St Petka in Christian iconography
Among the three blind female clairvoyants of the century, St Matrona of Moscow, Prepodobna Stoyna and Vangelia Gushterova, only Vanga could communicate with St Petka and built a church with her name. “I see her as a woman in white, bare feet, talking to me.”—explained her encounters with Petka the prophetess from Petrich in an interview. There are at least three women in the history of female saints with the name Petka: St Petka (X-XI century) originating from the region of Trace, St Paraskeva the Great-Martyr (136-161) who preached to laics in Rome, and the Holy Great-Martyr Paraskeva of Ikonium (303) from Middle Asia beheaded for her faith in Christ during Diocletian' rule. Throughout Bulgaria, the Balkans, Europe, the United States and other places in the world, there are numerous Christian churches holding the name of the saint and venerating her feast. On medieval and contemporary Christian iconography, St Petka usually appears as a tall, elegant, young maiden dressed in red, brown, purple or blue mantels, holding wooden or golden crosses, a mystical grail filled with water showing the reflection of human eyes, prayers, and icons and imageries of Jesus Christ. The saint has dark eyes; her head is oftentimes crowned with large, golden aureole and two winged angels guard her from evil; her right hand is usually hidden beneath a cloth. The sacred texts describe St Petka as a noble maid, a high priestess with mystical powers, who possesses blossoming beauty and youth, originates from a wealthy family and devotes herself solely to the son of God. Townsmen feared her for her sorcery: “She made many people with her sorcery and faith in Christ to cease giving sacrifice to the old gods.” An angel healed her wounds in the dungeon, where she was punished by means of physical pain and torture by the local court for her refusal to betray Christianity and marry a Roman governor. Upon her death by sword, angels brought Petka to heaven, where she lived through eternity as Christ’s wife. In the Bulgarian Christian calendar, St Petka is venerated on Petkovden, 14 October.
Saint Petka probably best epitomizes the image of Gergana in the Bulgarian folklore for her divine beauty and refusal to give up her faith to the Turkish invaders. Petka also resembles the female Christian warrior Saint Jean d’Arc for her role as destroyer of the idols in the old payen religion: “I order you in the name of the Lord, the one without soul and all transitive idols in this temple … to collapse and turn into dust. Upon the incantation of the saint all idols fell and collapsed.” In part, St Petka can be regarded as a continuation of the generation and story of Saint Mary in that she returns to life and becomes Jesus’ wife. Unlike the witches from the American folklore such as the Salem witches Mary Sibly and Tituba or the voodoo queen from New Orleans Marie Laveau, St Petka does not use sorcery to seduce men, but to rather punish and banish evil. In traditional Bulgarian culture, many women visit St Petka’s temples in the pursuit of a cure for (inborn) illnesses, disabilities, childnessless, depression, and various forms of witchcraft (e.g., hexes, bad luck, uroki, the evil eye). My grand-mother Elena, a clairvoyant from the town of Pavlikeni, used to teach me: “Listen and observe how the candles burn. When the candles spark they burn the hexes. … Dark smoke over the candle’s flame means witchcraft is involved.” Elena was famous in the village for her spiritual contacts with Peter Dunov, Baba Vanga, St Petka, the Devil, and aliens and profitable connections with peasants, businessmen, sportsmen, doctors, and governors.
This article documents my secret communications with the spirit of the deceased St Petka, her apparitions, and numerous miracles I experienced with her since the fall of 2016. Until today, I consider St Petka my protector and a spiritual teacher. I narrate my first contacts with Petka in the city of Kazan, Russia and her miraculous apparitions in the old family house in Pavlikeni and in her temples in the capital. I tell about the lessons, messages, wisdom, and secrets the saint entrusted me. The language of communication was Bulgarian. The means of spiritual contact was the icon itself. Oftentimes, the icons would become alive, allowing for a vivid communication with the deceased in both sound and vision. During the spiritual seances, I could sense a kind of warm, high voltage electricity upon contact with the icon. The places of spiritual contacts were mostly Christian temples (e.g., “Sveta Petka Samardzhijska,” “Alexander Nevski Cathedral,” The Assumption of St Mary”), the old family house in the region of Veliko Tarnovo, the residences of La Sorbonne, and the streets of Paris, where I met the saint by chance in a black modern dress as a high priestess. The method of spiritual communication with the saint was telepathy, which I received as a gift during my daily prayers before an icon of St Mary in an old church in Moscow. No medication was consumed during my spiritual work. This article represents an attempt at sociology of religion, sociology of St Mary, sociology of witchcraft, sociology of divination, sociology of clairvoyance, sociology of alchemy and metaphysics, futuristic sociology, and is based on actual facts, persons, and narratives. Thus, I also contribute to the growing literature of Marian apparitions. Female saints' apparitions are not new social phenomena and a database complied by the National Geographic documents them since 1531 (see the time line below).
