It is a tradition for families in Slovakia to eat carp on Christmas Eve, but before the fish can be prepared it has to swim in the family bathtub for a day or two. After the meal, everyone collects scales from the carp to bring them luck and prosperity, and they carry them in their wallets until the next Christmas Eve.

Variations of this tradition are also popular in nearby European countries, including Croatia, Poland, the Czech Republic, Austria, and Germany.


“Les Oreades“ (1902) - William Adolphe Bouguereau

‘The Oreads are the nymphs of mountains and grottoes (the most well known is Echo), who were said to come out in joyful, lively groups to hunt deer, chase wild boar and bring down birds of prey with their arrows. At Diana’s signal, they would come running to join her, forming a dazzling retinue behind her. The 1902 catalogue for the Salon gave this lengthy commentary after the title of the painting: “The shadows are dissipating; dawn appears, radiant, and colours the mountain tops pink. Then a long procession soars up into the sky: it is the joyful band of nymphs who, during the night, frolicked in the shadow of the forests and by the still waters of the river; they take to the air, watched by the astonished fauns, to return to their own realm and the ethereal regions inhabited by the gods”.

With this painting, Bouguereau shows himself to be firmly attached to his ideal of academic painting. As in another painting at Musée d'Orsay, The Assault, the mythological subject here is a pretext to demonstrate his outstanding drawing skills, capable of capturing all the attitudes and expressions of the human body. The mythological subject also enables him to introduce an erotic element without lapsing into bawdiness (the lust in the eyes of the Satyrs is, in this respect, unambiguous).
With this flight of female figures, Bouguereau boldly produced a painting that was highly imaginative and suffused with poetry, perceptible in the twilight landscape of the background, worthy of Corot, and tinged with Symbolist tones.‘ (Source:


4,000 Houses for 4,000 Followers: No 27:

Chateau de Chenonceau, Loire, France. 

Built in 1514-22 by renowned architect Philibert de l'Orme. 

Russian Superstitions


  • Knocking on wood is practiced in Russia as in other countries. However Russians tend to add a symbolic three spits over one’s left shoulder (or simply with the head turned to the left), and Russians will often knock three times as well. Traditionally one was spitting on the devil (who is always on the left).
  • Returning home for forgotten things is a bad omen. It is better to leave it behind, but if returning is necessary, one should look in the mirror before leaving the house again. Otherwise the journey will be bad.
  • If one feels that he or she may have been cursed by someone (the evil eye) or just has the feeling of a hostile presence, it is recommended to remove one’s coat and then put it back on starting with the hand opposing the usually used one. It is also recommended to pin a French Pin inside your clothing to avoid the curse of the evil eye in the first place.
  • Birds that land on a windowsill should be chased away. If they tap on the window, or fly into it (open or closed) it is considered a very bad omen (often of death).
  • A woman with empty water buckets coming towards you is considered a bad omen.
  • It is bad luck to use physical hand gestures to demonstrate something negative using oneself or someone else as the object. For example, when describing a scar you saw on someone’s face you should not gesture on your own face or someone else’s. If you must, you can demonstrate in mid-air. If one does it without realising, it can be countered by making a hand motion towards the body part used and then an abrupt motion away (as if to pick up the bad energy and throw it away) or by wiping the area with your hand and then blowing on your hand (as if to wipe off the bad energy and then blow it away).
  • Looking into a broken mirror almost certainly brings bad luck. The superstition says that if you look into a broken mirror, you break your inner world, and your soul becomes defenceless against the dark forces.


  • Never give yellow flowers to your lover, as it implies that an argument will happen and your relationship will end.
  • Lucky in cards not lucky in love. This, however, is only a pre-marital superstition. The reason for the division is that marriage is a sacrament in the Russian Orthodox Church, and this sacrament, ordained by God, eviscerates the pre-marital superstition. Thus, when a man is bonded by divine sacrament to a single woman whom he loves the cause and effect is reversed: namely, his married love for a single woman, and her love for him, will bring him good fortune in all endeavors including cards.
  • During the wedding ceremony, the bride and groom carry candles. Whoever’s candle died first, was the one who would die first.
  • If a woman puts too much salt on the meals this means she is in love.
  • Do not take your wedding ring off to show it to someone else, or worse still to let them try it on. The wedding ring is worn on your fourth finger, which is the one under the influence of the sun, and is a sign of our heart’s true love. If you take it off to show to another, it means you are giving away your love and happiness to a stranger.
  • In Russian superstition if a couple sets a wedding date and doesn’t end up getting married on that date they can not set another date and should not get married as their union will be cursed.

