Original Notes Of A Traveller In Russia In 1679
( Originally Published Late 1800's )
Every priest is called a pope, as Pope Peter, Pope Isidore, Pope Basil. A bishop is called Metropolite, or Archimandrite, and a dean Protopope. The popes are commonly dressed in red; some, how-ever, wear green, and several in other colours, according to their fancy. They never cut their hair, nor shave their beard. They are obliged to be married; but they must be the husbands of only one wife, ac-cording to the literal expression of the Apostle Paul. So that their priesthood depends upon their wives, and dies with them ; for which reason they marry young, that they may come early to a benefice, and treat their wives somewhat better than the common people do theirs. On the death of the wife the pope must become a monk, and it is from the monks that the bishops are elected.
The ceremonial of the Russian baptism differs from that of the Romish only in this, that they plunge the person all over in the water. During the exorcism, whenever the term " devil" occurs, all the congregation spit repeatedly, in testimony of abhorrence.
The custom which they had formerly of buying foreign children that they might make them embrace their religion, is no longer in practice. Whenever any foreigner renounces his profession, whether Protestant or Catholic, he must renounce also his former baptism ; he must curse his father and mother, and spit three times over his shoulder.
The generality of Russian marriages are negotiated and brought about by third persons, and are celebrated without any great solemnity. Commonly five or six of the female friends of him that wants to be married see the girl he intends to take quite naked before he promises, and if she has any bodily defect, she takes care to conceal it as much as possible. But, for his part, he seldom sees her till he be alone with her in the chamber where the marriage is to be con-summated.
The nuptial ceremonies are not great. A small number of people attend the bride till three o'clock in the afternoon. As they come out of church, the Panama, or sexton, throws hops upon her, wishing her to have children in as great a number as there be hops fallen; while another man, having on a sheep-skin shube, or pelice, with the wool turned outwards, accompanies her with wishes that she may have as many children as there be hairs on his shube.
Young people conduct the bridegroom to his house, and old women the bride, who is closely covered all over, so that no part of her per-son is to be seen. The pope at the same time carries the cross before her.
The new-married couple seat themselves at table, and stay there some time. They have bread and salt before them, but they eat nothing. Meanwhile a sort of choir of boys and girls sing nuptial songs so lascivious and obscene, that no language can make them more so.
At getting up from table, an old woman and a pope conduct the new-married people into their chamber, where the old woman exhorts the bride to be gentle and obedient to her husband, and the man to love his wife as he ought to do.
In one of his boots the bridegroom has a whip, and in the other some trifling trinket. He orders the bride to pull off his boots; and if it happen that she pull off that first which has the trinket, he gives it her, and it is considered as an omen of good fortune to her; but it is reckoned unfortunate if she take off that first which contains the whip. In that case, the husband gives her a stroke with it, as an earnest of what she is to expect in future. 'This ceremony being over, they are shut up in their room for two hours, the old women waiting the while for the marks of the virginity of the bride ; which, as soon as she has received, she braids the bride's hair, which had till now been dishevelled over her shoulders, and goes to demand the Albricias, or dower, of the parents.
To keep the rooms warm in Russia, it is customary here to make a bank of earth round them to the height of about two or three feet; but it is religiously observed not to let any of this earth remain at the head of the new-married pair, because the idea of mortality ought not then to be the object of their thoughts.
Children, of whichever sex, do not dare to refuse the husband or wife their father points out to them, nor slaves such as their proprietor directs. Barice Ivanovitch Morosof, the second person in the empire, having resolved to marry one of his friends to a rich widow of Dutch extraction, who had embraced the Russian religion, she went and threw herself at the feet of the wife of Barice, who is sister to the empress ; she intreated her to dissuade her husband from his design of forcing her to break the resolution she had made of never marrying again. All her prayers and intreaties were in vain. " Would you dishonour my husband," said the wife of Barice, "so much as to refuse a husband from his hand, and make him forfeit the word he has given ?"
The manner in which the Russians treat their wives is still very severe and inhuman, although much less so than formerly. It is only three or four years ago that a merchant, after having beat his wife in a most cruel manner, made her dip her shift all over in brandy, to which, as soon as she had put it on, he set fire, and the woman perished miserably in the flames. This murder was not examined into, because there is no law against putting their wives to death under pretence of correction. They sometimes hang a poor creature up by the hair of her head, strip her quite naked, and whip her in a horrible manner. It is true, they do not have recourse to these punishments except in cases of drunkenness or adultery. They are even rarely practised at all at present; and I have observed of late years that fathers take precautions to prevent ill-usage to their daughters, and that they insert these articles in their marriage-contracts: " That the husband shall maintain his wife in a manner suit-able to his condition; that he shall treat her with tenderness; that he shall give her good victuals and wholesome drink; that he shall not scourge her; that he shall neither kick her, nor give her fisticuffs," etc., etc. A woman that kills her husband is buried alive up to her neck, in which situation she remains till she be dead.
Persons of quality are rarely married without first consulting some fortune-teller, who are for the most part nuns. I have seen a young man run out of his wife's chamber, tearing his hair, and crying as he ran that he was bewitched and ruined. The remedy is to apply to a white magician (as they are called) to untie the knot some black en-chanter has tied. This was the case with the young man whom I saw in the above situation.
By the ecclesiastical law, all married folks are forbidden to have commerce together three days every week, Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Such as transgress this law must bathe before they can enter a church. Entrance is forbidden to a man that takes a second wife, who can only go to the porch; and whoever marries a third time is excommunicated.
If a man imagine his wife to be barren, he is to do his utmost to persuade her to retire into a convent; and if she will not consent, he has the liberty of bringing her to reason by the blows of a cudgel.
It is said that even the Empress would have taken the veil, had she not been delivered of the Tzarovitch, or prince, who was born the second of June, 1661, after having had four daughters without a son. .. .
When the Tzarovitch has attained .the age of fifteen years, he is taken to the market-place, where he is shown in publick, carried on men's shoulders, that he may be known of a sufficient number of people, so as to prevent any imposition that might be attempted to his prejudice, as there have been several imperial impostors in Russia. Till he arrives at this age, he is only seen of the person that has the care of his education and some of the principal domestics. The Russians in general suffer only their nearest relations and most intimate friends to see their children, and hide them from strangers with great care, fearing lest they should cast an evil eye upon them.
The Russian children are generally strong and robust. Their mothers suckle them only one month, or- two at the farthest ; after which a horn filled with cow's milk is suspended over their mouths with a teat of a cow fastened to the end of it, which is presented to them when clamorous. No sooner are they two years old than they are obliged to keep the fasts, which are extremely rigorous. There are four of these in the year. In Lent they fast three times a week, viz., Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday. On those days the Russians do not eat even fish; they support themselves solely on cabbages, cucumbers, and coarse rye-bread, drinking only Quas, a sort of sour small-beer. They will not even drink after a man that has eaten meat ; and if anyone be sick, he will not take a medicine in the prescription of which should he these words, Cor. Cervi Al., or Pil. Lej'or., so scrupulous are they in the observance of their fasts.
Their ordinary penances are to prostrate themselves, to beat their head before a picture, and sometimes to eat nothing but bread, salt, and cucumbers, and to drink only water.