Carpathologia Cosmophilica

An attempt at fictitious regional studies

Essay by Yuri Andrukhovych
Translated by Mark Andryczyk from Ukrainian

It is hard to believe but scientists confirm that in the distant past the Carpathians were at the bottom of a sea. In the mountains the remains of sea creatures can be found:

sea shells, sea lilies, etc.

— Elementary school nature studies textbook

1

Sea shells, sea lilies, and, also, tridacna, whale whiskers, polyps, powdery fish skeletons, fossil vertebrae and fins, jaws of water creatures that have not yet been studied by science and, of course, the carcasses of the casualties of sunken ships (ribs, masts, sometimes only tattered ropes and sails) covered with grasses and bird nests – all this visible evidence of the Carpathians’ maritime past accompanies anyone who dares to travel upon the Chornohora mountain range along the Romanian border, with the damp paradise of Southern Pokuttia and Northern Bukovyna, famous for its tobacco leaves and inedible grapes, behind them, and, in front of them – only an old Austrian military road and a row of enticing snowy peaks, the names of which, together with the names of the adjacent valleys and dells, invoke endless chains of linguistic and acoustic associations: Drahobrat, Pip Ivan, Petros, Turkul, Dantsyzh, Gadzhyna, Rebra, Shpytsi, Rozshybenyk, Hoverlia….

Traveling along the bottom of the non-existing sea, utilizing only the contours of the mountains, abandoned trenches, and machine-gun cartridges scattered in the grass to orient yourself, on the sixth day (in other versions – in the sixth hour) of the journey you can finally get close to the ruins of the largest of the forsaken vessels. But you must avoid the dead waters of the lake with the woman’s name Marichaika (a few of my acquaintances in Lviv, inexplicably call it Chaika-Mariia, which means Seagull Mary), on the shores of which all travelers, without exception, have nightmares with such indecipherable, yet worrying, symbolism that the only possible explanation could be that it is a powerful psychic-energy vortex, a space-time cluster, an astral-abyssal collapse. Local inhabitants explain this phenomenon by saying that the dreams of the drowned Mariia (Marichaika) wander in the lake environs, unable to find a place of rest. Anybody who dares to sleep above the motionless-black surface of the lake is destined to participate in these dispossessed reflections. And far from every wanderer has successfully returned from them: some of them remain there, at the bottom of awakened and arisen archetypes.

So we won’t stop at this risky place but will continue our journey through the increasing Alpine landscape to, as has already been planned, the grandest of the dead ships. It stands before us like the fortress of fortresses, the materialized fancy of, let’s say, Dino Buzzati, its fortification walls and towers recall a different world, an almost alien one, here, not far from the dell with the half-Romanian (Thracian) name Dzembronia.

This is a special relic of interwar architecture, a part of that mythical Lviv-Warsaw-Vienna-Paris vector, about which only rumors and assumptions circulate. This is a building and a structure, a dwelling, a workshop, a citadel, an academy, a library, halls for conferences, dances and gymnastics, a salon, a pool, an engine room, a restaurant, a power station, a boiler room, a line of pantries as well as a cellar and innumerable other quirky rooms with doors that are always closed, its an ark, it’s a complex. It’s the complex of Europe, here, in its farthest territory at the border with Non-Europe, in the exact center of Europe.

This was a former observatory, that is, a place for observing, for contemplation, for peering into and watching – perhaps angels, perhaps comets. Today one can find shelter from passing mountain rains behind its walls. The persistent odor of excrement and old rags will never be aired out, even by sixteen mountain valley breezes, which constantly dance within these walls because of holes and gaps – both in a metaphorical and in a literal sense.  Travelers build campfires in the middle of the halls and corridors. The remains of the parquet floor are pretty good for burning – locals have known this provocative truth for a rather long time – that’s why we’re not really talking about the parquet floor per se, or about the light walnut paneling on the walls, or about the faded beech shelving in the library, but truly about “remains.” It’s hard to say what happened to the telescopes and all other kinds of astrophysical tools. It’s doubtful that Poland managed to evacuate them in September 1939. Perhaps later, under Moscow, they were taken somewhere to the Caucasus region, to the Tian Shan or Pamir Mountains. Because Russia had little use for Carpathian observatories, having directed its fate toward much higher heights and even brazenly giving them its own lofty romantic names, such as, for example, Peak of Communism.

