Thursday 28 November 2019

Monk and wolf

This is 12th century Kovilje Monastery, located Western Serbia, near the village of Smiljevac, under the mountain Javor, on the right bank of the Nošnica River 

The monastery was destroyed and rebuilt many times, but some 13th century frescoes managed to survive to this day 

During mid 20th century the monastery was almost abandoned. But then a young monk who took the name Amvrosije arrived to the monastery and started the renovation of this ancient sacred place. 

In 2008 local villagers brought a few days old she-wolf cub to the monastery. The mother was probably killed by hunters. Monk Amvrosije, who then lived alone in the monastery, nursed the cub, first feeding her milk every four hours, and then later giving her ground meat.

Through time a very strong bond developed between the monk and the she-wolf. The monk named her Alfa, and she stayed in the monastery and became monk's constant companion. On this picture Alfa was 10 months old.

But in 2010 Alfa was removed from the monastery by order of the local bishop because "she-wolf would attract a pack of wolves which would then attack villagers". The head of the Belgrade zoo and many other people protested against this terrible decision but to no avail...

Alfa was moved to some animal shelter, put in a cage and sterilised...And soon she died after being bitten by an infected tick...Monk Amvrosije stayed in the Kovilje Monastery where after Alfa's "abduction" his only company was his pet raven...

Since then Monk Amvrosije has rescued, nursed and tamed many other injured wild animals including a fox, an eagle, a snake, a rabbit, an owl...

A documentary about Monk Amvrosije and his wolf Alfa in two parts can be found on youtube here (in Serbian but worth watching anyway for amazing scenes of human and animal bonding)

Documentary part 1
Documentary part 2

Monday 25 November 2019


Herodotus says for Thracians that "when a child was born, they would gather and cry and lament all the hardships the new human would have to go through in his, her life. Funerals were the opposite, happy and full of joy for the deceased was leaving all the suffering behind..."

Some people says that that seems like a terribly depressing way to live...

Maybe if you come from a priviledged background. The thing is, life for most people even today is hard, dangerous, often tragic and short. You acknowledge this, and then go on with it, and try to make the best of it...

Interestingly, in the past, Serbs also rejoiced during funerals. There are even ethnographic records that say that it was obligatory to make jokes during funerals. When Serbian refugees arrived to Italy in the 15th c. Italians were shocked by Serbian funeral parties, which involved drinking, dancing and rejoicing...

Very similar to the Irish "wake" funeral party. Although death is a sad occasion a traditional Irish wake is seldom solemn. Friends and family gather in the house of the deceased and share memories and funny stories about the deceased. It is a celebration of the dead person's life, not crying over his or hers death. Food and drink are always present and although the church tried to ban alcohol from wakes it was unsuccessful. The reason why they wanted to ban alcohol is because they wanted to stop the "unchristian partying" around the coffin...

This is why the best party I attended the year I moved to Ireland was my wives's grandmother's funeral...

Sunday 24 November 2019


Bačije (summer highland shepherd settlement) Koželj region, Timočka Krajina, Eastern Serbia. People in the background are cooking food or boiling milk. The interesting bit is the shepherd on the right in his sheep fleece trousers...

This is a detail of the fresco called "The birth of Jesus" (dated to 1346) from the Serbian monastery Pećka patrijaršija lokated in Kosovo. The old shepherd in the fresco also wears fleece trousers. 

The strange sheep on the fresco are "Racka" (meaning Serbian) sheep. I wrote about this strange sheep in my post "Racka sheep".

Now meet Pan, Ancient Greek god of the wild, shepherds, flocks, nature of mountain wilds... Is it possible that the "goat legs" of Pan were not originally not goat legs at all, but highland shepherd fleece trousers, misinterpreted by coastal Greeks to be goat legs? 

After all in Greece the worship of Pan began in Arcadia which was always the principal seat of his worship. Arcadia was a district of mountain people, culturally separated from other Greeks.  

Shepherd deity, the protector of flocks would be imagined by shepherds like a shepherd, dressed the way shepherds dress, which includes the fleece trousers. 

If you didn't know what you were looking at, you could be forgiven for thinking that you were looking at a man with goat legs when you saw one of these highland shepherds for the first time in a distance...And this is how myths are made... 

