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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a staircase right behind the door, it is a bad sign. Such a situation needs correction. If the staircase goes upwards, it can cause diseases to the family. The remedy is to make a threshold to step over the line between the door and the first step. If the staircase goes downwards, it does not let the family to become rich. In such cases a mirror should be placed on the outer side of the house to reflect the negative energy.

As for the Malagasies, they say the door must be strong to protect the family from any unwanted influence from outside. As stated above, it must look westward and should not squeak as this sound can call the spirits to the house and they will disturb the lodgers. In the daytime it is left open as a sign of hospitality and is closed for the night.


5.2. The zone of cooking.


The zone of cooking is represented by the stove. The structure of the stove repeats the structure of the house which in its turn resembles the structure of the Universe: the place under the stove symbolizes the past (cf. with the cellar), the stove itself the present (cf. with the house), the chimney symbolizes the future (cf. with the garret).

The fire should not be put out for the night. There is a special hollow in the stove where coals are gathered for the night to be used again the next day. The fire is put out only in two cases:

1) if somebody died in the house; then the stove stays cold for three days;

2) during an epidemic; all the stoves in a village should be put out. Then the life-giving fire the one got by rubbing - is passed from house to house.

The stove should be closed with an oven-door when not used so that the wealth does not leave the family. The chimney should be kept closed with a damper for the house not to be struck by a lightening. When moving to a new house, some coals should be taken from the old stove and put into the new one as they symbolize the happiness of the family.

The Chinese use to choose the western or the northern part of the house for the stove and the kitchen. The stove should be seen very well from the door. The door should not set against any furniture, there must be enough space for the door to open freely. The stove and the sink should be placed as far from each other as possible since they represent different kinds of energy those of the fire and of the water. Different energies in close contact cause distress to the lodgers. The shelves in the kitchen should have doors and be kept closed. The window-sills should be free of any objects and the curtains should be drawn back for the energy to move freely.

On Madagascar the stove is placed on three stones in the centre of the house. It can also be built in the southern part of the house to neutralize negative energy coming from the South as the South is considered to be the worst part of the world. The guests sit northward to the stove. The first person to make fire in the hearth in a new house is the host. He also prepares the first food which is considered blessed.


5.3. The zone of sleeping.


The place people use for sleeping is subject to numerous regulations concerning its position and the orientation of sleeping people according to the parts of the world. These rules differ from one culture to another as they are dictated by the world outlook of nations.

Slavs are free to choose any place in the house they like except for the red corner which is sacred and predestined to ritual use. Babies and old people should sleep on the stove as it is believed to give them the vital energy they need. It is forbidden to sleep with one`s feet towards the door as only the dead can be placed in such a way. Sleeping in front of a mirror is considered harmful as the mirror takes the strength away from the sleeping person. As for the direction of a person, it is best to sleep with one`s head to the North and never to the East as the dead are usually placed with their heads to the East (to the red corner).

The Chinese say that different people should choose different places for sleeping. Calm people should sleep in the northern part of the house; energetic ones in the southern part; the eastern part is the best for the young. People of any age wishing to bring more romance into their life should choose the western part of the house. Some places are said to be unfavourable for the purpose: any place on the ground floor as the ground is connected with death; the place on the first floor right above the kitchen; the room the door of which looks at the main door or a staircase. The best form for the bedroom is square.

The place for the bed in the room is chosen individually. The rules of the placement of the main door are applied here. One more rule states that one should not sleep with his feet towards the door or the window; the worst place for the bed is on the line door window. Nevertheless, the door should be well seen from the bed. There should be no mirrors against the bed and no shelves near the head of it.

Malagasies use to sleep on mats instead of beds; still there are certain rules concerning the sleeping place, too. Great importance is given to the direction of the head of a sleeping person. Men sleep by the eastern wall with their head to the North or East. Women and children sleep to the South from the stove with their heads to the East. It is forbidden to sleep with the head to the South as only wizards do so. Children can never sit or lie on the place the adults sleep on as they show their disrespect to the elders if do so.

These are the zones recognized in all the three cultures, but there are other zones, typical only of some of them. One of such zones is the red corner in Slavonic culture, which is not singled out in the Chinese and Madagascarian ones because of the difference in their religious beliefs.


5.4. The zone of the sacred.


This is the most important part in a Slavonic house without which it cannot exist. The red corner is one of the eastern corners of the house, namely the one placed diagonally to the stove. It has the status of a church altar. Its space is divided into two levels. On the upper level the icon is placed. The icon connects two walls: a long wall, symbolizing the hosts, and a short one which symbolizes the relatives of the wife and the daughter-in-law. Some sacred things (first hair of the children, church candles, holy salt, an Easter egg, etc.) are kept behind the icon and used in some extraordinary situations. The lower level is used to keep the results of a person`s activity. The first or the last sheaf is placed there and kept for a year as a symbol of a good crop.

Entering the house, every person should cross himself and take a bow to the icon to show the respect to the God and to the family. Only after that any talking to the hosts is permitted.

The place under the icon is sacred and there are strict rules as to the possibility to sit there. At the christening party the godparents sit there; at the wedding the newly-married couple with the godparents on both sides; at the funeral ceremony the place at the table under the red corner is given to the oldest person present.

The icon must be handled with special care. It must not be stolen, burnt or used for any non-ritual aims. Old icons should be buried at the cemetery. It is preferable that every member of the family has an icon in honour of the saint whose name he has.

6. The difference in the attitude towards some objects.


Some objects used in a house may get different attitude towards themselves as a result of the cultural differences. Such commonly used things as a table and a mirror have acquired the greatest ritual meaning of all the objects in a house and become subjects to many regulations in Belarusian and Chinese cultures. In Madagascarian culture, though, these objects are not so important as they are not used. People eat on a mat near the stove instead of a table and do not have mirrors in the house as they are said to have come from evil spirit who wants to make people selfish and destroy close relationships which are characteristic of Malagasies. That is why only two cultures will be compared in this respect, Belarusian and Chinese ones.


6.1. A table.


For Belarusians the table is the symbol of prosperity of the family. It should be covered with a white table-cloth. People should never eat at an uncovered table, otherwise the family will lose its wealth. It is forbidden to sit on the table as it is the place for food which is considered sacred. The table should be cleaned after every meal for evil spirit not to eat what is left. Still, on the remembrance days the table should be left with the food for a night so that the souls of the ancestors could come to eat. A wedding table should have Г- or П-form. The guests should be placed facing each other. A funeral table should have the form of a straight line. Nobody should sit at the far ends as this table symbolizes the road leading the soul to the other world, so no one should be on its way. A rule for everyday life is that one should not bang with the tableware. It is believed that this sound worries the ancestors.

In Chinese culture the table is one of the main places where Chi accumulates and if the rules are not followed, then the positive energy Chi can turn into the negative energy Sha Chi. The dining-table should be large. If it is oval or octagonal then all other furniture in the kitchen should be rectangular or square and vice versa. The tableware should be round or octagonal. The colour of the table-cloth depends on the part of the world; that is if the table is in the southern part of the kitchen, the table-cloth should be red; if it

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