Callum McLeod (on the left) tries his luck at Polish St Andrews night.
What does the future hold? Who will I marry? Will I be rich? No-one really claimed to know the answers but people of all ages had a lot of fun looking to the future through old traditions at a Polish celebration of St Andrews night in Fort Community Centre. Why not try some yourself…
A smell of melting candle wax mixed with spicy food as the room filled up. The usual Monday meeting place was full of families, volunteer helpers and friends of the Polish drop in club. “Usually we get eight children, tonight there are 30,” said a smiling Ola Kazprakh, a Swietlica volunteer who organised the event.
Ola (pictured in the yellow cardigan), who is studying Working with Communities at Jewel and Esk College in Edinburgh, is keen to find ways of helping newcomers to settle into the local community. She chose Monday 24 November, the day nearest to Andrzejki (St Andrews night on the 30th) to bring people together to celebrate an old Polish tradition of fortune-telling.
“Nowadays, people do not take fortune-telling seriously”, she says, “but the traditions are still celebrated just because its so much fun.”
Basically it’s all about getting married and old Polish rituals use all sorts of domestic odds and ends to foretell future partners: candles, keys, shoes, apples, rings. Similar traditions are celebrated by girls in Germany, Slovakia, Czech, Russia, Romania, Ukraine and Greece. Perhaps you know some of them too? Over to Ola (with thanks to Kasia Raszewska for the pictures)…
“In the past only young and unmarried woman foretold their future to find out who their potential husbands would be. Nowadays both boys and girls enjoy that day.
“The most popular ritual is pouring hot melted wax (in the past also melted tin or lead) through a key into a bowl 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). The shape of the shadow is observed from different angles and the future of the person (especially her marital future) is guessed from it. In the past a key from a church door was thought to be best.
Another 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.
The owner of the first shoe out the door will be the first to get married (in the game for grownups, Callum’s shoe was the winner!)
“In another ritual – three cups upside down cover a ring, small cross and a piece of green plant – girls choose one cup to find their future fate: the ring for marriage, cross for life as a nun and the green plant for an unmarried life. Sometimes a small doll was there – a symbol of the illegitimate child.”
And so it goes on: When dusk comes listen for the dog barking – from this direction your future husband will come; if you dream of a man on St. Andrew night this might be your future husband; look in the mirror at midnight to see his face; throw apple peel over your shoulder, the shape will spell his name…
But for now, who knows what the future holds. Tonight everyone in Fort community wing is simply having fun.
All dressed up for Andrzejki – some grown ups got dressed up too