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N. Tasii, On the Migrations of Palaeo-BalkanPeoples. B.
Jovanoqti|The EasternCelts . B. Ferjandi(&Lj.Maksimovi(,
SavaNemanjid and SerbiabetweenEpiros and Nicaea . D.
Popoui{EulogiaeTerraeSanctaeof St Savaof Serbia. J. Kali{
A Millennium of Belgrade. D. Kovaievi1Kojit,.On Precious
Metals Mined in Medieval Serbia . S. M. Cirkoqtil The
Double'Sfreath . M. Spremif,Le DespoteStefanet " Sieur "
Djuradj - Lj. RadenkouiQBread in the Folk Culture,of the
Serbs. Lj. Sto5ii,The Bay of Cattaro Schoolof Icon-Painting
. J. MilojkoviODjuri{ David Urquhart's Perceptionsof the
EasternQuestion . S. Jovanovii,Jovan Ristid . M. Vojvodi{
Stojan Novakovid et la politique 6trangdrede la Serbie. V
Dj. Kresti6,Croatian Pretensionsto Bosnia and Herzegovina
since 1848 . D. Djordjevii, PaEi( and Milovanovi6 in the
Negotiations for the Conclusion of the Balkan Alliance of
I9l2 - D. T. Batakoo'ii,Serbia,the Serbo-AlbanianConflict
and the First Balkan'S7ar. D. R. Zivojinovi{KingNikola and
the Territorial Expansionof Montenegro 1914-1920. G.-H.
Soutou,La Franceet le problbmedesNationalit6spendant la
guerrede 1914-1918: le casde la Serbie.V. Stanou(ii,\Uorks
of SlobodanJovanovi6- R. Samardtii,Vladimir Corovi6:The
Last Polyhistor. K. V. Nikiforov, Modernization Mixed with
Nationalism e

Ljubinko Radenkovi6
Institute for Bal*.an Studies
SerbianAcademyof Sciences
and Arts

DOI: ro.zz98lBALCr4a5
larly work

Bread in the Folk Culture of the Serbs

In Its Pan-Slavic Context
Abstract The slavs do not considerbreadto be a common foodstuff, but a sacredobject,
a.symbol of wealth and
and happiness.
Almost alt
('holijavs. rites from
all significant,tt*rl,
significant rltuals ('hJJ"yr,,ite,
the,life cycre
of a per-son,
rycle or
ur. bread.
lr"ui. In
someof them,
suchasmarrilse.qor the serbian
slaaa,itis the
m4n ritual object,which
hasgreat g'mbo_lic
This paperaddresses
the useof
breadin the rituil behavior
s,where bread.has the characteristicsof a symbol and
T1 a i.]ll"d
communicitive function
(it is used
function (it
to convey
or to
to receive
tion). It is also
points out
out that
that the
the s)'mbolic
the grain usedto makeit, whether it is leavenedor unleavened,

folk culture,Serbs.Slavs
can assumethat at the beginning of the new era the Slavs,in their
\-/ancient homeland, used unleavenedmillet bread as z dulv nutriment.
in addition to c_ereal
porridge. According to the testimony of Byzantine historian Pseudo-Maurice, in the late sixth and early seventir century of all the
field crops,the Slavsmainly farmed millet (VIZINJ ,955, ,3r:r:z). The
narne kruh, krua, kruiac, which remains in Slovenian, Croatian and some
western Serbiandialects,once denoted unleavenedbread (most likely made
of ground or chopped millet or rye), which was brittle and easilycrumbled
and broken (Trubaiov r 996: 6o).The modern nameproja,wlich designates
cornbreadamong the serbs, once denoted millet briadand is deriveJfrom
theword proha
sincecorn did not come to Europe until after
the discovery of America. The name hleb for bread is most likelv a Baltoslavicborrowing and adaptationfrom the Gothic htafs,ordHigl German
hleib<*blaiba.This name.designatesleavenedbread,baked in a pL (later in
an oven), unlike the unleavenedbreads baked in the hot ashes,i.e. kruha
(ESSJ r98r/8: z7-zl).
It is believed that the knowledge of preparing leavenedbread was
by the Greeks from the Egyptians in tle eight century BCE, and
tl;at althe time the yeastwas prepared using flo* ani grape stum, and that
:r .
later this practice spreadto other European peoples.
The wide use of bread for ritual puqposesamong the sravs has been
the subject of a number of studies,starting in the ninJteenth century and
up to the present. One should mention the still current interpretation of


BalcanicaXLV (zor4)

the symbolism of ritual breadsby the Russian Slavist A. Potebnja (rSlSr89r) (new ed. Potebnja 2oo7: 92-156),the comparativestudieson bread
in rituals and poemsby N. Sumcov (r854-19 zz) (new ed. Sumcov r996:
:^57-248);the detailed description of Bulgarian ritual breads by D. Marinov (r846-rg4o) (new ed. Marinov rg94: 372-388)' Among more recent studies,one should mention the monograph by S.Yanevaon Bulgarian
ritual bread (Yaneva rg}g),A. Strahov on the cult of bread among the East
Slavs(Strahov r99r), andJ. and A. Kubiak about bread in the folk culture
of the Poles (r98r), as well as the colleqtion of papers from the scholarly
in Slavic Culture" (HVSK rggT).Significant
conferencein Sofia
the culture of Slavic peoples have also been
publishedby V. Ivanov and V. Toporov (tg7 D, A. Gura (tg77: r 3 r-r 8o),
I. S"dakon"(tgg+, r3o-r38), S.Tolstaja(SD zorz/5:4rz-4zo),A. Plotnikova(SD zorz/5: 424-43r),T Agapkina(SD zorz/ 5: 4zt-424),etc.fhe
thematic bibliography of Lj. Andreji6 provides many sourcesabout ritual
breadsamongthe Serbs(Andrejii ry77: 253-319)'
Bread- a boly object
Breadwas not a common foodstufffor the Slavs,but a holy object,the sym"Everything elseis
bol of wealth and happiness.In Bosnia they used to say
fine, but it's breadthat feedsyou"' (Dvorovi; Majstorovii r9o8lHH: $7),
the Lord provide bread and salt,and the housewill
and in Macedonia
be full"' (RadoviSko;Miladinovii-Petrovii r938l)trIl: 66). On the island of
Lord's blessing",and there was a belief
Hvar (Croatia), bread is called
that a child will be protected from spellsif a pieceof brcad is placed in its
swaddling (Cari6 figl/X: r59-16o). The Russians(No-vgorodrtgion) say
"Bread is aboveeverything"3(Vlasova uZektllina zoo6;
4r);the Czechscall
bread in the
house"meansto live without shortages.Thefact that bread was a symbol of
wealth is supported by the maidens'spellfor mariage among the Russians
in the Urals. Maidens would place bread, salt and a ring in the home and
bring in a rooster.If the roosterpeckedthe salt,shewould malrrya vagabond
(a pauper); if it pecked at the bread,a wealthy man; and if it pecked at the
ring, shewould surelygef married that year (Vostrikov zooo: 47)"I
Bread was used for oaths: swear on bread."a(Bosnia). In Bosnia
andHerzegovina,in the event that a strangerenteredthe house,they would
' "Sve je hvala, a trljeb je hrana."
'"Neka Gospod dava trleb i sol, pa je kuiata puna."
: 'X,re6 - eceMyroaosa.'
+"Tako mi trlieba."

