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[*] posted on 12-4-2014 at 07:39 PM
4. Superstitions

Njekatre Serske Prinyerki

Some Superstitious Views and Practices of Wendish Superstitions

Translated by Ed Bernthal

[These are priceless. The Age of Reason destroyed creativity. The place to find this stuff today is in sports. I have a friend who is a Cubs fan and that says it all. - George Nielsen]

A great number of the following superstitious views and practices were submitted to us by Teacher Schmaler for Lohsa, and the rest were added by J. E. Schmaler.

Besides these, which were reviewed in the previous paper, in the family offerings and the social life of the Wends (Sorbs), there are several practices which, at one time, when everything is considered, such as the established rules of the changing fashions, the established rules of the political fleeting soft laws, by which the folk life is extinguished, and is succeeded by a dead mechanical loyalty, which, in such a time, seems to be dedicated to its downfall, deserve to be recorded. They often concern the small things, but still are indispensable pertinent pieces of a picture, which should represent the whole, and not just give a brief sketch. To this belongs the diverse, many sided shades of the superstitions, especially insightful of the many practices, that actually is now more fun for most Wends and, viewed as such, will live as long as the wonder exist and are fantasized by people. The people who have no superstitions have to be very stupid, their life for them must be a daily life satisfied with the routine of work and rest, eating drinking and digestion.

Superstitions are social and offer their services for their humorous sides, but overall they are psychologically interesting. The reasonable unbelief in superstitions is egotistical, proud, unsociable and always uninteresting. It is known that it is mostly women that cultivate fantasy, and lavish care and attention on the publication of superstitions, may they be by the Wends for the preservation of old views, beliefs and customs which are preferable. They also hold on more tightly to these than the men do.

The whole plan does not allow us to give an exhaustive presentation of the present remaining superstitious views and practices (Přiwjerki), and we therefore have to limit ourselves to try to show only certain significant moments of the earthly life, and then to add what in individual cases took place. It is the women, as we have said above, that have the most understanding, and so it is natural, that such circumstances which might be interesting to women, are in the majority for having superstitious views and practices. So, for instance, one believed that it would be unfavorable for the future marriage of a bride and groom, if they would get help at the butchering of the selected cattle for the butchering of the food for the wedding guests. They were not even to touch the meat before it was prepared for the wedding meal.

It is not good to have a wedding when there is no moon in the sky, since a wedding held at such a time is easily unfruitful.

On the wedding day, whoever is the one of the engaged couple that sees the other one first, will have the upper hand in the marriage.

If it is raining when the bride is coming to the wedding, the wife will be shedding many tears. But if it is raining as they come out of the wedding, she will not become sick, but have much good luck.

When the bridal party is returning from the wedding, they have to greet everyone, otherwise they will have children who can not speak.

A bride has to take along to the wedding a Focken Werg (Žwačk džela), a handful of vegetables (Horstka waŕenja), a piece of bread (Kusk khljeba) and the milk cloth (Powzka or powuzka). If she does this she will have much good luck and be blessed in her future housekeeping.

Things are not quite right with a young bride, if the stars on her braid trimming are not hanging as they should be.

During the wedding, while the bride and the groom are standing before the altar, they have to stand close together, so that they are touching each other. If that happens, the relationships in their marriage will not turn cold.

When the groom and his future wife are kneeling at the altar for prayer, he has to see to it that a piece of the bride’s train is under his knees, which will assure him that he will rule over her. In the opposite case, it will work out in the opposite way.

After the wedding, if the bride goes right away into the cow barn to see the cows, she will have the benefit of each of her cows doing well.

As she steps into the cow barn, she has to kick over a pail filled with water that has been placed there. If she does this, the cows in the future will be easy to milk.

Then she has to go to the crib, which she cleans out, and also puts some feed into it. That will result that in the future economy, they will always gladly eat.

As she comes from the barn, she has to take a milk bucket filled with beer and serve the onlookers. The cows will then surely give the family much milk.

While the bride and the groom are sitting at the wedding table on their wedding day, they will have a burning light in front of each of them. Whose light goes out first will be the first one to die.

A hen, which the bride has brought along for her husband, has to be put into the farm as soon as it gets there. If the hen stays there, the marriage will last till her death. But if the hen flies over to the neighbor, she has to realize that, in time, she too will change the location of her house.

When a young man brings home his bride, he has to lead her to the table, but he should not sit down himself, but should serve the food to her and the guests. The good for him is that later in their home life he would be especially blessed.


