The October Spell to be Wed

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A Ukrainian icon featuring the Mother of God, or Pokrova, shielding various nobles with her shawl.

“A maiden’s prayer to be wed” is the third spell in A Collection of Ukrainian Spells. This spell was popular in Ukraine among single women, who wanted to get married. They read this incantation on 14 October:

‘Holy Mother, dear Pokrova,
Cover my head,
Even if with a rag,
As long as I don’t remain unwed.’ 

Here is a transliteration of the spell in Ukrainian:

‘Sviata Pokrovon’ko
Pokryi meni holovon’ku
Khotch hanchyrkoyu, 
Aby ne zostavalas divkoyu.’

Generally, the Church considers spells and certain folk customs to be an expression of “paganism”. Interestingly, in our case, the date, when this spell is performed is directly related to a Christian holiday. This is the day when Ukrainian Christians celebrate the Feast Day of Pokrova (also known as, Feast Day of the Protection of the Mother of God). Let’s face it, this isn’t the first instance when innate cultural beliefs incorporated a mainstream religious doctrine. Take, for example, voodoo…

Here, the explanation behind the connection between the “wedding” spell and the Christian holiday is very interesting. Both are united by one word: “Pokrova”. This word is derived from “pokryvaty” or “kryty” and means “to cover” or “to shield”.

“Pokrova” in a wedding custom:

The main words in relation to Pokrova in our spell are “Cover my head”. The sentence refers to a very old tradition, which is the apotheosis of a traditional wedding ceremony. In many regions of Ukraine, there is the ritual of covering a bride’s head with a kerchief or another type of headdress. The headdress signifies the woman’s married status.

“Pokrova” in a religious sense:

Pokrova means omophorion, which initially was a kerchief or a shawl, a part of the clothing of the Mother of God. According to legends, the Mother of God uses her pokrova to cover those, whom she wants to save from death. There is a legend that tells that many centuries ago, the Rus [Kyiv Rus] army led by Askold and Dyr, besieged Constantinople, the centre of Orthodoxy. The residents of the city fervently prayed to the Mother of God begging for protection. The Mother of God appeared before them, covered them with her omophorion and they became invisible to the enemy. 

With time, the word Pokrova began to be used to refer to Mother of God Herself or the Feast Day of the Protection of the Mother of God. The Feast Day of Pokrova is celebrated annually on 14 October. In Ukraine, the Pokrova Feast Day also coincides with the Day of Defender of Ukraine, the Day of the Ukrainian Kozaks, and the anniversary of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA).

A Collection of Ukrainian Spells contains a calendar for the spells that fall on certain dates. This way, it’ll make it easier for you to find when you need to read a spell to protect your bees, if you are a beekeeper, or to protect yourself from bullets if you’re a soldier.