Li. Radenkovii, Bread in the Folk Culture of the Serbs


immediately be given bread and salt "with the thought that then he/she
could do no harnf (Lilek t8g9/X.:7ro). In rhe same regibn if there was
no more incensein the house,a breadcrumbwould be cast into the fire to
provide scent,so that
things" (apparitions,spectres)would flee (Zovko
There is a belief among Russiansthat the forest spirit (leSij) has his
bread far from the human world.If a person that he abductseatsfrom this
bread, they cannot return home any more. According to a legend from the
Russian north (the Terska region, on the White Sea),a maiden who had
been kidnapped by the forest spirit becauseshe had been cursed by her
mother, finds in his home a woman with many children, who gives her the
following advice
ifyou want to return home, dont eat our bread.I too
was taken like you"s (Vlasova zoo4: 36o).
Bread can articulate multiple symbolisms,on severalgrounds: the
symbolical meaning of the constituentelements- flour, salt, water and, in
the caseof leavenedbread, also yeast;the symbolism of the manufacturing
?rocess crushing the seeds,sifting, wetting, storing, fermenting, baking
(pladng in the fire, retrieval); of the sbape- round, twisted (braids), hollow, cruciforni, zoomorphic, etc.; of the time when it is prepared - before
holidays, after the birth of a child, before or after a wedding, after a person's
deadq in the dead of night, after sunset,during a firll moon, during a solar
or lunar edipse, on a certain day; of the place where it is prepared - in the
home, watermill, outdoors.
The preparation of bread for magical pu{poses requires that some
other conditions be met, such as the flour being from a new watermill, or
from a mill that rotates counter-clockwise, the flour being sifted through
an upside-down sieve, the sieve being held behind the back while sifting,
6e four coming from multiple homes, the bread being dried in the sun, etc.
(for more seeRadenkovi( r9g7: r45-r55).
In the processof kneading the dough and baking the bread, the flour
(dough) in a short time passesfrom unleavenedto leavened,from the amorpho* sate do the desired form, from the unstable to stable, which can
communicate the idea of the cycle of birth, death and resurrection: through ripening, harvesting and reaping the wheat "dies" but its
seed is bom; through milling the seed "dies" but flour is bornl flour "dies"
but dough it born; do"gh
but bread is born. The Serb ritual that is
performed in the caseof premature birth of a child speaksof the connection
betrreen the birth of a child and the baking ofbread (accordingly the womb
is the oven):when such a child is born it is placedon the peel,and when the
s "furyuxa"

jecaraxoln 6lrru AoMa,AaKHe emr naurero x.re6a.-f,, ronopzr, roxe rarar 6lrla
x toxe vnecena,"

XLV (zor4)


bread is removed from the oven, the child is placedbriefly in the oven
that the next would be born full terrri'(Miodragovi( zoog:82)'
The yeast,which is kept in a cold and dark place,and which is constantly used and renewed,can be associatedwith the ancestors'who yield
offspring.The Serbsbelievethat when moving from an old houseto a new
house,the yeastin the old house should be destroyed(probably so that the
patronageof the ancestorswould be linked only to the new house).In Bosnia and Herzegovina (Vlasenica) it was believed that if mixed dough did
not rise (if it did not ferment) it was a sign that someonein the housewould
die (Dragidevit r9o7: yz).In Bulgaria it was said that it was a bad thing
for the house to run out of yeast (salt or vinegar). On the island of Hvar
(Croatia) it wasbelievedthat while dough is being kneadedevil spirits circle
around the house.In order to protect small children theywould placea little
dough in their swaddling-band before the bread is placed in the oven, and
also a little warm bread after it was baked.

millet/corn bread

*polena(ground, crushed);
The name for wheat Q>ienica)is derived from
*p'hati (to grind, to crush). Wheat or white bread was initially mixed and
used only for ritual purposes(family feast,Christmas, Easter,St. George's
Day, baptisms,weddings).According to data from the early twentieth century in the mountain regions of Bosnia people ate wheat bread only several days after the harvest and on important holidays. Otherwise they ate
bzrley,pirov (hard, einkorn or emmer wheat), rye, mil1et or buckwheat.In
the plains they mainly ate cornbread(Dvorovi; Majstorovii rgoS/W: 47).
In eastern Serbia (Boljevac) they mainly ^te ?rlia (cornbread),and rarely
wheat or Pure bread. When corn was scarcedough was made by mixing
barley,rye or oat flour (Grbii rg25i rg3-r95).In Serbianepicpoetry eating
or serving ubite breadwzs an indication of gentry or the hero'sprestige.In
Russian epic poems (bytiny) this also applies to white wheat bread,which
is called kalaikrupiviatyj (Bobunova s. Hrolenko zoo6: t49)-In Slovenia
in the nineteenth and first half of the twentieth century bread was mainly
made out of rye, while the gentry ate wheat bread' In addition to grain
flour, chickpeas,peas,potatoesand chestnutswere also added to the dough
(SEL zoo4: z6z). One Bulgarian ceremonial song,which was sung on St.
George's Day, recounts how St. George visited the fields and referred to
*heai asthe holy grain ("Oh grain of wheat / be you sweet,be you holy"),6
and he said to the oat that it was only for looking at but that it was bitter
for eating,and not for communion ("And you grain of oat/nice to look at /
6 13j te Zito,pienidivo,/ Milo bilo, svetobilo."

