Paganistan: Notes from the Secret Commonwealth

In Which One Midwest Man-in-Black Confers, Converses & Otherwise Hob-Nobs with his Fellow Hob-Men (& -Women) Concerning the Sundry Ways of the Famed but Ill-Starred Tribe of Witches.

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Carol of the Swallow

Posted by on in Culture Blogs

In English, it's called Carol of the Bells, and has become a regular part of the December soundscape.

But the Ukrainian original—like folk carols all over Europe—although sung at Christmas, doesn't have anything to do with Christmas.

Or bells.

Instead, it's about spring.

And fertility.

And sex.

Which is to say: it's thoroughly pagan, through and through. Because to pagans, Yule isn't just a self-referential blaze that sits in its own golden halo at the end of the year; it's the first spark of what comes next, a collective turning towards spring, and the growing season to come.


Shchedryk (Bounty)


Shchedryk, shchedryk, shchedrivochka

In flew a swallow

and started to sing:

Come out, come out, O man of the house.

Look! in the sheepcote your ewes have nestled,

the lambs are newly born.

Your stock are plentiful;

you'll get lots of money [by selling them].


If you don't get money, then you'll have lots of chaff

[because the wheat has been so plentiful];

Your wife has dark eyebrows [i.e. she's beautiful].


Shchedryk, shchedryk, shchedrivochka

In flew a swallow!


In Central Europe, the swallow is the archetypal harbinger of spring.

Here's a singable version that you'll hear here in Paganistan every year.


Carol of the Swallow


Now we are here

to wish you cheer

for the next year

to near and dear.


A swallow flew

out of the blue,

up from the south,

words in her mouth,


Ready to cheer

those who would hear.

She had good news

for lambing ewes.


Go, sir,” she cheeped

out to your sheep:

go count the dams

with bleating lambs


Already born

on this new morn.

Blest be your ewes

for this good news.


You will have wealth,

love, and good health;

one dark-eyed wife

all of your life!


You will have wealth,

love, and good health;

one dark-eyed wife

all of your life!”


Hear the good news!

Rejoice, good news!


Now she is here

to wish you cheer

for the next year

to near and dear.


Tr. Gracia Grindal














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Tagged in: carols Yule carols
Poet, scholar and storyteller Steven Posch was raised in the hardwood forests of western Pennsylvania by white-tailed deer. (That's the story, anyway.) He emigrated to Paganistan in 1979 and by sheer dint of personality has become one of Lake Country's foremost men-in-black. He is current keeper of the Minnesota Ooser.


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