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World Congress of Ethnic religions

                                                          

10. World Ethnic Religion Congress
took place in Latvia from June 19-21, 2007, at summer solstice.

The theme of conference: 

 „The spirit will see new light in the turn of ages” (Rainis)

Ethnic religions – national spiritual base

The central axle of the immaterial heritage of every nation is its ethnic religion – the national spiritual base that should become the spiritual base of humankind in future.
The deity of every nation is the symbol of its spirituality and the promulgator of morality, ethics and customs.

The main point – the base of all reliģions is the cyclic time period – the endless RITE, which never ends, but becomes renewed through the turn of ages – that is the law of the universe. We have entered a new TIME CIRCLE –the day of the mythical time has set in, when we have to climb mountain – towards the light – the rising sun. Every nation should be aware of in the world and should renovate the lynx with the archetype o egregor of nation, its spiritual building should be constructed, or otherwise in this epoch of globalisation people will be the eternal homeless tramps, having no past and consequently no future.

Let us see, what we can take from our past and bring into the future and let us share our cultural wealth and verstility making the world colourful and unique. Let us be OURSELVES and only that way we will be able to surprise and delight each other. The general human values will be like final destination for our common progress towards light.
The target of our conference – to study the role and significance of ethnic religions on the scale of humankind.
The goal of the conference is to prepare a RESOLUTION to be presented to international organisations, which would enable the carriers of each ethnic religion  to present it also to their national institutions with the aim – to consolidate the ethnic religion in each national legislation and, if need be, protect it by law, rewarding to it a special status of intangible cultural heritage (as provided by UNESCO Convention for the safeguarding of the intangible cultural heritage, adopted on October 17, 2003, The Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action, adopted by the World Conference on Human Rights on 25 June 1993,  Declaration on the Rights of Persons Belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic Minorities, adopted by UN General Assembly on 18 December 1992, UNESCO’s Universal Declaration on Cultural Diversity and other international documents).

REZOLUTIONS »»

SUMMER SOLSTICE FESTIVITY at Janu hill in Turaida »»

Rituals of the participants at the Ethnographic Open-air museum »»

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On June 19-21 the 10th Congress of World Ethnic Religions took place in Riga, Jūurmala and at the end also in Sigulda, which summoned together more than 30 representatives from 9 different countries and many local activists of folk spiritual culture – Dievturi.

For a long time in the history and also in the contemporary world ethnic religions -  spiritual culture collected and nurtured by many peoples in the course of thousands of years - have been persecuted. Ethnic religions have never stood separately from its traditional environment and customs thus developing into traditional culture or lifestyle. Traditional culture has to be preserved as a whole, without separating its content from its form and in this way passed on to the next generations. That is why the basic theme of the anniversary conference was UNESCO Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage.

The conference was opened in the morning of June 19 at the monument to Brastinu Ernests in Kronvalda park in Riga, with the God’s call, followed by short presentations by the organizer of the conference in Latvia and a co-founder of “Foundation Māras loks” Ramats Jansons who is also the head of Dievturi parish "Ramava", and Jonas Trinkunas – the founder of the congress and a representative of the Lithuanian "Romuva" movement. And Janis Brikmanis, the head of Dievturi parish "Rusins", shared Brastins’ life story with the guests and informed them about his huge contribution to the revival of Dievturība and Latvian way of life in his time and also in contemporary Latvia.

Then the participants of the conference gathered at the monument to Rainis in Esplanade, where the founder of "Foundation Maras loks" Irena Saprovska spoke to the guests about the Latvian national poet Rainis. She also shared the idea once expressed by Rainis that a nation is capable of communication with others only through its culture, the essence of which is the ethnic religion of each nation. At the monument, guests gave their speeches as well.