Lj. Radenkovi6,Bread in the Folk Culture of the Serbs


bitter to eat/ notfor communiorf) (Marinov rgg4:5 qS).In Russiathe term

bleb is used only for rye bread, while only ceremonial breads (kala&) werc
made out of wheat flour, for holidays (Sumcov ry96: r73). AIso in Russia (Sarnaradistrict), wheat bread is calTedpirog (Gvozdikova r98r: zrr),
which is otherwise used in Russianfor various kinds of filled dough.
The cult contrast between wheat and millet (oat, corn) bread is apparent from the fact that in western Serbia on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day bread was made only from wheat flour, while on St. Basil's Day
$""nary r/r4) corn-flour bread was made for catde, so-called vasilica or
mumuruzna fusnica(which was the replacement for what had previously
been millet bread or porridge), and decoratedwith a
tube" (Kosti6
tg84: 329).Tlis ritual included two elements- corn (previouslydark millet, probably unleavenedbread or porridge) and the weaving tool, indicating
the duality of the cult. On the one hand it is firected towards the protector
of the catde, and on the other - towards the protector of women's activities.In some placesin Russiathe St. Basil'sDay porridge was preparedby
&e oldest woman in the housewith the assistanceof the oldest man (Surnov 1996: r84). According to one tradition from Kosovo and Metohija, a
man had found his brother's killer in a foreign land, but he could not kill
him until, following the advice of some man, instead of wheat (sacral) he
bed bis fill of corn bread (profane)."One does not strike a man on wheat
bdlr:d"7(Bovan ry76: 87-58).
Rcstrbtions afien hneadingdougltand using bread
Special rules applied to mixing dough and using bread.In Bulgaria the bride
would make the dough for her first bread on St. GeorgelsDay.The motherin-lew would prepare the flour, sieve (sifter) and kneading tray, and invite
the daughter-in-law to knead the bread. The daughter-in-law would kiss
fie mother-in-law's hand and start kneading,while the maidens around her
would sing the ritual St. George's Day song.The bride was only allowed to
knead the dough,while the dough would be shapedby the oldest woman in
the house(Marinov ryg$ 595-596).In Bosnia married women would wear
their wedding ring while kneading dough so that they would not become
widowed (Majstorovi(. rgoS/W: 43fl. Apparendy separatingand scraping
dough from the hands after the kneading was associatedwith the loss of the
husband.When the breadwas removedfrom the oven,the hole in the ashes
would be evened out so
the devils would not bake their own bread in
that spot", and so that a person would not be in a predicament (be killed,
fall i11)if he stepped in such a place (Majstorovi1 rgoS/W: +:8). When
7"Na pSenidanleb sene bije iovek"

XLV (zora)

Belorussiansplaced the bread in the oven no one was allowed to leavethe

house,so asnot to take awaythe prosperityof the home (Romanovrgtz/8:
"be299).In Herzegovina,bread was not to be broken until it was cool
causeit weeps before God when it is broken lwhile] hot" (Zovko ryor
r59). In Montenegro (Zeta),during lunch, it is bread that was placed first
on the table, making sure that it was not upside-down (Radulovii 1936:
54). Among the Serbs,the table was carefully wiped after the meal so that
breadcrumbswould not fall to the ground and be trampled.If someoneaccidentally stepped on bread on the road, they were required to pick it up,
kiss it and place it by the road so that birds or other creaturesmight eat it'
It was a sin to cursebread (Leskovac;Djordjevi6 D. r958: ro9; Metohija;
Radunovii 1988: 3r3). In southern Serbiait was required that the bread
on the table not be turned with its side towards those who were eating,
away"the personl it was not permitted to
otherwise the bread would
eat lying down. Lunch started with the host taking a piece of bread, kissing it, crossinghimself and sayrnggrace(Djordjevi6D. ry58: 54g,ro9).It
was believed that it was a sin to hold bread behind one'sback (Metohija;
Radunovii i988: 33r), and in Herzegovinait was wrong to buy bread in
town, but rather one shouldmake it at home (Zovko rgor: 3or).
Common(everyday)breadvs.pogaia, kravaj, kolai
There is a differencebetweenbread for everydayuseand ceremonialor celebration bread.Thelatter bread has a clear symbolic function and it is used as
a form of communication within the community aswell aswith the divine
or demonic world. As a rule, ceremonialbreadwas madi: out of sifted wheat
flour and it differed in the way that it was prepared,in the place and time
that it was used,aswell as in its shape.D. Marinov statesthat in Bulgarian
tradition when kneading certain qpes of bread it was compulsory for the
woman doing it to be dressedin new clothes,for the maiden to bring water
from the spring early in the morning without saylnga word the entire time
(m'liana r.toda,srlentwater),
and the water jug was to be decoratedwith flowers(cvetnavoda,flower water), the water used to make the bread had to be
poured from a full jug, i.e.without any being poured offpreviously (nenaieta
ztoda,wholewater). When kneading certain breads for weddings, the act
was accompaniedby certain songs (Marinov r9g4: 37217i). Among the
Slavic peoplesthe ritual function is mainly linked to three types of bread:
pogaia,kra,uajznd holai.Although over time many of the differencesin the
use of thesebreadshave faded,someof them can still be pointed out.
pogaia is a round flat wheat bread made without yeast,which
is why in Bulgaria it is also calledprjasnapita (unleavenedflatbread).The
name can be found among all the South Slavicpeoples,aswell asother peo-