When one brings a child to be baptized, it should not be carried by a pregnant woman, otherwise it might soon die.

One must always include money in various amounts in the letter to the sponsors, which will result in the child always having enough money.

When one is returning from a child’s baptism, one must hang the baptism dress and the ribbons on the curtains of the regular bed. If this is done, the child will in the future always be well clothed with many dresses.

When a woman, who has recently given birth, completes the week assigned to her by the pastor and is brought to the altar, she has to see to it that the child is touched as much as possible. If she does that, the child will be good at learning.

As soon as a woman, who recently gave birth, can go to church with the child, she must take down the curtains around the bed. The sooner this is done, the sooner the child will get married.

When a woman, who recently gave birth, comes back from church, she has to touch the vest which the child will use later to work in. If she does not fail to do this, all the work of the child’s hands will go well.

On the day that the child is weaned, you can, in all possible ways, learn about its future. You should put a book, a gold coin and some bread in front of the child. If it takes the book, it will become wise and learned. If it reaches for the bread, it will never be pressed for making a living. If it prefers the gold coin, it will come to great riches. But it waits to consider all these things, its loss will be trouble and poverty.

During the week, a child must not be left alone, since it could easily be exchanged and a so-called changling (Přeḿeńk) would take its place. But from this misfortune, one can be assured to be spared, by laying a hymn book at the head of the child.

When a child is taken to be baptized, one must avoid meeting a funeral procession, otherwise the child could get a smelly breath.


On the Festival of St. Michael, no flax may be laid out to dry, otherwise the landlord will die in the same year.

On Christmas Day, the feed for the chickens has to be surrounded by a chain or a ring, otherwise they will not lay eggs in the chicken house.

When on the days the bells are ringing for worship, the fruit trees are shaken well, they will bear much fruit the next year.

If you want to know whether you will be living in the same house the next year, you take a shoe on New Years Eve, stand in the middle of the room, and throw it over your left shoulder towards the door. If it flies out, you can expect to change your residence. But if it stays inside, you will stay in the same residence.

On the evening of Christmas or the evening before Christmas, an unmarried person can find out about the future by taking three plates and putting a twig under one, a small pile of sand under the other one, but leave the space under the third one empty, and go around the table. Whoever wants to know his fate, will have to lift one up. If he lifts the one up under which the space was left empty, nothing will happen to change his life. If he lifts the one up under which the sand lies, there is the possibility that he will die soon. But if he succeeds by lifting up the one under which the twig lies, he will soon get married.

What will my marriage be like? This is a common question. In general, that can be found out. One again takes three plates, puts under one a coin, under the other a piece of bread, and under the third a handkerchief. The one who lifts the first plate, will have a prosperous marriage. If it happens to be the second one, he will get along well in his marriage. But if he hits the third one, he can expect to have poverty and misery in his marriage.

If someone spins on the evening of a fasting day, he will be responsible for his cattle going lame for a whole year.

Yes, even more so, if a landlord and landlady dance on the evening of a fasting day, the cattle could easily be bewitched.

A piece of cloth that is sewed on Ascension Day may not be worn. If someone would still do this, he will risk being killed by lightning.

If one looks unexpected or unasked at the moon over his left shoulder, he can count on an unfavorable month ahead of him. But if this look comes even so unexpected from over his right side, he will have much luck in the coming days. But if one sees the moon directly above him, he will have much to eat.

If a bird flies up from your left side as you are about to undertake a trip, it will turn out unlucky. But if you see it on your right side, it will be a good sign.

When you intend to follow an undertaking, and you first meet a woman, you need to take care. But if later, a rabbit crosses your path, it is a sure sign that you will meet misfortune. And, finally, if a pastor meets you, it is better that you give up your undertaking and return home.

On the 24th of December, the day before Christmas, a landlord should not sell grain, butter, etc., or later he will have bad luck in his business.

If a girl wants to know whether she will get married the next year, she should go to the door of the horse barn at midnight of the same day. If a horse whinnies, it is a good sign.

After sundown, you may not sell any milk without putting a pinch of salt in it. Otherwise one of the cows might easily be bewitched.

If on the same day of the week in which the first snow falls, you plant linseed, in the spring it will surely turn out well.

If you intend to sow linseed, you have to leave it in the bag very long, so it will grow that much longer.

Water beets (small white beets) have to be planted in a very large tub. If you do this, they will grow especially large.

But one must not behave badly, or the beets will be very worm eaten.

Nobody should relief himself in the cabbage field, or the cabbage will rot very early.

