The Legend Of Saint Friday

The legend is part of the martyr-cycle and it contains fairy tale elements (the dragons), which is not unusual in hagiography, as shown in the last chapter. It was copied by the parson Grigore from Mahaciu before 1600 after an original that has been lost. It is still preserved in Codex Sturdzanus. The legend was studied and published by Hasdeu in Cuvente den batrani (Stories of Old). The lost prototype of the copy from Codex Sturdzanus had been translated from Slavonic, as one can notice by reading the title. In Slavonic, the legend had been translated from the Greek rituals.Not only does the legend not have anything in common with Bogomilism (the worship of the Cross), but it isn't even apocryphal. It is part of the Orthodox creed and on the 26th of July (the day of its martyr), our church celebrates besides the holy martyr Ermolae, also Saint Friday or Paraschiva (by the Greek name). On this occasion people read from the Calendar of Saints about the life of the Saint and sing hymns of praise, as it is written in the Ritual for July, printed with the approval of the Holy Synod.In the version from the Codex Sturdzanus, the legend has the following plot: In a remote citadel dwelled two Christians, pure in the heart: Agaton and Polifia, who had turned old without having been blessed with a child. And as they ceaselessly prayed to the Savior in order for him to turn His kindness towards them and to give them a child, God's angel revealed himself to them in a dream and told them that God had heard their prayers and he would send them a daughter, whom they should name Friday, for she would be born on a Friday. The baby girl was born on October 15th and the parents promised her to the church, in order to fulfill their pledge to God. When she turned five, the girl, inspired by God, left her parents' house to spread the word about the Savior's new order.She first reached the citadel of Antiochia and its great emperor Antioch. As a result of her preaching, many accepted Christianity, but the Jews complained to the emperor that "a gentlewoman came to their citadel and she would preach about Mary's son, whom our parents have crucified." The angry emperor ordered her to be brought in front of him. The Saint presented herself and the emperor, astonished by her beauty, asked her to submit to him and "she would be lady and empress over all his houses." The Saint cursed him and the emperor, blinded by wrath, ordered that she should be crucified. The Saint prayed to God that he should not abandon her and meanwhile a cloud appeared in the sky and a great snowstorm broke loose, that rolled down huge rocks as if they were leaves. An angel showed up in front of the Saint and broke the chains that shackled her. As the soldiers saw the heavenly wonder, they sat down on their knees, shouted and asked the Saint to turn them into Christians as well. The Saint stood up and baptized them but as the emperor heard the news, he ordered that she should be caught again, chained and thrown in a cauldron, in which they will have boiled lead and tar and "minced stones" for seven days and seven nights. The servants obeyed the emperor's orders. On the seventh day, the emperor came and asked for the boiler to be opened and he saw Saint Friday standing on her feet. As the emperor tried to approach the boiler in order to have a better look, the Saint took some boiling water out of the cauldron in one hand and threw it in the emperor's face. The emperor blinded and prayed that she should give him back the sight, for he would become a Christian. The Saint took pity on him, fell face down on the floor and cried until "her tears formed a puddle." As she stood up, she gathered her tears in her right hand and rubbed the emperor's eyes in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost; and from that moment on, the emperor could see better and clearer than before. The emperor and his men got baptized and the Saint went on to another emperor, Atizma. He also asked in vain for the Saint to obey his god "and she shall be lady and empress over all his palaces." Raging because of the girl's refusal, the emperor asked for her to be brought in front of the citadel's dragon. In that citadel dwelled a dragon, in which the devil had entered, with all his evil spirits.As the Saint came in front of the dragon, she made the sign of the cross over him. The devil ran off and as she put her foot on the dragon's jaws, she walked through his entrails and came back out unharmed. As the emperor witnessed this wonder, he decided to become baptized, along with all his men and servants.The Saint headed for the emperor Aclit, but he too, embittered by the fact that the Saint didn't believe in the god he believed in and didn't want to become "his lady and empress," asked that she should be thrown in a cauldron of boiled tar, lead and stones for three days and three nights; but the Saint remained unharmed, whereas a flame