Raffaele Petralla: Mari People, a Pagan Beauty

Raffaele Petralla: Mari People, a Pagan Beauty
International Photography Grant 2019

There is a population with Finnish ancestors living in a rural area near Joshkar-ola, in the Republic of Mari-El, Russia. They are called Mari, speak a language belonging to the Ugro-Finnic and use a modified version of the Cyrillic alphabet. They settled in this area around the fifth century a.C. The current population is about 600,000 people.
The Mari are the last pagan population of the West. They live in symbiotic relationship with nature, which is celebrated as the basis of their existence. Nature exerts a magical religiosity on people. It is the mother who protects man, beneficial as long as he does not try to destroy it. The cyclical nature of the land merges with the ancient pagan practices. The faith of the Mari worships the gods of the four natural elements.
In the sixteenth century, Christianity was imposed on them by Ivan the Terrible and their territory was annexed to the Russian Empire. However, the religious subjugation was never fully accepted, they in fact retain their beliefs in a significant amount of pre-Christian elements. In the twentieth century, with the rise of the Soviet Union, it was officially forbidden to celebrate rituals and sacrifices. During the Cold War many prominent personalities of the Red Army, fascinated by their magical power, turned in secret to the Mari spiritual guidance looking for answers on the possible outcomes of their military strategies. In the 90’s the economy of the Mari, which was based on agriculture and livestock, entered a crisis with the dissolution of the Soviet Union. Poverty and unemployment led young people to migrate to the big cities in search of a stable future, abandoning their villages and their ancient traditions.
In this journey back to the origins of man, in search of languages and cultures not yet disappeared, i came across this peasant ethic not yet affected by time. Among dances and forests, a pagan beauty emerges from this forgotten people.

Website: www.raffaelepetrallaphotographer.com

(ENG) A man bring the water from the well of sacred water. For the people Mari nature has a double meaning, not only vital economic resource but also and above all spiritual, the place where they can be officiated sacred rites. (ITA) Un uomo estrae acqua di una sorgente ritenuta sacra.

(ENG) A man bring the water from the well of sacred water. For the people Mari nature has a double meaning, not only vital economic resource but also and above all spiritual, the place where they can be officiated sacred rites. © Raffaele Petralla: Mari People, a Pagan Beauty

(ENG) An old woman drinks an 8% degrees beer from a bottle in the early morning. (ITA) Una donna anziana sorseggia una birra di primo mattino.

(ENG) An old woman drinks an 8% degrees beer from a bottle in the early morning. © Raffaele Petralla: Mari People, a Pagan Beauty

(ENG) Typical Mari country house. They live a very simple life, bucolic. Small villages made of dirt roads and few houses. (ITA) Tipica casa di campagna Mari. La regione è disseminata di piccoli villaggi fatti di strade sterrate e abitazioni rurali.

(ENG) Typical Mari country house. They live a very simple life, bucolic. Small villages made of dirt roads and few houses. © Raffaele Petralla: Mari People, a Pagan Beauty

(ENG) A woman go to wash clothes in the river during the summer. (ITA) Una donna intenta a lavare i panni nelle acque del fiume sacro.

(ENG) A woman go to wash clothes in the river during the summer. © Raffaele Petralla: Mari People, a Pagan Beauty

© Raffaele Petralla: Mari People, a Pagan Beauty

© Raffaele Petralla: Mari People, a Pagan Beauty

(ENG) Women discussing in a hot summer afternoon. Tonshaevo village (ITA) Donne discutono in un caldo pomeriggio d'estate. Villaggio di Tonshaevo.

(ENG) Women discussing in a hot summer afternoon. Tonshaevo village © Raffaele Petralla: Mari People, a Pagan Beauty

(ENG) Tea time for Natasha, wearing typical Mari clothes. (ITA) L'ora del tè per Natasha, che indossa abiti tradizionali.

(ENG) Tea time for Natasha, wearing typical Mari clothes. © Raffaele Petralla: Mari People, a Pagan Beauty

Landscape around Novitarial village. Mari-El Republic.2014

Landscape around Novitarial village. Mari-El Republic. © Raffaele Petralla: Mari People, a Pagan Beauty

A woman coming back home before the sunset in winter time. Chursola village.

