Saturday 23 March 2019

Water bull

This is Pešter highland. Located in South-Western Serbia, it is one of the best grazing lands in Europe. The area is also known as Raška, Ras. This area was during the Early medieval time a Serbian heartland, the land of Rasi, Rasci, Raci, as Serbs were known at the time.

The name of one of the oldest and strangest breeds of sheep, "Racka" sheep, literally means "The sheep of Rasi, Rasci, Raci (Serbs)" or Serbian sheep. They are depicted on a fresco from the 14th c. Serbian monastery in Kosovo.

One of the oldest Serbian churches, the Church of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul, is located in Stari Ras, the old capital of Raška

But Raška, Ras was a holy land even before the conversion of the Serbs into Christianity. The pictures of the Pešter highlands were taken from a peak called Trojan (another name for Triglav (Three-headed), old Serbian and Slavic supreme god. You can read more about Triglav in my post "Triglav Trojan Triniti Trimurti". 

This is the peak Trojan (1374 m). 

It lies at the edge of the Pešter highland, and from it you can see the whole highland. It was once probably an important pagan site. This can be deduced both from its name (Trojan- Triglav) and from the legends associated with the site

According to the local legends, there once was a lake below the peak. The lake was a home to a three headed (!) dragon, or in another version of the legend, to a water bull...Every year the local people sacrificed a young girl to the monster, so that it would leave them in peace. One year, it was Serbian king's daughter's turn to be sacrificed. But at the last moment, a knight, St George, arrived, killed the monster and saved the girl.

Interestingly, at the bottom of the Trojan peak lies Djurdjevica well (St George's well). This well is holly to both Christians and Muslims who live in the area, and they gather around every year on St George's day, to celebrate the Saint's day together...

The legend about the peak Trojan could be a depiction of the Christianisation of the Serbs in Old Ras...

The "Three-headed dragon" here is Triglav, the old God of the Serbs who was "killed" by the Dragon-Slayer, St George.  "A knight and a dragon" by Walter Crane

But it could be something else entirely...

The fact that the "monster" to whom the young girls were sacrificed was identified as both dragon and bull is very interesting. Dragon represents the destructive power of the burning summer sun. And summer starts in Taurus (Bull)...

Summer starts on the 6th of May, Jarilo day, Beltine (middle of Taurus). Jarilo represents the sun's heat, symbolized by the snake and the dragon. Funnily Jarilo was Christianized into St George, the Dragon killer, who kills Dragon-Bull :) 

You can read more about this in my post "Dragon killing Snake" and my post "Two crosses".

Every Year, in the middle of Taurus (Bull), the Young Earth, Vesna, is "sacrificed" to the Young Sun, Jarilo (literally the burning, the raging one). Spring (the princess) is "sacrificed" (it ends) so that Summer (bull, dragon) can begin. 

I wrote about Vesna in my post Flower Girls.

Similar legend about a water bull to whom girls were sacrificed is found in Bulgaria. 

The Belogradchik Fortress is an ancient fortress located on the north slopes of the Balkan Mountains, close to the town of Belogradchik, Vidin Province, Northwestern Bulgaria. 

The fortress was built by Romans around a natural rock outcrops

In the flatlands visible from the fortress lies Lake Rabisha, the largest inland natural freshwater lake in Bulgaria.

According to the local legend, the lake was once a home to a terrifying monster: Water Bull. 

The Water Bull was a giant with the human body, the head of a bull and the tale of fish. It terrorised the local area attacking the people and cattle. In order to placate the beast, the local people would, once a year, offer as a sacrifice to it the most beautiful young girl in the entire region. The girl would be taken to the lake shore in a procession. There she would be put on a boat together with many wonderful gifts and would be pushed into the lake where she would fall pray to the monster.

The terrible story of the annual sacrifices to the Water Bull actually has a happy ending. The most gorgeous girl in the world was born one day in the village of Rabisha. When she grew up and the time came to offer her as sacrifice, she was placed in a boat and pushed to the middle of the lake.

