Latvian dainas

I am going to be doing sumkinda priestessing at the upcoming Women Exposed show on the 29th.

As part of my prep, I’m researching prayers and such that might be useful. And I come back, as I always do, to my little book of Latvian dainas. When I worked at Feminist Teacher magazine in the ’90s, this book came in as part of a request for a review. I immediately snagged it and got permission to keep it. Dearest Goddess: Translations from Latvian Folk Poetry, written/translated by Eso Benjamin.

Because Latvia wasn’t Christianized until the 14th (15th?) century, many Pagan traditions survive. Dainas are little prayers–almost conversations–that Latvian women have with their Dearest Goddess. And yes, it’s primarily women who wrote and maintain these prayers. There are over a million on record.

Dearest Goddess is the Sun, shining on the Baltic sea. This is contrary to contemporary Pagan views of the Sun as masculine and the Moon as feminine. I like to see both as manifestations of the Goddess, giving us a more holistic view of what constitutes femininity (I’m not worried about the guys–they can figure out their own system ;-)). The Dearest Goddess is known as Laima in Latvia, though I’ve also seen references to Laima as the daughter of the Sun. Those Pagans, always fluid! What is certain is that Latvian women in traditional dress as referred to as daughters of the Sun.

The dainas are very short but deal with everyday concerns. I love how they are so intimate and picky and bossy and joyful. They reflect the full range of life without limit. They are eminently practical. Here is a selection (with major props to Eso for bringing this heritage to light in the Western world).

++++++

I  have looked for her
here, there, everywhere,
but my Dearest Goddess
is playing games
with me:

She will not tell me
where I can find her.
She’s making me spin
in my chair.

+++++

You go first, Dearest Goddess.
I’ll follow in your footsteps.
Don’t let me step
into evil days.

++++++

I’m out of songs,
Dearest Goddess.
What shall I do?

I know.
Let me find an old bachelor.
Let me ride him
to find a new song.

++++++

Dance, Marsha, dance.
Take no worry.
Your Dearest Goddess guards you.
Your Dearest Goddess sits
in a silver boat
and wears a golden crown.

++++++

This mill is too much;
the wheel is too heavy.
Dearest Goddess,
it’s been a hard life.
I no longer wish
to keep walking in circles.

++++++

Some people are saying
that my Dearest Goddess
has died by drowning.
Well, I just saw her
walking over the waters
sowing handfuls of
gold and silver.

++++++

Give, Dearest Goddess,
what’s to be given.
I’ll take
what’s to be taken
with both hands,
without hesitation.

+++++++

Be my helpmate,
Dearest Goddess.
Let the roses I plant tonight
bloom into a rose garden by morning.

+++++++

Though we are not sisters,
we call ourselves sisters.
It makes some people mad.
It makes the Dearest Goddess glad.

++++++

My throat is like a trumpet–
I can compete even with brass.
My voice is like gold
and flows even through hard rock.

+++++++

My mother raised me
in a nightingale’s nest.
I grew up to sing
with a nightingale’s tongue,
to hear my songs
roll the echo from the mountain
down through the valley.

++++++

Unhappy people
will not get me down.
As soon as I can get away,
I’ll sing and dance again.

But do you know
what will stop a song?
A slap in the face,
a fist in the back.
Else, I will sing
even through tears.

++++++

My mother died singing,
and so did my father.
So will I.
And after I die,
I will go on singing
with my sister
from the top of our graves.

++++++

When I sing I sing happily;
when I cry I shed a river of tears.
I learnt my song
from the Dearest Goddess;
I learnt my tears
from being an orphan.

++++++

What’s wrong with my man?
He’s out barking with the dogs.
I’m smarter.
I walk singing.

++++++

The Unwelcome Goddess
gave me a present of fancy shoes for a party.

If you’ll be my chaperone Dearest Goddess,
I’ll be happy to dance barefoot.

++++++

The Dearest Goddess
gave me a thousand songs
at the tip of every wheel spoke.
Whenever I’m sad,
all I need to do is turn the wheel,
and song flows.

++++++

The leaves of the linden do not quake,
her daughters do not hate.
Dearest Goddess,
all the world weeps
if we don’t speak peace.

++++++

We are three sisters
with six ripe teats.
Dearest Goddess,
we’ve come to complain:
Where are the boys?

++++++

The wolf bragged
and the bear bragged
that they are strong.

Dearest Goddess,
I left them behind.
On my journey
I need only your company.

++++++

You will never find me
among the chaff.
The Dearest Goddess leads me;
my Dearest Goddess
will lift me up
to the mountain top.

++++++

There are many, many more I can post but this should give you a flavor. Buy Benjamin’s book; it’s a treasure! Blessed Be, Dearest Goddess!

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: