Apr 30, 2013


Human  quintessential need to know the future, and hence affect it too, is probably as old as species
of homo sapiens themselves . And divination,  or mantic arts, as methods for achieving this   had always been an essential part  of human culture.   Readers, people who  specialized in divination aspects of spiritual working,  performing mantic arts, reading and understanding omens, or simply, telling the fortune, future and  giving guiding advices, were both reverend and persecuted. Quite often simultaneously. Information is power, more so if it’s about the upcoming event, and could thus enable   for people to preclude upcoming calamities, win wars or simply have a more prosperous and happy life. However, as it’s only expected to occur that way in human society, respect and social power readers would attain and enjoy , caused envy, and consequently they’d create nemesis, by simply being there and doing what they do.

Unlike prophetic gifts, divining future is a more “Gnostic” approach, where the  spiritual worker seeks insight, pays attention to signs, omens , numbs the common physical senses, and sharpens those intangible senses,  that’ existence is debatable, at least according to science.  According to Christianity seeking spiritual gifts,  yearning for them , more so   when fueled by  pragmatic needs, is seen as profane and leads to sin. I’d agree with that, being a Christian myself. But then again, divination is not a sin in or by itself, rather  a  tool that can be abused and thus lead into sin. Following the same logic , we should never take knife in our hands. Or frozen fish even,  for it  can be an extremely deadly weapon, If You wish it to be. Addressing mediums, psychics and readers for most profane things is actually a sin of sloth, and recklessness behavior  that leads in spiritual numbness, and procrastination towards self-salvation.  True again, yet, most of the things existing in this world, become dangerous in excessive amount, furthermore, If You are a spiritual practitioner why not do a readings for Yourself ? If not, address to Higher forces for guidance when You have a genuine dilemma, and need for actual discernment , rather than to find out “if she fancies You”

Before we proceed on the practical part of this post,  to conclude, divination is akin to  homeopathy, use in small doses and when needed, and You should be safe from spiritual decadence, as well as sin.

Many methods and tools are employed in divination, let’s name just a few for illustration purposes:

·         Astragalomancy – divination by reading from position and shape and size of cast bones, in modern day simply divination by dices

·         Pyromancy – Divination by fire element , encompassing many disciplines, such as observing flames and bonfires and their behavior ( such as those done on Imboloc, I’ve written on that before )   , reading candle wax remaining or drippings ( ceromancy ) , reading from remaining ashes  after combustion of sacrifice ( cauliomancy ) and so on

·         Bibliomancy – Divination by randomly picking passages , sentences or words of book, sometimes combined with other methods such as placing a key in the book, and  observing when and how it fall out from the book

·          Belomancy  - Divination using marked or specially decorated arrows , according to some, Bamboo arrow divination in Korea  preceded the following example;

·         Cartomancy – Divination by  reading card, playing cards or specialty cards, such as various divination decks, most well-known example being Tarot. Reading Tarot is sometimes referred as Tarotomancy, although I myself ( and I don’t think I’m alone in that either lol )  find that redundant,…

And many, many others. In this article we will be dealing with Cartomancy,  more precisely,  some basic history, symbolism,  and spreads done with common, playing cards.

Or are they that “common” ? The ordinary playing cards are more magickal and mysterious  than one would assume on the first look.  Their origin is even nowadays, after years and years of research, in best case speculated, or half-guessed.

There are many myths regarding the origin of the playing cards, according to  one geishas in  the Chinese imperator’s  castle invented the game. According to yet another of the legends,  the invention came from dire need of some Indian’s maharaja’s women, to prevent his obnoxious habit of picking his own beard, by means of keeping his hand busy with something .

However the Kun Pa’I game of China, dating back to time of the Tang dynasty  ( 618-907 ) of the ancient China. [1]  Apparently the playing cards, firstly represented both the money of a kind  ( stakes  ) and  cards in  China, and were initially hand printed, thus  extremely luxurious. Earliest records place playing cards in Europe in 14th century , namely Spain and Italy. They were a rarity in those days, and as each deck was had printed they were unique, and a prestige symbol. By the early 15th century, woodcuts with all the playing cards were made, and they had become accessible to broad public and very popular. 

They contained numerical values in for suits ( matching designs ) much like they do now,  with a bit more “archaic” symbols, being polo sticks, cups, chalices and swords.  These are still , even today prominent suits or markings in Tarot card decks, whereas  the common playing cards have adopted the symbols to ones we are familiar nowadays, being namely: Spades, Hearts, Diamonds, and Clubs. Spot cards ( on which the values were depicted in smaller symbols of their “ruling” suit ) were 9 of each, sometimes other than ten, lacking also six, making thus 8 of each. The “court” cards  were pictured cards, depicting personages, even though in the beginning the depictions did not resemble humans, rather they were abstract. They eventually evolved from King, Vice - king, and Second in deputy ,  to King, Queen and knave or knight, sometimes also servant,  3 of each correspondent to one suit or “color”. They  are reportedly created to depict famous historical  personage , such as King David ( King of Spades ), Julius Cesar ( King of Diamonds ) , Judith  ( Queen of Hearts ),  Biblical Rachel ( Queen of Diamonds ) , Lancelot ( Knave of Clubs ) and so on.

Like most of the things appearing in plurality of limited forms,  offering possibility of random arrangements of elements of some kind, they’ve become prominent tool for divination. When and how exactly, is hard to tell, although it is safe to assume, that it would have happen not too long ago after the very invention of the cards.  Considerable amount of experts think that it could have been the Gypsies, to introduce the use of common playing cards as divination tool, and that they’ve spread their  “findings” throughout the Europe, consequently. One of the first written documents that not only speaks of divination with cards in Europe, but also gives practical instructions  of how to do it, offering also the   possible interpretations for each card individually, appeared in Germany during the late  15th century . It was called “Eim Loszbuch Aus  de r Karten” [2] which some authors associate with Tarot, but is actually about the common playing cards, though could have, and probably was what influenced the creation as well as use of Divination decks, such as Tarot.

