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The Arab’s Grave in Novi Pazar

Folkloristika 3/2 (2018): 91‒106
Author: Aleksandra Popin
Text: PDF


The literature mentions several legends about the Arab’s grave in Novi Pazar (Serbia), which are concerned with the identity of the Arab himself. The legend was mentioned in Alexander F. Gil’ferding’s itinerary Travelling across Herzegovina, Bosnia and Old Serbia (1859). It was also mentioned in Tihomir R. Djordjevic’s fifth volume of Our Folk Life (Naš narodni život) (1932), as well as by certain D. Djukic in Politika (1939). Veselin Čajkanović refers to both authors in his study On Supreme God in the Old Serbian Religion (O vrhovnom bogu u staroj srpskoj religiji) (1941). Bearing these published records in mind, the author conducted field research in order to investigate to which extent and in what way the legend about the Arab and his grave still lives in Novi Pazar today. Regardless of the relatively large number of interviewees, the author received less than ten testimonies worthy of attention. Seeing this research as preliminary, we have come to several conclusions. The Arab is most commonly associated with the Turkish era, but also to the Austro-Hungarian period. The motifs related to his death, as well as the honoring of his grave, suggest the possible connection with the legends about evliyas and martyrs (‘shahids’), although on the Arab’s grave the tomb (‘türbe’) was not built, but an unusually large footstone. We have also recorded the motifs related to cephalophory which often accompany legends of this type. Apart from various transformations of the legends about the Arab, there are also certain differences regarding details related to the ritual traditions performed at the grave (making sacrifices and lighting candles). It is important to point out that the legend about the Arab as a tyrant appears to be no longer present, and was replaced by the one in which he is represented as a hero, rebel, martyr and benefactor.
Key words: Arab’s grave, Novi Pazar, legend, martyr, cephalophory, cult place, rituals