Saturday, 25 April 2020

Hazel

Serbs believed that hazel was a "blessed tree". An old hazel tree was particularly "holy". A person could even confess to it, like he would to a priest...


The most interesting Serbian Easter custom is "hazel communion". In the morning people went to the nearest hazel tree, where the communion was taken by eating a hazel bush blossom instead of communion bread. After that people went to the church to do the confession...


The same was done on Christmas Eve, except then people ate a hazelnut instead of communion bread...


An old man from Smoljani (Bosnia) described this ritual like this:


Also in Bosnia, if some evil befell the house, the family would go to the nearest hazel tree and would walk three times around it praying to god for help...Instead of going to the church...

In Eastern Serbia, if a local "zapis" (holy oak marked with cross where village mass was held), suddenly dried, which was the sign of an impending doom, people would stick a hazel twig into the ground and would then kneel around it and pray to it for protection from evil...


Hazel twig is used to "pull out living fire" (to ritually make fire using fire drill) and this fire was used to light up the first fire in the new house...


Unless people were moving from the old house to the new house, in which case the fire was brought from the old house hearth and used to light the fire in the new house hearth. 


I talked about Serbian rituals linked with the building of a new house in my article "New house"

Christmas bread "česnica" baked on an open fireplace, was covered with charcoal using hazel twigs. These charred twigs were then placed into grain storage...



In some parts of Serbia, "položajnik" (first footer) walked around the house holding hazel branch before entering the house on Christmas morning, to ensure the house is protected from evil...

These hazel twigs were used to poke the Yule log during Christmas Eve fertility rituals...




You can read more about these rituals in my article "First footer".

In parts of Bosnia a hazel log, not oak, was used as the Yule log. After bringing the hazel Yule Log into the house, the househusband would first scrape a bit of soot from the sealing with it, and would then use the Yule Log to draw a soot cross on the wall to bless the house...

Hazel was also linked to the otherworld. On Christmas eve, the old winter solstice night, the longest night, when the dead come into the land of living, hazelnuts (and walnuts) were thrown into corners, where the souls of the dead congregated, as the food for the dead...

If a mistletoe was found growing on a hazel bush, people believed that a snake king can be found curled up under the bush, with a shining jewel on its forehead, or some other treasure next to it ...



Snakes that live under a hazel bush have special powers. If one eats the meet of a snake killed under a hazel bush, he will understand the language of animals. And if one eats the snake's heart, he will also understand the language of plants, particularly medicinal plants...



Hazel was believed to be the tree of wisdom, knowledge. The expression “Nije tri puta oko leske sastavljen” (he wasn't three times carried around a hazel tree) depicts a silly, stupid, mad person, who wasn't brought into wisdom, smartness giving contact with a hazel tree...

Which is maybe why Serbian schools kids who didn't know something were beaten with hazel twigs, to "beat wisdom into them" :)...

Hazel twigs were believe to be able to kill or at least ward off devil. It was believed that devil will never be able to cross the circle drawn on the ground with a hazel twig. 

Hazel was a favourite tree of "vilas" (fairies, but more precisely personification of lightning). They liked resting on hazel branches "because devils were afraid of hazel"...

Lightning was in Serbian mythology the weapon used by Ilija Gromovnik (Elijah the Thunderer, Christianised Perun) to kill devils. 



You can read more about Ilija Gromovnik in my post "Thundering sun god".

And hazel features prominently in Serbian thunder and lightning magic...


According to the Serbian tradition "Hazel tree is the best protection from thunder and hailstone. Thunder never strikes into hazel tree because it was blessed by god and god only strikes devil's trees"...Like oaks, the tree of the old God, Perun...



This is why in mountains of Serbia shepherds decorate themselves with hazel branches or tied hazel twigs around their waists during thunderstorms or run under a hazel tree for protection...



The connection between the hazel tree and thunder can be seen from the folk belief that hazel trees will lose all the nuts if there is a thunderstorm on St Elijah the Thunderer day (Perun day, 2nd of August)... 

On St George day, the beginning of the summer, green hazel twigs were used to decorate houses, sheds, pens, fields, gardens as a protection from thunder and hailstone. In some parts of Serbia people made hazel crosses and hang them around their property instead of hazel twigs...