Magickal association and superstitions about playing cards

Each suit is associated with an element, and also corresponds to Tarot cards symbol.


Pentacles       | Diamonds          | Earth         |Business, journeys, news                              |Traders and admin

Swords           | Spades                | Air             |Obstacles, misfortune, diseases, death     |Aristocracy

Sticks              | Clubs                   | Fire            |Money, or efforts, hard work, changes     |Landlords, peasant

Chalices/Cups   |Hearts                  | Water       |Luck, friendship, love, family[3]                  |Theocracy

They can be used to represent the elements in rituals and conjurations. The symbolism of the cards is easily applicable in spell casting.

Playing cards are considered lucky, ominous, amuletic and talismanic.  For example it was believed that If the whole deck was to fall down on the floor,  that was foretelling a great misfortune . It was considered to be very risky to go down a mine, or off to sea with a deck of cards. Nine of Clubs is considered a lucky gamblers charm, more so If gifted to one by a child or prosperous person. Simmilar goes for 7 of Clubs. Nine of spades however, is a card that is sometimes used in  hexing ritual that are done in order to cause or inflict pain, suffer and illness upon someone. Old deck  must never be simply thrown away but rather burn and a new deck smudged, over it, in the flame.


There are many great books written on the meaning , interpretation , as well as spreading the playing cards for reading , and with that being said, I could not cover all that   in this one, single post. Rather , I’ll discuss some basic meanings , and a simple spread or two J

I think it’s wise  to keep in  mind, that proper expertise comes with experience anyway, and not try to learn all the meanings by heart, for a day or two.

We consult the cards when we have an important  question or dilemma ,  asking stupid questions may result in equally stupid actions. Also testing the accuracy of the cards by double asking the same, is beyond stupid, we can all guess at least three reasons why is it so

Other than simple reading card by card, we should also  consider meanings card form together, and allow intuition to ennoble and refine the insight.

Readings are most proficient if done on Mondays or Fridays [4] The deck  used for divination should not be used for playing, when not in use should be put down in a safe place, much like You’d have it done with common magickal/ritual tools such as athame or wand. 

Here are some things to consider in readings:

·         Should the Higher ( Figural and Ace cards ) appear dominant in reading, the questioner is expecting  great  changes in life, which  are often groundbreaking, and always  reffering to future

·         Naturally opposing the above , lots of “lower” cards appearing in the spread indicate to stagnation and necessity of taking action more vigorously

·         If ¾ of all of the cards are of the same color or suit this is extremely indicative! Black usually represents unfavorable outcome, and even  great tribulations , while red cards are the opposite

·         Domination of the spades in spreading may indicate danger, obstacles, need for extra caution, cold-head thinking and optimism and counseling with other people

·         Dominant clover spread speaks of luck, success , money and well being ,  although If all the cards appear to be clover, that should be a warning that person had grown egoistic and neglects others

·         Diamonds dominating spread speaks of good financial chances, success and gain, too many of them, however, are a warning that the person might get lost in all that,  turning into a “green monster” of a kind, obsessing over material

·         Hearts dominating the opening indicate that person is open for new meetings, , or might be seeking a love partner. However, almost all  cards of the heart ( as in suit )  in  a single reading indicate that person is too open, servile, submissive or that it shall try to take on themselves more than they are able to handle

·         Some  important and common interpretations include: Two red ten’s ( ten value cards, being diamonds and hearts ) indicate marriage,  ace of  clovers means letter , two of cloves warns about a false friend, a “snake in the grass” If you will, five of hearts  predicts upcoming gift from a lover or a suitor, ten of cloves an over-the-sea traveling, four of  hearts represents the marital bed, four of spades sickbed, seven  of cloves prison or imprisonment, captivation [5] 

Nine of hearts is also called “card of wishes” and is considered to  be one of the most positive cards in the deck, while directly opposing it “stands” nine of spades ( curious is that is similar with swords in Tarot )

The above given will  ensure a solid base for  general cartomantic interpretation, yet each  card, as stated before, can have very specific meaning, which by all means should be taken in account during readings. Have that in mind , more so If You really want to get an  in-depth, concrete and precise reading, and thus consult some source that provides those*

Following are example of card spreads, that are commonly used in cartomacy that employs the common, playing card deck:

Mythical Cross

Shuffle  the cards well, then align 7 cards , in front of You ( facedown ) , in a horizontal line. The middle ( or 4th card ) shall serve as the central point of the spread,  and the central point of the vertical line, which You get when You place three ( again, facedown ) cards above the central, and three bellow it. 
According to some schools of thought, the central card may represent the petitioner, or the person for  whom the reading is done , or oneself in, case we are giving a reading to ourselves 

First uncover the central card, that going from down to up, all the vertical cards, and finally the horizontal cards,  from left to right.  Vertical cards speak in general of the question, and may provide guidance towards solution, as well as stress the influences of importance , while the horizontal provide additional details and speak of chronological  aspect of the question,  those left from the central card speaking of past and those on the right side, speaking of the future. 

