Flowers in Fairy Tales – Storytelling for Everyone

By Jenny

Daisies close up at night-time and wake up with the sun; anemones bud up when they sense a storm; sunflowers follow the sun’s path all day with their big, bright faces.

Not to mention that flowers can literally grow anywhere, and everywhere, wherever they please. Have you seen the classic photo of a flower emerging through concrete? I once heard a fantastic saying ‘There is no such thing as a weed, just a misplaced flower.’

Let’s face it, flowers are magical!

So it’s no wonder that they feature avidly throughout fairytales. Hans Christian Andersen and the Brothers Grimm, as well as many others, have countless stories where flowers are used for their beauty, their fragility and their strength, their enticing scent and of course their meaning.

Over the years, many fairytales have been adapted, however in The Grimm’s version of ‘Sleeping Beauty’ whilst ‘Aurora’ is growing up in disguise she is known as ‘Little Briar Rose’. Once she pricks her finger on the spindle and falls into a deep sleep, thorny briar roses grow all around her for protection. It is only the one handsome prince brave enough to tackle all these thorns that eventually makes it to her side to kiss her awake and break the enchantment.

In Hans Christian Andersen’s Thumbelina, a beggar woman exchanges barleycorn with a peasant’s wife for some food. The wife plants the barleycorn and a flower grows from it. Now the wife had been desperate for a child and as the petals of the yellow and red tulip unfurl, a tiny, little girl is revealed. The woman calls her Thumbelina.

The Tulip has been a strong symbolism of love and the Victorians also linked its meaning to acts of kind charity. The Turkish people who originally planted the bulbs believe the Tulip symbolised paradise on earth – all rather apt meanings considering the fairytale revolves around charity, love and being granted a precious gift you’ve always wished for.

Of course, I can’t forget ‘Beauty and the Beast’— a childhood favourite. An enchantress disguised as a beggar woman knocks on a spoilt Prince’s castle door for some shelter offering but a single rose in payment. The Prince scoffs at such a fragile, ephemeral offering and turns the beggar woman away.

Little did he know that she was a witch and in punishment she turned him into a hideous beast, the furthest thing from the beauty of the rose. The rose she gifted became his curse. All fleeting beauty of a cut flower vanished and was replaced with a decade of life. She gave him until the final petal fell to find true love and break the enchantment.

Flowers are certainly powerful, magical things. Their language, their appearance, their ability to evoke emotions is truly that of fairytales.


Flowers in Fairytales

Author adminPosted on April 27, 2022Categories Fairy Tales, Folktales, NatureTags flowers, grimm, Hans Christian Andersen, magic

The Winter Spirit – Storytelling for Everyone

Ojibwa Legend

An old man was sitting alone in his wigwam by the side of a frozen stream. It was the close of winter, and his fire was almost out. He appeared very old and very desolate. His locks were white with age, and he trembled in every joint. Day after day passed in solitude, and he heard nothing but the sounds of the tempest, sweeping before it the new-fallen snow.

One day as his fire was just dying, a handsome young man approached and entered his dwelling. His cheeks were red with the blood of youth; his eyes sparkled with life, and a smile played upon his lips. He walked with a light and quick step. His forehead was bound with a wreath of sweet grass, in place of the warrior’s frontlet, and he carried a bunch of flowers in his hand.

“Ah! my son,” said the old man, “I am happy to see you. Come in. Come, tell me of your adventures, and what strange lands you have been to see. Let us pass the night together. I will tell you of my prowess and exploits, and what I can perform. You shall do the same, and we will amuse ourselves.”

He then drew from his sack a curiously-wrought antique pipe, and having filled it with tobacco, rendered mild by an admixture of certain dried leaves, he handed it to his guest. When this ceremony was attended to, they began to speak.

“I blow my breath,” said the old man, “and the streams stand still. The water becomes stiff and hard as clear stone.”

“I breathe,” said the young man, “and flowers spring up all over the plains.”

“I shake my locks,” retorted the old man, “and snow covers the land. The leaves fall from the trees at my command, and my breath blows them away. The birds rise from the water and fly to a distant land. The animals hide themselves from the glance of my eye, and the very ground where I walk becomes as hard as flint.”

