In my post “Goat
” I showed that the beginning of the Capricorn zodiac sigh falls right in the middle of the mating season of the Alpine ibex wild goats. Alpine ibex mating season starts in December, and ends in January typically lasting around six weeks. Winter Solstice, 21st of December falls right in the middle of this period and the day after the Winter solstice is the beginning of the Capricorn (goat) period, which last from December 22 – January 20…
This information is the key that allows us to finally unlock the true meaning of one of the most interesting legends preserved in Europe. The legend of Zlatorog, the Goldhorn.
This is Triglav
. With an elevation of 2,864 metres, height is the highest mountain in Slovenia and the highest peak of the Julian Alps.
Just below Triglav mountain lies The valley of Triglav Lakes.
The Valley of Triglav
Lakes is a karstic, high mountain valley in the heart of Julian Alps with many small lakes dotted among the rocks. The lowest lake is Black Lake (Črno jezero) at an elevation of 1,294 metres above sea level. The highest is Podstenje Lake (Jezero v Podstenju), which is located at an elevation of 1,993 m.
The valley and the surrounding peaks are incredibly rugged and rough and incredibly beautiful. Here are some pictures of the valley that might give you better idea of what kind of place this is.
The valley is located under the mount Triglav. In Serbian mythology we have two main deities: Triglav (Three headed god), Dabog (giving god), Djed (Grandfather), the sky father. and his wife Troglava (Three head goddess), Dajbaba (giving goddess), Baba (Grandmother), the earth mother. It is their constant interplay that produces all life on earth.
This valley is the location of the story of Zlatorog (Goldhorn), magic Ibex goat with golden horns.
Here is the full text of the legend of Zlatorog:
“The Valley of Triglav lakes and Komna plateau were once a green heaven. It was inhabited by White women, good fairies who kept the mountain pastures green. They also visited the lower valleys and helped humans whenever they found them in need. They also helped women at childbirth. A child who was delivered into the world by them, was protected by the White Ladies for the rest of his life. They never asked for thanks or payment. But they didn’t allow anyone to enter their Lake Valey. If anyone accidentally or because of arrogance got close to their homes, they would hurl down rocks and stones and avalanches, or cause terrible storms of snow and hail and would force people to return to the valley. The Lake valley was also home to a heard of white goats whose leader was Zlatorog (Goldhorn). He was indestructible. If it got hurt, from his blood a miraculous flower, called Triglav rose would spring.
Triglav rose, Latin name “Potentilla nitida”, is a species of cinquefoil in the Rosaceae family that is endemic to the Alps where it grows on elevation of 3,200 metres.
If Goldhorn ate a single leaf or petal from this flower, he would instantly recover. His golden horns were the key to unlocking a big treasure, which was hidden on Bogatin (Rich) mountain. The treasure was guarded by a multi-headed snake, dragon.
The only mortal, who was allowed to climb on the highest summits of the Lake Valley, was the son of a beautiful widow – the Trenta Hunter. He was delivered by the White women, so he was under their special protection.
The Trenta Hunter had a girlfriend, a daughter of an inn keeper who owned a tavern on the confluence of Koritnica and Soča river. One day innkeeper’s daughter caught an eye of a rich Venetian merchant. He gave her lots of expensive jewelry and promised her life in great luxury if she married him. When Trenta Hunter came next time to the tavern to see his girlfriend, the girl’s mother demanded from him to produce a treasure that will match the wealth of the Venetian merchant, or he will never be allowed to see her daughter again. Alternatively he could bring back a bunch of Triglav roses in mid-winter to prove his fidelity – an impossible task.
The young hunter, desperate and hurt left the tavern. On his way out, he was joined by the Green Hunter, who was known in the valley to bring into troubles many decent young guys. It was the Green hunter, who proposed to the Trenta Hunter to kill Goldhorn, take his golden horns and with their help take all the treasures of Bogatin (Rich) mountain. Once he brings Bogatin treasure to his girlfriend’s mother, she was surely going to let him have his sweetheart back.
They started climbing the mountain the very same night, and in the morning as the sun rose they spotted the Goldhorn. Trenta Hunter took aim and pulled the trigger. The bullet hit Goldhorn. The blood gushing from Zlatorog’s wound melted the snow and up sprang a magical Triglav rose. The dying Goldhorn nibbled on a few petals and was instantly healed. It jumped up and leaped away. Wherever he touched the ground, snow melted and Triglav roses sprang up from under his hooves, luring the Trienta hunter onto higher and higher ground. But as they climbed, the sun caught Zlatorog’s shiny horns. The hunter was blinded, lost his footing and plunged into a gorge.
