WOMXN IN MOTION: MOUTHLESS (PART I AND II)
An audiovisual narrative of pagan rituals, eco-feminism and Baltic and Slavic folk legends.
The cult of Marzanna emerged in the year 965 after the newly christened Polish prince Mieszko I ordered the destruction of all pagan idols. The people are said to have gathered the cherished objects and deity representations and were ordered to drown them in nearby lakes and rivers as a mass spectacle. Sacred trees were cut throughout the land and their severed branches were set ablaze. The people wept and mourned the loss of their kindred spirits. It was said that Marzanna, a powerful demon of death emerged from the amalgamation of all the impaired and drowned spirits. Since medieval times, the people felt the compulsion for re-enactment of the violent spectacle which is carried out annually on spring equinox. Out of straw which is then wrapped in linen and beautified with ribbons and beads arises the goddess, she is the demon of death, plague and winter, whose effigy embodies cyclical death and rebirth. On the afternoon of March 21st - the first day of spring - young children still play with/torture the idol, gleefully parading it around and dunking it in every trough and water barrel in the village or city. At dusk they gather at the riverbank, setting the effigy ablaze and tossing into the water, cheering as the blazing wretch disappears downstream.
Halberstam says: Eve Sedgwick has advanced a reading of Gothic as the return of the repressed. She reads fear in the Gothic in terms of the trope of "live burial" and finds in Gothic "a carceral sublime of representation, of the body, and potentially of politics and history as well". Live burial works well as a metaphor for a repressed thing that threatens to return. Sedgwick's example of the repressed in Gothic is homosexuality. She characterizes the "paranoid Gothic novel" in terms of its thematization of homophobia and thus, she describes Frankenstein's plot in terms of "a tableau of two men chasing each other across the landscape". But Sedgwick's reading tells only half the story. The sexual outsider in Gothic is always also a racial pariah, a national outcast, a class outlaw. The "carceral sublime of representation" that, for Sedgwick, marks the role of textuality or language in the production of fear does not only symbolize that Gothic language buries fear alive. Live burial is certainly a major and standard trope of Gothic but I want to read it alongside the trope of parasitism. Parasitism adds an economic dimension to live burial that reveals the entanglement of capital, nation, and the body in the fictions of otherness sanctified and popularized by any given culture. If live burial reveals a "queerness of meaning," an essential doubleness within language that plays itself out through homoerotic doubles within the text, the carceral in my reading hinges upon a more clearly metonymic structure. Live burial is the entanglement of self and other within monstrosity and the parasitical relationship between the two. The one is always buried in the other.
People who were born with two hearts and two souls, and two sets of teeth were believed to be strzygi, somnambulics or people without armpit hair could also be seen as ones. Furthermore, a newborn child with already developed teeth was also believed to be one. It is said that strzygi usually died at a young age, but, according to belief, only one of their two souls would pass to the afterlife; the other soul was believed to cause the deceased strzyga to come back to life and prey upon other living beings. These undead creatures were believed to fly in the form of an owl and attack night-time travelers and people who had wandered off into the woods, sucking out their blood and eating their insides. It is also said that during epidemics, people were buried alive, and those who managed to get out of their graves, often weak, ill and with mutilated hands, came back as strzygi to haunt their communities.
Velnias in Lithuanian stands for devil, vėlės - for the dead and vėlinės - for the Day of the dead or Dziady (Polish), all holding the same root. The contemporary meaning of Velnias as the evil spirit is secondary, coming into use during the times of Christianity. Velinas, one of the most common deities in Baltic mythology, was responsible for people’s wealth and fertility as well as the underworld.
Their poverty stands out in the confessions. It was in times of need that the devil appeared to them, to assure them that from now on they should never want, although the money they would give them on such occasions would soon turn to ashes, a detail perhaps related to the experience of super-inflation common at that time.