St. Andrew's Night - Tradition of Fortune Telling

There is a long tradition of fortune telling especially for non-married girls on the November 30th in Poland. We need to remember that every day has his patrons in Polish calendar. Since November 30th is under a patronage of St. Andrew the habit is fortune telling is called St. Andrew's Night, in Polish briefly Andrzejki. Similar traditions are celebrated by girls in Germany, Slovakia, Czech, Russia, Romania, Ukraine and even in Greece.

St. Andrew night was celebrated since the turn of XVI and XVII centuries. The main purpose of Andrzejki celebrations is to predict the future of unmarried girl, especially her prospects for a good marriage.
The young bachelors used to have their fortune telling tradition on the night of St. Catherine (November 25th).

Let me describe the rituals that I remember from my childhood below:

  • Pouring hot melted wax (in the past also melted tin or lead) through a key into a bawl of cold water - hardened wax is held up to the light and the future is guessed from its shadow cast on the wall. The lights are usually off (except the light of the candle). It not only help to read from the shadow but also helps to keep an unusual atmosphere of this evening. The shape of the shadow is observed from different angles and the future of the girl (especially her marital future is guessed from it). In the past not a usual key was used to this ritual but a key from door in the church was the best.

  • Preparing pieces of paper with male first names on the edges of the bowl - the bowl is filled with water with a candle floating in the middle of the bowl. The first burn paper piece indicates the name of the future husband.

  • Another ritual - three cups flipped upside down to cover marriage ring, small cross and a piece of green plant - girls are choosing one cup and it indicate their future fate- the ring of course signify the marriage, cross - life as a nun in monastery and the green plant is predicting the unmarried life. Sometimes the small doll was placed under the cap - a symbol of the illegitimate child.

  • When the dusk came you should listen to the dog bark - from this direction the future husband will come.

  • One more custom was to toss the shoes - shoes of all the girls are arranged one after another along the wall and moved gradually in the same order to the door. The girl whose shoe would first cross the doorstep would be married first.

  • Maids were also predicting their future from cherry twig - if the cherry branch blossomed until Christmas it would suggest marriage soon. If it blossomed after Christmas a girl had to wait for marriage longer. If it did not blossom but dried out - it predicted the spinsterhood. Some believe that one should check in the calendar the name of the patron in the day when the cherry blossomed - this name could be the name of the future husband.

  • The other belief - try to remember your dream at St. Andrew night - if you would see a man in a dream - this might be your future husband; or look at the water reflection in well or in the mirror at midnight to see his face.

    Presently people do not take seriously the fortune-telling during st. Andrew Day but this day is still celebrated because it is lots of fun and because it is a namesday for all Andrews, in Polish: Andrzej, in Poland. Andrew is definitively one of the most common man names. Read about St. Barbara and St. Kinga in Polish tradition and about namesdays and birthdays celebrations.

    Below is a link to Polish customs' book written by Sophie Hodorowicz Knab, Mary Anne Knab (Illustrator). It is entitled Polish Customs, Traditions and Folklore

    I recommend you also a book written by F. C. Anstruther, J. Sekalski, F. C. Anstrother (Editor), entitled:
    Old Polish Legends

    Written by Jagoda Urban-Klaehn, article #14

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