Blacksmiths: from divine masters to despised sorcerers

Making products from metal is an art that has accompanied mankind for many centuries. Since primitive times, blacksmiths, with the help of fire and technique, have transformed iron ore into weapons, jewelry and tools. The blacksmith’s craft evolved and the masters accumulated their secrets, creating rituals and traditions. The greatness of this profession is confirmed by numerous tales, myths and legends, so it is not surprising that blacksmiths were considered revered “divine” craftsmen.

In different cultures, blacksmiths had their “divine” representatives. The Slavs had Svarog, the Greeks had the lame Hephaestus, the Etruscans had Seflax, the Celts had Goibniu, and so on. However, the attitude to blacksmiths was rather cautious than enthusiastic. Working with fire and the constant rattling and clanking of iron created a boundary between ordinary people and blacksmiths. Blacksmiths lived on the outskirts to avoid fires, and this gave them even more mystery.

In ancient times, boys with physical disabilities such as lameness were sent to be trained as blacksmiths. These youngsters could not become warriors, so they became blacksmiths. This may be why many legends depict blacksmiths as dwarves, trolls, or elves. In some tribes, craftsmen were deliberately mutilated so that they could not leave the village and work for others. Over time, these blacksmiths became a kind of “priests”, possessors of not only professional but also religious knowledge.

The attitude to blacksmiths differed in different cultures. For example, in African tribes, global differences can be observed. Some tribes of the Black Continent surround blacksmiths with respect, considering them almost priests. Blacksmiths are authorized to make money, educate the younger generation, and act as political leaders. However, there are also tribes that consider blacksmiths as sorcerers, despise and fear them. In such villages, blacksmiths become pariahs, live in constant fear for their lives, and murders go unpunished.

Blacksmiths are not only artisans, but also keepers of ancient traditions and knowledge. Their skill and creativity are embodied in every metal product. They continue the continuity of generations and preserve the cultural heritage of their people.

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