5 Feb 2012

What is Baltic Pixie (Laume)?

 This text is presenting a collection of analyzed sources to reach a degree of clarity about the character of Baltic Pixie (laume). After reading some folk tales one should get a flavor of what Baltic pixie is about. Also, some analysis work of renowned ethnographers helps to deliver the point more accurately. Various works of ethnographers J. Balys, N. Velius, L. Klimka and archeologist M. Gimbutas inform this text.

I was very lucky to get a chance to contact one of today’s most famous ethnographer in Lithuania Norbertas Velius, who directed me to most important sources and analysis works . I’m very grateful for the help.

Female Deities in Baltic Culture
Balts had retained the basic polytheistic religion of ancient Indo-European features. Their faith was important to the forces of nature, sun, moon, thunder. But particularly striking is feminine deity cult, female played an exceptional role in the Baltic culture. Next to image of Mother of the Gods there are numerous other female goddesses responsible for areas of the daily life.

What is a Baltic Pixie (Laume) ?

*from 'Laumiu dovanos ' (pixies gifts), N. Velius*
"One time a stepmother felt great hate to her stepdaughter and worked her off her feet with so much spinning,and weaving work during the nights. At one such nights thre pixies came to her and sayed, ‘as your stepmother makes you work so much, we came to helpt delivering her tasks " And Immediately they sat down and weaved all the stepmother had asked to and smothered her . Then going back to their ways sayed to stepdoughter :" She won’t badger you anymore’ . In the morning the stepmother was found dead."

Baltic Pixie (laume)is a nocturnal creature. They are protectresses of human morality: help people of good morality and excessively punished grabbers, and condemn the sloth. Etymologists argue that Baltic Pixie name means a being encouraging growth. According to J. Balys, Pixies are in fact a spiritualized image of nature - forests, mountains and rivers. They are mediators between earth and sky spheres. Pixie character is more mundane than any other Baltic goddesses. They’re often found lurking around people’s environment. Earthly Pixie’s are very temporal : beautiful, attractive, sexy, impulsive, irrational, longing for motherhood. They enjoy invading people’s homes for a visit, games and cause all kinds of villainy. The leading Pixie is of magical beauty and known as Laumu Laume Vaiva, she lives on the river bank in a sputtering slough.

S. Eidrigevicius Illustration

Laume, a dual being.
On one hand a wonderful worker - good at all women jobs, washing their endless fabrics in lakesides, sowing but especially weaving. The most diligent pixie-weavers weave rainbow which is called Vaiva Strip. Sometimes they are portrayed as tall giants forming mountains, excavating lakes, rivers, leaving imprints. Pixies often help poor women give them material goods.
However it is hard for them to stop the work , for example if they are weaving at peasant woman’s house, they ask for more and more weaving wool and if she finally lacked to bring any, pixie can weave her hair, intestines, till there’s only little nails left. While helping the woman with her baby having a bath, they can accidentally boil the child to death for pixies tend to be butter-fingered sometimes. They clip peasants sheep, swap or even kill children, trick men to follow them and then maul them, and in general act as pests intruding peasants space if they are not careful. Pixies can be dangerous especially to people of bad traits.

S Eidrigevicius Illustration

Pixie’s Appearances
In some descriptions, they have hands with long fingers and sharp stone nails. Teeth wide and long as a sword, and shaggy, unbrushed long hair. However, pixies are varying from cannibal and witch-like ones to beautiful woman-looking ones.
Some are similar to bears, brown cats, hairy brown mares. Or are much like beautiful girls with long hair and golden, white dresses, but is she was to take it off it would appears that her body and skin is like chicken’s , with chicken or rooster’s feet. Sometimes their head has goat's horns sticking out. There are pixies, whose lips are as thick, as sledge runners. Instead of clothing some pixies use hay straws.

Dragonfly is associated with Baltic Pixies because in Baltic languages dragonfly is called Pixie-horse up till these days.

If you were to roam the woods, you may notice some strange rigmarole of Birch branches. that would be a tree called ‘laumberzis’. Baltic Pixies like to sit in these branch cobwebs.

Circle Dances
When new moon rises over the horizon, two, three or a group of pixies gather at the rivers, lakes, dewy meadows and have fun dancing in large and small circles. Their dance is believed to cause the rain. But woe to the person who will see them while dancing. At first they would start tickling playfully the curious visitor, then tweaking and eventually tearing and devour him, particularly true if the visitor is a man. Pixies are fatal to men.

Swaping infants to ‘Laumykas’
Most pixies are longing for motherhood so their weakness is infants. They steal, or swap cradles of anabaptized babies. Mothers find ‘laumykas’ , a magical bag of hay straws growing into a child-looking creature, instead of their own child. Such Laumykas remains a big eyed dwarf kid with a big head.

S. Eidrigevicius Illustration

Rowan, little fingers, metal ring or friendship

*from 'Laumiu dovanos ' (pixies gifts), N. Velius*
"Few pixies grew into habit visiting this one peasant’s barn. They would gather all and dance and sing all night. The man grew terribly tired from the villainy they cause, but didn’t know how to get rid of them. But not far away from him an old woman was living, she was to give the advice one time. She instructed him to make a hole and stuff it with rowan. Peasant followed her rules waited for the evening to come and see what would happen. Pixies, as usually showed up and were about to settle themselves in the barn. But as they were about to step in they stopped! “Look, the doors are shut”, saidf one of them: “So this isn’t our place no more…’ And all walked their ways. That night since, they’ve never bothered the peasant again. "

Pixies take spray of rowan as a sign they are not wanted in that particular place. So it becomes a way for people to protect themselves from unwanted guests. Carrying Rowan branch, or keep bending the little fingers, so for pixies to leave people alone. They are also afraid of metal rings . Other way is to gain pixies favor . For that to happen women  would leave some soap, or open the doors to bathhouses and so on, to return the favor, pixies leave silk ribbons and other treasures.

Norbertas Velius, a famous ethnographer in the past, was analyzing Baltic characters, and pixies as well. He reaches this summary: ‘ Fantastic odd and unusual creatures, portrayed with all the splendor , are active, threatening and even fatal to humans for they can take their life away. Pixie is personalization of threatening nature, especially water element, to a primeval man. Pixies embody the experience of an elemental and irrational nature and on the other hand, man’s ingenuity and the ability to harness the forces of nature to his own favor. What is exclusive to In Baltic pixies is the feeling of peaceful peasant-worker life and a spirit shaped by large flat lands with little contrasts.” (N. Velius, Laumiu Dovanos).

Having defined the character of Baltic Pixie (laume) now it will be the time to look at some relating visual references and think about extracting the essence for presentation text of Laume.

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