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Profs & Pints DC: Spirits Around the Place

October 17, 2022 @ 6:00 pm - 8:30 pm EDT

$12 – $15

Profs and Pints DC presents: “Spirits Around the Place,” a look at East Slavic beliefs in supernatural creatures and haunted spaces, with folklorist Philippa Rappoport of George Washington University.

Traditional beliefs associated with Ukraine, Belarus and Russia hold that we’re seldom alone, even if no people are around. Instead, we’re nearly always surrounded by mythological beings. They can make our lives complicated and sometimes even injure or murder us, sometimes because we’ve annoyed them or, in other cases, just because that’s what they like to do.

Prepare to return to the days when you wondered what’s under your bed with this spook-filled talk by Philippa Rappoport, an expert on Slavic folklore and rituals. She’ll describe how East Slavic culture long ago gave rise to beliefs in such mythological beings, known as “nature” or “place” spirits, who exert their influence on farmsteads, bathhouses, threshing barns, woods, water, and, yes, our own homes. Their presence was felt daily in the peasant’s world, and it still can be seen today in the ways in which people relate to home, space, and boundaries.

The real frightening fun will come when Dr. Rappoport introduces us to these supernatural beings, discussing their characteristics and the beliefs and traditions surrounding them.

We’ll learn about the sprits of the home and homestead, such as the domovoi, a cranky spiritual master and protector of the home and hearth, and his counterpart of the yard, the dvorovoi. We’ll talk about the bannik, the bathhouse spirit who presides over bathing and births but also sees saunas as a great place to strangle folks who don’t show him enough respect.

A little farther from home, we’ll meet the spirits of the forests, waters, and fields. They include the leshii, master of the forest and its inhabitants, who might appear like a peasant, devil, or beast. Another spirit, the vodianoi, or “water devil,” is a bloated, shaggy, slimy water spirit that you’ll want to avoid at all costs.

We’ll examine how these supernatural creatures are related to perceptions of space, boundaries, danger, and people who are categorized as “others” and shunned for it. We’ll gain insights on how people express fear of the unknown, and how such fear connects to xenophobia and some of the worst human behavior imaginable, deeds which render their perpetrators as monsters in their own right. It’s a talk that will give you an entirely new vantage point for viewing Slavic history and culture, and help you better understand the 19th- and 20-century Russian propensity to close borders or punish by exile and gulag. (Advance tickets: $12. Door: $15, or $13 with a student ID.)

Image: A Bannik, or Russian bathhouse spirit, as drawn by Ivan Bilibin in 1934 (Wikimedia Commons).


October 17, 2022
6:00 pm - 8:30 pm EDT
$12 – $15
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Profs and Pints
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Little Penn Coffeehouse
801 E Street, NW
Washington, DC 20004 United States
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