Birth of the World
We begin our Christmas journey not far, not close, but from the very birth of the world. After all, several millennia ago, in this winter time, our ancestors celebrated the birth of the world and the sun – Rizdvo (birth and Christmas in Ukrainian). The oldest Ukrainian carols tell us the myth about the time when “there was neither heaven nor earth”. In fact, there was no time, only the “blue sea” and a tree in the middle of it.
Folk painting “Deer and Birds”. the village of Richka, Kosivsky district, Ivano-Frankivsk region, 1st part of the 20th century. Paper, gouache
We are lucky to hear an authentic recording of one of the brightest Ukrainian ritual songs about the world's creation – the cosmogonic carol “Oh, how it was from the beginning of time”. It was recorded by ethnographer Hanna Koropnichenko in the village of Hruzke, Makariv district, Kyiv region, in 1994.
Carol: “Oh, how it was from the beginning of time.” Performers: Oparienko Vira Tikhonivna (born in 1922), Mashovets Maria Volodymyrivna (born in 1921), Mashovets Kateryna Mykolaivna (born in 1929), Pikhur Odarka Onopriyivna (born in 1913), Mogolivets Nadiia Hryhorivna (born in 1914), Tsyrul Raisa Havrylivna (born in 1929). The carol was released on the disc "Traditional Music of Ukrainians [Collection]” (1997).
Embroidered towel (fragment), 19th century, 278x44 cm. Collection of the Ivan Honchar Museum.
The carol “Oh, how it was from the beginning of time” came to us in a Christianized and somewhat abridged form. The earliest versions of cosmogonic carols reveal the prominent archaic motifs – the image of the world tree, the birds-creators who dived to the bottom of the primordial waters, the motif of the creation of heavenly bodies from the golden sand, and the competition of the elements.
Our ancestors' idea about the world's creation is often the central theme of folk art. On the towels, dishes, carpets, wall paintings, and in general, in the interior of the Ukrainian house, we meet the central archaic motif – the tree of life, whose companions are the sun, stars, and fantastic birds.
The sun was essential for the life and well-being of our ancestors, so the legends about the birth of the world and the sun are closely related. According to researchers, the word "Koliada" (the so-called cycle of Christmas holidays in Ukraine) comes from the word "circle," that is, from the shape of the sun.