The verba (palms) and their use in Kamajai land from the second half of the 20th century to the early 21st century

Jonas Mardosa

The tree twigs (called verba in Lithuania) consecrated on the Palm Sunday in the area of Kamajai have been discussed in the paper. Based on ethnographic field studies, archive and written material, as well as the investigations of ethnologists, an attempt is made to reveal the peculiarities in composition of the verba and their daily use in the second half of the 20th century and the early 21st century. The study shows that the consecrated twigs of willow and juniper in the Kamajai area play a role in folk religion and customs in a wider region of East Lithuania. The ceremonies performed with the verba are analogous, but magic formulae of thrashing possess local motives in north Aukštaitija with emphasis laid on the theme of cowherds and herding in general. There is a belief common in Lithuania, including the Kamajai land, that the verba are useful to protect a homestead and its buildings for long-term and situational (short-term) purposes. The protection is provided by keeping the verba inside the buildings and fumigating the farming inventory by burning the verba on Palm Sunday or at a real danger before a storm. Such keeping of verba in the buildings and fumigating in case of a storm is based on magic believes. At the same time, specific purposes and methods of verba use for protection are polarised, first of all, against the power of God in general. The same functions are sometimes performed also by fumigating humans and animals. Thus, the Christian meaning of verba intertwines with magic purposes, and such a combination is a basic expression form in the investigative sphere of folk piety; this form is also in a state of alternation. The modern approach to verba is close to the Christian one, because the verba brought into a home are considered to be a symbol of the festival. On the other part, via this custom indirectly, the verba do not lose a relationship with the folk tradition, because in this way the argumentation remains that it is important to keep a consecrated thing in a real space. This position coincides with the Christian evaluation of the verba, as their keeping is related with the idea of verba as a symbol of the faith.