The opening concert of the conference took place in the White Hall of Latvian Society House – a presentation of the Latvian culture which was conducted by Jolanta Larmane and Daris Jansons. The concert was given by a folklore group "Delve", a kokle player group "Austrina" and a chamber choir "Konvents". The guests had a possibility to listen to arrangements of Latvian folk songs by Vilnis Salaks and other composers, and watch parts of films about the final concert of the 23rd Song and Dance Festival in Mezaparks. Thus, they could get an insight to the Latvian culture in its most beautiful and magnificent manifestations – the tradition of playing kokle – Latvian traditional music instrument – and traditional folklore. More than 200 guests watched the performance.

In the afternoon, conference work session started in Jurmala, at the memorial museum cottage of Rainis and Aspazija. Astrida Cirule, the director of the museum, dealt with Rainis’ life story and his creative work. Jonas Trinkunas, the founder of the conference, reviewed 10 years spent as part of WCER and the main problems which were to be solved by representatives of ethnic religions.

Dealing with the central point of the 10th conference – UNESCO convention, Anita Vaivade, a representative of UNESCO National Commission in Latvia took part in the conference, as well as Signe Pujate – a representative of Ministry of Culture (playing bagpipes in the picture). The participants of the conference were introduced to activities organized for applying the convention, development of basic concepts and creating registries in local regions, inspecting Latvian situation and its main issues.

After introductory presentations, Inija Trinkuniene presented one of the most important themes of the conference – "Folklore tradition – the essence of ethnic religions" »»». In order to understand the wide importance and role of ethnic religions in preserving each nation’s culture and traditions, one must realize that ethnic religions are a sacral model of folklore, that is at the base of all of its further expressions. Inija stated that in the course of hundreds and even thousands of years folklore tradition and traditional ways of life have been deliberately desacralized and substituted by religious concepts of invaders. In order to keep the folklore tradition alive, attention must be paid to its sacral essence and perception of the world – ethnic religion.

With this important theme the first day on the conference was closed and guests could indulge in having a cake, tea and informal discussions, which made them feel at ease in the cozy premises of the museum. Afterwards, Allerhanyo, the lonely priest from the Old German lands as he calls himself, played his own invented instrument, which is similar to a barrel-organ. Also dances and songs of different nations were perform

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The evening ended with watching the sun set at the beach which became the highlight of the first conference day.

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Day 2 – working day from early morning till late night. Nevertheless, it is full of extremely interesting issues and it is a genuine joy to listen to each of the participants. The biggest part of the day is dedicated to presentations of ethnic cultures. Jānis Brikmanis starts with a story about Latvian perception of nature.

Next comes Dr. Mihir Meghani from USA Hindu society and he gives a description of the basic concepts of Hinduism.

Viktor Fedosov from "Venedu society" »»»(Russia) comes next, reading a paper about the role of national values in the world and how the Russian nation perceives God, as well as speaking about main objectives of "Venedu society". This association publishes its own newspaper in St. Petersburg "JAR".

Viktor Lvovskij from Poland »»» presents video material about Slav religious beliefs, gives description of his own activities and addresses the audience with a powerful exclamation - praising faith of his ancestors.





For Italian representatives of "Movimento Tradizionale Romano" (M.T.R.) »»», it is the first time they take part in the Congress of World Ethnic Religions. Daniele Liotta and her excellent interpreter Guglielmo Giovanelli Marconi presents their culture, seasonal rites and sources of information about the movement. She also reveals the serious problems that are faced by those who practice ancient beliefs in the catholic Italy, because of a religious intolerance from the official church and lack of any wish to acknowledge Prechristian values which still exist today. In Italy, people of this movement are called Satanists, they feel unsafe practicing their rituals, and at the end of her speech the representative of this movement sets a question – how we could possibly change this situation by uniting all our efforts. A suggestion to hold one of the conferences in Italy was declined as impossible. Here it should be noted that this year there was a resolution passed by the congress (proposed by the representative of USA Hindu society Dr. Mihir Meghani) expressing a protest against intolerance towards ethnic religions. Let us wish good luck to our Italian friends in their further activities and wish that common sense wins over prejudice, and which is the most important point, that the tolerance that is generally preached gives expression dealing first with the people who are trying to preserve the ancient traditional values of their nation.

