i wasn’t going to be bothered this year. i haven’t done it in years. but then, it suddenly hit me: this is the last November I am still a ‘miss’, an unmarried girl for whom it’s still possible to do it.
29th November marks a very special event for all the unmarried girls. on this day, the eve on St.Andrew’s Day, the unmarried girls in Poland indulge in various activities, undertaken in order to unravel the secret of their future love life. and although nowadays Andrzejki (Polish name for St. Andrews Day) is mostly a great excuse to organise a party (often connected with predicting future love life, for both, boys and girls), the custom itself is quite interesting and worth introducing.
Andrzejki have been popular in Poland amongst unmarried girls at least since the 16th century. The custom itself is probably either of Ancient Greek or pagan origin, and has spread throughout Europe. Now, it is still popular in Poland, Ukraine, Slovakia, Belarus, Romania and parts of Germany.
The St. Andrew’s Day marks the end of the liturgic year, and the caesurae like this one were often associated with many superstitions, magic customs and fortune-telling. It’s unclear why St. Andrew had become a patron of matrimonial hopes and superstitions, but it is a fact that the girls used to outdo themselves in coming up with the ideas for the new ways, in which their future husband’s name could be revealed. The girls wanted to know, if not the name of their future partner, then at least his profession, character traits, or appearance. Barbara Ogrodowska in her book on Polish customs and traditions, names many popular fortune-telling customs: from putting pieces of paper with male names written on them under the pillow and drawing one in the morning (the name on the paper would be the name of one’s future husband), to taking off the left shoes of the girls participating in the fortune-telling and “racing” them to the door – the owner’s shoe which first reaches the door, will be the one to get married first.
The dreams were a very important part of St. Andrew’s Eve, too. On this special night a future husband could appear in one’s dream, especially if there was care taken towards special ‘little helps’. Some girls would place a piece of men’s garment under their bedsheet; some would prepare a bowl of water on which a girl would build a miniature bridge from wooden sticks (the bridge was supposed to ease the future husband’s appearance into the girl’s dream, he would cross the bridge and enter her dream).
Barbara Ogrodowska also mentions some preventions from the not-so-kindred spirits on the eve of St. Andrew’s Day. The girls used to make sure, that unwanted characters won’t enter their dreams. To do so, they would smear doorknobs, thresholds, and windowsills with garlic. Some of the most fearful ladies would put a garlic clove in their mouth before going to bed, and only swallow it before falling asleep. Good thing that the future husband was visiting them only in their dreams, not sure if the ubiquitous and ever-strong smell of garlic would impress the non-spirited version of a husband.
Yet, the most widespread (at least where I come from) fortune-telling custom is the pouring of hot wax onto cold water, preferably through the hole of big old-fashioned key. I remember my mum getting annoyed with us, girls, for splashing hot wax all over the floor, the tables and everywhere else possible. no wonder, though, as wax is not the easiest one to get rid of.
for young girls, such fortune-telling events are true magic, even if they are only done for fun. for me, it used to be a whole procedure: buying candles which will be melted. finding a pot in which to melt them (without bringing upon myself my mum’s, now understandable, anger), finding a bowl, which will later be filled with cold water, buying or making snacks, and lastly – inviting the girls to participate in this secret gathering.
I used to love it. Of course, none of the predictions came true (or maybe they did, I just don’t remember them all), but it was a great deal of fun, trying to read strange waxy shapes – what can they possibly mean?
Depending on the region, one can either try to decipher the meaning of the wax lumps themselves or try to read the future out of the shadow of the waxy shapes. They are both, as you can imagine, quite impossible, as the shapes are usually quirky and unreadable. But being a teenage girl, bursting with excitement from the feeling of participating in something Very Secret, something what boys are not allowed to experience, helped a lot in interpreting mysterious wax shapes.
Tonight, too, the wax surprised me. The shapes were crazy. All I was able to read out of them were…maps. I saw a map of Asia, a map of something what looked like Canada, I also saw an elephant and something what instantly reminded me of a car. Seems like someone needs to feed their wanderlust soon?
But as the St. Andrew’s Eve is still not quite finished, how about we do some fortune-telling? Any unmarried and curious girls out there? Sorry guys, I understand that you might feel left out, but what to do – gotta follow ancient laws of this pagan custom.
ST.ANDREW’S EVE PARTY (OR ANDRZEJKI)
WHAT YOU NEED
1. Candles, which you won’t be too sad to melt
2. Pot, in which you will melt said candles (not sure if the pot will recover from the wax melting, so here, too – choose the one you’re least fond of)
3. A bowl big enough to fill with cold water and pour the wax onto
4. An old-fashioned key, though which you will pour melted wax
Any room would do, just make sure there are no boys or married girls around, as it will spoil the future predictions.
Make sure to invite your (single!) girl friends, too. The more the merrier.
A lot! Proper Andrzejki party must be accompanied with a lot of food and drinks, yes, alcohol is allowed (can possibly make reading the wax shapes easier)
Apart from the wax-pouring one, there are many other customs you can use to try and reveal some of the future’s secrets. Here are some of them:
shoe race: every girl in the group takes off their left shoe. All the girls go to the furthest away wall from the door and start the race. The first girl puts her shoe on the floor, close to the wall, the next girl puts the shoe in front of the previous one, and the race continues until one of the shoes reaches the door. The winning shoe belongs to the person who will get married first from among the group.
piercing the name: prepare a piece of paper, preferably something fairly thick. You can cut out a nice shape from it, heart or star, whatever you fancy. On one side of the paper write names. Prepare some pins, with which the girls will pierce the paper. Of course, you pierce facing the side without the names, so it’s a blind shot. If the pin pierces though one of the written names – that will be your future husband’s name. If not, well, your time is not quite there yet.
peeling the apple: each girls gets an apple which needs to be peeled, possibly in one go, that is to get the longest possible apple peel. Then, each girl throws it behind her. The shape the fallen apple peel has taken should resemble a letter of alphabet, which is, of course (predictable by now), the letter with which future husband’s name will start with.
I suppose we are now ready to start the fun part. Ready for some wax pouring, ladies?
As I have already done mine, I will now share it with you, hoping that someone is feeling extra psychic-like and is able to read the signs of the future for me. Just kidding. But still, let’s have some of it!
Have fun, everyone! Oh, and all the best to every Andrew out there, as tomorrow is your name’s day!
For now though, goodnight.