This is a Belarussian ‘rusznik’ which is made from grey linen with a mixture of natural fabrics – cotton and wool. We recommend them as a cover for coffee tables, dinning tables and chest of drawers. They can also be hung as decorations for the kitchen. It is decorated with traditional Belarussian red and black delicate ornaments on the borders of the fabric. A characteristic feature of ‘ruszniki’ is its untypical shape – the fabric is narrow and long. “Ruszniki’ constitute one of the most recognized Belarussian handicraft products. It is a symbol of fertility, health and welfare in Belarussian culture. Therefore apart from practical and decorative functions ‘ruszniki’ were used for rituals, as well. They were present during all important events and celebrations, they were a precious gift, and they were used to express wishes and prayers. Nowadays they can also be wonderful decoration for the house.
Linen is a symbol of fertility, health and welfare in the Belarussian culture. It had a cleansing role according to old beliefs. One of the most characteristic products in Belarussian craft is the so-called ‘rusznik’ (a towel) – made from linen canvas (sometimes with a mixture of other natural fabrics) and decorated with coloured patterns that often originate from nature or symbolize elements. Not only did ‘Ruszniki’ have practical and decorative role (they were used to cover tables, coffee tables or to paint ceiling beams), but they were used for rituals, too. They accompanied people from their birth to their death. A new born baby was wrapped in ‘rusznik’. It was a symbol of inviting a baby to live a new life – on the earth. Linen canvas were also used for burial rites symbolizing a passage to a new life. ‘Ruszniki’ accompanied all important celebrations. In the Orthodox Church ‘Rusznik’ was put under the legs of the newly weds – walking over it meant a passage to a life together. “Rusznik’ was also used to tie the hands of the newly weds as a sign of unity in order to strengthen their relationship. Patterns on ‘rusznik’ had symbolic meaning – wishes of good health, happiness and long life together were written on it. An especially interesting custom relating to ‘rusznik’ is its use as a pleading prayer to God. A hostess who was weaving ‘rusznik’ used to encode pleadings in the pattern, and she would leave ‘rusznik’ in a place where God ‘would be able to see it’ – in her orthodox church, on the road-side crosses, or on the cemetery – as a pleading prayer for a deceased person. Such ‘ruszniki’ can be found on the area of Białowieski National Park.
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