January brings many holidays for people on Balkan penissula. This is due to the fact that on Balkan, Othodox church follows Julian calendar, while Gregorian is used for every day maters. That resulted in celebration of Christmas on 7th of January ( in Western Christianity as we know 25th of December ) and Epiphany, or Teophany on 19th of December ( in Western Christianity on 6th of January, celebrating the arrival of Three Holy Kings ), between which other important Christian holidays appear. On these days. Balkan peninsula religious folk, cunning folk and witches, perform all sort of rituals, spells and magickal workings, aiming to captivate and employ special powers of these Holy days. In this post we will be speaking of folklore, theology and beliefs behind some of these days of power, from a spiritual perspective, as seen in Balkan peninsula by spiritual folk of all kind, and we shall discuss some practical examples as well, for as I like to stress from time to time , these are practical writings, as is magick itself Also , in my experience , people of any , religion, race and national denomination are more than welcome to try out the rites discussed, for they are universal, both in terms of symbolism and methodology
Ubabtized days, when demons roam freely
In Balkan peninsula ( and most of Eastern Europe ) folklore there is a specific time of the year, between 7th and 19th/20th January called “Unbabtized days” , called so since no weddings or Baptisms are preformed in Orthodox Christian temples , during these particular days. Folk people believe souls of th dead, and all sort of chthonic creatures and demons roam freely on these days attacking and tormenting people, causing illness and misfortune. These days are therefore, very dangerous and as such are fulfilled with folk magick practices of speaking apotropaic incantations, and prayers, carrying protective charms etc. Among people of Vlasi situated in Southern Serbia, carrying garlic , piece of bread and sowing shift shall keep one protected from most of the demons that are customary mischievous and aggressive during that time interval. It’s worth to note here, that what the mentioned people use the word demon in very loose way, usually to describe chthonic entities, or types of spirits that come to existence as a result of changed ghost of evil, improperly buried or otherwise uncommon people. Meaning, thought the use of the very word is consequence of Christianization of Slavic people , the word might not share the same attributes implied in/by Christian theology. Furthermore, people in Balkan believe that if their compatriots die during unbaptized days , they will become vampires, or other kind of harmful supernatural creatures. Mostly prone to such are newborns, which tend to turn into some very nasty creatures If they die unbabtized, and during these days. The only way to prevent that from happening is to give them a proper burial, but outside on graveyard, they are often buried in forests, or crossroad instead. It is suggested ( in Romania, Bulgaria, Serbia and Montenegro ) to evade, by all means being outside on these days after the nightfall. The harmful creatures often linger in wells, on doorsteps, forests, crossroads etc., and those places should be bypassed in wide range. Cunning folk warn us to stay away from them in wide circle. Also, during these days, You might want to, try carrying this herbal charm, reputed ( By Balkan peninsula cunning folk and witches ) to repel evil and protect from it :
Very powerful, and covers large deal of protection from negative influences, including evil spirits and demons ( in Christian sense of the word ) and as powder could be used as Banishment and Exorcism agent as well.
St Stephen’s day
St Stephen the protomartyr is celebrated on 26th of December , in Western Christianity, making it being celebrated on 9th of January in places where Eastern Orthodox Church follows Julian calendar, such as many parts of Balkans.
St Stephen the protomartyr is a venerated Christian Saint, the “first martyr” who had been stoned by the enraged Hebrew mob, after being accused for blasphemy, due to the fact he had acknowledged Christ as Son of G’d . Furthermore he preached about Lord Christ’s sacrifice, and role as messiah and having managed to convince substantial number of Hebrew people, he has drawn the anger of members of certain Synagogue that complot to discredit him. Helped by Angel, and enlightened with wisdom by Holy Spirit , he had managed to renounce all accusations, and defeats his fellow Jew’s in argument, resulting in being stoned to death, as he prays for his executors. Most likely due to such death, St . Stephen is known as patron Saint of stone masons.
Hopefully, we will deal more with the enticing and very interesting hagiography of this Saint, in a separate article, in a more in depth manner, on another occasions. Here we shall deal with lore related to the day.
