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Belted Slav

Among the most prominent heathen beliefs of the Eastern Slavs, it is most important to mention the traditions related to wearing belts.

In the Eastern Slavonic culture, a belt is, first and foremost, a border between the real world and the other side of reality. A moment of a birth is considered as the first such transition between worlds. Belarusians tie a belt on a baby almost immediately after birth to change its status from "a certain spirit" to a human being.

It is believed that evil spirits are afraid of the belted person and such a person would not be touched by the evil.

A waistband is a must-be part of all traditional Slavonic costumes, to the Slavs it is a proof that the wearer is a human being and not an unpleasant spirit taking a human form. A person's belt would also most clearly show his status: rich or poor, hunter or gatherer, married or free, man or woman, smart or stupid, etc. It is common to wear more than one belt at a time: one over the skin and one over the clothes.

As a piece of a person's clothing, taking the shape of a circle, a belt is often used as a talisman and the central focus in various rituals. In Ukraine, a deceased person's relatives tie a belt on their home's gate to ensure that "there are no more deads". A blue or black belt without a knot must be put in the person's coffin (dark colors symbolize weakening and fading).

Another ancient tradition is wearing a metallic bracelet around the waist. A blacksmith would forge such a bracelet, often beautifully ornamented, to be put around a newborn child's waist several days after his birth and not to be taken off again for years. As the person grows up, the bracelet stays the same size, burying itself deep into the waist and giving it a wasp-like shape. This practice is used to discover special, gifted people, who have a lot of power over the world of spirits: once wearing the bracelet becomes unbearable, the youth may take it off whenever they choose to, but then it cannot be put back again later. Once the bracelet is off, it's off forever. Young men who can wear it to their late teens or more are said to be blessed and "untouched by the evil"; they are allowed to take part in very special sacred heathen rituals. Only one among a hundred youths manage to fully accomplish this practice, most would take the bracelet off during their early or late childhood, thus there are old Slavonic sayings that "everyone has a little devil in his body" or "no one is perfect". This practice is considered as a noble deed and one of the hardest jobs; one a day the bracelet is finally removed, the wearer's name and the duration of wearing is engraved on it, for example: "Kazimir wore this bracelet for 9 years, 5 moons and 10 nights; taken off on 6th day of Berezeń, the month of the birch". The date is then celebrated as the person's second birthday.

Another belt-related tradition: if a person was accused of dealing with evil spirits (such as committing a crime, acting violently or even just being mean to others), Slavs would say that the person has "unbelted himself" (as in "let himself go"), the village would gather for a trial where two strong men would be chosen to pull a rope wrapped around the person's waist in the opposite directions to physically squeeze the evil spirits out of his body. After the person threw up 3 times, the village's elders spit in his face and say that he is now clean and can come back to other good people. Thus the punishment of criminals among the Slavs can be quite humiliating. The person must then bow to the crowd and say that he or she is grateful for the lesson.

Removal of the belt means coming in contact with the other world, evil spirits, etc. Therefore youths are not allowed to remove their waistbands under any circumstances because they are too weak to confront the evil, so even while bathing they only use warm water and are never allowed into the steam-room. Indeed, if they try to go into the steam-room while wearing the bracelet, the metal would get unbearably hot against the skin, which is a proof that the steam-room is full of devils (another common belief).

Adults can take the belt off, but only on special occasions such as on "the night of Ivan Kupala", while searching for treasure, while taking a hot bath, during the rites to cure epidemics and loss of cattle, and for divinations.

#USSR #waist cinching
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See also

Yasen The Slavic Slave From Russia with Fluff From Russia with Folds The Lad and the Ladder Back to the Woods Limber Lumberer Twist Me Gently Elven Jewels Aaulin's Discovery Dunce Twist Me Gently WIP Wasped Anatomy
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