Traditions & NameDays

GERMAN GRADUSHKAR (German, the Hail Man) - May 12

Name day of German.

The hail men in Bulgarian folklore are four in number, German or Guerman (May 12), Bartholomew (June 11), Lisseh (June 14), and Vido's Day or Vidovden (June 15), but the first and the major of the four is German (the name derives from the ancient Thracian word ‘hot’).

Hail is given great attention - therefore people should do all possible to appease German, the hail man. That day nobody is supposed to work in the fields. If someone ever dares to work that day, people are supposed to stop him by force, take his oxen out of the harness and break his cart into pieces to protect their village from what the sinner have done. Old people tell the story that hail is produced by the dead in the other world, the dead sinners. They pile it in heaps from where God takes the icy grains and strikes with them the sinners on earth. German, the hail man, sent a deaf old man to lead the hail and told him: “Lead it to a place you have not visited yesterday!” But the old man heard: "Lead it where you were yesterday!"

That is why hail strikes where it fell before. The hail cloud was headed by a cross eagle. People, on seeing such a cloud, shoot with their guns at it and frighten the eagle, so that it takes the cloud to some other place. And they believed that German, the hail man, will never come again.

When it starts hailing, people take an axe and a knife and put them on the ground with the blades upwards to turn hail into rain. To stop the hail they also order a boy and a girl, the first or the last child of two unrelated families, to swallow simultaneously a grain of hail. Then they become "brother and sister".

The popular ritual GERMAN or GUERMAN * is performed that day.

* The “Guerman” ritual

The ritual also has the name of Gemandzho, Gyogi, Dyurnandzho, Kaloyan, Kabaivan – a ritual for rain, more popular in the northern part of Bulgaria. It is performed in the day of the Peperuda (i.e. Butterfly) ritual, always following it or could be separately performed.
Participants are only girls (often these are the ritual participants in the Butterfly rite) or sometimes elderly women. They prepare the basic ritual item – a special doll made of mud or clay from the river bank, 20 to 50 cm in size. The figure is called “Guerman” and represents a naked man with the male genitals and has the position of a dead man, with arms crossed on the lower chest.

The ready ritual figure is placed on a roof-tile, wooden stick used for washing the laundry or in a wooden case specially made for the occasion. The figure is decorated with flowers and is buries with all the necessary rituals of the burial. On the 3rd, 9th or 40th day after the burial, the figure is exhumated and thrown into water. According to traditional beliefs, the performing of that ritual sends the drought away and brings rain.