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Symbols & Signs in Polish History, Culture & Life


OP myjustyna 6 | 33
15 Jun 2011 #61
Hey guys thank you for nice contributions. I really enjoy your replies.
And please also refer to:

Dancing traditional symbols
distinctive, symbolic activities or traditions done at schools or universities
symbols special to parties (esp. wedding party)
love-relationship symbolic things (esp. if they are derived from folklore)
special idioms that remind Poles of a movie, comedy, . . .
Clothing symbols
does and don'ts of cultural significance (from sitting-behind-the-table rules---perhaps taught to kids---to how to respect the elderly)
And other things . . .

Again, thank you all for your help.
boletus 30 | 1,366
16 Jun 2011 #63
^
This picture is too small for me to identify the object. It looks like a pendant of a sort. Sailors would hang small utility knives with marlin spikes at the belts. I used to proudly display decorative knots. :-)
alexw68
16 Jun 2011 #64
love-relationship symbolic things (esp. if they are derived from folklore)

No folklore here, but on the railings of bridges you will often find padlocks with the couple's names engraved. When the sun comes up, I'll post a picture :)
Des Essientes 7 | 1,291
16 Jun 2011 #65
It is a spoon with the top of the handle bent and attached with a sort of hinge to his belt. The photo is a famous one that was taken as Lech was leaving the Gdansk Shipyards to meet with Pope John Paul II. I know it is a spoon because a large clear version of the photo was printed in a story, about Poland, in the LA Times a few months ago, and I was puzzled as to why would he be wearing a spoon upon his belt, because In the USA the only people wearing spoons on their persons were cocaine users back in the 1980's and these spoons were very tiny and attached to bracelets or necklaces, and although I know Poles have the reputation for being able to consume large amounts of intoxicants, if that was actually Lech's idea of an appropriately sized "coke spoon" then he was some kind of superman.
Gregrog 4 | 100
16 Jun 2011 #66
Maybe this Walensa's spoon can be related to lack of it in canteens in that times?
alexw68
16 Jun 2011 #67
lack of it in canteens in that times

Cocaine? Yes, terrible shortages. In Gierek's time toot was two-a-penny, free with every third portion of creamed spinach.

This has been an eye-opening night. First someone haunts us with the spectre of a thousand Kaczyński brothers, and now I can't look at Wałęsa's currently white moustache without imagining he's got half a gram of Columbian marching powder concealed within it.
boletus 30 | 1,366
16 Jun 2011 #68
Maybe this Walensa's spoon can be related to lack of it in canteens in that times?

Yeah! The milk bars! A plate screwed to the table, a chained spoon.

And the appropriate joke:
- Do you have russian?
- We have.
- And lazy?
- Yes, we have them too.
- So for God's sake why don't you chase them to work.


  • sad reality of the milk bars
isthatu2 4 | 2,703
16 Jun 2011 #69
nah,its not coke, a spoon that size is for "cooking up".....
(so glad others opened up this can o'worms ;) )

really?,chained stuff in milk bars? I dont remember that ,mind,I was in one in 04 so.....still,it retained a certain "old world charm" to put things diplomaticaly
strzyga 2 | 993
16 Jun 2011 #70
Yeah! The milk bars! A plate screwed to the table, a chained spoon.

don't pull their leg (legs?) boletus - this never was reality, just a satyrical scene from a film, "Miś". Granted, extremely popular, nevertheless fictious.

Another legend of the same type is the Polish calvary charging German tanks. That's from a film by Wajda.

my father's father gave me an iron horseshoe, with my name engraved upon it, and told me to affix it above the door to my room for good luck.

Just be sure to affix it in the proper position. The loose ends should go up and the curve - down. It's good luck. If you turn it upside down, it's bad luck.
Des Essientes 7 | 1,291
16 Jun 2011 #71
In Alexander Solzhenitsyn's One Day In The Life Of Ivan Denisovitch it is written that prisoners in the gulag were provided with no utensils at all, when allowed to eat their gruel, and so some would form spoons out of scrap wire, and crudely forge them to be usable, and always lick them clean after every meal, and always have them upon their persons. Is it possible that Lech's belt spoon is a symbol of solidarity with those imprisoned in Siberia by the Soviet authorities?
wildrover 98 | 4,451
16 Jun 2011 #72
Just be sure to affix it in the proper position. The loose ends should go up and the curve - down. It's good luck. If you turn it upside down, it's bad luck.

