perun the storm god

Happy Alđun/Ilindan

On August 2nd, Muslims and Christians in Bosnia and Herezgovina celebrate Alđun/Ilindan (St.Elijah Day). As Elijah was described as ascending into heaven in a fiery chariot, the Christian missionaries who converted Slavic tribes likely found him an ideal analogy for Perun, the supreme Slavic god of storms, thunder and lightning bolts. In many Slavic countries Elijah is known as Elijah the Thunderer (Ilija Gromovnik), who drives the heavens in a chariot and administers rain and snow, thus actually taking the place of Perun in popular beliefs. Catholics in Bosnia and Herzegovina consider Ilija Gromovnik the protector of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

In some parts of Bosnia this day is called “White Sunday” because of the characteristic appearance of white mushrooms on this day. Muslims in Bosnia believe that this Sunday is specially important when one wants to take away black magic from the house or family. Also, specific kind of black magic can be “removed” only on this day. It is when a witch throws a piece of ground above three tombstones. By doing this, she brings evil and bad luck to the house she decided it for. This kind of strong black magic can be removed only on White Sunday. On this day, house owner will dig out the land on the place where it borders with his neighbors and will find the biggest white stone he can and then digs it in front of his doorstep. This day represents a slow change from summer to fall, as an old Bosnian proverb says: “Alđun behind the back, coat on the back”. After it, water in rivers is colder, so swimming is less common. Plums are harvested 3 weeks after Alđun. Today, in Bosnia, on this day, there are traditional “dove” (duas) after which there is often a teferič (traditional country side celebrations). In a tiny Bosnian village of Kopčić there are traditional jumps in river Vrbas, although, through Bosnia it is believed that swimming on Alđun isn’t good and that there are many people who drowned on this day. 

Picture: Old photograph from Jajce, Bosnia and Herezgovina