Sunday, 13 March 2016

Film review: Where to Invade Next

Where to Invade Next is a provocative and humorous film about how to improve American life with proven successful examples from other countries.

The 110-minute documentary was produced, directed and narrated by Academy Award winner Michael Moore.

Moore visits Italy, France, Finland, Portugal, Norway, Slovenia, Germany, Tunisia, and Iceland to show how those countries successfully deal with social issues by spending less on war, more on citizens.

He meets with CEOs, Ministers of Education, a former President of Iceland, an American teacher in Finland, and others, to reveal fascinating simple solutions, such as:
  • Focussing more on the ‘we’ rather than the ‘I’. This means working for the common good of all instead of working to become rich.
  • Favourable working conditions and good wages which allow for paid maternity leave for women that give birth to babies, and provide free paid vacation time to the workers.
  • Gourmet meals for school children.
  • Free education to all.
  • Equality in work and opportunity for women.
  • Enlightened rehabilitation of prisoners.
  • Liberal attitude to drugs.
  • The application of the rule of law to all, including bankers and CEOs who take advantage of the public good. Equality is the way to ensure that the gap between the rich and the poor is greatly narrowed.
  • Universal medical, hospitalization, and drug services to all citizens.
  • Infrastructure of public facilities have to be based largely on human needs rather than on profit.
The film was released in 2015 months before the national elections in November 2016, to challenge Americans to follow proven policies used by other countries. Moore says: ‘If they can do it, surely we can.’

Saturday, 5 March 2016

Q69: What are 'Dukhobor' medallions, etc.

From: Alex Kalesnikoff, Calgary Alberta (February 24, 2016)

The other day, I was on the Internet and ... when I typed in 'Dukhobor' in error, I was led to the E-Bay site, where to my surprise items that are being sold as souvenirs, such as 'Dukhobor' medallions, etc.

Did you know about this? I thought you might be interested in knowing.


You did not misspell. 'Dukhobor' is the correct phonetic transliteration for the Russian word. In Canadian British English spelling, an 'o' was added before 'u' — 'Doukhobor'. (Q78: How Many Spellings of "Doukhobors"?)

Your search on eBay mostly found books, photos, trinkets, etc, for high prices. Many are free online, or available cheaper elsewhere. Buyer beware! Always shop around.

We did not know about the 'dukhobor' medallion (right) in old Slavic culture. The Dukhobor-Slavic-amulet-charm-talisman (right) and similar jewelry that you found are actual Slavic native faith symbols.

The Russian language label 'dukhobor' means 'spirit-wrestler/fighter' which describes the mythical function of this charm — to protect the wearer from bad spirits and illness.

During the Black Death plagues (1331-1770), many believed sweet smelling flowers and herbs would prevent disease cause by bad air. When there was no plague, people continued the habit of carrying herb flowers for protection, often sewing them on. When fresh flowers were not available, someone thought of sewing a flower image, which evolved into various traditions. The stitched flowers evolved into symbols later copied in metal.

By coincidence, the 'spirit-wrestler' label was independently applied to our ancestors by 1786, with no connection to this non-Christian symbol.

Ancient folk nature and sun symbols have been in use around the world, and are now sold as lucky charms, logos, etc. The Christian cross is a variation of the solar cross. Most Doukhobor organizations in Canada use the dove peace symbol.

Koozma knew about similar Slavic pagan symbols from years of research with Russian ethnographer Svetlana Inikova. Superstition in the form of sayings and amulets are things that Doukhobors have generally avoided, yet are sometimes recalled in oral history and found in some family collections in Canada.

Each Doukhobor towel (rushnik) is embroidered with a
different message from a young wife to her husband.

A few of the old Slavonic symbols remain in Doukhobor folklore today embroidered on
rushniki (Ukrainian: ritual cloth) hanging in the Orphan's Home meeting hall, Gorelovka, Republic of Georgia (above).

Nikolai "Kolya" Sukorukov explains that these embroidered symbols are 
messages from a young wife to her future husband, not Nazi swastikas.
From video interview by Andrei Conovaloff, 5 July 2015.

Two Canadian Doukhobors, during the Doukhobor Heritage Tour 2015, became alarmed when they saw the 'swastika' above. They cried out: Why is a Nazi symbol here?

Correcting their error, Kolya explained (above) that one symbol, cross-stitched by a young wife, is the fern flower (tsvetok paporotnika : цветок папоротника), and on the other side, reversed, it becomes the overcoming grass (odolen trava : одолень трава). Interpretation: she is looking for a masculine, wise husband, whom she can help to be strong, and at the same time be feminine, a goddess (boginya : богиня).

He continued, the men interpret women's wishes by looking at their towels. Other adjacent towels speak of wanting lots of kids, continuing the family tradition, and showing everlasting love on earth — an early form of Doukhobor match-making.

Many of these symbols have multiple confusing names, synonyms and a variety of meanings across cultures and time. An early comprehensive book shows that some of these symbols represent herbal remedies. For example, "odolian trava" was identified as the mythical name for valerian, which a woman sewed into her girdle. (Grimm, Jacob. Teutonic Mythology, Vol. III, 1883, page 1208.)

In India swastikas are a "... holiday tradition ... On Diwali (Christmas with fireworks), we put out swastikas. The swastika has existed for 5,000 years in Asia as a symbol of good fortune. It's a very common religious symbol in Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism. Placing the swastikas on the doorstep is a way of extending good wishes to all who come through our home. ... swastikas were all around ... on wedding invitations, on street signs, during pujas. ..." (Shah, Parth. "Diwali Dilemma: My Complicated Relationship With The Swastika," Code-Switch: Race and Identity, Remixed, All Things Considered, National Public Radio (NPR), October 28, 2016.)

Similar towels hanging in non-Doukhobor Spiritual Christian meeting halls have different meanings, ranging from memorials for fasting, deceased, martyrs, Holy Spirit, to colorful decoration with no message.

Do any readers know if the 'dukhobor' symbol was ever used by Doukhobors?

  1. Slavic lore and rules of their manufacturing: Dukhobor
  2. Славянские Символы Родов Великих: Духобор (Slavic Symbols of Great Families: Spirit-wrestler)
  3. Таблица свастических Славянских символов : ДУХОБОР (List of Slavic Symbolic Svastikas: Spirit-wrestler)
  4. "Latvian mythology and its interpretation in folk art and songs." — Presentation of 51 slides by Dace Prauliņš, Department of Central & East European Studies, University of Glasgow, United Kingdom. — See slides 12-15 : Pērkons - Thunder : Sign symbolizes light, fire, life, health and prosperity ...
  5. "Fern flower (tsvetok paporotnika)" in Kushnir, Dmitriy. Slavic Light Symbols, Dec 28, 2014.
  6. "Swastika (Fylfot Cross)," Symbol Dictionary — See: "A variation of the Thunder Cross, or Cross of Perkons."
  7. Fire Cross Branches
  8. Pērkona zīme.
  9. Wikipedia: Slavic swastika, talisman, amulet, svarog, cross, sun cross, cross necklace, dreamcatchers, Молвинец, etc.
  10. Grimm, Jacob. Teutonic Mythology, Vol. III, 1883. — An extensive cross-cultural comparison of mythology across Europe.
  11. Swastica (Armenian folklore)

See all Questions and Answers.