Yes and No quick spread

This particular  swift  method will provide the yes and no answers, or rather, will indicate If something we have wished to happen will occur the way we want or not.  Alternatively, If we  are in doubt of the outcome of certain situation, the cards in this spread will  tell If the outcome will be positive ( desired ) , or , alas,  negative  ( undesired ) one. It’s quite simple really, and fun

Thinking of the “wish”  ( also;  situation, event , plan ) shuffle the cards slowly and gently, placing those  from the bottom to the top, in smallest possible groups, or better  yet, single card at the time. Now draw one by one until either Nine of Hearts, or Nine of Spades appear. If the Nine of Hearts appears first ( also known as Card of Wishes  ) the wish will come true, or the outcome will be positive. If, unfortunately the Nine of Spades appears first, it’s a clear omen that the wish will not come  true, or that the outcome will not be as we would like it to be.

But keep in mind, many wishes are but silly whims,   and such coming true, could actually be more pain than gain. Also,   getting Nine of Spades, may mean that You need to try harder, instead of sitting and whining how nothing good ever happens to You.  Not to mention, that one can always do a more profound  reading to find out, what is blocking the positive outcome, or why will it not occur, and thus affect the future. In any case, this particular  method is not to be consulted about the same wish in 24 hours, and If You think a bit You will realize that   it is only logical to do so.

This article was written and  composed by myself, hence If You  wish to use any part of it elsewhere online, feel free, but add credits  Shadow of Shadows magick place, or Shadow-333@hotmail.com or a direct link to this post
*try first learning basic meanings of suits, color and what they represent, than consult various sources  that offer each of the cards In deck interpretation, and cross reference them. Other  than the books  and resources  “listed  in Credits and References”  , try also here:


 [1] according to scientific article by Sir Wilkinson, W.H. (1895) titled “Chinese origin of playing cards” published in “American Anthropologist” magazine
[2] according to an entry found here http://books.google.me/books?id=dVne-RK9UVYC&pg=PA46&lpg=PA46&dq=Loszbuch+Aus++der+Karten&source=bl&ots=iSjMYqSDBt&sig=USBahFukJwxkI4HlFn0yzUVHJWM&hl=en&sa=X&ei=eahYUbSDJdKN4gSdg4DgDA&sqi=2&redir_esc=y#v=onepage&q=Loszbuch%20Aus%20%20der%20Karten&f=false
[3] Divination symbolism  mainly based on that given in “Gledanje u karte” ( literarily : “Card reading” ) by Wendy Kroffer
[4] acc to Cassandra Eason, as stated in her book “Encyclopedia of  magick and ancient wisdom”
[5] according to the same source as under [4] , page 120th ,  edited and paraphrased here

IMAGE CREDITS: The first, illustrative image is from http://www.dreamstime.com/royalty-free-stock-image-playing-cards-candle-image7635556  , which was  then edited by myself, and used here  without any ill will.

The Mythical Cross spread scheme is by   little me.

Apr 19, 2013

Carpe ( Beltane ) diem

Beltaine is  truly one of the most amazing times of the year. Time to converse to Fae, improve beauty, health and attain longevity , pursue magickal gifts, and make new friends. 

It’s a second Principal Celtic holiday, the other being Samhaine, it’s direct opponent and counterpart.  It celebrates the Sun’s release of winter and dark bondage, it’s rulership of the  light part of the year, and life  and regeneration in general. In old  European culture it used to signify the begging of the summer .
Get some Beltane's morning dew , for it's a powerful magick
Beltane    is a pagan holiday falling on 1st or 2nd of may ( or 6th, or even 11-15th like done in Scotland ) , and is preceded by the Walpurgis  night, even though most authors will equate the two, we can’t really say they are one and the sam e.  For starters, Walpurgis night is the night of 30th of April, and therefore pretty  much lasts until the morning. Also, it’s mostly celebrated in Northern Europe, and the symbolism and ceremonies may vary and hence differ in for example Germany, Finland and Sweden.   Beltane,  is an in-between time, a magckal threshold, when the veils between the words are thing, and  as consequence they intertwine easily. For me, it had always been an uplifting and overwhelming time,  resonating and transcending, offering great boost or power, and enabling to attain that  , what would through the year would most likely be unattainable. It’s the day when the Fae ( Fairies ) interact with people, and when Fairy Queen, riding on her white horse, calls for people to follow  her into  Fae kingdom. An example of such event is portrayed in traditional English poem, “Thomas Rymer and the Queen of Elfland” , where a  poet, called True Thomas, follows the Fairy, serves her for 7  years , being  then  returned to his own word and rewarded with a very keen  gift of prophecy;

" TRUE THOMAS lay oer yond grassy bank,

And he beheld a ladie gay,

A ladie that was brisk and bold,

Come riding oer the fernie brae.
She turned about her milk-white steed,

And took True Thomas up behind,

And aye wheneer her bridle rang,

The steed flew swifter than the wind.
                                             He has gotten a coat of the even cloth,

                                               And a pair of shoes of velvet green,

                                           And till seven years were past and gone

                                             True Thomas on earth was never seen.

Elderberry Fairy
And  Beltane is indeed, the most favorable part  of the year to work with Fae, and I have written of Beltaine and Fae magick before on here , If You happen to be interested  in this particular  aspect of the holiday.
It was once, in European countries, associated with  a sacrifices also. In fact, if the preceeding year was “barren” a young male, was to be sacrificed, though he had to  volunteer, to be  sacrificed, knowingly. By the time of Druidism, this sacrifice was substituted by Wicker-man ( a giant human- resembling doll made of wood and straw ) , and whit the early Christian influences the sacrifice was replaced by reenacting the same, and the “victim” was chosen by drawing pieces of cake from the bag. The one that would draw the  piece of the cake with the cross, would play the “victim” which was to be sacrificed [2]

In Germany the Walpurgis night, that is the night before the first May  is said to be the time when witches gather at mount.  Brocken ( the highest peak of Northern  Germany, Harz mountain range ) and perform rituals and dance welcoming the May. In urban areas, and particularly among  young people, the symbolism and spiritual contents are mainly lost, and the celebration deducts to pranks and leg-pulling.  Bonfires are still lit in some parts, though due to Christianization often called  “Osterfeurer” ,aka Easter Fires.        