This is also why hazel was often planted next to houses, to protect them from lightning. And why a hazel stick (wand) was kept in houses, because it was a weapon which could break lightning storms, particularly hail storm...

Remember, it is lightning which was the original source of fire. This is how gods made fire. Then people stole the fire from the gods. Figured out how to make it themselves by using (hazel) sticks...Hence the relation between hazel sticks, live fire and lightning...

Serbs also believed that sometimes, a petrified lightning can be found under a hazel tree. It looked like a black or grey egg, and and it smelled like gun powder. It was believed that this stone lightning would bring luck to its finder...


Hazel is particularly linked with fertility. A young hazel or a hazel twig is in Serbian folklore actually known the "tree of life"....

In Bosnia there is a custom that on St George's day every animal in the household is touched with a hazel twig to insure its health and fertility. Hazel leaves were put under chicken nests so that chicken would have lots of chicks...


A flower wreath which is used for ritual sheep milking on St George's day is hang on hazel branch. I talked about St George's day shepherd's rituals in my post "Aries must die". 



Serbs also believed, that if you count sheep on their return from the highland pastures using hazel twig, by touching each sheep as it enters the sheep pen, sheep will multiply...


New bee swarm should be caught in a new basket beehive made from hazel twigs, to ensure that the new beehive will produce lots of honey...More about Slavic bee folklore can be found in my post "Bee". 

"When bees don't want to swarm, pick three hazel twigs before sunrise, and use them to let the sheep flock out of the sheepfold. Then touch the beehive with the twigs. The bees will start swarming after that"...


Serbs believed that the most magically powerful were the hazel twigs which were brought to the church on the "Cveti" (Flowers) day. This is the ancient spring celebration linked to female fertility. 



More about this in my post "Flower girls".

Hazel played special role in Serbian female love and fertility magic. People believed that if a girl hits a boy three times with a hazel twig, he will never look at any other girl...

Serbian girls who wanted to get married used to saw a hazelnut into their clothes, next to their heart, to ensure they found love...

Bits of hazel wood were placed in the clothes of the newly wed and bows were braided from hazel twigs and placed on their heads to ensure they have lots of children...

A woman who eats a worm from a hazel tree or a hazel bud would certainly get pregnant...It was also believed that in the year when hazels have many nuts, there will be many children too...

In Homolje, Eastern Serbia, women used to put a hazelnut under their "tkanica" belt "to give birth to male children". 




More about these beautiful belts in my post "Crios-Tkanica".

A pregnant woman should cary a hazelnut in her blouse near her breasts. When she gives birth, she should put this hazelnut into the water used to bath the baby for the first time, so it would be healthy...

Even healthy people bathed in water with hazel twigs and leaves "for health" because it was believed that hazel had magical power over sickness and even death. Which is why it was believed that a hazel stick can be even used to raise the dead...

That's it for today folks...Hope you enjoyed it...Have a nice evening...

Sources:

"Rečnik srpskih narodnih verovanja o biljkama" by Veselin Čajkanović
"Srpski mitološki rečnik" by Grupa Autora

Friday, 24 April 2020

Goats and partridges

Terracotta lentoid flask, 11th century B.C. Levantine. Both sides of the flask are decorated with goats, birds, and rudimentary foliage. 



I would like to analyse this object and its decorations.

So first, what are the animals depicted on this flask? Well, they are, based on the characteristics, our old friends: 

Bezoar Ibex Goat


Chukar partridge...


Is the choice of the animals and the composition and grouping of animals random? I don't think so. Here is why:

Climate in Levant, where this flask was made, is characterised by Hot Dry summers and Mild Wet winters...

Red table-temperature. 


Green table-rain.


You can see that the wet season starts in October-November and ends in April-May.

The breeding season of the Bezoar Ibex Goats varies across their range, but is generally from October-November to January. October-November is the beginning of winter and the beginning of Cool Wet Season in Levant. Which is why goats on the vessel are flanking a flowering and leafy bush (tree). This is the beginning of the season when nature turns lush and green. 

Also the mating season of Bezoar Ibex Goats overlaps with winter (from the beginning of November to the end of January), which is the first half of the Cool Wet Season.

