Crossroads – As in other European, Western, African, Celtic traditions, the crossroads are a sacred and magical places (in between this world and the energetic world where our soul can travel or seers can see from here exists), where both divination and invocations were uttered and spoken into.
Talismans and amulets are hung or buried here in places where the veils are thin, as well as other spell and prayer work are conducted. The crossroads is a place where all places and directions meet (earth, air, water and fire); and all time fades away into the present moment.
Some Polish names and explanations of such things that exist within this netherworld where circles are worshiped, celebrated and rituals are performed in forests and groves. In traditions like all traditions, candles (the light) are lit, drawing circles in soil with natural objects and sacred hand made tools.
These are used to prevent souls who roam in-between the worlds who wish you hard or playing tricks on you, or even using strong mentally telepathy against your will. These sacred steps are used to protect you from outside influences that mean you harm.
Czarownica – The Polish word for witch, enchantress or spellbinder.
Divination – Forms of divination that were practiced in Poland included the following: Candle wax dripped in a glass of water was held up to the light for interpretation; herbs thrown on the fire produced smoke that could be interpreted by the shape of patterns it made; finding pysanky patterns in the natural world would yield a prediction of fortune.
Fire Flowers – To find this powerful plant, the seeker had to go into the forest before midnight on the Eve of Kupala. The flower itself would climb up the stalk of the fern and bloom into brightness so bright no one would look at it, precisely at midnight.
A circle must be drawn around it in order to harvest it, and the seeker had to deal with demons trying to trick him/her into distracting them from their goal. It was said that if you answer the voices, or falter during the task or it would sacrifice their own lives. Anyone finding this flower gained the ability to read minds, finding treasure, and repel all evils.
Herbs – I have constructed a short list of non-pysanky related plants that are used in Polish folk customs. Disclaimer – I do not suggest anyone ingest or otherwise use these herbs in any of the methods shown here without the approval of a qualified physician.
Belladonna – This plant is found chiefly in the Carpathian region of Poland, and was listed as an ingredient in old flying ointment recipes. This led to the belief that it has always been associated with witches and evil. This plant is a hallucinogenic and very deadly.
Bellflower – Children suffering from consumption were bathed in this herb; and the results of skin darkening was used to divine whether they lived or would die. If the skin darkened, they would survive. If the skin stayed pale and sickly, the child would die.
Birch – A harbinger of spring, and it is said to bring good fortune and protect against witches and the evil eye.
Burnette Saxifrage – An herb that in folklore is said to protect you from death by eating or drinking it.
Juniper – On the Holy Day of Dyngusy, branches were used to playfully whip blessings onto each other.
Lady’s Mantle – This herb would disperse storm clouds when thrown into a fire or hung into a window.
Linden Tree – The sacred tree that protected against evil spirits and lightening, commonly planted in front of houses to keep evil from entering. It was also a place to leave offerings and to hold folk rituals. The Blessed Mother is said to hiding in the tree, and since lightening didn’t strike it – it also became a symbol of luck. It is also a symbol of family, faith, and the good life.
Meliot – Used as incense for protection to those who had been given the evil eye. May wine was flavored with this herb.
Mint – Thought of as a Universal healing herb, the most common use was for aid of digestion.
White Bryony – This herb was fenced in when it was found on property to protect it; as the leaves resemble a child and digging it up would destroy their own happiness. It is said that the stems and leaves from this plant were used in spells and incantations.
Knots – Knots performed powerful magic; and were used to bind the intent into the working. Knots in willows were considered powerful catalysts in love magic.
Ladanki – Medicine and charm bags that were worn on the belt or around the neck. Ladanki contained written spells, herbs, stones, amulets and talismans.
Lechebnik – A Russian word for charm books and no czarownica would be worth his/her salt without one. This word carries into Polish as well, the root word from which is Lecznie – meaning to heal or cures.
The Magic Belt of Poland – The original belt was 2.28m (89″ long) parchment scroll with the magic symbols inscribed on the outside and the prayers for them written on the inside of the Belt. The Knights of Poland to protect them from all possible danger used it. The original source of protective magic probably dates to before 1600 AD in Christian magic, however the symbols might be from pagan antiquity.
The Magic Belt was originally exhibited by the Archeology Department of the Warsaw University in 1922, but disappeared at the end of WWII. Invoking the talismans, one would take the belt off and stand in a circle with their hair loose. Belts held knives, ladanki and were wore by both women and men. It is possible in these everyday belts and magic belts were embossed with the symbols and possibly come from the origin of the Key of Solomon. For the Magic Belt talismans see Sources at the bottom of the page.