coming from the cauldron surrounded the servants and burned them. The emperor consulted his advisors and ordered that her head should be cut off right away. The Saint asked for permission to make her prayer. And the Saint prayed as follows:"God, listen to me, your slave… I beg of you to do what's right and to bless those who will pray for my soul and pay homage by holding a mass and lighting a candle and praising this day, God bless their homes and offspring and crops and all their beasts and may all the evil spirits and charms run away from them and their souls be enlightened; and let the one who works on this day be cursed. May he, who will fast and honor this day be healthy and may his sins be forgiven, and he, who will not honor Saint Friday, who will defile this day by eating meat and cheese may not succeed and as Saint Friday became crucified by her own will, may his meals taste like vinegar and gall…."And afterwards the Saint told her "workers": "Do as your God told you to do." And they cut off her head on the 26th of July.The final exhortation of the legend is missing in the Greek rituals, as well as in our current rituals. No doubt that it was interspersed subsequently.The ending of this legend contributed a lot to the spreading of the cult of St. Friday in the countryside. St. Friday must be honored by suspending working on every Friday of the week. The folklore material gathered from different areas by different collectors clearly testifies the spreading of this custom all over the country, as well as its strong roots.Here are, for example, some of these documents:"On Friday one should neither make lye, nor spin, nor sew, nor wash shirts, as bad things can happen.Women shouldn't sew on Friday, because they might get blind by doing this.Cutting one's nails on Thursday and on Friday is a sin.Don't cut your nails on Friday, because you forget where you put something, you don't remember any more."(Social, fourth year, page 60)From all the days of the week, one should especially beware of Friday. On this day, one shouldn't weave, as it is believed that hail will hit; one shouldn't sew, because just as one pierces the cloth with the needle, hail will pierce into one's sown field; one shouldn't do dirty laundry, because hail will boil over the crops.(R. Codin and Mihalache, Holidays, page 61) "Transylvania. Friday or Saint Friday is a day on which women abstain from many things such as: combing, sweeping around the house, preparing lye, as they believe that, doing these things triggers jinx, that is, something might happen to the woman who works: she gets a disease, her nails get infected or she gets some boil.On Friday no one sews, does the laundry or bake bread.Bucovina. It is believed, that girls who fast on Fridays will get married sooner."(A. Gorovei, Beliefs and Superstitions of the Romanian People, pages 355-356)The cult of Saint Friday has been known for a long time at our people and it seems that it was even stronger in the last centuries than nowadays. Marcus Bandinus, the catholic missionary, who visited Moldavia between 1646 and 1648 says in his papal report about our people:"They celebrate every Friday of the week in honor of Saint Friday, whom they imagine to be a Saint who prays for them on bended knees in front of God's throne. That's why I guess that it is worse to offend Saint Friday than God. In the name of Saint Friday, beggars get much charity." As with the legend of Saint Sunday, folk imagination, impressed by the interdiction of working on Saint Friday's day and by the threat of the curse – "he who works on this day shall be cursed," – created a whole cycle of tales, in which we are told that a woman was doing the laundry (or working something else) on Friday, when an old lady showed up in front of her in the evening and asked her to rest, as she would finish the job. The frightened woman ran through the back porch to her sister-in-law, who explained to her that the old lady was in fact Saint Friday and taught her what to do. Coming back home, the woman screamed as hard as she could:"Alas! The mountains where Saint Friday dwells are on fire, the mighty dragons did that!"As the old lady ran off, the woman lit the earthen lamp, turned all the objects in the house upside down and went to bed. After a while, she woke up with the old lady knocking on the door and asking one by one all the objects in the house to open it for her:Each one answered: "I can't, I'm upside down."Only the earthen lamp, which the woman forgot to turn upside down, ran to unlock the door. When the old lady stepped in, the cock just announced midnight. Saint Friday had no other way than to leave immediately, so she turned to the woman and said:"Let me tell you, greedy working woman, who dishonors sacred days, that I am Saint Friday. I came to boil you in the pot in which you wash the shirts because you have been dishonoring my day for a long time now with lye and dirty water."The plot