Vračari: The Serbian Feast Day of Saints Cosmas and Damian, Folk Magic, and the Sacred Twins of African Origin

In Serbian folk understanding, there are two days of the week that are ideal for “throwing” magick (gatane, vračane): Tuesdays and Fridays. Hence today is a doubly auspicious day for magickal workings–not only is it a Friday, but it’s the Feast Day, in the Serbian Orthodox Church, of the Vračari: the Twin Magicians, Saints Cosmas and Damian (Kozma i Damijan in Serbian).

Brazilian-made statues of Saints Cosmas and Damian are prominently featured on my ancestor altar. A Byzantine icon depicting Them as the "Vračari" lies at the base. I bought the statue in one of New Orleans' many Vodou shops when I visited in 2011.

A Brazilian-made statue of Saints Cosmas and Damian is prominently (and permanently) featured on my ancestor altar. A Byzantine icon depicting them as the “Vračari” lies at the base. I bought the statue in one of New Orleans’ many shops catering to Vodou practitioners when I visited the Crescent City in 2011.

The official Eastern Orthodox Church lore regarding them is pretty scant. Catechetical books say they were they were doctors renowned for supernatural healing skills, ones who didn’t accept payment for their miracle cures. They lived/were martyred in the third century CE, and they even wound up healing the nasty man who sentenced them to death.

This is where folklore becomes much more of a reliable indicator of the importance of these saints in Serbian culture than official Church doctrine. In a nutshell, Sveti Vračari–literally, “the Saints Who Throw Magick”–are petitioned by everyday people (but especially women, as Serbian folk magic is overwhelmingly a female phenomenon) to expedite their personal magical workings. Should the Saints’ Feast Day fall on a Tuesday or Friday, so much the better! Those workings can be of a self-directed or externally oriented nature, of course, and since Saints Cosmas and Damian were healers while alive, spells to effect healing in one’s self or on behalf of someone else are, not surprisingly, the chief reasons why the Vračari are invoked. Continue reading

The New World Wyrd: Polytheistic Pagan Practices, Cultural Contexts, and Defining Boundaries in Pursuit of the Limitless

A photo taken of me and fellow members of the Ifá house, Ilē Ayó (The House of Joy), at a bembe for the orisha Oyá. October, 2012

A photo taken of me and fellow members of the Ifá house, Ilē Ayó (The House of Joy), at a bembe for the orisha Oyá. Chicago, October 2012

I was 18 years old when I came out of the broom closet to my Serbian immigrant parents, announcing that the Serbian Orthodox Christian faith in which they’d raised me was irreconcilable with my expanding consciousness that came to understand Deity, humanity’s relationship with nature, and human nature itself in ways that were markedly different from the catechism of my upbringing. While my parents weren’t wholly surprised–despite being devout Christians they (especially my mother) always encouraged openminded inquiry about world religions; furthermore, it was commonly accepted in my family that I was “weird”–there was an air of sadness to near elegiac levels in the kitchen of my childhood home that September day when I made my announcement. Continue reading

Go to Hel, Part 2: “Please, Don’t Squeeze the Shaman”: Journeying Deep into Helheim

It all began in August of 2013, when I moved into my first-ever purchased home: a cozy condo in Chicago’s far northwest corner—a neighborhood, unbeknownst to me at the time, notoriously known for its ghastly history and stupendously huge mass paupers’ graves lurking beneath my very subdivision and a large swath of the surrounding area! Continue reading

Qui Est Vestri Nomen? Self-Identity Crisis in “The Exorcist”

T.S. Eliot, in his whimsical Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats (1939), informs us that “The Naming of Cats is a difficult matter/ It isn’t just one of your holiday games.” In a metaphysical sense, the naming of anything is a task fraught with great responsibility and power, for to truly understand the name of something—or understand the true name of something—is to have power over it. Continue reading