First contacts with St Petka in the city of Kazan, Russia
During the autumn of 2016, I visited Kazan in the Republic of Tatarstan, the third largest city in the Russian Federation, to attend the regional scientific conference organized by the government at Kazan University. I was accompanied by my boss Eduard and his laboratory manager Anna. The laboratory management chose me for the conference grant as the youngest best performing junior researcher with a foreign degree from British university. Eduard held a PhD in Sociology from Michigan University and Anna—a PhD in Sociology from Samara University. The three of us arrived in Kazan by plane. Our visit was financed by a travel grant from Vishka. At that time, I worked as a junior research fellow with the monthly salary of 30,000 rubles. In addition, I received a stipend of another 30,000 rubles for my graduate studies in economic sociology. At Vishka, academic bonuses of 30,000, 60,000 and 120,000 rubles were available on a monthly basis for teaching fellows who publish in the third, second and first quarter journals. We were accommodated in a single room at a three star hotel. On the second day, I gave a poster presentation of my comparative study of police corruption in a number of countries, which was well welcomed by most students and professors in sociology at the venue. I even received an invitation to present my work at Lomonosov. The weather was rainy and cloudy, yet not cold. While at the waiting room, I saw a ribbon in the colors of the rainbow attached to Anna’s luggage. “Anna is this colorful ribbon a sign of the LBGT movement in Russia?”—asked I politely the lady. “No, Ivan.”—replied she avoiding direct eye contact with me. Anna was nervous, anxious. She sought every moment to quarrel with me before Eduard. It happened that my hotel room was not prepaid and the cab was too small for the three of us. I was wondering whether Anna attempted to make a manoeuvre at the workplace, in order to replace me with another foreign graduate. Eduard and his manager went to sleep on the floor below mine. I opted to isolate myself from the thoughts of the laboratory personnel and concentrate on my conference performance. Our laboratory’s funding depended on our conference presentations and publications. Meanwhile, Eduard bothered me with his idea to write an article on suicide and religion. I was not enthusiastic about this work as it was too alienated from my criminological interests. I felt I was not alone in the hotel room. There was a strong feeling of the spiritual world behind the veil in the hotel. In the time of writing, Bogoroditsa returns my memories from my visit of the city of Kazan and helps me write up this piece of work. In my free time, I practiced my Russian by watching the TV series with Fatima Hadueva, a Moscow based clairvoyant who calls herself yasnoznayushaya and engages in clairvoyance, spirit talk, witchcraft, hexes, serpents magic, healing, love spells (privarot), exorcism, curse breaking, and other spiritual practices. Hadueva quickly became popular in the media for her brilliant performances on the TV show Bitva ekstrasensy, where she exhibited a penchant for murder and kidnappings investigations using photo materials and testimonials. A central theme in the story line of the TV series was Hadueva’s beautiful young daughter, who unexpectedly fell in love with a Russian hunk, also of a family of clairvoyants under the love spell of his mother. Fatima was quick to discover that the rival clairvoyant hexed the earrings her son gave to her daughter. Fatima took the earrings off and cleansed them under the flames of a church candle, proving the presence of witchcraft.
