Source: Ukraine Ancient Traditions of the Spring Equinox Rites of Vorotar (Gatekeeping) – Elder Mountain Dreaming
This article is from http://www.encyclopediaofukraine.com with my additions, from my Shaman’s perspective and experiences – The Ukrainian Spring Equinox is one of the earth’s oldest ceremonies and it honors the ancestors as a ritual of the beginning of the new year Velykden, when the “Day” (Spring & Summer seasons were called Fire) overcomes the “Night” (Autumn & Winter seasons called Night). Vesnianky-hahilky is also known in Galicia as haïvky, iahilky, hahulky, halahilky, iaholoiky, maivky, and rohulky. Ritual folk songs sung by maidens in conjunction with ritual dances in ancient times on the Spring Equinox.
When religion came to the Slavs, the tradition of Mara (Polish Marzanna) lost its origin and thus the demonology books of churchmen forever changed the once pure spring rites and traditions. Mara then, is a female figure in Ukrainian and other corrupted Slavic folk demonology, who was believed to assume various forms—animal, plant, ghostly (older shamanic traditions), and inanimate or monstrous females to cause people harm. The name was occasionally used to refer to the devil or to a house demon known as a domovyk. But most shamans understand clearly, that woman’s shamanic traditions were corrupted and how the church rose in power and control.
Long ago these songs and dances were performed in the meadows, highlands, along the rivers, but in modern times they are danced and sung in village streets, churchyard and cemetery. Originally their purpose was to give thanks to the mysterious spirit and forces of mother earth (nature) to provide good relations in the shamanic cultures of women, later in pagan times they were to honor nature who would supply people food and a happy life.
The magical functions of the songs was eventually forgotten but in peoples hearts, even though the magical rites are not performed by the grandmothers and mothers, the maidens still perform the dances and songs. As more female Slavic shamans reawaken to their ancient medicines and rites before paganism the more the magic will return.
The vesnianky season in ancient times opened as a rule with a farewell to winter on the spring equinox, but once the churchmen got involved it took place on Candlemas or at the first sighting of migrating birds. A straw or wooden image of winter called Smert (Death), Mara (Specter), or Kostrub (Slob) was burned or drowned to the singing of vesnianky, and then spring, sometimes personified by a girl in a flower and herb wreath, was welcomed with ritual dances, such as Mosty ‘Bridges’ and Vorotar ‘Gatekeeper’. In prepagan times it would have been the Mothers, not maidens who welcomed spring and the grandmothers were the gatekeepers, always have been and always will be regardless of religions.
The dialogue, ‘O Beautiful Spring, what have you brought us?’ ‘I have brought you summer, a pink flower, winter wheat, and all sorts of fragrant things,’ was sung. In some localities bird-shaped bread was baked and tossed by children into the air to represent birds in flight. Many vesnianky were addressed to birds, groves and forests and trees and flowers, asking them to assist the coming of spring.
The oldest vesnianky are those associated with ritual portrayal of plant growth Mak ‘Poppy’, Proso ‘Millet’, Ohirochky ‘Cucumbers’, Khmil’ ‘Hops’, Khrin ‘Horseradish’, Hrushka ‘Pear’, L’on ‘Flax’) and the behavior of birds (Horobchyk ‘Sparrow’, Soloveiko ‘Nightingale’, Husky ‘Geese’, Kachky ‘Ducks’, Kachuryk ‘Drake’), animals (Vovk ‘Wolf’, Lysytsia ‘Fox’, Zaichyk ‘Bunny’), domestic animals (Baran ‘Ram’, Kozel ‘Goat’), and insects (Zhuk ‘Beetle’).
The simple but moving melodies have a deep rhythmic structure punctuated with frequent exclamations. Ryndzivky, a form of vesnianky, were sung at Easter by young men in the Yavoriv area in Galicia. In Soviet times, the vesnianky began to disappear after the Revolution of 1917 and all original folk traditions that were passed down by village grandmothers for thousands of years by oral traditions, were completely gone by the end of the regimes of the Nazis and the Soviets including the Genocide of Famine to starve the Ukraine people to death in 1932-33.
Source: Mykola Muchynka is still alive and in 1988 Czechoslovak television filmed Lety mii vinochku (Fly, My Wreath), with screenplay by Mykola Mushynka, based on the Ukrainian vesnianky of the Presov Region of Ukraine. He was born the 20th of February 1936 in Kuriv, Bardejov and is a Ukrainian folklorist. After graduating from Prague University (1959) he completed his graduate studies at Kyiv University and again in Prague in 1967. He worked in the department of Ukrainian studies at the Presov campus of Kosice University (1966–71) and founded and edited Naukovyi zbirnyk Muzeiu ukraïns’koï kul’tury u Svydnyku (1965–70) for the Svydnyk Museum of Ukrainian Culture.
Because of his contacts with Ukrainian dissidents and Ukrainian émigrés he was expelled from his job and forbidden to publish. He was not reinstated in a research position until 1990. He has written over 300 studies, articles, and reviews, mainly on folklore and the culture of Ukrainians in Czechoslovakia. He compiled two anthologies of Ukrainian folklore in Eastern Slovakia (1963 and 1967) and a collection of Folk Songs sung by A. Yabur (1970). Besides a study of the folklore of the Ruthenians of Vojvodina (1976) and biographies of Orest Zilynsky (1983) and Stepan Klochurak (1995).
In Ukraine today most songs and dances are performed by professional and amateur ensembles, but to return the magic, the prehistory ways, the shamanic traditions of Ukraine can be returned by those of true female shaman paths of our birth rite initiations, lead by women in great circles again. Much of this tradition is celebrated in modern times as Kupala at the Summer Solstice which is much more popular for the main stream.