From ancient byways to modern highways, glimpses of faith are everywhere...

Monday, April 25, 2011

Dyngus Day: Buckets of fun

Mieszko I (by Aleksander Lesser) 
It’s Dyngus Day - which means that some young ladies may awaken to the drenched reality of overturned water buckets.  Those who are especially heavy sleepers might then find themselves tapped with pussy-willow branches.

How is it that dousing has rivaled alarm clocks on this day?  Some say that the answer can be traced to Mieszko I of Poland.

Before there was a Poland, there was a Polans.  This name was derived from the old Slavic term polje, meaning “field.”
The Polans were a Slavic tribe that inhabited the Warta river
basin of 8th-century Greater Poland.  The first dynasty to rule Poland was the Piast, and Mieszko I was the Piast dynasty’s first historical ruler.  He is also referred to as “Dagome, King of the Wends” (Wends meaning “West Slavs”).

After a turbulent period of fighting and conquering other tribes, Mieszko was ready to settle down.  This not only meant marriage, but it also meant baptism.  His bride was Dobrawa, daughter of the Bohemian ruler Boleslav I the Cruel (named such because of murdering his brother, “The Good” King Wenceslas, for political reasons).  The marriage most likely occurred in 965 CE, and Mieszko’s Christian baptism most likely occurred in 966 CE.

Theories abound concerning this baptism.  According to Wikipedia, some say that it was strictly a political move.  After all, it would more closely align Mieszko’s kingdom with the Czechs, Polabian Slavs, and German margraves.  Others credit Mieszko’s wife, Dobrawa, with influencing him to embrace the Christian faith.

Although the reasons for this baptism are debatable, other aspects of it are much more certain.  It became a turning point in the religious history of Poland – away from tribal religions, and toward Christianity.  It began the spread of Latin (Roman Empire) culture (including liturgies, clergy, missionaries, and the Papacy) into Poland.  It even culminated in the issuance of the Dagome iudex, a document which officially placed Mieszko’s lands under the Pope’s protection.

Another most-certain aspect is that Mieszko’s baptism involved water.  Thus, the emphasis upon water on
Dyngus Day…  But what about the pussy willows? reports that when kittens fell into
a raging spring river many moons ago, the willows took pity upon them and scooped them up.  According to Polish lore, furry buds appear each year where the kittens once clung.


Copyright April 25, 2011 by Linda Van Slyke

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