Birth of a Nation - Legends - Part 1
- Hi All,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!
Rick GarzaPremysl Orac (the Premysl Plowman)The Great Migration of NationsAfter 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.The BojoveLet 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 CzechsIn 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 story.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.
- Rick,Interesting history of Czechs. Thanks for your sharing.Sir JohnHi All,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.