The day after Eduard invited the two of us in a cheap canteen, where we talked about the conference and our future work plans. I was surprised how little money Eduard spent on us and the type of food he offered: a horrible soup, bread, porc and tea. During our conversation, I did not miss the opportunity to inquire the Russian social scientists regarding witchcraft and magical practices in their families. Eduard shared his grandfather was a warlock, a person with the ability to help others from the village with secret knowledge and magic. Anna said that in her youth, she exhibited clairvoyant abilities, which however disappeared later in her life. I suspected Eduard and Anna to be lovers, as is expected in most Soviet corporations, yet they did not show apparent, open romantic relations before me. The poor atmosphere in the cheap, old canteen made me feel sick. I needed fresh air. The next day, I spent time exploring the churches in the city. The city seemed surprisingly clean, small and quiet. At night, it was rare to see people promenading in the street alone. Kazan was a place where both Christians and Muslims lived in peace. The gay life in the city was hidden, almost absent. Homosexuality was never openly exhibited during the conference and the city lacked gay bars, cafés, saunas, and showrooms.
For my spiritual seances to work, I needed to be alone for a while. In the morning, I found by chance the Epiphany Cathedral’s Bell Tower at 78, Baumen street. For my delight, the church was open and I could attend the morning liturgy. On the left hand side of the church, there was a wooden throne of Mary, Mother of God. As I approached her throne, I felt a special type of energy, an energy that a typical clairvoyant would say cleanses witchcraft and chases demons from people. The level of concentration of magic around the throne of Bogoroditsa was higher than at other churches in the city. I stood there for a while and prayed. During that time of my professional career, I was attacked by a sect of witches in Moscow. Moscow witches were hidden, well looking, secular, Christian, and dangerous. Syndromes of witchcraft cannot always be detected with candles, pendulum or during a visit to a local clairvoyant. On certain occasions, only Mary, Mother of God could help. At the time, I was discovering practices of privarot among the middle class. I first received my gift to hear Mary during my prayers in front of one of her miraculous icons in an old Christian church near the Kremlin.
My goal was to see the original icon of Our Lady of Kazan. Grams had the ability to find lost and stolen objects, hidden locations and treasuries using her sixth sense. Thus, I tried exercising my sensitivity and opted to find the church’s whereabouts without a GPS device. Surprisingly, I managed to find the premises using my own intuition and occasionally asking the indigenous people. Upon my visit of the Church of Kazan Icon of Our Lady, I learnt however, that the original icon was stolen a long time ago along with the precious stones which decorated it. At present, there was only a copy of the original painting. A piece of the belt of Bogoroditsa was placed as a relic near the icon behind a glass wall. I carefully passed before each icon in the church, waiting to hear the sacred voice of Mary. Also, I attended the liturgy. I could receive information from the saint regarding the Russian hunk who was attacking me with mental magic. The icons cursed him to lose his clairvoyant abilities and become an ordinary man. I could receive many prayers before the icon of Jesus Christ in the center of the cathedral. In contrast to the other talking icons, the icon of Our Lady of Kazan, however, was speechless. I stood around Our Lady of Kazan for a while waiting to receive information about my situation. Yet, I could only feel the belt of Bogoroditsa with my hands, emitting strong healing powers. Was Bogoroditsa’s silence a sign of dark future and calamities coming to Moscow and Russia? Time was about to tell. Feeling charged by the church’s sacred energy, I hurried to go back to my hotel room. My grand-mother Elena used to say that if we believe in the church and connect to its energy, no witchcraft could harm us. I tended to believe in this story. Upon my return down the hill, I saw by chance another interesting sacred place, the Church of the Holy Martyr Paraskeva. The three churches I visited were in close proximity to the Kazan’s gorgeous Ministry of Forestry and Agriculture. When I asked Anna why the people of Kazan chose to invest that much in this particular edifice, she explained that this was a result from the struggle between the elite and the agrarian classes. When I entered the yard of Paraskeva’s church, I sensed the energy of dead souls around the church. More precisely, this was the energy of a deceased old lady who still wandered around the church. My suggestion was that in the past the place was visited by widowed, elder women with flowers and other small gifts to venerate their dead husbands and parents. As I passed through the entrance, the evening liturgy was in progress. A relatively young priest in his late 30s occupied himself with a young couple. I decided not to interfere with the ritual and pray on my own. As I approached the narthex my feeling of the dead intensified. From the smoke on the iconography on the walls, It was evident that the temple survived a fire in communist times. I could feel the dead lamenting, suffering, trapped in space and time. As always, I sought the cure for witchcraft. The price of dark (chernaya magia), white and red