In Estonia and Finland, some kind of carnival festivities are held, much like dressing up and trick or treating during Halloween in West.         

Symbolical burning of the witches, or rather ragged or straw effigies is appropriated  in the Czech republic, and the holiday is referred to as “charodejnice” which means    “the witches”. [3]

And the 1st may, coming after the Walpurgis night, other than it’s spiritual traits and symbolism discussed above, is also day for parades ( so called May parades ) and   an International labour  day, also known as International worker’s day [4], and technically speaking, Your employer  should not be able to  force You to work on this day, but alas, in this world we described as  civilized, occur so many things that are all but. People frequently go on picnics or field trips on 1st of May, usually  with family of very close friends

Nevertheless, as I stated in the  title of the post, If practicing, You should by all mean “seize the day” and the energies it offers.   For the day it’s ideal for fertility and abundance in any form , on any plan, for increasing personal power, health and beauty, promoting longevity. When I wrote on snow and Ice magick before, I mentioned some ice magick rituals that are really best suited to be  done on Beltaine. It’s also  by far the best time to build friendly ties with nature spirits of all kind, and thus gain  powerful and  hospitable allies  in Your spiritual workings. It’s also day associated with agricultural magick, and gaining money or pursuing carrier success, which are forms of fertility and abundance.

Plants and incenses correspondent to the Beltane are : Almond, Cowslip, Ash ( the plant, Fraxinus spp. ), Angelica,   Marigolds ( Calendulas ), Hawthorn, Rowan ( both used in enabling to see and protecting from  the Fae folk, Fairies ),  Nettles, Rose,  Thyme, Bluebells and Elder ( Sambucus spp. ) and Hyacinth

The candles lit are mostly of Red, Silver, Green and sometimes Gold ( or Yellow ) color.
Anyhow, without any further ado here are some ideas in how to “seize the day” the best way;
Examples of folklore and spells  associated with Beltane ;

·         “Traditionally on the Isle of Man, the youngest member of the family gathers primroses on the eve before Beltane and throws the flowers at the door of the home for protection. In Ireland it is believed that food left over from May Eve must not be eaten, but rather buried or left as an offering to the faery instead. Much like the tradition of leaving of whatever is not harvested from the fields on Samhain, food on the time of no time is treated with great care.” [5]

·         Spending May night  ( Beltane ) under an Elder tree, with Thyme in one’s hands, shall enable one to see and converse with Fae,  though one must be cautions, for the Fae may be mischievous or even malevolent.  Similarly, wearing an “crown”  made from Elder twig during Walpurgis night and 1st of May, should enable the same.

·         “The first May Day butter, that is, the first butter made from the milk of May Day, was held to be the best of all bases for salves and ointments. And, it was firmly believed that any herb picked at random before sunrise on May Day was a sure cure for warts. Also, if you wanted to keep the rheumatics away for a year, the custom was to eat nettle soup three times during the month, beginning on May 1st.”[6]

·         Hoops made of Rowan and/or Hawthorn before the sunrise on May First, will enable one to see the  Fairies and Spirits,  through them

·         The first water taken from the well on May Day was variously known as 'the top of the well' or 'the luck of the well'. In evil hands this water could do great harm; but in the hands of the rightful owner, it brought luck, protection and healing. [7]

·         Fresh Nettles picked in the morning, preferably very early, with the rising Sun, were cooked and eaten in copper containers while the  incantations for health were spoken, to ensure that no illness will befall on those that consume it, or to  heal the existing conditions. This is commonly done in Balkan Peninsula, I observed and later done the ritual myself, and is done on Beltane, St George’s day and  sometimes on Spring Equinox as well.  In Ireland, it’s customary to make  a soup out of the Nettles, and consume it on Beltane ( according to other some  accounts on Beltane and two consecutive days  ) in order to both cure and prevent rheumatism.

·         Leave  a bouquet made of Cowslips , Thyme and Bluebells, along with piece of cake or some honey , and some vine, near some Hawthorn bush to treat the Fairies and possibly gain their sympathies. You should state aloud that it’s for “little folk”, “good folk”  or “brothers and sisters fairies”

·         Collect the morning dew, and wash Your face with it on Beltane,  for the beauty, and preserving youth in the upcoming year.  Water with freshly picked Basil leafs, and Rose, blessed with a suiting incantation  on Beltane morning will have the similar effect. Obviously, once could  combine the two.

I hope  You’ve gotten some ideas on how to take advantage of  the lavish energies of Beltane,  how to tap on to  the powers of the day, and  use them constructively.  