Ll. Radenkovid,Bread in the Folk Culture of the Serbs


ples in the Balkans (Greeks,Romanians,Albanians,Turks, etc.).The exception is the Czechs,who call it pagai.It is believedthat it is an adaptation of
the Italian wordfocaccia,which comesfrom the Latinwordfocacius,"brezd
baked on the hearth", from the Latin word focus meaning hearth (Skok
ry72/Il:69a).In Russiana similar bread is cal7edlepiha/lepiikawhere the
root word is probably the Slavic *ldpiti,to stick or glue. It may be assumed
that the pogaia made of wheat flour is an innovation, and that in the old
Slavic homeland kaia (porridge) was used instead.This is supported by the
ritual practice involving porridge among the East and West Slavs.In thirteenth century Russiathe wedding feast was calledknia.Among the Slavs
ponidge was a ritual food for Christmas holidays, for the birth of a child,
at weddings, funerals, etc. In the Tver Governorate two porridges were prethin with milk, and one thick
pared on the day that a child was born
with butter.If it was a day of fasting, the porridge was prepared using millet
and buckrvheat(Smucov ry96: r84, fi9).
The opposition between leavened bread andpogaia is apparent from
rcports from Herzegovina - as long as leavenedbread was in the oven, no
one vvasto mentiony'ogaiabecausethen the bread would not rise (Vukova
grz.ilja ry34: 3o).
The fact that the pogaia is prepared quickly, baked immediately, does
not change shapewhile baking (it does not rise), eaten the same day,and
broken as opposed to cut by knife, defines its specific ritual function - it is
most often linked to immediate irreversible change. By breaking it during
the ritual this changeis confirmed and reaffirmed in an obvious manner,i.e.
it is codified in a visual manner. In Vojvodina as soon as a child is born, the
midwife or a female relativebrings apogaia,and the membersof the family
break it above the child's head (Milutinoi(. r97r: n9);in the Leskovac
area before the wedding a grabenapogaia is prepared in the bride's home,
which young men and women break above the bride's Lread(Stojanievii
rg79: ry); when someone dies, threepogaia are made in a neighbour's
house.One is carried and broken at the cemetery and two are used for the
r97l n8).
funeral meal (Milutinoii
Kolai and kravaj areleavened,usually round breadsmade out ofwheat
flour. The first name is Pan-Slavic (*kolaio)and it most likely comes from
the round shape of this bread (<*Aolo-ako",Bulgarian kolak).The second
aaane(*kmoajo) is commonly known amorig the East and South Slavs,but
it does not exist among the West Slavs(ESSJ t984: tr z-r r 6). In Russian
imperial and princely weddings the kraaaj was so large that it was carried
out by four officers. Among the Uk:rainians of the Saratov Governorate the
baztaj was also very large, covering almost the whole table (Smucov 1996:
196). Starting in the secondhalf of the nineteenth century the name hravaj
(kmooaj in Russian) came to be linked to the word for cow (<*korva-ajt).


BalcanicaXLV (zora)

This connection is alsonotable among the Baltic peoples.In westernPolesje

(Belonrssia).oneencountersthe adaptation from Lithuanian bonda(cow)
but meaning bread, frotnlithuanian banda,meaning horned cattle,but also
kotai (Nepokupnyy ry76: ryo-rgr).N. Sumcov believesthat the krasaj is
a sacrificial bread, which representsa substitute for the sacrificing of a cow.
This is also supportedby the fact that some such breadsmade by the Bulgarians and Belorussianshave d""gh additions in the form of horns (Sumcov
ry962 z4o).A. Potebnjahas put forth the hypothesis,which is supported
the authors of the Etymological Dictionary of StawicLanguages
that the kraoaj is the groonfs symbol and that, being a male principle, it is
in opposition to the cow (which is also how the bride maybe called among
kraoaj is the bull-groorri'(Potebnjz2oo1i r32-r33i
the East Slavs):
ESSJ1984:r r5). V.Ivanov and V.Toporov (rg74: 243-258),in addition to
the abovernentionedsymbolism of kraoai,also seein it the embodiment of
the world tree.
If thete is a difference to be noted between these two types of ceremonial breads,it can be assumedthat kolai in the Slavic homeland was
a sacrificial celebration bread for general prosperiry which had variously
shaped surfaces(do"gh applications in the shape of a crucifix, sun, wreath,
flowers,etc.) depending on the specificpufpose.IGatsajis a sacrificialbread
that rnore closely concretizes fertility and fecundity - for the bride to be
fertile (wadbenikrava),for the mother to haveenough milk for feeding the
infant (kravaj za porodilju), or for sheep to produce milk throughout the
year (ooiarnik kraoaj, koiara, etc.).

Thecerernonialrole of hread
As a ritual object, bread is an integral part of many ceremonies.Almost all
important cerimonies usebread:birth, weddings, funeral rites, the family and
village patron sairrt'sday,annual holidays, cerer.noniesin crisis siqrations.

Bread in annual customs

Among the.serbs the largest number of breadswas made for Christmas.
In addition to the Christmas kolai, in the early twentieth century breads
of different shapes, coJleilzakoniid werc made: oolo,ui(dough on the crust
depicted horns, a yoke, a switch); oviarica (a round bread with a dough band
depi.ting sheep)isoinjmica(folds in the crust depia pig teats); iliirtar (plum
orchardl baiia (barcel); ztinograd (vineyard); guske(geese,two beans used
for the eyes);gotupiifi (young pige ans);pola*enik (first christmas guest), etc.
On Christm"r E " the household head would take each zakonii{ cut offa
piece of it, dip it in wine and put it aside to be given later to the livestock.

