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Monika Kropej: From Tradition to Contemporary Belief Tales...Some Slovenian Supernatural Beings from the Annual Cycle

Monika Kropej: From Tradition to Contemporary Belief Tales...Some Slovenian Supernatural Beings from the Annual Cycle

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2010. Kresnik and the Summer Apparitions The summer solstice is connected with a number of customs and beliefs that are similar throughout Europe. In Slovenia, a characteristic supernatural being that makes an appearance during this period is Kresnik (Krsnik, Krstnik, Šentjanževec). Kresnik’s attributes are the sun and the fire (in Slovene, kresati denotes to kindle fire by striking). Judging by these attributes and narrative tradition, Russian philologist Nikolai Mikhailov established
2010. Kresnik and the Summer Apparitions The summer solstice is connected with a number of customs and beliefs that are similar throughout Europe. In Slovenia, a characteristic supernatural being that makes an appearance during this period is Kresnik (Krsnik, Krstnik, Šentjanževec). Kresnik’s attributes are the sun and the fire (in Slovene, kresati denotes to kindle fire by striking). Judging by these attributes and narrative tradition, Russian philologist Nikolai Mikhailov established

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Published by: Slovenian study references on Sep 02, 2012
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    S    T    U    D    I    A     M    Y    T    H    O    L    O    G    I    C    A     S    L    A    V    I    C    A     X    I    I    I   -    2   0   1   0 ,   1   7   1   -    1   8   5
171
From radition to Contemporary Belief ales: Te “Changing Life” of Some SlovenianSupernatural Beings from the Annual Cycle
 Monika Kropej
Te article addresses the oral tradition and tales about certain Slovenian supernatural beings that accompany the annual cycle and its turning points: midsummer and midwinter solstice as well as spring and autumn changing shifs. Discussed are the changing images o these olk belie narratives resulting rom continuously changing cultural and social contexts,while supernatural gures or spirits acquire a demythicised image in contemporary belie tales and urban legends.
Slovenian olk belie legends eature over one hundred and fy dierent super-natural beings, among them the supernatural beings o nature, restless souls, demonsand ghosts, mythical animals and cosmological beings. Te supernatural beings herepresented accompany the yearly turning points: the summer and the winter solstices, thespring equinox, and the conclusion o the autumn. Containing a wide variety o motis,olk belie legends about these supernatural beings have undergone continuous changesdue to the dierent cultural and social contexts.
Kresnik and the Summer Apparitions
Te summer solstice is connected with a number o customs and belies that aresimilar throughout Europe. In Slovenia, a characteristic supernatural being that makesan appearance during this period is
Kresnik 
(
Krsnik
,
Krstnik, Šentjanževec
). Kresnik’s at-tributes are the sun and the fre (in Slovene,
kresati
denotes to kindle fre by striking).Judging by these attributes and narrative tradition, Russian philologist Nikolai Mikhailov established Kresnik’s similarity with the principal Slavic God
Perun
, the Tunder God andthe conqueror o 
Veles
. Mikhailov linked Kresnik with fre, lightning, and with goldencolor, thus with atmospheric phenomena (Mikhailov 1998, 117–235). Like Perun, Kresnik had deeated the dragon, or Veles, God o the Underworld and o earthly riches. Te struc-ture o the tales about Kresnik can be classifed into eight principal episodes:1. Kresnik was born and lived in the castle (on the glass mountain, in the ninthkingdom, in Bear’s castle). His mother carried him or nine years, and the child had to bebaptized ten or nine times. He was recognized as a
kresnik
by his horse hooves or othermarks on his body. (Pajek 1882, 579–580; Slekovec 1895, 24–25; Šašelj 1906, 215–216).2. Kresnik rode with his brother rot in the golden carriage through the sky, and wasattacked by the Snake, whom he conquered in single combat.3. Kresnik owned many cows and other riches. One day, a dragon stole his wealthand locked it in a crag. Kresnik ound his cattle with the help o his our-eyed dog or
 