Here are more good resources for You  on:  
Beltane folklore
Enjoy, and have a great Mayday J Abundance of Blessings  from Shadow

NOTES: This article was written and composed by myself, If You wish to use any part of it  elsewhere online,  feel free, as long as You provide credits; Shadow of Shadows magick place,  Shadow-333@hotmail.com  , or a direct link to this    post

[1] Retrieved from http://www.bartleby.com/40/15.html where the whole poem can be found, If You are interested
[2] Reference; adopted from:  Cass Eason’s “Encyclopedia of magic and ancient wisdom”
[4] You can find out more about it  here:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/International_Workers'_Day
[5] Retrieved from:  http://www.witchvox.com/va/dt_va.html?a=usma&c=holidays&id=2765 , for informational and educative purposes, without ill will
[6] Retrieved from : http://www.irishcultureandcustoms.com/ACalend/Beltane.html , for informational and educative purposes, without any ill will
[7] as under [6]

IMEAGE CREDITS: Morning dew photo  used for illustrative purposes here is  from wallpaperskd.com Elderberry fairy vintage style illustration Is from: http://www.antiquaprintgallery.com/ekmps/shops/richben90/images/flower-fairies-elderberry.cicely-barker.old-print.c1930-wdjb--130280-p.jpg  used for illustrative purposes without any ill will

Apr 14, 2013

Easter or Pascha in Orthodox, Catholic tradition, and the Miracle of the Holy Fire

“Let God arise, let his enemies be scattered; let those who hate him flee from before his face!
             As smoke vanishes, so let them vanish; as wax melts before the fire,
             So the sinners will perish before the face of God; but let the righteous be glad.
             This is the day which the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it!
             Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death by death,
             and on those in the grave bestowing life.”*

Above given words of Paschal troparion  serve brilliantly to describe the importance and belief about
Easter ( in Eastern Orthodox churches, the more common name is Pascha, originating from Greek transliteration of the Hebrew word “pescha” meaning “Passover” ) both in  Eastern and Western ( Orthodox and Catholic ) churches. The  very date may differ, but the theology behind the holiday is nearly, exactly the  same. It is the most joyful holiday of Christians, for both, a promise of eternal life, victory over death  and salvation from the sin.

The very holiday the centre of Christian  faith,  and the way to the holiday is paved by long preparation period ( 40+ days ) marked with repentance, respect and forgiving and fasting. This journey starts with Pre-lenten Sunday, over the Great Lent to the Holy week , when it ends.

Important holidays during this period also include:

-          The Annunciation, a fixed ( in terms of time, 25th of March according to Gregorian, or7th of April according to Julian calendar ) holiday, as opposed to others listed bellow, whose date changes depending on the date of Easter.  This holliday commemorates  the announcement by the Angel Gabriel to Virgin Mary ( Theotokos ) that she  would wondrously and without sin conceive  and born Son of G’d  . It falls 9 months before Christmas.
 -          Lazarus Saturday ( in Orthodox Christianity )  - commemorating the miraculouresurrection  of Lazarus by Lord Christ,  when He thus had  proved to be  messiah from the Old Testament prophecies
-          Palm Sunday ( in both Catholicism and Orthodoxy, among latter  also called “Triumphal entrance” )  - commemorating entrance of Lord in Jerusalem on the back of the donkey, celebrated by folk,  laying down Olive and Palm branches, and flowers, hence the name. Entrance on a donkey symbolizes the coming of King of Peace, as opposed to customary entrance of Eastern kings on horses, when they would win battles or war.  Palm branch in Christianity represents martyrdom , and spiritual victory over evil,  all sort of calamities and death

-          Holy Wednesday – commemorating feet washing and anointment with Myrrh oil, of Lord Christ, by repenting women, and the betrayal of  Judas

-          Maundy Thursday ( or Holy Thursday ) - is any Thursday before Easter. It commemorates the last supper, and hence the  very Secret of communion
-          Good Friday ( or Holy Friday ) commemorating Lord’s   crucifixion and death, and is a day of utterly strict fasting, when, preferably, nothing is eaten the whole day ( in Eastern Orthodox Christian tradition ). It’s a day of sorrow, and sadness for Christians, though announcing the upcoming  resurrection and the victory over the death by Lord  Christ
-          Holy Saturday ( mostly in Eastern Orthodox Christianity called that way ) – commemorates the day of Lord Christ’s rest, and is a day to dye/color and decorate the eggs in most parts of Balkan peninsula

-          Easter  ( which always  falls on Sunday ) – commemorates the Resurrection of the Lord Christ

Maundy Thursday and the Good Friday in Orthodox Christian folk tradition

On Maundy Thursday, or Holy Thursday in Orthodox Churches liturgical colors are change from more sober Lenten, colors, to more festive like red, gold and white. Vine and oil are  permitted to consume, unlike the rest of the week Friday in particular.  Church services  held combine Vespers and Liturgy of St. Basil  the Great,  which are commonly followed by  12 gospels about Passion of the Lord. Later in the evening,  liturgical colors are once again changed to black to symbolize the forthcoming events   passion, crucifixion and resurrection.

 Folk people of Balkan peninsula believe how on this day, gates of Paradise are open, and that all who happen to die that day, will surely go the Heaven. Farmers do not work in the field, for it would cause hail to fall frequently during the year and destroy their crops.   They also claim that any act of charity and all alms will be noted in Heavens, as a noble act to  be  rewarded.

 In many countries, such as Malta, Philippines, parts of Latin America, and even Inida, it’s traditional to visit seven churches that day. In others  ( such as Denmark, Norway, Iceland ) the Holy Thursdays is regarded as public Holliday. In Uk it’s day associated with almsgiving, to senior and/or deserving citizens [1]

 The Holy Friday or Good Friday, being the first Friday before   the Easter, recalls the Crucifixion and the death of our Lord Christ, on Golgotha ( or “Calvary” in Latin, both meaning “skull” )  as a result of  various factors, such as betrayal by the Judas Iscariot, and persecution by the guardians and priesthood of the Jewish temple. All that had occurred in the time of Pontius Pilate’s dominion, who refused to take part in accusing and sentencing Jesus of Nazareth, himself, yet was unable to stop it, due to different reasons, according to speculations and theories ( for example forestalling and riot and keeping his job ) giving therefore  very little to go with, about the reason behind Pilate’s inertness regarding the matter. He did however, chose “Jesus of Nazareth, king of Jews” as an inscription for Lord Christ’s  sign indicating what he was accused for, thus infuriating the Jewish people greatly, more so when he stood against Jewish leaders and refused  to change it.  In any case,  the  crow were who suggested the punishment by Crucifixion,  which is generally  seen as a result of Hebrew Priesthood propaganda , well, a part of them anyhow. Jesus of Nazareth was consequently crucified, and agonized for six hours on the Cross, last three hours ( from Midday to 3PM / 15h) The land was overrun by darkness,  and when the Christ finally gave his soul to the Lord,  earthquake occurred, and the tombs broke open, and the curtain in the Templ e , was torn from downside upwards. Subsequently the rain started to fall, resulting in miraculous healing of the lepers. 

