Who was Koschey the Immortal really?

In the book of Victor Kalashnikov “Russian demonology” undertaken an attempt to systematize the heroes and plots of Russian folk tales. This is done not because of the desire to create an encyclopedia of folklore, but in order to discern how behind the layers of eras and cultures (Christianity, secular state) dissolved in children’s tales ancient Slavic epic whose heroes were pagan gods and perfume.

Next is a fragment of Victor Kalashnikov’s book “Russian Demonology”, dedicated to Koshchei the Immortal.

Who was Koschey the Immortal really?A photo from open sources

Koschey the Immortal (or Kashchei) – perhaps the most mysterious figure in Russian fairy tales. Afanasyev, for example, believed that the Serpent Gorynych and Koschey the Immortal, if not the same, then, in every case, interchangeable character: “As a demonic creature, a snake in folk Russian traditions often appears under the name Koshchei immortal. The significance of both in our tales is completely identically: Koschey plays the same role as a stingy treasurer and a dangerous kidnapper of beauties, like a snake; both are equally hostile fairy-tale heroes and freely replace each other, so in one and in the same tale, in one embodiment, the protagonist displays a serpent, and in another – Koschey. ”

But is it possible to confuse a living mummy and a dragon? They are so various! Anyway, what kind of strange name is Koschey? What does it mean? Afanasyev believed that it comes either from the “bone”, or from “blasphemers” – witchcraft. Other scholars inclined to see in Russian words borrowing from the languages ​​of neighboring peoples, believed that the name the living skeleton comes from the Turkic word meaning “slave, servant”.

If a slave, then whose? Indeed, in Russian fairy tales the owner is not mentioned Koshchei. This living skeleton may be captured by Marya Morevna, but as a captive chained to a wall, he is not a servant at all. Like u Russian Koshchei could turn out to be a Turkic name? What does it mean death, resting in a casket either under the treasured oak, or at the bottom sea? What does the animal helpers have to do with it? ..

In a word, many questions arise, but there are no unambiguous answers. Maybe Afanasyev was right when he raised the name of Koshchei to blasphemers, that is, he called him, therefore, a wizard. Well indeed, who else could extend their life so that people began to call him Immortal? Of course, the almighty magician. Or a man who turned to demonic forces for help, like, let’s say Faust. But Koschey in fairy tales is not at all a wizard and not a man, he himself most likely belongs to the demonic world. So that and Afanasyev’s explanation suffers from approximation and inaccuracy.

Perhaps the most interesting conjecture is the assumption of L. M. Alekseeva, who in “Auroras in the mythology of the Slavs” wrote:

“Undoubtedly, Karachun belongs to the united world of the dead and cold. He is supposedly considered a winter Slavic deity, retaining the features of the personification of death. Moreover, Belarusian beliefs clarify that Karachun shortens life and causes sudden death at a young age. It is important for us that this image associated with an objective and clear natural factor: Karachun – not only the name of the evil spirit, but also the name of the winter solstice and holiday associated with it. To track the sun you need a certain scientific qualification, if not all, then at least some members of society (magi). In addition, the name of the deity introduces us to the circle of detailed plots of the East Slavic magical Tales: Karachun is one of the names of Koshchei the Immortal. ”

That is, according to Alekseeva, Koschey is the god of death from the cold, and God, or rather a demon, very ancient. To overcome it, you need to spin the wheel of the times, return to the very beginning of the world, when the Immortal was born. Then it’s clear why in tales consistently appear: a brown bear – the lord of the forests, then birds – hawk and duck, which can often be seen in northern tundra. Following them, the inhabitants of the earth and air, appears water a resident, a fish, in this case a pike. Maybe sometime Once upon a time it was not a pike, but a completely different fish?

Cover of Victor Kalashnikov’s book “Russian Demonology”.

A photo from open sources

Say, a beluga whale living in the circumpolar regions. If so, then in a fairy tale we are moving not only in space from south to north, from zones of dense forests through the tundra to the polar seas, but also reversed during time – in the opposite direction along the path that once passed our distant ancestors fleeing the onset of the Great glaciation. Simply put, fabulous animals point us north – to where the ancestral home of all Aryan peoples once existed, Arctida.

Perhaps there they paid tribute to the victims of the evil god of the fierce cold Karachun, who was born at the very beginning of the creation of the world – from a golden egg, laid down by the miracle chicken Ryaba. Then Karachun came out of obedience – the cold became more intolerable, carried away more lives, and the time has come, leaving the homeland, which on eyes covered with ice, go after the fish, after the birds to the distant mainland and go farther, escaping from moving along on the heels of Karachun-Koshchei. It was to go into the woods, under the protection of trees, and southern fields where the frost was not so strong.

It was an outcome from the ancestral home, from the roof of the world, where heaven and earth barely do not touch each other, where the myth of the Golden Egg originated. Therefore, a campaign from north to south also meant movement from a distant past to present and future.

A photo from open sources

Our assumptions are not as fantastic as they can seem at first glance. According to numerous legends, from everything appeared of a golden egg: not only Heaven and Earth, but also underground depths; not only a clear Day, but also a dark Night, not only Good, but Evil as well. Following the logic of myth, you need to return to yourself the beginning of time to defeat Evil in its infancy, while breaking … a needle. Why a needle? In the already mentioned book of Alekseev suggests that we are talking about a spear – the main tool of the northern peoples who were beaten by a sea animal and a polar bear. Yes and on whales by this time hunt only as harpoons – large spears, or, if you like, needles.

