House and home in the world outlook of different cultures

I am going to look at the Slavonic, Chinese and Madagascarian traditions concerning home. Slavonic because Belarus is a

House and home in the world outlook of different cultures



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when choosing a proper place: the position of the house in accordance with the landscape and in relation to some other buildings. The rules of placing a house with respect to the landscape are as follows:

1) The house should not be placed on the poor soil, otherwise the family will always be poor;

2) It should not be placed in a swampy place, because the water there is dead (unlike the water in rivers). This water will cause many troubles to the family up to death;

3) A place near a river is a good one unless it is a place where the river divides into two or more branches, as it is said that the family will follow its fate and will be ruined as a result of the negative influence of such a place;

4) A house should not be placed near a lake or a waterfall, because these are the places where spirits live. Only wizards ever go to the waterfalls where they communicate with gods. Ordinary people never dare to approach waterfalls;

5) The entrance to a valley is a bad place because the spirits living in the valley will worry people to death. A house should not be placed in the highest part of the valley either because the health, the wealth and the happiness of the family will run down the valley and away from the house. If a valley is the only possible place, then a special stone is used to protect the family. It is called a male stone and is placed near the house. It is believed to neutralize negative energy as sacrifices are made there to gain the favour of the spirits;

6) A house should not be placed on the top of or opposite a high steep rock or a mountain peak because they are said to have stronger fortune than people can have, so the fortune of the family will be destroyed by the strength of the mountain. Moreover, sacrifices are often made in the mountains, which enforces the negative energy;

7) Neither should a house be built near the place of a recent landslip. The danger is said to be not so much of a possible new landslip, but of the gulf into which a person can fall (both physically and spiritually);

8) One more place considered to be bad is the one where birds do not want to build their nests. It is believed that they feel the future misfortune, so people should also avoid such places. [1; 106]

This was a list of rules helping to find a good place from the point of view of the landscape. There is also a set of rules to follow in order not to break one of the strongest Madagascarian traditions the respect to the elders. These rules are:

1) A son`s house cannot be built to the North or to the East from the father`s house, because these parts of the world are the best ones and if the son breaks this rule it means that he wants to live in a better place than his father and does not respect him. All the neighbours will despise him for that. And the house should be smaller than the father`s (for the same reason);

2) A house should be properly oriented according to the family tomb. People should not live to the North of it because Malagasies sleep and place the dead with the feet towards the South. If they break this rule it seems that the living kick the ancestors` heads with their feet which is unacceptable. A house should not be placed on a lower level than that of the tomb, otherwise the dead will affect the living negatively. [1; 108]

2. The choice of the time of the beginning of the construction works.


One of the main Slavonic traditions says the beginning determines the end. That is why the choice of the proper time for a house building is so important (it is no less important for other cultures, although the principles of choosing the best time are different up to the opposite). The following circumstances are taken into consideration: the time of the year, the phase of the Moon, the day of the week, the part of the day, some other dates important to the future lodgers.

The best time of the year for building is that between Radunitsa (the day of the remembrance of the late ancestors the 9th day after Easter) and Whitsunday (the 49th day after Easter). The Moon should be in the growing phase. The 7th day after the full moon is also appropriate. These phases promise long life to the family. As for the days of the week, there are good and bad ones. Monday is a bad day, as it is called a difficult day and is inappropriate for any undertakings. Wednesday and Friday are also bad days, as these are the days of the fasting. Saturday is the remembrance day, so it is not appropriate either. Moreover, the latter three are called female days in the Slavonic world, and as building is not a women`s occupation, these days do not fit the purpose. Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday are considered to be good days. As for the time of the day, it is best to start building before the very dawn or from 9 to 12 a.m. It is believed that the well-being of the family will grow on the analogy of the growing day.

In Ukraine the days of worship to the saintsprotectors of family life are recognized as good ones. For Belarusians there is one more good day the birthday of the host of the future house. The day recognized as bad is the one on which there is an unburied dead person in the village.

For the Chinese the time is not so important as the place. It is said that any undertaking will have a good end if it is begun in the beginning of the year and on the growing phase of the moon. In this case the well-being of the people will grow.

Unlike the Chinese, Malagasies pay great attention to the time of the building. As for the season, it should not be spring or summer, because in this case building can cause bad crops. But the 1st day of the 3rd, the 4th or the 5th months of the year (called Adizauza, Asurutani and Alakhasati respectively, which corresponds to May, June and July as the year on Madagascar begins in March) is considered favourable. It should be neither Thursday nor Sunday, otherwise the family will be very poor. And it should never be the birthday of the host or his father. This taboo is based on the belief that everything has its own fortune. People born and undertakings made on the same day of the year are said to share one fortune. In such cases one of them is stronger in this respect, so the other will have to give in. Man is said to be weak, so the house having a stronger fortune than a man can cause a lot of misfortune to the host up to his premature death.


3. The process of house building.


In Slavonic culture the greatest importance in the building process is given to the laying the first row of logs, according to the principle the beginning determines the end. A lot of magic actions are done for the house to have a good fortune as the building of a new house is associated with the creation of a new world.

Firstly, the host prays to the God asking for his help. Then the work itself begins. A house should be built beginning from the eastern side (the side of the red corner the place in the house where sacred objects are kept) and following the movement of the Sun. A hole is made in the first log in the place of the future red corner and such objects as a slice of bread, a handful of wheat, some coins and a flock of sheep`s wool are put in there. This is done for the family to be rich. Such objects as an Easter candle and a piece of glass are buried in the ground under the red corner in order to scare away the evil spirit. When the first row of logs is laid, the process stops for one day, after that it continues. The number of rows is usually 13. Twelve rows create the living space for the family and the 13th serves as a channel connecting people with the other world, the world of the ancestors who help the living. The number 12 is connected with the number of the God`s apostles; it is also looked upon as the result of multiplication of the four parts of the world on the three notions of time (past, present and future).

When the logs are laid, the roof is raised. Usually it has two pitch slopes. The upper part of the roof is called the finial (in Russian konyok, literally meaning a horse, as it is a horse who takes men to gods after death).

During the whole period of building strangers, pregnant women, widows and widowers are not allowed to come to the building site as they bring negative energy. The end of the construction works is celebrated by the family, their relatives and neighbours.

The Chinese also have some methods to make the house happy. After the place is chosen, the family prays gods and spirits for help. Then such objects as a mirror, some coins and red ribbons are buried on the building site to provide the family with wealth and happiness. When the construction is finished, there is a great celebration with many guests invited.

Madagascarian traditions of house building are more complicated. A wizard is invited to the building site to do some magic actions scaring away bad luck and evil spirits. He uses such objects as a broken knife, aloe leaves, some honey and white quartz. The knife is going to cut the connection between the living and the dead, so that the former could live in peace. Aloe leaves symbolize the bitterness of misfortune, as aloe sap tastes very bitter. Honey is predestined to propitiate the late ancestors, so that they do not return to this world to break the peace. White quartz is called the stone of life. Like a male stone, it protects the family from the strength of death. All these objects are buried near the house. Then a hole is dug in the centre of the site and four more holes for the supporting posts of the house. The a sacrificial hen is killed and its blood is sprinkled into the holes. A bit of soil from the northern side of the site is thrown southward for the bad to go to the South, as the South is the direction of the bad luck.

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