Stop Work Travel | Honoring the Ancestors in Vilnius: Lanterns by the Graves, Ancient Chants, and Burning Man on the Hill Part 2

Honoring the Ancestors in Vilnius: Lanterns by the Graves, Ancient Chants, and Burning Man on the Hill Part 2

March 4, 2016

Continued from Honoring the Ancestors in Vilnius Part 1.

The next day I was fortunate to accompany the family again – this time to attend to the grave of Inija’s late husband, Krivis Jonas Trinkunas, with whom she shared a life of archiving and reviving pagan traditions, as well as singing ancient folk songs. After the Soviet government banned him in 1973 from his university teaching post, he spent two decades living in villages, learning thousands of songs, stories and beliefs that were to form a foundation for the revival of Lithuania’s folk tradition. He thereby transformed his banishment into an enormous contribution to Lithuania’s cultural inheritance. Over 700,000 songs have now been recorded and archived.

As we drove to the outskirts of Vilnius, I was seated amongst expert troubadours, so I voiced my wish for a song. Though I didn’t understand a word, the exquisite harmony that rose up in the car gave me a thrill.

At the cemetery, we walked up the hill, passing many lovingly-tended graves. The family swept the simple gravesite of Krivis Jonas, arranged boughs and flowers over it, and lit the lantern they had brought, ending with a sweet chant that I’m sure he clearly heard from his resting place in the beyond.

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Two months later when I was in India, I found out that Inija and one of her five daughters had been invited to Ranchi, India to perform and participate in a tribal festival. Though I was far away in Rajasthan and couldn’t attend, I was delighted to see their pictures in the Indian newspaper and know they were being honored.

The pictures here are of Inija in full pagan regalia in Ranchi, daughter Vetra, who sang the national anthem of India at the festival, Krivis Jonas conducting a ceremony in times past, beautiful Trakai Castle, and a cemetery lit by lanterns for All Saint’s Day.

I am grateful for what I experienced of the traditions of Lithuania thanks to my hospitable hosts – someday I’ll be back for more! (As well as more crepes and kibinai!!)

What interests you about this story? Let me know in the comments.

See you on the road!