In Balkan peninsula St Stephen’s day, is also celebrated as the “third day of the Nativity/Christmas” , therefore many customs and folk rituals done on this day have something to do with three day festivities related to Christmas among Eastern Orthodox Christian. The straw, that was spread in houses on the first day of the Christmas ( 7th of January ) is now taken outside, placed in fields, or at the bases of fruit tree trunks, to ensure fertility and abundance of Earth, in year to come, for such straw is considered to has blessing qualities.
St Stephen is celebrated as one of the “feast” saints in Serbia, Montenegro and part of Bosnia. Which is a tradition in which certain Saints are assigned to families or clans, as protectors and guardians of those, and consequently celebrated by these families, via mixture of Orthodox Christian rites, and folk festivities, among others rich feast, hence the name. Can be seen, as some sort of family cult, akin to those among the ancient Greeks. Some people commonly fumigate their homes on this day with Frankincense , maybe because the Saint, in Eastern Iconography, is often depicted carrying censer. As they do it some may sat the common prayer used for such occasion ( fumigation with Frankincense ) that say: “Angels cleansed my home with Frankincense, making all the evil spirits fled !“ Most of the rituals preformed to honor this saint are done by families that celebrate him as their feast Saint.
Feast to St. John the Baptist
This day is often reffered, by folk as "Feast of the Cross " , but this is a semantical missconecption due to similarity of the words "baptism" and the word "cross" in most of the Slavic languages.
Feast of the Cross, is a holliday dedicated to the Holy Cross ( on which our Lord was crucified ) hence an object not a person. There are more than one throughout the Year, different holidays dedicated to different events related to True Cross, Holly Cross on which Lord Christ had been Crucified. Due to fact that the Eastern Orthodox Christian church ( as I mentioned few times , I know ) adheres to Julian calendar, and the Gregorian is used as secular, mundane calendar, this day is on largest part of Balkan celebrated on 18th of January. So these holidays commemorates various events, for example , the finding of the True Cross by Empress Helen in 326th, as well as recovery of it from Persians in 628th . It is said that Empress Helen ( mother of Constantine the Great ) , searching for the Cross had encountered it under some temple of Venus, as instructed by certain Jewish old man called Judas. According to myth, she had also found the Basil plant, growing on Golgotha, on that spot. She had also found two more crosses, so she was wondering how will she be able to determine which one of them is the actual, True Cross, The Life-giving Cross as also said. Incidentally ( or maybe not ) there was a funeral procession passing nearby, so the empress decided to make somewhat a test. The body of the dead man, carried by procession was placed on each side of every Cross. With the first two, nothing came to be, but upon placing body on the third Cross the man had miraculously returned to life. Also, certain ailing women had kissed the same Cross and had miraculously healed. At this point It was clear, that very Cross was the Ture, Life-giving Cross.
The second event commemorated is recovering of the Cross, by emperor Heraclius in 627th year AD, when the Persians were defeated at the battle of Nineveh. The Emperor had then, along with Patriarch Zacharias , transferred the True Cross to the Temple of Resurrection in Jerusalem. Revelation ( and appearance ) of the victorious Cross to Constantin the Great is also celebrated.
However, this particular "Feast of Cross" , even though being often called so, is actualy a feast day to St. John the Baptist. This "holy day" commemorates life and deeds of St John the Babtist, his dead, and his image and message in whole. That means that Orthodox Christians recall his life, his role as "forerunner" ,Christ's couisn and Prophet who foresaw and announced his arrival. His commendable life, and upmost praisworthy ascetism are also celebrated. And of course, even his death is mourned and recalled, which had happene d in time of king Herod, which had occure d by "pettition" of Herodias, Herod's wife and Salome his daughter. The two were infuriated becuase they could not seduce St John, and hence had retaliated. Due ti his fasting in desert, aescetic life, and kindred, benevolent nature he is often reffered as "The Angel of the desert", so it's no surprise that he is in Eastern Orthodox iconography often depicted with the wings.
