The story of Maria the lucky one
How two identical distaffs had different fates for their owners
Bitterly cold are the winters in Kenozero. The sun drops fast and the days are short. The village lasses gather for an evening party in Zekhnova. Joining them are the girls from the neighboring village of Spitsyna. Some bring with them their distaffs, some embroidery frames. It will be fun with singing and dancing, but first things first.

They all sit down in the hut and begin to share the news. Anna, the blacksmith's daughter, starts to sing:
If only I could stay at father's home to live my maiden life, I'd spend my days just cleaning things from morning till the night...

Everyone joined in.

As the lasses do their handiwork, they keep looking at Maria and Nastasia, out of curiosity. Both are equally pretty, their dowry prepared in their chests for married life, but their rivalry won't let them be good friends. All people in Zekhnova know they've been competing against each other since the day they were born.

Should Maria appear in the chapel wearing a new sundress, it won't be long before Nastasya follows her example. Should there be a towel to be embroidered and Maria copes faster, Nastasya is sure to be catching up at night, unwilling to give up. Of all the marriageable men in Zekhnova, both have fallen for Stepan, a native of Spitsyna. Whose heart is he going to break?

The glow of kindling wood is bright and the hut is filled with light. Zekhnova lasses are showing off their new distaffs.

To everyone's astounding surprise, Nastasya and Maria have completely identical distaffs. There's no way to tell them apart!
"Who made you your distaff? How come he made it look like mine?" Nastasya asks jealously.
One thing is clear: the distaffs are the work of renowned local master Prokopiy Prokopyevich Zavyalov. How beautiful they are! The Kenozero style distinguishes itself by special carving pattern, with a large circle in the middle of the blade - the symbol of the Sun and the celestial globe.

The sun rays warm the earth to make trees grow and rye seeds rise. Human life is like the life of nature: girls get married and get kids. Like Mother Earth gives birth to crops, a woman gives this world her children. Can this be message of the symbols on the Kenozero distaffs? Look at these luxurious vases with bouquets, roses, leaves and berries woven into garlands: they are symbols of fertility, embodiments of paradise on Earth.

Topping the Kenozero distaffs are five rounded peaks, called "scallops". When a lad decides he likes the lass and wants to marry her, he breaks one scallop as a sign of his intention. This is how he lets the people know he's serious. The girl is to be married soon.

Zekhnova girls are trying hard to find the difference. They've spotted one: the rosaces on Nastasya's distaff seem to be smaller, and they are two, not three. Is it master Zavyalov trying to tell Nastasya to stop being jealous and to live her own life?

It was as if he knew Stepan would come that evening and break the "scallop" on Maria's distaff and take her to his home in Spitsyna. Maria buries her brightly colored maiden distaff in her chest and will receive a new one as a married woman – the inconspicuous and bleak distaff, as is the tradition in Kenozero.
"Good-bye to my carefree maiden's life," she starts to sing.

As to Nastasya, she'll remain jealous and unmarried for her whole life. She's got the evil eye, they say. Whoever she casts it on will have her curse for generations…