Although the immortal cold demon, of course, is not a bear, not a walrus, and not even a whale. You can’t take it with an ordinary harpoon, here you need something more powerful. For example, a magic wand is that magic wand, oh which is said in almost all fairy tales.

And again the question is – why not turn this magic wand against Koschey, so that, casting spells, take his life? Why need to break the rod? Yes, for the simple reason that this rod, judging apparently belonged, if not to Koshchei himself, then to his high priest cult. Only by destroying the rod can you break the thread of life of the ancient but by no means an immortal demon. As Ivan did in a fairy tale, although Koschey was sure that he was not given the opportunity to come to his mind similar wisdom. Immortal was sure that the Russian people forgot where they came from in the woods. But no, they didn’t forget: they remembered at the right moment, and here Koshchei came “Karachun” – that is, the end.

There is another assumption about what constitutes treasured Koscheev’s needle. Immortal is not quite alive, but not quite dead, he is supposedly in the middle of the path between this and that light, that is, it is almost the same as walking the dead; their bodies were interred, but they rise from the graves and haunted come to their home to disturb relatives.

It was possible to protect yourself from the annoying dead only in a known way: at midnight, dig their grave, find the invisible I will “twist” a bone and destroy it by breaking, or rather burning her. And then the dead man calmed down, dying completely. If the needle, hidden in the egg, considered “Navi” the bone of Koschey himself, then it is clear why death overtook him.

Perhaps in ancient times there was some kind of ritual that promised man the attainment of immortality. Anyway, in excavated by archaeologists grave of the founder of the city of Chernigov (not forget that Chernigov was called the servants of Chernobog in Russia), Prince Cherny, the scene depicted in the fairy tale is found: deadly the needle in the egg, the egg in the duck, the duck in the hare, the hare in the cherished casket.

And here we come to understand what, in fact, is immortality. Is it a punishment or a blessing? The ritual itself gaining immortality has long been forgotten, but its symbol is preserved – flowers immortals, about whom, recalling the native village of Antonovka, he wrote Mirolyubov: “In Antonovka, it was customary to sow on graves immortelle, special roughened, dry to the touch flowers, yellowish, reddish and seem to be bluish that could be ripped off and put in a glass of water, and they could stand for months; if but they were put in a vase without water, they also stood for months. Live in apparently, they were, but no matter how they were.

Since I was still a boy at that time, I was interested, why exactly they are preferred by the peasants to sow in the cemetery. “Old people “answered me,” because immortals are flowers of the dead relatives, because even in life they’re like dead. “Old Trembochka, the woman in the village, as if a sorceress, explained differently:

“Those flowers are blooming in the pit! They are from the pit, and all who pit picks up, through those flowers can communicate with us. These flowers are between by us and them, as a line (border), and we touch them here, and They are there. Death does not take them. Torn or not, but life is for they, like death, are one and the same. These flowers are without death. “Another the woman who lived at the bridge over the Yellow Waters said: “Well, if God did the light, so he took and began to curd the earth, but death did not wanted to. Then God mounted his horse and began to call death to battle, and she armed with all sorts of knives, iron claws, batons, a gun and went against God. The battle lasted for ages. God is fighting, or she, damned, and while God was fighting against death, He did in fits and starts, this – that, that – another. God will do, but death will destroy!

Finally, God awaited death when it was gawning, and killed it. But, falling, Death clutched at bushes, grass, branches, and for what grasps, then dries. She grabbed the immortals and yes began to tear them with roots. God told them to grow stronger so that she them I couldn’t snatch, and the flowers grew around the death lying only so much that they closed it halfway, and God could not strike death so that she stops moving! Then He said, “Well, so be without life and without death! “And the flowers remained so forever and ever. And they put them on the graves to declare the deceased that “There is no death! She is killed by God!” But since death has not ceased move and kills people, then the flowers remind the deceased about life, but alive about death! ”

Indeed, I had to observe later – keep the peasants immortals in the house did not like. These were grave flowers. To them was the attitude is almost religious. Tearing a few of these flowers, I came home from the cemetery where the children were going to play in the spring, and wanted to put flowers in water, but the servant, noticing them, took them away and threw into the fire.

Well, this is perhaps the best explanation of Koschey’s immortality, which life is no longer in life, but death is unattainable; he is so stuck between the two worlds and stayed there until Ivan Tsarevich did not save him from eternal torment and did not grant the blessed oblivion of death.

A photo from open sources

If we consider Koschey a slave, then he was the servant of his damned immortality. Yet he, rather, belonged to the other world, because he learns about the appearance of Ivan by the smell of the living: “Russian bone smells! “For the dead, as you know, the intolerant smell of the living is also intolerable how the smell of carrion is disgusting to the living. Ethnographer V. Ya. Propp in “The historical roots of a fairy tale” wrote about this: “Ivan It smells not just like a person, but like a living person. The dead incorporeal don’t smell, living smell, dead recognize the living by the smell … This smell of the living is highly repugnant to the dead … The dead are generally afraid of the living. Not a single living must cross the treasured threshold. ”

In Russia, excessive centenarians were suspected of involvement in witchcraft, it was believed that they “heal” (that is, take) a stranger century. It was considered the most correct to die in due time, surrounded big family. Immortality did not appeal to anyone. What is it if people with an immortal soul continue the infinite existence in a new, happier world, Blue Swarg, country in heaven where our ancestors live?

V. Kalashnikov. Russian demonology – M .: Lomonosov, 2014.

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