The following article appeared in the August 1995 issue of "Sokol News". I
thought you'd find these legends interesting and, hopefully, understand who the
Czechs are through their myths and legends.
Sharing. It's what it's all about!
Premysl Orac (the Premysl
The Great Migration of
After last month's installment
of the "Premysl Orac," (Pøemysl Oráè) several of you approached me for more
information about the beginnings of the Czech state and its people and how it is
connected to Cech, the mythical forefather, and the Premysl Orac, and of how the
Slavic people are interrelated. Well, the period when these legends were most
strongly believed began during the fourth and fifth centuries A.D. At this time
there was a great migration of nations in Europe, Asia and, of course, in
Africa, because "no man is an island."
The myths and legends of
Czechoslovakia and the other Slavic lands are very similar to those of the same
period as the Teutonic Vallhalla legends, the Nordic Kalevala stories, and the
English Camelot tales of King Arthur and his court. I'll only be making short
introductions to these characters from Czech mythology but, if you wish more
information, there is an excellent English translation of Alois Jirasek's "Old
Czech Legends" called "Stories and Legends of Old Prague" by Alois Jirasek,
Blackie & Son, Ltd., 1931, available at your public library.
Let me first make clear for you
why the Land of Cechy is called Bohemia. Before the "great migration of
nations," there lived a non-Slavic tribe in the area of the current Czech state
known as the Celts. This Celtic tribe built wooden fortresses on the tops of
hills, called Opida, and were known as a brave and combative people.
The Czech translation for "fight' or "combat" is "boj" (from the Latin "boii").
The "Bojove," as these Celts were known, were supplanted by Germanic tribes and
eventually left this area to head north and west into what is now England,
Wales, Scotland, and Ireland. Through the centuries the word "Bojove" eventually
became "Bohemian" (bohem). By the 6th century the Germanic tribes, who were
migrating southward, were supplanted by the Slavic tribes. In time, the Czechs
rose to a prominent position. History has shown us that these migrations were
not always abrupt and turbulent but often preceded by an intermingling of the
new tribes with the old.
Forefather Cech and the coming of the
In the barbarous dark ages there
lived a tribe of Northern Slavs far beyond the Tatra Mountains and the Visla
River in the area of current White Russia. There was much strife and malice
between the different tribes, or clans. Fighting for control of the land, the
Ukraine and Russian Slavic tribes made life difficult for this fast-growing
population of Slavs. Two princes of a very powerful Slavic clan, brothers Cech
(Czech) and Lech, together decide to leave behind the land of their Forefathers
and find for their own people a new homeland in which their families can live in
peace. The third brother, Rus, remained.
The clan heads west and, after a
trek of many months, they arrive one evening at the foot of a large mountain.
The people are very weary. The area through which they've traveled in the last
few weeks is almost without native inhabitants. Because of this, Cech, as the
older brother and leader, says to his people: "Tomorrow I will go up to the top
of this mountain to survey our surroundings and make a final decision!"
Cech rises before dawn and
climbs to the mountain's top. When he reaches the top, the rising sun shows him
that the mountain stands alone in a beautiful and vast plain of fertile soil,
close to a big river. Surrounding the plain are many forests and woods with
abundant wild animals, such as deer, boars, and zubrs (Zubrs are European wild
buffalo, larger than the American variety, and still living wild in the
Belovezhsky Primeval Forest National Park on the border between Poland and
Russia). The woods are full of buzzing wild bees and much honey in the comb
inside old trees and hanging on limbs. He sees no smoke from fires nor areas of
cultivation -- signs that would indicate inhabitants. He is satisfied.
Cech comes down and calls to his
brother and his people and says: "This is a very fertile land, full of animals
and honey. This land is without native inhabitants. This is a land where we can
work together and live in peace without worry about enough space for our growing
families. This is our new homeland!"
The people are very happy and
begin burning holy fires to call glory to their leader, Cech, who brought them
into this New Homeland. The people call this new homeland "Cech" (Land of the
Czech), in honor of their leader Cech, and themselves "Cesi" (Czechs). After
this decision by his people, Cech kneels down and kisses the soil of this new
homeland. He stands up and solemnly announces: "Welcome the Holy Land
promised to us. Keep us healthy, without injury, and let us grow up from
nation to nation till the end of all times!"
Cech's clan eventually spreads
out around and beyond the big mountain, Mt. Rip (from "Øipa, Repa" for beet,
because the mountain's shape from a distance is that of a half beet laying on
its side). It has ever since been known as the holy mountain of all Czechs. And
this was the mythical beginning of the Czech nation.
And what of brother Lech and his
people? Brother Lech continued on with his people and traveled north, not so far
from his brother Cech so that in case of an emergency they can help each other
and his clan. This is the beginning of the Polish nation, but that's another
Next: Krok, whose daughter Kazi
understood the healing properties of herbs; daughter Teta, who taught the people
piety and respect and; daughter Libuše, whose wisdom and gift of prophecy play
an important role in the national consciousness.
Nazdar, Vojtech Reich