spells on the dark market could reach 150,000-200,000 rubles. Similarly to other Russian clairvoyants, I also experienced attacks from rival magic practitioners. At the time, I was attacked by Mr Vitaliy Volkov. Vitaliy first presented himself before me under the name Egor during my workouts in a modern fitness center in Moscow. He did not whisper his name in my ears before I asked him. In effect, “Egor,” was the only word we exchanged during our first encounter. Vitaliy was a tall, muscular hunk in his mid 20s dressed in a black leather jacket, black jeans, wearing a black cross on his chest. Volkov graduated from the Moscow Academy of Economics and Law in 2014 and had a certificate from the College for Fitness Bodybuilding “Ben Vader.” He first introduced himself to me during my bench press exercises, helping me lift the heavy weights. His dark eyes were hypnotic, fixed into mine, suggesting his intention of homosexual flirt. Vitaliy seemed to have a dangerous, highly polygamous lifestyle. He was definately into sex with strangers and the one-night-stand. One day Vitaliy followed me at Novy Arbat station and surprised me in the train on my way to Vishka: “Are you going today to the gym?”—asked he unabashed before everybody in the cabine. Vitaliy was not necessarily after the wealthy, gorgeous men and women. He was interested in all kinds of guys: tall, short, bears, twinks, grannies, transsexuals, and so on. For some reason, Vitaliy made sure to collect the phone contacts and addresses of almost all sexy men at the gym. To me however, Vitaliy was nothing more than a subject of research. Feeling depressed by the fact I had no romantic intentions, Vitaliy had to resort to treachery, lies, and witchcraft to buy his place in my life. Vitaliy pretended to be my best gym buddy, training every day next to me. He wore white trainers, black trousers, loose t-shirts and trunks. His favorite brand was Nikey. He loved shopping at Decathlon and Zara. Oftentimes, he postured before me with t-shirts bought by his girlfriend Olga. After gym time, he would call her over the phone to inquire whether she was available for sex. Her nickname was Zaets (the rabbit). A couple of times he invited me for lunch at the KFC at Filion commercial center. He often followed me in the locker rooms, restrooms, bathrooms, and shopping malls. For him this was a game of hide and seek. On one of our first encounters, Vitaliy showed me his pecker before entering naked in the solarium talking to me in a virile, masculine tone. His was heavily muscled, with dark hair and skin complexion, clean of tattoos. He never got a proper job. At the time of our first meeting, Vitaliy worked as a vendor of student cards in the metro stations. Prior to that, Vitaliy was a manager in a female strip club, where he decided on sex services price formation. There, he also met his girlfriend.In Vitaliy’s words, they fell in love while they had sex in the porn club. Vitaliy had to leave the prostitution business as he realized the gigolo job was not profitable over the long term: “This is not a job I can have for the rest of my life.”—explained Vitaliy. He defined himself as a freelancer, who actively sought to advance in his career through personal connections, friendships, romantic contacts and paid sex with businessmen. “Can your friends at Sberbank offer me a job?”—asked me one evening after gym Vitaliy. He was an escort with good manners, social skills, constantly looking for new moneymaking and sex opportunities. An external observer would not regard Vitaliy as gay or bisexual, but a gay-for-pay or trade; that is, man who has sex with male clients for money only. In this respect, Vitaliy resembles the commercial model of Coddy Cummings, a bisexual porn star who remains masculine and heterosexual even during gay sex. I was fast to discuss HIV testing and group sex parties with Vitaliy. He said: “So, you can choose whichever girl and have sex with her? … And the health certificate?” He added that indeed HIV testing could be a scary and daunting experience. In months or so, I felt sick around the fitness model. I realized I needed a break from our strange friendship, and so decided to alienate myself from him and his romantic contacts in the gym. I hoped this move would enable me to concentrate on my dissertation, work, and research at Vishka. Soon I realized I was developing strange feelings for this man which were not mine. I had to seek help from local clairvoyants and the church. Someone had to defeat the warlock Vitaliy. So far, I understood that Vitaliy attacked me with a privarot spell. Who could better disperse Vitaliy’s hexes than Saint Petka? As I entered the second chamber of the church I saw a second sanctuary. The sanctuary was dark, resembling a dungeon without illumination. It was just me in there. The small chapel had a relic, featuring a piece of Jesus’ cross, and an alter with candles for the living (zdarove) and the dead (dlia upokoy). On the right hand side, I saw a large, well painted icon of St Petka, preserving relics of her bones in a small circle box. The female saint was illustrated as a young, elegant woman, dressed in dark monastic clothes, with green rural paysage as a background. I did not expect to find immediately the icon of the patron saint of the church. I felt the presence of invisible holy water around the icon, albeit there was no physical evidence of it. As I entered into prayer, I heard the magical female voice of the saint, who spoke through my lips in a state of a trance the following incantations:
An excerpt from the prayer in English:
Age for me.