The breeding season of the Chukar Partridges varies across their range, but is generally from February to May...The end of the Chukar breeding season marks the end of spring and the end of the Cool Wet Season in Levant. Which is why partridges are standing among dry bushes...

Also the mating season of Chukar Partridges overlaps with spring (from the beginning of February to the end of April), which is the second half of the Cool Wet Season.

What the decorations on this (most likely water) flask represent the Cool Wet Season, water rich season, neatly divided into Winter (Bezoar Ibex Goats part) and Spring (Chukar Partridges part). 

And the important demarcation dates on the climatic year are again marked by animals which mate or have young around those dates...

Lebanon is another place where we find Ibex worship from very early times. 

Like in Crete, Ibex was worshiped as bringer of life, often associated with "tree of life", basically just growing, living, green tree kept alive by rains which are "brought" by mating ibex goats...I talked about this in my posts "Goat riding thunder god", "Saffron" and "Sanctuary rhyton".

And like in Crete, Partridge was worshiped as symbol of fertility because the period when partridges start laying eggs is also the period when first vegetables and grains, the products of fertile nature, are ready to be harvested...I talked about this in my post "Painted eggs from Knossos".

Monday, 20 April 2020

Jovanova struga

I found this out today. On the day of the Winter Solstice, if the stars could be seen during daytime, the Sun would be seen as a brilliant star shining in the centre of the Milky Way. WOW! So cool...



Why this is so wow, is not just because of how beautiful this looks. It is also wow because at the precise moment when the Sun is "reborn", it is aligned to the centre of the Milky Way, which in Serbia tradition is the path souls follow to reach heaven, the land of the dead.

Did you know that the word galaxy comes from the Ancient Greek word γάλα (milk) + ίας (ending forming adjectives) = milky...

If we look at Eurasian languages, most of Eurasian people see our galaxy as "milky way". After that, the most common names are:

1. various birds ways
2. river, fish ways

All these names are probably product of hunter gatherer and herding cultures.

But in Serbian tradition, the name for our galaxy is linked to straw, hay, grain. This name is probably product of grain farming culture...

In Serbian tradition our galaxy is known as "Kumova Slama" meaning "The Godfather's hay". No one really knows why...I mean, godfather was in the past pretty important figure in Serbian tradition. Godfather was not just a third parent, and someone who would take care of the child if anything happened to his parents, but also a spiritual parent of the child, someone who had responsibility for their soul...

But I think that the original expression was not "Kumova Slama" (The Godfather's hay) but "Gumnova Slama" (Threshing floor hay). 



Threshing floors were in the past in Serbia used not only for threshing but also as communal gathering places, where village councils and ceremonies took place. And they were seen as holy places...

In Serbian tradition, it is this hay (Milky Way), that a soul needs to cross to reach "The other world". To reach God. What do we reach when we cross threshing floor hay? We reach "stožer", the central pole of the threshing floor...The Axis Mundi...And that stake was venerated and most likely seen as the seat of the god on earth...



I talked about this in my posts "Bogovo gumno - God's threshing floor", "Shield of Achilles" and "Colossus"...

Interestingly the same link between the Milky Way and the path "the dead need to cross to get to the otherworld" exists in Ancient Greek, Platonic philosophy. We find the description of this link in the "Commentary on Cicero’s "Somnium Scipionis", written by Macrobius, a Neoplatonist who lived around AD 400 in Rome and wrote texts supporting paganism...

Platonic doctrine of the soul states that before birth the soul is a unified sphere because opposites do not yet exist. This sphere (soul) proceeds to birth, to incarnation, when it loses its spherical shape, that is, its unity...


This is interesting, because we find the same thing in Taoism were wuji (undivided whole) divides into taiji (opposites)...

I talked about this in my post "Fibonacci"...

The Platonists then continue to say that the soul travels between this world and the otherworld along on the Milky Way. The Milky Way intersects the astrological zodiac in Cancer and Capricorn, the two gates of the sun...

The first gate, Cancer, is the gate of man, while the second gate, Capricorn, is the gate of the gods. Through the first gate souls descend to earth to be born (reborn), through the second they return to the otherworld when people die...

That the Winter Solstice (Capricorn) sun gate is the gate of gods is kind of obvious.  Sun god gets reborn then. 

Why is the Summer Solstice (Cancer) sun gate the gate of men? The time when men are reborn.