Although, Russia really is far away from it, and it almost doesn’t exist.

Instead, there are Planeteers,[1] a special form of magicians and prophets, connected to every cosmic phenomenon through myriad invisible and painful currents. Isn’t it they who created this field, this vacant land, this hole of emptiness? Isn’t it through their efforts that this forbidden zone was created, this ruin, this whispering wind in nocturnal observatory corridors: “you can’t come in?.”..

The poet who first casually rhymed “Kosmach[2]” with “Cosmos” was correct a thousand times over.

 

2

Bukovyna, Pokuttia, the Hutsul region and the Maramureș region, Ciscarpathia and then also Transcarpathia, Transylvania, Potyssia, Podunavia – are all territories that, in one way or another, belong to the makeup of the Eastern Carpathians. Taras Prokhasko, my friend and writer-biosoph (and in his recent physical personification, a popular bartender in the Gartenberg passage), nailed it when he called it “a structure-myth, beyond which destruction does not tread.” Beyond, to the West – I specify the direction of his, perhaps somewhat idealized, view.

This structure, regardless of its apparent location in a certain geographical center, always was a border, an edge, a neighborhood of an empire, a neighborhood of culture and civilization. Roman coins, consistently found in Gothic tombs during the burrowing of tunnels and gas lines, dated to the times of Trajan and later, allow the more educated local inhabitants to claim, with a drink in hand, that their ancestors were citizens of one of the Roman empires (although not necessarily the Holy one). It is here, along the Carpathian line that the Latin and Byzantine worlds were demarcated, which can be seen through the demarcation of Western and Eastern rites. While Ottoman skulls, dug up every Spring in the fields of Khotyn, recall not only the unbearable decay of existence but also the incomprehensible cheapness and variety of today’s market in Chernivtsi, which is so densely packed with all kinds of goods from Turkey that the amount of collected spoils of a Phillipe de Mézièrez or the Ukrainian Hetman Hamaliya could never measure up to it.

As we can see, it wasn’t only the Danube and the Neva monarchies that were responsible for the division ensured by this structure-universal – this division never really abated. Although the abovementioned museum machine-gun cartridges lying in the trenches, overgrown with various mountain-valley grasses, do provide the fullest picture of the clash of the geopolitical interests of these two formations in particular. Actually, after their fall, this arch, this Cyrillic “C” flipped inversely, which itself demonstrates the idea of “vicinity,” still remained a place of crossing vectors and influences, but now actively propagated by other, young, post-imperial countries and fiefdoms. But then came the giants in army boots, who filled the local wells with bodies of people they had shot in the back of the head, and in doing so, planted a bomb in its foundation that blew up exactly half a century later in the golden September of 1989, in a time of exhumations, wakes, re-burials, and the march of three hundred thousand people.

But we can suppose (the freedom of this genre fully allows for this) that, over the years, the influences of a completely different form dominated here. Not the visible and palpable influences of empires, armies, police and politicians, but the secret influences of cosmic bodies and occult knowledge, taken in the past, for example, from India. But – as I like to stress – “not from that India that we know as a friendly country.” But from a somewhat imagined, an unreal India, one for which the word “Rakhmanian[3]” is appropriate.

 

3

According to ancient Ukrainian beliefs, India is not really a peninsula and not really a mainland, it’s more like an Island, which lies somewhere in the Ocean. The Island of India is inhabited by Rahmans[4] – rather unfortunate beings, who don’t have calendars and don’t know when Easter will take place. Thus, sitting on the shores of the Ocean, they meditate in anticipation. In anticipation of eggshells.

After Easter breakfast, the eggshells must be tossed into the nearest river or stream. Flowing down together with the water, the eggshells, without fail, end up in the Prut River, and from there, in the Danube, which is really just another name for the Nile. From the Danube, the path of the eggshells lies across the seas to the edge of the world. Caught and led by the warm streams, on the tenth Friday of their journey, the eggshells wash up to the shores of India. In this manner the Rahmans find out that Easter has arrived and they begin celebrating their, Rahmanian, Easter.

