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A Pagan Dance To Welcome Spring

Members of a folk ensemble in the Belarusian village of Pahost on May 6 celebrated the feast of Yur’ya, or Yaryla, a pagan harvest god who has persisted as part of some local folk customs. The dancers from folk band Mizhrechcha paraded through the village to mark the beginning of spring and ensure a good harvest. (13 PHOTOS)

Members of the Mizhrechcha folk ensemble perform a circle dance in a field in the village of Pahost.
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Members of the Mizhrechcha folk ensemble perform a circle dance in a field in the village of Pahost.

The celebration was originally devoted to the pagan god Yur'ya, or Yaryla. But the custom merged with Christian tradition, with St. Yury (St. George) taking the harvest god's place.
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The celebration was originally devoted to the pagan god Yur'ya, or Yaryla. But the custom merged with Christian tradition, with St. Yury (St. George) taking the harvest god's place.

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Members of the folk ensemble decorate a round bread, called a "karahod" -- the same name as the circle dance they perform.
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Members of the folk ensemble decorate a round bread, called a "karahod" -- the same name as the circle dance they perform.

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Along with the round bread, celebrants carry an icon of St. Mary and a Christmas star.
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Along with the round bread, celebrants carry an icon of St. Mary and a Christmas star.

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The bread is carried to a field of rye or wheat, where the dancers ask St. Yury for a good harvest.
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The bread is carried to a field of rye or wheat, where the dancers ask St. Yury for a good harvest.

The festivities in early May are typical for this region of southern Belarus, but not elsewhere in Belarus.
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The festivities in early May are typical for this region of southern Belarus, but not elsewhere in Belarus.

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