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John Lamb Lash, 06/26/2009

The Mysterious Fairy Fence

This hauntingly beautiful hand-carved fence is located in the town of Boyarka, Ukraine, near Kiev. Professional photographer, Anatoly Tushentsov, of Boyarka, (right) told us the fence was built on a nearby street in Boyarka, and said, “It seems that the owner of the fence loves fairy tales.”  

We have no further information at this time about the builder or age of the fence at this time. Perhaps this artist-builder was a follower of Slavic mythologies, goddesses, fairy-spirits, and heroes that persisted before and, unfortunately, after Christian missionaries converted the region.  

Many of the goddess spirits are still part of common images and folk tales among Slavic people, like the story of Baba Yaga, but not very well documented.  Unfortunately, religious zealots attempted to recreate the stories based on secondary documents in their attempt convert the Slavic pagans to Christianity and the original meaning was lost.  

Perhaps the fence connects to the Slavic “three worlds” narrative: “There are three worlds in Slavic religion: Yav, the world of humans, the waking world; Nav, the world of demons and mischievous spirits (similar to Hel in Norse mythology); and, Prav, meaning rightful, which is the world of gods and benevolent spirits.” GeographyMSc

Unless noted, all photographic Images belong to: Anatoly Tushentsov, Boyarka, Ukraine - Copyright 2017

Prav, Yav and Nav are represented, respectively, in the guise of Svarog ("Heaven") on the left, Mat Syra Zemlya ("Damp Mother Earth" who retains the squared rhythms of Heaven) on the right, and the "Son of Heaven" (Svarozhich), that is to say conscious humanity, as a medium in-between the two. Wikipedia 2017

The Three Worlds—Maxim Sukharev, 2010s.

Would the tops of the rough hewn wood represent Prav, Yav and Nav or castle steeples?

The owl features prominently as a wise character in Ukrainian folklore and children's literature; it has also been known as a harbinger of doom.  “Owls have played various roles in Russian traditions (M. Sova, pers. comm.; Dementev et al. 1951).  For example, in Slavonic cultures, owls were believed to announce deaths and disasters. Russians and Ukrainians sometimes call an unfriendly person a "sych," which is also the Russian common name of the Little Owl (Domovoy Sych; Athene noctua). Traditionally, little owls have been disliked and feared by people believing that these birds announce deaths. However, Russian common names of other owls, such as the Scops Owl (Otus scops) -- Splyushka, resembling its call, or Zorka, meaning dawn, do not carry this negative connotation.  In Russian literature, Central Asia is the region to the east of the Caspian Sea including Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and Kyrgyzstan. Source:

Notice the owl’s armor on the head and shoulders and all the keys hanging below his throat or chest.  A lock and key with an owl generally represents unlocking knowledge. It's not that the owl is exclusively a sign of death, it's more accurate to say the owl is a guardian of the sacred realm of afterlife. Folklore tells of the owl ferrying souls to the other-world or afterlife. [Left photo]

This theme of soul-carrying to the other side of life crops up in Incan, Egyptian, Algonquin and Welsh mythology. Depending upon your interpretation of these and other legends, the owl can be seen as a merciful conduit or path-finder through the passage of death. Quite simply, the owl inherited its association with death because of its ability to see clearly through night, which is often considered a symbol of death.

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The carved cross on the owl’s head is thinner than the cross on the wooden fence pickets, but both styles appear to be a St. John’s Cross, known also as the Maltese Cross, Pattee, Amalfi, Regeneration, Fishtail, Honour, Knights, Campaign and Iron Cross.  The Maltese Cross can be seen on several municipal flags, including the provincial Ukrainian flags of Poltava Oblast, Rivne Oblast and Vinnytsia Oblast, where this cross is known as the Cossack Cross, a Ukrainian medal of honour. In czarist Russia, Slavs living mainly in the southern part of Russia formed an elite corps of cavalrymen. The name retains its brave, adventurous and somewhat guerrilla fighting image.  Source:

A king, court jester and a bird appear on this side of the fence along with cut-outs in the shape of a Maltese Cross, a heart, and a spade like one would find in a deck of playing cards.  There are also carved cut-outs of leaves and fish and a sun face.  It appears there may be more than one bird on the fence as well.  The color of the cut-outs has faded over the years of course, but as it stands now, through these photographs, it looks wonderful, inviting and yet mysterious.  It must have taken a long time to carve out the designs on each board, not to mention how the rough hewn wood was found and processed.

Our Mysterious Fairy Fence is located in Boyarka, about 12 miles outside of Keiv, Ukraine.  In Boyarka: “There are traces of an old Kievan Rus' settlement, including the remains of an ancient cemetery. The railway reached the town in the 1860s, after which it became a favourite resort for artists and writers, including the composer Mykola Lysenko and the writer Sholom Aleichem. The fictional village of Boyberik, where Aleichem's tales of Tevye the Milkman are located, is based on Boyarka.  Source: Wikipedia 2017

After the 1939 invasion of Poland by Nazi Germany and Soviet Union, the Ukrainian SSR's territory was enlarged westward. Ukraine was occupied by Nazi Germany from 1941 to 1944. During World War II the Ukrainian Insurgent Army fought for Ukrainian independence against both Germany and the Soviet Union. In 1945, the Ukrainian SSR became one of the founding members of the United Nations. After Stalin's death, as head of the Communist Party of Soviet Union, Khrushchev enabled a Ukrainian revival. Nevertheless, there were further political repressions against poets, historians and other intellectuals, like in all other parts of the USSR. In 1954, the republic expanded to the south with the transfer of the Crimea.

Left photo shows another bird resting on top of the fence where leaves have been cut out.  This might indicate a tree where the leaves are on top and then below is a burnt-out area that looks like “eyes” and perhaps eyebrows.  Is it an animal, fairy, troll or another owl?   

Aar Aiyy appears to be a modern neo-Pagan revival of the indigenous shamanistic religion Tengrism. Tengrism flourished among the Turkic-speaking population of the Siberian Yakuts, the Turks, Huns, Mongolians, and Hungarians. In Siberia the religion waned in the 1600’s when Russian Orthodox Christians moved into the area. When Siberia was under Soviet control, all religions were suppressed but folk practices managed to survive into present time.

Aar Aiyy, meaning “belief in higher deities,” holds that there is one supreme God but also many spirits and other divine beings. Practitioners believe there are three worlds: the heavens, the world we know on earth, and the underworld.

The Mysterious Fairy Fence        of Boyarka Ukraine