THE ideas which were prevalent among the heathen Slavonians with respect to the life beyond the grave, and their belief in the close communion of mortals with the inhabitants of the spiritual world, are of themselves sufficient to account for the wide-spread and deeply rooted belief in the supernatural powers of necromancers and other dealers in magic, the remains of which are to this day very plainly manifest in Russia. But when, in addition to these causes, we consider the great influence which the Finnish races have had upon the Slavonic in the Northeast of Europe--the Finns being, of all European peoples, the most addicted to conjuring--we ought not to wonder at the fact that the Russians used to be no less remarkable for a steadfast faith in the powers of sorcery and witchcraft than were our own forefathers. Nor is it unintelligible--the isolation of villages, and the dearth of education being taken into account--why their descendants, the peasants who now till the soil of Russia, should be as prone to superstition, as responsive to the influence of the imagination, as obedient to the impulse of a morbid
fancy, as those benighted Orientals of whom Mr. Tylor tells us, who still believe in spirit-rappings, and planchette-writings, and wizard-elongations 1. Much time and space would be needed by any one who should undertake to describe the relies of the magical arts of their ancestors which the Russian peasants still preserve. At present I propose to give merely the briefest possible sketch of the history of witchcraft in Russia, as illustrative of some of the songs sung by the people, and of a branch of Russian folk-lore which is closely connected with the popular poetry, the zagovórui, or spells--prefacing it with a few remarks upon the zagádki, or riddles, in which the people delight so much, and to which in old days a high degree of importance was attached.
Except at one period of the year, the propounding or guessing of riddles is looked upon merely as an amusement by the Russian peasantry, but during the Svyatki, the Christmas festivals, it resumes something of its old dignity, and to some extent claims to be performed as a duty of an almost religious character. For in olden times the zagádka, the "sense riddle," as Mr. Tylor calls it [gadát' = to guess], was, in the Slavonic, as in other lands, an enigma fraught with mythical meaning, an oracular utterance, clothed in dark language, but full of enlightenment to those who rightly understood it. And therefore the zagádki which have come down to our time, corrupt and mutilated as their present forms in many cases are,
frequently serve to throw light upon the mythological ideas of the old Slavonians, often yield us fragments of their mythological language. For to many of the zagádki may be applied the expression used by Professor Max Müller in speaking of certain proverbs, that they are "chips of mythology." They originally were condensed. myths, as it were, or at least mythical formulas, and by their means a number of cosmical myths have been preserved in compact forms, unnoticed by the casual observer, but easily to be recognized by the experienced eye. In them an illiterate peasantry have unconsciously preserved the views about "God's world" current among their remote ancestors, the questions which daring speculators in far-off ages had asked and had tried to answer with reference to the great forces of nature 2. It was on account of this close connexion between the zagádka and the myth, that the propounding of riddles was attributed by the Slavonians to such mythical beings as the Russian Rusalkas or the Servian Vilas; all of whom were supposed to be thoroughly versed in enigmatical lore, and who treated the unfortunate mortals who could not read their riddles aright with as scant courtesy as was shown by the Sphinx to the travellers who preceded dipus.
The oldest zagádki seem to have referred to the elements and the heavenly bodies, finding likenesses to them in various material shapes. In some of what appear to be the most ancient of their number,
the sun is compared to a dish of butter, which suffices for the whole world; or the crescent moon to "a crust of bread hanging in a larder, which the dogs bark at but cannot reach;" or the stars to "peas scattered about a mat." In a Lithuanian zagádka the sky is likened to "a sieve full of nuts;" and the same idea is found in one of its Slovak cousins, in which there is also mentioned one very big nut which is the moon. Of a more poetic nature are those Russian zagádki, in which the stars are likened to a fiery inscription on the surface of the sky, as, for instance,--
"There is inscribed a writing on blue velvet, and to read that writing is given neither to priests nor to deacons, nor to wise moujiks 3."
Equally poetic is that Slavonic version of "Humpty Dumpty," in which a golden ship [the moon], sailing across the [heavenly] sea, crumbles into fragments [the stars], which neither princes nor priests can put together again. A somewhat similar idea is conveyed by the tradition shared by the Russians with many other nations, that God uses the old moons to make stars of.
Among the animals which figure in the zagádki, the horse and the cow occupy prominent places. Sometimes [as the moon] the horse traverses the [celestial] sea without wetting its hoofs; sometimes [as the thunder] it tears along, making the earth
tremble beneath it. A black cow frequently represents the night, and a white one the day, as in the following instance:--
"A black cow has overthrown the whole world but a white cow has set it up again."
