Tuesday 31 December 2019


"On Christmas morning in Scandinavia every gable, gateway, or barn-door, is decorated with a sheaf of grain fixed on the top of a tall pole, wherefrom it is intended that the birds should make their Christmas dinner"

Quote from 1902 book "Christmas: Its Origin and Associations", by William Francis Dawson

"In pre-Christian times, Slavs believed that souls of their dead entered birds and through birds entered heaven, Iriy. So feeding birds with grain during  winter was basically a form of sacrificing grain to the ancestors."

Quote from my post "Bird wedding

Are these customs linked? 

This is the page about a strange creature from Serbian folklore called "Nav". 

The page is from the beautiful illustrated children's book on Serbian mythology called "Ale i Bauci" by Rastko Ćirić.

According to the Serbian mythology, soul of a dead unbaptised child enters a bird and becomes a "nav". It screeches during the night most commonly making crying sounds. It can make breastfeeding mothers go dry. Crossing yourself and saying "I baptise myself" makes it disappear.

This is very interesting. Slavic word Nav denote the souls of the dead in Slavic mythology. The singular form (Nav or Nawia) is also used as a name for the "otherworld". 

In Slavic mythology, souls of the dead entered birds who brought them to irij, paradise. Birds then brought the souls back when they were ready to be reborn. It is interesting that only the souls of unbaptised (still pagan) children become "nav" 🙂

What is even more interesting is that in Irish the word for saint is "naomh" which is pronounced like "n(i)ev" and which comes from Old Irish noíb (noeb) meaning sacred, holy. 

And that in Irish the word for heaven (where saints (naomh) go) is "neamh" which is pronounced like "nav" 🙂and which comes from PIE "*nébʰos." meaning sky which is in Slavic "nebo" 🙂

So in Slavic languages the dead, (navi) go to underworld, old pagan heaven probably, (nav) and in Irish language saints (niev) go to haven (nav)...


  1. I think you've successfully touched upon this subject several times before on the blog, and it surely warrants more digging into it. Some useful details we gathered over time include the widespread belief that storks bring babies, which is very common in Serbia. Even the Serbian name for a stork is related to the myth of birds bringing souls as reincarnation (Рода - *roda from the verb Rod: kin, family, birth, etc.)
    Then there is the natural observation Slavs could have had - birds migrating south (in their eyes to the "underworld") and returning in Spring to bring new souls back.
    Other detail is the Serbian name for the bird Garrulus Glandarius - сојка/sojka. From the verb сој - *soj, meaning origin, kin, family, etc. It could also be possible that they believed that more powerful birds reincarnate strong warrior souls, i.e give birth to strong sons. There is the common comparison here in Serbia, comparing strong sons to falcons. ("Два сина, два сокола - Two sons, two falcons).
    Then there is the shady character of Veles, his connection to hair and its importance in Slavic world...the keeper of souls that roost as birds in the great tree? So many questions, and so little answers. Keep it up!

  2. http://www.suduva.com/virdainas/protobaltic.htm

    The Old Prussian word for a dead corpse „nowis”, reflects my expanded etymology for PIE ” *nāu- ” hewn log vessel, – via the alternate use of it as a hewn log coffin for the dead.

    and more and other interesting insights ...