Saturday 23 November 2019

Assumption of Mary

Fresco depicting Assumption (Dormition) of the Mother of God, Serbian orthodox Sopoćani monastery, built by King Stefan Uroš I of Serbia in the early 13th century.

The feast of Assumption (Dormition) of the Virgin Mother of God, celebrates her death and consequent raising to heaven. It is celebrated on the 15th of August (28th of August in the Orthodox churches)

Interestingly on the 23rd of  August sun begins to rise in Virgo (Virgin) constellation, and Virgo zodiac sign begins...

Also interestingly, on the 2nd of August, summer ends and autumn begins. And the cooling of the earth begins. The power of the Earth (Mother) is rising and the Sun-Earth system which generates climate begins to be dominated by Yin (Cold, Wet, Dark) aspects...

This is what Virgo zodiac sign symbolises on the Sun (not Star) zodiac. On this zodiac, which is much older, the signs are fixed on the solar circle as they depict significant natural events that occur in the temperate zones of the Northern Hemisphere every year at the same time...

The lady arrives riding on a lion, or in a chariots pulled by lions, or sitting on a lion flanked throne, or holding two lions one in each of her hands...

This is because Virgo (minimum Yin) arrives in the middle of Leo (maximum Yang)...

The hottest, driest part of the year in the northern hemisphere...

Leo is also the time when the main mating season of the Eurasian lions starts...

Mating season which spans Aug-Sep-Oct, Autumn, and which peaks in Virgo...

This goddess is found all over Eurasia and North Africa since at least the time of Çatalhöyük civilisation where we find the goddess seating on the lion throne

She is also Cybele

In India she is Indrani, the wife of Indra

 Shakti the wife of Shiva.

In Mesopotamia she is Ishtar, Inana and Nana, Nanay, Nanai...

For the Kushans she was Nana

Ancient Egyptians knew here as Sekhmet

And Qadesh 

In Ancient Middle East she was know as Asherah

And Astarte

And Al-Lat

Minoans depicted her as the unnamed "lady on hill standing between two lions", now known as the "Peak goddess"

And Mycenaeans depicted her in her most basic form as Asherah pole, placed above the main entrance into the citadel 

Or as the Female Divinity between Lions like on this Amygdaloid Gem from Mycenae

Greek Mother goddess Rhea also rides on a lion and sits on a lion throne

And here is (apparently) Demeter too...With a snake, symbol of sun's heat.

Norse knew her as Freya

And finally in Serbia she is known as Perunika, the wife of Perun (Slavic Thunder god), or Ognjena Marija (Fiary, Burning Mary), the wife of Ilija Gromovnik (Elijah the Thunderer).

She is "fiery, burning" because she is "Mother Earth" during the hottest part of the year in the northern hemisphere. According to the Serbian legend, her husband Ilija "would burn the whole earth to cinder, if not for his wife, Ognjena Marija, who calms him down...".

A very good description of the beginning of the cooling of the northern hemisphere...The beginning of Autumn, which happens in Virgo...

I wrote about this in my posts "Two crosses" and "Yin and Yang"

Anyway, the autumn is here. It's been raining on and off for two weeks now in Dublin..

For those interested in (the original) Solar zodiac you can find the links to all the zodiac signs I have covered so far on my "Zodiac" page 

Friday 22 November 2019


In the village Postenje, in Azbukovica, highland area in western Serbia, women used to wear a ring for every son they had. Each son had his own finger with a single ring on it. 

If one of her sons died, she would put the ring on the finger of one of her still living sons...If the woman then had another son, she would leave the dead son's ring where it was, and would put a new ring on an empty finger for her new son...

When an old woman died, she was buried with all her rings. But if a young woman died, all her "son" rings were taken off her fingers before her burial...

The rings are kept by the dead woman's husband until he finds a new bride that he wants to marry. Then a very interesting ritual is performed with them...

The a new bride is chosen, "widows from the village" take the dead woman's "son rings", chose one, and "cary it around the bride". After that they give it to the dead woman's husband to look at his new bride through it. This seals their future marriage...

Does anyone know of any similar custom? It is absolutely fascinating. The ethnographer that recorded it in 1921 thought that this custom was once widespread...

