Dec 14, 2012

Working with St Nicholas of Myra

Icon, showing St Nicholas, and Lord Jesus and Theotokos
alluding to Divine Intervention , that was said to
had allowed St. Nicholas to take participation in
Council of Nice. Note how he holds the Bible, another
common motive in St. Nicholas iconography
The Archbishop of Myra, the Wonderworker, as alternatively   reffered, St Nicholas, is a widely venerated and worshiped Saint.  Both by Catholics, Orthodox, as well as some other Christian groups . We can say with certainty he was a 4th century spiritual figure, but the exact date of his birth and exact year  of his death cannot be claimed with certainty .   The name Nicholas ( form Greek “nike” and “loas”) could be translated as “victory of the people” [1] or more accurate “victorious for the people” . A benefactor and protector of the meek and needy, Saint Nicholas earned  worldwide fame and served as inspiration of the mythical figure of Santa Claus.

However,  actual, factual information about the life of St Nicholas  are little and scattered.  The most commemorated event among Christian folk is his death ( 6th or 19th December depending on the Calendar  ) but  at least two more dates are dedicated to St. Nicholas , May 9th the day when his relic were transferred, and  July 29th which is the day that commemorates it’s  date of birth [2]


Saint Nicholas was born in Province Lycia,  Asia Minor, in the city of Patara, form wealthy and pious parents  ,  whose names  differ  depending on source . In Orthodox Christianity, they were most known as Teophanus and Nonna.  Even as a young man, he was expressing great gifts or sympathy and empathy, and was egger towards  Christian spiritual tradition, he was pious and kind .  He went with pilgrims  to Egypt, and was subsequently consecrated as Archbishop , near the end of the IV  centur y . He was first taught Christianity by his namesake uncle and they got to seminary school  together,  all that occurring before him becoming and archbishop of course.

 St Methodius, Patriarch of Constantinople   had written  a hagiography   of Saint Nicholas, somewhere  in middleage , but readily admitted  that due to lack of sources, many of St Nicholas related information, may  simply be part  of  body of legend/s   related to this Saint.   The legend  of St Nicholas, giving away some of his inheritance for the dowry of three unfortunate daughters, is the most historically supported one.

He was imprisoned during the persecutions of Diocletian and released by Constantine after his ascension to emperor. Nicholas was noted for his defense of Orthodoxy against the Arian s . [3]   But even while being imprisoned St Nicholas was said to had  taught  and spread the word of Lord voraciously.  Upon liberation he of course continued to do the same, and was even for life considered a Saint, by many pious people, that prayed to him while he was alive! [4] Furthermore, according to Christian legends and lore,  he was able to  hear   and  head all the prayers  directed  to him even while alive!

Many sources place St Nicholas on Council of Nice, as participant , even though he  is not listed  in official documents of this council. It is speculated that it was so due  his act of slapping the Arian, an heretic, which he did out of the passion with which  he defended the true teachings of Christianity.  Nevertheless he can historically be placed in Nice, at the time Council was held.

Legends and Lore

The host of legends  is surrounding St Nicholas’s life and miracles, but probably the most famous, and one historically supported is one regarding poor man from Patara, and his three daughters.  The old mad had no ways of procuring dowry  for them, and back  than it pretty much meant they would   not be able to  get  married. Taking in consideration that they were poor, the most likely fate  that was expecting these girls  would be becoming  prostitutes. Some version of the legend even say their dad was getting ready to sell them into slavery.  St Nicholas upon hearing of this,   gave girls three bags of golden coins ( according to some version three larger lumps of gold )  and he did it secretly, wanting to remain anonymous in his benefaction. In any case, girls were saved from  the unfortunate  future, threatening to become  their doom. Many version of the legend speak of St Nicholas throwing  gold down the chimney ( sounds familiar ? lol ) and doing so for three consecutive nights. According to some versions of the legend the third girl    , had hung    her socks  insided of the chimney to dry them, and the gold feel in  one of them, and when the girl took of the sock, and found the gold, she was thrilled . This had more than likely lot to do with the modern day custom of   hanging the socks up by the fireplace on Christmas eve.

Artistic depiction of legend according to which St. Nicholas
had ressurected  the three unfortunate  boys
Another legend speaks of certain island being struck by famine,  and  an evil butcher,  who lured some children ( according to other versions three Young men, or three clerks )  into his home ( in some versions Clerks or youngmen asked to spend the night at his house ) where he slaughtered them , tore their bodies apart, and intended to sell them off as ham.  Saint Nicholas was said to be visiting the region to care for the hungry, as he was known  be doing,   and seeing the butcher   came to know his horrible crime.  Hence, he resurrected the children/young men/clerks, who were according to one  version of the legend about to end up in meat pies :S

`St Nicholas was, and is associated with sailors and sailing and is therefore a patron of such. While he was  alive, he was known to travel a lot from one place to  other quite often, and a common mean of transpiration for him was ship.   Many legends speak of him delivering sailors and ships from storms and sinking.

