Veles also regularly sent spirits of the dead into the living world as his heralds. Festivals in honour of him were held near the end of the year, in winter, when time was coming to the very end of world order, chaos was growing stronger, the borders between worlds of living and dead were fading, and ancestral spirits would return amongst the living. This was the ancient pagan celebration of Velja noc (Great Night), the relic of which still persists amongst many Slavic countries in folk customs of Koleda, a kind of combination of carnival and Halloween, which can happen anywhere from Christmas up to end of February. Young men, known as koledari or vucari (wolf-men) would dress long coats of sheep's wool and don grotesque masks, roaming around villages in groups and raising a lot of noise. They sang songs saying they travelled a long way, and they are all wet and muddy, an allusion of the wet underworld of Veles from which they came as ghosts of dead. The master of any house they visited would welcome them warmly and presented them with gifts. This is an example of Slavic shamanism, which also indicates Veles was a god of magic and wealth. The gifts given to koledari were probably believed to be passed onto him (which makes him very much like a dragon hoarding treasure), thus ensuring good fortune and wealth for the house and family through entire year. As seen in descriptions from the Primary Chronicle, by angering Veles one would be stricken by diseases.


[td]Vucari (wolf-men)[/td]
[td][img height=385]http://www.ulupuds.org.rs/images/tradimod%202010/Zalutali-koledari.jpg” />[/td]

Srbi u vucjem obliku
Jedna od najpoznatijih koledarskih povorki su vučari.
– To je povorka mladića ogrnutih vučjom kožom. Oni nose između sebe mrtvog vuka, napunjenog slamom, kroz čije je telo provučena motka. Vuk je u staroj religiji predstavljao čovekov alter ego, inkarnaciju duše pretka, te su povorke vučara sastavljene od pokojnika ili predaka. Verovalo se da se duša svakog Srbina može pojaviti u vučjem obliku –

– Vesna Marjanović, etnolog i autorka knjige "Maske, maskiranje i rituali u Srbiji"

Serbs in wolf form [in English]
One of the most prominent Koledo procession are the wolf-men (vučari).
– It is a procession of young men covered with wolf's skin. They carry a dead wolf with them, filled with straw, through whose body a rod was pulled. The wolf, according to the old religion, represented a man's alter ego, the incarnation of a soul of an ancestor, so the procession was actually composed of deceased ancestors. It was believed that the soul of every Serb could appear in wolf form –

– Vesna Marjanovic, ethnologist and author of "Masks, masking and rituals in Serbia"


There are currently no known written accounts of Slavic mythology predating the fragmentation of the Proto-Slavic people into West, East, and South Slavs, with the possible exception of a short note in Herodotus’ Histories, mentioning a tribe of Neuri in the far north, whose men, Herodotus claims, transform themselves into wolves for several days each year. Some researchers have interpreted this through the Slavic folk belief in werewolves, whilst others believe that Herodotus actually referred to ancient Slavic carnival festivals, when groups of young men roamed the villages in masks, sometimes referred to as vucari (wolf-humans). The identification of "Neuri" with Proto-Slavs remains controversial, however.