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Fortune-telling on St. Andy’s eve

In Polish tradition, the day before the feast day of St. Andrew, has long been associated with fortune-telling games. This might be an interesting, “something different for a change” theme for your fall charitable or club function or other late-November get-together. Parishes named after St. Andrew should especially take notice.

Let’s start by learning how to pronounce “Andrzejki,” which is the Polish name for St. Andrew’s eve. First say “on” (as in off & on), “jay” (as in blue jay) and “kee” (as in key) and you get [on-JAY-kee].

Pouring wax through the hole of an old key is said to unlock one’s fortune
Pouring wax through the hole of an old key is said to unlock one’s fortune
One of the typical just-for-fun activities said to show whom a girl will get engaged to and marry is wax-pouring. That’s right! Each girl gets a turn pouring a portion (perhaps about 1/4 cup) of molten bee or candle wax into a basin of cold water. The wax may be heated until it melts in a metal dipper or held over a stove or flame. Candles are typically used at functions and larger gatherings. On contact with the cold water the wax immediately hardens into one shape of another.

Either the shape itself or the shadow it casts when held up to a strong light is said to predict matrimonial future. The shape may resemble someone’s head, the first letter of a name or some other object associated with a particular person. Traditionally the molten wax is poured in a thin stream through the eye of large, old-fashion key which is said to unlock the future.

Today, it is customary for men to pour wax as well and play along in the guessing game of what the wax formation foretells. Organizers of many traditional Andrzejki dances at clubs or cultural centers invite a live psychic to read “Andrzejkowe wrozby” or St. Andy’s Eve fortunes.

Another game is the shoe line. All the eligible girls present take off their left shoe and place it in a pile near a wall. One of the boys may be asked to do the honors and line the shoes up heel-to-toe pointing towards the nearest door. The girl whose shoe completely clears the threshold is the first expected to marry and should get a suitable prize. Something humorously “housewifely” like an embroidered apron, carved wooden spoon, rolling-pin or broom should get a good laugh.

The pot game is prepared in advance by the party’s hosts. Each girl taking part is led individually to a series of pots, bowls, boxes or other non-translucent containers placed upside down on a table. Various objects said to predict the girl’s future are concealed under each of them. For instance a ring (means imminent marriage), a baby toy (pregnancy), a rosary (becoming a nun), apron (housewife), a cake (abundance), book (old maid), money (career woman), wine glass (drunk), a piece of sod (death), etc. The first container the girl points to is said to reveal what the future holds in store.

Another Andrzejki game is the apple-peel toss. Each participating girl peels an apple so the entire skin comes off in a single strand. If it breaks, she is disqualified. She then flings the unbroken peel over her shoulder. The peel often lands on the floor and assumes the shape of a letter which is said to indicate the name of her future fiancé or husband. If the peel does not resemble any recognizable letter, that means the peel-tosser will not get engaged for quite some time.

Finally there is the cake jump. Cakes such as pączki, donuts, pierniczki or Danish are suspended from the ceiling on strings at a height of several inches above the top of each participant’s head. In order to bite into it, the participant must jump up. Those that succeed on the first try are the first ones said to go to the altar.

Try some or all of the above games at your late-November get-together and see how much fun you and your group may have been missing. If you’re attending an Andzejki dance or gathering, do not be surprised to see everyone engaged in a little fortune telling as part of the celebration.

Author/Source: Robert Strybel