Today, Ukrainians celebrate Zeleni Svyata (Green Holidays), an ancient pre-Christian fertility festival closely linked to the spring-to-summer transition, the cult of the dead and agricultural rites. In modern day Ukraine it is closely tied to and celebrated along with Pentecostal Sunday and Monday.
The insides and outsides of homes are decorated with grasses and greenery, fragrant plants and wildflowers, birch, linden and oak branches – symbols of vegetative power. First, the greenery must be taken to church and blessed by the priest. Grasses and greenery are believed to possess special powers that protect dwellings from evil and magic. Young girls and boys get together, weave wreaths, sing, dance and welcome the summer period.
The Rusalky (water nymphs) were believed to be most dangerous during these days, leaving their watery depths to swing on branches of birch and willow trees at night. Peasant women sometimes hung offerings to appease them. A cross, a magic circle, incense, garlic, wormwood, and verbal charms were used as protection against the Rusalky and other mischievous forest creatures. Swimming was strictly forbidden as these wily mermaids could drag swimmers down to the river floor.
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My name is Mark Stratford. I live in the UK married to a Ukrainian. I travel to Ukraine several times a year.