After his liberation by emperor Constantine, St Nicholas  decided to itinerate the holy places and monasteries and  during his traveling to mount   Athos, he saved a ship from sinking via means of prayer. Once, traveling to Lycia, St Nicholas hired a men to take him with his prow ( ship ) there, and paid him as much as the men asked.   The men was scrupulous and ordered sailors not  go to Lycia afterall, while of course, keeping the money. At the points  powerful  winds rose and turned the   ship in  direction of Lycia. No matter how hard the sailors tried to get their initial course back, the wind would overpower them easily, so in the end the ship made it to Lycia, and St Nicholas disembarked   safely and promptly. [5]

Another legend  speaks  of   some pirates, whose ship got caught in the storm,  on their way back from Egypt. Deperate, they’ve fallen to their knees praying to St. Nicholas, begging  him to save them from what had  undoubtedly  awaited them,  death in the sea.  St. Nicholas miraculously appeared, taken the rudder,  drove the ship on safety, and disappeared. When they arrived to the land,  they saw their savior and started thanking  him, but St. Nicholas replied that they should thank the Good Lord, for he ( saint Nicholas   )  is merely sinner and human, like all the rest. He then proceeded  to teach  them  that there are better “lifestyles” than being pirates. [6]

He  is also known to  have saved  up to three innocent man from execution, on at least two occasions.

Another legend speaks of miraculous multiplication of the wealth ( symbolic of wealth ) that had occurred ,  because St. Nicholas promised it will. The story speaks of famine in Myra (311-312 ) and ship   that happened to be at port, at the moment,  which was supposed to deliver wheat to emperor in Constantinople.  Saint Nicholas asked for some wheat for the  starving people,  and sailors finaly gave in, though reluctantly in fear of the emperor’s reaction. They were calmed by the promise of St. Nicholas that they will be fine, and shall not suffer any kind of loss for their consideration,   and they’ve later discovered that all the wheat ( extremely large amounts )  they donated was miraculously restored.

Patronage and folk Cult

Relics of St Nicholas are preserved in Italy, in Bari, where two churches ( one Catholic , one Orthodox ) are erected In his favor.  Part of the relics, can be found in Venice ( Lido ) as well.

Miraculous  relics were know in Myra to  exude a clear watery fluid, that smells like Rosewater and is called “manna” ( sometimes also Myrrh ), and they are continue doing  so in Bari.  This liquid is collected each 6th of December , for the Saint’s  sarcophagus,  by clergy of  the Basilica, and can be purchased in nearby shop . Religious folk widely believe it has wondrous  healing, and blessing  properties.

In Italy,  Russia  as well as Balkan Peninsula, Saint Nicholas  is  piously venerated Saint, and  an “every day/thing go-to Saint” , that  religious folk confide in. In Albania, Catholic Albanians even swear in St Nicholas name, although I personally find swearing using Saint or G’d name being tad disrespectful.  People who do it, don’t see it that way though.  In Russia , nearly every Church and/or Temple/ Monastery  have a  section dedicated to Saint Nicholas.  In Balkan Peninsula ( mainly Serbia, Montenegro, Macedonia, and  possibly some parts of Bosnia, as well as Diaspora people all over the peninsula ) he is  a Saint  worshiped as feast Saint ( a patron saint , celebrated as such on his feast days by specific families )  and a namesake Saint of many individual s, although all  Orthodox Christians are very keen on addressing to Saint Nicholas in times of need for healing, deliverance from trouble, injustice, poverty and so on.

In modern world Saint Nicholas got to be associated  with Santa Claus,  as he was well-known to be very generous, especially to  the children. 

His, secular title of “Santa Claus” might  have originated from  immigrants of Germanic and Nordic lands who  settled in the United States, and  the image of St. Nicholas, or "Sinterklaas," as he is known among the Dutch, slowly changed to that of "Santa Claus" with little tie to the spirituality of Christianity. [7]

 Saint Nicholas is considered to be patron Saint of sailors, children, student and poor people, single women, brewers and distillers, unwed mothers, merchants.

 Working with Saint Nicholas

Saint Nicholas is said  to  be very promptly in answering to those in need, and with  reasonable , heartfelt prayers. Russian people  often have home altars dedicated to St. Nicholas, so  when the problem/s arise/s  , they light a candle  in front  of his image and pray to him.  Some among the most creative ways to work with this Saint, in form of spellwork or folk rituals, or simple prayers are done on his Feast day 6th/19th December.

