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Legend of Mount Ślęża

Original version
Before Ślęża mount covered the gateway to hell, each night the devils were going out, admiring beauty of earth – vast forests, animals, rivers – they envied people all that. Devils could not understand why people were happy living here, although they had to work hard and wake up at dawn. At dusk, devils were sneaking and listen to simple stories people were telling each other about how their day was. Everybody was happy, well-wishing and helpful to each other. Devils didn’t like that and wanted to provoke people to sin and wrong-doing. Lucipher was more and more impatient with his servants’ clumsiness. Devils were afraid of his bad temper so they came up with the idea – to cover the whole area with stones and rocks, what would ruin fields, destroy woods and make this pretty land into hostile area. That would make people unhappy and bitter. So, devils were digging up stones as huge as hills, carving caves and ravines in them to make it more difficult for people to find the safe way home. They were working so hard that by feast of Sobotka (St. John’s night) they managed to fulfill their plan. The whole land was covered with rocks, hills and mountains that changed the rivers’ courses and divided fertile fields. Lucipher was really pleased with what he saw, he demended more and ore effort from his servants. However, angels who observed everything with more and more concern, decided to help people before devils could torment them completely. They came down from heaven and faced the devils, who started tossing rocks and stones to scare the angels away. At some poit however, the angels disappeared… Devils were sure they had won this battle and wanted to go back to their inferno – and they found out that the angels outsmarted them – the gate to hell was now covered with rocks the devils had tossed with their own hands.They could not get back home, became eaker and weaker and could not dosturb people as they used to. Althouhgh until today devils try to crack Mount Slęża with thunderstorms, it protects the hellish gates intact.
Alternative versions
Main characters
Devils, angels, people
Connected artistic / architectonic / historical heritage
Rising out of Lower Silesian plains some 40 kilometres southwest of Wrocław, this 718m peak was, and in some ways still is, the most important site of Pagan worship in Poland. With remnants of stone rings dating back to the Bronze or Iron Age and animalistic sculptures of uncertain origin, Ślęża was of such importance to the Slavic tribes inhabiting the region that it most likely gave name to the entirety of Silesia and the Silesian people. The worship of the mountain, though, predates both Slavic and Silingi times. According to most researchers, the stone rings surrounding Radunia and Wieżyca, two of Ślęża Mastiff’s lower summits, and a collection of mysterious stone sculptures found in the area, were actually created in the Bronze or Iron Age by Celtic inhabitants. It is believed that later settlers inherited Celtic beliefs about the sacred nature of the mountain, performing their own religious rites here. Unfortunately, reconstructing the history and customs of Silesians is tricky, as they left behind no written accounts, so the little that is known was pieced together from Latin texts written by various chroniclers. These were frequently written hundreds of years after the original Christianization of Poland by people not entirely familiar with the local culture, and so paint quite an incomplete (or downright misleading) picture.
Local traditions or historical connections
leza has always occupied an important place in history and culture of Silesia. It is called the Silesian Olympus. Also here, the feast of Sobotka, Kupala was initiated- better known as St. John’s night. It is claimed that the name Kupala comes from the goddess of fertility, and the word “sobótka” means a small Sabbath, or a gathering of witches. At this June solstice great fires were burnt and wreaths symbolizing coupling were dropped on the water. It was also the only night of the year when you could find the mythical fern flower. The most famous sculptures and symbols of Lower Silesia of the period are the “bears”, called the “Ślęża teddy bears” (misie ślężańskie). One of them is located on top of Ślęża, the other one – with its front paws broken off – on the red trail (between Sobótka and the peak), along with a mysterious sculpture of a figure with a fish. These and other nearby statues are marked with a sign of a diagonal cross, whose function still puzzles researchers. According to some theories, it might be a sign of a solar cult, but it may just as well be a medieval boundary marker. The stone embankments shaped like a circle date from the Iron Age. They protected sacred places where rituals were performed. Results of archaeological research indicate that a vibrant cult centre was once located in the area. The spread of Christianity in the 10th century did not eradicate pagan practices
Didactical Relevance
While working with the legend students will get to know Slęża and its meaning for Lower Silesia district’s folklore. They will understand better local traditions and beliefs, that derives from the most ancient times of Poland tribes. The process of deconstructing the legend will teach students creative attitude towards their learning, arouse imagination and creative expression, help them discover their talents and passion and find bonds with cultures of other countries. In the terms of education students will develop their reading, analyticals and descritive skills, as well as IT skills for research and compiling information.
Didactical Activity
Activity: (for the whole class or group work) geographical – find Slężą on the map, ask students what they know about the place or let them find information online historical – easily connected to geopgraphical, especially when seeking information online. art/architecture – look for monuments, they are hidden not only at the montain, but also in Sobótka literature – read the legend and check for proper understanding especially if any folk or regional terminology appears - read the legend again and look for connections with the geographical/historical/art information that were found trip to Slężą (if possible) if not – a virtual trip, on google earth for example


A virtual walk on Ślęza mountain

External Sources

Tourism and legends
Description of geopraphical and historical aspects of Mt Ślęża.

PDF version of the legend in national language

Polish version (933,1 kb)