This Russian New Year’s Eve women’s divination ritual foretells the fortunes awaiting in the New Year. In the days before private bathrooms and indoor plumbing, the bathhouse was a place of social as well as hygienic significance. It is also often a place of great magical and spiritual significance. What is now only a “bathhouse” was once the home for spiritual, shamanic, and magic rites. Babies were born in the bathhouse, healings performed, men and women readied for marriage. Post Christianity, the bathhouse retained its power but also developed an aura of the forbidden.
In Russia, the bathhouse maintains a magical aura akin to a crossroads. The bathhouse is also the home of powerful spirits, ancient pagan deities now demoted to bathhouse guardians. Forgotten spirits tend to be grouchy spirits, although not always. This ritual takes place at midnight, ideally at midnight, the threshold of the New Year.
Taking turns, women remove their underwear and approach the bathhouse backwards, skirts lifted over their heads. The bathhouse door is left partially open. Each woman sticks her naked bottom through the door and waits.
If the resident spirit slaps or scratches her, this is not a good sign for the coming year. If, on the other hand, she receives a gentle and pleasurable caress, with hands rather than claws, her future shines bright, while a kiss is auspicious enough to go buy some lottery tickets.