Siuda Baba. How a tale about a ‘pagan’ Slavic Priestess survived in Polish folklore

‘Siuda Baba’, drawing by Jerzy Panek, 1958.

Siuda Baba, a person appearing on the Easter Monday in only a few villages in southern Poland, is a great example of how bits of the informations about the old religions and customs were carried on by rural communities over the long centuries and how they survived in a form of local folklore traditions.

This custom can be still observed in the town of Wieliczka and a few neighbouring villages, notably in the village of Lednica Górna where it most likely originated from and where it’s still recreated every year on the Easter Monday – the day of Śmigus Dyngus or Lany Poniedziałek (Wet Monday). It’s connected to the old pre-Christian Slavic religion and the Slavic spring rites.

Continue reading “Siuda Baba. How a tale about a ‘pagan’ Slavic Priestess survived in Polish folklore”

Rękawka, a Slavic spring festival in Kraków

Rękawka festival in Kraków, Poland. Photo © Ilja Van de Pavert

One of the events of the most mysterious roots held in the city of Kraków (Cracow) in Poland is a festival called Rękawka (pronounced ren-kav-kah), organized on the first Tuesday after Easter on the famous Krakus Mound, one of the 5 historical man-made mounds that you can see nowadays in Kraków.

Continue reading “Rękawka, a Slavic spring festival in Kraków”

Folk rites and beliefs associated with Corpus Christi (Boże Ciało) in Poland

Out of all religious holidays in Poland the Corpus Christi, movable feast that falls on 11th day after Pentecost (called Green Week in Poland), remains one of the most important and colorful feasts celebrated by the Polish people during spring. Outside of the religious (Catholic) sphere that day has also deep undertones coming entirely from rural customs and rites that survived in the Polish countryside over past centuries almost unchanged. Just as in the case of the Pentecost, the rural traditions link both of these holidays topre-Christian spring celebrations, and are connected to many other customs of old-Slavic origins.

Continue reading “Folk rites and beliefs associated with Corpus Christi (Boże Ciało) in Poland”

Zielone Świątki, so-called Green Week celebrated on Pentecost

Poland - Zielone Świątki / Green WeekPoland - Zielone Świątki / Green Week

Poland - Zielone Świątki / Green Week
Cottages decorated for the Green Week. Photos © Museum of Mazovian Countryside in Sierpc

This festivity shows many elements of pre-Christian Slavic spring rituals. Nowadays it’s celebrated in Poland around mid-May towards early June – it is a movable feast that became syncretized with the celebrations of Pentecost over time, which starts 50 days after Easter.

Green Week is connected to Slavic rituals of celebrating the full spring (the reborn nature when the branches of trees already turned green). Its core nature is a form of maintenance of the rhythm of the nature, with magical practices of purifying the surroundings from demons or evil spirits that might have an effect on the process of growth during the spring. Goal of these rituals was designed to boost nature’s fertility, the ability to grow, in a process of preparing the soil, crops and livestock for the upcoming summer season and the later (expectantly abundant) harvest.

Continue reading “Zielone Świątki, so-called Green Week celebrated on Pentecost”

Śmigus Dyngus, also called Lany Poniedziałek (Wet Monday) in Poland

Śmigus Dyngus, also called Lany Poniedziałek (Wet Monday) in Poland
Wet Monday in Bukowina Tatrzańska, fot. Adrian Gładecki
Śmigus Dyngus, also called Lany Poniedziałek (Wet Monday) in Poland
Wet Monday in the skansen of Łowicz Countryside in Maurzyce, 1980s, via Fotopolska

This day, also called Lany Poniedziałek (Wet Monday) or just Dyngus, is an ancient pagan tradition celebrated in Poland on the Easter Monday, nowadays intertwined with the Christian celebrations of Easter.

It has its roots in old Slavic traditions of throwing water on people in rites meaning to purify them for the arrival of spring. On that day, groups of boys (often in festive clothing) were throwing water on the girls or even soak them completely in nearby rivers and lakes. Naturally, the girls were getting their ‘revenge’ in a similar way.

Continue reading “Śmigus Dyngus, also called Lany Poniedziałek (Wet Monday) in Poland”

Palm Sunday and the symbolic ‘Easter palms’ in Poland

palmy1 palmy2

Tradition of preparing the decorative and colorful ‘Easter palms’ for the blessing in churches on the Palm Sunday (last Sunday of the Lents before Easter) is an old and very important custom in Poland.

Continue reading “Palm Sunday and the symbolic ‘Easter palms’ in Poland”

Drowning and burning of Marzanna in Poland

Drowning and burning of Marzanna in Poland
Effigy of Marzanna set on fire before being thrown to the river, Jeziorzany, photo © Dorota Awiorko-Klimek / Dziennik Wschodni.
Drowning and burning of Marzanna in Poland
Huge Marzanna being thrown to the river, Chorzów [source].

Celebrated around March 21st (first day of spring) or on the 4th Sunday of the Lents before Easter, the custom of burning of Marzanna symbolizes the departure of winter and is rooted in pre-Christian Slavic rites that were performed to summon the spring. Originally it was celebrated during the spring equinox as a religious feast of the Slavic pagans, and it survived over the last thousand years despite the huge impact of Christianity and countless efforts of erasing that custom from the Polish countryside.

Continue reading “Drowning and burning of Marzanna in Poland”