 The very death of Christ, is seen as voluntary act, as he  simply bows his head down , and “gives his spirit away”, previously making comment of such [2]

The church bells in Orthodox Christianity are not heard on the Good Friday (  it’s wise to  note here that   the  most  frequently used  name among the  Eastern Orthodox Christians is however “Great Friday” ) , and in some countries this is a rule abided for the whole week preceding Easter. It’s a day of mourning the Lord Christ’s death, a death of Messiah who even upon his last hours, in agony showed love and carrying for all the people, symbolically speaking a “lamb” that  took the sins of humanity on itself, to cleanse and deliver us.  In  the Churches , somewhere in the afternoon, or around 3.00PM, the Epitaphios ( an  icon in a form of large cloth, richly embroidered and adorned, depicting Christ’s body after removal from the Cross, laying supine [3]  used in liturgical service of Byzantine, or Orthodox Church on the last two days of the Holy week  ) is moved to the  altar ( more precisely a sepulcher, a table arranged in special way in front of the altar ), where it shall remain throughout the Pashcal season .  The faitful people in silence, humbly kiss  the Epitaphios ( most often the wounds are kissed ) , and thus paying in this manner respect to the Lord’s sacrifice. It’s a day of sadness and most strict fasting ( neither fish, nor oil , nor vine are allowed )  that is, preferably throughout the whole day, only water is drunk , while no solid food is consumed.

People in Balkan peninsula believe that  no sharp object should be handled on  this day, for such would be disrespectful for Christ and could , metaphorically “injure His wounds”. Weather  is observed  for divinatory  purpose s, If it rains, the fruit yields will be poor, contrary, sunny weather was a promise of abundant  fruit yields. The Gates of Heaven are considered to be open on this day. First series  of eggs, or in modern day , a single egg is boiled and dyed red on this day, possibly adorned with patterns such as Cross, Christogram or  alike, and reserved as a “house-guard” ( or. Slav. “Cuvarkuca”, literary ; Guardian of the House ) and placed on House altar, or otherwise on some special, nice place,  throughout the year, until the next Easter. This festivity , as well as dying the eggs themselves is done in memory of  legendary and miraculous egg that  had turned red in hands of Mary Magdalene, indicating that Lord Christ had resurrected. In some Christian legends, hens had lain red eggs on Easter,  which was a providence itself, for the Romans, who mocked   the prophecy of Christ resurrection saying that he will resurrect when the hens start laying red eggs. It is however more likely that the particular red color symbolizes Lord Christ’s  blood, suffering and resurrection, as the egg is  universal symbol of life, in and of itself. Here would  also be wise to note,  that it’s a new age myth, and a silly clap-trap of irresponsible authors that the custom ( of dying and decorating eggs ) has anything to do with Eostre, or Spring equinox, which is clearly stated by serious anthropological studies. Eggs were always used in funerary rites,  even before European paganism, yet they still did not form a central part  ( be it even symbolic ) of given religious practice. Africans dyed egg more than 60000 ago. If we were to follow this faulty logic, each time someone draw a circle, for any reason, they’ve stolen it from the cavemen who discovered the wheel. Simply put, no one has authority over universal symbols, they are just that, universal,  an most certainly  predate Paganism, hence I am sorry to break it to them, but New Agers did not invent  religious symbolism >.<

Moreover, symbolism of the Eastern eggs is in many places today vulgarly deconstructed and profaned . They are a symbol of New life, and  resurrection for Christians, and serve as symbols of such,  that are exchanged on the Easter by pious people, glorifying the gift of eternal life, and also creating friendly ties, expressing hospitability, and rejoicing in the time of the most joyful holiday of Christians, commemorating a cornerstone event of the whole faith, in not the modern human society in general. This is even more stressed in Eastern Christian Orthodoxy , and folklore, where the “House-guard” egg, other than being a powerful religious relic, of a kind, is a unique magickal tool of folk magick, with apotropaic and healing powers extraordinaire. Example of ritual in which this “sacred” egg is put to use is given later in the text.

 Easter, and miracle of the Holy Light ( Fire ) of Jerusalem

 Three days after his death, the lord Christ had risen, delivering also holy people form Hades ( He*l ) such as Adam, Eve, Old Testament Prophets,  and other. In the Sunday morning ( first Sunday after the Friday when the Christ was crucified ) Lord Christ’s tomb had been  revealed to be empty, proving thus  that he had risen from the dead, as previously stated by an Angel ( which is considered to be Archangel Gabriel ) and later by Lord himself, appearing to Mary Magdalene, his mother, The Most Holy Virgin Mary ( Theotokos ) and his disciples.

