There are many aspects to the celebration of Pentecost in Poland. The official church name is Zesłania Ducha Swiętego, the Descent of the Holy Ghost.
In Polish folk tradition, this time of year celebrated the blossoming and greening of nature and was called Zielone Swiątki, the Green Holidays. In very ancient times it marked the end of spring ( Pentecost ends the liturgical Easter season) and the beginning of summer. It was connected with many agricultural beliefs and customs and ceremonies that date to ancient pre-Christian times and the pagan cult of trees, water and fire. Among the most important among them was the triumphal "greening" of the world once again. The newly budded branches , symbolized the revival of life, fertility and the promise of a harvest. It was believed that the green branches also protected from spells, plagues and all evil and accounts for their widespread use in the festivities that centered around the home, barnyard, fences .
The tree branch that plays one of the most important roles was that of the birch tree. It comes up consistently in the celebration of the Green Holidays in various parts of Poland. It was to have the power to protect against witchcraft and the evil eye. Branches were tucked not just behind holy pictures and placed in vases, etc., but most often nailed around windows and especially the door, the entrance to the house, as well as tucked into the thatched roof of the cottage. Sometimes young green birch trees were placed in pots at the entrance to the cottage, and another entrance, the gates to the yard. Other greening branches were used as well such as maple, linden and hornbeam to decorate fences as well as church altars and roadside shrines.
The second most important greenery to be collected for the home on this holiday was the fragrant , scented sweet flag, known in Latin as Acorus Calamus. In Polish it is known as tatarak, kalmus, kalmusowym ziele or Tatarskie ziele. Growing in wet, marshy areas near rivers and streams it was placed in vases on a home altar or in the corners of the main room of the cottage. There was a saying: Zielone Świątki - tatarak w kątki (The Green Holidays, calamus in the corners). The most preferred method of having sweet flag in the house was to cut or chop it into smaller pieces and scatter it on the floors of the house. Whether a humble, hard packed floor of a cottage or the wooden floor of a manor house, the sweet smelling herb(many say smells like cinnamon) was indispensable. In the mid 1800's Polish ethnographer Oskar Kolberg described it: "On the day(Pentecost) they sweep the porch and the front of the house, and sprinkle the place with calamus..."
I think it's time to bring in some greenery and plant some calamus!
Google image. National Museum of Krakow(Muzeum Narodowe w Krakowie
One of the biggest moments in my life was being able to sign for my very own library card. When I'm not reading, researching and writing I'm riding my bike, sewing or gardening. I love flea markets, folk art, and traveling to Poland.