A long time ago, maybe seven and a half thousand years ago, that is, not long after the world was separated from the clouds and water, one of the Rahmanian tribes left India on boats and flying carpets. Today it is difficult to determine the reasons for this flight – it could have just as easily been a dimming of the mind or a mystic enlightenment. Abandoning the island, the escapees took almost all their secret knowledge with them – in sacks, in bags and in their pockets. They didn’t have books and didn’t need them, because they knew all the main incantations and curses by heart. Among other important things, the stolen knowledge involved, first and foremost, the true counting of time, cause-effect columns and stratifications, the ability to read the past and predict the future based on palm readings, arranging chandeliers in a room or lights in the sky, the art of dressing a bear, hypnotizing children, and forging metals with heat.

The descendants of the Rahmans invented the violin and gold teeth. They didn’t appear in the Eastern Carpathians until the late middle ages, when King Karpo Dimwitsky, who had a propensity for alcohol and philanthropy let them through all four gates into his summer capital Chortopil, where they immediately set up a camp on the center square, together with trained bears and countless children. That afternoon, stolen chickens and vegetables flowed to the Rahmanian tents in unremitting rivers and the inhabitants of Chortopil winced from the first fortunes they heard….

… This winter, they failed to leave our city. They always used to appear before spring, they would arrive in dirty red diesel local trains from warmer flatlands past the Carpathians, spread themselves out in streets and courtyards, filling the barely warmed air with nervousness, with playing cards and with a mix of Hungarian-Romanian-Slovak-Slovenian-Old Church Slavic-Ukrainian-Ruthenian[5]-Russian-Tarabarian and some other (maybe Sanskrit?) sounds, with this almost senseless mixture that has only one purpose – letting in fog and the driving in of gloom. And also, perhaps, saving myths. Because it is they, the tamers of bears and policemen, who were, are and will always be the loyalist citizens of the non-existing Central Europe, its fictitious society, this Rahmanian confederation, citizens of all the world’s patchwork monarchies and town republics.

So then, this winter they did not leave our city. Usually, they would leave with the first autumn snows, when living in the squares became unsuitable not only for birds, but even for them. But this winter, they did not leave. Perhaps they received some secret signs.

I hope that they correctly interpreted them.

 

4

“I made it my goal to correctly grasp the essence of the astrology of all civilized peoples in ancient and modern times and after ten years of exhausting research, which really took its toll on me, I’ve finally achieved a result that greatly exceeded my expectations, so, with complete courage, I can confirm that a person’s fate, his future, without question, can be studied, but only if those ridiculous requirements utilized by medieval astrologers are discarded, and, if instead, one remains within the bounds of that reasonableness with which people are outlined by the very imperfection of their nature.” This was written on the Day of the Phoenix, that is, March 21, 1883 A.D. by the poetic and exotic character from the city of Czernowitz, a retired officer of the Austrian army, combatant in the 1859 expedition in northern Italy, surveyor, pharmacist, admirer of patriotic criticism, the “Bukovynian Nightingale” and “Carpathian Shevchenko” in one person, a Hutsul[6] with Polish roots inherited from his father, the romantic, the populist and Planeteer Dominik Ferdinand Osyp Yuri cavalier von Fedkovych de Hordynsky.[7]

Ten years of life turned into ten thousand pages of an astrological treatise, written in a specifically Bukovynian version of the classic High German language. (That was probably the language spoken by Olha Kobylianska. While Paul Celan already spoke, without a doubt, a different language). Based on photos that have faded over time, Fedkovych, although he totally had Viennese features, always walked around in a Hutsul vest. Although it is quite possible that he never really walked around in it, but just put it on for the photo. And, maybe, consistent with his emulation of Shevchenko, cavalier de Hordynsky may have seen this clothing as the perfect Bukovynian equivalent of Shevchenko’s sheepskin coats and hats.

But then again in Chernivtsi-Czernowitz of that time, located on the main trade route from Lviv to Iași: (today, as has already mentioned, from Lviv to Istanbul), there existed such a joyful ethnic mix of people that it was almost impossible to astonish anyone with your clothing. Fedkovych was recognizable from afar. Every day, a waiter he knew from the inexpensive restaurant “The Green Hunter,” which was located across the street from him, would bring him a carafe of Slivovitz and serve it together with the tray, right into his window. They say the restaurant’s owner gave it to him for free – Fedkovych would occasionally draw up horoscopes for him and his family free of charge.