of this legend has gathered many elements of folk superstition and pagan origins (the dragons and the things turned upside down) and therefore Saint Friday lost her Christian feature and her divine halo. She became a mean and revenging old lady, who, just as any evil spirit, disappears as soon as she hears the cock crow.This interweaving of such ill-assorted elements represents one of the characteristic features of folk psychology.In some novel folk poetry, culled from a 73-year-old woman from Campul Pinei (Hunedoara county) by Tudor Avram, a clerk at the Library of the RomanianAcademy, Saint Friday appears in the specific frame of Christian elements in a way that proves the strong dependency on the final exhortation of the legend. In these lines, just as in formulas of exorcism, "a young master's son" is mentioned, "who cried with his eyes and chewed blood with his heart" and whom "no one else saw" except for "Lazarus' sister, Magdalena." While "plucking honey flowers," "in the field of Jerusalem," the sister hurts her hands in a thorn:"It wasn't a thorn,It was a bee.The bee turned into wax,The wax turned into a candle.The candle was lit,Hell's door was closed,Heaven's door was opened,And Saint Friday stepped out of heaven,And told us,And mocked us:Whoever can tell the tale of Saint Friday,Shall do it:On Thursday evening twice,On Friday morning three times,And I shall cure him from diseasesAnd save him from troublesAnd I shall lead himWhere the table is laidAnd torches litAnd springs are cold and wells are cleanAnd I shall release him from his sins."One can establish the connection between these lines "Whoever can tell the tale of Saint Friday shall do it… And I shall release him from his sins…" and the final part of the legend, in which it is recommended that Saint Friday should be honored in exchange of support in times of need. The fragment also proves that there was a time when the legend, or maybe even only the formula written above, was considered to be some kind of a lucky charm that possessed the miraculous power of scaring away all the evil spirits and possible misfortunes that may have lain in wait for the one who knew this formula and said it three times.Another proof of the fact that the legend of Saint Friday must have been widespread consists in the fact that it has lent material even to folk carols. In the cycle of carols traditionally sung on Christmas Eve, there is one in which the episode of the Saint working in the cauldron is mentioned. The carol starts with a scene in which Saint Friday, "fallen on her knees" in front of God's judgment chair, prays to God and reminds Him that when she was sent to "baptize the Earth," only the citadel of Jordan remained "anabaptized": "They caught me;Caught meTied me;Cut me with a knife;Put me in the cauldron;And boiled me for three daysIn wax and resin."There also exist a few folk proverbs about the tradition of honoring Saint Friday by fasting: "Fasting on Thursday and eating meat on Friday" means doing things the other way round, being stupid; "He looks like Saint Friday" is usually said about a very skinny person (a person who has been fasting for a long time); "Not every day is Good Friday" means that it is not always a day on which you may rest. Nevertheless, I must add that the tradition of celebrating Friday – the day on which, according to the church, the Savior was crucified – by fasting and praying is part of the Orthodox church order and is recommended even by the Laws. Thus, the law of Govora clearly states in the 381stglava:"God's Apostles order us how to fast on the holy and great Lent, that is, on every Thursday and Friday of the year…" "Canon 68 of the Holy Apostles says and orders: every bishop, priest, deacon, ipodiacon, reader or singer who shall not fast on the holy Lent and on all the Thursdays and Fridays of the year shall be taken his gift and he who is a layman shall be damned, except for the one who is ill." That is why we tend to believe that the final addendum concerning the celebration of Saint Friday by praying and fasting, an addendum that we discover after the Slavonic prototype, in the oldest Romanian version of this hagiographic legend, was made by a sly cleric, who thus tried to make his parishioners obey the holy canons. NOTEThe interweaved motifs that we find in the legend of Saint Friday also exist in other hagiographic legends. For instance, we find the fairy tale motif of the dragon in The Life of Saint Mil (10th of November), as well as in The Life of Saint Marcian (2nd of November). Just as Saint Friday, Saint Mil also makes the sign of the cross over the dragon, who dies; and Saint Marcian makes with his finger the sign of the cross and blows over a huge dragon, who "had come out of nowhere" – and the dragon "broke" into pieces. The torture of boiling in an oven can also be found in The Life of Saint Victor, celebrated on the 10th of November, a.s.o.
Gathered by N. CARTOJAN

by Anonymous