Pićan – Istria’s magical heart
LegendFest is an unusual manifestation that takes place in a small town Pićan in middle Istria each year at the end of July and the beginning of August mostly thanks to the enthusiasm of Ivor Zidarić, an Istrian living in Zagreb, whose knowledge of ancient Istria, and especially this region, is rather impressive (www.legendfest.hr). I arrived here accidentally, after a short studying of ‘dragon furrows’ i.e. ‘energy channels’ which were recognized as such by a Slovenian explorer Marko Pogačnik and the idea was later elaborated by many others, like Davor Šišović, a doyen of advanced ideas, by Marijan Vejvoda and his team and by a couple of younger colleagues. As a matter of fact, for those keen on metaphysics, Istria is an area interlaced with an energy network which has a major potentential impact on development of people and an argument that Istrians knew a lot about this is the spiral-shaped road leading to Motovun, as well as emblematic symbols on Motovun’s coat of arms. The famous Fibonacci sequence is also noticeable in those symbols. Along the roads of nowadays there are now barely recognizable megaliths. These megaliths may or may have not marked the roads filled with positive energy, which were called ley lines by English dowsers. Motovun simply radiates this element we can call ‘mystique’ and a very successful festival which has obtained awards from around the world in a short time is a proof that there’s more to this region than just rocks and mineral deposits.
I was particularly impressed by Gračišća, a town surrounded by walls and a small chapel in the centre that has nails, used to shoe horses, hammered in its walls and a myth says that infertile women who sat in the chapel conceived. So the nails represent the gratitude.
This folk belief, however, can be replaced by some other interpretations of old European magic rituals. Gračišća also have spirals on the walls of the old houses as a common symbol which is believed to be present in every aspect of the nature. The DNA structure has that shape, galaxies as well, snail’s house and the eldest living fossil – Nautilus have spiral-shaped shells and Viktor Schauberger recognized this shape in the movement of water and thereby clarified many, previously hard to understand phenomena. It is known that Istria was a home to prominent alchemists that were talked about in superlatives even by the famous Paracelsus. Of the most reputable sciences there were 3 representativesamong whom Petrus Bonus was probably the most famous. They say he achieved the rubedo degree, a high achievement close to creating the mythical Philosopher’s stone. While wandering around Gračišća you cannot believe that the signs dating back to 16th century and are still visible are attributed to the smiths of that age and actually represent alchemical symbols which were known only to Europe’s most educated mystics of the time. Pićan, declared a cultural monument in 1962, is among the most valuable cultural heritage monuments in the region of the former Labin municipality but also a sort of a central part of what I like to call ‘mystical Istria”. Pićan is a medieval town built on a prehistorical site. Over time it underwent many modifications due to structural changes in the population as well as the loss of significance as an administrative centre and like many other similar settlements in Istria, Pićan is in gradual decay. In the Medieval times the city was surrounded by walls. Its most preserved part today are the monumental gates dating back to 16th century. Entrance to Pićan is a spiral road shrouded in fog in autumn.
Although a tiny town, whose empty winter streets are chilled by a strange winter breeze. Pićan has an imposing religious history; it’s hard to believe now that Pićan was once a Diocese as well as that the remains of some significant saints rest here. As for interesting facts, Pićan is a Diocese today as well, but as they say a ”reserve” one. We can learn a lot about the knowledge of the men who lived then exactly from the myths that are always trying to teach us something through symbols. Specifically St. Nicephorus, who after a series of intrigues ran away from Pićan and under difficult circumstances traveled through arid regions of Istria. Along the way he hit rocks with his stick and thus created sources of potable water. Such ritual and presence of fresh water are one of the indicators which suggest that the saint had already been aware of the specific powers of the soil he walked on.
The Austro-Hungarian heir to the throne Franz Ferdinand himself visited the Romanesque church of St. Michael, before he was murdered in Sarajevo, and was impressed by the atmosphere of Pićan. The information that the Austrian empress Maria Theresa gifted Pićan a valuable bishop’s mantle embroidered with gold thread shows that, even though it has only about 400 inhabitants and is off the beaten track, it has a greater importance than just being a small town. Even today it feels like Pićan is a magnet for supernatural, here you can meet unusual people coming from the misty times of the unknown past. So in the course of writing Glagolitic alphabet of Biserka Draganić, our distinguished expert on that area, I found out that the Glagolitics used special breathing techniques during the transcription of the holy scripts which, most likely, made them enter what we like to call ”altered states of consciousness” just like Hesychasts and Yogis did.
The Pićan region is teeming with stories of a fairy horse that looks like an orc, fairies, local mythical creatures ‘štrigoni’ and ‘krsnici’, nightmares, werewolves, dwarves like Malik, different versions of the Creation and myths about where do human souls go after their physical death. There are also plenty of beliefs about the existance of a mysterious, hidden treasure. The descriptions of snakes and events related to them are particularly significant and can be compared to spiritual experiences of eastern nations. Istrian beliefs speak of snakes hiding a gemstone which is in Europe described as Philosopher’s stone and in the East they believe that it’s actually sleeping force of God coiled like a snake at the bottom of human spine. The one that manages to get hold of the gemstone i.e. finds it in oneself, will have a fulfilled, happy and successful life. Visions of snakes turning into pretty girls, as the Pićan legends says, in a simbolic way depict a path of temptation before mastering this world force. Many religions witness literally the same visual depiction of the path leading to the final purpose of existence. What is astonishing about Pićan?
What is less known is the local belief about the existence of the underground beneath the town with two buried entrances, each guarded by a dragon. When it comes to some very famous traditions one would be blue and the other one red. World renowned psychoanalyst Carl Gustav Jung used to connect the symbol of a dragon with the Shadow, the repressed part in our unconscious being, what we cannot subdue and what we run away from because it’s out of our control. It is the term of unconscious, especially collective unconscious which Jung discovered in the myths of elders that is partially visible in Pićan. The overground part of the town is our conscious part of personality, what we think we are, whilst the underground and hidden part represents the unconscious, what we’re afraid to dig out. At the doors of these two inner worlds of ours stand two frightening creatures, dragons, protecting our deep inner kingdom from the light of the outer world. Dragons come in pairs like everything we know in the outer world, warm-cold, good-bad, high-low, pretty-ugly, or as the Taoists would say like the balance of yin and yang. And, believe it or not, there’s a vision of the Judgement day here as well which will follow after seven years of women not giving birth.Then a false prophet will appear, achieving his goals with money and gold. The beginning of the end will happen when an old man who will turn into a young guy is born, whatever that’s supposed to mean.
So, this year, from July 31st – three days, do not miss the magical atmosphere of the Pićan town, whose structure depicts the human inner being.