My House – My Fortress

It is unfortunate, but with each new generation, more and more people relocate into large cities and leave small settlements and villages. The fault lies within the propaganda that is mainly aimed at a younger audience, “hook them while they’re young” sort of thing. Children are shown through various channels: television, music, social networks, fashion magazines, modern books and lately even textbooks that life in large cities is fun and exciting, while life in small settlements is dull and boring. When these children grow up, almost all of them (and we’re talking close to 99%) will ask the same question: “Who needs a house in the woods close to Nature, when I can live in the middle of it all, where all the fun is happening?”

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Generation after generation, more and more individuals get used to living in apartments (but in a city) vs. living in own home in a small village. Even many of those who were born in small towns and villages aim to build their lives and raise their families in large towns and cities, in multi-family apartment buildings. Today, many Slavs look at their dwelling as just a place where one can eat, sleep and watch television. It also may be the reason why after leaving own home, many individuals do not feel any kind of attachment to it.

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Before, a home was much more for a Slav. It was a dining hall, a fortress and even a temple. The house was believed to be alive, and looking after it did not just mean keeping it clean. Everyone knew that a house had own magical places and even symbolic items with which one could create harmony around them, protect themselves against the dark forces, attract wealth, health and even happiness.

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The threshold was very important to our Ancestors. Our Ancestors understood that it was not only the border between the house and the street, but also between the outer space and the space in which the family resides. Therefore, our Ancestors even asked the threshold to protect them from people with ill thoughts by forcing them to stumble and leave all of the bad outside the home. In addition, the threshold is also the boundary between the world of the living and the world of the dead. Before, the ashes of the Ancestors used to be buried under the threshold, so they would protect their Rod. It was also one reason why one should never stand long at the threshold, especially pregnant women. Many superstitions about the threshold are preserved in many Slavic Rods to this day. Dirt was never swept over the threshold, in order not to sweep anyone from the family. It is also not allowed to cross the threshold with one foot booted and the other foot bare, or you will never marry. Also, nothing was passed across the threshold, and a hand was never offered (to shake or help).

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A very special place was believed to be the corner diagonally across of the Slavic furnace – Pokut’e. Images of the Deities, towels with special embroidery and valuable household items were placed there. Also, a table covered with tablecloth was placed there. Later, religious icons were placed in such corner. Pokut’e was also decorated with cherry twigs and different herbs. According to tradition, Pokut’e must be “facing the sun” (or East). The most important guests were always offered to sit by Pokut’e. Also, the first bath of a newborn took place near Pokut’e. In addition, all those who left the physical world were placed with their head to Pokut’e. Newlyweds were also honored in this sacred place. All important events of human lives have been associated with this home temple.

The furnace was always considered to be the most mystical place in the house. The furnace has always been revered, for it gave both heat and the possibility for cooking and baking bread. Most importantly, it was the place where fire lived, the protector and the guardian of the family; the manifestation of Fire-Svarozhich. The furnace was always kept clean and was often decorated and painted with flowers. It was also forbidden to curse around the furnace, just as around a child or images of the Deities. Just that alone should tell you of how pure and honorable our Ancestors were, when today, arguments and cursing is often heard everywhere one may go in a city. Yes, most of us do not have furnaces, but that should not prevent us from leading pure and honorable lives. Slavic wives and mothers also knew that cooking was a magical act in itself; therefore, other than salt and spices, they added pure and positive feelings and mental images. This tradition has reached our time; no one is allowed to shout or slam the door, while the woman of the house is cooking. House cleaning always began from the door and to the furnace, and not vice versa. The rubbish itself was always burned in the furnace and never thrown out. It was believed that the energy of the inhabitants of the house was preserved in the rubbish; it was a way of protecting one’s self from negative influence of others, therefore the saying “Do not carry rubbish out of the home”. It was also believed that Domovoy lived on the furnace. In order to protect the home from fire during a thunderstorm, several twigs of willow were thrown into the furnace. Furnace was never left empty: firewood was left in it overnight, in order to dry it out; or water was placed in it, in order to warm it up.

From ancient times, the table in the house was the kind of an altar. The first thing that was carried into the house was always the table covered with tablecloth, on which bread was placed. The bride passed a handkerchief across the table to the groom showing her agreement to marriage. Most importantly, the family ate at the table; and the general acceptance of food is a real ritual of unity, peace and friendship. It was forbidden to sit on the table, for bread was placed there; and bread was always sacred in Slavic tradition. It was also believed that the food left on the table was for Deities, Ancestors and Spirits, so such objects as knives, keys and matches were never left on the table. The youth never sat in the corner of the table, otherwise one could stay without the groom or the bride. Guests were only treated to a clothed table.

Bread was always sacred in the Slavic tradition, survival and prosperity of Rod depended directly on bread. Each loaf of bread carried an enormous amount of energy and labor that was placed into it. It is a living, most beloved and dear creation of our hands, that is why it was always offered to our Deities and Ancestors. Accordingly, the container where the magic of fermentation and then the mixing of the dough happened, was believed to be a special object. Such container was called “Dizha”. It was believed that men could not look inside Dizha, for their mustache and beard would stop growing.

Another very important object in each home was the chest. Often, it was passed on from mother to daughter and was decorated with protective carvings. It stored the most important things for a maiden: the dowry, which she had to weave and embroider on her own: shirts, wedding towels, handkerchiefs and linens. Jewelry, buttons and other woman’s “treasures” were stored there. Chest always symbolized tradition that was passed on from mother to daughter, and with it a “chest” of knowledge, wisdom and skills. Many people always speak of traditions being forgotten, or modern times not being a place for ancient traditions; but, how difficult is it to order a handcrafted chest from a skilled master in our modern world, in order for a mother to pass on all that is dear to her … to her daughter.

One of the most important objects in the home was always the bed. It was always placed in a favorable spot, which was determined with the aid of cats. Here, however, opinions greatly differ. Some believe that a bed should never be placed where the cat lays down, while others believe that a bed should always be placed in such a spot. It is no secret that cats feel thin energies, which we humans do not feel. I trust beliefs in this case, and that is to let the cat enter a new home first. If the cat refuses to enter, it means such home has undesirable energies and should be avoided. Also, one of desirables spots for a cat has always been on top of the furnace (a place for sleep as well). Coming from those beliefs, I believe a cat would never lay down in a spot with undesirable energy. Than again, we all are so different, that what may be good for one of us, may be harmful for another. So if you place a bed in a spot where a cat laid down and found that your wellbeing is not what it was, remove your bed from that spot. It was also believed that the bed should always be placed in such a way, that a person would always sleep with the head to the North. As a form of protection from evil spirits, garlic, chestnuts and amber were placed under the bed.

Cradles were always related to with utmost seriousness. For girls, a crib was always made from a female tree; and for boys, from a male tree. It was always hung in a place, from which a child could see dawn. If parents wanted a child to develop specific abilities, objects representing those abilities were placed in the cradle. It was forbidden to swing an empty cradle; it was believed that it could harm a child greatly. It was also believed that if a young woman, who has no children, was to swing the cradle, then soon she would have a child.

As you read this article, you might say: “What if the city is the only place I can find a job in order to provide for my family?” My answer to that will be as follows: While some individuals do nothing else but search for excuses, others search for solutions. I know of many individuals who, while working in a large metropolis, still found a way to live in a settlement of less than ten thousand inhabitants. The farthest I’ve heard of someone traveling to and from work each and every day, five days a week, was just over a hundred miles each way. Now if a person can do such a great sacrifice, just to make sure that his children are brought up in a much better place than the anthill of steel and concrete … what’s your excuse?

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