I started a thread all about this......

In the end i still was not sure which way up they go in Poland....but most people seem to think its the opposite way up in Poland , in other words with the open end downwards.....
Des Essientes 7 | 1,291
16 Jun 2011 #73
the open end downwards.....

That is how my grandfather told me to place it. The other way is so that the _U_ is like a cup that catches luck, which, I guess, falls from the sky in that superstition.
z_darius 14 | 3,968
16 Jun 2011 #74
when I was a boy my father's father gave me an iron horseshoe, with my name engraved upon it, and told me to affix it above the door to my room for good luck. Is this also a Polish tradition, or if not a tradition in all of Poland is it at least a regional one?

This superstition originates from England and is based on adventures of one churchman by he name of Dunstan.
wildrover 98 | 4,451
16 Jun 2011 #75
Yes its always nailed up in the shape of a U in UK....

But in Poland i keep seeing them the other way up... in the shape of an n

Since i need my luck in Poland i want to put my horse shoes the right way up for Poland....

Which way is it.....????
ItsAllAboutME 3 | 270
16 Jun 2011 #76
LOL, I have no clue about horseshoes in Poland but I was just reading something, and it has to do with superstitions, and it's hilarious

it's from Jamie Stokes's column on WP.pl (a lot of his blogs about Poland are really funny)

"The man at the door was large, red faced and dressed all in black. He was also swaying slightly. I took an involuntary step backwards out of the vodka fumes.

The combination of his inebriation and my poor language skills didn't make communication easy, but I managed to gather that he had somehow saved my life and the lives of everyone in the building and was willing to accept folding money as a token of my appreciation. "This has to be the mafia I keep hearing about," I thought to myself. "It's a protection racket-I pay up and this large, florid gentlemen and his friends will guarantee that I don't suffer an 'accident.'" It was then that he thrust a slightly crumpled calendar at me and mentioned chimneys, which gangsters hardly ever do.

It wasn't until I had pressed ten zeds into his hand and he was lurching down the corridor that I realised what was going on: I had been visited by the legendary Polish league of chimney sweeps. I also remembered there was some superstition associated with chimney sweeps. Wasn't I supposed to spit on him or tap him three times on the head or something? No-buttons, it was something to do with buttons. I thought about calling him back so I could do something with his buttons, but I could see the situation getting out of hand-I had no idea exactly what I was supposed to do with his buttons, or even which ones I was supposed to do it with, and I'm far from comfortable with the idea of fumbling with another man's clothing even when he's sober. A piano will probably fall on my head the next time I step outside.

Most Polish superstitions are the same as British superstitions, except that you hang your horseshoes upside-down and have no strong feelings about opening umbrellas inside the house, but I've never come across a chimney sweep fixation before. It's a strange profession to nominate with magical powers. Why not taxi drivers or window cleaners? Small children could thrill at the prospect of rubbing the belt buckles of bicycle mechanics or the collars of investment bankers. Air traffic controllers could go round handing out calendars and receiving thanks for ensuring that no 747s have fallen on our heads.

It must be something to do with the black clothes. The only other people who get given money for intangible benefits are priests. They even come to your house to collect. I wonder who thought of it first: the priests or the chimney sweeps. I also don't understand why we're giving them money anyway. Don't they get paid for doing whatever it is that chimney sweeps do? If so, why do we have to pay them again? Is it particularly expensive being a chimney sweep-are those famous buttons made from unicorn testicles? Why don't Internet writers get paid twice? Sitting around all day in bars misunderstanding Poland isn't cheap you know. Would you give me 10 zeds if I came to your house and let you play with my clothing? No, I didn't think so. "
wildrover 98 | 4,451
16 Jun 2011 #77
Most Polish superstitions are the same as British superstitions, except that you hang your horseshoes upside-down

Aha....a bit of a clue here.... if its correct....?
ItsAllAboutME 3 | 270
16 Jun 2011 #78
I'm quite sure the effect will be the same either way. None. :)

I would be curious, though, to find out what's up with those buttons.
isthatu2 4 | 2,703
16 Jun 2011 #79
Which way is it.....????

