Saturday, March 12, 2011

Halloween on the Old Calendar: When "Tales from the Crypt" Meets the Menaion


Today is the Saturday of Saint Theodore.

He was an early Christian Martyr and Military Saint, along with Saint George and Saint Demetrius. He was killed by being tied to running horses, and dragged by them for miles, until he died exhausted from severe wounds and bleedings. His celebration is especially honored among the Slavs: i.e., working on this day would be forbidden. My maternal grandmother is of Slavic (Bulgarian) background: her family-name is Putin. (Sounds all really sweet and innocent until now, doesn't it?...)

Now I'm gonna tell you a creepy little horror-story, that my granny used to tell me back when I was a little kid, and which scared the living life out of me: it's the kind of stuff that they don't tell you in Convert-Land. (If you have enough trouble dealing with the Ascension of Mary, then you better hold your horses [pun intended], 'cause this one's gonna give you a heart-attack...)


Saint Theodore's Horses

It was Saint Theodore's day. Everybody was supposed to rest. But, in a small remote village, an old mother and her young daughters had still a lot of unfinished business around the household... lots and lots of chores to be done... The younger sibling was feeling a bit sick and under the weather (plus, she was weak, and way too young), so her mother decided she better stay at home, while the others go and wash all the clothes and bed-sheets down by the river... While they were doing that, a group of handsome and fine-looking young men approached them, dressed in nice festive clothes, and wearing long boots. The girls started giggling, as they considered them strong and attractive... The lads approached the young women, and asked them why they work on Saint Theodore's day. They answered that they didn't really want to, but -that again- they didn't have much choice in the matter either, since there was all this work that still had to be done... But -as the lasses looked closer at the fine, handsome young men- they saw hair coming out of their curiously-long boots... It looked strange... like a horse's tail... and their manly laughter sounded like neighs... As evening drew close, and the day became darker and darker, the elderly mother was beginning to worry about the daughters she sent away to wash bed-covers down at the river, as they didn't seem to be coming back, nor was any shadow to be seen at the horizon... So she prepared some food, and sent the youngest away to bring them dinner... As the young maiden approached the place where her older sisters were supposed to be, she saw no sign of them, but only what from a distance appeared to be bed-clothes, hanging out to dry. As she came closer and closer, a frightening sight began to slowly reveal itself to her young and innocent eyes: what she at first thought resembled clothes left out to dry on a wire, were actually human guts and bowels, dripping with blood... Terrified to death, and barely able to hold her breath, the young child ran desperately home; her agonizing flight seemed to last an eternity... As she finally arrived, with tears running down her cheeks, and with her white dress all soaked in cold sweat, she told her mother the gruesome news: -- but the night was far from over!... Quickly, in fear, shock, and sheer terror, the old woman left everything that she was working on, locked everything up, and turned everything in the house upside-down, save for the egg and the rasp (which are symmetrical). Then they just sat there... waiting quietly, in the dark... all alone, just the two of them... frightened and scared to death... shivering, and holding their breath... As midnight drew near, strange whickering sounds began to be heard in the distance... As the disturbing noises drew closer, footsteps of boots (or were those hooves?...) resounded on the ground, near the door of the house... Knock, knock... "Open the door!" No answer. The door-latch clanked and clicked and turned... but the door was locked! "Open the door!" All the things in the house were turned upside-down, so they were unable to respond the call... except the egg and the rasp. The first fell, being round and slippery, and crashed, splashing on the floor... the second also slipped, and cracked as it hit the ground, breaking into pieces. -- And this is how the two helpless women were able to escape the avenging wrath of... Saint Theodore's Horses !

And you thought the Jews were harsh for stoning people who broke the Sabbath...

Sweet dreams, everyone!

(And sleep tight!)

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