“I shake my ringlets,” rejoined the young man, “and warm showers of soft rain fall upon the earth. The plants lift up their heads out of the ground like the eyes of children glistening with delight. My voice recalls the birds. The warmth of my breath unlocks the streams. Music fills the groves wherever I walk, and all nature welcomes my approach.”

At length the sun begun to rise. A gentle warmth came over the place. The tongue of the old man became silent. The robin and the blue-bird began to sing on the top of the lodge. The stream began to murmur by the door, and the fragrance of growing herbs and flowers came softly on the vernal breeze.

Daylight fully revealed to the young man the character of his entertainer. When he looked upon him he had the visage of Peboan, the icy, old, Winter-Spirit. Streams began to flow from his eyes. As the sun increased he grew less and less in stature, and presently he had melted completely away.

Nothing remained on the place of his lodge-fire but the mis-kodeed, a small white flower with a pink border, which the young visitor, Seegwun, the Spirit of Spring, placed in the wreath upon his brow, as his first trophy in the North.


Source: The Indian Fairy Book: From the Original Legends [Contains 26 Native American folktales] by Cornelius Mathews. Allen Brothers, New York, 1869.

Author adminPosted on December 14, 2022December 14, 2022Categories Folktales, Legends, Nature, SeasonsTags Indigenous people, Native American, Ojibwa, seasons

Filipino Folktales – Storytelling for Everyone

How the Moon and Stars Came to Be

One day in the times when the sky was close to the ground a spinster went out to pound rice. Before she began her work, she took off the beads from around her neck and the comb from her hair, and hung them on the sky, which at that time looked like coral rock.

Then she began working, and each time that she raised her pestle into the air it struck the sky. For some time she pounded the rice, and then she raised the pestle so high that it struck the sky very hard.

Immediately the sky began to rise, and it went up so far that she lost her ornaments. Never did they come down, for the comb became the moon and the beads are the stars that are scattered about.

The Sun and the Moon

Once the Sun and the Moon quarreled with each other, and the Sun said:

“You are only the Moon and are not much good. If I did not give you light, you would be no good at all.”

But the Moon answered:

“You are only the Sun, and you are very hot. The women like me better, for when I shine at night, they go outdoors and spin.”

These words of the Moon made the Sun so angry that he threw sand in her face, and you can still see the dark spots on the face of the Moon.

The Man with the Cocoanuts

One day a man who had been to gather his cocoanuts loaded his horse heavily with the fruit. On the way home he met a boy whom he asked how long it would take to reach the house.

“If you go slowly,” said the boy, looking at the load on the horse, “you will arrive very soon; but if you go fast, it will take you all day.”

The man could not believe this strange speech, so he hurried his horse. But the cocoanuts fell off and he had to stop to pick them up. Then he hurried his horse all the more to make up for lost time, but the cocoanuts fell off again. Many times he did this, and it was night when he reached home.


Source: Philippine Folk Tales by Mabel Cook Cole.  A.C. McClurg & Co., Chicago, 1916.

Art by Dante Hipolito

Author adminPosted on May 31, 2023Categories Animal, Fables, Folktales, NatureTags AAPI, Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage, creation, Filipino, pourquoi tale

Demeter Goddess of Grain – Storytelling for Everyone

Greek Mythology

Demeter appeared most commonly as a grain goddess. The name Ioulo (from ioulos, “grain sheaf”) has been regarded as identifying her with the sheaf and as proving that the cult of Demeter originated in the worship of the grain mother.

Demeter, in Greek religion, daughter of the deities Cronus and Rhea, sister and consort of Zeus (the king of the gods), and goddess of agriculture. Her name indicates that she is a mother.

Demeter is rarely mentioned by Homer, nor is she included among the Olympian gods, but the roots of her legend are probably ancient.

Her legend centers on the story of her daughter Persephone, who is carried off by Hades, the god of the underworld. Demeter goes in search of Persephone and, during her journey, reveals her secret rites to the people of Eleusis, who had hospitably received her, the Eleusinian Mysteries.

Another important aspect of Demeter was that of a divinity of the underworld; she was worshiped as such at Sparta, and especially at the festival of Chthonia at Hermione in Argolis, where a cow was sacrificed by four old women.

The epithets Erinys (“Avenger”) and Melaina (“the Black One”) as applied to Demeter were localized in Arcadia and stress the darker side of her character.