From the "Journal of the Ethnographic museum in Belgrade, book 1", published in 1926. Link here, Serbian, Cyrilic

Thursday 21 November 2019


In Slavic culture a white horse was a sacred animal dedicated to the Sun God Svetovid. 

White horses were kept in Svetovid temples and used for divination. I talked about the white horse as a symbol of Svetovid, Slavic sun god in my post "Horseman". White horse was the symbol of the sky. 

Black horse was seen as the symbol of the underworld. What is interesting is that the underworld the domain of Dabog, Serbian supreme god, the main ancestral deity, to whom all the chthonic rituals were dedicated. The same god Dabog who was also Serbian Sun god. Paradoxical I know. I wrote about this in my post "Day star".

In the past in Serbia, if people suspected that someone from their village was a vampire, they would take a black foal to the graveyard, and let it wander among the graves. The grave by which it stopped was the vampire grave. 

Once the horse identified who the vampire was, the villagers would open the grave and stick hawthorn stake through the corpses heart into the ground below. This was done to "tie the body to the ground" 

From "Srpski Mitoloski Recnik - Grupa Autora"

Interestingly, in the past, in Serbia, a stake was used to mark every grave. Probably as magical way of insuring that dead don't turn into vampires. Or maybe... In old Serbian graveyards in villages Brestovac near Grocka and in Dobrača on mountain Rudnik, archaeologists have discovered remains of wooden stakes. There was always one stake per grave stuck at the head of the grave where today we find tombstones and crosses.

In the first half of the 20th century, in Serbian villages Zlokućan i Razgojna,  in Leskovac region, when the person was buried, a stake was stuck into the ground just below the feet to mark the grave. Probably because at that stage the stake which was normally stuck into the ground above the head was replaced with a cross or a tombstone. After the stake was stuck into the ground, the priest emptied the ash from his incense burner around the base of the stake... 

According to ethnographers, in this part of Serbia, stakes were eventually replaced with stone stake-like gravestones. Like these ones in this cemetery in Dići

These look very much like standing stones used for marking Bronze Age graves... 

Were standing stones originally wooden stakes? Or did wooden stakes used as grave markers develop from standing stones only for people to go back to standing stones of sort?

In the first half of the 20th century, in Bosnia a stretcher made from two stakes was used to take the body to the graveyard. After the body was buried, one stake was stuck into the ground above the head and one below the feet...

Among Serbs, the stake on the grave seemed to have represented the dead person lying in the grave. There is a belief in Serbia that if a dead man is taken out of the house he should never be brought back in. If that happens, then the house has to be "secured" using a "dead stake" which is stuck into the house floor...

This symbolic equating of the dead person lying in a grave and a stake stuck in the grave is found in the ancient Serbian cursing ceremony called "prokletija". In it a stake representing a unidentified or runaway perpetrator of a serious crime is cursed and then stoned until a cairn is created around the stake...

That this marking of graves with stakes is an ancient Serbian (Slavic?) custom, can be seen from the fact that in "The Life of Otto, Apostle of Pomerania, 1060-1139" the author Ebbo, talks about the funerary custom of Baltic Slavs (Sorbs) of marking graves with stakes:

 ...and that the Christian dead should not be buried
with the heathen in the woods or the fields, but
in cemeteries, as is the custom of all Christians ; that
they should not place sticks on their tombs, and
should abandon all pagan customs and depraved
practices ;...

In Serbia people believed that the body (flesh not bones) had to decompose within 3 years in order for the soul to reach the otherworld. If it did not, this was the sign that "the god didn't want this person's soul" because it was evil. Which is why these kind of dead turned into vampires. 

This is really interesting considering that it is completely the opposite from the Christian belief that it is the bodies of the holy men (and women) which don't decay. An "incorruptible" body of  Mary of Jesus de León y Delgado...

It is also very interesting that in Serbia vampire was a synonym for werewolf. 

Wolf was totem animal of the Serbs. Serbian Sun god Dabog was also known as Wolf shepherd. And Serbs believed that they turn into wolves when they die...I wrote about this in my post "Wolf feast".

In a view of that, how are we to understand all this?

Sunday 17 November 2019


This is Brown Crab (Cancer pagurus) 

It is found in all Atlantic European waters as well as northern Mediterranean waters.

