Yard protection in Slavic tradition

To protect the yard from evil spirits, evil eye, curse, etc. Slavs took various magical measures. The Bulgarians, for example, planted elm tree. They believed that then “no evil and no disease can enter the yard, and the house itself will never be empty.”

Slavs of Polesie region made sure that no “bare” branch (without a bark), brought by the wind, was kept in the yard – to prevent it from being “naked” and “empty”. On Kupala they also erected a “pole with bark” in the yard, and put a cow skull on a top, so that the “yard (house) would be rich”.

According to the beliefs of some western and southern Slavs, in order to protect the yard from reptiles and insects, one should run around it with a bell in hand or sweep it before sunset with a new broom. Another way was to fumigate with a smoke and sprinkle with ashes from a fire, in which garbage from all over the yard was collected. To guard the yard from evil forces, salt was also sprinkled along the fence. To defend the barn from the witch who was trying to “steal” the crop, millet was scattered in the yard. And the Russians, in order to protect livestock from the evil eye, hung out a bunch of old bast shoes in the yard, thus diverting the attention of a dangerous person from animals.

What protection, in your opinion, is the most effective?

To be continued…
Artist: Vladimir Zhdanov

Bread and salt – part 4

Have you ever tried to milk a cow or build a house? Our Slavic ancestors used the “bread and salt” pair in many rituals, connected to birth, funerals, cattle-breeding, agriculture and construction. Both Eastern and Western Slavs, when laying the house foundation, as well as at all stages of its construction, put pieces of bread and salt in the corresponding parts of the building in order to ensure its durability and home’s prosperity.

For protection and ritual cleansing, bread and salt were placed inside a cradle or a bathtub of an infant, as well as sewn into swaddling blanket. Bulgarian women carried bread and salt with them before and after childbirth to “preserve milk”. In Belarus, to ease childbirth, a woman in labor kissed a bread loaf with salt and walked around the table three times.

Bread and salt were believed to have protective and fertility properties for livestock. Russians and Poleshchuks put them in a barn (tied to horns, to a milking gear, etc.) so that the cattle were fertile, produced more meat and milk, as well as to protect animals from an evil eye and diseases.

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.

bread and salt

Bread and salt – part 3

Have you ever tried to change the weather? Our Slavic ancestors had many rituals for this, including the use of bread and salt. Among the eastern and southern Slavs, for protection from hail or thunderstorms, bread and salt were offered to a thundercloud in order to appease it. Slavs could set a table outdoor or offer bread and salt on a shovel or in a “dezha” (special wooden tub for sourdough bread making). And during a drought, they threw bread and salt into a well, or went out with them into the field and prayed for rain.

Bread and salt were thrown into the river so that the water would carry away all the diseases, or as protection from flooding. The Belarusians put them in a fishing net so that Vodyanoi would help with a successful fishing; the Bulgarians threw them to Khala along with the money so that Khala would not eat the cattle bathing in the lake.

They were also used for divination. To determine the fate of a relative, Slavs placed salt, bread, oven clay and charcoal on the corners of the table. Then they would hold a bread on a string to see if it deviates in the direction of bread and salt (then the relative is alive), or to clay and charcoal (than the relative is dead).

To be continued…

bread and salt

Bread and salt – part 2

The sacredness of “bread & salt” was manifested in the customs of our Slavic ancestors. Thus, in Russia there was a ban on swearing and lying if bread & salt were on the table. And to confirm the truthfulness of the oath, the Russians pronounced “honest bread and salt”, and the Bulgarians “хлеба и солта ми” (“my bread and salt”). Hence the idea of the purifying properties of “bread-salt”: in Polesie region they were placed in “dezha” (special wooden tub for sourdough bread making) to cleanse it; in Ukraine they were given to a woman prior to the first visit to church after giving birth, etc.

“Bread and salt” were widely used in wedding ceremonies. Among the Eastern Slavs, Bulgarians, Poles, matchmakers came to the bride’s house with bread and salt. If the offer of the matchmakers was accepted, the bride’s parents gave them bread and salt in return. The closest female relative or matchmaker circled three times with bread and salt around the parents’ hands, securing the decision on the engagement. Then the matchmaker broke the bread, saying: “The deed is done and sealed with bread and salt” (Yaroslavl region).

With the blessing of the groom and the bride, the Belarusians used to say: “I bless you with bread, salt, happiness, destiny and good health”. The Bulgarians wished the engaged couples to stay together like bread and salt. In Poland, the newlyweds at home after the wedding walked around the table three times with bread and salt, after which the wife kissed the corners of the table and put the bread on the “pech” (the fireplace for cooking and heating).

To be continued…
Bread salt

Bread and salt – part 1

Among all Slavic nations, the pair of “BREAD & SALT” since ancient times has become a symbol of hospitality, harmony, home well-being, prosperity, sacredness and purity. Traditionally, to maintain the well-being of the home, bread and a salt were always present on the table. Czech proverb: “Chléb a sůl zdobí stůl” (“Bread and salt decorate the table”). And the Russians used to say: “There is no lunch without bread and salt.” It was customary among all the Slavs, when setting the table, to first put bread and salt, and then the rest of the food.

Bread and salt were a symbol of hospitality, thus it was almost mandatory to offer them even to an enemy – the Poles had a saying: “Złemu wrogowi chleba i soli” (“Bread and salt to an evil enemy”). When meeting a guest, the hosts brought out bread with a salt cup on a towel or tablecloth. Refusal of bread and salt was greatly condemned: “Kdo u nás chleba a soli nepřijme, ten není hoden, abychom mu židli podali” the Czechs used to say (“Whoever does not accept bread and salt from us – is not worthy to be given a chair”).

The pair “bread and salt” among the Slavs also became a symbol of harmony. Bulgarians used to say: «като сол и хляб»; Serbs: «слажу се као хлеб и со»; Poles: “chleb z solą znak i hasło zgody” (“bread and salt – the sign and motto of agreement”).

To be continued…

Bread and salt