Demeter also appeared as a goddess of health, birth, and marriage. A certain number of political and ethnic titles were assigned to her, the most important being Amphiktyonis, as patron goddess of the Amphictyonic League, subsequently well known in connection with the temple at Delphi.

Among the agrarian festivals held in honour of Demeter were the following: Haloa, apparently derived from halōs (“threshing floor”), begun at Athens and finished at Eleusis, where there was a threshing floor of Triptolemus, her first priest and inventor of agriculture; it was held in the month Poseideon (December).

Chloia, the festival of the grain beginning to sprout, held at Eleusis in the early spring (Anthesterion) in honour of Demeter Chloë (“the Green”), the goddess of growing vegetation.

Proerosia, at which prayers were offered for an  abundant harvest, before the land was plowed for sowing. It was also called Proarktouria, an indication that it was held before the rising of Arcturus. The festival took place, probably sometime in September, at Eleusis.  

Thalysia, a thanksgiving festival held in autumn after the harvest in the island of Cos. The Thesmophoria, a women’s festival meant to improve the fruitfulness of the seed grain.

Her attributes were connected chiefly with her character as goddess of agriculture and vegetation—ears of grain, the mystic basket filled with flowers, grain, and fruit of all kinds. The pig was her favourite animal, and as a chthonian (underworld) deity she was accompanied by a snake.

In Greek art Demeter resembled Hera, but she was more matronly and of milder expression; her form was broader and fuller. She was sometimes riding in a chariot drawn by horses or dragons, sometimes walking, or sometimes seated upon a throne, alone or with her daughter.

The Romans identified Demeter with Ceres.



Author adminPosted on November 23, 2022Categories Folktales, History, Legends, Myth, Nature, SeasonsTags Demeter, goddess, greek, harvest, rituals, Thanksgiving

Battle of Wind and Rain – Storytelling for Everyone

Philippines Folktale

One sunny day, there were some harmless clouds dotting the sky. But what you don’t know is that on those harmless clouds were resting four natural forces named Thunder, Lightning, Rain, and Wind.

It didn’t take long for Wind to say, “Are you all as bored as I am?”

“No,” the other three forces answered immediately.

“Oh, come on,” said Wind. “A little storm won’t harm anybody.”

“I feel so fluffy on this cloud,” said Lightning. “Leave me alone.”

Wind couldn’t stand still and stirred the pot by blowing some wind at Thunder’s cloud.

“Stop it,” yelled Thunder.

“Ha, ha, ha,” laughed Wind. “Hey Rain,” said Wind, “Do you want me to blow some wind your way, too?”

“No,” snapped Rain.

“Oh, come on,” continued Wind, “Let’s have some fun.”

“Can’t you be still at least for a second?” Rain was getting more and more irritated.

Wind sensing it, persisted. “Let’s play a game, who is more powerful.”

“Under one condition,” retorted Rain “If I win, you will never get in my way. It will mean rainy days without wind.”

Wind with a smirk on his face said, “But if I win, you will never ever drop another tear on this earth.”

Earth without rain meant nothing would survive on earth. That’s not a good promise to make. But Rain was getting so annoyed by Wind. “Fine. You asked for it. I’ll show you who is more powerful.”

So Rain and Wind looked for a place to start their battle. Rain very quickly spotted a monkey on a bamboo tree. Rain knew that a bamboo tree was very flexible; it could bend instead of breaking as other trees. She just wasn’t sure if the monkey could hold on to the tree. But this was her best chance.

So she challenged Wind. “If you can knock down that monkey, then you win.”

“As you wish,” Wind answered boldly.

Not wasting any time, Wind started blowing heavy winds. With every breath he took in, his cheeks were getting bigger and bigger, as they were about to explode. Wind was getting more and more agitated as he was realizing that he couldn’t break the bamboo tree. Out of exhaustion he gave up and turned to Rain, “Let’s see how smart you can get.”

“No problem,” answered Rain and started her magic with dark sky and grey clouds creating a heavy rain. Monkey, with her flexible arms and legs, was still holding on to the bamboo tree.

It made Wind very happy, because neither one of them was winning. “Let’s call it even,” Wind said hastily.

“Not so fast,” answered Rain and swiftly changed the rain into big drops that were hitting the wet monkey very hard. Exhausted, the monkey climbed down to look for a place she could hide from rain. “Does that make me a winner?” asked Rain with a big smile on her face.

But Wind was already gone, too upset to face Rain. Or maybe he was already showing the first signs of keeping the promise that he wouldn’t get in Rain’s way. What do you think?

Now you know when strong winds come and they are so strong that they take people’s houses with them, people hope for rain. When Rain comes in, they hope that Wind will make Rain go away.



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Old Man Who Lost His Horse – Storytelling for Everyone

A farmer had only one horse. One day, his horse ran away.

His neighbors said, “I’m so sorry. This is such bad news. You must be so upset.”

The man just said, “We’ll see.”

A few days later, his horse came back with a wild horse following. The man and his son corralled the horse.

His neighbors said, “Congratulations! This is such good news. You must be so happy!”

The man just said, “We’ll see.”

The wild horse threw the man’s only son, breaking both his legs.

His neighbors said, “I’m so sorry. This is such bad news. You must be so upset.”

The man just said, “We’ll see.”

The country went to war, and every able-bodied young man was drafted to fight. The war was terrible and killed every young man, but the farmer’s son was spared, since his broken legs prevented him from being drafted.

His neighbors said, “Congratulations! This is such good news. You must be so happy!”

The man just said, “We’ll see.”

Proverb: “Old man loses his horse — is it truly a misfortune?” Han Dynasty, 3rd century BCE.


Source: Generally attributed to Lao Tzu, author of Tao Te Ching. The story was further shaped by the poet, Liu An (2nd century BCE) in his book, Huai Nan Tzu.

Author adminPosted on July 9, 2019July 9, 2019Categories Fables, FolktalesTags China, Leo Tzu, proverb, Taoism

Seventh Father of the House – Storytelling for Everyone

Once upon a time there was a man who was traveling about, and he came at length to a big and fine farm. There was such a fine manor house there that it might well have been a little castle.

“It would be a nice thing to get a night’s rest here,” said the man to himself, upon entering the gate.

Close by stood an old man with gray hair and beard, chopping wood.

“Good evening, father,” said the traveler. “Can I get lodgings here tonight?”

“I am not the father of the house,” said the old man. “Go into the kitchen and speak to my father!” The traveler went into the kitchen. There he met a man who was still older, and he was lying on his knees in front of the hearth, blowing into the fire.

“Good evening, father. Can I get lodgings here tonight?” asked the traveler.

“I am not the father of the house,” said the old man. “But go in and speak to my father. He is sitting at the table in the parlor.”

So the traveler went into the parlor and spoke to him who was sitting at the table. He was much older than the other two, and he sat there with chattering teeth, shaking, and reading in a big book, almost like a little child.

“Good evening, father. Can you give me lodgings here tonight?” said the man.

“I am not the father of the house. But speak to my father over there. He is sitting on the bench,” said the man who was sitting at the table with chattering teeth, and shaking and shivering. So the traveler went to him who was sitting on the bench. He was getting a pipe of tobacco ready, but he was so bent with age, and his hands shook so much, that he was scarcely able to hold the pipe.

“Good evening, father,” said the traveler again. “Can I get lodgings here tonight?”

“I am not the father of the house,” said the old, bent-over man. “But speak to my father, who is in the bed over yonder.”

The traveler went to the bed, and there lay an old, old man, and the only thing about him that seemed to be alive was a pair of big eyes.

“Good evening, father. Can I get lodgings here tonight?” said the traveler.

“I am not the father of the house. But speak to my father, who lies in the cradle yonder,” said the man with the big eyes. Yes, the traveler went to the cradle. There was a very old man lying, so shriveled up, that he was not larger than a baby, and one could not have told that there was life in him if it had not been for a sound in his throat now and then.

“Good evening, father. Can I get lodgings here tonight?” said the man. It took some time before he got an answer, and still longer before he had finished it. He said, like the others, that he was not the father of the house. “But speak to my father. He is hanging up in the horn on the wall there.”

The traveler stared around the walls, and at last he caught sight of the horn. But when he looked for him who hung in it, there was scarcely anything to be seen but a lump of white ashes, which had the appearance of a man’s face. Then he was so frightened, that he cried aloud, “Good evening, father. Will you give me lodgings here tonight?”

There was a sound like a little tomtit’s chirping, and he was barely able to understand that it meant, “Yes, my child.”

