Lithuanian Haiku?

Yep, you read this right. I found a cute little post card flaunting a Lithuanian haiku while I was waiting for my latte in a coffee shop yesterday morning. Here is the Lithuanian poem by Tomas Sinickis with my, somewhat free, translation. It seemed appropriate to post here given the recent posts on Catholicism.


Pagonys stovi

virš bazilikos mano

Jezus bus piktas.


Pagans are standing

all over my church

Jesus will be pissed.


I showed it to some of my fellow students and said, “Uhoh, I’m in trouble.” I heard someone mumble, “Me too” behind me.

I use the word pagan as a synonym for apostate, but that’s not really what it means outside of a certain American mindset. Haiku is supposed to be about nature, and Lithuanian paganism has very strong ties to nature and the old ways are experiencing a kind of public revival in some parts of the country.

Christianity here is mostly of the Roman Catholic variety, although there are some Protestants and even a few evangelicals. From what I can tell they are nothing like American evangelicals. The Catholic church has too much power here and recently parliament passed a proclamation declaring that a family is a man, a woman, and their children. With a divorce rate above fifty percent and many single mothers, you can imagine that this has pissed off a lot of people, even if it hasn’t pissed off Jesus.

The funny side of the story about Lithuanian Christianity is that there is a national holiday celebrating the day that Bruno of Querfurt, a Christian missionary, was bonked on the head and killed by the people in 1009, also the first time that Lithuania was mentioned in writing. Next year the country will be celebrating the 1000 year anniversary of these events.

When Mindaugas, the first and last king of Lithuania finally converted and had the country baptized in the thirteenth century, it was only so he could receive the crown which had to be delivered by the Pope. Although Lithuania has been a Catholic country ever since, and the people consider Catholicism to be part of the national identity and as such, something to be preserved and used to oppose the Soviet occupation, there is still a very strong undercurrent of paganism here and the old stories and myths are as strong in the daily psyche as the teachings of the church. It is quite amusing to me, and gives this poem a slight twist of irony, completely appropriate to haiku, that I believe was fully intended by the author.

(Sorry to any Lithuanians writing this, I could not get the “e” character in Jesus name to display properly. I hope he isn’t too pissed.)

Cross posted on my personal blog.


Donna Druchunas is a freelance technical writer and editor and a knitwear designer. When she's not working, she blogs, studies Lithuanian, reads science and sci-fi books, mouths off on atheist forums, and checks her email every three minutes. (She does that when she's working, too.) Although she loves to chat, she can't keep an IM program open or she'd never get anything else done.

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  1. Are you in Vilnius? My very first boyfriend (I wish I knew how to make the TM-trademark symbol) was Lithuanian, so I kinda learned more than I would have otherwise. One of my favorite facts about ol’ Lietuva was that it was the very last European country to convert to Christianity…so…yay?

  2. I wonder if that poem wouldn’t be considered more of a senry? — the same structure as haiku, but about people rather than nature and a bit cynical.

    Sorry, I couldn’t suppress my inner literature geek.

  3. Alpha C.,

    What about the idea that organized religion persists because it is easier to take on someone else’s ideas, rather than think through your own?


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