The once kind and trusting Goldhorn was enraged that he was treated in such a manner. In his fury he gored his way through the Triglav Lakes Valley, leaving it much as it looks today. He left the area with the White Ladies, never to return.
The innkeeper’s daughter waited in vain for her lover to return home. As spring approached, the snow began to melt, swelling the Soca River. One day it brought her a sad gift: the body of Trienta hunter, his lifeless hand still clutching a Triglav rose.”
Now how are we to understand this story?
Well this story has several levels.
Firstly it is a story about how greed can destroy people. And this is the level most people stop at.
Secondly it is a great environmental warning. The destruction of the Lake Valley and its transformation from the lush green paradise to barren karst plateau was caused by Goldhorn, who disappeared afterwords. The Alpine ibex historically ranged through France, Italy, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Bavaria, Austria and Slovenia. Starting in the early 16th century and with firearms becoming common, the overall population declined due to over-exploitation and poaching. The ibex became extinct in Switzerland and Germany by the 18th century, and was extinct in Austria and northeastern Italy by the 19th century. This is why in most versions of the Legend, Goldhorn is legendary white chamois buck. Only in some Slovenian versions, which I believe are the older ones, he is an Ibex buck. Basically by he time the story was recorded, Alpine ibex was extinct and local people replaced the now gone ibex with still present chamois. The fact that the story says that Goldhorn disappeared after the destruction of its habitat, proves that originally Goldhorn was Alpine ibex.
It is also interesting that when alpine ibex left, the “white ladies” also left never to return. Who were these mysterious “white ladies” who kept the mountain pastures green and who also helped women at childbirth?
In my series of articles about Baba, the Mother Goddess, I explained that in Serbian the word “baba” means mother, grandmother and midwife, basically anyone who gave birth or helped giving birth. It also means stone, rock, mountain and mother Earth, the Great Mother who gave birth to us all. The word baba also has many meanings in Slovenian: an old woman, hag, demon spirit or witch, dry, barren river bed or ravine, rock or a crag.
Many stony mountain peaks in the Balkans have the name whose root is the word “baba” and there are quite a few of these in Slovenia. This is one of them, Velika Baba in Jezersko region
Also many isolated stone crags in the Balkans also have names whose root is the word baba. This one from Slovenia is called “Poljanska baba” and is located on the eastern slope of Mt. Mežakla.
Shepherd’s in Slovenia still believe today that these “baba” stones are linked to weather, water, humidity, mud, soil and fertility and pasture abundance. Until recently, during their spring ascend to Great Mountain above Kamnik, shepherds would leave a few coins or a loaf of bread at a place called “Babji trebuh” meaning “Baba’s belly”. The offering was left for “baba” so that she doesn’t “walk around the mountain bringing cold and hail“. It is interesting that in the Balkan folklore a dark cloud that brings the storm with hail or sleet is also called “baba” and that the direction from which the storm clouds usually arrive over the hill or a mountain is called “babja” meaning baba’s domain.
Now “baba”, grandmother, hag, an old lady has a white hair so an old lady is also a “white lady”. As I already explained in my post “Baba’s day“, baba is also a word for midwife, the one who delivers babies. And she is also the one who controls earth, water, darkness and cold, the domains of the Mother Goddess. So I believe that the white ladies are memories of the old Earth Goddess, Baba, the Great Mother Goddess. My research shows that the reverence of the Great Mother was only very recently suppressed in the Balkans. I believe that the departure of the “white ladies” and the turning of the lush green pastures into desolate rocky desert, describes the belief of the local people that the abandonment of the old beliefs and the respect for the Great Mother Earth is what has brought the destruction of the environment…
But there is another, and to me the most interesting layer to this story. The astrological one. And this is the layer which only becomes accessible when we know the link between the ibex goat and the Capricorn sign. The Zlatorog story describes the succession of three winter astrological signs, Sagittarius, Capricorn and Aquarius.
Sagittarius 23 November – 21 December
Capricorn 22 December – 20 January
Aquarius 21 January – 19 February
The story shows the inevitability of the passing of winter and the arrival of spring.
Here is the story again with the translation of the used symbols:
The only mortal, who is allowed to climb on the highest summits of the Lake Valley, is the Trenta Hunter.
