Wołogór, Mountain Spirit’s helper
(via Lamus Dworski)
Legends about the Mountain Spirit of Karkonosze is shared in Polish, Czech and German folk legends, where he is usually called Liczyrzepa, Krakonoš or Rübezahl respectively. In the Polish legends apart from the popular name of Liczyrzepa, also names of Duch Gór (Mountain Spirit), Karkonosz, Rzepiór or Rzepolicz are used in various Silesian regions.
Wołogór has a task of guarding the small region near Wołowa Góra (which according to local tales was named after him), and reporting the situation to the Mountain Spirit. Wołogór is depicted with an ox head, and carries a decorative staff that gives him magical powers. He makes sure that everything works in order and the people living nearby stay safe and respect the local nature. Sometimes he can help the locals or show a way to lost tourists.
Local stories tell about occasions where he helped the inhabitants to hide from bandits raiding the villages by covering an entrance to a cave with his magic, or when he used his staff to melt snow and make safe passages through the woods during harsh winters. He was appearing only in the locals’ dreams to let them know who gave them a helping hand.
One local legend says that Wołogór fell in love with a girl named Maria and started seducing her in her dreams. However, she already had a man she loved and was always rejecting Wołogór’s advances in the dreams. He didn’t want to give her up and one night decided to appear in her home in person.
He came burning so much with love, that a spark fell out of his heart and it set Maria’s house on fire. Everyone thankfully survived, and Wołogór understood his great mistake. He helped to rebuild the house and decided not to intervene human lives. Maria got married to her beloved man and had lots of kids.
Years were passing by and the surroundings of the mountain were changing. The village Wołogór was always protecting started declining when people began moving to bigger cities for a better lifestyle, and Wołogór’s staff was slowly loosing its powers. Eventually, he understood it’s time for him to go and there’s no one left for him to take care of.
He went up a spring called Malina towards waterfalls, and there he pushed his staff and his right foot against a huge boulder leaving the shapes in the stone. He was never seen in the dreams again, but locals believe he might return when they will be in need. (end)
Phoenix of Elder Mountain – What I find the most interesting about this entire legend is that Wołogór is a Dreamer, who experiences Love and has a Magical Staff. These are three really great symbols of the sacred masculine and in some ways, the legends show the transformation from the sacred masculine of love, into the struggle of unrequited love in a changing time of cultures around the world (from shamanic cultures into pagan and then into the patriarch).
The symbol of Wołogór’s staff is etched into a stone near the Ponura Cascade near the waterfall. This area is made of natural forms and cascades of rocks covered with diverse mountain vegetation. This is where the start of one of the ravine branches of Malina. The image on the stone looks like a maiden with the symbol of a bird upon her head with wings on her body, which is in the shape of a dress (which some Slavic symbols have this similarity).
Cultural symbolism of a Maiden with Ox legend are also found in “Ox Heard Boy & Weaver Girl” which are ancient legends of the Chinese, based on the symbolism of the Magpie Bridge and Ursa Major (but in modern times, its their Valentines love story). Its also symbolically similar in symbolism to the Cretan myths of the Minos Bull and the Maidens which dance upon him:
The story in Crete is that Minos competed with his brothers to rule. Minos prayed to Poseidon, the Sea God, to send him a snow-white bull, as a sign of support (the Cretan Bull). He was to kill the bull to show honor to the deity, but decided to keep it instead because of its beauty. He thought Poseidon would not care if he kept the white bull and sacrificed one of his own. To punish Minos, Poseidon made Pasiphaë, Minos’s wife, fall deeply in love with the Bull.
Pasiphaë had craftsman Daedalus make a hollow wooden cow, and climbed inside it in order to mate with the white bull. The offspring was the monstrous Minotaur. Pasiphaë nursed him, but he grew and became ferocious, being the unnatural offspring of a woman and a mythical oxen; Minos, after getting advice from the Seers and Oracle at Delphi, had Daedalus construct a gigantic labyrinth to hold the Minotaur. Its location was near Minos’ palace in Knossos.
I find these remarkably similar in the the language of symbolisms, except that the Slavic tradition includes the folklore of the “Dreamer” which is so wonderful. The legend it says that he leaves because the times have changed (shamanism to paganism to patriarchy) as well. Just as Ox Heard Boy and Weaver girl are separated and can only unite at a certain time of the natural year which is the 7th day of the 7th month. The festival has been celebrated since the Han Dynasty (206 BCE).
“Wołogór went up a spring called Malina towards waterfalls, and there he pushed his staff and his right foot against a huge boulder leaving the shapes in the stone. He was never seen in the dreams again, but locals believe he might return when they are in need.”
Links to old shamanic ways can be found in legends and folklore (what Slavic people call paganism), Wołogór most likely has much earlier beginnings as an ancient oxen (bull) which had roamed free in the mountains and probably goes back to the same times of the Cretans. As a folk legend Wołogór is a good spirit, and one of helpers of the Mountain Spirits and that puts him fully into the shamanic category.
The other Ox Polish pagan folk tradition includes Kolęda; Old Polish Kolenda and Kolędowanie (caroling) at the Winter Solstice (Christmas for the Catholics). Ukraine and Poland both both have strong caroling rituals associated with animals, the (goat, associated with pagans) and the ox (associated with shamanism). They walk around the week of Christmas visiting homes with someone dressed as one of these two animals and carrying elaborate Christmas Stars. (See article on Elder called the “Midnight Sun”, the Koliada Star).
During the magical period of the winter solstice time in Poland (now called christmas) pagan rituals were to foretell fertility for the coming year, and people would dress as animals, in particular the spirit of the Ox called the Turoń. Two more kolędowanie festivals emerged from this — Szopki and Herody. Where a boy would wear a wooden Ox head, complete with movable jaws, horns, and a sheepskin covering. In pagan terms, Turoń is an older tradition that the pagan Dionysus Goat who appeared in cultures, but that cult had arrived very late in the Slavic lands, making Ox still seen in modern rituals. The older oxen had greater meaning from a more archaic time of indigenous rituals than the newer goat symbolism.
Turoń, typically has two boys “walk” the Ox on a leash from door to door and upon entering a home, the Turoń would begin dancing and acting festive in the hopes of bringing on a fertile year. Just like the Russians walk the bear in ritual.
Legends like the Mountain Spirit of Karkonosze help us reclaim we have forgotten when we fell asleep from what religion had forbidden during the changing of cultural rituals. Now we can return them without persecution, maybe harsh judgment, but times are changing for the better.