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Bringers and Heralds of Death in the Macedonian folk beliefs

From domestic animals to fore-tellers of death

Photo: Darren Harmon / Flickr / CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Aside from history, the Slavic culture, in general, is rich in folk tales, legends, traditions and customs. Somewhere between the mythology and what has been left as a national treasure, lies a casket of many beliefs. One of the Slavic countries that has this type of riches is Macedonia. Specifically, this time we’ll go through some Macedonian beliefs regarding the meaning of the animal “talking” or their appearance at certain places.

Dogs

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Dogs are present in many cultures and mythologies; in most of them, the dog is interpreted as a symbol of death, as a keeper or present in the hell (ex; Cerberus). In Macedonian folk beliefs, the howling of the dog is a sign that something bad will happen to its owner or to the house or family where the dog is. Many people believe and have confirmed that when a dog is wailing under someone’s window, that person is going to die soon.

2. Birds

  • Owl
Photo: pixabay.com

The sounds which the owl makes are related to the belief that the same is a sign or a foretelling that something bad is going to happen. Earlier, in the Macedonian villages and other rural areas, it was believed that if an owl lands on the roof of someone’s house or it just comes in the village, not just that the owner of the house will die, but also that the bird is bringing other bad news for the whole village.

  • Raven
Photo: Pixabay.com

The raven is already known as a bird which serves as a herald of death in many cultures. In Macedonian folk beliefs, when the raven is croaking, it is believed that the bird is “bringing bad news” (Macedonian: коби – kobi, foretells a misfortune or some evil). Eventually, in the Maleshevie region, if a raven lands on someone’s house, it means that the owner will die soon.

  • Cuckoo
Photo: Pixabay.com

The cuckoo bird has a double meaning in the Macedonian folk beliefs. One is, if a cuckoo sings on the roof of someone’s house or near the house, from its nest, but in the morning, it means that the bird is telling something good will happen. On the contrary, if the bird sings at night, it means that the same is foretelling the death of a person who lives in the house or neighborhood where it has landed.

  • Hen and Rooster
Photo: Pixabay.com

There’s a really interesting and uncommon belief regarding the crowing of the hen; whenever the hen would start to crow, the people would believe that she’s foretelling the death of, at least, one of the members of the family. In some regions in Macedonia, for example in Mariovo, the people would check whether the hen’s crowing is a bad or a good sign. Whenever a hen would crow, they would take off few feathers from her head and would let them float in the river. After that, the owners would wait for new feathers to grow and if the new ones would be white, they would take it as a good answer (nothing bad would happen), and dark (black) feathers meant that the hen was foretelling death.

 

Earlier in time, people would bury the dead members of their family under the doorstep of their house. If the rooster would start to crow next to or standing on the doorstep, it would mean that he is a herald who’d announcing the arrival of the dead (of the gone).

Snakes

Photo: Pixabay.com

Before Christianity, the snake has been interpreted as a good animal and as a keeper of the house. But, as soon as Christianity has come, the snake has been seen and treated as something evil and bad. Similar with the situation of the rooster, the snake would stay or live under the doorstep of the house. The difference is that people believed that the killing of the snake or her death would bring death to a member of the family. So, people had this superstition that if they kill their “domestic snake” (the snake would be seen as their domesticated, independent pet that lives in their house or porch), a member of the family would get sick, die or that a big misfortune would happen.

Pigs

Photo: Pixabay.com

Although one the most important animals among the livestock, in old times, people believed that if a pig starts digging under the doorstep, soon, there will be a tomb and that she is foretelling the bad things that are going to happen to that family and their house. This a funny one, though, huh? Look at her… “Hey, I’m here to dig your own tomb”. No, she’s not gonna do that. She’s just…being a pig.

What do you think?

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