Profs and Pints DC presents: “Mermaid Tales,” a discussion of the enigmatic water spirits of East Slavic countries, with Philippa Rappoport, adjunct professor of folklore at George Washington University.
Be careful out there. According to Slavic folklore, June 4th of this year marks the beginning of a week in which rusalki, an East Slavic version of mermaids, emerge from lakes and streams to water crops and to claim lives. They're mostly beautiful, with wild hair and blazing eyes, and more than happy to drag smitten young men with them in returning to the depths.
Join Philippa Rappoport, an expert on Slavic folklore and rituals, for an encore of her springtime discussion of the water spirits of Ukraine, Belarus and Russia and the traditions centered around them. She'll describe how rusalki were both revered and feared by people who would sing songs in their honor while carrying protective charms. You'll learn how East Slavic mermaid lore permeated wedding rituals and parades, inspired the construction of effigies, and reflected beliefs about women that, throughout the world, have translated into a lot of concern over how women wear their hair and cover their heads.
Philippa has wowed crowds with fascinating talks on East Slavic nature spirits and folktales related to the underworld and winter. Her accounts of mermaids promise to be equally entertaining. (Advance tickets: $13.50 plus sales tax and processing fees. Doors: $17, or $15 with a student ID. Listed time is for doors. Talk starts 30 minutes later.)
Image: Rusalka and her daughter, an engraving by I. Volkov published in 1899.