Put one on top of the other,like this;

n
u

and then the luck that drops from the top one will be caught by the bottom one. :)

(hehehe,who said insomnia was all bad? ;) )
FlaglessPole 4 | 669
16 Jun 2011 #80
(a lot of his blogs about Poland are really funny)

thanks for the link, his blogs are indeed funny and informative, having a blast reading them:)
z_darius 14 | 3,968
16 Jun 2011 #81
Would you give me 10 zeds if I came to your house and let you play with my clothing? No, I didn't think so. "

If you're somewhat easy on the eye then it's not unthinkable that someone would consider it an awesome deal. You never know what that might lead to ;)

A lot of men like playing with buttons.
boletus 30 | 1,366
16 Jun 2011 #82
don't pull their leg (legs?) boletus

You caught me in act with blood on my hands. :-)

Every milk bar is a little different, but here's the general procedure: Head to the counter, wait to be acknowledged, and point to what you want. Two handy words are "to" (sounds like "toe" and means "that") and "i" (pronounced "ee" and means "and").
My milk-bar dialogue usually goes like this: Milk Bar lady says "Prosze?" (Can I help you, please?). I say "to" (while pointing)... "i to" (pointing again) ... "i to" (pointing once more). It means, "That ... and that ... and that." It's not pretty, but it gets the job done.

articles.cnn/2007-11-16/travel/poland_1_milk-bar-poland-krakow?_s=PM:TRAVEL

it's from Jamie Stokes's column

I know Jamie Stocks's articles, and I like them too. Every one of them comes out in both languages: English and Polish under the generic name "Okiem Angola". They are linked to Kraków Post. He is also active at polandian.com blog.

Chimney sweepers
Fake or drunk chimney sweepers, who sell calendars and intimidate people, give a bad rap to this old and noble profession. A yearly visit from your friendly chimney sweeper is a messy but necessary affair. With some soot left in your ashpans and some on the floor but with the cleansed chimney flues both sides part in high spirits: he - with a satisfaction of a job well done and well earned money in his pocket and you - with an extra calendar, good stove draft and no fear of chimney fire for the next 12 months or so.

Yes, the dreaded chimney fire. Over the course of a season creosote deposits can become several inches thick. Creosote is a black, oily substance that builds up inside chimney flues when wood or coal burns incompletely, producing soot and tarry smoke. Since creosote is highly combustible, a thick accumulation creates a fire hazard. If a hot fire is built in the stove or fireplace, and the air control left wide open, this may allow hot oxygen into the chimney where it comes in contact with the creosote which then ignites - causing a chimney fire.

During my seven years adventure in the woods of Muskoka cottage country I solely relied on efficient airtight fireplace, with two little blowers efficiently dispersing the heat over the entire house. My heating costs were minimal - 12 face cords of well seasoned firewood, typically sugar maple, used to cost me from $35 to $65 a cord - the former if I bought it early in April-May, stacked it myself outdoors and let it dry until it was ready to be stacked in the woodshed attached to the cottage.

Quality firewood is one of the keys to avoid chimney fires. Resinous pine wood, branches or pine cones are not recommended because of quicker buildup of creosote in your chimney. But as I remember from my childhood - this kind of material was almost solely used for cooking during summer days. No wonder that the yearly visit from the chimney sweeper was a must.

I was told that when a fire department is called to chimney fire they dump some devilishly smelling fluid down your chimney. The smell will persists over the weeks to come. Forget about the comfort at your fireplace and weep. Secondly, the fire department and your local administration will charge you for services and penalize for negligence.
Maaarysia
16 Jun 2011 #83
The loose ends should go up and the curve - down. It's good luck. If you turn it upside down, it's bad luck.

Seriously?! It seems that mine is upside down for 13 years!!!

I would be curious, though, to find out what's up with those buttons.

I don't know where it comes from, but if you see a chimney sweeper and want to have a good luck, you have to fetch some button (of course not a buttom of a chimney sweeper uniform but a button of your own clothes) and hold it until you see 3 people wearing glasses.