And now a table came in which was covered with the costliest dishes, with ale and brandy. And when he had eaten and drunk, in came a good bed with reindeer skins, and the traveler was very glad indeed that he at last had found the true father of the house.

Source: Peter Christen Asbjørnsen, Round the Yule Log: Norwegian Folk and Fairy Tales, translated by H. L. Brækstad (London: Sampson Low, Marston, Searle, and Rivington, 1881) Illustration: Erik Werenskiold, 1879

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The Iron Shoes – Storytelling for Everyone

When I was a young girl, I discovered the Andrew Lang Fairy Books at the local library, each book named and bound in a different color. Fascinated, I read and reread the Lang fairy tales. But of all the stories, one remained fixed in my memory: the story of the maid who had to rescue her prince, while wearing iron shoes.

There were a number of versions of this tale throughout the Lang books, from a variety of countries: Romania, Spain, Italy, Germany, England, as well as Slavic and Scandinavian versions. My young imagination merged many of these into one, single quest, keeping the elements I found most intriguing. In these tales, the heroine is a young woman, and her opponent is a woman. [ATU 425A]

It wasn’t until I was much older, that I discovered the Greek myth of Psyche and Eros, the grandmama and archetype of all these tales. I identified with Psyche completely, and in many ways, the myth came to define me—such is the power of archetypes.

But then there were those iron shoes! As much as I loved the Psyche myth, I could not give up my fascination with those iron shoes.

No, I was not captivated by Cinderella and her dainty, glass slippers or splendid gowns. My heroine was the woman who was cursed to wear out three pairs of iron shoes and blunt a steel staff in her search to save her husband. Her quest was fraught and difficult, as told in the Red Fairy Book, collected by Andrew Lang (1890).

Here is an excerpt from that version, “The Enchanted Pig”:

“Her husband told her she would not succeed until she had worn out three pairs of iron shoes and blunted a steel staff in her search…

“On reaching a town, the first thing she did was to order three pairs of iron sandals and a steel staff, and having made these preparations for her journey, she set out in search of her husband.

“On and on she wandered over nine seas and across nine continents; through forests with trees whose stems were as thick as beer- barrels; stumbling and knocking herself against the fallen branches, then picking herself up and going on; the boughs of the trees hit her face, and the shrubs tore her hands, but on she went, and never looked back. At last, wearied with her long journey and worn out and overcome with sorrow, but still with hope at her heart, she reached a house.”

To me, those three pair of iron shoes meant strength, commitment, down-to-earth stamina, and resilience. That is what a woman and mother must be able to do—on her own. Did I mention that she gave brith along the way?

What do the “iron shoes” mean to you?

If you’d like to read a shortened retelling of this tale click here:

The Enchanted Pig is a Romanian fairy tale about a king’s daughter who is fated to marry a “pig from the North.”

Illustration from The Red Fairy Book, Andrew Lang and Leonora Blanche “Nora” Lang, 1890.

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Author adminPosted on February 13, 2020February 13, 2020Categories Fairy Tales, Family, Folktales, MythTags iron shoes, Psyche and Eros, Romanian

The Scratched Diamond – Storytelling for Everyone

Jewish Fable

The Maggid of Dubno was known for his parables. Whenever someone asked him a question, he would always answer with a story.

One day a student was walking with the Maggid of Dubno and asked him, “Rabbi, I have many imperfections, so many faults. How can I change them so I become a better person?”

The Maggid said, “Listen and I’ll tell you a story.”

Once there was a king who owned one of the most splendid diamonds in the world. He was very proud of that flawless diamond and showed it off to all his visiting dignitaries.

However, one day, the king noticed that the diamond had developed a flaw. There was a deep scratch in this precious diamond. He immediately called for the finest diamond cutters in the kingdom to come to the palace. “You are artists in your work. What can any of you do to return the diamond to the way it was?” asked the king.

None of the diamond experts could promise that the diamond would ever be restored to its original perfection. But one young man who had just completed his apprenticeship with the greatest of the diamond artisans said to the king, “You majesty, while it is not possible to restore this diamond, as the other diamond cutters have already told you, nevertheless I would be willing to undertake the responsibility to create a beautiful diamond out of this blemish.”

The king had no other hope and so he gave his consent to this young man.