Lj. Radenkovi6,Bread in the Folk Culture of the Serbs


fhe other breads would be eaten for dinner, with the exception of oztiarica
which was given to the shepherd.He would remove the balls from the bread
and give them to the sheep so that they would breed/reproduce(Danidii
rgoo: 98-99). In Timoika Krajina on Christmas Eve the lady of the house
baked twelve different breads:the bread for the young God-Christ; za v0lwe (for the oxen); ooiarnica , (shepherdbread);Iojze(ineyard); njioa (crop
field); guvno (threshing floor); sztinja(pig); baiz,a(barel); kola (cart,wrg(moon). A11the
on);golubovi(pigeons);kosir (sicKe); sunce(sun); and mesec
bre'adswere placed on straw covered by a sack woven from goat hair. The
men of the housewould place a piece of each in a glassof wine, which the
membersof the householdwould usefor communion on Christmas Morning (Stanojevi1rgzg: +S-+g).
In the caseof the Serbsin Kordun, aheadof Christmas the lady of
tre housewould make the bo*,iinjak,aleavenedbread of wheat flour decoreted with a paffern. trf it was cracked when it was removed from the oven,
itwas considereda sign that the man of the houseor another member ofthe
frmilywould die that year.It was placedon the table in a sieve(sifter) with
6ree candlesinserted into it, and it was not eatenuntil St. Basilt Day. The
cendles vrere on Christmas Eve and the following three days during lunch
end dinner (Bubalo-Korduna5rg3r: rr 8-r r 9).
In the Homolje region, the lady of the house made the bread called
prnjnica on Christmas Day.When she had preparedthe dough, shewould
smcar the doors of the stablesand pens with her dough-coveredhands so
trat the livestockwould be healthy (alsoprobably so that theywould reprodue,growlike the leavenedbread).If the lady of the housedid not haveany
cbildren, she would smear dough on her forehead and her husband'snose
so that she would become pregnant (Nedeljkovi( rggo: zo). In northern
Metohija the daiik bread was made for Christmas (Bukumiri6 zotz: rzr).
fhe name most likely comes from dad-snik,"the one who gives,who brings
In addition to kolai,the Serbsalso made different, smaller breadson
Christrras Day. For example, in some Serb regions when a man from the
house (usually the household head)'went to the forest to collect the badn7aI (branch of a tree thal is cut down in a rinral manner on the day before
Christrnas, carried into the home and placed on the hearth to burn in two
bahres),he would czrry a lepinja,which he would break on the itump of the
rree 6at he cut down for the badnjak,then he would eat half, and leave half
on the stump. In Kosovo and Metohija when the badnjak was placed on
the hearth an ornlte ?ogaiaworlLdbe placed on the edge,and on it, honey
and salt. AIl members of the household would cross themselvesand kiss
fte pogaia.On Christmas Day, before sunrise,thepogafawould be taken to
the field (Nuiii 1986: r8r).In southernSerbia(around Leskovac)several


BalcanicaXlV (zot4,)

koledjankewercbaked for Christmas and one of them

smaller breads caJTed
defend the field from
was intended for the zmija po$anka (freld snake)
A widespread custom among the Serbs is to make iesnicafor Christmas, most often a kind of unleavened bread made out of wheat flour. In
somevill-ages,grain, pieces(slivers) ofwood from the yoke or a coin, usually
just'a coin, were also put in the dough for the iesnica.When the bread was
baked all the members of the family took part in breaking it (or the man of
the house &d this, Sving each person a piece), which was followed by the
search for one of the abovernentioned items. It was believed that whoever
found the coin in their piece of bread would have the most luck that year.
Among the Serbs in Sarajevo the iesni.cawas sometimes made by the man
of the house.Before Christmas he would fetch water for the iesnicaat night,
wearing gloves,and he carried wheat as a tribute for the spring from which
he took the water.In addition,to the iesnicahe also made two hollow breads,
which he left until St. Basil's Day. After kneading the do"gh he would go
outside with his eyesclosed and touch the nearesttree with his dough-cov"May
bees spread here". He would cover the bread with
ered hands, sayrng
embersin the hearth to bake,alsowhile wearing gloves (Lilek r\galYl: 38).
In western Serbia (UZice) the iesnicawasbroken before lunch by the man of
the house together with thepolat;enik,not with their bare hands,but wearing
gloves.They would tum it three times in the direction of the movement of
the sun, then break it, kiss, exchangepiecesand then sit down at the table. If
a crumb were to fall while the iesnicawas being brokennit was believed that
someonefrom the housewould die that year(Mili6evii r.894: ry4)-In Badka
the iesnicawas made from severalleaves of dough, each leaf being strewn
with honey,choppedwalnuts and raisins (RSGV zorolro: 8o).
It is obvious that the iesnicasymbolized overall happiness,with each
member of the household getti'ng a piece. The name of this bread is the
*[gsto"piece" (this is also the root of the verb
noun form of the adjective
-priiestiti sa,to receivecommunion).
In Sumadijathe iuptji kolai(hollow bread)was also made for the first
ritual guest on Christmas - the potoi'ajnik,pola*'enik- so that a bundle
of hernp could be put in its opening.In northern Kosovo and Metohija the
polaznikpogaiawas made for rhepoloi;ajmZ(Bukumiri( zotz: ++8-++g).ln
Bosnia and Herzegovina and westem Serbia, an ox was brought into the
house on Christmas Day as the poloi:ajnik, and was covered with barley'
with a hollow breadhung on his horn (Lilek fig4JY7:38r-382).
On St. Basil'sDay (January r/r4), or Little Christmas, the oasiljica
bread was made in western Serbia,which was called vasu$icain eastern Serbia,oasilopitaby the Greeks, or bosilicain Hrvatsko Zagorje and Dalmatia.
In the U-ice region the wasiljicawas made with corn flour, then crumbled

