Friday, May 11, 2007

Frozen Saints

It was cold yesterday, much colder than it has been for ages. I went out for a bike ride in the afternoon, and actually needed to work harder just to stave off the chill. Then Erika mentioned that she thought that it was one of the frozen saints' fault.

The frozen saints "Fagyos szentek" are Pongrác, Szervác, and Bonifác (and possibly Orban). I'm still trying to work out what those names translate as in English, without much success, but since they're Saints, they must have equivalents - Bonifác is, I believe, "Boniface" and Orban "Urban" but I have never heard of anyone actually called these names, so probably Pongrác and Szervác are even more obscure.

Their relevance to the weather is that in May there are 3 or 4 days which are (according to folk wisdom) always cold - and in fact it is advised that you don't put your crops/plants that could be damaged by frost out until after the last of them has been and gone. These days are the saints days of Pongrác, Szervác, Bonifác, and Orban. But having done a bit of checking it seems like the first three are actually May 12th, 13th and 14th (ie not yesterday but this weekend). More details (in Hungarian). Orban is on the 25th.

So now you know. If tomorrow is cold it's the fault of that bloody St. Pongrác. Who, having done a bit more googling, seems like he might actually be St. Pancras. One of those saints (perhaps the only one) who is more commonly known as the name of a railway station. In fact, until that moment I hadn't stopped to consider that there was someone around once who was called Pancras. Amazing what appears when you start aimlessly looking stuff up.


Tom Womack said...

The Catholic Encyclopedia is a wonderful source for this; Szervác appears to be St Servatus, a fourth-century Armenian bishop of Tongres notable for hosting St Athanasius when he had been thrown out of Alexandria for theological reasons, and for predicting Attila the Hun.

Orban is a third-century Pope, and Bonifác a seventh-century bishop of Ferentino.

I'd always thought Pancras was a corruption of Pantokrator, but he appears to have been a fourth-century bishop.

chris said...

I do not know exactly the English version of the names but in the folk wisdom: St.Pankracy, St. Serwacy and St. Bonifacy are known in my native country - Poland as "cold gardeners".
I read your posts (especially concerning Hungarians and their lives in Transylvania) with interest,Andy. GBU

MusicPAD said...

This is apparently also a Czech / Slovak custom too. I recall my Babi (Grandmother) mentioning the "Three Frozen Ones" (Tri Zmrlici). It too had a great deal to do with determining the best time to plant. If I recall correctly, the last frozen one had to be "out" before it was safe to plant (e.g. had to be after the last Saint's Feast Day). If I understand it correctly, if it was a particularly harsh spring, one could somehow speed up God's weather pattern if you "threaten" to bury a statue of one of the saints head-first in the soil until the weather improved. P.A. Drahozal /