Cause And Effect

  • If your ears or cheeks are hot, someone is thinking or talking about you (usually speaking ill).
  • If your right eye itches, you’re going to be happy soon. If your left eye itches, you’ll be sad.
  • If you have hiccups, someone is remembering you at this moment.
  • If an eyelash falls out you’ll receive a gift. If someone finds an eyelash on someone he or she will sometimes let the person blow it away and make a wish.
  • If a fork or spoon falls on the ground, expect a female guest. If a knife falls, expect a male guest.
  • If someone sneezes while telling something, it means he or she is telling the truth.


  • Russians will typically avoid talking about pending successes. They believe that it is bad luck to talk about upcoming success before it actually occurs.
  • Never greet, or say goodbye to someone in a doorway. The threshold divides people, and in traditional Russian folklore, the house spirit resides here, so this superstition says that your greetings and gifts will not bring fortune or good luck.
  • It is best to cut your hair or nails during a full moon.
  • When someone is talking about something very undesirable or bad, the listener should say in Russian “Типун тебе на язык!” (tipun tebe na yazyk), which is generally translated as “Curse that tongue of yours!”. This expression is not meant to be offensive at all but is rather used as a spell for prevention of evil and bad luck.
  • Moving to the new house one must first let a cat go in first to assure harmony in the household.
  • If you sing on an empty stomach, you will chase your money away.
  • Do not pick up coins from the road. The popular belief is that such coins carry negative energy if they were thrown by a bad person and cause sickness.

“Traditional European witchcraft descends from shamanism, which is evident when we compare the abilities attributed to witches during the medieval witch trials with the powers of shamans. Witches healed the sick. They performed divination and augury. They conversed with spirits and kept familiar spirits as their servants, usually in the form of small animals such as cats. Witches were able to bewitch beasts, cause storms, and affect the growth of crops. Spirits instructed them in the technical details of their profession. Most significantly, it was believed that they had the power of flight. All these abilities are shamanic.


It is impossible to know how extensive the practice of witchcraft was in Europe prior to and during the Renaissance, when the persecution of witches by the Catholic and Protestant churches reached its height. The records of the witch interrogations and the literary works of witch finders, demonologists, and priests of the Inquisition certainly exaggerated their number outrageously, but when this exaggeration is discarded, it must be concluded that traditional shamanic skills passed from generation to generation as a cultural heritage of rural European communities formed the basis for the genuine practice of witchcraft.”

- Donald Tyson
Soul Flight: Astral Projection & the Magical Universe

Image Credit: Kindra Nikole


1800s Week!

Winslow Homer

Dressing for the Carnival

American (1877)

Oil on canvas

20 x 30 in. (50.8 x 76.2 cm), the Metropolitan Museum of Art

History of a European-African Tradition

Having visited Virginia as an artist-correspondent during the Civil War, Homer returned there at least once during the mid-1870s, apparently to observe what had happened to the lives of former slaves during the first decade of Emancipation. The brilliant light and color of this scene, originally titled “Sketch–4th of July in Virginia,” contradict its more solemn meaning.

The central figure is being dressed as Harlequin, the clown and social outcast of European comic theater. The strips of cloth being sewn to his costume, however, derive from African ceremonial dress and from the festival of Jonkonnu, when slaves left their quarters to dance at their master’s house.

In the years following the Civil War, aspects of Jonkonnu became part of the celebration of the Fourth of July and Emancipation. Here, the pageantry of multihued costumes suggests a festive celebration, but it also reflects the dislocation of traditional African culture and the beginnings of its transformation into a new tradition.


There are many folk traditions of the magic and curative power of our trees. This account below of a ‘hole healing’ comes from Dartmoor, England (the image above comes from Sweden and indicates the links of our folk heritage across Europe).

Cecil Torr wrote in his book Small Talk of Wreyland (1916) -

“A child was born here on 20 November 1902, and had a rupture. Some while afterwards I asked the father how the child was getting on, and the answer was - ‘Oh, it be a sight better since us put’n through a tree.’ And I found that they had carried out the ancient rite. The father had split an ash-tree on the hill behind his house, and had wedged the hole open with two chunks of oak. Then he and his wife took the child up there at day-break; and, as the sun rose, they passed it three times through the tree, from east to west. The mother took the child home, and the father pulled out the chunks of oak, and bandaged up the tree. As the tree-trunk healed, so would the rupture heal also. I asked why he did it, and he seemed surprised at the question, and said - ‘Why, all folk do it.’ I then asked him whether he thought that it really did much good, and the reply was - ‘Well, as much good as sloppin’ water over’n in church.’

Fantastic response :-)