Each year on May 12ththeChristian Church (both Catholic and Orthodox) observes the feast day of St. Germanus – Patriarch of Constantinople during the 8th century AD, opponent to iconoclasm. According to traditional beliefs, St. Germanus is the Lord of Hailstorm; therefore people called him Germanus the Hailstormer. The saint was considered a successor of the pagan god German, Lord of the Elements. For that reason, people in Western Bulgaria festively call the god at the Christmas Eve table, with the words: „Germanus, little cloud, come sup with us! Come now, so that you would not come in summer!” St. Germanus’ feast day must be celebrated; consequently no housework should be done on that day.
People of Northern Bulgaria associate the feast day with a rain calling ceremony, inherited since pagan times, and call the celebration Gherman, German, Ghecho, Gheorghi, Kaloyan, Skaloyan, Kabaivan. On that day, young maids and widows make a nude male figurine of mud and clay, with a mouth and eyes marked with beans or coals, with conspicuously large male genitals. This phallic symbol suggests the idea of the inseminating ability of the male principle, and the act of copulation by which moisture and fertility are born. The Gherman doll is then symbolically laid in a makeshift coffin – actually a plank chest, and then piled with flowers. Finally, women begin mourning aloud over the doll, as if it were a real dead man.
The village crier notifies the villagers that “a dragon will be chased”, so people should leave each door open and tie each cur up. The chasers poke their cudgels into every nook and cranny:all through the house, in the sheep-pen, in the barn, even into pots and crockery, anywhere that the evil dragon might be hiding. Then they tour the fields, orchards, and water-mills, making loud noise in order to chase the intruder away. During the ceremony, no one is allowed to leave their house, especially female offspring, because it is believed that if the dragon meets a young maid or bride, while being pursued by the chasers, he will grab her and take her away “in the thick of the woods”.
If anyone happened to cross the band of chasers’ road during their dragon chase, they would give him a good beating, as it was believed that the dragon would often take human. After the chasing band completes its tour round the village and its surrounding lands, the participants in the ceremony go to the river and bathe inside, thus symbolically purging themselves of the evil with which they had been in touch. At dawn on the next day, men come back home, and it is then believed that the dragon had been chased away, and soon the rain will fall.