How to Cite
Gordienko, O. V., & Shcherbakova, L. A. (2020). Whistling and Whistles in Russian and European Religious Culture: A Comparative Analysis. Heritage of Centuries, (3), 83-95. https://doi.org/10.36343/SB.2020.23.3.006

Whistling and Whistles in Russian and European Religious Culture: A Comparative Analysis

  • © Gordienko Oxana V. Cand. Sci. (Theory and Methods of Teaching and Upbringing), Assoc. Prof., Head, Institute of Digital Education Development, Moscow Pedagogical State University, Moscow, Russian Federation

  • © Shcherbakova Ludmila A. Cand. Sci. (Russian Language), Assoc. Prof., Institute of Fine Arts, Moscow Pedagogical State University, Moscow, Russian Federation


The aim of the research is to analyze the phenomenon of whistling and the tradition of making and using whistles in various religious cults in Russia and Europe. The material for the research was selected based on facts collected by Russian and European ethnographers, on museum and exhibition catalogs, and on empirical practice (the authors’ visits to Russian and European whistle-producing centers, analysis and systematization of data from a personal collection). The research methodology includes a comparative and causal analysis of the religious context of whistling and the use of whistles in the folk tradition, generalization of certain ethnographic facts, linguistic analysis of religious texts and linguistic elements related to whistling. The authors examined the data of dictionaries, including etymological ones, and a corpus of religious texts; compared various translations of fragments devoted to whistling. They analyzed folk beliefs and the views of the Orthodox Church prevailing in Eastern Europe on whistling and studied the features of the use of whistling and whistles in the religious culture of the peoples of Western Europe (the Spaniards and the Catalans, the Belgians, the French, the Maltese, etc.). The authors focused on examining the materials of the pilgrimage trips from which whistles were brought. The analysis of various translations of the Bible has shown the presence of two main translation traditions: the first goes back to the Masoretic texts (demonstrating the heritage of Jewish culture, in which whistling is not perceived sharply negatively); and the second to the Septuagint (showing the perception of whistling as a phenomenon associated almost exclusively with evil spirits, and therefore having no right to appear in the sacred text). Contemporary Christian culture in different regions of Europe uses both of the above traditions; in the Russian religious culture, based on the Greek, whistling when performing a religious cult is unacceptable. This explains the possibility of using whistles and whistling in European acts of worship as one of their rather organic elements, as well as the possibility of accompanying religious holidays with pottery fairs, of which the sale of whistles is an integral part. The authors have established that the use of a whistle during modern religious holidays testifies to the overlap of this tradition with the ancient pagan one, including the tradition of commemorating the deceased. It is only in this case that the use of whistling is possible in Russian culture. An additional reason for the spread of the use of whistles during religious activities in Europe is the presence of a pottery center in the location.

Keywords: whistling, clay whistle, religious texts, religious ceremony, pagan beliefs, sacred texts,, sacred texts, religious holidays, superstitions