Origin. Aesti, Prussians, Lithuanians

Origin. Aesti, Prussians, Lithuanians

The feasts and games (supposedly funeral laments or hymns) taking place next to the deceased in the funerary rites of the Aisčiai Baltic tribe attracted attention of Wulfstan of Hedeby, a 9th century traveller. In the 10th century, Roman monk John Canaparius wrote about Prussians who, after killing baptist Adalbert of Prague, were celebrating their villainy with joyous songs.

Medieval fasti, chronicles and travel descriptions broadly cover the events of the Christian struggle against paganism that continued for several centuries. The propagators of the Christian faith sought to force Prussian tribes to forsake their religion and pagan rites. These sources reveal that, during religious rites, pagans used to sing, dance, play musical instruments, as well as perform funeral laments and play next to the deceased. They were threatened with severe punishment for such acts.

At the beginning of the 16th century the ideas of Reformation were spreading in the secular Duchy of Prussia, which had a special significance for the culture of Prussia and all Lithuanians. First and foremost, Reformation meant a change in the forms of folk beliefs and lifestyles. Folk songs, that are traditionally associated with customs and rituals, had eventually to be replaced with religious hymns.

The Catechismvsa Prasty Szadei with the addition of eleven hymns by Martynas Mažvydas was released in 1547 in Lithuanian language for the Lithuanians of Prussia. The creation of the Lithuanian writing and the overall rise of literacy eventually helped to preserve folk art but limited its development.