Author of all texts about mythology on these web-pages is Lidija Bajuk:

  1. PERUN
      - The Sky
      - The Mountain
      - Leluya
      - Ball lightning
      - Candlemen
      - Fairies
      - Witches
      - Water
      - Bogorodica
      - The Moon
      - Corn Spirit
      - Hair
      - Embroidery
      - Light
      - Forest
      - The Cap, Little Hat


As a huge rainfores it covered Europe in the past times. Therefore the forest and the tree cult appeared before the grain cult and survived until the 16th century. In the old days people used to see the plant ancestors in every tree. Later they imagined ghosts, souls of their ancestors and gods in them.

They worshipped different trees like pine, birch, elm, beech, cypress, cornel, hornbeam, oak, ash, fir, linden, laurel, fig, yew, etc. because they were useful to them as food, drink and medicine. So they saved trees and forests. They held their ritual ceremonies on mountain tops, graveyards and fire sides and some of the most important rituals were held in holy forests. These forests were identified with caves and mother's lap, i.e. the centre of life and secret. This is where the custom of carving holy scriptures into trees originates from. The tree becomes the symbol of knowledge like the Tree of Knowledge, the reason of the fall of the first human couple. The peaks and forests were named after the deities to whom these cermonies were dedicated. People burned eternal fires in those places, brought sacrifices to stone altars, danced in circles, called rain, had arguments. They used to build double wooden fences around these places. Only priests or people who were seeking for an asylum from death could enter these places.

If you tore leaves from trees, for which it was believed that they were the messengers of god, or if you tore the bark, cut or climbed on the holy trees, you could get beheaded. In some cases the offender could get pardoned if he cut off the head of a cock or a hen on a tree stump using the axe he used when he damaged the holy tree. Nevertheless, the punishment was usually your life for the life of the tree. The wood was the hardest if the tree was cut down between December and March, or on shrove-tide. A tree should never be cut on Thursday or during the dog days in August. The wood from those trees does not burn.

It was believed that trees grow most when the moon is young. The divine, holy, mythical tree is the image of the world and therefore it is the world tree. Its branches represent the day sky and the green branches the sunrays that resurrect the souls of the dead and give immortality, so rituals and ritual sways were held to honour them. The fruit of the tree represents the objects in the sky and to take them means to participate in the divine life. Near the tree's roots are springs of rejuvenating water. Destiny fairies take it and water the tree trunk that has honeydew in it, the divine light and the drink of immortality.

At the top, in a nest, the picture of Heaven, the highest place to which a soul can go if it frees itself from the burden of the body, sits a bird with wings of gold, an eagle or a falcon. They are the symbols of the highest light deities. Under the tree stump, board or roots the representatives of the dark forces are hidden such as the snake, the dragon or the beast. They are usually in an egg placed in a nest on fleece or behind an ear inside a box. Gods sit around it. They drink the nectar from gold cups and enjoy the eternal spring on a nearby meadow called ''Rajevina'' (the Heaven).

An old Slavic legend says that people were created from trees - the man from the oak and the woman from the linden. Mothers who have just given birth to children told the godmothers who came to see them after the delivery: "Eat, godmother, you raised that board ("deščica" instead of "child" -"dečica") from the cross!" A child who started walking was encouraged with the words: "Stand, stand, you godly twig!", and for a childless person it was said that he was a "trimmed tree".

