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Folklore

When speaking about the Karaim folklore, by this concept a lot of various subjects belonging to collective creation are defined. It all was created during the several centuries and in different geographical latitudes. Lithuanian Karaims' folklore that is still alive in the community today has come from the ancient days, when they lived among various Turkic, Persian and Arabian tribes.
Celebrating the 600th anniversary of the settling down of Karaims and Tatars in Lithuania, 1997

One of the oldest forms of folklore is sorcery. Since the ancient times the Karaims saw signs of fate in dreams, various nature phenomena and in stinging body signs. The forefathers' knowledge remained in written form in the manuscripts; later some of them were published in the Karaims periodicals. Ananjasz Zajączkowski investigates stinging divination in his articles in the magazine "Mysl Karaimska". Some other scientists following him discovered similar divination in the Romanian, Serbian, Croatian, Greek, Bulgarian and other nation folklore. For example, it was believed that if the left foot was stinging, one would have a long travel; if the right nostril was stinging, one would have joy and his dreams coming true, and so on.

Another important part of the folklore consists of proverbs and sayings. Wilhelm Radloff was the first to publish the Crimean Karaims proverbs in his dictionary (Opyt Slovarja Tjurkskich Narechij) in 1896. They were 470. Till 1947 Trakai Karaims' proverbs and sayings had not been published at all. Wlodzimierz Zajączkowski was the first to publish 35 Karaim proverbs and 43 sayings that were told by his mother and other Karaims from Trakai and Panevėžys. Later on other scientists published about that as well.

Trakai History Museum.
A part of the Karaim Ethnographic Exposition

As well as in folklore of other nations, the Karaim proverbs have the main national values encoded in them. Here human virtues are emphasized and vices are condemned. Almost all the Karaim proverbs are made from two semantically arranged and often rhymed parts, for example Toj ašty-sioz artty (The wedding is over, the gossip increased), Jat katyn-učuz altyn (Another man's wife is cheap gold), Az ašym-tynč bašym (Little food (property) - a peaceful mind), Bart jeri - bart jemi (If you have land, there will be food as well). The proverbs in the Karaim language are called Ata siozliari (Father's words). Symbolically their name expresses their meaning - the ability to concentrate on the wisdom accumulated by the forefathers.

From among the folk songs here an original lullaby ”Bir bar ėdi" (Once upon a time) should be mentioned, which has almost a literal equivalent in the Karatchaj folklore. The main motive in the lullaby is the relativity and temporality of power and strength that is described in the dialogues of nature powers and in the expressive context:

Hoj kujaš, kujaš, niedian sien kiučliu?
Mien kiučliu bolsa ėdim, mieni bulut kaplamahejt.

Hey, sun, sun, by what are you so powerful?
If I were powerful, the cloud wouldn't' cover me.

In spite of that small amount of Karaim folklore that has remained, it is being tried to preserve it, to teach children about it and to use the texts as a pedagogical means. The new specific phenomenon of the modern time is appearing, too. Namely some borrowings from the folklore of the surrounding nations (Lithuanian, Slavonic) are being adapted in the Karaim contexts and in time becoming as its own.

 
© Lithuanian Karaim Culture Society, 2016