·         For example, as a kid I was taught the simple folk ritual, pretty well known here. The ritual says that on St Nicholas feast day You have to do three good deeds, than just before midnight write three wishes on a piece of paper  and place them nearby St Nicholas’s image or  beneath a candle dedicated to him.

·         Another custom, similar in methodology calls for three oranges , that are symbolic of  gold pieces St Nicholas secretly gifted girls from legend with, to be given to three people , sometimes alongside socks, or slippers, which are also considered to be ideal gift for people on St Nicholas’ feast day or Christmas.  It is believed that people on St. Nicholas should get some  new clothing item to entice the luck , and socks , slippers and shoes were for some reason believed to be ideal choice.

·         To increase Your money, particularly If You are really in need try  this simple jar spell : In a glass jar place some  coins,  preferably from various currencies ( let’s say Dollars, Pennies, Euros  ) , add 3 smaller Orange or tangerine peels and a handful of wheat.  Throw in finally a parchment with Your request where You have  written why You need money, and If You wish a prayer to St. Nicholas. If You have, add some Pyrite chips or dust as well, smallest  pinch will suffice.  Pray over the jar. Then close the lid, place a candle atop of the jar, dedicate it to Saint Nicholas ,and  affix image of St. Nicholas  on the outside  of the jar. Light the candles and once again say You prayers. When the candle burns all the way down , place candle somewhere elevated , yet secluded place near where You spend  most time.

A prayer that could be used in working with petitioning Saint Nicholas may be as follows:

Glorious Nicholas, my own protector! from that bright throne where thou dost enjoy the vision of thy God, in pity turn thine eyes upon me; ask for me from God those graces and helps most seasonable in my present necessities, whether spiritual or temporal, and especially the grace of . . . . . . if such be expedient for my eternal welfare. Forget not, glorious and holy bishop, our Sovereign Pontiff, the holy Church, and this pious city. Bring back to the right way of salvation those who live steeped in sin, or buried in the darkness of ignorance, error, and heresy. Comfort the sorrowing, provide for the needy, strengthen the weak-hearted, defend the oppressed, help the sick; let all know the effects of thy powerful patronage with Him Who is the supreme giver of all good. Amen

Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory be to the Father.

V. Pray for us, blessed Nicholas.
R. That we may made worthy of the promises of Christ.

Let us pray:

God, Who has honored, and ceasest not daily to honor, Thy high-priest and glorious confessor, blessed Nicholas, with innumerable miracles: grant, we beseech Thee, that, by his merits and prayers, we may be delivered from the fires of hell and from all other dangers. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Devotional oil for St Nicholas

Considering the hagiography of St. Nicholas, I’d make oil devoted to him in this manner:

·         Rinds or three Oranges ( does not have  from whole Oranges though )
      ·         Half a teaspoon of the Wheat (  seeds  )
      ·         OPTIONAL: Pyrite  chips  or Gold scrapings
      ·         All in base of Olive oil ( let’s say 20-30ml or around 1 fl oz )

Place the oil on the Bible, and let it sit for at least three days. If You are to  make the oil by warming it in double boiler, You are to place oil  on Bible when finished. You can scent it with Orange essential oil, and You can add Vitamin E capsule, or some Benzoin  to preserve the oil.

Giving thanks

I could not  find any concrete info on spiritual work with St. Nicholas, other than  mentioned folk rituals and beliefs and various   Christmas  customs and traditions in modern age. Above given are my suggestions on how to work with the Saint, and so are the following suggestions for giving thanks :

As we have seen, in the folk rituals included above St Nicholas likes charity and gift giving,  and the Orange fruits are traditionally associated with him. Hence, You can place some oranges or wheat on his altar, and donate money to charity, or people in need, anonymously, or bye some poor kid a toy, visit  some orphanage and play with kids  there, and give the small presents ( like oranges ) and maybe also light a candle for the Saint, after Your petitions have been fulfilled. You can donate  churches and temples  dedicated to him.  

Check also how to work with St.Barbara the Protomartyr, as another of "december's Saints"
Many Blessings , Shade :)

This article was written and composed by myself, therefore should You decide to use any part of it elsewhere, feel free, but do add credits; Shadow of shadows magick place, or a direct link to this post

[1] Translation as given on Wikipedia’s page on St Nicholas, here :
[2] according to :
[3] quoted from same source as under [2]
[4] according to teaching of Russian and Serbian   Eastern Orthodox Church
[5]   Translated , edited and adopted from “Kalendar z a Srecne Dane” ( lit. Calendar  for happy days ) by Jasna Jojic Pavlovski,   famous Serbian anthropologist and folklorist
[6] As under [5]
[7]  According to on Orthodox wiki’s page on St Nicholas,
[8] Prayer is from : used for educational purposes  without any ill  will

 First image from:, other is from :

both used for illustrative and explanatory purposes merely, without any ill will


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