Mystery Tradition in Mikhail Prishvin’s Novel The Worldly Cup




M. M. Prishvin, The Worldly Cup, mystery tradition, Silver Age, R. Wagner, Vl. Gippius


This article examines one of M. Prishvin’s key texts, i. e. the novel The Worldly Cup (Mirskaya chashcha) (1922), which has never been analysed as a mystery text in the context of the European mystery tradition and theatrical mystery of the Silver Age (The Twelve (Dvenadtsat’) by A. Blok, Christ is Risen (Khristos voskres), The Antichrist/Coming/The Maw of the Night (Antikhrist/Prishedshii/ Past’ nochi) by A. Bely, Demonic Action (Besovskoe Deistvo) by A. Remizov, and Dream in the Desert (Son v pustyne) and The Human Face (Lik chelovecheskii) by V. Gippius). Prishvin acts as successor of the mystery tradition, as it was perceived in Russian culture from V. Solovyov to J. Brodsky. The story highlights the following features of the mystery tradition: going beyond the visible world (meta-history), its transformation, the symbolism of the cross, the resurrected Lazarus, the number “12” and “X”, and the communion cup. The Worldly Cup is both a mystery of the revolution (“Black Mass”) and “The Mystery of Golgotha”. The key to the mystery reading of the text is the symbolism of the communion cup, which refers to the archetypal plots of the Western Middle Ages (myths of the Grail and Faust). Prishvin was familiar with the myth of the Holy Grail in R. Wagner’s interpretation (Parsifal), whose music the writer greatly appreciated in his youth. The article reveals plot similarities (stages of “initiation”) between Alpatov, Parsifal, and Lancelot. Alpatov is a Russian Parsifal; for him, every meeting is an already acquired Grail, according to the evangelical and mystical law, which was accentuated by Russian religious thought. According to this law, what is given is returned; the face of Christ appears in everyone. Compassion as Alpatov’s main feature becomes a real active force, since in the Gospel it extends to everyone, including those who “do not know what they are doing”. Alpatov thereby finds himself in the role of the mother of God, praying “for everyone indiscriminately”, from The Descent of the Virgin Mary into Hell (Khozhdenie Bogoroditsy po mukam), which Dostoevsky defined as a mystery. It is established that Prishvin’s acquaintance with V. Gippius’s mystery play Dream in the Desert (Son v pustyne) influenced the mystery plan of The Worldly Cup. Prishvin interprets the writing vocation as the role of a mystic who initiates the reader into his mystery and opens to them the possibility of a new reunion of man and God, new relationships between people, and the gift of discerning harmony in nature.

Author Biography

Tatiana Victoroff

Dr. Hab. (Philology), Professor, Strasburg University.

4, rue Blaise Pascal, CS 90032, Strasbourg, France.

ORCID 0000-0002-2607-7693


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How to Cite

Victoroff, T. (2024). Mystery Tradition in Mikhail Prishvin’s Novel The Worldly Cup. Quaestio Rossica, 12(2), 492–505.



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