Normally this crab lives in coastal waters under 100 m deep, sometimes over 100 km off coast. But once a year, during the moulting (shell shedding) season, which is followed by the mating season, these crabs move to the shallows. The mating season of the brown crab is mainly in July-September. 

Mating of the Brown crabs occurs shortly after the female has moulted, when the female carapace is soft. Mating predominantly takes place at night-time. During that time, male crabs are found attending both hard and moulted females at low-water mark, hiding under rocks...

This is Spider Crab (Maja squinado - Mediterranean sub species and Maja Brachydactyla - Atlantic sub species)

It is found all along the the Atlantic and North Mediterranean coast. Distribution area of Maja brachydactyla (blue circles) and Maja squinado (red squares) along the distribution area of the species 

Spider crabs inhabit coarse sand mixed grounds and open bedrock from the shallow sublittoral zone to a depth of 120 m, although highest densities occur between 0 and 70 m. Large migrations of spider crabs occur during the early spring when they move into shallower water to spawn. Female crabs become berried (egg-bearing) from April onwards, and by June all mature females are berried. Hatching occurs from July until November, following which the crabs migrate back to deeper water. 

In latitudes located farther to the north, matings were observed in shallow waters from May to July, on the Irish coast, and starting in June on the French coast...

So if you were a primitive hunter gatherer living in Europe, the only time you could catch these crabs was when they were in shallow inter tidal waters. Which happened during their mating season...Which peaks during June-July period... 

Which is really interesting considering that this period of the Solar year is on the Zodiac circle marked with the sign of Cancer (Crab)...

Cancer  21 June – 23 July


I don't think so. 

By the way, “Cancer” is an ancient word of Indo-European origin from a root meaning “to scratch.” Today Cancer is the scientific Latin genus name for “crab,” but in classical usage it described many species of shellfish. In both Sanskrit and Greek the word for crab had the same meaning as crayfish, both animals having pincers. While the Latin word for Cancer, Carcinus, comes from the Greek karkinos, the English word “crab” has Germanic and Old English roots, and an Anglo-Saxon chronicle from about the year 1000 identified Cancer as crabba. In Old High German (800-1050), kerbiz meant simply “edible crustacean” and was also used to describe crayfish. The OED links the Middle High German (1050-1350) krebz to the Middle French (ca. 1400-1600) escrevisse, which in turn became écrevisse (crayfish).

Which is why Cancer is often depicted as crayfish. 

More about this in "The index of medieval art" on Princeton website.

So far I have found that:

And now 

Cancer - marks mating and best shallow coastal water catching season of European large crabs...

And that I am not inventing things, here is a depiction of two men fishing for crab (of Zodiac Sign: Cancer) on Calendar page for June in the Queen Mary Psalter. British Library, Royal 2.B.VII, fol. 77r. (London, 1310-1320).

And a calendar page for June from the Bedford Hours with the sign of the zodiac – a crayfish. Source: Bedford Hours, France (Paris), c. 1410-1430, Add MS 18850, f. 6r

This means: June is the time cut grass and to catch crayfish

Catching crayfish in the Fishing book by Maximilian I near Lienzer Klause. From: Tiroler Fishereibuch (The Austrian National Library, Cod. 7962 fol 100

Today it is mid July which is the start of crayfish season in all European countries were crayfish hunting is still allowed...

You can read more about medieval crayfish fishing on this "Medieval histories" page.

I will here repeat this question:

Does anyone realize how important this is, from the point of view of the determining the origin of the Zodiac? The official line is that: 

"The division of the ecliptic into the zodiacal signs originates in Babylonian ("Chaldean") astronomy during the first half of the 1st millennium BC. "

Yet here we have all these zodiac signs marking extremely important cyclical natural events which occur in Europe...

These zodiac signs could only have been invented in Europe where they have self explanatory meaning. The meaning which was completely lost when zodiac was brought out of Europe to the places where natural cycle is very much or completely different. 

Which is why people have forgotten the true meaning of Zodiac: It is a solar not stellar circle...

So was zodiac invented in Europe? And more importantly when was it invented? And what about the other zodiac signs?

Sources for crab lifecycle info:

Brown crab

Spider crab

Marine conservation society website