Magdalena's Polish Myths and Legends

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Polish Myths and Legends

Poland like much of Europe has many legends and myths, and like legends and folktales the world over noone really knows whether these stories may or may not have some truth in them. 

 

The Lady of Lagow Castle

Poland is a country of rich history, legends and myths. One of the many castles built by the Germanic Teutonic Knights was built in Lagow in the 14th century. At the beginning of the 15th century the castle and lands of Lagow were in hands of a fierce Polish knight named Marek, who became bitter and lonely after the death of his wife. The loacl townspeople all disliked Marek, but he had a beautiful and likeable sister named Dorota. One fine spring day in a battle just outside of the town, the knight caught and imprisoned a Prussian prince by the name of Boris. Prince Boris was put into a dungeon, and able only to sing in order to keep his sanity in the deep, dark, and damp dungeon. After several months his voice became sweet and townspeople flocked to the castle to hear his fine voice. Indeed he sang so beautifully that the knight's sister became so captivated by his voice that she fell in love, without ever having once seen the Prussian Prince. One night she bribed the guards and Prince Boris and Dorota met for the first time. After many such meetings they were deeply in love with each other and wanted to be married. Unfortunately for them Marek would hear nothing of the match and she was informed that she would instead be married to an elderly Polish knight from the neighbouring town. Dorota could do nothing but obey her brother. During the enforced wedding Prince Boris, her Prussian lover, was called up from the dungeon and ask to sing for the many gathered guests. He refused, and the angry knight immediately gave the order to behead him and his body thrown into the nearby lake. The beautiful Dorota who witnessed the whole terrible incident, died soon afterwards from a broken heart, and her marriage to the elderly knight never consumated. Her distraught soul is said to wander the lakeside, town and castle in Lagow to this very day. Locals say that on fine summer evenings the ghostly voice of Boris can even be heard singing from the castle's dungeon and from the waters of the lake. There are many similar legends involving castles and imprisoned lovers for many places in Poland.

 

The Legend of Jadwiga and her Apron of Roses

Jadwiga was a devout Christian, and often smuggled food from the castle, to the poor, out the back door of the castle, carrying the bread, meat, and cheeses in her large apron. The legend says that King Jagiello's men told him of his bride's strange comings and goings at night. His advisors even told him that she was taking secrets to rebels and others plotting against him. King Jagiello became furious and was determined to get to the bottom of the story concerning Jadwiga's after-dark wanderings.

One night, as she was leaving by a secret door, King Jagiello sprang out of the bushes and demanded to see what was in Jadwiga's apron. A miracle occured and the food she was carrying (which would have earned her a death sentence), turned into a garland of roses. To this day, Jadwiga is always depicted wearing an apron of roses.

 

Rusalka - Polish / Slavic Tree Spirit

In traditional Pre-Christian folklore the Rusalka or Rusalki, was seen as the most dangerous ghost of all. Polish legends says that Rusalka spirits who girls or women who died an unnatural or violent death. This succubus type spirit seeks to continue to exist by drawing the energy of life from all nearby living things. A nasty and attractive tree-dwelling Polish fairy (faerie)! Like other female nature spirits Rusalka's power comes from her powerful sexual attraction. Rusalka's erotic appearance and sweet song is said to be enough to lure any red-blooded male into the forests and lakes where they would have their spirit sucked from them and die. Although as Rusalka nymphs are said to be affectionate lovers, their victims die happy!

Legends say that Rusalka spirits have the appearance of beautiful, pale corpses with green eyes. Rusalka legends can be found all over the Slavic world, but in Poland they usually occur in heavily forested areas, close to lakes and rivers. In some tales they dwell in trees, while in others they live in rivers or lakes. Another legend tells that Rusalki leave the water and live in the woods and trees on the first day of spring and on the first day of autumn return to live in the water. Prime Rusalki territory in Poland are the little-populated forests and lakes of Western Pomerania and Lubuskie.

 

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