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Long Life for a Bowl of Groats. Whether You Can Cheat Death?

Country: Poland

Region: Lesser Poland

Type of inspiration: Beliefs Source:


Years ago, in Łącko, people talked about a woman who lived 100 years because, as she assured, she gave groats to the death. As a young girl, while on duty, she saw a strange woman one night rummaging through pots in the kitchen. Having overcome her fear, she let her eat her fill. Only when the old woman left without a word did the girl realize that she had just fed death. As it turned out years later, death gave her longevity out of gratitude for the favour.   

In folk beliefs, death was one of the most widespread demonic beings. The Sądecki highlanders thought that death was a rebellious angel who remained on earth, not knowing where to go. It was believed that you could see death. Most often death took the form of a strange old woman - supernaturally tall or very slim, dressed in white, sometimes with a veiled face. The attributes of death was a scythe and sometimes a hammer. It was said that with a scythe death cuts people’s necks and later kills them with a hammer. Some animals sensed the presence of death. Dogs howled in the presence of the demon, horses showed strong anxiety and roared. 

Death came for the dying, deciding whether the process would be quick and painless, or slow and tormented. Death also visited the sick. If it stood at the foot of the bed, it was a sign that a person would recover, if in his head - his death was inevitable. It happened that somebody unknowingly helped death reach a dying person by crossing a river or giving it a ride to his own house. The presence of the demon was evidenced by the enormous weight that was suddenly felt in the boat or on the cart.

It was believed that death, as the performer of the divine will, could not be deceived, could not be escaped or hidden from. Neither could it be brought forward. It comes to the one who is destined to die. In the history recorded in Zabrzeż at the end of the 19th century, the unhappy girl, who wanted to die, went to a village where people were sick with cholera. After many pleas, she was admitted to the house, where everyone expected the final effects of the plague. At night, three strangers appeared in the room where these people were sleeping. They opened a large book on the table. One of them was reading the names of the household members, the other was erasing them, the third one was walking around the room and touching with his cane those whose names were read. When he wanted to touch the girl, the one who was erasing the names shouted at him to let her go, because she hadn't been erased yet.

Death appears in folk carolling performances that tell the story of King Herod. Source:

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Poland Lesser Poland


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