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Drekavacs (Serbian Cyrillic: дрекавац, Serbo-Croatian pronunciation: [drɛkaʋats], literally "the screamer"), also called drek and drekalo are mythical creatures in south Slavic mythology.

Original beliefs

The Drekavacs come from the souls of children who have died unbaptised.

The creatures of this legend is not consistently described. One description is that a drekavac's body is dappled, elongated and thin as a spindle, with disproportionately large head; yet another is that it is some kind of bird; a modern find of supposed drekavac body looked like a dog or a fox, but with hind legs similar to those of kangaroo. It may also appear in the form of a child and call for people passing near the cemetery to baptise it. The one feature everyone agrees about is its horrifying yell.

Drekavac could be seen at night, especially during the twelve days of Christmas (called unbaptised days in Serbian) and in early spring, in time where other demons appear most often. In the form of the child it predicts someone's death, but in the form of the animal, it predicts cattle disease. Drekavac rarely bothers its parents, as it is afraid of dogs.

Drekavac is often used as a child scare, in a similar way a banshee is in the West. It is probably more useful than banshees in rural areas, as children surely sometimes hear a sound of some animal and attribute it to drekavac, thus convinced it really exists; which would then probably prevent them from wandering far from home. In the cities, however, belief in it has faded, and Baba Roga, which more closely resembles western bogeyman, is much more used.

Other believed attributes

  • Some believe that there are variant types of Drekavac (different regions having different breeds). Consistently though, its size is said to be one meter or more (on four legs), but never less. According to some stories Drekavac can live in packs, in caves and tunnels.
  • Generally it is believed that Drekavac can not be killed or pass on until its soul finds its peace (or through baptism).
  • In some parts of Serbia and Balkans it is believed that one must first have a dream about Drekavac to actually encounter one. Also Drekavac can strangle people while they are sleeping, if they did something bad to it in life.
  • It is believed that when a Drekavac screams all night long someone from the house that heard it will die.
  • Also, it is believed that if the shadow of Drekavac falls upon some person that that person will turn sick and die.
  • In some places it is believed that Drekavac's cry is due to his long fur, on which it steps often, and then yells in pain.
  • It is also believed that the Drekavac is afraid of light to some extent.
  • Drekavac likes to move in areas that are covered in fog, according to folk tales.
  • While the word "Drekavac" can mean "the yeller" or "the screamer", a more correct meaning is "one that cries while yelling" taken from verb "drečati" (commonly means to cry like a baby). This is due to belief that Drekavac is a soul of an unbaptised child.

Similar creatures

  • Bukavac, recorded in Srem, a six-legged monster with gnarled horns that lives in water, coming out of it during the night making noise, and to try to strangle people and animals.
  • Jaud (pronounced [jaud]), similar to drekavac, from a vampirised premature baby.
  • Myling
  • Nav, the soul of dead child that died before its third age.
  • Nekrštenac
  • Plakavac, recorded in Herzegovina, is a small vampire, a newborn strangled by its mother, which will rise from its grave at night, return to its house and scream around it, but otherwise can't do any harm.[[|[7]]]
  • Svirac

Modern sightings

Though the creature is used as a scare tactic for children, there are adults who do believe in its existence. According to the guide of a reporter of Duga magazine, numerous villagers on the mountain of Zlatibor report seeing it, and almost everyone reports hearing it. In 1992, it was reported that in the Krvavicka River the villagers found remains of an animal unlike any known, and claimed it was a drekavac. It looked like a dog or fox, but with hind legs similar to a kangaroo. A more recent encounter is from 2003, in the village of Tometino Polje near Divcibare. A series of attacks on sheep took place, not unlike those in other parts of the world attributed to chupacabras, and some villagers concluded that they must have been perpetrated by a drekavac. Others think it could not have been a drekavac because they have only heard the yells during the night, and the sheep were mutilated during the day. In September 2011 a horrifying yell and unverified encounters with strange creature, claimed to be drekavac, were reported in villages around Drvar in western Bosnia.

In fiction

Belief in Drekavac is sometimes described in modern fiction. An example is a short story by Branko Ćopić Brave Mita and drekavac from the pond in which superstitious fishermen hear yells in the pond they fish in and, believing they hear a drekavac, stop fishing, which leads to hunger in the village. The protagonist, a courageous village boy named Mita, investigates and captures the drekavac, which turns out to be a Great Bittern, a bird very rare for the area. Drekavac is also mentioned in Ćopić's book Eagles Fly Early. A more recent and much more popular example comes from the movie Pretty Village, Pretty Flame where (lack of) belief in the drekavac is present in one of the central points of the movie:

Halil (Bosnian Muslim): "Who torched my house?"
Milan (Bosnian Serb): "And who slaughtered my mother?"
Halil: "I haven't slaughtered your mother."
Milan: "And I haven't torched your house."
Halil: "Then who did, Milan? Maybe it was drekavac from the tunnel?"

Drekavac is rarely depicted in video and roleplaying games. An exception is the Magic: The Gathering card from the Dissension set. Serbian trading card game Izvori Magije has numerous cards of drekavac type, one of them named Drekavac iz Vira (meaning "Drekavac from the whirlpool"). This creature is described as: Big-headed and with long thin necks, drekavacs often jump out of whirpools to attack people who are returning home from watermills. It can also be found in the Diablo 3 video game in areas of either Southern Highlands or Northern Highlands, where it takes a form of a large diseased animal in yellow aura, leading a herd.