The chimney sweepers (or people disguised as chimney sweepers ;) around New Year cruise form house to house selling a lucky calendar for the New Year.
isthatu2 4 | 2,703
16 Jun 2011 #84
It seems that mine is upside down for 13 years!!!

so double the bad luck then.....just dont smash a mirror when you take your horse shoe down ;)
wildrover 98 | 4,451
16 Jun 2011 #85
Seriously?! It seems that mine is upside down for 13 years!!!

Noo... not if you are in Poland.... in Poland its open end downwards...

In UK open end upwards......

If you are a Pole living in UK , or a Brit living in Polska then i guess you can choose which way you put it.....
z_darius 14 | 3,968
16 Jun 2011 #86
Yes, the dreaded chimney fire

It is now illegal in Ontario (for new chimneys and chimney repairs) to use material other than stainless steel to line the inside of the chimney. The lining helps prevent fires and explosions.
boletus 30 | 1,366
16 Jun 2011 #87
stainless steel to line the inside of the chimney

Yes, that helps..

Superstitions
There are tones of superstitions in Poland, most of them "international", some recently imported - mostly for fun. For example, internet websites offer advice to brides in form of "bride decalogs" or other such stuff. Black magic, voodoo and shamanism are also being imported - as "New Age" interests develop. Some are harmless, other ones are scary. Here is what "Old Poland Encyclopedia" says about origins of imported superstitions:

Illiteracy and ignorance of the natural sciences introduced to the old beliefs of nations the world of prejudice, witchcraft and superstition. After the superstitions of the peoples of Western Europe found their way to manuscripts and printed books they quickly spread among all social strata of the Old Poland.

For example, the work entitled "Secrets of Pedemonte," a treasure trove of thickest superstitions, translated into Polish and published in the form of a large book on 1620, taught such nasty things as incensing by cadaverous tooth to protect from spells or cooking an un-butchered but plucked goose, alive at simmer. The famous book "The Hammer for Witches" (Krakow 1614) is a Polish translation by Stanisław Ząbkowicz from a German work, published in Frankfurt in 1600, by the German witch inquisitors: Jacob Sprenger and Henry Instytor (Spells).

In terms of knowledge and the industrial culture we stood below the West, but our home customs - as in all ethnic Slav cultures - were more human, more gentle and good-natured. If someone took trouble to categorize and sort out all known European superstitions, they no doubt would find with us the enormity of stupid beliefs, but not harmful to anyone - for example, a belief that it is an evil omen if a woman or a hare crosses your road, or the belief that a stake stuck into the ground top-down, or a log - used in house construction - put upside down brings misfortune to the host.


(...)
Translated from Encyklopedia staropolska ilustrowana (tom IV), Zygmunt Gloger, 1900-1903 edition, pl.wikisource.org/wiki/Encyklopedia_staropolska/Zabobony
Des Essientes 7 | 1,291
16 Jun 2011 #88
such nasty things as incensing by cadaverous tooth to protect from spells

In his memoirs the 17th Century Polish raconteur Jan Pasek wrote that despite his best efforts he was unable to get the widow he had married pregnant and one day he discovered the horrible reason for her inability to conceive. Some sneaks, most probably the widow's children from her previous marriage that didn't want any of their inheritance going to new step-siblings, had hidden a cadaver's severed finger under the mattress of their marriage bed. The nearness of a corpse's digit was superstitiously believed to be an effective method of contraception back in those days.
z_darius 14 | 3,968
16 Jun 2011 #89
- spilled salt - quarrel will ensue
- spilled sugar - accord is certain
- fork falls on the floor - someone will visit.
- soap falls on the floor - expect the unexpected
- shattered mirror - 7 years of misery
- itchy nose - someone is gossiping about you or there will be some serious drinking
- bridegroom must not see the wedding dress before the wedding ceremony
on a wedding day in church, all candles have to be of equal length, otherwise the marriage won't be a happy one
- don't lend (or vie as a present) sharp objects, such as knives, needles etc, otherwise there will be quarrel
- bread must always be with the flat side down, or quarrel will ensue
- one does not give away recipes unless they are subsequently passed on to yet another person, otherwise the recipes stop working for those who gave them away

- black cat crossing your path brings bad luck, which can be remedied by spitting over the left shoulder


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