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The Annotated Table of Contents


Annotated Table of Contents


Introduction:  Dancing as Life        

What this book is about, and how dance was thought to bring life


I.  Dancing the Year: The Ritual Cycle of Fertility

1.  Swan Maidens, Mermaids, and Tree-Spirits

Introduction, through folktales, to some “dancing goddesses”

(vily, rusalki, willies, etc.) of East European folklore

2. Marking Time

How nonliterate farmers devised and kept their agricultural (seasonal) calendar

3. To Bring the Spring

Fertility rituals of early spring

4. Dancing up a Storm

Dance ritual of leaf-clad orphans to end drought; problems of rain and hail

5. Crazy Week—Rusalia Week

Fertility rituals of Semik, Trinity, and Rusalia Week; dance brotherhoods of Rusalia; perils of Mad Wednesday

6. Flowers with Powers

Plants the willies love and hate; plants to heal, protect, or bewitch

7. Midsummer Rusalii

Fertility rituals of St. John’s Night: herbs, water, fire;

sleeve-dance (relic of the Swan Maidens); more trances

8. Friday, Saint Friday

Curious history of the weekday sacred to female deities

9. The Twelve Days of Christmas

Midwinter Rusalii, during intercalary 12 Days: propitiating good and bad spirits for the New Year (and where we got our Yuletide customs)


II. Bride-Dancing for Fertility: The Frog Princess

10. The Cosmic Arrow

Finding a bride

11. Bride-Testing

Rituals testing girl for marriage: can she make the food and clothing?

12. Trial by Dance

Is she strong enough to do all the farm work too?

13. The Magic Sleeve-Dance

More relics of dancing Swan Maidens

14. Second Skins

Shape-changing spirits

15. The Hut on Chicken Legs

Old witches keeping ritual knowledge, training young women

16. Koshchei the Deathless

Shamans and wizards, battling for communal good


III. Dancing Back through Time

17. Medieval Traces

Medieval evidence for these rituals and beliefs

18. Roman Show-Biz

Roman evidence for the rituals

19. Dancing with the Greeks

Classical and Archaic Greek evidence; Dionysus and Thrace

20. Back to the Bronze Age

Minoan and Mycenaean evidence; from Indo-European horse rituals to child’s hobbyhorse

21. Dancing at the Dawn of Agriculture

Evidence that this whole belief system began with first farmers of Europe, 6000-3000 BC


IV. Gotta Dance!                   

22. Keeping Together in Time

What cognitive science has learned about human dance; trance-dancing and firewalking

23. Dancing the Time-Warp

Possibilities of reconstructing the actual dances

Epilogue:  Dancing Divinity

Parallel stories from Greece and Japan of angry fertility goddess made to laugh by obscene dance: dance restores life


Appendix: The bracelets from medieval Kiev

Illustration List