A woman coming back home before the sunset in winter time. Chursola village. © Raffaele Petralla: Mari People, a Pagan Beauty

raffaele-petralla-mari-people-a-pagan-beauty-10

© Raffaele Petralla: Mari People, a Pagan Beauty

(ENG) A flock of sacred geese. In the mythology of Mari people geese are the most important offering to the gods. (ITA

(ENG) A flock of sacred geese. In the mythology of Mari people geese are the most important offering to the gods. © Raffaele Petralla: Mari People, a Pagan Beauty

(ENG) Home prayer. The priest celebrates the prayer to bless the food before being taken in the ritual offering to the gods. Novitarial village, Mari-El Republic, 2014 (ITA) il Kart, principale leader spirituale benedice gli omaggi offerti da una famiglia prima che vengano portati al rituale nella foresta e offerti in dono agli dei. Villaggio di Novitarial, Repubblica di Mari-el,2014

(ENG) Home prayer. The priest celebrates the prayer to bless the food before being taken in the ritual offering to the gods. Novitarial village, Mari-El Republic, 2014 © Raffaele Petralla: Mari People, a Pagan Beauty

(ENG) In the mythology of the Mari people, geese are the most significant. Each family rushes to the function with a goose for sacrifice, symbolizing the connection between various elements such as water, earth and sky. Before offering the life of the animal spirits, it is critical that this is calm and gentle because otherwise it would defeat the good wishes and, by doing so, the Kart caresses him with a leaf birch, first moistened and then heated on a fire to create a cloud of pleasant steam. Chursola sacred grow, Mari-El Republic, 2014 (ITA) Oche scelte per il sacrificio agli dei della foresta. Bosco sacro di Chursola.Repubblica di Mari-el 2014.

(ENG) In the mythology of the Mari people, geese are the most significant. Each family rushes to the function with a goose for sacrifice, symbolizing the connection between various elements such as water, earth and sky. Before offering the life of the animal spirits, it is critical that this is calm and gentle because otherwise it would defeat the good wishes and, by doing so, the Kart caresses him with a leaf birch, first moistened and then heated on a fire to create a cloud of pleasant steam. Chursola sacred grow, Mari-El Republic, 2014 © Raffaele Petralla: Mari People, a Pagan Beauty

(eng) Mari peole pray in the sacred grow during the big ritual they celebrate on the 1th of november before the winter starts. For Mari represents the beginning of winter, therefore, given the harshness of the coming season, for them is the best time to ask the favor of the spirits that govern the cycles of life. Among all the most important entity is Yumo, considered the creator of the highest laws governing the cosmos. Chursola sacred grow, Mari-El Republic. 2014 (ITA) Preghiera collettiva nel boscosacro durante il grande rito si celebra il 1 novembre. Per Mari rappresenta l'inizio dell'inverno, il momento migliore per chiedere il favore degli spiriti. Tra tutti l'entità più importante è Yumo, considerato il creatore delle leggi più alte che governano il cosmo. Bosco sacro di Chursola, Repubblica di Mari-El, 2014

(eng) Mari peole pray in the sacred grow during the big ritual they celebrate on the 1th of november before the winter starts. For Mari represents the beginning of winter, therefore, given the harshness of the coming season, for them is the best time to ask the favor of the spirits that govern the cycles of life. Among all the most important entity is Yumo, considered the creator of the highest laws governing the cosmos. Chursola sacred grow, Mari-El Republic. 2014 © Raffaele Petralla: Mari People, a Pagan Beauty

(ENG) Fisherman on the bed of a frozen river. Chursola village, Mari-El Republic, 2014. (ITA) Pescatore all'opera sul letto del fiume appena ghiacciato. Villaggio di Chursola, Repubblica di Mari-el,2014

(ENG) Fisherman on the bed of a frozen river. Chursola village, Mari-El Republic, 2014. © Raffaele Petralla: Mari People, a Pagan Beauty

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International Photography Grant 2019