The celebrated 19th century art historian Vasili Stasov wrote, “In Russian embroidery, one can see the depictions of ancient Slavic rituals, like tree worship, and mermaid festivals.” In densely wooded northern Russia, trees were a life-giving source providing peasants with material for furniture, tools, transportation, and most importantly, firewood.  Ancient records mention that the pagan inhabitants of Russia decorated trees with towels and venerated them.

Varied in shape and size, images of trees are prominently featured on northern decorative towels, sometimes flanked with birds and animals.  The affinity between the symbols of the goddess figure and the Tree of Life is clear:  the former can sometimes resemble the World Tree, and the tree may share a likeness with the divine birth-giver, Rozhanitsa, one of the divine beings of the Slavic pantheon. Frequently, Rozhanitsa images contain a smaller female figure inside the bigger one, and are often depicted giving birth.

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