Tag Archives: swallow

Three suns

There is a Serbian legend that says that once there were three suns, but dragon ate two. It would have eaten all three, if it wasn’t for a swallow who managed to hide the last, third one, under her wing.

This is why today we only have one sun.

Three suns rising over the snow covered land…

This phenomena is called “sun dogs” or “mock suns”, meteorological name parhelion (plural parhelia). This is an atmospheric phenomenon that consists of a bright spot to the left and/or right of the Sun. They often occur in pairs, one on each side of the Sun, mostly at sunrise or sunset. They can occur at any time during the year but are most prominent and striking during the winter. 

I would here want to give the analysis of this legend. 

Dragon eating two out of three suns

In Serbian folklore, snake and dragon are linked. Dragons are actually believed to be just very old very big snakes. They are both associated with the fire, the heat of the sun. This is because snakes only appear during the hottest part of the year, summer. If the appearance of the three suns on the horizon is the most common and most striking during the winter, then the appearance of the snakes (dragons) marks the end of the three suns season. From that moment on it is most likely that only one sun will rise every morning, the one that the snake (dragon) didn’t manage to eat.

Swallow saving the last, third, sun

In my post “Leto” i talked about the link between the return of the migratory birds and the beginning of the summer. I proposed that the Slavic word for summer “leto” actually comes from the word “let” meaning “flight”. When I was a kid, it was the arrival of swallows, of all other migratory birds, that was the definite sign that the winter was over. If the appearance of the three suns on the horizon is the most common and most striking during the winter, then the arrival of the swallows marks the end of the three suns season. From that moment on it is most likely that only one sun will rise every morning, the one hidden under the swallow’s wing. 

So far so good. 

But what about the the statement “once there were three suns”? Was there a time when three suns rising in the east was everyday occurrence? Well the rising of the three suns on the horizon is the most common and most striking during the winter. So there is a good chance then that the during the eternal winter of the last Ice Age, the three suns rising in the east was everyday occurrence. 

Then the climate changes. The sun regained it’s heat. The dragon, which is in Serbian folklore symbol of the sun’s fire, sun’s heat, returns, and eats two out of the three suns. The birds, including swallows return to the land which is now green again, saving the last, third sun, from the dragon…

So is it possible that this legend is actually talking about the Last Ice Age, when every morning “three suns rose in the east”? If so it can be dated to the end of the Younger Dryas period, which lasted between 10,800 and 9500 BC. Well, as I already wrote in my posts about Montenegrian tumuluses, we have archaeological proof that the Irish Annals preserved 5000 years old stories about the migration of the R1b beaker people into Ireland. Also as I already wrote in my post “Dreamtime” we have proof that some of the Australian Aboriginal stories are over 40,000 years old. So I believe that it is possible that this Serbian legend could be over 10,000 years old memory of the last Ice Age, the time when there were three suns, before the raging dragon ate two…

What do you think?

Lasta

If you have ever looked up during the summer months, you probably would have seen swallows zooming around chasing insects. This is a great video showing swallows in flight. 

Swallows flying

Swallows are a group of birds in the family Hirundinidae that are characterized by their adaptation to aerial feeding. They generally forage for prey that is flying, but they will on occasion snap prey off branches or on the ground. The flight may be fast and involve a rapid succession of turns and banks when actively chasing fast moving prey; less agile prey may be caught with a slower more leisurely flight that includes flying in circles and bursts of flapping mixed with gliding. Swallows have evolved these highly acrobatic flying skills to capture some of nature’s most elusive prey: flies. According to the scientists who studied their flying abilities, “swallows are the absolute extreme when it comes to flight performance. They’re at the cutting edge for what can happen with an avian body plan in terms of flight.”

So if you had to use one word to describe swallows in a way to distinguish them instantly from all the other birds, that word would probably be “fast”.

Now here is a funny thing. 

In Serbian the word for swallow is “lasta” and “lastavica”. Official etymology says that this word comes from Proto-Slavic *lasta. Cognates include:  Church Slavonic: ластунъ, ластуна, ластовица, Russian: ла́стка, ла́стовка, ла́стушка, ла́стица, Ukrainian: ластови́ця, ла́стiвка, Bulgarian: ла́стовица, ла́ставица, Slovenian: lástovica, lástovka, Czech: lаštоviсе, Slovakian: lastovička, Polish: łastówka, łastawka, Lusatian Serbian: łаstоjса, Polabian: lostövéica.

The meaning of the Proto-Slavic *lasta is not given. 

In Irish, one of the lesser known meanings of the word “lasta” is “to move at high speed”…

So… Is this the root of all the Slavic words for swallow, “the bird that moves at high speed”? Or did this (obscure) word in Irish meaning “moving at high speed” come from Slavic word for swallow?

One more interesting thing. In many Slavic languages, including Serbian, there are two words for swallow: “lasta” and “lastavica”. Lasta means fast. But where does the “vic” (pronounced vits) comes from. Well it could be a diminutive. But there is also another possibility. 

These are three videos in which you can clearly hear the sounds swallows make. It sounds like: 

vicviccvicvic….

Sound of swallows 1
Sound of swallows 2
Sound of swallows 3

So lastavica is lasta (fast moving bird) which says “vic”…

Interesting don’t you think? And the most interesting is the question: where and when did this borrowing occur? Considering that the word lasta is present in all the Slavic languages, the borrowing, if the word was borrowed from Gaelic to Slavic languages, had to occur during the Iron or Bronze Age. But where? Central Europe? Balkans? And if the word was borrowed from Slavic languages into Gaelic, when and where did this happen? 

Lots to think about 🙂