In Slavic mythology, migratory birds spent winter in the land of the dead, the "otherworld". They spend summer in our world, the land of the living. And on their way from the land of the dead they bring with them the souls that would be reborn...

Is this why the Summer Solstice (Cancer) sun gate is the gate of men?

Now have a look at this:

Serbs have another name for Milky Way: "Jovanova struga". Jovan here could be Saint John. But the word "saint" is never used by peasants in Jovanova struga. It is always just Jovan, which could meant that Jovan here is Jov, old Sky God, or just Sky...

Word "struga" is an old Slavic word which means stream, current, canal, river bed...

So "Jovanova struga" is "The stream of Jov". Or if we replace Jov (Sky God) with Jov (Sky, Heaven), then "Jovanova struga" is "the river in the sky", "heavenly river"...

That here we are dealing with Jov, old sky god, Sky, can be seen by the fact that in Serbia we have two "Sveti Jovan" (St John) days: 

The summer Sveti Jovan 

Julian 24th of JuneCelebrated today according to the Gregorian calendar on the 7th of July

Cancer 21 June – 23 July

The winter Sveti Jovan 

Julian 7th of January, Celebrated today according to the Gregorian calendar on the 20th of January

Capricorn 22 December – 20 January 

Jovanova struga (the river in the sky) goes between these two Jovans, between Cancer and Capricorn...

Between the two Platonic sun gates... 

Ethnographic records confirm that Serbs definitely placed this "Jovan's river to which all souls rush too after death", in the sky. "Everything (every man after death) has to come on Jovanova struga (Jov's river) in the sky..."



Is this the river Styx across which souls have to cross into the otherworld? Interestingly Serbs believed that "Nicola ferries the souls from this world to the other world". 


Nicola (St Nicholas), Julian 6th of DecemberCelebrated today according to the Gregorian calendar on the 19th of December. 

The souls that travel along the "sky river", will first meet Nikola, who will take them to Jovan, who will open the winter Sun Gate that leads to the otherworld...

Interesting...

Million dolar question is: Did Serbs preserve Platonists' beliefs or did Platonists write down Serbian beliefs...

Sources:

"Sveci u Srpskoj religiji" by Veselin Čajkanović
"Macrobius: Commentarius ex Cicerone in somnium scipionis" by W. Bächtold








Sunday, 19 April 2020

White calf


I will like to try to "decode" this image, based on what I have discovered about the link between wild cattle and sycamore fig annual lifecycles and their link to the great annual flood of the Nile. The mural is of the Ramesside era, Deir el-Medina, tomb of Irynfer...

First the official interpretation:



As I have explained in detail in my post "Holy Cow" Hathor, the Holy Cow, is the deified Nile flood...

The reason why she is depicted as a cow, is because the monsoon which feeds the flood starts during the calving period of wild auroch cattle...which spans April - May...Which is marked in zodiacs with the symbol of Taurus...

Taurus, the calving season, marks the beginning of summer, which spans May, June, July. At the end of July, beginning of August, the wild auroch cattle mating season starts, which is marked by vicious bull fights...

So our bull calf marking the beginning of the summer becomes bull marking the end of the summer. Summer being season marked by a bull...

The flood which is kickstarted by the April-May (Taurus) monsoon peaks in the season marked by Leo, Autumn (August, September, October). Lion, which kills the bull, the end of summer and beginning of autumn. This happens at the end of July beginning of August...In Leo...

So what is the link between sycamore and the flood? Why is the bull calf standing between sycamore trees? Because of this: "Sycamore has three main harvests: May, June, August/September"...

Ancient Egyptian flood season, called Akhet - the inundation, lasted from June to September...Actually it started in May, when the monsoon that feeds the flood reached its peak in East Africa. It just takes some time for the flood water to reach Egypt...

So sycamore bears fruit during the flood season which is the source of all life in the Nile Valley...No wonder Hathor (the flood) was depicted as the sycamore tree full of fruit. Her legs being the trunk and all the fruit bearing branches growing out of her...




And the reason why she is always depicted carrying jug of water and platter of bread is kind of self explanatory. It was the flood that made land fertile and able to produce grain for bread. And it was the flood that fed the wells which produced water...

