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Story No. 1052

The Origin of Man

Book Name:

Sixty Folk-Tales from Exclusively Slavonic Sources

Tradition: Slavonic, Serbia, Carniola

In the beginning there was nothing but God, and God slept and dreamed. For ages and ages did this dream last. But it was fated that he should wake up. Having roused himself from sleep, he looked round about him, and every glance transformed itself into a star. God was amazed, and began to travel, to see what he had created with his eyes. He travelled and travelled, but nowhere was there either end or limit. As he travelled, he arrived at our earth also; but he was already weary; sweat clung to his brow. On the earth fell a drop of sweat: the drop became alive, and here you have the first man. He is God's kin, but he was not created for pleasure: he was produced from sweat; already in the beginning it was fated for him to toil and sweat.


Odkuda chovyek. 'The Neven,' 1858, p. 60


In these we come to a very singular mythological being, Kurent, who has not, as yet, found a place in the writings of Slavonic mythologists. With respect to Kurent, Professor Krek writes as follows: The question as to the nature of the Slovinish Kurent is very difficult, especially as the tradition about him is, in my judgment, very corrupt. So far as I know, no one has hitherto discussed it scientifically, and what I am now writing to you is my own subjective opinion, rapidly formed. The name itself does not appear to be indigenous, but I think it is of Romance, perhaps of mediæval Latin origin, though I am not yet able to say what its signification is. In a mythological point of view, there is to be observed in the stories about Kurent a certain mixture of heathen-Slavonic and Christian elements; but I think the basis is entirely indigenous. If I mistake not, Kurent is essentially of Dionysiac signification, which is indicated by the fact that the Slovinish stories connect him closely with the vine-stock, and with wine in general, just as is the case with the Greek Dionysos. It is note-worthy that the Little Russians have the word "Kurent" in the sense of a merry wedding tune (Zhelechovskij, i. 391), and that the Slovinish tradition frequently puts Kurent in the place of "Pust," so that both represent the same mythological idea. With regard to "Pust," there is no doubt that, with his orgiastic system, he is just like the Greek Dionysos, although his name is recent, and rests upon alien conceptions; indeed, here the fact is of more decisive import than the name. The name is not connected with the old Slavonic "pust," desertus, but with "pust" in the old Slavonic "mesopust," in Bohemian "masopust," which are identical with the Greek ἀπόκρεως, in Latin "carnisprivium." Of what original names "Kurent" and "Pust" have occupied the place, it will now never be possible to determine. It is just in mythological matters, that all manner of old traditions are unsatisfactory, as everybody knows who has busied himself at all closely with this subject. Much that is Christian has similarly become mingled with the original pagan conceptions in the case of Kurent also, and it is not easy to separate them from later accretions. I think that the Slovintzes honoured Kurent with a special solemnity or festival at the same time that the other Slavonians celebrated the regeneration of winter, nature, and the birth of the solar deity. This mythological phenomenon has its analogy in the myths of other Ario-European nations, a matter so generally known that there is no need of dilating upon it now. What I wish to draw attention to is this: that the Slovinish "Kurent," as also his representative "Pust" is of Dionysiac signification, and I don't know to what to compare him more properly than to the Greek Dionysos. Circumspection is especially necessary in mythological matters, but I venture to affirm that my opinion will hold its ground before severe criticism. I purpose treating at greater length of this matter at a later time, but I do not think I shall find it necessary to retract any portion of my opinion.'

Mr. Morfill informs me, moreover, that Kurenta grati is given by Zhelikovskij in the sense 'to play the Kurent,' i.e., the air so called.


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