Monday, November 28, 2011

Wax and magic on St. Andrew's Eve

Tomorrow is the 29th of November, the eve of St. Andrew's day, which many European cultures associate with the telling of fortunes. In Poland, where close attention is always paid to the patron saints of a given date, we call it Andrzejki, or in some regions, andrzejówki or jędrzejki. Andrzej or Jędrzej are the Polish versions of the name Andrew.

A little pronounciation lesson is in order here: where you see the r and z come together as rz, they are pronounced as a voiced palato-alveolar sibilant. No, I don't really know what that means either, the last phonetics lesson I took was over fifteen years ago. I refer you to Wikipedia. Incidentally, the letter ż is pronounced the same way, just to make spelling harder.

We'll take a look at the Polish alphabet (of thirty two letters!) later. Let's get back to that magical night: Andrzejki.

The prophecies are usually matrimonial. We say that St. Andrew takes care of maids, while St. Catherine (whose Feast is celebrated on November 25th) worries about the bachelors. So, how exactly does one find out the identity of their future spouse?

On St. Andrew's eve, as on all magical nights, dreams gain special power. To see your future lover in a dream, place a basin of water next to your bed, and build a little bridge of twigs over it. The dream will walk across it to reach you.

Be careful, though, of attracting evil spirits into your dreams. To ward them off, rub garlic over doorknobs, doorsteps and windowsills. If you want to be extra careful, swallow a couple of garlic cloves just before you fall asleep. (I guess ghosts are afraid of stinky breath!)

Even our ancestors knew vampires don't make good lovers.

In some regions, ghosts were kept away by bonfires that burned through the night. To add to the fire's magical power, one could throw in a blessed herb, or part of a woven palm leftover from Palm Sunday. Thus fed, St. Andrew's Fires were said to cause deep sleep and prophetic dreams.

Fire was used again in lighting two wisps of unspun wool, one for each lover, and sending them flying up into the sky. If, on their way up, they should find and join each other, the lovers' fate was sealed.

108/365: The fireplace
Fire is magic. Everyone knows that.

But fires aren't a practical solution nowadays. You may prefer to write down some names on pieces of paper, place them under your pillow, and pull one out in the morning as soon as you wake up.

You can find a fence, and count the posts like you would count the petals of a daisy, repeating: bachelor, widower, bachelor, widower... Or else simply see if the number is pair; that promises a relationship.

At home, take your left shoe off. Throw it over your shoulder. If it lands with its nose towards the door, you will marry soon. If there are several single people in one house, take off your shoes and line them up, one after the other, to see whose shoe will touch the doorstep first.

These are just a few things you can do, but the most popular way to tell your fortune, and one that doesn't necessarily focus so much on finding a partner, is the pouring of wax or lead.

334/365: St Andrew's Day
My talented former flatmate Marta demonstrates

Lead, as we know now, isn't a safe thing, so grab a couple of wax candles and follow these instructions.

You will need to fill a vessel with water, and light a candle so that it casts a sharp light on the wall. You will also need a key, an older key with a large hole.

Melt some wax in a pot. Try to get a real candle, not stearin or paraffin- the magic comes from the bees who made the wax.

Take your key, and hold it over the basin. Slowly, pour the melted wax through the key hole onto the water.

St Andrew's Day 07
By the way, little drops of wax floating in the water symbolise coins. You'll be rich!

The wax will quickly cool and set into a shape. Take it out of the water and hold it up in front of the candle. What kind of shadow does it cast?

Look carefully. The shape you see represents your future.

Meta info:

Wikipedia entry for St. Andrew's Day

My former flatmate's blog (she's in one of the photos :))

Information was gathered from personal experience and this book by Dr. Barbara Ogrodowska

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