However, when the Water Bull saw her, he was so enchanted by her that instead of killing her, he fell in love. He asked his sister, who was a sorceress, for help, and with her powers she made the beautiful girl immortal. The Water Bull took his young wife to the bottom of the Lake, and never came back for more prey. The two of them are still believed to be living happily down there.

These two legends, I believe, can help us understand two important classical legends: Minotaur and Europa stories. But more about that some other time. 

By the way, water bull is also found in Scottish and Manx folklore, but apparently the Gaelic monster preferred local cows to local young girls...


  1. Hey, could you perhaps write something about the importance of hair for Slavic and other European peoples? Most of Slavic peoples today have some sort of hair-related ethnic belief or fashion aspect. In a few sources it is cited as a Scythian influence. Examples:
    Poles: kołtun,kołtun zapuszczony (so-called Polish plait)
    Ukrainians: чуб, чуприна, оселедець (typical for Cossacks)
    Serbs: перчин,кика, мушка плетеница (all men wore it up to 1810's)
    Bulgarians: перчин, перчем
    Slovaks: iconic Goral hairstyles - long hair and several braids

    In several sources, hair was highly regarded by Slavs, and the word for hair (волос, волосся, власи) could be cognate to the god Veles (Велес). There was also the ritual first cutting of hair in a person's life called: постриг (in Serbia for example).

    Hope to see something about Slavic hairstyles, thank you in advance!!

  2. Lake Vlasina has been the subject of several myths and legends. Just as streams flow into it today, so until recently others were added to one story. The reason for that is the fact that the large (12 kilometers long) Vlasina Lake, at an altitude of 1200 meters, was an imitation of an endless lush meadow in which Vlasina horses, cattle, sheep and even the enemy army disappeared. For example, in the First World War, an entire Bulgarian cavalry regiment disappeared in the mud in the Vlasina Tresava (now a lake). Such a mystical decline of the army and cattle in Vlasinsko blato (tresava) was the reason for the creation of the legend of an unusual giant water monster. The myth of that unusual water (lake) monster, which "rang" after the construction of the earth dam in 1954, says that the lake was ruled by a monster that looked like a giant bull. It is not known when the story of this water phenomenon - the monster, which hides in the vast mysterious depths of the lake, dates back. It is known that older people with "certainty" showed the place where this ghost is. It is said that this water monster came out on the picturesque shores of the lake and destroyed well-groomed horses and herds of cattle. The inhabitants even undertook real crusades to destroy the monster. The rattles gathered the people at the moment when, for example, a "volovodnica" (a place for mating a cow) disappeared in the jaws of the mud. About twenty oxen, which were headlessly chasing the cow during the mating season, swallowed the mud (Lake Vlasina) as if they weren't even there. This added new elements to this mysterious story. It was rumored that the phenomenal water monster lived there for centuries, so it was added that she wandered from another planet, or God sent her to punish those who hid from him. However, it was mostly believed that it was some giant proto-animal. It was proved that this ghost has the magical power to quickly pick up the cattle that graze around the lake, eat it, so it satisfies hunger and rests at the bottom of the lake for several days. The story of this lake monster remained just a story. After creating a strange earthen dam, the lake was rebuilt. About 15 million cubic meters of water, brought to the lake from its surroundings (mostly from the area of ​​Crna Trava), were covered with mud. Only the floating islands remain to tell us about the appearance of the lake in the past. Along with the disappearance of the mud, the name Vlasinsko blato changed to Vlasinsko Lake, and with the change of name and the disappearance of the mud, the stories about this monstrous water monster, about the lake monster, disappeared. Now cruisers are cruising the lake. Instead of the story of the phenomenal monster, there is now talk of the phenomenal ice crust of the lake, which is used for skating for six months a year.
    According to Vilada Raisavljević.