Butterfly in Slavic tradition – part 2

It’s hard to believe, but some people thought that a butterfly is an evil, demonic soul, and a messenger of death (for example, if it flew into the room of an ill person, that was a sign of the imminent death). The South Slavs believed that when the veshtitsa (witch) falls asleep, her soul in the form of a butterfly strangles, sucks blood, steals milk or fire, etc. And if her body is turned face down, her soul will not recognize it, and will remain a butterfly of a striking color like black and red or black and yellow. When the body of a vampire is burned or pierced with a stick, as the Serbs believed, his soul also flies out in the form of a butterfly or many butterflies. To neutralize him, the butterfly had to be killed.

Western Slavs also associated these cute insects with death, disease, and demons. This is reflected in the name of the butterfly in different West Slavic dialects: diabel, čertica, mara, vampir, bieda, etc. The most frequent association with evil and death is represented by the butterfly called “Dead Head” (Acherontia atropos), which even was featured in the movie “The Silence of the Lambs”.

After that, will you be able to look at the butterflies with the same eyes, especially the black and yellow ones?

More interesting facts can be found in: “Slavic Antiquities” – encyclopedic dictionary in 5 volumes by Institute for Slavic Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences.


Spring witch burning in Slavic tradition

We continue with the spring being a time of the witches’ activity according to the Slavic tradition. In Herzegovina, trying to protect their homes, people would put thorns of blackthorn or hawthorn on the gate with eggshells hooked on them. In Bosnia, in the evening, an old opanok (bast shoe) was placed in the fireplace, as people believed that its smell would ward off witches (veshtitsa). They also stuck a knife in the door, hung garlic and burned eggshells so that “veshtitsa would not come”. It was forbidden to leave whole eggshells out of fear that veshtitsas would ride in them, like in boats, quickly reaching the places where they want to do evil.

During Maslenitsa, people were trying to identify veshtitsa by burning a special thread, which was used for an “egg biting” ritual (“lamkan” – a ritual similar to the Ukrainian “biting kalita”). For example, in Bulgaria in the Rhodope Mountains, when the thread was burned, the names of women suspected of witchcraft were pronounced: the woman on whose name the thread flashed brightest was considered a witch.

In Polish Pomerania, during Maslenitsa period, fishermen were protecting the fishnet by fumigating it with smoke and shooting at it, otherwise the witches could spoil the catch. The most radical ritual was the symbolic “burning of veshtitsas” in Serbia and Macedonia, similar to the West Slavic and Polessie region rites of ” witch burning” in Kupala bonfires or in bonfires on Walpurgis night. For example, a large branch of a sweet cherry tied with straw, which was lit and carried around orchards, was called “kara veshtitsa” (black witch).

Source: Agapkina T. A. “Mythopoetic foundations of the Slavic folk calendar. Spring-summer cycle. “, 2002

witch burning

Comb in the Slavic tradition – Part 2

Slavs also used the comb in reproduction magic. Going to the first seeding, the Serbs and Macedonians would put it in a bag of seeds or stirred seeds prepared for sowing with it, so that the spike of wheat / rye would have “frequent grains” like the teeth of a comb. The Croats, before taking the cattle for sale, combed it and pronounced: “Koliko zubaca, toliko kupaca” (“How many teeth, so many buyers”). After combing the sheep, the Russians threw the broken comb and the wool back into the sheepfold so that animals would have more wool.

We continue to familiarize you with the customs and beliefs of the ancient Slavic people, while working on the animated fantasy comic book series. In such posts, as if jumping forward in time, we shed light upon and help to understand the events that will occur in our story … 😉

All Slavs used the comb as a talisman against evil spirits, curses, diseases, wild animals, etc. The Serbs protected newborns from Veshtitsa (Вештица – Witch) and other demons with one or two combs, put on both sides of a child head. Therefore, Veshtitsa would prick herself if tried to approach the baby. The Eastern Slavs used to put a comb or a spindle in a cradle so that a baby could sleep peacefully.

A comb was also used for hexing others. The Serbs for example, would put two combs on both sides of the road on the wedding day, and when the young couple passed, they connected and hid those combs: after that, the couple would have arguments for all their life. The Russians of the Novgorod region believed that sorcerers performed all their malicious actions with the help of a comb. The Macedonians believed that women who had violated the ban on work in the evenings, were drowned in the water or brushed with large combs by Karakondzhulas (Караконцол). Interestingly, the comb is an attribute of many mythological creatures: goddesses (boginka), mermaids, female water spirits, etc., who usually combed their long hair in a story.

Source: “Slavic Antiquities” – encyclopedic dictionary in 5 volumes by Institute for Slavic Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences.

Slavic comb