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Traditions - Archangel Day

After All Souls Day on the first day of the month, November 8th is the name day of everyone named Angel, Angelina, Mihaill, Gavrail, Radka, Radko, Raina, Ognian, Plamen, Emilia, Emil. It is called Archangel's Day or "Arhangelovden". The Christian church introduced this holiday from the idea of the nine angels (November being the ninth month) who could counteract heretics and pagans.

The day is dedicated to Archangel Mikhail, who, it was believed, was a saint at the top of the heirarchy of angels and who received the "kingdom of dead souls" when the world was divided into parts.

 

He is usually depicted as an angel over the dying, using a knife or sword to take their souls. Without him, the souls of mortals cannot travel to eternity. He is referred to as Rangel Vadidushko - meaning Rangel, short for Arhangel, who takes souls.

He leads the sould to the world of the dead where it is determined how sinful the dead person was and decides whether to send their soul to heaven or hell. Many Christian icons show him with a bloody knife in his hands or with scales (to measure sins).

Tradition has it that on this day an offering is made in honour of the saint who is protector of the dead. Very often the sacrifice is a ram or lamb. The animal is boiled whole and blessed. The women make special bread called Rangels bread and the oldest member of the family splits the bread and pours wine on it with a blessing.

On this day people who have dead relatives, visit their graves and pour wine and water on them. They burn candles, prepare bread and sweet wheat, which they give away with the words “May God rest his/her soul” (“Bog da prosti”).

An old Bulgarian traditional story says: A monk had lived in a monastery some years all by himself. Finally he decided to travel the world, see people and then come back again later. While walking on the road, he met a man, who was armed to the teeth. The monk greeted him, they started talking and decided to travel together. The monk said he was afraid of the stranger because of all those arms on him. The stranger replied there was nothing to be afraid of.

The night found them at the door of a poor man's hut. They knocked on it and asked if they could spend the night there. The wife of the cow herd invited them in and fed them. In the morning, when they got up, the cow herdsman went off to work and then the armed man said to the woman: “Get up, take everything you have in the hut; the children, take them out, because I am going to pull your hut down.”

After he had done that, the two companions continued on their way.

The next night they stopped at a chorbadji's house (chorbadjii were the upper-middle class in Bulgaria during the 17th - 18th century) and knocked on his door. The next morning there was a thick fog, so the armed man asked the chorbadji to let his youngest son show them the way out of the village.

As soon as the three men were out of the chorbadji's sight, the armed man slit the throat of the host's son. And then they continued walking.

The monk could bear this no longer. He said: “Judging by your deeds, you are not a good man. Those people were kind to us and both times you paid them back with evil.” His companion replied: ”Yes, I am a good man". The monk exclaimed: “How is that possible? Why did you pull down the herdsman's hut? Why did you kill the chorbadji's son? What evil did they do to you?!”

“I will tell you why I did these things", - said the stranger - "That herdsman has been tending the cattle in his village for years now and he'll never get rich as long as he lives. God does not want him to be a herdsman any more. He sent me to pull his hut down, because underneath there is a pot of gold coins.

As for the chorbadji's son - when the boy was still in his mother's womb, he thought: 'I have to kill my father, so I can take his money and land.' That is why God told me to take the boy's soul.

I am Archangel Mikhail who takes souls and does whatever God orders me to. That is why I can tell you that you have no business travelling the wide world - your place is in the monastery. Now go back there.”

And with these words the angel disappeared and the monk returned to the monastic way of life.