But why red sun rising. This is a very very interesting question. The flood season coincides with the summer, the hottest season completely dominated by the sun. So Ancient Egyptians could be forgiven for believing that it was the sun which somehow miraculously produced the flood...

Now the flood waters are reddish brownish in colour because of all the sediment, and can sometimes be blood read, leading to the image of the river of blood...



So I really think that the red sun represents the flood too, more precisely, sun filling nile with red flood water...And not any sun. Blood red sun of the sandstorm season...

"When the night came again it was black night, for the stars could not pierce the dust to get down. . . . In the morning the dust hung like fog, and the sun was as red as ripe new blood."

John Steinbeck, "The Grapes of Wrath" (1939)



This is a headline from one of the English newspapers:

Red sun spotted in sky over UK as Storm Ophelia whips up dust from Sahara

All over England, the sky looked as if it was in the middle of a sandstorm. The sky was a deep brown and orange, and the sun turned red – or disappeared behind the swirls of sand in the sky.

If it resembled something you'd expect to see in the Sahara Desert, that's because it was. The sand and dust had been carried over from southern Europe and Africa by recent bizarre weather, and as it swirled around it turned the sky dark.

Now in Egypt, the sandstorms are caused by "khamsin", a dry, hot, sandy local wind which can be triggered by extratropical cyclones that move eastwards along the southern parts of the Mediterranean or along the North African coast from February to June.

In Egypt, the khamsin usually arrives in April but occasionally can occur between March and May. A 19th century account says that in Egypt "people calculate the period of khamsin ... to commence on the day immediately following the Coptic festival of Easter Sunday, and to terminate on the Day of Pentecost (or Whitsunday); an interval of forty-nine days." 

This period roughly coincides with the Jewish Counting of the Omer, which also lasts for an interval of 49 days, between the springtime feasts of Passover and Shavuot, the Jewish origins of Easter and Pentecost.

Khamsin winds carry great quantities of sand and dust from the deserts and can cause the whole sky to turn orange red. 


As I explained in my post Menat, the khamsin season is the exact period when rain season starts in Ethiopian highlands. We see increase in rainfall starting from March, and then the arrival of the full blown monsoon starting from April/May/June, depending on the season...

And it is this monsoon which feeds the red nile flood, which brings life to Egypt during the summer, between wild cattle calving and mating seasons, which is actually the wild cattle lactating season, and between the beginning and the end of the sycamore fruit bearing season...

Hathor was closely associated with Hesat, another ancient Egyptian goddess in the form of a cow. Hesat was usually shown as a pure white cow carrying a tray of food on her head as her udders flow with milk...

Well that is as good a depiction of the effect of the monsoon and the resulting flood on Egypt which happens during the lactating season of the wild cattle, as I could imagine...

Hesat was in turn connected with Mnevis, the living bull god worshipped at Heliopolis, and the mothers of Mnevis bulls were buried in a cemetery dedicated to Hesat...

As I said, it is the calving season of the wild cattle (and Hathor was specifically said to be a wild cow), that marks the beginning of the monsoon which feeds the life bringing great flood...

This is also one of the reasons why Hathor carries the sun disc between her horns. Because Taurus (Bull in Latin), more correctly Vacca (Cow in Latin) marks the beginning of Summer. Taurus (Vacca) literally brings summer, season dominated by sun, between his (her) horns...

Saturday, 18 April 2020

Stake

This Ogham Stone stands overlooking Smerwick Harbour, Co. Kerry, Ireland. It can be found just off the route of the Dingle Way - Slí Chorca Dhuibhne, in Ballinrannig, close to Wine Strand and Béal Bán beaches...



Ogham stones are found mainly in burial grounds, and churchyards. But some ogham stones are found outside of these areas. Here the stones may have been boundary or territorial markers, or perhaps memorials, marking where someone died, or fell in battle, or indeed was buried...

In "A smaller social history of ancient Ireland", published by Joyce Patrick Weston in 1906, we can read that "when tribe-chief had taken possession of a district, he "erected pillar-stones there...in order that his share there may be known"... 



Joice then goes to say "But pillar-stones were erected for other purposes, of which the most usual was as a monument over a grave...Battles were (also) often commemorated by pillar-stones..."

