B92 has reported today on the new ancient cult of the new ancient serbian ortodox king-saint. This new ancient cult obviously grabed my attention. In the following text, you will find a brief description and analysis of this phenomenon. This text has been written in four hands, by myself and my dear friend Jelena Markovic.

29the february. Only on 29th February. not 1th March, not 28th february, only 29th february, because sveti sloba is really special, so he should be celebrated only once in each four years. He is, indeed one in four! A real serb (ok, his parents were montegrinians, so what? That only brings sucess).

Nowadays widely popular, the slava of Sveti Sloba was at first adopted by sick hearted people, who proved themselves audiciously courageous, introducing a fresh practice into the rigid Serbian Orthodox Church, thus contributing with one more saint to the happening of the saints (dogadjenje svetaca).

Despite focusing mostly on Middle Ages saints, the Serbian Orthodox Church has been benefiting from the recognition of new saints, thus renewing itself. The proclamation of Bishop Nikolaj Velimirovic as a Serb Orthodox saint set the trend for the happening of the saints. However, the cult of Sveti Sloba has a deeper meaning, by reneweing with the Midlle Age tradition of king-sains, such as sava or Lazar, to whose cult Sveti Sloba so much contributed during his reign.

Many theologist believe that among the serb orthodox flock there is a whole line of candidates waiting for sainthood, people who have been devoting their lives to the higher causes. By the way people like Vojislav Kostunica, Radovan Karadzic, Vojislav Seselj, not to mention Vuk Draskovic, contributed to the cause of Heavenly Serbia, they will most likely qualifie for the position. However, competition among candidates is fierce. Unfortunatelly for them them, the fact that Sloba got to meet the Creator first does not enhance their prospects. The Church will not want to banalize sainthood, so only time will reveal who will be thus honored.

The ritual:

This newly made ancient tradition is marked by a very specific ritual, rooted in primordial days (more specifically, dating from 4 and half months ago).
On this slava, pensioneers, students and unemployed people avidly search the garbage bins, hoping that sveti Slava hasn’t forgot them. Serb families take care to assure that, on that day, there will be a bite or two of sacred hleb in their garbage. To make this game more exciting, the families usually hide it under old cabbage leaves. This game, know as uncabbaging hleb (odkupusiti hleb), is a reminiscence of the time when Sveti Sloba was plundering leading the nation.

In the evening, after all hleb is uncabbaged, families gather in the streets around big garbage containers, which are set on fire. They then dance the kolo with their months full of rakia, and once the dancers pass near the opened side of the enflamed container, they spit their rakija into the flames, thus feeding the fire. When the spit provokes an outstanding high flame, the kolo (oro) shouts in one voice “Op-sa”. The one who did the spitting then proudly shouts back “Op-sa-sa”. Women are allowed to join the kolo, but cannot perform the spitting. Instead they cheer for outstanding high flames, by shouting, in high voices, “Iju-ijuju”, while marking the rhythm by twisting their bodies with their arms on their hips.

Anthropologists and other schollars consider the women’s role in this ritual as a prayer for fertility (molitva za plodnost). Women are thus making sure that the Saint will bless them with a new generation of children soldiers. New children soldiers are essential to carry on with the ancient waring tradition initiated by Saint Sloba.

The flames are at the core of this ritual. In the cold February nigh, they warm the sick hearts, and, most importantly, they come to symbolize the noble character of war making, as a reminder of the wisdom of Sveti Sloba, who once said “Niko ne sme da vas bihe”.


Woman kissing Milosevic grave: B92;

Sveti Sloba: Sarah Franco (that is, me), Belgrade, July 2008.
This post will be publishe simultaneously on Café Turco and on Jelena Markovic’s brand new blog, Invisible Sights. It was a great pleasure to write it with Jelena!


Filed under Belgrade, Serbia


  1. Pingback: Global Voices Online » Serbia: Cult of Milosevic

  2. Sebaneau

    Nothing should surprise us from alleged “Christians” who “canonized” an avowed admirer of Adol Hitler only five years ago :

    “We must regard with esteem the present German leader who, in the twentieth century, came up with the idea of St. Sava and as a layman took upon himself a task for his people as befits only a holy man, a genius and a hero.”

    “Ипак се мора одати поштовање садашњем немачком Вођи, који је као… човек из народа ….у двадесетом веку… је дошао на идеју Светога Саве, и као лаик подузео је у своме народу онај најважнији посао, који приличи једино светитељу, генију и хероју.”
    Nikolaj Velimirović, “Nacionalizam Svetog Save”, Spring 1935

  3. sarahfranco

    d-X: isto foi uma coisinha má que nos passou pela cabeça!

    this was of course a joke, but I must say that I would love to meet the person who made the buildboards and took care to glue them in the center of belgrade in high places so that nobody could easily take them.
    still, I have to say that the photo of the woman kissing the cross in his grave as if it was an icon is a bit creepy (but true, I took it from b92)

  4. Sebaneau

    The most significant thing about Serbia is that it makes no difference that it was a joke, since there was nothing unbelievable about it, because the Serbs have done much worse.

    For instance, here is a list of authentic statements by Serbs against the Albanians:

  5. sarahfranco

    Yes, I had already read that text, but even worse for me was to read the books pubished by sanu, including one called kosovo i metohia, past present and future, edited very recently, where you realize that the nationalist inteligenzia (incompatible words, except in serbia) is ready and patiently waiting to repeat it all over again.

    they are waiting and ready to wait another 20 eyears if necessary. my ony hope is that in 20 eyears the serbian society may evolve and stop giving them credit.

  6. Sebaneau

    Here is a confirmation:
    Persistence of the Old Regime in Serbia
    Author: Branka Magaš
    Uploaded: Wednesday, 31 May, 2006

    Comment by a consultant for The Bosnian Institute on the significance of the recent violent press campaign in Serbia against the regime’s most distinguished democratic opponent

  7. Sebaneau
    Milosevic on Trial – A Documentary Film
    By Stephen Schwartz, Illyria [New York], June 27, 2008

    CIP In the News: Executive Director Stephen Schwartz on Milosevic on Trial – A Documentary Film, Illyria [New York], June 27, 2008

    On Tuesday, June 17, I attended a showing at the American Film Institute’s Silverdocs festival of documentary cinema, in Silver Spring, Md., of the film Milosevic on Trial. The work is a 2007 Danish production by director Michael Christopherson.

  8. sarahfranco

    Sebanau, I happened to be in Belgrade when this shameful attack on Latinka Perovic occured. In fact I was having an internship at the Helsinki Committee.

    Thanks a lot for the video on the “martirdom of sveti sloba”. I didn’t know of this documentary. It’s very useful to me.

  9. sarahfranco

    …and thanks more generally for the links you post here on the comment boxes.

    the reason why I chose to have comments is precisely that it creates a closer connection to the readers that may contribute a lot to the dinamics of the blog.

    as a blogger, I was a commentator before i became a author of my own blogs, so I particularly welcome comments like yours.

  10. Pingback: INVISIBLE SIGHTS: Café Turco sister blog! « CAFÉ TURCO

  11. Yes, this is a humorous text. And as sebeneau pointed out, at the same time it isn’t, because it’s perfectly plausible…