Intercession of the Theotokos: History and traditions of holiday

Source : 112 Ukraine

In Ukraine, the holiday was given special importance; it was believed that the Mother of God protects the Cossacks in battles, saves them from heavenly fire and from sea storms
09:24, 14 October 2021

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On October 14, Christians of the Eastern rite (Orthodox and Greek Catholics) celebrate the Intercession of the Theotokos or Protection of the Most Holy Theotokos (Pokrova). On this day, believers honor the Mother of God, who with her veil protects and guards against everything bad. For Ukrainians, this holiday has long been of great importance - it is no coincidence that the Day of the Protection of the Most Holy Theotokos coincides with the Day of the Ukrainian Cossacks.


This holiday has several versions. According to one of the legends, on this day the army of the ancient Rus led by Askold laid siege to Constantinople. The citizens began to pray to the Mother of God with a request for salvation. And the Mother of God appeared before the people and covered them with her omophorion (cover), after that the enemies could no longer see these people. It is noted that after that Askold and his warriors were baptized and became Christians.

According to another version, the whole reason is the vision of Andrew the holy fool during the siege of Constantinople by the Hagarian troops. The Mother of God appeared to the inhabitants of the city in the temple and took them under her protection - the cover. After that, the enemy troops retreated.

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In Ukraine, the holiday was given special importance; it was believed that the Pokrova protects the Cossacks in battles, saves them from heavenly fire and from sea storms. The image of the Theotokos was depicted on banners (Khorugv); the Cossacks took this icon with them on sea and land campaigns.

Before the battles, the Cossacks served prayers to the Mother of God, and the churches on the Sich were often called Pokrovsky. Our ancestors celebrated the Day of the Protection of the Most Holy Theotokos with special solemnity, fighting competitions, and songs.

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Special respect for the Protection of the Theotokos was preserved when the Cossacks created the Hetmanate. In the XVII-XVIII centuries, Ukrainian Baroque or Cossack Baroque flourished and a new type of icon appeared - "Cossack Pokrova". On it, under the cover-omophorion of the Mother of God, icon painters place Ukrainian hierarchs, hetmans, foremen, and significant Cossacks. Only a little more than a dozen of such icons can be seen in museums.

On the holiday of the Intercession, the Ukrainian Insurgent Army was created to emphasize the continuity of liberation traditions.

Traditions and peculiarities of the celebration

Work on the ground ends by the holiday. In Carpathian Ukraine, all the herdsmen returned to the Pokrova from the meadows and the Chumaks completed the last journey.

On this holiday, street festivities also ended and evening parties began, and for the elderly - a variety of toloka (communal works).

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Another interesting tradition, the period of matchmaking and preparation for weddings ended for the Intercession. On the eve of the holiday, the girls told fortunes: they baked a small rye loaf and, along with a bunch of flax, carried it into the barn, saying: "My betrothed, my dear, come today to the barn, look at work, show yourself out of the window."

The girls were afraid to spend the night in the barn, and therefore, leaving the flax and bread, they went home until dawn. And after the morning church service, they secretly gave rye bread to the guy they liked, and the linen thread was left in his pocket. And if the plan succeeded, then the guy always returned love.

On October 14, a girl who wants to get married was supposed to come to the church at the beginning of the festive service, light a candle at the icon of the Intercession of the Most Holy Theotokos and ask her about marriage.

On this day, every believer should turn with a prayer to the Most Holy Theotokos, asking her for good health, help, support and protection, as well as assistance in family life and, of course, in love. It is generally accepted that the Mother of God protects the petitioner throughout the year, covering him directly with her veil.

In order for the whole family to be healthy, the mistress of the house took an embroidered towel, which was over the icon of the Mother of God, and hung it over the front door.

Another ritual that was carried out on the Pokrova was the kindling of a fire in which it was impossible to put firewood: dry moss burned in it.

Moreover, you need to endow the poor and orphans with gifts for the Pokrova, as well as fumigate houses with smoke from burning branches of an apple or cherry tree - for prosperity and good luck.

What people cannot do on the holiday

People cannot build, dig, clean, wash, sew, knit, and iron on Pokrova. On the feast of the Intercession, it is not allowed to use foul language, swear with people, and consume alcoholic beverages.

Moreover, people cannot lend money and refuse matchmakers. According to the superstition, a girl who refused the matchmakers on the Pokrova, will not marry for another three years.


- From where the wind blows on Pokrova, wait for the first frosts from that side.

- If cranes fly away to Pokrova, then winter will be early and cold.

- It is believed that the snow that fell on the Pokrova has a special power. If a person washes the face with it, a person can enhance her/his beauty, preserve the youth.

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