And finally he says that "...pillar-stones were sometimes erected as idols..." and "...that a stone set up to mark a boundary was sometimes called a 'stone of worship'..."

In Serbia, people also erected boundary stones between villages until recently. Erecting of the boundary stones was witnessed by both sides accompanied by many religious rituals aimed at consecrating the stone. Consequently the boundary stone was considered sacred...

Any damage to the stone, falling the stone or moving the stone and even touching the stone was prohibited. These stones were always visited by the village processions from both villages during religious festivals, reaffirming the holiness of the stones and the sacredness of the border they represented...

The use of stones as border markers is very old. But I believe, that before people used stones, to mark the land as theirs, they used stakes...



This ancient tradition was preserved again by culturally super conservative Balkan Serbs...

In Serbia every unclaimed or uninhabited land was considered a wasteland, no man's land, unclean land. In the old times it was enough to stick a stake into such land to clean the land from demons and to claim the ownership of that land...

Interestingly, in Serbia when people wanted to insure that the dead stay dead :) and don't turn into a vampires, they stuck a stake through the dead body lying in the grave to "tie it down". I talked about this in my post "Vampires"... 

It seems that the land, earth was similarly subdued and "tied down" by sticking the stake into it...

The english expression "stake a claim to the land" actually describes this ancient custom. I have tried to find any explanation how this custom and expression entered the English language. I found this explanation in the English Etymological Dictionary: "From early 14c. as 'divide or lay off and mark (land) with stakes or posts'". 

When claiming the land, the stake was usually stuck in the middle of the claimed land where future clan village would be erected. Old clan histories still remember who was the first to stick the stake into the land and therefore claim the land for the clan...

In villages on mountain Rudnik, there was a custom to first stick a stake in the place where a new house was going to be built to purify the land, to clean it of bad spirits, and only then the house was built on "clean land"...

That stake was a tabu, and was never removed or in any way spoiled. People believed that doing so would bring bad luck to the family...

Once few clans moved into the same territory, clan lands would be merged into a village land. At that stage a new communal stake would be stuck into the ground to mark the communal village land...

These communal stakes were usually stuck on crossroads, near wells, in the centre of the future village and that stake would become the cult centre of the whole village. These village stakes would later be the places where churches and or graveyards would be placed...

Until recently in some parts of Serbia stake was also used as grave marker. Archaeologists have discovered remains of wooden stakes, always one stake per grave stuck at the head of the grave where today we find tombstones and crosses...

Stakes were used to mark the borders between private and communal land and also to mark the border between two village or clan lands...

Just like the border stones I talked about earlier, these border stakes were considered holy. And it was their holiness which made moving of the borders a tabu, and therefore prevented expansionist wars between the neighbouring tribes and clans...

In the Balkans, Slavs used the word "stup" (stake) to also denote "arable land, agricultural land, village land, cleared land which wholly belongs to one person"...

The ethnographic data from Montenegro and Stari Ras (Hercegovina), shows that when the new land was claimed, a wooden or stone "stake" was stuck into the land to mark the clan, tribe ownership over the land "until the end of time"...Which is why stake came to mean "owned land"...

Stup is mentioned as the word for arable land is found in 1321-1331 "Dečani charter", signed by Stefan Uroš III Dečanski of Serbia, the Serbian King, which contains a detailed list of households and villages in what is today Metohija and northwestern Albania...




One last thing. 

In both Ireland and Serbia, people lived in kin-groups, based on a belief that there was common male ancestor.

The closest kin group that was specifically defined consisted of the descendants of a common grandfather. In Ireland this group was called "gelfine" and in Serbia this group was called "zadruga".

This kin-group, consisting of grandparents, their sons and their families, could sometimes have over 100 individuals. All the property was owned by the family and the only personal property was what was on ones person.

The leader of this kin-group was the grandfather, and he was known either as "the head of the family", "cenn fine" in Irish and "glava porodice" in Serbian or "the pillar (stake) of the family", "ágae fine" in Irish and "stub porodice" in Serbian. 

Serbian sources:

Душан Бандић–"Народна религија Срба у 100 појмова" 
Бранислав Русић–"Старији обичаји код одређивања земљишних међа и око пољских радова у Кичевији, Гласник етнографског музеја у Београду XIX"
Група аутора-"Српски митолошки речник"