Matka Ziema – The Polish call her this name; and she is called Moist Mother Earth and the Mother of Plants. Poetic phrase describes her as “she who raises flowers.” The Earth was the Supreme Being; and is the Universal Life force and the fabric of becoming. Oaths were made binding by touching the Earth. Sins were confessed to the Earth before death. She was worshipped in her natural form; and was not given a human personage or likeness. A traditional invocation to Matka Ziema; with a jar of hemp oil: East – “Mother Earth, subdue every evil and unclean being so that he may not cast a spell on us nor do us any harm.”
West – “Mother Earth, engulf the unclean power in thy boiling pits, and in thy burning fires.” South – “Mother Earth, calm the winds coming from the South and all bad weather. Calm the moving sands and whirlwinds.” North – “Mother Earth, calm the North winds and clouds, subdue the snowstorms and the cold.” The jar, which held the oil, is buried after each invocation and offering is made at each Quarter. (Slavonic mythology 1977:287)
In Russia there was a quite terrifying ritual dedicated to Matka Ziema, and happened on the eve of the 1st World War to preserve their village against a plague of cholera. At midnight the older women circled the village, summoning the other women without the knowledge of the men. They would choose nine maidens and three widows who would be led out of the village. They would all undress down to their shifts.
The maidens let down their hair, and the widows covered their heads with white shawls. They seized ploughs, the maidens armed themselves with scythes, and others would grab various objects of terrifying appearance including the skulls of animals. The procession would then march around the village, howling and shreiking, while they ploughed a furrow to permit the powerful spirits of the Earth to emerge, and to annihilate the germs of evil. Any man who had the bad luck to meet the procession was felled without mercy. (Slavonic Mythology 1977:287)
Pysanky – Decorated eggs. They themselves symbolize Spring, birth, rebirth and fertility. They represent the origin of life, the Universe, and the equality of polar powers. Traditionally, pysanky eggs were decorated by women and girls; who are taught the age-old rituals passed down from the Babci or Grandmother. The traditional working is done after dark in a quiet place. This ensures that concentration, meditation, and ritual consciousness can be performed with continuance.
The artist should make an effort to be calm and anger free during the previous day. A white tablecloth covers the work space, and your candle is set in the middle of the table. Bread and salt are placed behind the candle, flowers and incense to the right and a cup of water to the left. The water in which boiled-style eggs were prepared is meaningful, used to wash in, bless with and used to anoint beehives to bring plenty of sweet tasting honey. It was also poured along property lines to protect against the ravages of weather, also against thunder and lightening. It is traditional that the most magical, ancient pysanky had four or five colors used with them.
Spoiling – A term used to mean a curse being on someone, or working magic against someone. One way of doing this is measuring out the exact length of someone’s footprint with a string, and then burning the string. A footprint in mud or snow was dug up and buried under the victim’s house to cause grief. Spoiling may be averted by lighting a candle if you not face to face with the culprit, or spitting on the ground, and by throwing dirt in the direction of the culprit walking away.
Szeptem – Polish for “in a whisper,” its origin is from the whisperer women (healers or medicine women), the wind whisperers are collective female polish shamans in the prehistory traditions of whether shaman.
Thresholds – A place that was marked a crossover between the worlds as well as home space and the outside world. It is a place to hide written spells or magical objects. It wasn’t considered acceptable to accept anything over the threshold, or to return over it once you have crossed it to start a journey. It was ill advised to cross it with the left foot first, as you would be cross into the Otherworld.
Zagavory – Verbal spells that were used the most effectively by folk magicians in their methods of spell work. They also used the whispers that were said to enchant objects. Verbal spells were burned or sent to the winds.
Zawlanie – The “word of power,” a sound or word that focuses a person’s energies into the workings. It is also a trigger to send one into the dream world.
Znak – A talisman, amulet, or a charm
Znakhari – Practitioners of folk magic who were healers, herbalists, midwives, and were known as wise women and cunning men. Znakharka is the feminine form, and znakhar is the masculine. The znakhari would detect poison, and interpret dreams to detect witchcraft and counteract the evil eye and baneful spells. They did not conjure spirits, but use the whispers, which are more important than the amulets or talismans for protection.
Sources: Updates by Phoenix the Elder on some of the written misconceptions and philosophical attributes made since the middle ages that are not correct or even moderately accurate; Wikipedia; Photos: Galindia – Poland, a magic place full of pagan sculptures & art; Author grants permission of this article, to republish this information – http://lilithgate.atspace.org