video clip: Altar at Petrova Gora    |    duration: 12'20"
photo gallery
at Petrova Gora
location: Radan Mountain
Each year on St. Peter’s Day (“Petrovdan”, 12th of July), inhabitants of the rural settlement Slishtane take part in a ritual of sacrificing a ram at Petrova Gora, which is a pyramidal-shape top of the Radan Mountain.

The host that took an honour and obligation to perform the ritual on a given year is obliged to obtain a sacrificial ram, conduct necessary preparations for the successful execution of the ritual and act as its main performer. The head of a sacrificed ram is kept as a souvenir in the home of the host who took part in the ritual.

The procession with a sacrificial ram departs from the settlement during the night in order to reach the sanctuary before dawn and the sunlight. Only man (the host and 5-6 of his relatives and friends) are allowed to participate in the act of sacrifice. At the moment when sunlight appears, the ram is slaughtered at the altar and its blood is poured into the cavity in the altar stone.

It is believed that the altar, as a particular sanctuary and powerful place, also represents the space inhabited by forces beyond our world, requiring a sacrifice. In the form of a legend and belief, popular dramatist narrates that in the ancient times, when the ties between men, nature and the underworld were closer, a deer came from the forest on its own and laid its head on the altar. Later on, it was a bull, and only in the recent times a ram took this role. The sacrifice itself is described as “a head for a head” – it is believed that ram’s head replaces local community members. A belief persists that the animal willingly sacrifices its head to the mighty demons in the altar stone.

There is a Christian church in the vicinity of the altar, built on the foundations of an older pagan temple. The church has been destroyed several times in wars, but the inhabitants of Slishtane rebuilt it every time. There is a cultic three – inscription (“zapis”) in the front, which makes an ambient united with the sacral building.

At the forest green where the altar stands, a number of stone remaining surround the top in the form of concentric circles. It is visible that they have been carved by people. Stones and bricks indicate that this space has been a sanctuary of some kind or a fortress in older cultures and civilisations.

The inhabitants of the surrounding settlements are also present, but only as guests, since ritual activities are performed solely by the inhabitants of Slishane. All participants bring some food and drinks to be served to the present company during the ritual feast, and every family has their designated place at the table – a stone inherited from previous generations. Particular significance is given to the three on which the roasted sacrificed ram is leaned upon, and from where equal portions of meat are distributed to all present families. The head of table is reserved for the current host. The host also performs the role of the main performer of the ritual.

This ritual is of the utmost importance for the identity of the inhabitants and their relatives living in other areas, who arrive there especially to take part in this feast. A particular segment of the ritual is the selection of the next-year’s host. “Old host” carries the ritualistic bread around the table for three times, and during this period “New host” volunteers and accepts the obligation to prepare the following feast. As a symbolical gesture of the selection procedure, he gets the roasted ram’s head and is adorned with green tree leaves.
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