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Perun's mountain (monte Borun) – a contribution to understanding the pagan Slavic toponymy of Kaštela

Tonči Burić ; Muzej hrvatskih arheoloških spomenika

Puni tekst: hrvatski pdf 564 Kb

str. 59-82

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A significant number of toponyms of Slavic origin are noticeable in the toponymic heritage of Kaštela, which developed in the Early Middle Ages upon the arrival of the Croatian people on the eastern Adriatic coast. Even a brief examination of written sources shows that almost all settlements developing at the slopes of Kozjak, Opor and Trećanica have pure Croatian names: Smoljevac, Kozice, Kruševik, Lažane, Ostrog, Radun, Špiljan, Baba (map 1). Also Sućurac should be added to the list, the hagionym that was formed according to Croatian linguistic rules from the Latin form sanctus Georgius. Only the village Bijaći is still lacking a satisfying explanation. Apart from those basic names of places, there is also a range of other names of wider or smaller areas. However, the regionym Podmorje that referred to the area of Lower Kaštela in the Middle Ages and later to Trogir’s Velo polje (Campus magnus traguriensis) stands out. The philological analysis of this toponym showed that it cannot be linked to the sea and thus to the name of the early Croatian County (Primorska) (Παρατχαλασσια), but to the original early Slavic name for marsh land and swamps. The reason for this lies in the fact that this area of the former ager of Salona was neglected in the late Antiquity. This lead to a state in which drainage channels stopped functioning that had been properly maintained in the early Roman imperial period. This is proven by late ancient stonework structures at site Miri in Kaštel Novi. The name of the settlement Ostrog– present–day Kaštel Lukšić– belongs to the same chronological layer. This settlement was special because it was in possession of the yeomanry, the so–called Didići, and not belonging to the system of ruler’s estates (territorium regale), which enclosed the entire remaining territory of today’s Kaštela. The territory of Ostrog reached also over the Kozjak mountain, where it bordered with the another Didići–community in Radošić (map 1). It is in the territory of Ostrog (map 1) that, among the early mediaeval geographic nomenclature, a range of seven toponyms of early Slavic origin was preserved which can be integrated into the holistic system of sacral conception of space, preserving also in this terminology part of the lost world of the mythic experience of space in the context of Slavic pagan religion. These toponyms are as follows: monte Borun (Borun), Bovan, Dubrava, Balavan, Baba pećina (Baba cave), Tribižine and Majurina (map 2). The starting point is the naming monte Borun, recorded on a drawing of the Venetian surveyor Alessandro Barbieri from 1745 (fig. 1), by which he named part of today’s mountain Kozjak. In his syntheses of the history of Kaštela, V. Omašić considered the name monte Borun as a deformation of the name Perun, which is also accepted in toponymy. This name has its close equivalent in the neighbouring region Poljica, also once part of the Klis or Primorska County, where a range of precious relics from the earliest history of Croats in the Early Middle Ages has been preserved. The name refers to the prominent peak Biranj, a large archaeological complex from prehistoric times to the Middle Ages, on which the Romanesque Church of St. John the Baptist is located today. Just behind Biranj lies Dubrava, which fits into the Slavic sacral experience of mythic conception of the world. It was Perun’s holy grove. On Biranj is a large rock named Bovan (fig. 3) on its eastern side. This noun indicates to the statue of the pagan idol (bolvan) that once could have stood there. The second sanctuary was right next to the settlement Ostrog, in the middle of the hill where the distinctive cliff Balavan is located, which etymologically is also derived from the word bolvan, in the meaning of the pagan idol. Later, precisely in the Late Middle Ages, there was the Church of St. Lawrence. Toponyms on the basis of that are known in the entire Slavic world (Macedonia, Bulgaria, Russia) or in areas that were once inhabited by Slavs (Hungary, Romania). In the lower areas below Balavan and Ostrog lie Tribižine and Tribižinski potok (creek of Tribižine), Baba pećina (Baba cave) and the area and creek named Majurina. Tribižine is a toponym that was often used to name former holy places, where offerings to the gods (treba) were done, whereas Baba pećina (counterpart to the mediaeval village Baba that lies west of Ostrog) is the name that is related to the mythic conception of this word; Baba is the personification of winter, ice and darkness. Contributing to this, I’d like to draw the attention also to the fact that the village Baba is located at the western end of Kaštela. According to folk beliefs, this