At the beginning of the century, an introduction (not even eight typed pages) to his aforementioned treatise was included in his Collected Works. The gothic outline of Fraktur letters of his text begged comparison to other popular works of that time (Nietzsche, Zarathustra, the Aryan symbols for fire, the swastika und so weiter). Ptolemy’s great map of the stars in the heavens, which the German Romantics so excitedly called “das Firmament,” would also fit here. But the exceedingly progressive publishers treated the treatise completely in line with their positivist worldview: seeing it as a strange turbulence in Fedkovych’s not-too-sober mind (which once was called “lost his marbles”). They were not even swayed by the iron-like logic and artillery-like accuracy of the lecture. Here’s an example: “So far as everything in the macro-world is governed by strong, unwavering, mathematically and accurately calculated laws, it also applies to the micro-world, to the individual, in our case, a person. Subordinated to one and the same dependence, they influence one another, but according to their size, strength and power. Since these three main potencies are irrefutable, and Existence is also inexorably subordinated to mathematic laws, thus, in that manner, the mutual influences of the macro-world and the micro-world can be calculated with mathematical accuracy. And since the fate of a person is just the sum of the influences of the universum (the macro-world) on a person (the micro-world), then these mutual influences can be calculated both in the past and in the future.”

It seems that the publishers were not impressed with the following particular biographical moment of intrigue either: “… in his youth he [the author] was told his future by a certain astrologer and it has all come true to this day, thus, this is what led him to multi-year, tireless research, which really took a toll on him.” And the following sensational assertion had no effect – implying that “the author has the right to think that he discovered a key, which had been lost in the past and had been used by ancient Egyptian astrologers as they opened the doors to the future.”

But how did he get hold of this key? We ask today, following Fedkovych himself, who, however, replies most comprehensively: “This needs to remain a mystery.”

Yes, this needs to remain a mystery.

Nevertheless: how did he get a hold of that key? From what Northern Italy did he bring this priceless trophy? From what astrologer, wandering rogue or two-bit scoundrel, disguised as a barber, could he have received this rare knowledge, be it Rahmanian, Indian, Egyptian? Or maybe it came to him as a vision, partly coded in Hutsul dreams and overthrown archetypes? This wild structure, this fusion, this mix of plants, languages, drinks and feelings, called the Carpathians, wasn’t that what caused a stormy, cosmic reaction, the result of which everything, and I mean e v e r y t h i n g, is revealed and shows through, like a sign on a palm – you just need to read it?!

The last chords of the treatise’s introduction are as eclectic as they are ecstatic. The demiurge defeats the surveyor. The alchemist rises above the pharmacist. The free trembling of essence and substance gives birth to a pathetic quivering of lungs and diaphragms: “Glory to you, Eternal, to Your eyes, Soul of the Universe, Man of time immortal, Keeper of the Phoenix, who shines the holy onto life, halleluiah to You to the heavens!

And if it is Your will, send it to Your servant, who preaches verity, in Your eternal verity for the good and devotion of the pious, You, who are the eternal verity and truth!

And you, the Only Begotten Son, who holds Seven Stars in his right hand, and whose lips – a double-edged sword, help me with all Your might to deliver the word to the unworthy that You are the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end! You who have no beginning and no end!”

I’m not sure if the actual treatise has been preserved. Perhaps the Keeper of the Phoenix did not find it necessary to resurrect it, the treatise, from the ashes. Because manuscripts really do burn and who knows this better then arsonists?

But, nonetheless, we received something in inheritance. An abandoned observatory, a gaze upward. Something not quite clear, some kind of vertical orientation, nothing more.

It seems like we’re listening to the music of the spheres. Or the opposite – to Hutsul music.

 

5

It isn’t easy to find music in this world that is more earthy than that of the Hutsuls. On the level of biological tension, physicality, sex and death, perhaps only Romanian music can compare. Or gypsy. Or the music of the Gorals.[8] Or of the Hungarians. Or of the Slovaks. Or of the Lemkos.

