An ala or hala (plural: ale or hali) is a mythological creature recorded in the folklore of Bulgarians, Macedonians, and Serbs. Ale are considered demons of bad weather whose main purpose is to lead hail-producing thunderclouds in the direction of fields, vineyards, or orchards to destroy the crops, or loot and take them away. Extremely voracious, ale particularly like to eat children, though their gluttony is not limited to Earth. It is believed they can try to devour the Sun or the Moon causing eclipses; her success would mean the end of the world. When people encounter an ala, their mental or physical health, or even life, are in peril; however, her favor can be gained by approaching her with respect and trust. Being in a good relationship with an ala is very beneficial: she makes her favorites rich and saves their lives in times of trouble.

The appearance of ale is quite diversely and often vaguely described in folkloric sources. A given ala may look like a black wind, a gigantic creature of indistinct form, a huge-mouthed, humanlike, or snakelike monster, a female dragon, a raven, etc. By certain descriptions, ale can in fact assume various human or animal shapes, and can even possess a person’s body. This diversity is probably because the ala is a synthesis of a Slavic demon of bad weather and a similar demon of the central Balkans pre-Slavic population. In folk tales with a humanlike ala, her personality is strikingly similar to that of the Russian Baba Yaga. Ale are said to live in the clouds, or in a lake, spring, hidden remote place, forest, inhospitable mountain, cave, or gigantic tree. While ale are frequently an enemy to humans, they have powerful enemies who can defeat them, principally dragons. In Christianized tales, St. Elijah takes the dragons’ role; however, there are beliefs in which the saint and the dragons fight ale together. Eagles are also regarded as defenders against ale, chasing them away from fields and thus preventing them from bringing hail clouds overhead.

The demon’s name in the standard Serbian, ala, comes from dialects which lost the velar fricative, while hala is recorded in a Serbian dialect which has retained this sound and in Bulgarian. For this reason, it is believed that the original name had an initial h-sound, a fact that has led Serbian scholar Ljubinko Radenković to reject the etymology given by several dictionaries, including that of the Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts, by which the demon’s name comes from the Turkish word ‘ala’ (snake) as that word lacks the h-sound.[4] The name may instead stem from the Greek word for hail, χάλαζα (pronounced [ˈxalaza]; transliterated chalaza). This etymology is proposed by Bulgarian scholar Ivanichka Georgieva, and supported by Bulgarian scholar Rachko Popov and Serbian scholars Slobodan Zečević, and Sreten Petrović. According to Serbian scholar Marta Bjeletić, ala and hala stem from the noun *xala in Proto-South-Slavic, the dialect of Proto-Slavic from which South Slavic languages emerged (x in xala represents the voiceless velar fricative). That noun was derived from the Proto-Slavic root *xal-, denoting the fury of the elements.

Dragon or Serpent like demon connected with the wind, and thunderstorm and hail clouds. It was believed in the Gruža region of central Serbia that the ala is invisible, but that she can be heard — her powerful hissing resonated in front of the dark hail clouds.

In Bulgaria, farmers saw a horrible ala with huge wings and sword-like thick tail in the contours of a dark cloud. When an ala–cloud overtook the village, villagers peered into the sky hoping to see an imperial eagle emerging there. They believed that the mighty bird with a cross on its back could banish the ala–cloud from the fields. In eastern Bulgaria, ala appeared not in clouds, but in gales and whirlwinds. In other regions of Bulgaria, the ala was seen either as a "bull with huge horns, a black cloud, dark fog or a snake-like monster with six wings and twelve tails". The ala is thought to inhabit remote mountain areas or caves, in which she keeps bad weather. In Bulgarian tradition, thunderstorms and hail clouds were interpreted as a battle between the good dragon or eagle and the evil ala.

Serbs in Kosovo believed that the ala lowers her tail to the ground and hides her head in the clouds. Anyone who saw her head became instantly insane. In a high relief carved above a window of the Visoki Dečani monastery’s church, an eagle clutches a snakelike ala while an eaglet looks on. According to a description from eastern Serbia, the ala is a very large creature with a snake’s body and a horse’s head. A very common opinion is that the ala is the sister of the dragon, and looks more or less like him. In a spell from eastern Serbia, the ala is described as a three-headed snake:

У једна уста носи виле и ветрови,
друга уста – издат и зле болести,
трећа уста – учинци, растурци.

In one mouth she bears fairies and winds,
the second mouth – infirmity and bad diseases,
the third mouth – spells, curses.

By a description recorded in the Boljevac region, the ala is a black and horrible creature in the form of wind. Similarly, in the Homolje region of eastern Serbia, the people imagine the ala as a black wind moving over the land. Wherever she goes, a whirlwind blows, turning like a drill, and those who get exposed to the whirlwind go mad. In Bulgaria too, the ala is a violent wind that sweeps up everything in its way and brings havoc:

Излезнаха до три люти хали,
Девет години що се духали.

Three furious ale had come out,
For nine years they would be blowing.

A belief from the Leskovac region states the ala is a monster with an enormous mouth who holds in her hand a big wooden spoon, with which she grabs and devours everything that gets in her way. One story has it that a man kept such an ala in his barn; she drank thirty liters of milk every day. Another warns that ale in the form of twelve ravens used to take the crops from vineyards.

In eastern Serbia it was believed that ale who interact with people can metamorphose into humans or animals, after which their true selves can be seen only by so-called šestaci – men with six fingers on both hands and six toes on both feet – though human-looking ale cause houses to shake when they enter. By a belief recorded in the Homolje region, ale that charge to the Moon also display shapeshifting abilities: they repeatedly shift from their basic shape of two-headed snakes to six-fingered men who hold iron pitchforks, black young bulls, big boars, or black wolves, and back.



Copyright(c) 2007 - 2020. All rights reserved.