“So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples. 9 Suddenly Jesus met them. “Greetings,” he said. They came to him, clasped his feet and worshiped him. 10 Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.” ( Mathew 18: 8-11)  [4]
Lord then appears to his disciples in Galilee, as he promised, instructing them to spread his word, all over the world:

16 Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. 17 When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. 18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Mathew 28:16-20) [5]


With resurrection lord Christ had defeated Death, and  attained keys of Heaven and He*l, while also delivering humans from their sins. Hence why the event is a quintessential point in Christian religion, If not world in general. The greeting/s among the Orthodox Christian on this day, are  expressions : “Christ has risen”! with the other person replying : “Indeed ( or “Truly” ) he has risen!” mimicking the spreading of the word about Lord Christ’s resurrection, from Biblical times.  The whole week after the Easter is special, particularly Easter Monday, and Easter Tuesday, the two days that continue celebration of the Pascha ( Easter ). Among the Eastern ( Orthodox ) Christians, this week is often referred to as “Light” or “Luminous week” and the Light Wednesday and Friday are fast-free, as opposed to the  most of the year. 

Mircale of the Holy Fire or Holy Light
Yet the miracles associated with the Easter,  continue to occur even nowadays. One of the most enduring, attested miracles, is the Miracle of Holy Fire, or Miracle of Holy Light, taking place in the  Church of the Holy Sepulchre ( also called Basilica of the Holy Sepulchere,  or Church of the Resurrection ) , in Jerusalem. This  breathtaking, and wondrous phenomenon, is among the most renowned  miracles in the Eastern Orthodox  community. The Miracle occurs for at  very least 1000 years, though probably much more. However, the first written  records of it  are attributed to Bernard the Monk, and later by Russian iguman Danill ( Daniel ).

Chucrh of Holy Sepulchre, in Jerusalem
To ensure that the miracle is not some scheme or well-thought-out fraud, as well as to symbolically represent Romans who once went to seal the tomb of Lord Christ,  the representatives of Israel authorities,  inspect the tomb thoughtfully and  thoroughly,  making sure that there are no hidden tools or instruments that could ignite or spark the flame. Then they seal the entrance to the Holy Sepulchre with the wax until the ceremony.  After breaking the seal, the Patriarch enters, falls on  his knees, and in humility recites the ancient prayers, handed down to him by his predecessors, for sole purpose of invoking the Holy Light. The  Holy Flame/Light appears most often firstly as a glowing, sparkling hue of bluish light, and ignites the two candles that the Patriarch carries and will use to distribute the flame to the pilgrims, that come from all over the world to attest the miracle. However the Light also ignites pilgrims candles on it’s own , spontaneously , as well as the oil lamps hung in the second level of the Church and higher. It dances miraculously all over the chamber, and touches the hands and heads ( face ) of  the pilgrims, without burning them. In fact the fire ignited by the Holy Light/Fire does not burn, and is  reported to  have healed many, restoring their health miraculously.

 Here is the description of the phenomenon, as found on a website dedicated to the phenomenon [6];

“While the patriarch is inside the chapel kneeling in front of the stone, there is darkness but far from silence outside. One hears a rather loud mumbling, and the atmosphere is very tense. When the Patriarch comes out with the two candles lit and shining brightly in the darkness, a roar of jubilee resounds in the Church. 

The Holy Light is not only distributed by the Archbishop, but operates also by itself. It is emitted from the Holy Sepulchre with a hue completely different from that of natural light. It sparkles, it flashes like lightning, it flies like a dove around the tabernacle of the Holy Sepulchre, and lights up the unlit lamps of olive oil hanging in front of it. It whirls from one side of the church to the other. It enters some of the chapels inside the church, as for instance the chapel of the Calvery (at a higher level than the Holy Sepulchre) and lights up the little lamps. It lights up also the candles of certain pilgrims. In fact there are some very pious pilgrims who, every time they attended this ceremony, noticed that their candles lit up on their own accord!his divine light also presents some peculiarities: As soon as it appears it has a bluish hue and does not burn. At the first moments of its appearance, if it touches the face, or the mouth, or the hands, it does not burn. This is proof of its divine and supernatural origin. We must also take into consideration that the Holy Light appears only by the invocation of an Orthodox Archbishop.”

The ceremony is transmitted by TV stations in many countries, and can thus be attested by broad public, at least indirectly. However, it’s interesting to note that in the Western countries , extremely little is known of this  phenomenon, which is a shame,  despite the fact that  it occurs only on Pascha ( Easter ) celebrated according to Gregorian calendar, the miracle is there for all the faithful people, ready to pay proper respect to it, as  has been attested by numerous pilgrims over the years. It is wise to state that the ceremony , above discussed, starts on Holy Saturday.

Easter in Balkan peninsula also a time of power,  for cunning folk or folk in general, that regardless, of their religion, see it as  a time of exquisite and  unmatched power throughout the year. Likewise, dyed eggs and other “relics” and tools  used in  both family and official church  ritual, are a formidable source of power , and tools with amazing potential. 

One of them being egg. And not the chocolate kind  either J , it's in fact, an actual , hard-boiled chicken eggs, dyed, and sometimes  also  embellished with various shapes and  patterns.  These eggs, boiled and dyed during the period from the Good Friday to Easter, are then used  by faithful folk in a sort of game. They knock one egg on another, and the person who’s egg does not break, is the winner and may ( if they chose so )  claim the egg their opponent held, the one that broke. But there is much more to these eggs, as they are prepared and consumed to symbolically  commemorate Christian legend , that appears in host of versions, though each claiming that an egg ( or eggs ) had miraculously turned red, on Easter Sunday. I have even briefly mentioned few of them earlier in the text. The hard shell of the egg, in mind of early Christians represented  the sealed tomb, while cracking it represents  the  act of  Resurrection.  Easter eggs are blessed by the Priest  at the end of the Paschal Vigil, and distributed to the pious.  Here is one of the versions of the legend associated with origin of dying Christian eggs :