This hunter is Sagittarius. Sagittarius is the time of the year when all farm work is finished and all animals have already finished growing their winter fur. It is the time of the first snow and the beginning of the winter fur hunting season. This is why this is where we find Sagittarius, the hunter.
He is the son of a beautiful widow. He was delivered by the White women, so he is under their special protection.
Sagittarius is the son of Virgo. Virgo is the lady who stands on the lion (Leo), the sign that comes after Leo. Virgo is the sign when Baba, the Mother Earth, starts taking over from the Father Sky. This is the time when weather starts getting cooler and wetter. By the time Sagittarius is born, Mother Earth is a widow. The agricultural year is over, the killing of the bull is finished and Scorpio has already cut his balls off (I will explain what this means exactly in on of my future posts). And the winter, the season in which Mother goddess is the sole ruler, has began on the 8th of November.
The young hunter is joined by the Green Hunter, who is known in the valley to bring into troubles many decent young guys. It was the Green hunter, who proposes to the Trenta Hunter to kill Goldhorn. His golden horns were the key to unlocking a big treasure, which was hidden on Bogatin (Rich) mountain.
Green Hunter is Jarilo, the young sun. Jar in Slavic languages means both hot, young and green. Jarilo is the the representation of young male passion. Considered a bad thing in Christianity. He is the mysterious “Green Man” who brings new vegetative cycle. In Celtic and Serbian calendar, the year is divided into two parts: summer which starts with Celtic Beltane (1st of May) or Serbian Jarilo day, St Georges day (5th of May) and Celtic Samhain (31st of October) or Serbian Mitrov dan (8th of November). I wrote about this in detail in my post “Two crosses“. In Serbian mythology Mitar and Jarilo are represented as mounted hunters. Jarilo encourages Mitar to go after the goat of Winter solstice, which is mid point between them and so speed up the passing of winter. Only if Mitar, The Hunter, Sagittarius catches the Goat, Capricorn, will the new solar year start.
The treasure was guarded by a multi-headed snake.
The treasure is plentiful of food during summer and autumn. The beginning of summer is marked by Jarilo day, which in Christianity became St Georges day. Jarilo, the fire head of Triglav, is the Snake king, the multi-headed snake, the Dragon, the fire and heat of the sun. Christian missionaries showed a great sense of humor when they turned Jarilo, the dragon into St George – the dragon killer…But this was time and time again used recipe of destroying old religious beliefs: turn them into their opposites…
The hunters start climbing the mountain in the evening.
This is the evening of the winter solstice.
In the morning as the sun rose the Hunter spots the Goldhorn. He takes aim and pulls the trigger. The bullet hits Goldhorn.
The moment when the hunter hits the goat, when Sagittarius meets the Capricorn, is the Winter solstice day. The day when the new sun, the new solar year is born, when the days start getting longer again. The Capricorn is the true Goldhorn, who brings the new sun between his horns. This sun is the key to the great treasure, the new vegetative year which will start soon when Capricorn dies…
But the hunter gets blinded by the sunlight reflecting from Zlatorog’s golden horns, slips on a cliff and falls to his death.
The hunter dies on Winter Solstice day, the last day of Sagittarius. The day when the new sun is born and the sun’s blazing fire is rekindled. This is the end of Sagittarius and beginning of Capricorn.
The blood gushing from dying Zlatorog’s wound melts the snow.
The dying Capricorn’s blood which melts the snow is the first snow melt which occurs in Aquarius, after Capricorn ends. The water which Aquarius pours is this first snow melt which swells the rivers and breaks the ice. It is during Aquarius that we find Celtic Imbolc (1st of February) and St Sava (27th of January, but originally probably 4th of February), the beginning of Spring.
From the place where snow has melted springs a magical Triglav rose. The dying Goldhorn nibbles on a few petals and is instantly healed.
The death and resurrection of a goat is a common scene reenacted during Coleda ceremonies in Slavic countries. These ceremonies are, I believe, the origin of Christmas carols. I will talk about this more in one of my future posts.
The once kind and trusting Goldhorn, enraged that he was treated in such a manner, leaves with the White Ladies, never to return.
Well until next winter and the next big Goldhorn hunt…
This legend once and for all confirms that zodiac signs were markers used to describe important natural events in Europe. This means that zodiac signs had to be invented in Europe, not in Babilonia. The fact that the true meaning of this story had stayed hidden for so long is solely because no one saw the link between the ibex goat and the Capricorn before.