Age for me.
Cry like a gout for me.
Cry like a gout for me.
An excerpt from the prayer in Bulgarian:
Да вееш за мене.
Да вееш за мене.
Да мееш за мене.
Да мееш за мене.
The prayer was unique, magical, feminine, liberating, giving me a sense of independence, and freedom from the powerful love spell of the Russian warlock. My seance with St Petka continued for about twenty minutes. I thanked the saint with all my soul and went off. At the exit of the church, I decided to do something little for the icon of the patron saint, which saved my life from sorcery and misery. “Do you know the old icon of St Petka at the end of the narthex?”—asked I politely the vendor of the church. The vendor was a rounded, older woman in her late 50s, dressed in inexpensive clothes—a black skirt and a red pullover—who seemed to hide a secret from the past in her heart. I would even describe her as an old witch disguised as a marchant. As a foreigner, I did not trust her completely, and thus did not answer all her questions. “I felt a kind of spell around her icon, which helped me regain strength.”—explained I. The woman was stunned. She did not expect my embarking the conversation with the miraculous icon of St Petka. We entered together the small chapel, as I wanted to personally show her the icon, which I heard talking. “I sense here the energy of deceased people.”—continued I. “You are correct. During communism, the church served as a prison. Many died during the fire.”—explained saddened the vendor. I did not show off too much with my clairvoyant abilities before her. This was not the goal of my visit. Back then, I did not want to sell myself with the image of a clairvoyant at the academic market. Sometimes you have the gift, other times the gift may leave you. We cannot always guess 24/7! According to a study of clairvoyants by State Security, Baba Vanga’s prediction rate was among the highest in the country—about 90 percent. In the Russian TV series Bitva ekstrasensov, the investigators would often say: “probably it’s not her day.” There was a belief that clairvoyants were more powerful on certain days of the week. For instance, Elena, my grand-mother, considered Saturday as a day for communication with the deceased. She obtained this information from her spiritual teacher, Peter Dunov. Upon separation, the old woman told me: “What can I offer you as a gift from us? … Let me give you this icon of St Petka” The merchant searched through the small icons in the shelf, and picked a wooden icon, illustrating the image of Sveta Paraskeva Piatnitsa. The icon’s cost was just 100 rubles. Unfortunately, I did not have cash money to reciprocate the exchange. As usual, my salary did not suffice at the end of the month.
The most important part of our visit was probably Eduard’s presentation in the main conference hall before the ministers, the President, and the representatives from the rest of the universities in the country. Eduard spoke about his research plans ahead in the field of comparative value research. It was made clear to us that the President was reallocating the funding for education to the natural sciences. I could make some contacts during my informal conversations with other academics across the country at the canteen. The canteens were located in the older, gray communist buildings, which were still not renovated, preserving the memories of older times. The meals were prepaid by the conference organizers. And we were given tickets. Typically, in the evenings we had a main meat dish, a small vegetable salad, cake as a desert, several slices of bread, and a small cup of red kompot (mostly mors) or herbal tea. This did not suffice for a healthy diet. My impression was that the other laboratories experienced similar funding shocks from the state. Younger Russian researchers rarely had visit cards and had to write their addresses on small sheets of paper which they took from their notebooks. I could not say my fellow colleagues from rival universities were better prepared statistically and mathematically than us. We cohabited peacefully and did not experience interpersonal conflicts and quarrels. Unlike in Moscow, there was not much courting among the younger faculty.