Allsherjargode Geza von Nemenji speaks next, presenting characteristics of problems that are faced by those who strive to revive the ancient religious beliefs in Germany. Many historical processes and influence of Christianity have seriously harmed the ancient German religion. Allsherjargode admits, that in order to find the lost parts, they are seeking support in mythology of other nations, especially Scandinavians. Similarly, many pagan traditions have been assimilated or profaned, but people still use them today, though often without knowing their real meaning. Thus, one of the necessary works to do now is to clear away the number of layers on top of Prechristian traditions. Like in Italy, also in Germany those who try to revive the ancient religious beliefs – they often meet lack of understanding and negative attitude from official authorities. Due to the conditions of fire safety in the country, there is a ban on gathering and making bon-fires in groves, mountains etc., so in ancient sanctuaries as well. No letters help, nor written explanations on how carefully the fire is minded, and that it may cause no harm. To honor traditions of our ancestors and ancient rites seems to be in conflict with functional intellect of civilization.

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A moment of rest from the intensive work is given, and during a coffee break guests are entertained by sounds of kokle played by the musicians of the ensemble "Austrina" and their leader Iveta Taurina.

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After the coffee break, another representative of Polish ethnic religion "Rodzima wiara” Stashko gives a speech, his attention being on the Congress of the Foundation of WCER 10 years ago and common roots of all ethnic cultures. Each participant receives a brooch as a token and a symbol. The 10th conference in Latvia is organized by "Foundation Maras loks" and its motto is words said by Rainis: “The spirit will see a new light in times to come". The 10th conference marks also the end of a certain cycle of development in the time period since the first conference, and a new cycle has to be started. Good luck for those who have arrived to take part in this conference in Latvia and those who care to preserve and nurture each nation’s mental culture and ethnic roots.

Dalya Urbanaviciene from "Romuve" movement in Lithuania was the next to read a paper on reconstruction of rituals there. Lithuanian and Latvian mental tradition doesn’t meet so much resistance as other European cultures; therefore the main stress is put on reintroduction of a preserved tradition into real life. Dalja shares her experience in the way of thinking and attitude which is at the base of a better understanding of ancient rituals.

Guslyana Kartyushova from Russia »»» offered an insight to the revival and preservation of ancient lifestyle which she herself practices on her farm of natural economy in Pechori district. She claims the way our ancestors had lived for thousands of years holds incomparable wisdom, which may be lost with development of the technocratic age. Guslana learns ancient craft skills and makes ornaments which she feels should be explained and kept for future generations.

The Ukrainian nature religion society "Rodov e Vohnyshche”" was represented by Andrey Popyuk »»». He spoke about rituals and seasonal rites which are practiced in the Ukraine, and about the coming meeting of representatives of Slav religious beliefs and the 1st Indo-Aryan conference in Crimea this autumn. More information on this is available at www.rodosvit.org.ua

Produnce Priest Kapelle represents Romuves – the ancient Lithuanian religion in the USA, where a big part of population has once arrived in United States from Europe several generations ago or even more recently, bringing tradition of their own country with them. Produnce had been searching for her ethnic identity for many years until she found the country of her ancestors – Lithuania. A wide scope of issues come in here – whether it is possible to preserve one’s ethnic religion and identity while living outside one’s ethnic fatherland? Nevertheless, there are various organizations in the overseas continent that study and adopt mythologies and traditions of ancient European cultures.

Dr. Mihir Meghani from USA Hindu society spoke to the participants of the conference again to stress the importance of pluralism i.e. cultural variety in creating a tolerant society. 3 themes for the resolution were offered – first one, for tolerance towards ethnic religions, a second one – for tolerance of ethnic religions; and a third – for eradication of intolerance towards ethnic religions in public space. All the three above mentioned resolutions and one more resolution handed in later were discussed and adopted at the end of the working day.

Radzinder Singh from England represents Sikh movement. The theme of his lecture was linked with opportunities for student exchange among ethnic cultures.

