A Polish herbarium by Marcin of Urzędów (circa 1500 – 1573) contains an interesting passage regarding the worship of Diana (Devanna) in Poland when discussing the herb bylica. The herbarium itself was published in 1595 (after Marcin’s death). We present a translation of the entry on bylica:
Artemesia Valentina. Herba Regia, Olus Regium.
in Polish called Bylica
“This herb was named, from the Greek word Artemesia, after Artemis, that is the Goddess Diana, whom others call Artemis in Greek. For it was she who had discovered this herb and taught Greek ladies it use: and most noteworthy she taught Chyron, that illustrious doctor and he later taught the ladies the use of this herb. For this reason these pagan [maidens] dedicated this herb to her and when the day [of Diana/Artemis] was celebrated some hung it up around houses while others girded it on: and this was done on the twenty fourth day of the moon [month] June, on our day of Saint John: and so they [the ladies] lit fires in the night, danced, praying and honoring the devil. [And] this pagan custom they [women] refuse to forsake to this day, for so they make offerings of this herb hanging it and girding it on. And they honour holidays of this devil [i.e., Diana/Artemis] by making sabaths [sobotki], burning fires, kindling fires with planks [sticks], so that there should be the right devilish holiness: there they sing devilish songs, obscene/filthy while dancing. And the devil too jumps [i.e., dances], delighted that Christians are praying and honoring it, while they neglect the dear Lord for on the Day of Saint John you won’t find any peasants/villagers honoring the dear Lord but at the sabbath [sobotka] they will do all kinds of evils.”*
* that is, on the 24th of June, the villagers won’t be going to Church but will attend the various dances for Artemis/Diana.
“Some write that bylica, called Artemesia, was so named after that noble lady Queen Artemesia, who was the wife of King Mansedlus of Carissus, who by reason of her great love [for him] built him so illustrious a tomb that it one of its kind in the whole world, [and] about which so many historians write. And as regards the hanging of bylica around the homesteads, then this may perhaps have been tolerated but for the fact that they also so honoured the devil. For so writes Pliny [Li 26, cap 10] that when it shall hang over the gates, doors or gateways, windows, then magic shall have no power over that house nor over the man that has it with him.”
“Dioscorides separately writes in his Kapitulum that there be three [types of] Artemesia. The one he calls Platisfillos, Latifolia in Latin, and in Polish Bylica, [with] wide leaves. And this is the true Bylica one is red and the other white. The second one he names Leptofillos, Lennifolia in Latin, in Polish Maruna, this one we have named in the chapter Matricaria. The third one he names Monoclonos, Tanacetu in Latin but incorrectly. Fuchsius says that it should be Tages, and this bylica is called Tages Indicus, in Italian Gariofilli Dziuerni, in Polish Gwoździki zimne [cold] or Indian Gwoździki, which also sometimes grow in Poland, a beautiful and pretty flower: about this in more detail, [see] Fuchsius.”
“Paulus writes that bylica has a warming effect… [the rest does not discuss pagan rituals any further]”
For prior entries on Dziewanna (Devanna) see here, here, here, here and here. See also here for another relation to Diana.
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