Zmaj - Ana Milojković Omi
A dragon is one of the demons of atmospheric phenomena. His major role was to fight against ale, the demons which carried hail-producing clouds, therefore the destruction of crops. So, dragons were good demons, whose role was, according to the beliefs, to rule atmospheric conditions in people’s favour. It was dragon’s duty to provide rain when it was needed.
Dragons were dimorphic creatures, half people, and half animals. A dragon is a fiery bird with a long tail, which, in summer, threw sparks around itself. When among people, a dragon could take up a human form. The dragons’ habitat was by forest waters in mountains (even today, these places are called dragon trees), and it could also settle in a hollow beech.
A dragon could arise from several species of animals after they had reached a certain age. It could arise from a carp, a snake, a ram, or from an Aesculapian snake. There are many stories widespread among the people, mostly among the Danube fishermen,
Zmaj - Ana Milojković Omi
who allegedly saw a carp coming out of the water and transforming itself into a dragon. When a carp reaches a certain age, wings start growing on its body and it exits the water as a dragon. As it flies, the sparks it throws around itself are shaped as carp scales. In some parts, carp meat was forbidden, thus it was avoided in food preparation because the carp was considered to be a sacred animal. It was even considered that a man who would eat a carp was in danger of getting epilepsy. Dragons with horns arose from rams. If an Aescupian snake was cut in half and the front part went into a hole, it was believed that a dragon would spring from it. During rainy years, it was deemed that a dragon sprang from a carp which had never been caught; on the other hand, if there was a dry year, it was thought that a dragon had sprung from an Aescupian snake of the same qualities. The gender of a dragon depended on the gender of the animal. A dragon could breathe blue or red fire.
Zmajeviti covek - Ana Milojković Omi
Dragons could have sexual and love relationships with beautiful women. A dragon could be invisible to everyone except to the woman he fell in love with. This kind of relationships with women used to be very common and the women who experienced a sexual intercourse with a dragon were pale, with sunken cheeks and they would lose the wish to have sex with a human because of the dragon’s huge potency. Women found it hard to free themselves from the relationship with a dragon, and they couldn’t talk to anyone about it. Women, usually, did not even want to break off the relationship with a dragon; however, dragons would be driven away if there was a dry year, because it was considered that the dragon had, because of a woman, neglected his role to bring rainfall. A dragon would usually visit a woman through the fireplace. If a woman wanted to end the relationship with a dragon, she would fumigate her hair or would find a hollow beech the dragon lived in and burn it. Hot water was also considered to be able to hurt a dragon, so a cauldron full of hot water was placed under the fireplace. When a dragon fell into the cauldron, he would burn. Allegedly, a woman could repel a dragon if she had with her some suet of another, burnt down dragon.
A woman could even have a child with a dragon. For the sake of better posterity, relationships
Zmaj - Dušan Božić
with dragons did not use to be considered a sin. Also, it was believed that the children of dragons and their lovers were males. It was believed that the children begot with a dragon were extremely strong, invincible, and also very wise, and that they had some supernatural qualities. Because of such beliefs, some great heroes were given a nickname ‘Dragon’. Therefore, the grandson of the last ruler of Serbia, Djuradj Brankovic, bears the nickname ‘Fiery-dragon’ in some folk poems. His birth was cloaked in mystery as well, so it is mentioned in folk poems that he has a wolf’s paw, an eagle’s wing, and dragon’s wheel under his arms, and a blue flame comes out of his mouth. Also, a hero of the First Serbian Uprising, Stojan Chupic, was given a nickname ‘The Dragon of Nocaj’. The children of a dragon looked like all the others, except it was believed they had a bigger head and small wings under their arms. Despot Stefan Lazarevic was believed to be a child of a dragon, which is testified in the poem ‘Empress Milica and the Dragon of Jastrebac’.
A dragon represents a kind of a mythical ancestor, Cajkanovic called it “the mythical hero”, and that is why people thought heroes were of dragon origin. The dragon’s formation from animals speaks about his totem-related origin. In the Slavic mythology, forests were imagined to be the dwelling places of ancestors, and also as places where dragons live, so this can be seen as a proof that the dragon is a mythical ancestor of the Slavs.

Nikola Milošević
translated by Jelena Salipurović