Saturday, June 30, 2012

Blog 28 Midsummer New Year of Johns Eve 2012
At the Heart of a Tree.
Recently, I had the pleasure of meeting Ojars Ozolins (b. 1936) and discuss with him the importance of Johns Days. Ozolins lives with his wife, a retired librarian, near in Kauguri pagasts, near Valmiera. Ozolins interests center on the early days of the Balts, especially from the time of  the stone age. He is author of “Krīvu lāsts” (The Curse of the Krihvs). A review of the work and some insightful comments by Juris Shlesers is available at .
I asked Ozolins to comment on the meaning of Johns and ‘Jāņu bērni’ (Children of Johns) and received the following response (my translation; all text abbreviations are my edits):
“The present meaning of Johns Children has a history all its own. The arch-Indo word for child was ‘bahls’ (bāls-singular) and ‘Bahlji’ (bāliņi-plural).’ The word was in existence also among the ancestors of the Balts, re proto-Indo-Europeans, and can still be found in Kauguru pagasts, Latvija, as the name of a household, re Bahlji (Bāļi); also a nearby railroad station called ‘Bahle’ (Bāle)’ In the early part of the 20th century, one could hear a Johns song:
Līhgo, Johns, lihgo balji,/ Lihgo, lihgo;/ All who await John,/ Lihgo!”
Ozolins comments: “One may conclude from this song, that the ritual of awaiting Johns reflected the fact that the participants were in the process of dividing (splitting) into several factions: the direct descendants of arch-Balts; those who with the arrival of Christianity were given the name Johns; and those who were neither Johns nor bahli, but were awaiting the figure of John reflected among the figures seen in the stars.”
Ozolins devotes eleven pages to the Johns Day ritual in his book “The Curse of the Krihvs” (227-238). Here we discover that Ozolins identifies the figure of John with the constellation of Taurus, the bull (possibly as a fertility figure), who later was suffused with the constellation of Orion, because both figures are adjacent to each other . In this context, John represents the son of God, and, in thist sense, represents the primordial father figure [Cadmus , for example] of a people or nation.
Accoding to Ozolins, the word “Jānīša” (Yahnihsha-a posessive) consists of two words: Yan + ihsha, meaning man or lord (yan) augmented by a suffix “ihsha”, meaning primordial.
Yanihsha brings to mind the Hindu word Ganesha, also consisting of two parts (Gan/ Yan) + esha (ihsha). The Festival of Ganesha Chaturthi in India occurs on the sixth lunar month according to the Hindu calendar and the time of the celebration may vary from year to year, usually in the month of August or September.
The reader will note that Ozolins and my ideas of Johns diverge on a number of issues, which does not necessarily mean that we are in a fundamental disagreement. I surely concur that “The mythical and real became united in the cult of Johns and included the primordial fathers—Johns—of all peoples….” (p. 236) I also suspect that if Ojars Ozolins had access to a personal computer [a removal of taxes on this tool in Latvia would greatly facilitate the distribution of information], a tool that I use extensively, some of his deductions would change, not to say that ours would likely merge.
One point on which we diverge is my insistence on the importance of self-sacrifice in the formation and maintenance of community. (Admittedly, I have not read Ozolins entire work.) To quote from the Preface—to “Violent Origins”, a must read book—written by Robert Hammerton-Kelly: “The essence of religion was [formerly] the Sacred, together with its modes of Manifestation and the forms of human Response to it. Ritual was interesting mainly as a symbolic expression of and ‘participation’ in the Sacred, ritual sacrifice was mainly an embarrassment….”
However, at a time when ‘ritual’ has become identical with violence and war, it is time to forget about misplaced embarrassment. At this time, it is no longer sacrifice (self-sacrifice), but the exercise of war and violence that is the embarrassment.

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