Li. Radenkovii, Bread in the Folk Culture of the Serbs


into hot lard and eaten after lunch. In the Homolje region on that day the
vasilice wheat breads were fried in lard and given to the children, for the
soulsof the dead.Thegruvanica or iesnicawasmade inTemni6, barenicain
Kosovo, bakradan(polenta) in Skopska Crna Gora,poparenicain the Presevo
area In Kosovo,Metohija and Resavait was believed that bearsgavebirth
on St. Basil'sDay and that bread should be made for them, which was called
mcirtipoaojnicainResavx and SkopskaCrna Gora. In Kosovo every house
made kolombofnabarenica (cornbread made with fat, usually made by adding cheese).In SkopskaCrna Gora it was believedthat when the bear gives
birth on St. Basilt day, she goes blind and that her sight returns after forty
daln (Djordjevii T ry84: 7z-7 4).
For St. Theodore'sDay bread in the shapeof horseshoeswas baked
in Banat. Such breads were cilled tedorifi oi kop;te in the Vr5ac region
(Ffipovii ry86:4g).In the areaaround Boljevac the buian h.olaiwasbaked,
which a rider could put his hand through while riding a horse (Nedeljkovi6
On the day of the Holy Forty Martyrs of Sebaste(March 9/zz, celebrated by newlyweds), small unleavened fatbreads (kraoajiiii, kolaiifi),
so-called mladeniiii,were made.Thesebreadswere given to the shepherds,
In Timodka Krajina, for this feast forty small breads called rnladencior
mlodenfriiwere made with a design incised using a twig. Unleavened breads
rere bakedin one earthenwaredish,while the restwereleavened(Stanojevid
ryzglfr|: ++). For this holiday in some places alarger bread was made for
tbe shepherd,which was called mladenac.Among the East Slavs there is a
widespread custom that breads in the shape of birds are prepared for this
holiday,commonly known as *aztoronki(larks).This custom is linked to the
belief that this is when the first birds return after spending the winter in
w:urner southern areas(Agapli;:;nary97: a8-62).
For Easter in Vojvo&na women made the veliki uskrinji kotai (large
Easter bread), in a round and braided form, with a dyed red egg placed
on top. In Srem, in the vill1ges of Mt. Fru5ka Gora, the tradition was to
meke a braided unleavened flat bread with a raw egg placed in its centre
bdore baking. This bread is cal7edbuzdopanin Srem,jajianik in the villages
west of SremskaMitrovica (Bosii ry66: 268), and kovr*,anj, kove*anjacor
Ianfanjak in eastern Serbia (RSANU ry75/1X:7or). These breadswere
used as Easter gifts (this custom also existsin southern Serbia).
For St. George'sDay, in the Homolje region a leavenedbread without any markings was baked. It was kneaded in silence and a basil branch
was placedon it. It was intended for livestock and was cal7edstoiniposkuror
stuchihalai (Nedeljkovii i99o: 73).
The celebration of the family patron saint's day (rtrsnaslava) among
the Serbsis unimaginable withoutthe slaoskikolai.Eien if the familywas



not able to mark this holidaywith a slaaa feast,they would make and break
the slaztskikolai (for more on practices involving the bread for the krsna
slava seeJastrebovr88g: 4-r7; Radenkovi6 zor3: 9-23).
Tlae zawtina collective ritual, which is also known zs krstonoie(processionsof people that went to the fields carrying icons and red banners in
the spring, between Easter and Pentecost),included the breaking of bread,
which was brought by the designated ceremony participant - the kolaiar.
A piece of the bread was given to the person who was to be the kolaiar the
following year (Mili6evi6 1894: r 55-r 56).
It is notable that the two main calendarholidays,Christmas and Easter, also featured significandy &fferent ceremonial breads. For Christmas
the bread was rpund with various fiSot"l representations of everything that
was important in the lives of people. These breads sent a messageto the
(God,ancestors)to protect the lives of the membersofthe housesacredones
hold and to increasethe size and wealth of the family. For Easter
forms of bread predominated,often with the addition of a whole egg.The
names of these breadswere ofteR derived from the verbs oiti (to twine) and
wteti (to spin), which were especially marked in folk culture. It may be assumed that such shapeswere created under the infuence of the belief that
betweenEaster and Pentecostthe soulsof the deceasedwere
tlat theywere in the fields and around their former homes.This is why the
breadswere dedicated to them.The life-death polarity appearsin the Easter
bread code as the right-wrong polarity.

Bread in tife cycterituals

Birth of a child
As soon as a child is born a female neighbour or relative immediately bakes
a pogflia and takes it to the mother. In the Temnii Serb region the custom
was that a male child should take three bites from thepogaia,wtthout eating
them, so that the newborn child would be healthy and have healthy teeth
(Miodragovi ( zoog: 76).
In Banat (Jasenovo),the third evening after the birth of the child, a
pogaiawo,aldbe placed on the table, along with a glassofwater and a shirt
becauseit was believed that on that night the Fates would come and set its
fate (Milutinovre ry67-69: ng).
While the mother was recovering from labor, women would bring
her a ponojnica,which obligatorily consisted of a pogaia and a grft for the
child. In westem Serbia for the baby shower the new mother would receive
a hollow
bread", through which water was poured
that the
child would have enough millC (Blagojevrt. rg84: zz8)-

Lj. Radenkovii, Bread in the Folk Culture

of the Serbs

In the Leskovac r_egion,forty days after

birth, when the child was
brought back from the church where ^ pr^y"rwas
said,it would be praced

givenatittle breadto eat(bSord:e"tct. ,;;;;
er; i' LrLnica
(easternserbia)breadwasthe first sorid
food th at the infant#""ra receive,
assoonasir srartedsi.ttingup (Nikolii
In the stri*'bariruat (cirebrationoithe ,itu"rry).
hrrt hair cutting of the

out thekum,orgodfather),
i" ;; t;"+ A;;, firstbread
ly out and
ano sart are brought

placed in front of the kum.-Iuiisexplainsthat

the b1e1$Leanshappiner, ^ni that the child
shourdneverbe without bread
or salt (Veljii ry25:3gz).
When the child starts to walk, a
pogaiais made, thepostu_
?yica or ?ostupaia.In Mol (Badka) this i; ^b^lrira pognin.,vrappedin
sheet and placed on the threshord of the
house.rhe child is warked three
times over it, and then the pogaia is broken
and eaten.one child eats the
pogaiawhile running so thaithe child that
has startedwalki"g;da
be fast
when the child sto_ps
breastfeedinga speciarflatbreadwas made
given to it, which in the uzice region *"J"
hollo* bread (Blagoj ewt.
In the uZice region in the event that the
child did not start speaking for a,Jongtime, the grandmother or mother
would take the child to the
watermill where the miller wourd bathe the
chird with ,"";;; fro- *d",
the waterwheel and the ieketaro(the rod
that rests on the milrwheer and
hopp:r,agitating the hopper so that the
grains *"riJaU
on the
which produces noise), make a flatbreaJand
bake it in the hot
ashesonthe hearth (f9gojevie
Bosnia in such casesthe chird
ryt4: z3r).In
would be given bread frol the Gypsie
i the origin
of the expressionfor a talkative
t"rk, like he has eaten bread
" Gypry
(I:i1:k.,s9a: io).In Herzegovina
apogaiais made and
broken above the child's.head, ani then
given"only ro ihl children ro eat
(Vukova gradja ry4: zB).
From the listed exampresit is obvious that
the rituar use of bread
was necessaryfor each phase of the deveropment
of the chird. since the
growth changesof the chird are irreversibre,
it is most often unleavened
bread Qogaia) rhat is made.
As a-ritual object bread hords an-important
prace in arl the stagesof the
nuptials' special breadswere made for the
engagement,the weidin g d^y,
the post-wedding visit, and they were treateid;ffer.rr,fy
1S"_. ov 1996:
t75-r87;Ivanova ry97: zz-28; Gura zorz:


