In old Russia, the Christmas holidays were the happiest time. Even the Orthodox Church then allowed pagan folk rituals, including carols, perky ditties, processions of mummers, rallies and fortune-telling. It is not for nothing, apparently, all respectable parishioners in our time are trying to celebrate the Nativity of Christ in such a way that they can “come off” after a long and strict fast during the two-week Christmas.
What's in the mirror?
On Christmastide, girls usually arranged fortune-telling, and almost always - for the betrothed. They wondered on anything: on a chicken, a rooster, on horses, on a log, on onions, on an ax, on a shoe - you can't list everything. But the most popular was divination on mirrors.
Many people know how to guess at them: they read about it both in Pushkin's "Eugene Onegin", and in "Svetlana" by Vasily Zhukovsky, where there are such lines:
Here is one beauty;
Sits down to the mirror;
With secret timidity she
Looks in the mirror;
It's dark in the mirror; around
Candle with quivering fire
A little shine …
On one of the Christmas evenings, the girls went to the village bath, having previously removed the cross from themselves, that is, they entered into direct contact with otherworldly forces. They took two large mirrors, preferably of equal size, and then put them opposite each other, illuminating them with two candles. The main thing is that the reflections of the candles in the mirrors form a long luminous corridor that goes into the distance. Peering into such a magical corridor, the girl could see fateful signs predicting her immediate future. Before showing the future, the mirror surface was usually cloudy. Well, if she sees her betrothed, it means that a quick marriage is ahead. And then suddenly an animal, or, even worse, a satanic mug will look out of the looking glass, which does not bode well … Having seen something, one should immediately turn over the mirrors.
General Ermolov's vision
In the lives of people of past centuries, mysticism was present not only during the Christmas holidays, but also at other times of the year, about which, among others, written evidence has been preserved. Here is the story of the 19th century Russian writer Tatyana Petrovna Passek (nee Kuchina), who was A.I. Herzen, was published in the July issue of the magazine "Russian Starina" for 1876. We will present it here in brief.
The future famous general, the hero of the Caucasian War, Alexei Petrovich Ermolov, immediately after he was promoted to an officer, took a leave of absence and went to the village to visit his mother. It was a fierce winter. Before reaching a few miles to the estate, he was caught in such a strong snowstorm that he was forced to stay in a small village. In the extreme hut, a light was shining. The owner was a stout old man with a thick beard. He fed the guest, and then a leisurely conversation began, which unexpectedly touched upon mysterious phenomena. Alexey Petrovich said that he did not believe in them. Then the host invited the guest to show something that he would hardly be worthy to interpret. Alexey Petrovich agreed. The old man brought a bucket of water, lit three wax candles along its edges, spoke some words over the water and told Ermolov to look at it.
- The water is turbid, - answered Alexey Petrovich, - now I see our country house, mother's room, mother is lying on the bed; a candle is burning on the table … Here the mother took the ring from her hand and put it on the table.
Psychologists from West Georgia (USA) set up an experiment in which volunteers scrutinized
- Do you want this ring to be with you? the old man asked.
The old man put his hand into the bucket, and the water seemed to boil. Alexey Petrovich felt a slight faintness. Then the old man took his hand out of the water and gave him a ring on which was engraved the name of his father, the year and the number of the marriage.
On the next day Yermolov was already at home; he found his mother unhealthy and grieved at the loss of her wedding ring.
“Last night,” she said, “I ordered to give myself some water to wash my hands, took off the ring and put it on the table… But then I suddenly felt sick and forgot about it. When she missed it, the ring was nowhere to be found.
A few hours later, Aleksey Petrovich gave the ring to his mother, explaining that he had found it in the bedroom, and had never told her the whole truth about what had happened.
In the afterword to her story, Tatyana Petrovna Passek wrote that she heard it from her uncle, who was famous for his honesty. And the personality of General Alexei Petrovich Ermolov all the more does not give reason to suspect him of stupid fantasies.
She won't be your wife …
Another mystical story was published in the journal Otechestvennye zapiski in 1873. It belongs to the pen of Vladimir Fedorovich Odoevsky, co-editor of Pushkin's Sovremennik, assistant director of the St. Petersburg Public Library and director of the Rumyantsev Museum. In his story, he cites the memoirs of a guard officer Nikolai Yurlov, who collected materials about the life of the common people.
According to the officer, during his trips to the villages, he once met an impoverished nobleman Anton Markovich Gomuletsky, who at that time was 96 years old. He was a cheerful old man with an enviable memory and a reputation as a sorcerer. Yurlov often stayed with him, and one day the owner gave in to the guest's requests to show him his future bride.
They went into a small room where a crystal vase of water stood on a table, and a smooth dark stone lay beside it. The owner explained that there is nothing wonderful about these items. The tourmaline stone is "saturated with the sun's rays", and when dipped into a vase, it will illuminate the water from the inside. And if the image of Yurlov's bride appears, then only as a result of the will of the owner, without any spells.
The guest silently looked at the glowing water. Ten minutes later, a picture of a room in which a girl of remarkable beauty was sitting at the piano appeared clearly and with all the details. Nearby stood a man with a pale face and long hair, pointing out something to her in notes.
For a minute, Yurlov and Gomuletsky admired this picture. Then a strange crack was heard in the vase - and the image disappeared. Anton Markovich said:
- So, my dear, you saw your bride, but do not rejoice: she will not be your wife …
- Why not? - asked Yurlov.
- Well, that's my secret!
Six months later, Yurlov met with "the most accurate original of his vision." The engagement took place. But the wedding had to be postponed: unexpectedly, an order came, according to which Yurlov, as part of the Russian army, went on the Hungarian campaign of 1848-1849. And when he returned, his bride was already married to another.
Mystic and Science
These records from the past can be treated in any way - from absolute acceptance to equally absolute denial. But, turning a blind eye to them, we do not close the problem, leaving behind a mystical phenomenon, which for thousands of years has been demonstrating to humanity another unknown possibility of the world around us.
Note that in these stories, in addition to the appearance and disappearance of bodies, there are accompanying effects. As it was said, in Yermolov's memoirs, the water, after the old man dipped his hands into it, suddenly “boiled”. Externally similar to boiling processes are known that occur in liquids without changing their temperature, for example, when exposed to ultrasound. And the human body sometimes shows its capabilities in the emission of ultrasonic pulses of considerable power.
But the clouding of the mirror before the appearance of the expected images in it can no longer be explained so rationally, as well as the faintness that suddenly seized Yermolov (not to mention the movement of the ring). And although the clouding of "magic mirrors" during fortune-telling has been described since time immemorial in the sources of almost all civilizations of the world - in Peru, Crete, Greece, Rome, America, Egypt, India and Siberia - it is still impossible to interpret this phenomenon unambiguously today.
The same effect is described, in particular, in the book "Occultism" by the French professor of magic Dr. Pa-pus (in the world Gerard Enkos), who lived at the turn of the XIX-XX centuries, which says: "The simplest magic mirror is a crystal bowl, filled to the brim with water, which is placed on a table covered with a white tablecloth. Two candles are placed at the back. Anyone who wants to see something in this magic mirror sits down opposite the bowl so that he can clearly see the surface of the water … After a few minutes (if the experiment succeeds), the viewer sees that the water begins to boil, then the colors of the spectrum appear, and, finally, a vision arises as an answer to a mentally posed question ".
Science does not provide an explanation for these and other effects associated with fortune telling and other mystical phenomena. As for popular beliefs and rituals, even the long centuries of Christianity could not erase from ordinary people the ancient pagan customs, reflecting the connection of a person with different sides of the world around them, including the intangible, otherworldly, miraculous.