On whose fields quail are nesting, he is safe from hail storms.

The landlord, on whose grounds and soil a tree or building stands on which a pair of storks is nesting, has hopes for special luck and extraordinary blessings in his business. He is also safe from lightning strikes and fire danger.

As often as a quail flaps its wings together, that many dollars will a bushel of corn bring.

The nests of swallows should not be destroyed or even the swallows killed, otherwise the cows will give blood instead of milk.

When you see the first swallow in the spring, you have to dig on the spot where your right foot stands. You will find a cabbage which, when used correctly, will cure headaches.

If you hear a magpie make a cry, you can expect to get a visit soon.

When a kitten, like an owl, lets it complaining call be heard in the evening, that indicates bad luck, or that a death will occur.

If a night owl appears by a house in the daytime that indicates an early wedding. If it appears at a house where a pregnant woman lives, that indicates a good birth.

If a stork, for no reason, flies by and sits on a house, it is to be understood that in the family that lives there, a child might be born in the same year.

When a hen crows, that indicates bad luck. And it would be best to get rid of her.

When the dogs are howling, sickness or death are to be feared.

When you enter a house, you have to step on the threshold with the right foot so that you can surely expect a good welcome.

When you go out, and first meet a young girl or an old woman, that is a good sign.

If you see a spider walk around on you in the morning, that indicates good luck. But if you notice it in the afternoon, you can fear bad luck.

You should not wish good luck to a hunter going out to hunt, or he will not hit any game.

If you hear something in your right ear, the people are saying good things about you. If you see something with your right eye, you will be glad to see it. If you feel something in your nose, you will experience something nice.

Whoever sneezes early in the day, will get a gift on the same day.

When you dream about a brightly burning fire, that indicates winning money or a wedding.

The first butter made from the milk of a newly milked cow may not be sold, otherwise the cow will give bad milk for the rest of the year.

If you want to wean a calf, you must do so before breakfast. You many not say a word, but cover it with a table cloth and back it up to a crib where it will be tied. If you do all of this, you will in no case lack anything and it will surely go well with you.

One may not let a cat smell the baking vat, or the bread will be a failure.

When you stick the poles on which meat was smoked into a cabbage field, no rabbits will get into it.

The rope, with which a piece of cattle was led to the cattle market, has to be tied around the neck of the buyer after the sale. That will have the benefit that the sold cattle will not feel any fear from the new owner.

When you go out, you may not turn around for something that you have forgotten, since that brings bad luck.

If pieces of glowing coal from the fire place fall on the floor, you can expect visitors still in the late evening.

If someone hiccups after swallowing, somebody talked about him. If you want to know who this was, you name all of your friends in a row, and by whose name the hiccups stop, is the one who talked about you.

When the first winter snow falls, you have to wash your face with it and let the air dry it. Whoever does this, will not get any freckles (Pihi).

When it rains for the first time in the month of May, you have to let it rain on you, for this is very beneficial for the health and the beauty of the body.

If someone gets damage to their skin, the cause of which you can not determine, you can conclude that it was bewitched (Činki). In that case, no medicine can help, but the so-called blessing (Žohnowanje) which consists of the knowledge that few people have, formulas from the knowledge of the usage of several simple ceremonies, such as blowing on it, spitting on it, etc. that are quietly murmured and, according to the belief and the experiences of the people up to now, will often prove to be helpful. One can use this blessing also to stop bleeding and to get rid of tooth aches, to relieve eye problems and to cure warts and hen’s eye.

When you become frightened, take salt water and dip your hand in it, and go over you face with it three times. If you do this, the fright will not hurt you.

A simple way is this, when frightened, spit out three times, or just urinate. Then you will avert all evil consequences of the same.

To get rid of a fever, take a straw rope and tie it around a tree with the prescribed ceremonies, which will surely help.

If someone gets a headache along with fever shivers, one should say, “To him it happened (W. Temu ji so stało)” But, according to folk belief, the evil is due to the fault that someone looking at you with eyes that have the power to induce such pain (Mal’ occhio). One can be unaware of having this power. And it can be used by someone with a very sharp glance. The thusly caught discomfort can be lifted from you when you cook toadflax (Leńčk), dipping your hand three times in the concoction obtained therefrom, each time spreading it over the face and letting it air dry.

One also likes the fortune tellers and prophets and old women who say that out of cast lead, in the cards, they can explain dreams. But they don’t charge anything for their trouble. But they will allow receiving free will gifts from those who had sickness. A fortune teller is just called Wješćeŕke.
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