XLV (zor+)

In western Serbiawhen a girl acceptsto marry a man (in someplaces

this is o<pressedby her taking an apple with a gold or silver coin in it) then
the future in-laws break the iareni prijateljski proieni kolai (pztterned in-law
engagementbread) which the groom's party brought. Each of the people
presenttakesa pieceof the bread,and the unmarried men and women
for it so that they too might get married quickly (Blagojevii rg84: 245).
In Srem, sevendaysbefore the wedding the groom'sfather would go
to the best man to invite him to the wedding. He would bring with him a
flask decoratedwith flowers and a towel, z pogaia and apples.At the best
man'shouse they would eat the pogaia and drink wine. The following day
the best maris wife would bake a pogaia, fil7 the flask with wine, place the
towel in a sackand sendit all to the groom'shouse,which was confirmation
of acceptanceof the offer and of their presenceat the wedding (Milutinovii
rgTr: r3o).
In Montenegro (Perast),on the Thursday before the wedding, the
groom, his biother and four more young men would go to get the bride's
dowry. At the bride's house they would be offered kokot,z bread specially
preparedfor that occasion(in the shapeof a roosterwithout legs),made out
of white four, with eggs,butter, sugar,walnuts and almonds, which they
broke abovethe dowry chest and sharewith the girls and members of the
householdwho are present (Vukmanovi( I958NII: r43). Since the rooster
has a breeding function, the breaking of the rooster-shapedbread by the
groom and the lads from his party, abovethe dowry chest apparently symbolically representsthe expressedmodel of a successfulimpregnation of the
bride.The antiquity of this ritual symbol is indicated by the fact that it exists'
in other,geographicallydistant Slavicregions.In Russia(Kaluga Governorate) the wedding bread,decoratedwith branchesand twists of dough, was
caJledkurnik (from kurica,Russianfor chicken). In the Pskov Governorate
the kurnikwas a bread that had a rooster baked in it, and it was given to the
bride and groom for lunch on the secondday of their wedding (Gvozdikova
In the villages around Leskovacand Vranje on the Friday before the
wedding the unmarried young men and young women from the family and
neighborhood would gather in the groonis home, for the ritual sifting of
the flour and kneading of the wedding bread.At the bride's home (in the
Leskovac arezon the sameday,and on Saturdayin the Vranje area)young
people would also gather, where the grabenapogaia bread was made and
broken abovethe bride's head (Stojanieit. r97g: 17).
In many Slavicareasthe beginning of the wedding ceremonyis linked
to the sifting of flour and kneading of a specialceremonialbread made of
wheat flour, which in Serb areasis most often calTedsabormZ(Radovanovid
1998: 3o-32) andsad(garden)among Russians(Gvozdenikova r98r: zo4-

Radenkovid,Bread in the Folk Culture of the Serbs

zo5)- InJagodina three branchesare stuck into such a bread and a dough
pigeon placed on each of them. A three-pronged branch is stuck into the
center of the bread,anla"gold"apple (an applewrapped in yellow foil) was
stuck on each prong. 'Ihe sabornikwas praiid on thi table in front of the
best man during the wedding feast.It was only at the end, when the iareno
kolo hne dance had passed,that the best man, bridesman, and the groom's
brother put their heads together and the sabornikwould be broken above
them (Trajanovi6 1983: 6g-zo).The breaking of the sabornikmarkedthe
end of the wedding.
Among thelJkrainians in srem, after the dinner thekorovajwedding
bread would be brought_out.The kororaj was decoratedwith carvings anJ
figural representationsof the Moon, sun, pigeons,smaflwreaths,grap"esand
the newlyweds.The groom danced while holding a forked braich'(risha),
which was decoratedwith tissue paper strips ln different colors, with an
apple on the tip. After the dance he would stick the riska in the korovaj. After this ritual dancethe groom'sbrother would cut the bread and hand it out
to the guests,for which they gavegifts of money to the bride (Radulovadki:
Among the serbs in Bosnia (Tavna monasteryregion), the devojaiki
kolaiwas brought out before the wedding party startld out from the bride,s
home, and was then broken by the groo*'r fatirer and the bride's father, after which a kolowas dancedaround the table and through the house,to the
exit (Drobnjakovii ry7 : 84).
Bread was a compulsory element in many slavic areaswhen the
bride_entered the groom'shome.In Bosnia the bride was given two breads,
which she placed under her armpits and entered her new home like that
(Drobnjakoi( ry37: s6). In easternserbia (s"tljig area) the bride would
enter the groom'shome with a bread under on" "r- and a bottle of wine
under the other (Petrovii s. rygz:99-roo). Among the slovaks (velka Lesna),the mother-in-lallwould greet the bride in front of the houseand give
her the kusek,a round bread make specially for that occasion.She would
take three bites of it and throw it aboveher head.Theguestswould catch it,
shareit among themselvesand eat it immediately.It was believedthat such
a breadbrought luck to 'hosewho ate a pieceof it (Horvdtov6 r97o:24-7
In Russia,in the Kursk Governorate,the mother-in-raw worrld .rrr.orr"r'tL
bride's facewith a bread (Sumcov 1996: ryg).
In the region around Leskovacthe bridesman would bring a special
blepiif za mladu (small bread for the bride), tied in white and rid thread.
The bride would eat the bread and leavethe threadsso that she could start
knitting socksfor the child when shegot pregnant.In Strupnica this bread
was thrown into the bride's lap, and she would immediately drop it on the


