a parcel of books arrived…
a parcel of books arrived yesterday. among them was folklore of world holidays. sister ordered it and i'm envious of its cool. april 23 is st. george's day. the book lists several folk practices in several different countries. by far the most interesting is the romanian observance. observe:
(an excerpt from folklore of world holidays, 2nd edition.)
vampires on st.george night
"the feast of the goodness of things…st.george is master of the weather; he plays with weather as he pleases!"
thus speaks outza. she has a profound reverence for this fine knight, patron of the flocks, divinity of cowsheds. we are not talking here of the knight of cappadocia, the christian theseus who delivered his princess from that monster inevitably associated with princesses; we talk rather of a certain cowherd on horseback, the good genius of horned beasts, and protector of the wells of milk: "saint george of the cows," they call him here.
every year the thresholds of houses and cowsheds and sheepfolds are decked in his honour with green branches, and at the same time the thorny sprigs of wild rose are nailed to door-frames and fixed beside the windows. these are efficacious for keeping evil spirits at a distance, and miraculously endowed with the property of hooking the raiment of thieves.
to-night, st.george's night, a watch is kept. the milk-vampires are prowling the countryside in search of the sustenance their fate compels them to seek.
the vampires, to bring about their monopoly of milk, resort to a magical stratagem. on this night they go out from their unholy houses, with an earthenware pot in one hand, and in the other a long strip of cloth, spun, woven, and stitched "by moonlight and before the first cockcrow." they drag their enchanted sheet across the meadows, and when it is covered in dew they wring into their jugs the precious water thus lifted from the grass.
here is the prayer of the vampires, as outza recites it:
i have dragged my cloth in the fields,–i have gathered the milk of my neighbors' kine,–it is not the dew that i caught in my cloth,–it is the manna of my neighbor that i caught.–for her, milk as clear as water,–for me, milk as sweet as honey,–as golden as bees' wax,–as rich as the broth of maize!"
by vigil and prayer, and by repeating other magical words to combat the effect of these, and above all by blessed aid of st.george, they count on thwarting the designs of the vampires.
"but it's difficult," says outza,"because the grass is robbed of its dew, wherever they've gone past dragging their cloths, and it goes bad."
and when our beasts graze there, they turn sickly, and their eyes grow dim and their coats bristle up; they get thin and languish and tire, as if if it were winter. but the cows of the vampires! they get fatter every day, and more frisky too, and more lovely. o! may st.george confound them, and help our cows!
source: isvor:the country of willows by princess bibesco. new york: frederick a. stokes, 1924, pp.113-115.
i was too tuckered yesterday to fiddle with posting this. but i thought it was worth posting even if a day late. i considered recording a reading of this a la gaw. but really i hate the way my recorded voice sounds. like a small nasally boy. unpleasant.