I believe that Hutsul music still does exist although it may be gone by tomorrow. Most of us won’t even notice this, first and foremost the Hutsuls themselves. Today, many of them are completely satisfied with not just Madonna but with Masha Rasputina.[9] The empire of Russian pop-music has not given up an inch of its territory. Its border, as it was earlier, stretches out west to Chop and Mostyska. This empire of kiosks dictates its will, more accurately, it wills itself. Hutsul music degenerates into kitsch. The Central Europe of Kosiv and Rakhiv gets washed away into Eurasia. A jumping off place is created from which the unified, or more accurately, the infected, “citizens of the CIS” constantly move West. And they ask to listen to Masha Rasputina.

And what are we left with? And what are we to do?

Music is not the only reality in the hazy structure of Central Europe. Music gives sense to conversations about unity and uniqueness. It lies beyond all chronic conflicts and stereotypes. Its plots are wandering, its characters universal.

Of course, this music would never exist if it were not for the Carpathians. Perhaps we can also say the opposite: there would be no Carpathians if it were not for this music. Everything else is just mutual pretensions, attacks, seizures, assimilation. Everyone has wronged everyone else. Survival at the expense of the weaker, the sucking out of raw materials, cheap labor, mountain robbery, severed heads displayed at crossroads, religious conflicts and a basic, drunken, blood fest. To construct some kind of society on a foundation such as this (other than a mafia society) is, perhaps, as difficult as rewriting history again, and even the only magnificent piece of this history, the utopia of the Danube monarchy, won’t seem so justifiable. The most pragmatic of politicians have already understood the true state of things.

So what are we to do? Go on mountain excursions and record folklore? Watch for the heavenly bodies of angels though the holes of the tents of unused observatories? Look for old treatises, rebirth astrology? Cleanse the principle elements of culture of cause-effect stratifications? Save Hutsul music? Or, maybe, wait for a large arrival of eggshells from across the ocean?

As a special meta-science of the future, carpathology has not yet developed finalized answers to these and other fundamental questions. So this is all we know for sure.

The Carpathians are a large clamp holding together parts of existence that are prone to chaotic crawling. The Carpathians comprise a large seismic force, a zone of special energetic possibilities and tensions. The Carpathians divide in a terrestrial sense but unite in a cosmic one. Probably, both senses are equally necessary and definitive. And if that is so, then this is the start of a dialogue. It’s important that it has no end. For everything else it is worth depending on Him, Who has no beginning or end.

_____

Notes (by Michael M. Naydan):

[1] In West and South Slavic folklore, planetnyki are anthropomorphic but rarely seen evil spirits that live in rain and storm clouds and control the weather.  They watch over life on earth and punish people for sins, sometimes abducting them. See the following source for a detailed description of them: http://fenomeni.ru/fenomeni_na_bukvu_pp/746-planetniki.html.

[2] A village in the Carpathian Mountains in the Kosiv region of Ivano-Frankivsk oblast.

[3] The Tlumachnyi slovnyk ukrains’koi movy defines “rakhman” (which comes from the Indian word Brahman) as: “An imaginary righteous Christian from a mythical land”.

[4] For a discussion of the mythical Rahmans, see Valerii Voitovych, ed. Antolohiia ukrains’koho mifu, III (Ternopil: Vydavnytsvo “Bohdan”, 2007), 193-194.

[5] At that time the term “Ruthenian” (from the word Rus) was applied to Ukrainians since they were known as the descendants of the inhabitants of Kyivan Rus from the 8th-12th centuries. The term Ukrainian instead of Ruthenian became predominant in the 19th century.

[6] Hutsuls are an ethnic group indigenous to the Carpathian Mountains known for their hearty independent lifestyle, brightly colored manner of dress and lively dance music performed on folk instruments.

[7] Prominent Ukrainian writer from Bukovyna in Western Ukraine (1834-1888).  Most sources list his lengthy full name as: Osyp Dominik Hordynsky de Fedkovych.

[8] The Gorals are highlanders, who live in Southern Poland. Lemkos are also a unique ethnic group with a colorful dialect that live in the Carpathians, mostly in present-day Poland and Slovakia.

[9] A Russian pop star.

[This essay will be collected in the forthcoming volume: My Final Territory: Selected Essays by Yuri Andrukhovych]

Do NOT follow this link or you will be banned from the site!
Events Calendar

View all upcoming European Literary Events

- or -
Add a new event