Legend of Skaly Zegarowe (Clock’s Rocks) and Kupala’s night…

Clock’s Rocks and Clock’s Cave

Not far from the ruins of Smolen Castle there is a range of limestone rocks called Skaly Zegarowe (Clock’s Rocks) with famous Clock’s Cave. The picturesque place known mostly only to the locals and fans of climbing.

The Rocks are the part of Wodzaca Valley; a beautiful trekking route as well as part of green cavemen’s trail and Eagles’ Nests’ Trail. If you happen to trek one of those highly interesting routes – I strongly recommend stopping for the break near the Clock’s Rocks. The rocks’ formations of mind-blowing shapes are not only the great location for climbers and fantastic observation- and viewpoint but also the place for legends’ lovers…

The legend of Clock’s Rocks is definitely a really old one…
In the range of Clock’s Rocks, there is a Clock’s Cave… Long around 95 meters was once serving as home to our ancestors ca. 40-50 thousand years ago. Twice a year exactly at midnight you can hear a mysterious, invisible clock, hidden somewhere deep in that cave, strikes twelve times… The sound of the clock might be heard not only in the cave or near the rocks but also in the nearby villages.
It should happen on the St. John’s Eve in June and on the last night of the year; the 31st of December. Some versions of this legend say that it might be happening also on Christmas Eve and on the 21st of June…

Entrance to the Clock's Cave
Clock’s Cave

None of the legend’s versions explains clearly the story of the clock. I must say, I have heard myself different versions of the clock’s story. Some say that hundreds, maybe even a thousand years ago there was a village with the church over the hill where the cave is placed. The church had an impressive belfry and the bell sounding so beautifully, that it was famous all around the region and maybe even in Cracow…

During one of the Mongols’ Invasions, the village and church had been destroyed. The inhabitants of the hill managed however to escape and secure their precious bell by hiding it deep in the cave. The bell is still there waiting that the village over the hill to be rebuilt…

The other version of the legend says, that the village and church were once destroyed by devils. Demons were disturbed by the bell ringing and that is why they decided to destroy it. But although they managed to knock down the whole village, church, and belfry, the bell is still hidden somewhere between the rocks. Its sound will remind forever that the good always triumphs over evil…

The local residents believe that the strength of the bell’s sound on New Year’s Eve foretells the events of the coming year. If the sound is strong and clear, the year will be fine. If it is weak and trembling, the year may bring some sad events, poor harvests, or even war…

Kupala’s or St. John’s Eve Night

The second time the bell rings is on Kupala’s or St. John’s Eve Night.
That means on the night of 21st or 23rd of June. Why those two days are being mentioned? In old Slavic beliefs, the night of the 21st of June, the shortest night in the year was full of magic. The sacred rituals of purification with water and fire were held nationwide. The plants were having magical powers, animals were speaking and treasures were easily found… Kupala was ancient Slavic’s goddess of joy, love, and water also representing the mighty sun of the summer solstice. She was also connected to the fertility magic spells.

On Kupala’s night, young men were jumping over the flames of bonfires in a ritual test of bravery, strength, and faith. Meanwhile, girls or young women were burning herbs saying the secret spells, plaiting the wreaths of wildflowers to float them (often lit with candles) on rivers or any kind of running waters. All of that was an attempt to gain foresight into their romantic relationship fortune… Young men were trying hard to capture those wreaths, in the hope of capturing also the interest of the woman who floated it.

Fire on Kupala's Night
Fire on Kupala’s Night
Dancing on Kupala's Night
Dancing on Kupala’s Night
Wreath's preparation
Wreath’s preparation

After the adoption of Christianity, the pagan festival received new name and new meaning. The celebrations were moved into the 23rd of June, the St. John’s Eve to commemorate his life and the Day of Jesus’s baptism in Jordan River.

Despite a thousand years of Christianity in Poland, these two different events are still being mixed. Poles use both names: St.John’s nigh and Kupala’s night as synonyms. Some pagans’ traditions survived the centuries. Youngs are still searching hidden treasures or at least their second half… Magic spells are still being pronounced… Running waters may heal, herbs have special powers during this magical night… People go out, burn fires over the hills, or float the wreaths on the rivers… And who is nearby the Clock’s Rocks is trying to hear the invisible clock strikes midnight.

If you wish to try to hear it yourself, you might also participate in the Kupala’s celebrations in nearby Pilica; the village just a few kilometers away. You may join young wearing folk costumes, dancing around the fires, singing, and laughing. And of course – floating wreaths on the village’s lake.

Map of Smolen and Pilica area
Map of Smolen and Pilica area

If you wish to learn a bit more about this magical day in Polish calendar, I recommend you see this short movie: