The stone face of Heathen Maiden

The stone face of Heathen Maiden

The stone face of Heathen Maiden

So real, although made of stone!

One of the most beautiful works of art formed by nature can be found along the way to Vršič. The stone face of the Heathen Maiden in the northern face of Prisank can be best seen from the Erjavčeva koča (Erjavec mountain cabin).

History

In the steep crags of Prisank mountain above the Vršič Pass, the rock face of the Heathen Maiden (Ajdovska deklica) gazes in amazement down to the Trenta Valley. When the autumn days dry the sunny meadows of the southern mountain slopes, turning them into barren hay, the mountain goats rush by towards the valleys and into the sheltering darkness of the fir woods. The chilling morning mists swirl up from the valleys and flow over the mountain cliffs. It is then when the Ajdovska deklica hides her face from the inquisitive human eye.

Only a few mountain travellers know the legend of how she went astray among the steep rocks and the overhanging walls of Prisank and how she turned into stone.

In her lifetime, the Ajdovska deklica was of a kind and merciful heart, leading mountaineers and merchants safely over snow-covered mountain passes. Supposedly, she used to live in a hiding place, a niche under overhanging cliffs and mountain ledges. If a mountaineer were getting off the right way, she would come out of her hideout, hurrying up the curvy trails of the Vršič Pass, no matter how bad the weather was.

One stormy day, when heavy clouds darkened the Prisank mountain, and the bora wind roared with freezing laughter, all the trails soon snowed in. Following the whistle of an old buck, a herd of chamois rushed down the mountain side passing by the Ajdovska deklica, who was squatting under a rock. The herd triggered an avalanche of powder snow crashing down to the bottom of the valley. Moun- trainers and traders on their way to the Trenta Valley and southwards to the sunny coast, could barely escape the white roaring death. The snow debris was massive, so that the traders would go astray. If not, the Ajdovska deklica had left her shelter, trudging through the new-fallen snow and showing them the right way. On their way home, the travellers left wine, bread and meat on the foot of the overhanging rock face. Hence, she was always given gifts as a token of their gratitude for her assistance and would no longer suffer from thirst or hunger.

Ajdovska deklica was a guide and a fortune teller to newborns. One night she appeared at the cradle of a newborn baby in the Trenta Valley, foretelling his fate: “When you grow up, you will become a brave hunter, as has never been seen the under the Prisank mountain. You will hunt for the white chamois with golden horns on the rocks. You will shoot the chamois, sell the gold horns and become rich …”

But her prophecy was heard by her sisters, who were raging with anger, cursed and turned her into a sad stone face which can nowadays be admired in the steep Prisank rock wall.

She is still staring into the Trenta Valley with stone eyes wide-opened in astonishment.

If you visit the Vršič Pass, you may see her forlorn stone visage resting on the northern face of Prisank.”

Dušica Kunaver:
Slovenian Folk Tales
(adapted from the work of Lojze Zupanc: Zlato pod Blegošem)
Translation: Raf Kolbl

Prisank moutain