One of the elements that came from the Roman and Thracian celebrations was the one about wolves. Is it only a coincidence that we, the descendants of Dacians, whose flag was shaped as a wolf, have chosen the patron of wolves as our protector? During this night, the wolves are allowed to eat all the animals they want. It is said that they can speak, too, but anyone that hears them will die soon.
Early on St. Andrew’s day, the mothers go into the garden and pick tree branches, especially from apple trees, pear trees, cherry trees, but also rose -bush branches. They make a bunch of branches for each family member. The one whose bunch will bloom by New Years day will be lucky and healthy next year.
On St. Andrew’s night ghosts haunt and harass the people. For protection, one should rub the entrance door with garlic and turn all the dishes upside down. A special party takes place now, called “Guarding the garlic”. Boys and girls gather in a house with the doors and windows rubbed with garlic. They also put garlic (three bulbs for each girl) in a wooden tub that is to be guarded till day-break by an old woman, in a candle-lit room. They party all night, and in the morning, the wooden tub is taken outside and they dance around it. Then they all take some garlic home as protection against illness or spells.
St. Andrew is the patron of the wolves, being the one who protects the people attacked by these animals. St. Andrew is also celebrated in order that the wolves should stay away from the households or from the travelers. The salt is charmed and buried under the door of the stable. It will be taken out on St. George and given to the cattle, as a protection against the wolves and other evil things.
– St. Andrew’s Day in Romania
St. Andrew is the patron saint of wolves? That explains a lot.
I mentioned Thracians of what is now Bulgaria in an earlier post, but it’s worth revisiting this fascinating people. Thrace was one of the first lands Andrew was sent to preach the Gospel, but he may have returned during, or following, his 20 year sojourn in Dacia (Romania). He ordained bishops and priests to Thrace, so perhaps he wanted to check up on them. Knowing the Thracians, that was probably a good idea.
After dwelling in the veritable hinterlands of the Far North – possibly even Scotland, since the opportunity and route was there – Andrew turned south towards “civilisation.” Coming through what is now Poland, he may have encountered other tribes – the early Rugians, Burgundians, and Vandals, who would go on to cause so much trouble for the Romans in the coming centuries. Andrew was deep in the Country of the Barbarians, and far from home.
It’s often remarked how strange it is for Scotland’s patron saint not to be from Scotland (usually from folk who don’t know that much about patronage and saints). Not only that, Scotland’s thousands of miles from Jerusalem: there’s no way could Andrew have even visited Scotland… is there?
Saint Andrew is the patron saint of several countries: Scotland, of course, but he’s also the patron saint of Barbados, Cyprus, Georgia, Greece, Romania, Russia, Sicily, Ukraine, and the medieval Kingdom of Prussia. Would it surprise you to learn that there is a possibility he has visited most of them?
When to this far-famed city Matthew came,
There rose great outcry through the sinful tribe,
That cursed throng of Mermedonians.
Soon as those servants of the Devil learned
The noble saint was come unto their land,
They marched against him, armed with javelins;
Under their linden-shields they went in haste,
Grim bearers of the lance, to meet the foe.
They bound his hands; with foeman’s cunning skill
They made them fast—those warriors doomed to hell—
– Andreas: The Legend of St. Andrew, translated from the Old English by Robert Kilburn Root (1899)
And now for something completely different.
Andrew’s second adventure was rather more ambitious than his first. While he started a similar route to the first. After he reached Antioch, he caught a boat to Cyprus, then to Epheseus: from there he went back to Antioch, Nicaea, Pontus, and Armenia. Then, Andrew goes south through Persia, and reaches Gedrosia.
There he meets the Cynocephali… and this is where thing get a bit crazy.
The true nobility and merits of those princes and people are very remarkable, from this one consideration (though there were no other evidence for it) that the King of Kings, the Lord Jesus Christ, after His Passion and Resurrection, honoured them as it were the first (though living in the outmost ends of the earth) with a call to His most Holy Faith: Neither would our Saviour have them confirmed in the Christian Faith by any other instrument than His own first Apostle in calling (though in rank the second or third) St Andrew, the most worthy brother of the Blessed Peter, whom He would always have to be over us, as our patron or protector.
– The Declaration of Arbroath
Part of the joy of history is knowing that there is so much left unknown to discover. For all the artefacts, relics, finds, studies, and research of the ages since humanity started to wonder about those who came before, there are always new things to discover. This is, naturally, true on an individual level, as you pore over a book, browse a site, or gaze on a museum’s collection for the first time.
The Scotland of today is a nation with many faiths and ideologies, but for most of its history, it was a Christian country. This continues to permeate Scotland’s cultural being, from our flag, to the declaration above, to some of our greatest historical achievements. The history of Christianity is one of scholarship and superstition, peace and war, love and hate, celebration and tragedy, and few figures exemplify Scotland than our adopted patron saint.
So let me tell you the tale of Andrew of Galilee and his adventures through the ancient world…