German (Bulgaria and Serbian: Герман, pronounced [ˈɡerman]) is a South Slavic mythological being, recorded in the folklore of eastern Serbia and northern Bulgaria. He is a male spirit associated with bringing rain and hail. His influence on these precipitations can be positive, resulting with the amount of rain beneficial for agriculture, or negative, with a drought, downpours, or hail. Rituals connected with German included making a doll intended to represent this personage. This effigy of German, made of rags, fired clay, or dried fruits, was rather large, usually with a distinct representation of the male genitals. It was produced and used in rituals exclusively by girls or young women.
In eastern Serbia, when a drought developed, girls would make such a doll, and bring it to a river bank. Depending on the regional custom, they would either bury it by the river, or put it in a little casket and let it flow down the river. Two of the girls would then start lamenting for the doll. Asked by the others why they were crying, they would answer, “We are crying for German; because of the drought German has died for the rain to fall.” If the amount of rain would become excessive after that, the doll was dug out. In northern Bulgaria, the rituals with German usually followed immediately after the Dodola rituals, but could be performed independently from them. In some villages they were carried out on the Feast of Saint Germanus. Girls would make the doll, 20 to 50 cm long, and lay it on a slate or in a little casket. Having adorned it with flowers, they would bury it with funeral observances. After three, nine, or forty days, the doll was dug out, and thrown into water.
People tried to prevent destructive summer hailstorms by placating German with a ritual performed on Christmas Eve. This ritual was recorded in the area around Pirot at the beginning of the 20th century. Immediately before the start of the Christmas Eve dinner, the head of the household would go out to his woodpile, to invite German to dinner. He would take with him a loaf of bread called "good luck", prepared particularly for this ritual, slivovitz, wine, and a wax candle. At the woodpile, he would shout three times, “German, German, wherever you are, come to dinner right now, and in the summer do not let me see your eyes anywhere!” He would then light the candle, take a sip of slivovitz, taste some bread, drink wine, and go back into his house. Asked what happened with German, he would answer, “He came, so we dined and drank amply of slivovitz and wine, and then we parted.”
German, who dies so that the nature may regenerate with the falling of rain, can be understood as a spirit of vegetation, dying and then resurrecting with the revival of vegetation. His distinctly represented male genitals symbolize fertility. The doll of German is presumably a metaphorical replacement of the former human sacrifice. It can be included among the Slavic sacrificial dolls, together with the dolls of Yarilo, Kostroma, and Morena.
In Christianized folk beliefs German is identified with Saint Germanus. This saint is associated with the protection from hail, and occasionally from lightning, though the latter was generally ascribed to Saint Elijah.
- Janićijević, pages 184-186.
- "Герман" (in Bulgarian). Central Library of Bulgarian Academy of Sciences. April 8, 2008. Archived from the original on 2011-07-06. Retrieved 2008-09-18.
- The woodpile of a household is one of the border zones between the human and inhuman worlds in the mytho-magical world view of South Slavs. It can serve as a medium in the communication with spiritual beings. See Trebješanin, Žarko. "Sorcery practise as the key to the understanding of the mytho-magical world image" (PDF). University of Niš. Retrieved 2008-09-18. (Page 2)
- This ritual may be related to a custom recorded among Ukrainians. During a drought, a farmer would gently address the rain, promising that he would cook a pot of borscht for it, if it fell.