The Holy Wash, illustration

“ONIRA” is an emerging independent Greek publication launched in June 2023 by artist and graphic designer Melina Jade. For the first issue titled  Winter Swim, I created a series of 3D illustrations depicting water-related religious rituals in winter time.

Meteorological agrarian rituals and traditions are rooted in Moldovan folklore and holiday celebrations. As a child I used to attend Boboteaza, a Moldovan Orthodox holiday dedicated to purification of nature, especially water, from evil spirits. I vaguely remember the scent of incense and myrrh, splashes of cold holy water on my skin and blurred silhouettes circling around me, in repetitive patterned ways.

Celebrated on the 6th of January and related to the Theophany of Jesus Christ, Boboteaza honours the baptism of Jesus in the Jordan River, seen as his manifestation to the world as the Son of God. This day is charged with magical agrarian practices absorbed by Christianity from previous pagan beliefs, like the cult of fertility, purification, and honouring the spirits of water and fire.
The community gathers on river banks and lakeshores, and the priest throws the holy cross in the ice cold water, so that young men will dive inside and retrieve it. The one who gets first to the cross receives the blessing of the priest and will be lucky for the whole year. The priest sanctifies the waters, animals, humans and their homes.  People also engage in prediction rituals to see how the weather and harvest are going to be in the new year.