On this day , even many non initiated ( unbaptized People ) in Balkan peninsula fast, for it’s a day of strict fast, atonement , but folk rituals as well. On the next day, 19th of January, Water is traditionally blessed in Orthodox Christian Churches by priesthood. But, on this very day, folk will often bless small amount of water in their homes, using simple methods , of taking “new” water from sprigs, often by little girls , female children , which is stirred with Basil branch while petitions, prayers or made up words of Blessing are spoken. Some people make bonfires outside, in which they shall threw few Daisies to symbolize incense that descended to indicate the exact spot of the Cross to Helen, as noted in one version of the legend. In Serbia and Montenegro, there is a custom of placing a Cross in bowl with water and leaving it outside, and if the water turns to ice, that would be ominous to a healthy and fruit-baring year.
Egg divination is preformed on this day, especially by those very old or heavily sick. It’s fairly simple too, all one needs is a new, fresh egg and a container with water. The egg is then, near the Midnight released into the bowl, and if it would sank, it would be a sign that the person is unlikely to survive until next year. I must note hear , that I personally was taught, though from Western tradition occultists, to evade divinations that suppose to determine when will someone die, for even if they would work, such practices are seen as profane, and a insult to The Divine Force
Epiphany or Teophany ( also called Feast of Teophany )
On 19th January according to mundane, secular calendar among Eastern Orthodox Christian ( 6th January according to Gregorian , Church calendar ) a Feast of Teophany, Teophany or Epiphany is celebrated. It’s a Christian holiday associated with three Magi, that brought presents to baby Jesus, in Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh. Among the Eastern Orthodox Christians another event is commemorated with this holiday, and it’s the baptism of lord Christ on the river of Jordan, by John the Baptist. But , according to Christian theology that was also the first time Holy Trinity has manifested together, Lo’d speaking from cloud, Lord Christ being baptized in the river, and Lord Holy Spirit descending from Heaven upon Lord Christ.
On this day, among Eastern Orthodox Church holds two services, one in morning and one on afternoon but most parishes hold only one, when most parishioners are able to take part in service. People carry containers in Church ( bottles, jars etc ) in which they will take some Holy water, specially blessed on this occasion. This Holy water is used for Cleansing, Blessing, Exorcism , Peace and Healing rituals. There is an interesting practice, indigenous to Croatia ( Southern Balkan peninsula ) , Holy water is used to bless the dwellings and then above each doors an inscription is made 20 C+M+B XX where the number 20 represents first two numbers in the year, last two represent last two numbers in the year, and the letters are acronym of the Latin phrase Christus mansionem benedicat , or three firts letter from names of the Magi. It worth noteing here that most of Croatian people are Catholic by relligion, hence like in other catholic water is blessed in Churches on Easter among them.
Likewise, in Montenegro and Serbia, Holy water is mixed with some firm powdered substance, such as flour, and the resulting creamy mixture is used to draw small Crosses above doors to prevent evil form bothering people in place where such charms are applied. Prior to this many will cleanse the home fuming it with frankincense, carrying lit candle throughout every room, speaking prayers, most often „Prayer to the venerable Cross“ . That is also a common method to cleanse home using Fire and Air . Afterwards the house is sprinkled with Holy water, most often using Basil branches as aspergent, in which case I personally read Psalm 62nd alongside personal petitions.
In most other parts of Balkans, it's customary to take a bath in river, prior to Sunrise. This of course can be done only by healthy people. After the benedicatation of the water in Churches, people organize folk festivities, where large Cross is tossed into the river and Young man shall dive to get it, one who does is considered blessed and ensured to be healthy and lucky throughout the all upcoming year. In some parts of Balkan peninsula, like Bulgaria traditional dances on, or in cold, sometimes iced river water are performed.
