Danube Virtual Museum

Kraljice – Ritual Dance

The ritual dance Kraljice was performed by young girls dancing and singing. In refrains of their songs, the names of Slavic deities Lade and Ljelja were often mentioned, which was the reason for ecclesiastical prohibitions and persecutions. Kraljice were performed before and during the Pentecost/Duhovi and St. George/ Đurđеvdаn, both containing a lot of early Christian characteristics, making Kraljice a relic of these early Christian ceremonies. Kraljice were usually identified with mythical beings – Rusalke in Serbian folk tradition.

The ritual dance Kraljice is part of the female spring fertility rites and contains elements of initiation too. The King and Queen are leading characters in the rite, as well as standard-bearers and singers. Queens, as part of their standard equipment, had swords or long knives, sometimes replaced with scarves. Kings and standard-bearers danced individually, but were also related to each other by changing places during the dance. Female singers accompanied their dance with songs, alternately two and two. They were very careful not to hit the other banner; they could not place them to the ground, otherwise, it would cause the hail. When they were tired of dancing, they were not allowed to stand still, but had to be constantly on the move.

In the dance, motifs of crossing and threading are especially emphasized. In many parts of the country, dancers were dancing around the queen making a kind of a circle, called kolo. The purpose of this magic circle was transmitting the energy and power from the queen to the dancers and, indirectly to the whole community. The motif of threading while dancing marked the renewal of life, while crossing in order to change places was interpreted as the action of two sexual forces in the creation of life.

The way of dancing tells us that it was an agrarian ritual – small steps with occasional jumps were characteristic of female ritual dances in agricultural groups. There were also individual jumps at the end of the dance with the goal to encourage the growth of crops.

Dancers got some kind of a reward in the form of food or money, and were also welcomed to come to people’s homes.

This ritual dance Kraljice has a long history among the Serbs, especially in Southern and Southeastern Serbia. Unfortunately, by the end of the 20th century, the dance had completely disappeared.

Litеrаture

Slоbоdаn Zеčеvić, Srpskе nаrоdnе igrе, Bеоgrаd, 1983; Pеtаr Ž. Pеtrоvić, Krаlјicе i krаlјеvi dubоčki, Srpski mitоlоški rеčnik, Bеоgrаd, 1998; Špirо Kulišić, Krаlјicе, Srpski mitоlоški rеčnik, Bеоgrаd, 1998.

(Text: Ethnographic Museum in Belgrade)