western side of the world was called babin kut (Baba’s corner) because it marks the side where frequent storms and bad weathers occur also during the summer. Particularly important is the hydronym and toponym Majurina, whose meaning was hidden for a long time behind the deformed local name for a type of lizard, the snake lizard. Majur, more frequently called zmajur in Dalmatia, is actually the name for the snake lizard (Ophisaurus apodus), and is also related to the noun zmaj (zmaj= dragon), which is also often used, along with the snake, in depictions of mythological events. The term užak should also be added. It stands for a small non–poisonous snake related to water, that is directly linked to the ancient pre–Slavic word už, which only later was replaced by the word snake. This reptile is, apart from the previously described snake lizard, very common around the creek Majurina. Užak as a term therefore represents an ancient relic from the first colonisation wave of the Croats in the 7th century and belongs to the standard vocabulary of our ancestors in the Early Middle Ages, together with the here presented toponyms with pagan meaning. The whole system as described, when looked upon in terms of spatial distribution, fits entirely into the philological and ethnological studies of the pre–Christian phase in the history of the Croatian people in the Early Middle Ages (R. Katičić and V. Belaj). These studies reconstructed with an enviable erudition and scientific meticulousness from modest remains of mythological texts that were preserved in later folk poems and tales the battle between two principles within the circle of seasons– the battle between the supreme god Perun and Veles (Volos), the god of the underworld, but also the god of cattle and wealth. In this yearly repeating battle Perun defeats Volos, personified in form of a snake (our Majurina), with his lightning strokes and thunderbolts and re–establishes cosmic order and beats chaos. Already several such places were identified in the spatial distribution along the Croatian coast, where the toponymy is telling us always this same story. Places such as Mošćenice at the Kvarner coast in Istria, located at the foot of the Učka mountain, and– for example– Poljica near Split. In Poljica exists a hill and settlement called Perun (recorded in sources already by the end of the 11th century), Dubrava and the spring Zminjača and Zmij kamik. This is a perfect counterpart to Borun and his Dubrava and Majurina, except that there are no Bovan and Balavan (at least for now) in Poljica. It is this toponymic survival preserved in Poljica, a region conterminous with Kaštela, that is an important indicator showing that those places are not isolated and random examples, but on the contrary, a rule, which once was an integral part of the toponymic nomenclature on a territory inhabited by the early Croatian population. Since the process of Christianisation of the Croats was in the final stage already in the 9th century, particularly after being incorporated into the Frankish sphere of interest, the conclusion poses itself without doubt that the toponyms with pagan meaning must have developed before, respectively during the 7th and 8th century. With regard to the lack of written sources about these problems, they harmoniously complement with archaeological sources, especially the graveyards belonging to the “pagan horizon”, whose top layer was also discovered in Kaštela in the recent years. Moreover, I consider the toponymic material an even more important source for this subject, because it could have been developed only through the naming of areas by people who lived there and used the language to which also these toponyms belong. The long Christianisation process erased most of these traces. However, some are still preserved, especially in regions that have generally not been under Turkish occupation (Kaštela, Hrvatsko primorje, Istria). This is important because there were no drastic demographic changes, despite the constant colonisation, so that the heritage of the indigenous population from the Early Middle Ages was preserved. A good example for this are the villages Ostrog and Radošić, both being Didići estates. Seven preserved toponyms in Kaštela, and almost all of them on the coastal side that was in the custody of Venice in the Early Middle Ages, is a disproportional number in relation to the non–existence of toponyms in the territory of Radošić, which was under Turskih occupation and experienced profound demographic changes in the early modern period. The here described toponyms and their comparison with archaeological data significantly complements our knowledge of early Croatian history at the eastern Adriatic coast in the 7th and 8th century, respectively centuries that are lacking written and archaeological sources the most.

Ključne riječi

Borun, Ostrog, Kaštela, Slavic mythology, Balavan

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