172
From radition to Contemporary Belie ales
a magic plant that could open clis; then he conquered the dragon, and reclaimed hiswealth.4. Kresnik traveled at night and ought or the beneft o his country. People saidthat when there was lightning in autumn, the Kresniki were fghting each other. Tereorepeople tied the wheat sheas with thick bindings, so that Kresnik when he seized a shea and beat with it, in the end still had something in his hands. I he gained the victory thecountry was rich.5. Kresnik was greatly tempted to acquire the Snake Queen’s beautiul crown. Tecrown would bring plenty o money to the person who owned it. Kresnik gets hold o some strong horses and makes the corridor rom his to the snake’s castle. He plays cardswith the Snake Queen or her crown. When the Queen notices the the o her crown sheraises such a hue and cry that a multitude o gigantic snakes rush rom everywhere. Kres-nik escapes with the help o his horses through the corridor to his castle. (Mulec 1858,253–254).6. Kresnik ell in love with the beautiul daughter o the Snake Queen. Since hecould not otherwise enter the Queen’s palace, he turned into a dwar. As he reached thecourtyard everybody started to laugh and mock him. At night he turned into a handsomeprince and took the princess with him.7. Consequently the Snake King dispatched a dragon to Kresnik’s castle. In the castlea beautiul princess named Vesina was living. Te dragon spent six months watching overher. On St. George’s Day the handsome count Kresnik, appeared with a bright sword andpositioned himsel over the snake. Aer he had conquered the snake, golden wheat startedto all onto the ground. Kresnik took Vesina or his wie, and his country was wealthy.8. Kresnik’s wie noticed one day that Kresnik was away during the night. When shefnally saw him on the roo, she called him by his name, and Kresnik ell down and killedhimsel. (Pajek 1882, 581).Te well-known legend describing Kresnik’s adventures is the legend o the Kresnik o Vurberg castle. Documented as early as in the 1840s, it was frst published in its entirety by Matej Slekovec in 1895. Tis legend contains most o the cited episodes, except thesecond and the third episode. Te second episode is depicted in another tale collected in1858 in Styria:
Kresnik had a brother named rot. One day the brothers were ying in a golden car-riage to a east given by the Babylonian Snake Queen. During the ride it started to thunder  ercely. Although the Snake Queen had always awned over Kresnik, in reality she couldn’t stand him. So she dispatched a snake that had mighty wings like an eagle. Te snake ap- peared rom the og, attacked Kresnik, and tried to slaughter him. But rot cut its head o with a golden axe. As the snake ickered its tail into the clouds the clouds produced animmense downpour o rain, almost drowning Kresnik and rot. But the swif hooves o Kres-nik’s horses, ast as lightning, managed to save their master rom the ood.
(Pohorski 1858,347).Te image o Kresnik or Peun driving through the sky in a golden carriage has con-nected Perun in the time o Christianisation with
St. Elias
.Te third episode is described by the same author:
 
173
 Monika Kropej
People rom Pohorje say that Kresnik owned many cows and was breasteeding them.Teir milk was so ragrant that the white snake repeatedly hid in the stable and sucked it  rom their udders. Kresnik was grazing his cows by himsel, usually in the mountains. Whenhe once ell asleep a brigand stole all his cows. ry as he might, Kresnik could not nd them.But he owned a our-eyed dog, whom he dispatched to look or the cows around the mountainrange. Te dog quickly smelled the cows hidden in the cave o a mighty mountain. He ranhome to Kresnik, who was sitting in a large castle, and told his master that he had ound thecows. Flying as a bird, Kresnik soared across the mountains and knocked on the door. But the giant, who was hal human and hal dragon, did not release the cows until Kresnik slaugh-tered him with a bolt o lightning.
(Pohorski 1858, 374).Te rescuing o the princess and killing the large snake is the key episode in thecycle o Kresnik’s legends and at the same time this is also the principal Slavic myth, re-constructed by V. V. Ivanov and V. N. oporov (1974). One o the legends about Kresnik killing the snake and rescuing the princess was recorded in Styria in 1870:
 /…/ A snake was crossing the river Drava. It was so large that it stemmed the river’s ow as it was creeping across. Folks say that the Drava overooded the entire Ptujsko Field and ran among hills planted with vines; one can still see the dry, winding riverbed. Te snakecrawled toward a mighty castle where its enormous body, its tail in its mouth, coiled around it. In this castle was imprisoned a beautiul princess by the name o Vesina. For six monthsVesina had been kept imprisoned in the castle by the snake. Ten, on St. George’s Day, thehandsome Count Krsnik came along. He positioned himsel over the snake, but since it had wings it lifed into the air. But Krsnik, who was also a sorcerer, grew wings. A erce battletook place in the air. Krsnik deeated the snake, threw it into the deep castle well and chained it to a rock with a strong chain; it has been lying there to this day. Afer the ght golden wheat started to all rom the sky. Krsnik took Vesina or his wie and they lived happily.
(rstenjak 1970, 21).While this legend contains the elements o the
principal myth
o the Slavic cosmol-ogy; the third episode - about Kresnik the owner o many cows stolen by the dragon andlocked in a crag - contains the elements o the ancient
Indo-European stockbreeding andagricultural myth
reconstructed by Bruce Lincoln. Tis myth presents the fght betweenthe hero and the three-headed snake, because the sneak took away the hero’s cattle. Tehero, strengthened by the inebriating drink and sometimes with the help o the God o thewar, deeats the monster and takes away the prey (Lincoln 1983, 103–124). Lincoln con-nected this myth with the socioeconomic circumstances o the cattle-breeding societies,where the greed or the cattle became the synonym or the conicts.In the fh episode, Kresnik has to fght with his adversary the
False Kresnik
or
Vedomec 
or the beneft o his country. As already Leopold Kretzenbacher assumed, theKresnik and his opposition the False Kresnik were supposedly two poles o one and thesame fgure (Kretzenbacher 1941, 21-22). According to the narrative tradition it seemsthat Kresnik had his double or his twin brother, who represented his opposite pole.Kresnik has gradually lost his mythical character. While he was initially in the unc-tion o a god, he later became Prince Kresnik, or a kind o wizard, fghting the alse Kres-nik to ensure good crops or his lands; he thus assumed the role o clan protector, shaman,or sorcerer, the “ecstatic Kresnik”, as Zmago Šmitek named him (Šmitek 2004, 145). Te

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