“According to tradition, during a dinner with the emperor Tiberius Caesar, Mary Magdalene was speaking about Christ's Resurrection. Caesar scoffed at her, saying that a man could rise from the dead no more than the egg in her hand could turn red. Immediately, the egg turned red. Because of this, icons of Mary Magdalene sometimes depict her holding a red egg. Also, this is believed to be an explanation for dyeing eggs red at Pascha.”  [7]

In Serbia, parts of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Northern Montenegrin areas, as well as some parts of
An example of House-guard eggs
Croatia, a peculiar tresure hunt ceremony is appropriated on Easter, much like it’s done on Christmas. This is usually done in rural, village areas, and is some form of folk magick-style dedication ritual, which is reported to result in providential spiritual guidance of the participant towards the  buried treasure, which is, upon retrieval “judged” and  consequently liberated from protective curses, that may have been laid upon it, or simply from bad “karma”, energies and intangible imprints. More on magickal treasure hunting, and this Eastern European folk ritual associated with it, hopefully on another occasion here.

In modern days, people hide Eastern eggs, and  make children go “Easter egg hunting” , then again, I’d say that’s hardly a parallel  :-) 

The first egg, that was dyed, most often a red one,  is reserved throughout the year by Orthodox Christian and called “house-guard”, it has cultic reverence tied to it, and is  believed to  protect the  home  and family form all misfortune and evil, and possesses healing powers. Laying the egg on the skin of people who are ill, or under the influence of evil spell, followed by appropriate prayer or psalm, or rubbing the egg against the afflicted area, can alleviate or cure the condition. It is used in various rituals of folk magick, one of which is as follows :

House-guard egg invigorating ritual

This simple folk ritual is done on the Eastern ( Paschal ) morning to ensure the health and well being of household members, and to bless them.

In a clean bowl, cold spring water is poured, and the petals of Violet, Calendula ( aka Marigold ), some leafs of  Basil and Dandelion. The  first red-dyed egg is dipped with the   water with herbs, and used to touch forehead, chin, right cheek, then left cheek ( in that particular order ) of each and every member of the household saying:

“So that You are rosy and healthy as  red egg”

Finally each person is  ( using three fingers to besprinkle ) sprinkled with the water, and the water is, akin to the egg, kept for all the year, though in the fridge.

On next Easter, some use the remaining water and the house guard egg  , for divination, they simply open the bottle with the reserved water and crack the egg. If there’s no foul odors, household members may expect times of  joy. [8]

Easter/Paschal  light devotional ritual

Following is a simple ritual I composed that seems  very befitting ( but alas, I’m bias lol ) for this particular holiday season

It would be ideal to fast during this ritual ( meaning from Good Friday  until  the Pashca ) and refrain from evil thoughts, acts, and try to forgive Your trespassers. A sincere and often praying is also of great assistance.

Take a brand new white candle, wash it with some Holy ( or Consecrated, Blessed water ) or Florida water.  Do this on Good Friday. Than dip it whole  in melted red wax, once or twice shall suffice, You only need a light coating. In fact to even further separate two layers, You may lightly dress candle with glycerin prior to the dip.  Now keep the candle on the altar, undisturbed, wrapped in some nice fabric until the Saturday night. On a piece of paper, write the things that ill You as well as Your good wishes crossing and covering them, and try to keep it as simple and concise as possible. This is one of those cases where less is more.  Just before Midnight, in almost  complete darkness,  and silence, take the candle out, and break the red wax at the top , so that the wick, and a bit of the top part of the candle are free and exposed. Now light the candle and say the Troparion quoted at the beginning of this article, then burn the paper where You’ve written about Your problems and wishes, and then say the Psalm 68th and Psalm 23rd. which can be followed by heartfelt and sincere prayer of Your own. Let the candle burn all the way down.

I know the Easter has passed for my Catholic brothers ( who use Julian calendar ) but nevertheless , Happy Easter to all, Catholic or Orthodox,

Christ is risen !

Abundance of Blessings from Shadow :-)
NOTES: This article was composed and written by myself,  meaning, If You wish to  use any part of it elsweher online,  You may, but add   them credits;  Shadow of Shadows magick place, Shado-333@hotmail.com or a direct link to this post
* Paschal troparion , preceded with verses of Psalm 67 ( 68 ) as sung on the beginning of the liturgical service on Easter in Orthodox Christianity,  retrieved here from : http://orthodoxwiki.org/Easter

[5] Retrieved from the same source as under [5]
[6] Retrieved from the  website mentioned in the text, being : http://www.holyfire.org/eng/

[8] Translated and adopted from ( by myself ) : “Kalendar za srecne dane” ( lit. Calendary  for the  lucky days  )  by Jasna Jojic Pavlovski, more information on the book anf author can be found here:  http://www.lekiamajlija.com 

Other consulted  pages and resources:

Image source: Resurrection depiction by Noel Coypel is from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Noel-coypel-the-resurrection-of-christ-1700.jpg  , Image of the Holy Fire is a photography as found on source given under [6]  both used for illustrative and explanatory purposes here without any   bad intentions , the second  is as found on: http://www.holyfire.org/eng/ , image depicting Church of The Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem is from Wikipedia; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Jerusalem_Holy_Sepulchre_BW_19.JPG , again  used for illustrative and explanatory purposes  only. Image depicting House-guard eggs, as part of Eastern Orthodox Tradition,  is from http://blog.b92.net/user_stuff/upload/843/vaskrs1.6843.jpg  and once again, used here for illustrative and explanatory purposes  without  any  bad intentions