VEHA. “The Girls’ Night”, 06.09–06.10

The rite system contains stable verbal, behavioural and subject codes transmitted from generation to generation, and in case of rituals associated with the wreath – through the female family line. Understanding the symbolic purpose of the ritual wreath is based on its form of the circle. The circle is the embodiment of the Great Cosmic Path, where the heavenly constellations gradually intertwined. The girl’s head was interpreted as the Sun around which this round dance was going on in circles, with every circle symbolizing the path of a new life, a new generation, a continuation of the kin.

The combination of Christian and pagan traditions is also characteristic of the Belarusians, where the shape of the circle stood for the amulet protecting women from impure forces, diseases and childlessness. Sick children were taken through the wreath, little girls were washed with the water streaming through it to assure a future successful marriage. The wreath was also put on the heads of unmarried young people. In the house the wreath served as a guard against evil spirits and misfortunes. For example, it was believed that lightning would never hit a house protected by a wreath. The symbolism of the circle is also closely connected with love magic and numerous ways of divination.

In Belarus girls were allowed to wear a wreath from the age of 10. An unmarried girl in a wreath virtually invited village guys to “spin” around her. Wreath-making symbolized the harmonious union of specially prepared plants and objects into one.

A wedding wreath was created in the so-called “girls’ night” – the evening before the wedding – when young girls gathered together to sing ritual songs and make ornaments. Traditionally, the wreath was made of artificial flowers, because people were afraid that together with fading flowers love risks disappearing, too. In addition to flowers, the wreath was decorated with colorful ribbons, most often – red. Since the wreath was linked to virginity, it could not be worn by those marrying for the second time or the women who had lost their virginity before the wedding. The people used to say that she “ruined (or lost) her wreath.”

A wreath was taken off the bride’s head before the wedding night. And most often it was done by her mother-in-law. Acting in this way, she was also “taking off” the bride’s will, that is the girl was symbolically acquiring a new, married, status – and the place of the wreath was taken by another symbol – the kerchief.

Transferred beliefs of the ritual wreath are based on communication between women and associated with a number of important phenomena and concepts of any life cycle: love, separation, infertility, children’s illnesses. Symbols that determine fertility and well-being, were especially actively used in making wreaths during the war years. Its small fragments served as an amulet, mothers used to sew them into their sons’ talismans when it was time for them to join the army.

06.09 — 06.10
“Ў” Gallery

12:00 – 20:00, daily

06.09
Opening

“Ў” Gallery, 19:00