"The Solovetsky Islands (Russian: Соловецкие острова), or Solovki (Соловки), are an archipelago located in the Onega Bay of the White Sea, Russia. Area: 347 square kilometers (134 sq mi). "
( The Solovki Encyclopedia )
In the 1920's a hypothesis of N.Vinogradov "the cult of the design of labyrinths" had appeared. In the 1970's, the hypothesis of labyrinths as traps for fish was advanced by N.Gurina and was fairly well accepted.
Adherents of this hypothesis made the assumption that the traps resembled labyrinths. Traps were constructed allegedly in the shoal. Fish that were going in the direction of the labyrinth, could not pass through the center of the labyrinth. From a fisherman's point of view, the concept was well planned, but not professionally thought out. Fish will never swim onto the shoal in the region of Solovki. Let's suppose, further developing this hypothesis, that the tribes of Fennoscandia caught fish in such a way. If this is a correct hypothesis, then where are the labyrinths which should be scattered on most of the European North? Furthermore, the existence of similar labyrinths further in land on the continent, for example Sweden, indicates the subjectivity of the fishing hypothesis. The hypothesis of D. Svyatski discusses the labyrinths as primitive temples of Lapps and astral projection. It is interesting that in the legends of Lapps similar constructions are attributed to "giants". Lapps and astral projection, most likely, have no relation to the builders of labyrinths. Practically all labyrinths have different associations, and can not be correlated with visible astronomical objects.
Murmansk researcher, L.Ershov, sees within the lines of labyrinths, the schematic reflection of both the sun's and moon's orbits, convenient to these latitudes. Labyrinths can be seen as calendars, using L.Ershov theory, but labyrinths do not have a clear direction of entrance considering that out of 10 labyrinths, the majority can be unrolled into many different sides. It is unconvincing that the ancients would have used so many different forms of calendars.
The many hypothesizes about the labyrinths navigation signs are extraordinary. However, if a person were to stand in front any one labyrinth, it would look as though the next one did not exist. This hypothesis would make sense if one were analyzing the tradition of leaving "a sign of existence". This tradition is known from the time of the Phoenicians. In the areas of their dwellings, Phoenicians left firm signs indicating that they were there. For example, the palm of the right hand would be drawn or hewn out in stone. However, it is not entirely understandable why there are 13 similar signs of existence on the Zayatski Island, which has an area of 1,5 km².
In examining the arrangements of the labyrinths on the sea capes, on the islands, and near the mouths of rivers, these natural objects combine not only the necessary requirements for the building of sanctuaries, but also have utilitarian value. These places have an abundant supply of fresh water needed for single nights or prolonged stays. Certain sacred signs, similar to the signs of existence, served as a guard of the night's calmness, and were left behind even after the tribes would leave the area. Likewise, Christian navigators were erecting crosses and chapels at the places of their stops.
Furthermore, the most popular sign seen in almost all of the northern labyrinths is worth mentioning. In this case, the labyrinth is connected with the "cult of the dead". The current hypothesis about the "cult of the dead" sign deserves special attention considering that contact with the spirits of ancestors played a significant part in the cultural traditions of the ancient cults. Unfortunately, this hypothesis is not complete because it implies that once a soul enters a labyrinth, the soul becomes entangled and loses its way back into the world of the living. Labyrinths are considered to be the only possible entrance into the world of the dead, but on the contrary, every labyrinth has an exit which is always located at the entrance of the labyrinth. However, it is possible that the wide spread idea of reincarnation, in the ancient cultures, is forgotten in this hypothesis. According to this idea, the soul that has left its physical body, could be in the labyrinth for some time, and after that, the soul could essentially return into the world of the living in another form or body. Thus, the ideas which connect labyrinths with cults of fertilities, cults of dead and, rites of initiations, are widespread.
It is possible to assume that both the psychological and the physical training of these people, was the main purpose for conducting rituals in the labyrinths. These ritualistic forms of preparations were necessary for increasing the level of physical activity and concentration. These qualities were necessary for hunting sea animals, fishing, and long sea trips in the cold and dangerous White Sea. It is also worth noting that musical accompaniment, ritual dances, and frequently psychotropic action, were obligatory elements of many rituals. These elements repeatedly strengthened the attained effect. Labyrinths were also used by Shamans in order to increase their own activity. This means that the Shamans were entering into the different states of consciousness. What conclusions about the designation of labyrinths, can we make on the basis of the abovementioned material?
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