HERBAL HOLYDAY August 15th
[Meadow grass celebration, Feast of the Assumption, a.k.a. ŽOLINĖ]
This is one of the most esteemed Virgin Mary's holy days, going to heaven.
Lithuanian names for this holy day are "Žolinė", Herbal Holy
Day and "Kopūstinė", Cabbage Day. The names show that this day
is associated with traditions of the Christian periods, marking the juncture
of summer, autumn and winter, the completion of most important agricultural
This day, everyone who goes to church carries herbs, blooming garden
flowers, to be blessed. The herbal bouquets also contained ears of rye,
barley, oats, sweet peas, cabbages, carrots and apples.
It was said that if on this day one did not hold herbs in church, the
devil will give his tail to hold.
In the spring, the blessed ears of grain were pulverized and mixed
with seed grain, to assure an abundant harvest. Vegetables from the blessed
bouquets were divided among all family members and some were fed to animals.
Dried herbs were kept in the house, behind pictures of the saints. When
thunder roared, the house was smoked with the dried herbs and sick people
drank herbal teas.
Peasant women believed and some even now believe that thistles can
be removed from fields. Uproot the thistles, place them in a bouquet with
herbs and take them to be blessed on the Herbal Holy Day. Return the blessed
thistles to the field, dig them under, with roots sticking out.
One more belief, if there are many children's deaths in a family, place
a garden green with other herbs and after the blessing plant the blessed
garden green on the grave of the last dead child. It was hoped that there
would be no more children's deaths in the family. Houses were decorated
with the blessed herbal bouquets to prevent lightning strikes. In the region
of Dzūkija, tradition exists to stuff blessed herbal bouquets into
pillows of the dead These blessed herbs were also used to smoke coffins
Grain, vegetable and herb blessing is linked with sacrifice and gratitude
for the new harvest. It is more difficult to explain the belief known throughout
Lithuania, women who have dead children should not eat apples until the
apples are blessed. Older women are observing this imposed ban even today.
It is said if a woman has eaten just one apple before the Herbal Holy Day,
her child will not receive an apple in heaven. For example, on this day
Virgin Mary distributes apples among dead children, those children whose
mothers do not observe this ban receive no apples. Virgin Mary says, "
your mother ate your apple". In some Lithuanian villages such women do
not eat pears and plums.
The ancient tradition on Herbal Holy Day is for relatives to get together
for a short visit.. It is said, he who does not attend the get together,
will remain poor. 14th century writers wrote that this folk
belief of ancient traditions reflects autumnal gatherings. In the chronicles
of M.Strijkovski, he alleges that several joint parties are organized in
villages. Grain is set aside early, for beer making. There is a ritual
sacrifice of cattle, their meat is cooked and eaten. Bread is baked following
a ritual bread baking on that day. Flat breads made from new harvest flour
are thrown back and forth over the fire, until they are baked.
Ancient agrarian and cults of the dead traditions are
intertwined with traditions of Herbal Holy Day. In southern Lithuania,
the tradition of celebrating the dead ancestors continues even on this
day. Dead ancestors are offered foods prepared from the new harvest. Beggars
are also treated to the new harvest foods, because they pray for the dead.
In the morning , after all food has been prepared, the table is set and
everyone sits around it. Then the master of the house lights a candle and
sends it around the table, to be held by each person. When the candle has
come the full round, the master of the house picks up the candle and walks
3 times around the foods, dedicated to the dead ancestors. Eating begins
after that. Any leftover foods are taken to beggars or to old peoples'
translated by Asta Dumšytė