriving from the Hussites*. The leader of the latter, one John Huss—a Czech priest, educator, and professor at Prague University—was burnt (1415) at the stake by Western Christians. He is said to have died singing, which is a euphemism for screaming thanks for being put to death by neo-Christian murderers.
*Historian Goff’s uses the word ‘heretic’ as a synonym of ‘terrorist’: “Little by little,” writes Goff, “the [heretics] Cathars disappeared and the Waldenses survived only by dint of withdrawing into isolation, mostly in the Alpine valleys and a few isolated regions in northern Italy.” Ibid. p. 171.
The first Herrnhuters arrived in Livonia in 1729. Their mission according to their German sponsors was to rebuild the frayed social fabric of Livonia’s Commons, which had suffered severely in the Great Northern War between Sweden and Russia (1700-1721). They declared themselves an official entity (a church of brothers and sisters) on August 13, 1739 in the city of Valmiera in proto-Latvia. Valmiera is only 32 kilometers or 20 miles from my home in the countryside.
The Herrnhuters were an intensely religious community of people, whose daily lives were closely connected to the raising of livestock and field work. They founded their churches on the premise that individual efforts could accomplish little, which is why cooperation was essential. They taught that team work and giving each other a hand (volunteerism/talka) was essential to the formation of a community.
The Roman Catholic Church is founded on the Eastern or eschatological concept of Christian faith, which emerged from the wreckage of natural life by the Vikings. The Catholics altered the Eastern Christian theology just enough to insert the notion that God amended the original Creation to impose taxation, whereafter they declared the Cathars to be heretics and usurpers of a much older Catholic Church. One source of Cathar hereticism was that by being artisans, carpenters, weavers, mesers, and the like, they, just like the weavers in England, could make a living independent of government. In short, the aim of the Roman Church, an imposition on the Commons sponsored by the Vikings to facilitate the institutionalization of taxation (originally fur and grain tribute), was to eliminate all who opposed taxation and denied the logic of such governments as had their roots in pre-taxation times.
Being ‘footloose’, I was surprised and shaken to discovery this lineage. It appeared that it was my fate to be a descendant of heretics or what proto-Latvians called ‘dievellyi’ (dieveļi). This may be why I heretic on! The word ‘dieveLis’ (whence the English ‘devil’, was later changed to: ‘dieveRis’ a word which means ‘ the restless one’.
With the Western Catholic Church running interference on behalf of kings, princes, and other expansionary secular forces, the arrival of secular government in the West was hastened. Once the Globalist Church arrived and its repressive tactics proved successful, secularism grew spectacularly—even as the Church outgrew and replaced itself with full-fledged secularist institutions.
With the help of the Westphalian Peace Treaty, ‘religion’ and church was eventually expelled from the body politic. With the the heads of Empires become near God like figures, God was believed to have become unnecessary and atheism attired itself in the clothes of a major religion. Such traditional ‘religion’ as has remained retained but a ceremonial role. Not surprisingly, taxation was imposed with ever greater forcefulness and hubris (today when the price of oil has fallen 75%, from 120 to 30 dollars per barrel, the Latvian government increased the price of a liter of gasoline by 3 euro cents).
My perspective on the origin of taxation led me to take a closer look at the fur tribute and its consequence on the cultural environment. It should not be a wonder to anyone that after the slaughter of wildlife, the tax collectors attacked the wood and then the environment as a whole.