Heads of the Christian church built the churches, monasteries and graveyards in places where they had the holy trees cut down and sometimes around them, if they chose not to cut the trees. The tree represented eternity and immortality, but it also represented the conception and birth and therefore it was often identified with the phallus. That is where the belief that if you sleep under a holy tree, you will become young and cured of your diseases comes from. Your dreams will also come true. Brides used to lead the dance around the fruitful tree believing that it is the dwelling place of their dead ancestors and that the ceremony will give them fertility. This ceremony is similar to the Druid ritual of marrying trees. A married couple who couldn't have children would plant two trees, intertwine their branches and put up a fence around them. The fruitfulness of the trees was supposed to secure their own fruitfulness in a few years. Sometimes people would be married to trees before their marriage to a person. This custom was recorded in America and Africa, too. People in Medjimurje used to tease a bride by saying: "A young bride under a walnut tree!" (Mlada sneha spod oreha!) There was custom of planting a tree when a child was born in Medjimurje, even at the turn of the twentieth century still. Many people believe that forest spirits, i.e. the spirits of ancestors live in the cut down and dressed trees. If you knock on such wood, you draw their attention to the wish you just pronounced and they keep you from evil spells. This freed spirit also enables other surrounding trees to multiply forever. Ash, oak, pine and walnut tree were the holiest of all trees, and the oak forest the holiest of all forests. The oak represents the whole world and life, strength and wisdom. The oak tree belongs to Perun because of its top which draws the lightning and its branches, or more precisely its gold or dry branch which was represented as a pole, flag or a stick in the centre of a haystack, which is his home, garden, city or family. The tree trunk belongs to man, and its hollow and roots belong to the dark god Veles, Perun's antagonist. These opposites (up-down, good-bad) can be compared to other opposites such as dry-wet, white-black and mine-other's. Old people from Medjimurje used to say that an oak could be cut down but not his branches. If you cut its branches, it would never grow again. When peasants accepted Christianity as their religion, they used to consider Christmas day as the first day of the new year. The burning of the yule-log on Christmas Eve signified the first burning of the home fire of the year. It was also a symbol of the future and joy of the whole family on Christmas day. Ash has healing powers. The word "djed" which means "grandfather" is similar to the word "dud" which means "oak". It is a sign that trees were connected to old age and perseverance. Evergreen trees symbolize birth and immortality with their freshness and evergreen leaves. It is therefore no coincidence that these trees were chosen as the focal point of celebrations on Christmas day and festivals of spring. It appears that among all the evergreen trees, the pine had a special significance for the southern Slavs. Many shrove-tide songs are a proof of that. The ancient Slavic stem in the word "bor" which means "pine" used to signify any kind of a forest, especially a dry forest or a dry, sandy spot on a higher ground level. To the old Slavs this was the mythical dwelling place of Perun and his family. When the tree tops get so high that they cast a shadow on the Thundermaker's home, it becomes the symbol of ill fortune because at that point the housemaster loses his son George, the vegetation god, even for only a while. The son will return when he conquers the shadow and reinstalls the reign of light. The needle (the pointy leaf of evergreen trees) has the same symbolical meaning. The leaf represents the tree of the world and the needle and its eye represent the gate to the house of god. A needle turned with its point up casts a shadow on its own eye which, in that case, becomes the gate of the underworld. It was therefore forbidden to do any needlework in the days when the old year was passing and the new one arriving. The thread would block the passage through which the light had to pass from the old year into the new one. It was believed that if you illegally cut down a fir, it will bring you seven years of bad luck. Fairies like the elm tree, but also the willow tree with its lowered branches which hid Joseph, Mary and little Jesus from the ones that persecuted them. It is a symbol of spring, i.e. the resurrection, the renewal of nature and immortality. Other trees that grow near water have the same symbolical meaning. It was believed that they pull out their own roots and sneak upon careless travellers. A witch is sometimes hidden in the elder-tree, so it is not recommended to cut it down and use it to make a fire or it will only cause trouble. The elder chases thunder and fire away and spending a night under it will cure all illnesses. If a girl wants to dream about the one she loves, she has to say her wish under a cherry tree in the middle of the night and the souls of the dead ancestors who live in its rich branches will make her wish come true and send her dreams of the loved one. The birch tree has dominion over beauty and fertility of girls and against evil spells and, together with the fir, it is used in the 1st May ceremonies. If "the one with the white hand ", that is the birch's spirit, touches the head or the heart of a man, he will go mad or die. God whitened its trunk in the middle of the night, thus helping it (in Croatian the birch is female gender) to find a stick for its disobedient children more easily. Juniper tree also works well on a person's fertility and, together with the sorb, protects from evil and is used to smoke the places of someone's death. On the place on the ground that was touched by its branches grow mushrooms. A sorb stick can be used to