Karachun in Slavic tradition

KARACHUN (корочун, керечун, kračún, kračun, kraczun) in Slavic tradition. Karachun for Ukrainians, Poles, Slovaks, Moravians, Bulgarians, and Serbs – represents the winter solstice and the time period just before the new year, as well as a special bread and a tree, timed to this period of the year.

In the Russian and Belarusian languages, the word «karachun» also meant a sudden death, death at a young age, deathbed seizures, as well as an evil spirit or a demon that shortens life.

A common element of all these meanings is ‘a turn, a significant change in state’, represented in the names of the days of the winter and summer solstice, which are the border of winter and summer; in the description of death and the borderline state between life and death; in the names of evil spirits that cause death, especially premature death.

Also, krachun – is a special bread, known in the Carpathian region (among the Ukrainians, Ruthenians, Poles, Slovaks and Moravians). Krachun is considered a symbol of family wealth and has a special ceremonial and magical value. In Ukraine, wives and mothers used to bake it while dressed in an inside-out fur coat and in mittens. According to tradition, people usually put grains of various cereals, garlic, herbs in the middle of the bread, stuck a stalk of oats or a fir twig, they also tied krachun with a string of flax or hemp – all with a special purpose and a wish for wealth and good harvest.

In Slovakia, the krachun was divided between family members, given to house animals for good health and fertility, and the remainder was laid in front of the barn door for protection against witches. A piece of krachun and everything “baked” in it (people would put things inside on purpose) was used as medicine, amulets and powerful magical objects. Slavs also used krachun in divination by rolling it on the floor: if it rolled over onto the top crust, it meant misfortune in cattle breeding or the death of one of the family members. In Ukraine, people also used krachun for foretelling by looking at the shape it would take in the oven.

Have you come across these Slavic rites?

Source: Bogatyrev P.G. “Questions of the theory of folk art” 1971
Artist: Victor Korolkov “Karachun”

Postrizhiny among the Slavs: kinship, gifts and a feast

Among the southern Slavs, postrizhiny was an act of establishing kinship. In Serbia, the one who cut a child’s hair became his “postrizhiny father” (“шишано кумство”), in Bulgaria – the child’s brother. In Bosnia, if two families were in a quarrel, a member of the warring family was specially invited to cut the child’s hair, after which both sides would call truce. Such kinship was valued above blood or spiritual relationship.

The parents thanked the hair cutters. The Serbs gave them a shirt or weapons. Among the southern Slavs and Ukrainians, all the guests brought treats and gifts: pies, bread, salt, clothes for the child. Giving a gift to the child, to the one who cut the hair and to relatives and guests was considered mandatory. Among different Slavic nations, a “postrizhiny father” could give a child clothes and shoes, a red hat, a beehive, a sheep or other domestic animal. The child received gifts from his maternal grandfather and grandmother and from other relatives.

Postrizhiny celebration feast had different forms: from an ordinary family dinner to a rich ceremonial meal similar to a wedding, with the invitation of musicians and dances.

What other children related holidays do you know?

To be continued…
Artist: https://www.deviantart.com/mirogniewa

Postrizhiny – Slavic ritual

Postrizhiny in early childhood were common among all Slavs. The ceremony mainly extended only to boys, but sometimes to children of both genders – and was supposed to provide the child with good development, a happy fate, timely marriage, wealth, etc.

Most often, postrizhiny were done at home by the fireplace with a child sited on a table. The Eastern Slavs could also put child on a bench in the “red corner”. In Bulgaria, the child would be standing on dezha (special wooden tub for sourdough bread making) facing east. Ukrainians would sit the child on the fur coat. A spinning wheel, a comb, threads were put under the fur coat when cutting a girl’s hair, and when cutting a boy’s – a knife, a jointer, scissors, thereby wishing the child to acquire professional skills.

The method of cutting the first hair strands and the accompanying magical practices differ in various Slavic traditions. For example, among the Bulgarians, the one who cut the hair, washed the face of the child with water from a new jug, then “cut” the air with scissors and said (literally “glorified” – a verb derived from “slava”): “So that you grow old and gray, like Stara Planina (Balkan Mountains) and like your grandfather in old age”.

What rituals associated with the first haircut of children do you know?

To be continued…

Postrizhyny in Slavic tradition

Postrizhyny is the ancient Slavic ritual of the first haircut for a boy. In Serbia and Montenegro it was called “стрижене”, in Russia “пострижины”, in Bulgaria and Macedonia “стрижба”, in Poland “postrzyżyny”. This rite included cutting off strands of hair, magical rituals with it, dressing up a child in new clothes, exchanging gifts, good wishes, fortune-telling about the future, etc.

For Russians, the ritual hair cutting coincided with the beginning of the teachings – the knowledge transfer from the adults. Postrizhyny marked the recognition of the child as a person. Written sources testify about postrizhyny of 5–7-year-old sons of the nobility, which had an initiatory character and reflected family ties and customary law. For example, postrizhyny of Yuri and Yaroslav, the sons of the East Slavic duke Vsevolod (years 1192 and 1194), as well as the Czech duke Václav. After the ritual haircut, the prince was put into the saddle of his father’s horse, “so that he could step into his father’s stirrup”, in other words to follow his father steps. This meant the recognition of the son by the father. Also, the father’s shirt was put on him, and the whole ceremony was followed by a feast. Gallus Anonymus also describes postrizhyny of the legendary founder of the Polish Piast dynasty – Siemowit.

And how was the first haircut for you or for your children?

To be continued…
Artist: Małgorzata Lewandowska https://www.instagram.com/art_by_goria/

Polevik can be kind

In Slavic beliefs, Polevik is a hostile creature but sometimes he helps humans. Novgorod people believed that Polevik could warn field workers about danger – for example, drive them out of the field before an approaching thunderstorm.

That is why people always tried to please Polevik. In Novgorod, when pasturing cows in the meadowland, people bowed to Polevik and said: “Field father, field mother with little children, take my cattle, give it water and feed it”. And when cattle got lost, people would take bread and three coins, stand on the road and say: “Master of the field, I will give you bread and a gold treasure, and you bring my hog home.”

In the Oryol region of Russia, on certain holidays at night, a couple of eggs and an old rooster stolen from neighbors were sacrificed to Polevik in the field. It was believed that, without a sacrifice, Polevik would get angry and destroy all the bread in the field. And in the Yaroslavl region, at the end of the harvest people left several uncut bread spikes as an offering to Polevik.

Why do you think they sacrificed not their own, but the neighbor’s rooster? 😉
Artist: https://www.deviantart.com/natale777

More interesting facts can be found in: “Slavic Antiquities” – encyclopedic dictionary in 5 volumes by Institute for Slavic Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences.