Leisure time

Queen's Quagmire

Near Ažuožeriai, in the village of Pašventupys, forest of Pienionys, at the base of the steep right side of the River Šventoji, where groundwater meets the surface, lies one of largest freshwater springs in Lithuania, called from ancient times Queen’s Quagmire.

It interests many not as a freshwater spring, albeit one of the largest in Lithuania, but as Queen’s Quagmire, where once a carriage tackled with dapple-grey horses disappeared into the depths with a queen inside, where a priestess drowned defying the enemy… The area of Queen’s Quagmire is 0.7 ha, depth – up to 3 m. Excess water flows to the River Šventoji in the shape of a small, trench-like stream. The quagmire is surrounded by a forest. That is why it is always calm and tranquil there. Queen’s Quagmire looks even more mysterious in winter. Even the coldest months fail to completely envelop it in ice; and in the middle an opening still glares like a black mirror. 

Every summer, the surface is covered with frogbits, various types of duckweed and other water plants. The pearl-green water only shines-through in several spots A few blossoms of spatterdocks can be seen as well. Somewhere deep under the green carpet the spring pulsates and throbs, invisible to the eye. Here the fount remains silent and restrained, making this pool of water look more like a river wash than a spring. The quagmire is closely guarded by trees. The sun only peeps here when it is high above the trees, but even then its rays do not pierce through the dark, mysterious depths.  

According to the memories and stories of elderly people, once upon a time this quagmire was much larger. It shrunk in size after the trench was dug out and some of its water streamed into the River Šventoji. In ancient times, the quagmire was so large that Lithuanians could hide in it from attackers. A hidden underwater road made from stone or wood (kūlgrinda) and known only to the locals led into the quagmire. In her book Anykščių baladės (The Ballads of Anykščiai), B. Buivydaitė retold one of the legends she heard about the place. Sometimes the surface stirs and ripples, maybe because of the spring down at the bottom, maybe because of some gas in the mud, but according to a legend, it’s the drowned priestess tumbling around, forever restless. Stories of the elderly, made even more romantic by Antanas Vienuolis-Žukauskas, spiritualise a mysterious, streamy deepness, leaning, soaking branches and plants flourishing nearby. Vienuolis-Žukauskas loved resting at Queen’s Quagmire, dreaming about the olden days, imagining the altar of goddess Milda and elderly people, women and children wading into hiding… 

Legends about Queen’s Quagmire. 

Once upon a time, priestesses used to guard the holy fire near the green quagmire – in the darkest night and in the brightest day. And the bank of the River Šventoji rippled from the splashes of merry mermaids. Here, at the quagmire, a young, beautiful queen would come to safeguard the holy fire of ancestors, sing songs with a priestess to honour the gods and watch the sunrise… One day, a terrible black hardship fell upon them – thousands of black birds… Flock upon flock entered the holy river Šventoji to destroy the faith of the fathers and ancestors. With bestial wrath, groups of foreigners cut down and destroyed the green grove. Christian priests called the locals to wade into the quagmire or river and beg the new god for mercy. And people succumbed to the will of the black birds…. Only the young queen stood on the shore of the quagmire with her head proudly raised. ‘Lo, another infidel here,’ she said and stepped into the quagmire. Therefore, people have been calling this place Queen’s Quagmire ever since. They say that on calm summer nights two sad eyes look from within the quagmire, the restless young queen wailing.

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Right here, on the hill, once the queen of Lithuania lived. When an enemy invaded the land, she rode in a carriage tackled with dapple-grey horses down the slope and drowned herself in the quagmire (in another legend it was the queen of Swedes). That is where the name of the place comes from.

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According to a legend, the surface ripples because at the bottom the drowned priestess is tumbling about, forever restless. On quiet and very beautiful summer nights, when everything around stills, she emerges into the surface. Her rue crown spreads out wide, encompassing the entire surface of the quagmire. The priestess then comes ashore and walks about, caressing trees and wailing, pitying her untimely death.  

Distance from Gradiali Anykščiai to St Matthew Church: about 19 km.