A unique portrait of character and nature of Ukrainian women
To understand the nature of Ukrainian women, firstly, we should apply to the Ukrainian folklore, and secondly – to folk rites, customs or rituals. Especially because this is a unique cultural layer, in which can be found not only evidence of agriculture, natural beauty, and high feelings, but also about the noble deeds of strong women who are able to bring harmony, not only at home but also in society.
It turned out that old and experienced women held “Rada” (Council) and, therefore, managed the community life while the elderly men had to protect the garden. So, in contrast to the patriarchal systems in other countries, where the last word in the family always remains behind the man, in a Ukrainian family, this right belonged to the oldest woman in the family.
In Ukraine (unlike Russia) did not exist the stereotype of “a drinking husband” who beat his wife. On the contrary, when a “drunk” Ukrainian husband returned home from the tavern, he “lowered his forelock,” because he knew that his wife would drag him by his forelock.
Before agreeing to the marriage, the girl was asking her fiance: “Will you let me have my private time on Mondays?” If the bride did not agree, the girl had an absolute right to bring him a pumpkin, that is, to refuse, even despite the parental blessing. If the groom agreed, but then did not fulfil his promise, the wife was entitled to cancel the marriage (and such facts are known). Note that this behaviour would have been unthinkable at that time for women in Russia, Europe, if not to mention the Eastern countries.
What did this agreement mean? Once a week, namely on Monday, a young wife had the right to leave the house for the whole day, without asking permission. Household cares during this time lay on the shoulders of her husband’s, that’s why Monday has always been the most difficult day for them. Since then, we have a very wide spread saying: “Monday – is a heavy day”.
This custom was very necessary for young women. It facilitated the transition of a girl into a married life. On Mondays, the young wives gathered together, relaxed, shared secrets, especially in the field of intimate life, had fun. Neither their husbands nor mothers-in-law could bother them here because the ceremonial law strictly forbade it.
Natural attractiveness of a Ukrainian woman
This rite (playing with men in the water while changing clothes) touches the topic of female sexuality. It is a well-known fact that any manifestation of female sexuality in the patriarchal culture was strictly prohibited. The woman served only as a subject to satisfaction of the male whim. In this rite and some other – female sexuality is not only prohibited but also actively presented.
The image of a cheerful soldier’s wife is characterised by bright sexuality. We are talking about the time when men served in the army for 25 years, and if the man managed to get married before the serving time, then his wife became a soldier’s wife. It is clear that she could not marry again while he was far away in the army and her empty house became a kind of youth club and she was its head.
Here the youth gathered to “vechornytsi” (evening meetings) and “dosvitki” (late night meetings, till sunrise). While playing, singing, some simple work young people started to know each other better, and love affairs began here.
The soldier’s wife “regulated” the behavior of young people in the most difficult moments – the choice of the future life partner, monitored the observance of the norms of public morality but did it in a festive atmosphere, which she herself created.
For her advice were seeking not only girls and guys but also their parents, because the well-being of the future young family depended a lot on her. She was the attorney of the girles’ secrets and guys’ hopes and was a big authority among them because she usually had a fun and light character, nice sense of humor, great communication skills, and vivid imagination. It should be noted that the community looked through the fingers on soldier’s wife sexual affairs, but of course, if she stuck to the rules of decency, that is, if her love affairs were not ended with the birth of a natural child.
With sexual activity in Ukrainian traditional culture are also endowed women connected to something unclear and mysterious. Here we turn to one more typical image of Ukrainian women who have the real force and magic power – the image of the witch.
Passion for the male sex makes her especially dangerous for men because “the one who sees her once, will fall in love to death.” Ukrainian witch – is not terrible and ugly, she is a woman with an exceptional female attraction. The Ukrainians have never been frightened by her, on the contrary, they often asked her for help in desperate situations.
In Ukraine, witchcraft has always been perceived as a manifestation of extraordinary abilities. And these women, endowed with magical power, could use it to the extent of their promiscuity – both for good and for evil.
The sacred feminine image, which is also the central symbol of Ukrainian national revival – the image of “Bereginja” ( “Defender”) . The ancient symbol of Bereginja is associated with the image of a woman who protects family, clan, nation. She has been depicted with her hands up – a symbolic gesture of protection and blessing.
Cossacks believed that only mother’s blessing will protect them in a bloody battle. More than losing a weapon, they were afraid to lose amulet, worn by the caring mother’s hands.
Ukrainian woman has always impersonated not only the home coziness but also the preservation of spiritual values. All that enlivened the house, was created by women’s hands and was not only practical but also had a symbolic-protecting value. On the ancient images of “Bereginja” her raised upwards hands are ended with horses’ heads or she is depicted among the riders which emphasizes her active but not passive position of women in the Ukrainian society. “Bereginja” symbolized a security force and protected from danger not only the family but the entire nation.
As you can see, even long ago in the past, the position of Ukrainian women was different from the typical severe obedience to her husband nowadays. Exactly the woman as a guardian and teacher of the native language, traditions and culture in general outlines the symbolic borders od the nation.
The material was translated from the article of a Ukrainian blogger who deeply studied Ukrainian folklore and traditions and collected it all in one article.