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 Mythology in fairy tales and folk tales

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PostSubject: Mythology in fairy tales and folk tales   Wed Nov 26, 2014 7:01 pm

A large chunk of mythological elements of ancient Bosnian mythology is hidden in folk fairy tales which individual ethnologists have written down and stored in the annals of the Herald of the national museum in Sarajevo. Thanks to them, today we know about the goddess (female demon) of the underworld "with breasts over her shoulder and teeth large as hooks from a scale", which helps those who favour her and her three daughters, which will marry mortals, cannibalistic demon, sometimes in a form of a pig, which devours entire cities, and she is beaten by the hero "peasant" (sometimes Nasrudin-hodža (Imam)), old woman riding a goat, she lives in a house full of "children's fingers". In the surrounding area of Srebrenica fairy tales about a demon were written which turned tsar Murat into a donkey, he turned her into a magpie from which all magpies and ravens stem from; about a hero Ćelo who leaves, climbing a giant tree, for the astral world of (heavenly) demon's which pluck eyes; in legends around Bratunac there appears a "wolf shepherd", forest or mountain ghost which leads wolves and he coordinates where they will find food (master of animals).
A group of mythological beings which are particularly interesting are the "bearded men", which live in streams and "throw chains to those swimming in them". Emilian Lilek, a professor at the Grand Gymnasium in Sarajevo at the time, still in 1985 in his work Religious antiquities from Bosnia and Herzegovina, recorded a custom of "gifting the river" with food, clothes and valuables, spread both among the Christians and Muslims - which represents the remainder of the sacrificial offering to the ancient Illyrian god of streams, Bindu.
All mentioned mythological creatures and beliefs fit nicely into the narrow frame of the things familiar to us about the belief of the Illyrian-Roman inhabitants, and especially of the things which are considered as authentic work of Illyrian cults, where among other things worship of various spirits of nature which live on earth, in water and air, and special attention was paid to the cult of celestial body which is called among the Illyrian people "father", "grandfather" - sun. An interesting data is that the sun is called among the folk Zvizdan (zvizda, zvijezda-star) which alludes to the Illyrian cult of star worship as the seat of human souls. According to this data we can conclude that sun or zvizdan is considered the leader (guide, father or emperor) over other stars i.e. souls. A good example of dedication of certain places to this deity is the name of the medieval city Podzvizd in Velika Kladuša, itd.
While the sun was called the father or grandfather, the moon was called "mother" or "grandmother". In Illyrian-Bosnian legends the moon was always denoted by a female creature, Grand Mother, to which prayers were directed for the life of new-borns, and it was recorded that the Catholics in Bosnia during the appearance of a new moon fell to their knees. As Šefik Bešlagić recorded in 1982 one of the biggest scholars of Bosnian middle ages, "one of our Catholics sought advice 30 years ago from one of the priests if she could pray to the new moon" (Šefik Bešlagić, Tombstones - culture and art, IRO Veselin Masleša, Sarajevo 1982). No matter how questionable the credibility of such conclusions can be, it is pretty evident that the moon, precisely as mythological Illyrian-Pagan "sanctuary of souls", i.e. a symbol of fertility and regeneration, ended up on Bosnian-Hum medieval marbles (tombstones), in the form of crescent moon, as the most widely used astral motif.
For the most famous tombstone from Radimlja - representation of Radoja Miloradović with a lowered right hand, next to which are a bow, arrow, sword and shield and the left hand raised towards the representation of the crescent moon - is tied a folk legend from north-western Bosnia according to which in the nights of a full moon, one can see on his surface a giant figure which god punished when he raised an axe on his mother in anger. His punishment was that god killed him immediately and placed his body with the raised hand onto the surface of the moon to stay there forever as a reminder to humans (sons - males) that they need to respect their mothers (woman, goddess Grand Mother).
Among the Illyrians the moon was closely tied with the cult of the dead and therefore tombstone and legend clearly depict a picture of abandoning the earthly life and the crossing into the afterlife - moon world. However, since death is a major part of the cult of fertility, the moon besides the function of psychopomp (guide of the dead), represents fertility but also carrier of this fertility, "grandmother" i.e. woman.
This fits into the etymology (history of meaning) of the Slavic word moon, which comes from pre Indo-European root *med-mjeriti (measure), which entails calendar calculation of time, such as measuring pregnancy, and means that the Illyrian mythical moon, home and symbol of the divine ancestral being which controls periodic renewal, both in cosmic and celestial, plant, animal and human plan. In Bosnia, both in relief of medieval tombstones as well as saved traditions, we find valuable material for the reconstruction of Illyrian lunar myth.
A fairy tale written in the north of Bosnia in the village Debeljaci has special value, it speaks of the connection of three ancient mythological beings: "A wolf came to the shepherd Ivo and asked if he would like him to eat his sheep or him. Ivo told him that he should eat him, but only when he gets married. On the day of the marriage Ivo ran away and went to the moon's mother. She gave him a magical shawl. Running from the wolf, he came across the mother of that wolf which had an iron head. Along the way, he came across three dogs which helped him. The mother of the wolf talked Ivo into him becoming her shepherd so her son can eat him. She tricked him into leaving the dogs, but the dogs managed to save Ivo from the wolves". (Vlajko Palavestra, Radmila Fabijanić, Folk tales from Bosnia, GZM, N.S. Ethnography, sv. XIII, Sarajevo 1962, p. 163). According to that, the moon had a divine mother, sorceress which, like the goddess of the underworld, saved the ones that favour her. They are known in Bosnian mythology as fairy Zlatna and Mountain fairy. In this case, she is the ally against the demon wolf and his cunning mother (it is unclear if it is a mythological creature, demon, mother of all wolves).
It is interesting that Saint Ivan (Saint Ivo), according to the belief of Bosnian Catholics which was recorded by Ivan Zvonko, was born twice and died twice: the first time Jesus advised him to burn himself, he burned completely expect his heart which was swallowed by his mother, and becoming pregnant she gave birth to him (Ivan Zvonko, Belief from Herzegovina, in collections life and customs, book 6, p. 190 and p. 303).
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