St. Michael is Ukraine’s Protector

Venerated for centuries in countries around the world, the visage of St. Michael, the Archangel of the heavens and the warrior purported to pass judgment on all souls when Christ returns to an earthly form, this saint, Ukrainians claim as their own alone.

According to legend, when God divided the earth into countries and the angels chose one to patronize, St. Michael was last to choose his earthly home. Land swathed with leaves shining like layers of gold and bubbling blue rivers, St. Michael became the protector of the Kyivan Rus, his colors illustrated in the Ukrainian trident flag. Since the 11th century, St. Michael has been the patron saint of Kyiv.

Portrayed on the ancient coat of arms of Kyiv, St. Michael holds a sword and in iconic images is shown trampling the devil underfoot with a green branch of date tree and a spear with a white banner or a burning sword in his hands. Folklore dictates that St. Michael is the master of lightening and wind. Once the creation of the devil, the wind is now the tool St. Michael carries on his shoulder. A protector’s work to vanquish evil is never done, though, and with bolts of lightening, St. Michael tracks his prey. A direct hit sparks thunder in the heavens.

Shielding the Ukrainian nation and the city of Kyiv from evil forces of Lucifer, the angel believing his power equaled that of God, St. Michael’s aura persists in modern-day Ukraine. The Feast Day of St. Michael, celebrated on November 21, was once the day of remembrance of the dead as well. Close relatives of the deceased organized a meal of borsch, chicken with pasta, braised cabbage, and varenyky. Communal feasts were followed by a party open to all in the local village. Respect for the deceased was equated with the number of guests attending the celebration.

The potency of the Feast of St. Michael can still be felt in Ukrainian villages. Work is forbidden by Christian tradition and pity the farmer tilling his land for St. Michael may just smite him with natural disaster!