03/24/2020, 09.29
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Herbs, incense, vodka, bells: Strange remedies for coronavirus

by Vladimir Rozanskij

Official figures in Russia speak of 438 infections and one victim. The economic consequences of the pandemic are worrying. The Orthodox Church steps up hygiene measures, but continues to hold Eucharistic celebrations, processions, veneration of icons. Russian Muslims have begun continuous reading of the Koran. Ekaterinburg nuns burn incense made from "lavender, geranium, basil and lemon, with great antiviral effect". Syrian rue is smoked in Turkmenistan; in Belarus, Lukashenko recommends "drinking more vodka". The sound of bells drives out viruses.

Moscow (AsiaNews) – Faced with 438 cases of coronavirus infection (with a deceased elderly woman), Russian President Vladimir Putin has warned Russians to "be ready for all eventualities”.

He was speaking from Sevastopol (Crimea), where the Russian Black Sea fleet is stationed, and were there are 77 suspected cases and 8 hospitalized.

Russian fears focus mainly on the economic consequences of the pandemic, which is more dangerous than the collapse of oil prices. Even in Russia supermarkets are being assaulted, and basic goods of all kinds are missing such as grechka, a buckwheat that is used for Russian soups, and toilet paper reminiscent of the critical periods of the Soviet Union. Some people have begun to post the message “Stop buying grechka, there is pelmeny too!”[i].

The most worrying index is the cost of foreign currency: the dollar has rocketed from 50 to 80.87 rubles, the euro is above 90, and the "apocalyptic" figure of 100 rubles for one dollar is not far away, echoing the financial collapses of the 1990s, before Putin's advent. The dollar is an indispensable currency for the Russian economy, for the energy and raw materials market, and attempts to "de-dollarize" the Russian economy in recent years, due to Western sanctions, have had little impact.

The Russian Orthodox Church refuses to interrupt the liturgical celebrations, and invites the faithful to go to church to receive Eucharistic communion. In St. Petersburg the exhibition of the relics of St. John the Baptist in the Cathedral of Our Lady of Kazan ended, where over 70 thousand pilgrims prostrated themselves, and in Moscow the processions began around the monastery of St. Peter (the oldest of the cities, in honor of the 14th century Metropolitan Petr) unfolding along the streets of the city center demanding an end to the epidemic. The priests and the faithful are however placed at a distance in the processional train (see https://www.instagram.com/p/B946dySIJ2U/?utm_source=ig_embed ).

In St. Petersburg, Metropolitan Varsonofij (Sudakov) canceled the procession for Palm Sunday, leaving all Holy Week functions for now.

While insisting on the opening of churches, the Moscow Patriarchate has issued new recommendations for compliance with hygiene rules during the celebrations. The last one concerns “kissing of the cross" at the end of the liturgies (the priest blesses the faithful with a bronze cross, which he then presents to the faithful for the devotional kiss): from now on it is recommended to limit oneself to "place the cross on the head of the parishioners”.

 For communion, disposable plastic spoons, unworthy of the sacredness of the gesture, are not approved, but it is prescribed to "rub the spoon in cloth soaked in spirit" after each communication, while disposable glasses for devotional water and wine are acceptable. In many churches the icons exposed to the devotion of the faithful are regularly rubbed with alcohol-based solutions.

In the main Sobornaja mosque in Moscow the continuous reading of the Koran, to hold the coronavirus at bay, has begun. Various types of remedies are also sought in churches and countries close to Russia, appealing to religious sentiments or popular traditions: Georgian Orthodox priests have begun to sprinkle the streets of the capital Tbilisi with blessed water. Belarusian President Aleksandr Lukashenko, still proud of the almost total absence of infectious cases in the country (one of the most isolated in Eastern Europe since before the virus), called the general alarm for the pandemic "psychosis", and recommended ironically to "drink more vodka and bathe more often in the dry sauna", always washing your hands well and eating regularly "a tbreakfast, lunch and dinner".

The president of Turkmenistan, Gurbangul Berdymukhamedov, has issued a provision to spread the practice of smoking hermala (also known as pegasum or "grave herb" in Russian), the Syrian rue originally from the eastern region of India, reputedly has particular therapeutic virtues in the fight against viral infections. According to Radio Azatlik, the proposal emerged during the emergency meeting of the State Development Committee.

The female monastery of St. Alexander Nevsky in Ekaterinburg has developed a special incense with antiviral properties effect: “In our laboratory we prepare an incense with herbs, extracted from the young trees of Boswellia together with the oils of lavender, geranium, basil and lemon, of great antiviral effect "- reads the statement released by the nuns -" we will use only this incense for all celebrations ". In fact, it seems that the faithful who attend the monastery liturgies get sick less than the others; the new incense is also recommended for domestic use. In the region, the only positive Coronavirus case concerns a girl who has just arrived from Italy, after a cruise in the Mediterranean.

The leader of the Belgorod eparchy, Metropolitan Ioann (Popov) decided to force all the churches of the Metropolia to ring the bells five times a day (at 9, 12, 15, 18 and 21), after consulting with others bishops of adjacent eparchies. The metropolitan recalled that before the revolution in Russia there were 1280 monasteries, and about 18,000 churches, and the sound of bells practically covered the entire territory of the empire. Ioann is convinced that "all disease-carrying microbes will disappear at the sound of the bells, since spirituality it is directly connected with the quanta ... I will not begin to give complicated scientific explanations, but I simply say that according to quantum mechanics, in addition to elementary particles, there are also flows, functions that make up the spiritual part of our material world ". According to this theory, the architectural forms of the cross domes of Russian churches favor the descent of grace on people, "for which there is an interior renewal that destroys the nefarious microbes: when we ring the bells, hope is reborn in the soul, we understand we are not alone, "assured the metropolitan.


[i] Russian ravioli, see https://www.instagram.com/p/B93TviAIqBC/?utm_source=ig_embed.

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