In Slovenia, there are many traditions that Slovenians still respect. It is a small country where folkloric dances, music, and other rituals are passed on generation from generation. The same goes for Slovenian myths that keep being told to children every year.
In general, Slovenians are not the most superstitious people. However, since the folklore and the myths are a prominent part of their lives, they believe in several superstitions. Different legends, such as Kurent, still influence them.
If you ever come to Slovenia, you might be surprised by the number of carnivals and folklore festivals around the country. Slovenians live surrounded by traditions and myths, which explains why they are still somewhat superstitious. Let’s take a look at the most famous superstitions and myths in Slovenia.
What Superstitions Do Slovenes Believe?
Most superstitions in Slovenia come from Christianity since it is the predominant religion in the country. There are some pretty common superstitions that many Slovenians believe in, especially the older ones.
For example, if a stork is nesting near your house, someone in your home will probably have a baby, or when you see a chimney sweeper, you have to hold your button for good luck.
Other traditions have more history. For instance, before you start cutting a round loaf of bread, you have to mark a cross on it. This tradition and superstition also comes from the Christian religion. At the origin, it was supposed to be a way to bless the bread.
Slovenian Superstitions Concerning New Year’s Day
In Slovenia, there are many traditions concerning the New Year, and they are well preserved. It is the best example to prove that Slovenians are still superstitious nowadays.
For instance, the most common superstition is that if you get up early on New Year’s Day, you will get up early all year, but if you get up late on New Year’s Day, you will get up late all year.
It is the same if you win a game, you will win throughout the year, but you will keep losing if you lose.
Another superstition is that it is bad luck to meet a woman on New Year’s Day. Meeting an older woman is supposed to bring even more bad luck. In the Slovene tradition, they represent bad luck and misfortune, especially on New Year’s Day.
A tradition on New Year’s Day is about unmarried women. If they are looking for a husband, they can decide to throw money or a red apple into the water before the sunsets.
The history behind this superstition comes from Styria. Women used to go and fetch water early on New Year’s Day. They would take an apple to throw into the stream and say: “Good morning, cool water, I bless you from bottom to bottom. I give you a small gift, now you give me a big one”.
People would also throw money in the stream, and then wash themselves in it, hoping that they would have a lot of money for the year coming. The same superstition existed, not only in Styria but also in Carniola.
Each part of Slovenia has its own New Year tradition and superstition. In Bela Krajina, people started the year with a “novoletnica,” a loaf of white bread. Every person (and also animal) has to take only a small piece of bread.
In Carinthia, people start eating the second loaf of bread out of the three they have on New Year’s Day. The first one was eaten on Christmas Day, and the third one is kept for the day of the Epiphany. The loaves are placed in the shape of a triangle, next to a candle, and in front of the crucifix.
Another New Year’s Day superstition from Lower Carniola is that if you hear thunder, you have to lie down on the floor to avoid stomach pain throughout the year.
Finally, many people in Upper Carniola still believe today that the first one to enter the stable during the New Year must be the farmer. Otherwise, its cattle will get sick or will not produce much.
Still, about the New Year, there are many things forbidden. In the Kozjanski area, you can only eat pork. Any kind of poultry is forbidden because chickens move backward when they scratch, whereas pigs move forward. If you eat poultry during New Year’s Day, your farm will be unsuccessful.
In the North-West, in the Kobarid area, people believe that the way candles are burning in the church is a sign of how the harvest will go. If the candles are burning brightly, evenly, and without flickering, the crop will be okay. However, if they are burning poorly, it is a sign that the harvest will be reduced.
Another one is that if someone hears a hammer knocking, somebody they know will die that year. In the same area, a widespread superstition among Slovenians is that if you see your shadow on the wall without the head, someone will not live for the New Year. However, if someone hears an accordion, then someone they know will get married.
Slovene Myths That Influenced Slovenia
Although there is an enormous number of superstitions in Slovenia, and we could not name them all, there are also many myths that influenced Slovenia and its inhabitants for many years. They are still very common and impacting Slovenians’ lives.
The first two myths that come to mind when speaking about Slovenia are the myth of St.George and the myth of Jason and the Argonauts. These two legends talk about dragons, which is the symbol of the city of Ljubljana. Dragons are supposed to be mighty creatures, and they are the protectors of the city.
Jason and the Argonauts
Jason had an army of Argonauts that he took sailing across Europe after stealing the Golden Fleece from the King of the Black Sea, and falling in love with his daughter Medea. In the ship Argo, he traveled across the Danube River and the Aegean Sea to enter the Ljubljanica River’s mouth.
Since the Ljubljanica was very narrow, the Argonauts had to put the ship to pieces in order to carry it on their shoulders. When winter came, Jason and his army were forced to set camp on the Ljubljanica River banks.
Unfortunately, they did not know that they set foot in the Dragon’s swamp, awakening and provoking him. The Dragon opened the river and killed half of the troops of Argonauts.
Jason and the witch Medea decided to look for the Dragon’s den. When they discovered it on the other side of the forest, Medea, chose to cast a spell on the Dragon and put it to sleep.
Jason then tied up the monster and filled its nostrils with enormous rocks to stop it from breathing fire. The flames collected inside the Dragon’s body. When he woke up, he burst into a fireball and flew over Ljubljana.
The Legend of St.George
St. George is known as the patron of the castle’s chapel. Legend says people from Slovenske Konijce were afraid of a dragon living in the mountain because it would flood their houses by blasting the lake inside the mount. Every year, six young women were given to the creature to prevent it from flooding the homes. One year, the Lord’s daughter Marjetica was supposed to be sacrificed. To save her, her lover St. George ran to the mountain and stabbed the dragon with a spear. The blood of the Dragon formed a river that is now flowing across town.
These two legends are very famous in Slovenia. However, they do not have a direct impact on Slovenian traditions. Some myths are still used during carnivals such as Kurentovanje. Kurent is a demon supposed to bring sunshine, summer, and abundance.
The Kurent Demons
During the carnival Kurentovanje, people get dressed up as Kurent with traditional masks. The Kurents are devils running from house to house, forming circles in gardens, and jumping around owners of the homes. The sound of the bells they are wearing on their belt is supposed to chase evil away and bring summer and happiness. They make their round from Candlemas or Shrove Sunday to Ash Wednesday.
It is believed by many Slovenians nowadays that these kurents will chase the devil, which shows how much traditions and myths can impact superstition in a country.
At first, the only ones allowed to dress as kurent were men. They would go to houses in their towns and the neighboring ones. Now, women and children can also dress up, and kurents travel in bigger groups.
To be preserved and respected, the tradition is taught through workshops and activities in some schools, mainly kindergartens and elementary schools.
Superstition is prevalent in many countries and is a way to understand their culture. In Slovenia, mostly older people believe in all the superstitious sayings and traditions. However, there are still a lot of people influenced by many of these superstitions, as we can see with the example of New Year’s Day.
Superstition comes from Christianity in Slovenia, but it is also the result of many years of telling legends and completing traditions. If you are a tourist in Ljubljana, knowing all the superstitions will help you understand how people think, and why they might act as they do.