Burning the Yule Log in Montenegro.
The following letter, addressed to Sir J. G. Frazer, has been kindly forwarded by him :
I have just been reading in "Balder the Beautiful"^ your account of the burning of the Yule log in Montenegro. In the winter of 1906 I resided several weeks in a two-roomed peasant cottage on purpose to witness the whole proceeding. It was rather more elaborate than you describe.
The "badnyak" was a whole long thin tree trunk. Every adult male of a house has to bring a small one. The house-lord brings the chief one. My old guide had no son, so we had only one badnyak, but he described to me how his father had made him bring one when he was quite a boy, and how he had suffered from the cold and the weight of his badnyak.
In the Eastern church it is customary to fast for a fortnight before Christmas. The peasants do this very severely, eating little but bread and beans. On Christmas Eve, Krsto (the man), came in at the door with the badnyak on his shoulder. His wife and I stood ready to pelt him and the log with mixed handfuls of maize, wheat, rice and sugar plums. "All the fruits of the earth" they call it.
The fire of course in all such houses is on the floor. There is one iron dog (demir odzak). The end of the log rested on this. The other end reached nearly to the door. Krsto then poured wine on the log and sprinkled it with corn, sugar, etc. The floor of the room was thickly laid with straw. They explained this by the fact that Christ was born in a stable. The meat was baking under hot ashes in a corner. But till the fast was over at mid- night it might not be eaten. At midnight the church bells rang, and each person greeted the next "Christ is born," "Truly He is born."
We sat in the straw to cat, and had to eat out of the great dug- out wooden trough in which the bread is kneaded. The wife gave Krsto a big flat loaf (loaves are always flat there), and he put it on the top of his head and broke it by bending it down on either side. For this he could give no explanation. " You always do." We
' The Golden Bough, 3rd edition, Part vii., vol. i., p. 26'^ f.