Another representative of Sikh and Hindu movement had arrived from the USA – Surinder Paul Attri. In his address he dealt with differences of ethnic religions in the way of thinking and in the action that follows it. We thank Surinder for his admirable endurance during the conference, for he took part in all events organized by WCER, irregardless of his venerable age, and has always been full of energy and convinced that the future belongs to ethnic religions because they are not violent but tolerant expressions of corresponding cultures.

Irena Saprovska, the founder of "Foundation Māras loks", was last to speak and dealt with the essence of Latvian perception of God and again put a stress on the main theme of the conference "Folklore tradition – the essence of ethnic religions" »»». Afterwards, the resolutions were adopted, including the one on preservation of ethnic religions - introduced by the Latvian side – as the central and most important part of national intangible heritage.

REZOLUTIONS »»

At the end of the conference, all participants came together in the yard of conference organizers in Jūrmala to lit bon-fires, try local fish and sing songs – Ukrainian, Lithuanian, Italian and Latvian songs. I was there as well – joy, songs and high spirits ruled, but when it came close to midnight, guests went home to be ready for even a greater celebration the next day – Midsummer night – a celebration which has turned out to be common with all ethnic religions, since in the past people used to live according to sun rites, not moon rites as today.

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Day 3, June 21 – a day for presentation of traditions.

In the morning the participants of the conference meet at the Ethnographic Open-air museum to perform a ritual to give strength to ideas and intentions made at the conference as well as to ethnic religions and their followers all around the world. This time let the pictures tell the story »»».

SUMMER SOLSTICE FESTIVITY at Janu hill in Turaida »»

In the afternoon we meet in Turaida, at the Jāņi hill to celebrate summer solstice together. The most magic time of the year has come. Jāņi children are making wreaths and singing līgo songs. Folk groups from all over Latvia have been invited to take part in this celebration. The day is sunny and the sky is almost clear, as it is usual at a real summer solstice in order to be able to see the sun playing early in the morning. After Jāņi, Peter’s days come and they bring lots of rain and there is no importance any more to make wreaths or search for the fern flower, or bathe in the morning dew – “all the flowers picked at Jāņi eve are the best, the ones picked in the morning sun are of no use any more” (according to a Latvian folk song).

     

At Jani hill, there was lots of people waiting to celebrate Ligo. The celebration turned magnificent and went on smoothly, and it was as beautiful as in the song – other nations were in awe at seeing this stately nation come – wearing white shawls, red waistbands, and a headwear of three kinds of acorn. Its language flows smoothly, as a soul of a spring, where tranquility and harmony with the world around is obvious and felt in the soul. So that is how it all happened – quietly and beautifully, which can be considered as the main asset.

The fire ritual is conducted by Jolanta Larmane, Daris Jansons and Ramats Jansons. Almost a thousand people unite in common thought about Latvia and each of them has an opportunity to express his or her wish to everybody taking part in the celebration. Let it grow! Let our country and our nation grow to become the way we want it to be!

And the most important thing must be mentioned here – this Midsummer celebration was also opening of the sanctuary at Jāņi hill. It was a truly spiritual experience for all participants and all local people. We give thanks to the management of Turaida Museum reserve for the opportunity to organize Midsummer celebration in the most beautiful place in Latvia which is also the best for the main idea and content of the celebration of summer solstice – at Jāņi hill! We give thanks to everybody for finding time and opportunity to be with us and join us in strengthening traditional spiritual values.

People of the "Foundation Maras loks"

09.07.2007.

Congress home page: www.wcer.org

Congress organizers in Latvia:

Ramants Jansonshead of the Dievturu Parish „Ramava”, member of the Latvian Dievturu community board, phone: (+371) 26318737, e-mail: loks@marasloks.lv   

Foundation Maras loks www.marasloks.lv, e-mail: loks@marasloks.lv
Agnija Saprovska, mob.phone: (+371) 29541105

Jolanta Larmane – guest coordinator, e-mail: jolantalatvia@gmail.com, mob.phone: (+371) 27426650


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