This folk ritual I was taught by a dear person , and it deals with ritual ingestion of Holy water, aslo called Epiphany or Teophany water by folk. See, this water will do great benefit when ingested in just a small sip, but this , according to folk must be performed in ritual manner. First of the day before ( 18th January, Feast of the Cross ) is fasted and no food is ingested after midnight of 18th to 19th , prior to taking sip of Holy water in the morning . One must remove left shoe and sock and place it on an axe blade, or If one lacks axe , larger kitchen knife is used. Then, upon making sign of Cross and saying : In the Name of Father, Son and Holy Spirit, a sip of the Holy water is taken, and some is used to wash the face lightly.
The Holy water obtained in Church on the Epiphany or Feast of Teophany day is afterwards kept in house alongside the Basil branch, which is often used as aspergent for Holy water here. Priests sometimes tell people they can dilute Epiphany Holy water and doing so use it more economically throughout the year, for it's power will not decrease when doing so.
Eve of this day is also a magickal time indeed , for it’s believed by the folk that on this night, on Midnight, skies open and G’d listens out for wishes we make along our prayers. Old people usually stay as long as possible after Midnight praying and looking into skies expecting some sign , usually a fire miraculously dancing in skies or descending from it. People of Vlasi ( Eastern Serbia ) believe that these particular fires appearing on Midnight of this holy day , can ( and often do ) lead people to places where treasures have been buried. There is another interesting ritual preformed just before the Midnight on this eve :
Egg divination Epiphany ritual
A single , fresh egg is taken , alongside the small plate, and taken outside, few minutes before the Midnight. The plate, which is suggested to be in dark color, is placed on Your terrace, or window shell, and while looking in skies, one focuses, thinking of questions and speaking petition to G’d to illuminate and guide , and to send signs and omens. After three such prayers, the egg is broken by knocking it over the plate’s edge, yolk is preserved in shell ( You can toss it, which would be shame really or, use it as You normally use yolk lol ) and the eggwhite ( albumen ) is poured on plate. Few more minutes are spent in silent prayer, or meditation, and then the plate with egg white is taken inside, and placed on the inside side of the window shell. In the morning we inspect and interpret the shapes eggwhite had been formed, noting the associations and ideas glimmering in mind.
On the next day ( 20th of January ) St John The Baptist feast day is commemorated, as part of family cults, in families that consider him their Feast Saint ( Patron , Protector Saint ) as mentioned in part regarding St Stephen’s day. People try to repent for sins they made on this day, and that practice is most likely associated with depiction of St John with the wand with Cross on the top in one hand and scroll with words speaking of importance of repentance due to proximity of the final Judgment.
Now, just because You might not be Christian, Orthodox Christian, Eastern European, does not mean You can not practice suggested rites, rituals and folk spells. Their foundations are universal and part of general occult thought train. If You want to get Epiphany Holy water, You can obtain it fairely easy even in States, in any Orthodox Christian Church. Also , just worth metioning that this post might get additional pictures, I'll try and take some pics of folks rituals here and post them for Your convenience, any how, till next time be well ! Many Blessings !
NOTES: This article was written and composed by myself, according to folklore I was raised in and local anthropologic accounts and literature. If You wish to use any part of it elswhere, provide credits: Shadow of Shadows magick place, Shadowfirstname.lastname@example.org or a direct link to this post, For use in any sort of printed media, infrom me prior to use, e mailing me in given e mail account/address.
CREDITS AND REFRENCES:
 Ethnical minority in Serbia, originating from old tribe that had once inhabitated Southern Serbia, around the river Morava, tribe called Volos by Romans and Nhyalos by German
 Common folk , short verse prayer in Serbia and Mne \
 According to writings of Jasna Jojic Pavlovski , as found in her book “Kalendar za Srecne dane” according to Anthropological work ( account ) of Vesilin Cajkanovic called “O magiji I religiji” literarily “Of magick and religion”
The image depicting Elevation of the Cross is common Orthodox icon , as found on Orthodox Wiki website, while the other depicting Baptism of the Christ is work of :Bartolomé Esteban Murillo - The Baptism of Christ, which is obtained from here www.commons.wikimedia.org, both used for illustrative and explanatory y purposes ( here ) only, with no ill will