Polish folk beliefs

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Circles play a large part in Polish mythology. Most ancient Slavic people worshipped in natural circles and groves; and it plays a large part in all kinds of folk magic. In all traditions, circles can be made of with lighted candles, drawing circles in the soil, or with natural objects and tools. They are used to surround evil or protect oneself from it.


As in other European traditions, the crossroads in Polish mythology are a sacred and magical place where both divination and invocations were uttered. Talismans and amulets were hung or buried there, as well as other spell work was conducted. The crossroads were a place where all places and directions meet; and all time faded away into the present moment.

The legacy of this tradition can be seen all across present-day Poland, where tens of thousands of crosses and statues of the Virgin Mary stand next to major and minor crossroads. The Catholic Church, as with many other cultures, absorbed what was good in the symbolism of what it found there while utterly transforming its purpose. Accordingly, crossroads were marked by crosses and statues, as special places where wayfarers would be under the protection of saints.


Forms of divination in Polish mythology that were practiced in Poland included the following: Candle wax dripped in a glass of water was held up to the light for interpretation; herbs thrown on the fire produced smoke that could be interpreted by the shape of patterns it made; finding pysanky patterns in the natural world would yield a prediction of fortune.

Fire Flowers[edit]

In Polish mythology, fire flowers are mystical blooms. To find this powerful plant the seeker had to enter a forest before midnight on the Eve of Kupala. The flower would climb up the stalk of the fern, and precisely at midnight it would bloom so brightly that no one could look directly at it. In order to harvest it, a circle had to be drawn around it, and the seeker had to deal with demons trying to distract him/her from doing so. It was said that if you answered the voices, or faltered during the task, it would cost you your own life. Anyone possessing this flower gained the ability to read minds, find treasure, and repel all evils.


In Polish mythology, spoiling is a term used to mean a curse being on someone, or working magic against someone. One way of doing this is measuring out the exact length of someone’s footprint with a string, and then burning the string. A footprint in mud or snow was dug up and buried under the victim’s house to cause grief. Spoiling may be averted by lighting a candle if you are not face to face with the culprit, or by spitting on the ground, or by throwing dirt in the direction of the culprit walking away.


Further reading[edit]

  • Bonnerjea, B. A Dictionary of Superstitions and Mythology. London 1927
  • Chrypinski, Anna, editor. Polish Customs. Friends of Polish Art: Detroit, MI, 1977.
  • Contoski, Josepha K., editor. Treasured Polish Songs with English Translations. Polanie Publishing Co.: Minneapolis, MN, 1953.
  • Estes, Clarissa Pinkola, Ph.D. Women Who Run With the Wolves. Ballantine Books: New York, 1992.
  • Gimbutas, Marijas. The Slavs. Preager Publishers: New York, 1971.
  • Ingeman, B. S. Grundtræk til En Nord-Slavisk og Vendisk Gudelære. Copenhagen 1824.
  • Knab, Sophie Hodorowicz. Polish Customs, Traditions, & Folklore. Hippocrene Books: New York, 1993.
  • Knab, Sophie Hodorowicz. Polish Herbs, Flowers, and Folk Medicine. Hippocrene Books: New York, 1995.
  • Krasicki, Ignacy (tr by Gerard Kapolka) Polish Fables : Bilingual. 1997
  • Leland, Charles Godfrey. Gypsy Sorcery and Fortune Telling. New York: University Books, 1962
  • Zajdler, Zoe. Polish Fairy Tales. Chicago, Ill: Follett Publishing, 1959
  • Sekalski, Anstruther J. Old Polish Legends. 1997
  • Singing Back The Sun: A Dictionary of Old Polish Customs and Beliefs, Okana, 1999
  • Szyjewski, Andrzej: Slavic Religion, WAM, Kraków, 2003
  • Nelson, Felicitas H. Talismans and Amulets, 2008