The young man worked hard but in secrecy. Then when he had finished his work, he presented the diamond to the king. When the king looked at it, he smiled with great satisfaction. Instead of seeing the scratch in the diamond as a blemish, the young diamond cutter had seen it as the stem of a rose. Then he cut the roots, the flower and the leaves onto the stem. In this way, he transformed the scratch in the diamond into a mark of beauty. The diamond with its rose engraving became the most original and magnificent stone in the entire kingdom – more precious to the king than before.

The Maggid then turned to his student and said, “Just like the diamond with the scratch, we all have faults and blemishes. But it’s up to us to transform them into something of beauty and value.”

The Maggid of Dubno and his student continued on their walk.

Sometimes we need to change the way we look at an imperfection and transform it into something more positive and interesting.


Sources:  This story is adapted from “The Sound of the Shofar” in Heinemann’s The Maggid of Dubno and his parables, pp. 193-194. Another version, “The Blemish on the Diamond,” is in Ausubel’s A Treasury of Jewish Folklore, p. 66 which was based on the Parables of the Preacher of Dubno.

Author adminPosted on September 10, 2021Categories Fables, FolktalesTags Jewish, Maggid, Parable, rosh hashanah

Goddess Bereginya – Storytelling for Everyone

Ukrainian Spirit of Protection

Bereginya – art by Lana Frey

The ancient Slavs believed in Bereginya – the Great Goddess that produced all things. Bereginya is basically a combination of  “hearth-mother,” associated with the guardianship, even of the nation itself, which is a trait of Mokosh, and the rusalka (feminine water spirits).

Bereginya has many similarities with rusalka. According to popular belief, a betrothed bride who had died before her wedding could easily turn into either a Bereginya or a rusalka. The main trait which sets Bereginyas apart from rusalkas is that they usually live in light instead of water.

On Rusalka or Trinity week, the time of flowering rye, Bereginyas and rusalkas would emerge from another world and haunt the earth. But come end of Rusalka week, and Rusalkas would leave earth and return to water. Bereginyas, on the other hand, would leave earth to go back to the light.

However, Bereginya has more power than a regular Rusalka. She is a protector of the family, and a protector of women – which is another trait of Mokoš.

Cult of Bereginya in Ukraine

Since the Ukrainian independence in 1991, she has undergone a folkloric metamorphosis, and is today identified as a combination of the “hearth-mother” (associated with the guardianship of the nation) and a rusalka.

This metamorphosis has its roots in the late 1980s, as several Ukrainian writers sought to personify their vision of an ideal Ukrainian woman. Consequently, Berehynia (the Ukrainian version of the name) today also has a place in Ukrainian nationalism, feminism, and neopaganism.

The re-interpretation as a “protectress” is due to a folk-etymology, which associates the name, which is derived from the Ukrainian word bereh (Russian bereg) – “river bank”, with the unrelated verb berehty in Ukrainian (Russian berech) which means “to protect”.

In 2001, a column with a sculpture of Berehynia on top (pictured) was erected at Maidan Nezalezhnosti (Independence Square) in the center of the city, on the site of the former Lenin monument. The monument is to serve as a protector of Kiev, with an older monument located just across the square – Kiev’s historic protector Archangel Michael, who is also pictured on the Coat of Arms of Kiev.

Rituals of Bereginya

Rituals foods devoted to Bereginya are dairy products: milk, butter, curds, and cheese. This is why in some villages this day is called: “Cheese Bogoroditsa”, i.e. Mother Mary of Cheese.

N.V. Belov also mentions a ritual of “bewitching the field for plenty of grain” on this day.

For this, three women of different ages, take new linen towels, and go into the field. Each of these women waves the towel in the air with her left hand and recites a spell. They recite in an order of age: the oldest first, then the middle one, and finally – the youngest one. The spell sounds like this:

“Mother Earth-Zemlyanitsa, it is your holiday today,
We three came to honor you
And brought new towels.
Give Goddess, so that earth would not be empty,
So that rye would be thick.
In the name of our native Gods,
Now and forever!
So Mote It Be!”


Source: Igor Ozhiganov

Bereginya – The Slavic Spirit of Protection

Author adminPosted on March 14, 2022Categories Fairy Tales, Folktales, Legends, Myth, NatureTags Bereginya, goddess, Mother Earth, Protection, slavic