Witches, wood goblins and mermaids may be the stuff of fairy tales, but deep in the heart of rural Russia - villagers still believe they exist.
Even though many are ardent followers of the Russian Orthodox Church, their Christianity goes hand in hand with these pagan beliefs.
Now a pair of academics, who want to preserve this culture - are organising teams of volunteers from the West to document traditions for posterity.
Most Orthodox Christians regard the festival of the Kazan Mother of God Icon is considered a minor event.
But 400 kilometres south west of Moscow, hundreds of believers flock to witness the unique celebrations in the tiny village of Snopot.
Here Christian Orthodoxy has become inextricably woven into pagan ritual.
The festival marks the day when - according to local tradition - an icon of the virgin Mary miraculously appeared from the river at Kazan.
The people of Snopot believe that water blessed during the festival becomes holy and has the power to heal.
The Church tried - unsuccessfully - to force villagers to abandon this superstition and now priests actually take part in the blessing.
Even the Communists knew not to tamper with the villagers long-held beliefs.
It's rituals like these that have attracted volunteers from the US-based organisation Earthwatch to observe and document village life in Snopot.
For many it's a way to see the real Russia, rather than the standard coach tour of the capital.
"I prefer to just see how people live. I don't really care for the tourist attractions. I want to be with the people, see how they live, their daily lives."
SUPER CAPTION: Dennis Hink, Earthwatch volunteer
"I certainly expected after 20, 40 years of a Cold War that there would be much anti- American feeling, and I felt absolutely none. The people are totally amazed that we have come so far to come visit them in their village.
SUPER CAPTION: Susan Sitter, Earthwatch volunteer
Far from the comforts of the West, the Earthwatch volunteers live with locals in their own homes.
Zoyal Malenko's house is typical.
With no running water or gas she and her sister Alexandra cook on an open fire stove.
But it's not just their lifestyle that is a curiosity for the visitors but their pagan beliefs in mermaids, wood goblins and witches.
Alexandra said she once saw a woman near their house whom she first thought was a neighbour but then discovered was really a witch.
"I went closer to it, and it rose up to its full height. Big. I thought my friend had put her sister on her shoulders and wanted to scare me. I said, "I'm not afraid" and went closer and it suddenly turned into a dog".
SUPER CAPTION: Alexandra Khamak, Snopot Resident
The rural idyll of Snopot provides the perfect backdrop for the volunteers to gather material about the folklore traditions of the region.
With little migration from this area, customs and beliefs from the last thousand years have been well preserved.
It provides rich pickings for Dr Yelena Minyonok and her husband Sergei from the Russian Academy of Sciences.
They've organised the Earthwatch group to help them compile a video encyclopaedia of old folklore.
"It's like the spirit of Russia and Russia's young people aren't interested in old traditions and old songs and it's a pity because it's extremely interesting and it's our heritage.
SUPER CAPTION: Dr Yelena Minyonok, folklore expert
During the Kazan Mother of God Icon festival, the river of Snopot becomes as holy for villagers, as the Ganges is for Hindus.
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