Skip to content

Paraskevi: St. Friday (Chap. 8)

snapshot of a roadside shrine to Saint Paraskevi.

Hagia Paraskevi (Holy/Saint Friday) absorbed many of the traits of the former goddess(es) to whom women prayed for help in childbearing.  (It is quite clear that the original St. Paraskevi/Paraskeva never existed, but was born from a linguistic reinterpretation of the Greek expression for Holy Friday, which we call Good Friday.  Her closest associate is always St. Anastasia, similarly a reinterpretation of “divine resurrection”.  They were, after all, only 3 days apart!  Many centuries later, two different nuns took Paraskevi’s name as a church-name and eventually were sainted, so finally real saints of this name did come to exist.)  Here is another interesting text about the original Paraskevi.

Legend from Vladimir province:

“A fellow came at night into the hut where Paraskevi and her husband lay by the stove, and asked Paraskevi to come be midwife. …Paraskevi took the baby to the bathhouse to a (servant)girl, who lived with some devils.  St. Paraskeva-Pjatinitsa succeeded with the help of a cross and prayers to get the newborn back from the devils.  The devils, unhappy with the loss of the child, roused up the Unclean Tsar [Devil], who tried to persuade Paraskeva to renounce her Christian faith.  Paraskeva refused, and on Friday the Tsar condemned her to be beheaded.  This is why she is called the martyr Paraskeva Pjatnitsa.”     —Russkii Prazdnik: Paraskeva 366.

fabric scraps flutter from the branches of the trees outside the little building.

Note: Paraskevē = Friday in Greek ( literally “Preparation” day for the Sabbath, which was originally Saturday).  Pjatnitsa = Friday in Russian (literally “Fifth” day of the week, which the Slavs, unlike the Greeks, began on Monday).  Paraskevē also gave rise to the popular Russian women’s name Praskov’e, and Dostoevski has all sorts of fun playing on the meanings of these names, among many others, in Crime and Punishment.  (For example, [A]Nastasia, “resurrection”, is always waking the protagonist up.  This topic is fully explored in P. Barber, M. Zirin, and E. Barber, Two Thoughts with but a Single Mind: Crime and Punishment and the Writing of Fiction, which may be downloaded here)