break the spell off a horse. (Phallus, sceptre and stick are status symbols and often represent the snake, the world's axis, support, god's finger, advice, command, teaching and magical tools (such as the needle, fairy stick and the broomstick) similar to thunder, whip and spear and it protects, puts to sleep, revives, frees, helps to become reborn, tames and creates different things like sources, springs and fire.) It is impossible to tell fortune without it or draw and close the magic circle. Folk sons sing of the budding of the stick that represents the flourishing of a lineage. The goddess of victory uses laurel leaves wreaths to crown the winners. It is said that a beech is alive (it will bleed if you cut it) because a soul of a sleeper dwells in it. Beech and ash were thought highly of by musicians, because their wood was best for making flutes and one-stringed folk fiddle. A tree cut down in late autumn when the moon is getting smaller is best for dressing. Ash is also effective in the protection against witches. They protect from witches if you hammer them into doors and thresholds of a stable. It is also connected with the dead cult. It has protective powers, so coffins are made from it. A hollow tree and the hollowed earth represent the mother's womb and thus signifies a twofold return to the source and a rebirth. Poplar is a tree of the graves and therefore a tree of rememberance. Birch, ash or hazelnut tree are sometimes planted near graves as a symbol of fertility. As the old belief says, they will become a home for the transcending soul of the dead. (Sometimes the soul of the dead finds its home in a rock.) The tending for the souls of the dead also helps the living descendants to have a fruitful life and home and fruitful land. That is why cows were sometimes hit with hazelnut tree sticks to give more milk. The food of the dead are walnuts. Walnut is the tree of the underground and of the fairy and witch's covens and it protects from melancholy. As there are the holy trees, there are also the cursed trees: acacia, aspen, poplar, weeping willow, pear tree. Christ's thorn crown was made of acacia branches, a hard tree with scented flowers and dangerous thorns. Aspen and poplar would not lower their branches at Mary's request to protect the holy family from their persecutors and are therefore condemned to eternal fluttering. Still, the poplar branch will protect you from a snake bite and the hawthorne stick will protect you from a werewolf. The burning of the Carnival is also a tree cult because it rids nature of the infertility spirits. When the pre-Christian religion was slowly abandoned, the gods and spirits of the forest were degenerated and became forest devils, ofter represented as a goat or billy-goat, animals which were associated with Perun the Thundermaker. They kidnap newborn babies to make them their servants and put wood carved in the shape of the baby in the crib to fool their mothers. At the time when Croats inhabited Medjimurje in the seventh century AD, the area was covered in forests, often thick and impassable and they had a purpose of hiding and protecting the people from foreigners and attackers. (Today only 12% of the land in Medjimurje is covered in woods.) "Dubrava" is the name for an oak forest, "jagnjed" for a poplar forest, "lug" for a forest on marsh ground and "kneja" for an old, thick deciduous forest on the underground water ground. Wood which was traded in far away places was transported on rafts on the rivers Mura and Drava. A legend says that dwarves had an important role in it. They are mythological creatures that are always connected with forests. As the forest lost its cult significance and as the state grew stronger there was less and less ground covered in forests. Of the two thirds of the land that was covered in forests in the Middle Ages, by the time of the First World War there was only one sixth of it left covered in forests. The forests were a great source of raw material to the peasants who built fences, houses, furniture, dishes, tools, musical instruments, masks, toys, vehicles,etc. out of wood and used it for fire, of course, as well. After a tree was cut down with large saws in the forest, smaller saws were use to cut it into smaller pieces. Then they would be chooped with axes, hewed, split with wedges and hammers, hollowed with adzes, bended in moulds or by cooking it, put together (little boards, beams,etc.). Crafty individuals used to decorate wooden objects by cutting, hollowing, burning, painting and turning wood and in time became craftsmen who sold their goods for money. Forests thus became the sources of power, especially in the late Middle Ages. They were cut down at an escalating rate so people could get more arable land and wood, which was used in building, transport, printing, making arms, getting energy, i.e. the development of manufacture and industry. Laws that regulated the cutting down and exploitation of wood were not passed until the era of Enlightenment. In 1796 the Forest Order by the queen Maria Theresa was published in Croatian. It enhanced the establishment of different institutions connected with forestry. Today the forests are endangered by different factors such as large scale wars, the damaging of the ozone layer, change of climate, radioactive and chemical waste. In 1994 there was 20 615 square km of forests in Croatia, 84% of which were deciduous and 16% were evergreen forests. There were twenty-six indigenous wooden plant species. The beech is the most numerous tree (35%), then follow oak (27%), fir and spruce (13%). Each year about ten square kilometres of forests are cut down in Croatia. Foresting the bare land is not effective enough. This causes erosion of the land (and the possibility of land slides, avalanches and floods becomes more likely), higher air temperature and faster winds. The humidity and the average rainfall are getting lower. The typical forest life forms are disappearing. The circle of life is not balanced any more and it is a threat to mankind.