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Russian Magic: Living Folk Traditions of an Enchanted Landscape Paperback – October 13, 2009

4.1 out of 5 stars 9 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


"Through an intricately woven pattern of research and personal experience, Cherry Gilchrist draws us into the magical landscape of Mother Russia. A fascinating, informative read." --Virginia Rounding, author of Catherine the Great: Love, Sex & Power

"I highly recommend this marvellous book. The author reminds us of what too many have forgotten: that at the heart of human cultures is living nature, as manifest in local animals, places, and the land. Some people, of course, have never entirely lost this vital connection to nature, and Cherry Gilchrist shows how this way of life in Russia and Siberia are ripe for rediscovery. As we in the West face up to the gathering wreck of modernity, Gilchrist's book is one that shows the way forward.

" --Dr. Patrick Curry, Lecturer in Religious Studies at the University of Kent

"Based on extensive personal experience and research, backed up by the existing academic studies of the subject, this book offers lucid and accessible insights into a traditional culture which is, astonishingly, still flourishing in the modern world. It is packed with information about surviving folk customs, indigenous religion and traditional cosmology" --Prudence Jones, co-author of A History of Pagan Europe

"It's the first time any Westerner has understood the Russian soul, our love for the Earth and God's warmth" --Alexander Prior, international conductor and composer

About the Author

Cherry Gilchrist is a writer and lecturer and a long-time participant in Western traditions relating to Kabbala, meditation, and hermeticism. She is a graduate of Cambridge University, UK, in English and Anthropology, and holds a post-graduate diploma from the University of Bath Spa in Cultural Astronomy and Astrology. As an author, Cherry has published widely on mythology, traditional culture, and inner traditions. She writes both for adults and for children, and has won a UK Reading Award for her Calendar of Festivals. Her books include The Elements of Alchemy, Stories from the Silk Road, The Circle of Nine and Divination. Many of her titles have been translated into other languages, including Italian, French, German, Spanish and Portuguese. With something of the merchant also in her blood, she has for many years visited Russia in search of beautiful lacquer miniatures and the rich heritage of Russian folk lore and craft, making a total of nearly sixty trips to Russia. She ran a Russian arts gallery in the city of Bath, England, for a number of years, and has put on leading exhibitions of Russian folk art at museums and galleries. Cherry is also a well-known lecturer, a popular speaker on Russian art and culture and inner traditions. Cherry has visited Russia over fifty times, and has researched its traditional lore as well as dealing in Russian arts and crafts, and staying on many occasions in a wooden village house deep in the Russian countryside. During her contacts with artists and villagers, as well as with museum experts and ethnographers, she not only discovered much about the regional traditions of Russia, but experienced some of them at first hand. She visited a shaman in Siberia, took part in the Maslnitsa festival in Moscow, and celebrated New Year traditional style, in the depths of a frozen forest. Cherry now lives near Stroud, in Gloucestershire, with her partner Robert, an artist. She enjoys travel, and has visited destinations as far apart as Samarkand, Easter Island, and Ethiopia. She also loves music, especially singing early music, walking in the countryside, and cookery.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Quest Books; 1 edition (October 13, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0835608743
  • ISBN-13: 978-0835608749
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.3 x 0.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #968,733 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Rebecca L. Elson on January 23, 2011
Format: Paperback
This review originally appeared on The Magical Buffet website on 11/8/09.

It's not that I never think of Russia, except that honestly I don't really think about Russia. Nothing against the country, just for some reason, they never really cross my mind. That's why I was thrilled to be given the opportunity to review "Russian Magic: Living Folk Traditions of an Enchanted Landscape" by Cherry Gilchrist. I was hoping that I would come away with a refreshing understanding of a country that I had obviously overlooked. I was right.

"Russian Magic" is everything a book of its type should be, potential authors of folkloric books take note. The book is engaging and covers a surprisingly large swath of Russian traditions, religious practices, folklore traditions, and more. It is well researched but also filled with first hand accounts from the author brushing up against these practices.

