Pick-A-Day

October 2020
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Whatchamacallit 25: оберег (obereg)

оберег (obereg)

When I moved into my apartment, back in August 2010, my first guest was a Ukrainian friend – who presented me this pair of shoes that were to be hung by my front door.

And so it was, directly inside the front door, one of the first things you see upon opening the door.

What I recall from her explanation, a decade ago, is that the shoes are for the cleaning fairy who works in my apartment. It turns out that my memory is semi-faulty? I asked her about the shoes again, which she clarifies as:

The name for a large version is лапти (lapti), when used like this – it is supposed to ‘guard’ your home. Such things are called оберег (obereg) literally the one that safeguards.

She further notes the former name is Russian and the latter name is Ukrainian – and since she is from Kiev, I will go with the latter.

But then she also added (just to muddle my confused brain):

The cleaning aspect is correct for some parts of Ukraine

My prodding resulted in the discovery that British folklore has the Brownie, a (male) fairy who comes at night to clean.

Essentially, the shoes are meant for this fairy – domovoy – which he wears while working.

I look at these shoes every single day – in that instant, I am reminded of my friend, my trips to Kiev, our times in Jena, and that there is, indeed, a fairy ensuring that my apartment is kept clean (and now that I’m the one doing the vacuuming and other cleaning, it is literally true).


During the Covid-19 crisis, I am going to try and make a point of writing a blog post about an object in my home.

We’ll see how long this lasts.

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