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The Bukumirsko Lake legend was told to me on a pasture close to our farm house. Every day, at around the same time, an old shepherdess appeared from the old rural path with her flock of sheep. Even after so many years, in my mind’s eye I can still see her sincere smile and wrinkled face. As any child I was spellbound by legends and stories, and she looked like somebody who had stepped out from a fairy tale. Sometimes I envy children on their imagination and purity of thoughts. Somewhere during our lives we lose that purity, we lose our faith…

With a trembling hand, the old woman pointed at the distant mountains above my village and said:

A long time ago, ancient people lived in this area. They were called Bukumiri. Nobody knows where they had come from. Here in the vale below the mountains, they found their peace. They settled down on these mountain pastures and lived a peaceful and undisturbed life.

One day at dusk, a thick fog came down from the mountain and covered the Bukumiri settlement. Together with the fog, a mysterious man showed up. Tall, all in black, with long red hair and white eyes.

Surrounded by dark and somber clouds, he passed through the village followed by a pack of wolves. The villagers gathered around him, but he just continued, saying nothing. Then he suddenly disappeared, and together with him, the clouds and fog faded away too, as if nothing had happened…

Time passed, and after the old man’s visit many inexplicable things started to happen. The peace and quiet of the mountains would suddenly get interrupted by screams coming from caves and rocks, from hidden gaps and hills. Sheep started to disappear and the villagers were taken by a great fear.

One day, the Bukumir shepherds lost their sheep somewhere deep in the forests. They went on to search for them, but when dusk fell they decided to spend the night on the lake shore and to continue next morning. The legend says that the night was dark and there was no moon.

That night the shepherds were woken up by strange sounds. Girls’ laughter could be heard all over the vale and a bright light appeared above the lake. Far in the distance, the silhouettes of long-haired girls could be distinguished, dancing on the surface of the lake water. A fairy’s dance…

Then suddenly, the song silenced and the fairies disappeared. The light faded away and the lake got covered by darkness…

Then the shepherds heard a sudden noise from the lake’s depth and strange creatures showed up from the water, approaching the shore and the shepherds – but soon they disappeared. The villagers called these creatures “the Cursed Creatures” (Anatemnjaci).

Somewhere in the mountain that stands above the lake and is now called Pasjak, there was a cave that was home to Domišljan, the leader of the Cursed Creatures. The story tells that he descended from the depth of his cave to the lake, in the dark, and said to his Anatemnjaci: «This could be the sign of our downfall. If the Bukumiri would throw two incandescent stones into the lake, they would destroy us. So throw the shepherds off the cliffs.». But when the Cursed Creatures went off to kill the shepherds, the sun started to rise and they had to run away and hide in the depths of the lake. The sky above the mountains became reddish and the lake, lightened with the sun rays, got its usual dark green color. The Bukumiri-shepherds, frightened by the scene of the previous night, could not wait to ran back to the village.

Anatemnjaci

Ancient people called evil creatures, evil ghosts, and fairies living in the mountains “Anatemnjaci”  (this word probably originates from the word “Anathema” or cursing)

Arriving in the village, they told the elders what had happened. Then the oldest and wisest among them said: «This lake keeps the secret of the Anatemnjaci’s power. Throw two incandescent stones into the lake and you will destroy them». Soon, the villagers started a fire below the big boulder that sat above the lake. The fire flashed up and caught the boulder. At sunset, the villagers pushed the boulder from the cliff into the water and the whole mountain shook wildly when the boulder touched the water surface.

The earth trembled as if it was crumbled under horseshoes before a big battle and the hot stone disappeared into the water with a big bang.

Everything went quiet. But then the silence was broken by a scary sound. The dark green water got the color of blood, while huge waves appeared on the surface of the lake and a terrible scream echoed among the mountains. Then a horseman showed up from the depth of the lake, sitting on a white horse. His shoulder was bloody and his eyes were filled with hatred and wrath. He watched the scared people for what seemed like forever and finally he cursed them and said: «Bukumiri, a bloody knife will fall among you». After saying those words, he disappeared in the depth of the lake…

The screams fell silent and the water got its dark green color back and became transparent as glass. The scared Bukumiri ran away while the night approached and the darkness covered the mountains.

Soon after that, the Bukumiri started to kill each other. The reason was a fight between wedding guests. Today, people believe that the Bukumiri were captured by the curse. They all died, except for one man who had – for some reason – been absent when the hot boulder was thrown into the lake. The battle and the disappearance of the Bukumiri that happened long ago is testified by the Bukumiri graveyard that is situated close to Katun Momonjevo under Mount Treskavac, not far from Bukumirsko lake.

But I should not forget to tell that the Bukumiri had not thrown the second stone into the lake. This boulder still stands on a cliff above the lake, asking the eternal question if there is any truth in the legend…

The people of this area have never forgotten the story about the Bukumiri and their fight against the Anatemnjaci. Inspired by this legend, they called this lake Bukumirsko Lake.

They say that during the night, when everything gets silent, you can still hear a scream from the caves, as a sound of ancient times. Maybe even today, when winter has begun and life on the mountain pastures gets quiet, fairies come to the sources and the lake. Maybe it is not just the echo of the howling of wolves from the distant vales, maybe…

The old woman who told me this legend has died a long time ago. Probably she is in heaven now, together with the Bukumiri. The pasture she used for her sheep is full of weed now. But the story has not been forgotten and the boy, now grown-up, can still tell you the story.

Nemanja

author

Nemanja Popović, lawyer by profession, and in free time a mountaineer, explorer, published author.

My favorite writer said that he believes that every story finds the one to which it is intended, like a message sent from the old times. Walking along the mountain tracks, which hide places of the old stories and legends, expecting to be found by a story, I am sharing that with you, here on this blog…

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