There were the "standards" such as Baba Yaga and Matrioshka (those adorable nesting dolls). However I was also introduced to a colorful cast of characters like Father Frost, Mokosh (Damp Earth Mother), and Perun (Lord of Thunder). I learned about various divination practices, dates of unique celebrations, the landscapes, and even the significance of the architecture of the traditional village house! Better still, whereas most books of this type would only look at these things from the perspective of their significance in the past, the author takes all of that history and shows you its influence on modern society in Russia.

I also need to tell you that I couldn't help but be pleased when the domavoi made an appearance. Some readers may remember that WAY back in 2006 I wrote an article about these helpful and potentially harmful house guests.
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Format: Paperback
We, I and my wife - both Russians, loved this book.
Being born and living in Russia during Soviet regime makes one forget or ignore you own heritage, but the book helped to put us back in touch with the real roots of Russian folklore.
When Bolsheviks took over in 1917, folklore became a State business. "Narodnost" - Soviet nationalism was not only cultivated by Communist Party under the guise of folklore, but also was mass produced. In fact, I remember that when we were art students in Russia we had to produce "folk" motives to pass the college exam.
To our generation Communist propaganda and folklore became synonymous. Naturally, Russian intelligentsia in general despised and ignored this fake "Narodnost" together with folklore.
In a strange way Soviet regime was not only devastating our families but tried to orphan us from our own roots.
But this book made us change our minds about number of things. We realized, for instance, that some of national character traits do make sense in the light of Slavic mythology and our folk stories could be read on a much deeper level.
It seems to us that sometimes one needs an outsider with a keen insight to learn something new about your own culture. At least we did.
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Format: Paperback
Welcome to the enchannted landscape of Russia, locked away for almopst seventy years is a land now open to every one revealing a land of deep oppulent treasure. What follows is an interesting book that delves into the sould of the Russian psyche. While the title may say Russian Magic in this book you will find no spells or theory. Instead you will find an analysis of Russian mytgh and lore. Cherry Gilchrist herself is an alchemist who has written several other books. After reading thsi one I am sure that I will want to read more.

Russian Pagan beliefs have stood the test of time surviving from ancient times all the way through the Byzantine Church and communism. To the Russians it isd no big deal to embrace esoteric lore and combine it with modern scientific things. In fact in the Russian mind they can exist side by side without contradiction.

Central to Russian mytholgy is the Oak Tree which for them is the Tree of Life. It is similiar to the Norse Tree of Yggdrasil. The upper part of the branches is the Celestial realms whwere the Gods live. The trunk is the human earthly realm while the roots is where the sould of the dead reside. Russians leave offering for the spirits of the departed and there is no discussion of reincarnation.

In the Celestial realm is where the Sun God Yarilo dwells along with Peron the thunder God dwells along witha host of other celestial stars. Peronm has been combined with Elijah and offering are left to this saint-god in order to avert storms and make for a healthy harvest,

On the trunk level dwells the Deep Earth mother. She is the mother earth. All healing and self regenerating. On the lower level is Vlous the snake god who has a quarrel with Peron. Every time they fight it creates thunder storms.
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I was looking for a handful of things and only found a few paragraphs of this entire book even the slightest bit helpful. If you are just looking for stories about Russians drowning in the woods I guess this will do.
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I purchased Russian Magic when I was doing research for my novel, hoping it would provide additional background on Russian folklore and culture, which it certainly did. But I was pleasantly surprised to find that Russian Magic was also an absolute joy to read. Ms. Gilchrist provided so much information that I had to eventually stop underlining items, because I found myself underlining just about everything! From beautiful imagery like the shamanic World Tree where "human souls may hang like leaves, waiting to be born or received back into the 'otherworld'..." to her description of Baba Yaga who stands at the "border country of life and death, darkness and rebirth," Ms. Gilchrist keeps you intrigued while teaching at the same time. The descriptions of folk tales are both delightful and insightful. She does a wonderful job of conveying the Russian spirit by describing the many holidays and traditions, and particularly as they relate to the natural world, the seasons and the wheel of time. On top of everything else, the book gives a great deal of information on folk art as well, which adds another rich dimension. Much of Ms. Gilchrist's knowledge comes from personal experience and reading her first hand accounts was wonderful also. I just can't say enough about the positive qualities of this book! I highly recommend it!
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