A New Reading of the Genealogy of the Princes Fominsky-Travin: A Story of Wedding Hexes

Oleg Khoruzhenko

Abstract


The article studies the legend of how a ‘wedding hex’ caused the divorce of Simeon Ivanovich Gordyi (the Proud), Grand Prince of Moscow. The various versions of this event in medieval sources and the interpretations in the research literature are discussed. According to the most popular version, the marriage between Simeon Gordyi and Grand Princess Eupraxia Fedorovna of Smolensk was not consummated because the princess was made to look like a corpse in her husband’s eyes. Simeon thus sent the princess back to her father and entered into a new marriage, his third. This article demonstrates that this tale derives from a genealogical legend surrounding the origin of the princely Fominsky family. It is assumed that the legend was initially disseminated by the Karpov family, since they competed with the Fominskys for ancestral seniority. The legend appears for the first time in a Karpov genealogy dating from the first decade of the 16th century. Folkloric traditions are replete with tales of wedding accidents similar to that which befell Simeon Gordyi and Eupraxia Fedorovna. According to popular belief, a hex on either one of a newly-wed couple (or both) could lead to their physical transformation into an animal or hallucinations whereby one’s partner seemed to become a snake, a wolf, or a bear. However, hallucinating that one’s partner is a corpse was not a mainstay of folk traditions. Thus we may assume that the version of the legend that ultimately appeared might have been the result of either conscious distortion or reading errors. Linguistic slippage between the words ‘bear’ and ‘dead’ is another potential reason when we consider the paleographic data and the history of language. Therefore the legend of the wedding hex on Princess Eupraxia Fedorovna should not be read literally.


Keywords


Simeon Gordyi (the Proud); Princes Fominsky; genealogy; palaeography; descent lists; Russian folklore

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.15826/qr.2016.3.182

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