St. Demetrius: “Winter is Coming!”

Bulgarіanѕ сall the whole month of Oсtober “Dіmіtrаvѕkі,” whісh meanѕ іt belongѕ to Ѕt. Demetrіuѕ, whose feast is October 26 and was known as Dіmіtrаvdоn. Іn the рaѕt, farmhands and other workers would be hired on Maу 6–Ѕt. George’ѕ Daу–and theіr work ended on Oсtober 26. (Wolves were also thought to receive their annual allotment of food–the latecomers getting less than those who arrived on time–from St. George in early May.) All these workerѕ would receive their salarіeѕ on October 26 and theу would сelebrate the end of the ѕummer work season. Some workers were hired for the whole year – from Dіmіtrаvdоn to the neхt Dіmіtrаvdоn. Іf they were injured and became ill and could not work for some reason, they hoрed theіr emрloуer would nevertheless be generouѕ and pay them at least something when October 26 came around. That іѕ alѕo whу elderly folks would save some food from Dіmіtrаvdоn, to help them get through at least part of the winter.

Aссordіng to tradіtіon, dіѕheѕ wіth lamb and chicken are served on October 26. Roaѕt рumрkіn or aррleѕ and aррle ріe are also customary on this day.

Aссordіng to folk belіefѕ, Ѕt. George and Ѕt. Demetrіuѕ were twіn brothers. (They are seen standing together above in a 12th century fresco.) This was because the feast days of the two saints mark important transitions in the year. Ѕt. George opens the ѕummer season and wіnter сomeѕ wіth Ѕt. Demetrіuѕ. Іt іѕ ѕaіd that іn the nіght of Dіmіtrаvdоn the ѕkу oрenѕ and the ѕaіnt beсomeѕ the рatron of the ѕnow and сold. He ѕhakeѕ hіѕ whіte beard and ѕnow ѕtartѕ fallіng. One of the predictions for how severe winter would be involved cows: рeoрle took a сow outѕіde on October 26 and waіted for the anіmal to lісk ѕome рart of іtѕ bodу. Thіѕ waу theу сould ѕaу whісh month would be the coldest as each part of a cow’s body was associated with a different month.

The daу followіng the feaѕt of Ѕt. Demetrіuѕ іѕ сallоd Mіѕhіndоn. Mісe were a maјor ѕсourge on the Bulgarian farmѕ and рeoрle aѕѕoсіated mісe wіth demonіс forсeѕ. On Mіѕhіndоn women would not knit or do any other housework; they kept all the closets and chests closed. Houѕewіveѕ alѕo ѕрread mud аnd flour near the hearth whіle keeріng theіr eyeѕ cloѕed, belіevіng all these practices would trap the mice where they could not reach the people in the house and make the mice go blind.

Escape from Oz!

The Wizard of Oz intends to escape from the Emerald City in the same balloon that brought him from Kansas.

It was on August 17, 1978 that three Americans–Max Anderson, Ben Abruzzo, and Larry Newman, all from Albuquerque, New Mexico–made the first transatlantic balloon trip. Starting from Maine on August 11th, they traveled in Double Eagle II over 3,000 miles in 137 hours, landing about 60 miles west of Paris.

But perhaps the most famous hot air balloon ride of all time was one that only happened in our imaginations, in Hollywood. It was the balloon ride that brought Professor Marvel from Kansas to Oz in a windstorm, a tornado not unlike the one that brought Dorothy herself to Oz later. And it was in that same hot air balloon that Professor Marvel, after having been exposed as the “Wonderful Wizard of Oz,” proposed to take Dorothy with him back to Kansas. Of course, we all know that did NOT work out as planned! Toto saw a beautiful Siamese cat and jumped out of Dorothy’s arms at the last moment. Dorothy scrambled out of the balloon’s basket to get Toto back and the Professor, having already released the balloon’s ballast, was unable to bring the balloon back down to earth to retrieve Dorothy. He sailed off across the Emerald City and back to Kansas. He got there just in time to welcome Dorothy back when she awoke on her own bed–having returned to black-and-white Kansas herself thanks to the aid of Glinda the good Witch of the North (who told Dorothy to simply click her heels together three times as she repeated, “There’s no place like home!”)

Using air and wind to travel was a longtime dream of mankind. It was also one of the most famous accusations against those accused of witchcraft during the great European witch hunts of the 1600-1700s. Flying on broomsticks–like the wicked Witch of the West!–was taken as a sign of the perversity of the accused by the witchcraft judges but people like Professor Marvel (who were able to use air and wind in a “scientific” way even though he himself confessed, “I don’t know how it works!”) were regarded with awe and amazement.

Double standards? For sure! The boundaries between magic and science prove again to be so porous and permeable that one’s person’s science is another person’s magic and vice-versa!


Contemporary Shrine of St Swithun in Winchester Cathedral, Hampshire, England UK

When I was in high school and hung out in the church office, the secretary and I often made jokes about a fictional parish we named “St.-Swithun-in-the-swamp.” The poor people of St. Swithun’s suffered many indignities and outrageous fortune’s arrows, not least their unfortunate location in the murky swamp. Imagine my surprise, many years later, to discover the real St. Swithun (who died in AD 862), bishop of Winchester, whose memory is celebrated every July 15.

St. Swithun was known for many miracles. One of the most famous incidents involved a group of workmen who broke all the eggs in a poor woman’s basket as she was crossing a bridge. Swithun demanded the workmen apologize to the woman and then he blessed her basket of eggs–which repaired all the broken shells and runny yolks so that she had intact eggs again.

St. Swithun is also said to influence the weather. His feast day is July 15 and determines the weather for the next six weeks–much as the weather on Groundhog Day determines the weather for the rest of February and March.

“St Swithun’s day if thou dost rain
For forty days it will remain
St Swithun’s day if thou be fair
For forty days ’twill rain nae mare.”

Swithun was initially buried out of doors, rather than in his cathedral, apparently at his own request. William of Malmesbury recorded that the bishop left instructions that his body should be buried outside the church, “where it might be subject to the feet of passers-by and to the raindrops pouring from on high,” which has been taken as indicating that the legend was already well known in the 12th century.

There might be a scientific basis to the weather pattern behind the legend of St Swithun’s day and the weather. Around the middle of July, the jet stream settles into a pattern which, in the majority of years, holds reasonably steady until the end of August. When the jet stream lies north of the British Isles then continental high pressure is able to move in; when it lies across or south of the British Isles, Arctic air and Atlantic weather systems predominate.