“Strange Maple Tree”: Serbian Lyric Folk Songs on Magical Plowman in the Floral World Milieu

Folkloristics 7/1 (2022): 11–32
Author: Zoja S. Karanović

Serbian lyric folk songs with an ancient motif of magical plowman are considered in this article within the mythical and ritual context, in which they were predominantly performed. First song with this motif was published by Vuk Karadžić (1824), while the rest of the written records, comprised in the period from late 19th century till nowadays, are concentrated mostly in the region of southeast and south of Serbia, so that their recorded life persists for almost two hundred years. The songs are ritual (koleda, lazarice, kraljice) and they are dedicated to the plowman, except the Vuk Karadžić's one, which is mythological. Following the laborer and attributions of his gear, the content of the article is focused primary on their floral aspect, on the phytonyms (maple, boxwood and basil, oleaster, peace lily, amaranth, peony), whose semantic potential has been examined in the setting of the tools and plowman’s accessories of a different kind – artifacts of culture mutually supplemented and explained within songs, constructing the image of plowing as a divine act transferred to man, thus inevitably encoding the mystery of vegetation.

Keywords: Serbian lyric folk poetry, myth, ritual, magical plowman, Mother of God, maple, boxwood, basil.