Selected Elements of Animated Nature Associated with the Birth of Jesus in the Bulgarian Oral Culture and Apocryphal Narratives
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The article attempts to extract textual and extratextual planes on which representatives of fauna made their mark in the folklore of the South Slavs, mainly Bulgarians; in their oral literature, rituals, and beliefs, juxtaposed with selected Apocrypha, primarily from the Protoevangelium of James, confronted with the Scripture. The analysed texts (legends, folk tales, ritual songs performed during Christmas) relate to the birth of Christ in Bethlehem and placing him in a manger – the events of Night of Bethlehem and the flight of the Holy Family to Egypt. The excerpted texts of fairy tales and legends marginalise the theme of the Divine Birth, focusing on the figure of the Mother of God and her actions: meeting with St. Tryphon, rejecting the child, receiving lessons on motherhood from the frog, escaping with the Child to Egypt. The birth of Jesus is used as an excuse to tell a story of an etiological character (theme cursing animal or plant), often based on ritual custom and referring to it, such as clipping vines. Just as in the case of fairy tales and legends, folk song uses the birth of Jesus to explain the genesis of some of the characteristics and phenomena of nature. Presentation of animals in ritual songs occasionally refers to the economic sphere (the shepherds slept, and their flock wandered away), while wild animals are the object of punishment or reward. The Apocrypha known among the South Slavs mention animals in situations encountered also in the Bulgarian oral literature – the cosmic silence when fauna and flora freezes in anticipation of the birth of the Young God. The quoted texts of the Bulgarian oral culture referring to the theme of the Nativity of the Lord, the Gospel inspiration or even interaction with the apocryphal text fades into the background. The content of the stories and folk songs seems to be primordial in relation to the processed content of the Gospel; biblical characters and situations are introduced to oral stories already in circulation, creating texts that are testament of the so-called folk Christianity.
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