Pava’s neighbour dropped by yesterday with a gift for her. I was in the house, so I missed her. The gift was this wreath. Pava always has wreaths with special herbs and garlic on them at her gate, on her shed, on her house, and little dried up bundles of basil stuck in crevasses here and there. I asked Vanja about it our first year here, and he just laughed and said they were to ward off evil spirits. I was immediately tuned in. What do you mean? He actually wouldn’t or couldn’t, but didn’t get into it. He just said that many of the elder Serb’s believed in superstition and then I did a little research and belief in superstition is inherent in many Eastern religions.
It’s funny, or odd, that the last war, and many others have taken place in the name of religion when so few actually really go to church and practice their religious beliefs. Rituals are definitely practiced, but faith in a God is most often not part of the ritual. It is more about “œwhat” you are than what you believe. Vanja never stepped a foot in a church through his entire life, and this was very common amongst his communist countrymen. And, it wasn’t as if they were communist in the sense that we understand in Canada. They were Socialists and lived in a communal state that was extremely liberal. There were no restrictions on travel from within the country. The people were able to keep their passports and allowed to apply to travel anywhere in the world. The standard of living was the highest of any eastern European country during the communist era and this enabled a great deal of freedom amongst the people.
From the old, to the new. So, as Saint Ivan’s Day was approaching, all old wreaths came down, and new fresh ones went up to proclaim to all who pass by that you are protecting your home and family from any ill will. You are doing the best you can to honour the traditions of your forefathers and carry on as best you can. Rituals are symbolic, and Pava feels at peace when she has her wreath on her wall. She believes she has done all she knows to do.
The special herb that is tied into this wreath is very important, and hard to find. It is Ivina Trava (Saint Ivan’s Grass) and symbolically protects the home as Saint Ivan is the protector of the home. Pava’s neighbour got it from a friend who sells it at the market so every year Pava knows she will have her new wreath for Saint Ivan’s Day made specially for her from her neighbour. The old one goes somewhere else on the property. If the gate is covered, then to the shed, the smoke house, the chicken house, or a tree. There is always room for another good omen.
And, even the old and dried ones are pretty. Of course, garlic is also added as an extra precaution to chase away the evil spirits. Basil is the herb of God and is the one used in the church at wedding ceremonies and christenings and any other church rituals. Pava places it in the crevasses throughout her house and yard to let the evil spirits know that she is a believer, and is protected from God.
They were selling them at the market, as well. One lady was making them at her stall with an abundance of the special herb to work with.
There are some that have a superstitious nature. If you worry about something, and express your worry out loud, some think that is a bad omen and that the worst may then happen. Best to not express worries out loud, and to have little wreaths at the gate.