BalcanicaXLV (zor+)

ground, so that she might have an easy childbirth (Djordjevi6 D. 1958:


In Sumadija (Jarmenovci)the starojkovapogaiawouldbe brought out

during the lunch at the groom'shouse,and each Persongave money for it
the bride could buywhiteners (makeup for the face)".At the sametime,
the kumova (best mart's), deoero'ua(groom's brothert) and rtojvodina (vntness's)pogaia were brought out, decoratedwith red, white and blue wool,
with a pieceof soap,comb and mirror on eachof them (KneZevi6-Jovanovi6
r95 8: 95).In Bosnia,after the third drink at the groom'shousethe wedding
breads and all the gifts would be presentedby the master of ceremonies
(DrobnjakoviC r y 7: I 7).
In Russia,in Western Pridurie the bride and groom were blessedusing bread wrapped in a napkin, instead of an icon. On the morning of the
second day of the wedding the bride would bring the bread to the table and
way thatyou love bread in the family, so too should you love me"
(Gvozdikova rgSr: zo8-zo9). Also in Russia (on the Don River) a special
bread was prepared for the wedding, with the inside removed and a live
pigeon placed in the hollow space,which would peer out of the hole- The
bread would be placed in the room where the newlyweds were to spend
their wedding nlght (Gura ry97: 615).
In Vojvodina eight daysafter the wedding the bride would be visited
by her young close relatives(the parents did not visit) who brought her a
pogaiari. In MoSorin (Badka)the bride was
pogaia.This ritual visit is calTed
visited by her brothers and sisters,who brought her apogaia filled with walnuts and raisins.This pogaiawas broken abovethe bed (Milutinovr(. rgTr:
r 3o). In western Serbia,when the parentsvisited the newlyweds,they would
bring the iareni prijateljski kolai (Blagojevid rg84: z7r).

When a person dies in \/ojvodina three unleavenedpogaia would be made,
however not in the deceased'shouse,but at a neighbor's. One was taken
to the cemetery and broken after the burial, with all those present taking
a piece, and two were eaten at the home, after returning from the cemetery during the funeral meal (Milutinoit
ry67t969: n8).'Ihe pogaia
was made for all thepoduije (funeral mealsfor sevendays,forty days,semianniversary,anniversary,Saturday of Souls). In eastern Serbia (the Swljig
area),the older woman who was in charge of the funeral (as a rule a woman
whose first child had died) would make and half-bake as many dumplings
as there were people staying for the funeral meal.fi the participants were
required to immediately eat these half-cooked dumplings (personalobservation in PluZina).A specificity of Bulgarian tradition is the preparation of

. Radenkovid,Bread in the Folk Culture of the Serbs

a specialunleavenedbread,,patnina.rn northeasternBulgaria the dough

this breadwas madewith the water usedto bathe the deiased.fhe
nJme of
this breadindicatesthat its pu{posewas to sendoffthe soul of the
i.e. for his/her voyageto the otLer side.It was believedthat when
the bread
was broken and eaten the person'ssoul would separatefrom the body
fy over the house (Lozaniva ry97: 4r-42).
special breadswere also preparedfor saturday of souls.In sumadija
babicaandkrsteljakbreadswere taken to the cemetery;in Levad and
itwas zaduinicaor poskurica,etc. (Nedeljkovi6 r
Leskovac and Pirot for the funerar mials the'k trik, a small bread
in the
shapeof a cross'was.taken
to the cemetery(petrovii v rgoo: ,97;zi"ioii
19.87:72).,rnvojvodinatheposkuricebre"dr*.r. madeforsaturdayof
taken to the cemeteryand handed out to the poor (RSGVzooT/i:
Trade rituals
special breads (pogaia) were made also for the first day of ploughing,
the first harvest,etc.In Kosovo the obra*daonicaflatbreid,wasmade for
ploughman who went out to plough or sow for the first time thatyeas,and
it was broken over the yoke in the furrow or over the seedthat was
to the field (Filipoi( ry67: ry).
In south-easternBanat there was a custom of ottnovaiast (nrdshon*? *_hi.h representedthe ritual inffoduction of the ram ",,,onj the
and which took place around Michaelmas. Each man of the hiuse
bring apogaia thatwas decorated with twists in the form of five circles.
would break it with the shepherd,keeping the part that remained in
hands(BanatskeHere r958: rr7).
The testing of whethe_ra location was good for building a house included
the rolling of bread. If the rolled bread fell on ,,its hid,,, in Levad
Temnii it was consideredthat the location was advantag.o* fo, building
new house (Mijatovii r9o9: 266).
In Nadalj (Badka)when the hole fbr the foundation of a new house
was dug, the man and lady of the house would go down into it,
break a
pogafa and shareit (Milutinoi(
ry7r r3z).
into a new house in Jabranicea whole wheat bread,
kneadedand baked in the old house,would Le brought in (Tro;arroic
t7);in Kosovo and Metohija the lady of the ho.rsJerrteredth. ,r.* house
first and carried in an earthenwared-ishand baked bread (podrima),
or a
pogaiaand sieve(suva Reka) (vukanovid zoor:
5oz);in Montene gro(zeta),


BalcanicaXLV (zor4)

the first things brought into a new house were a whole bread and a vat full
ofwater (Radulovi6 ry36: 54).
In Ukraine and Belorussia, in the event of a fire, bread would be carried around the house that had burned down (Sumcov ryg6: z4).T.he same
was done with an icon. which shows that bread was considered a sacred
This overview of Slavic customs and beliefs related to bread, which
illustrates the extensive ethnographic material related to this matter, indicates its great importance as an artifact for folk culture.
WC 3 98.3jz:z 7 t. z z-5 65.7gl= t 63'qr

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ofthe Serbs

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Tliis paper resultsfrom the project of the Institute

for Barkan studies sooin, raz cot_


w;t (na ry7oz) fandedbythe


Technological Developm"rrt of th"'R.public

Jf Serbia.


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