St. Stephan and Pal'ajka in Komi Folklore

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St. Stephan and Pal'ajka in Komi Folklore

Submitted by Yuri Klitsenko

[Ed. Note] We find it very interesting that so much of human religion is connected to violence, killing, and death.  God's creation intent and heavenly desire is to give us peace and life eternal.  Our understanding of this simple fact, will let is know whether something is in God's will.  Note the following story.

Pal'ajka lived in village Tydor and had a great authority over nature’s elements and animals. E.g. one day being in a forest on a hunt Pal’ajka met a hunting artel from village Shezham led by sorcerer Vezhajka. Vezhajka insulted Pal’ajka promising that the latter would not have any success in hunting.

After that during three weeks Vezhajka’s artel returned empty-handed from the hunting, at the same time Pal’ajka had so much game that could hardly bring it to his hut. On an order from their leader, Vezhajka’s companions decided to kill Pal’ajka at night when he was sleeping. But after Pal’ajka pronounced a charm, they could not move and were standing so up to the morning. In the morning Pal’ajka set them free and said that since that day all members of their artel would have a rich game, at the same time Pal’ajka would have no luck on hunt but he would come back home with more game than his rivals. It appeared as he had said.

When the hunt had been finished Pal’ajka had only the game obtained during the first days, and Vezhajka’s artel was going to come back with the richest game. Suddenly the weather changed: it was raining in the middle of winter, in three days snow had thawed, water in rivers rose up and a flood began, the hut of Vezhajka’s artel began to sink into water. Vezhajka and his companions climbed the hut’s roof, but the water was still rising. Then they climbed the nearest tree and soon reached its top, but the water was rising more and more and they soon understood that they could not save their lives without a help of Pal’ajka. Vezhajka shouted that he and his companions promised to give a half of their game to Pal’ajka in case the latter would save them. The water immediately went away , the hunters came down from the tree and came in their hut. There Pal’ajka was quietly sitting and flaying a killed squirrel. After giving a half of the game to Pal’ajka Vezhajka decided to compete with Pal’ajka for the last time. He promised Pal’ajka that he would lock the door of the hut. He pronounced a charm and drank a cup of water. Then Pal’ajka also poured a cup of water, pronounced a charm and drank it. As soon as Pal’ajka drank the water up, Vezhajka fell down and died.

When St. Stephan the Permian came to village Tydor for preaching, Pal’ajka offered him a competition in order to find out which belief (pagan or Christian) was stronger. The chose water as the object of the test Pal’ajka promised to swim under water from village Tydor till village Shezham and offered Stephan to do the same. But St. Stephan said that he would walk on the surface of the river Vychegda, as if it was a dry land, and watch that Pal’ajka would not come to the surface of water up to Shezham. Both of the rivals pronounced charms on water applying to their gods and set out.

Watching the rivals the people of Tydor accompanied them going along the bank. Seeing that Pal’ajka easily moved under water to the finish St. Stephan pronounced a stronger charm, and the sorcerer began to suffocate. Pal’ajka came to the surface in order to pronounce an answer charm, but Stephan hit him with a cross and drove him back into water and blamed Pal’ajka not to observe the agreement. This repeated for several times until Pal’ajka lost his last strength and was forced to come to the bank quite near Shezham.

Watching the competition people saw that the sorcerer had been defeated and began to beat him. Pal’ajka broke away and dived into water again, but Stephan pronounced a charm, Pal’ajka began to suffocate and was again forced to come to the bank. The people again seized him, cut his belt and killed him after long torments.
Pal’ajka was buried lower than village Shezham in the place named Ajka tila «ajka’s slashed-and-burnt place». The fact that the place where in the past there was a slashed-and-burned field has got the name of the dead tun is connected with the etymology of his name: pal’ (< Russ.) «slashed-and-burned field».


“Komi Mythology: Encyclopaedia of Uralic Mythologies” ed. by Vladimir Napolskikh, Anna-Leena Siikala, Mihaly Hoppal. Budapest: Akademiai Kiado – Helsinki: Finnish Literature Society, 2003