Birds also are frequently mentioned. Sometimes the night as--
"A bird has waved her wino., and shut out all light with a single feather."
Sometimes the stars move like "a bevy of swans," or the sun stands afar off in the heavens, as--
"Sits on an ancient oak a. bird which neither king nor queen nor maiden fair can seize."
And sometimes fire appears in the guise of "a red cock"--an idea expressed also in the popular saying, to set the red cock free," i. e. to light the fire.
But perhaps the most interesting of the mythical zagádki are those in which the sun and moon, the dawn, the thunder, and the storm, are likened to human beings. In some of them the dawn [Zaryá] is represented as a fair maiden who has lost her keys. The moon takes no notice of them, but the sun picks them up. The keys are, of course, the dew, which the moonlight does not affect, but the sunbeams dry up. In one variant they are lost by the Zaryá when she shuts the [heavenly] gates. In this case she probably is the after-glow of sunset, which is called in Russian the vechérnaya (or evening); zaryá.
Here is one of the many forms of this zagádka:--
"The fair maiden, the Dawn, went wandering through the forest, and dropped her keys. The moon saw them, but said nothing. The sun saw them, and lifted them up."
Sometimes the moon is a shepherd and the stars are his sheep, or they are goats which hide when they see the dawn:--
There were goats crossing a bridge. They saw the dawn, and plunged into the water."
The following about fire, earth, and water, is a fair specimen of a large but common-place class:--
There are three brothers. The first eats, and is never full. The second drinks, and is never satisfied. The third plays, and is never tired of playing."
The next is a poetic, though not a novel personification of day and night:--
"A sister goes to pay a brother a visit. But he hides himself from his sister 4."
An idea closely akin with that of the dialogue in the Rig Veda, in which the Night implores her brother [the Day] to make her his wife, but he refuses, saying, "They have called it sin that a brother should marry his sister."
Finally, we may quote an enigmatic description of death, which, in its allusions at least, is thoroughly Slavonic:--
In the ocean-sea,
On the island Buyán,
Sits the bird Yustritsa.
She boasts and brags
That she has seen all,
Has eaten much of all.
She has seen the Tsar in Moscow,
The king in Lithuania,
The elder in his cell,
The babe in his cradle.
And she has not eaten that
Which is wanting in the sea 5.
Of the zagádki which do not seem to have any claim to be considered mythological, many may appear, at first sight, nonsensical; but that is generally either because their readers are unaware of the similarity between certain objects mentioned in them which was apparent to their framers, or because, in the course of time, some of their words have been unconsciously altered by their reciters. For instance, it would be difficult to find the meaning of this dark saying,--
"The ox in the cattle-shed has a haycock on his horns, but his tail is out of doors in the woman's hands,"
did we not know that the ukhvat, or oven-fork, is often spoken of as "the horned one." In this instance a woman is holding it by the handle, while its horns support a pot taken from the oven.
The same, difficulty would be met with in comprehending the following enigma:--
"The bay mare went about the field, came to us--is come into our hands,"
were we not aware that the sieve therein alluded to is made of horsehair, and that a part has been taken by the enigmatist for the whole.
As specimens of verbal corruption may be quoted the following riddles about a besom, and a comb. The vyenik, a whisk or besom, is supposed to be described in the words,--
"Hither Mitya, thither Mitya, and went under the bench."
There seems to be no sense in calling a besom Demetrius [Dimítry, dim. Mitka and so Mitya], but the saying is made reasonable by reading--
"Hither swept [mete or metyó], thither swept, and went under the bench."
One of the uses of a comb--one to which the Russian peasant, unfortunately, too often has good reason for turning that instrument--is alluded to in the saying "Tsar Kostyantin [Constantine] drives horses across a fence." The metaphor is, in other respects, only too intelligible, but why should a comb be named Constantine? The explanation is clear when the Little-Russian variants are consulted, as for instance the enigmatical statement that "The toothed kostyan drove pigs over a hill"--kostyan, or kostyanoy, meaning "made of bone" [kost' = bone], and so being an epithet thoroughly applicable to a comb. In the Great-Russian riddle for the rational kostyan, has been substituted the like-sounding
but quite meaningless name of Kostyantin, (dim. Kostya) Constantine 6.
Among the Russian peasantry these riddles have always enjoyed great popularity. Khudyakof has printed a collection of them, 1705 in number, in the sixth volume of the "Ethnographical Collection [sbórnik]" of the Russian Geographical Society, and has prefixed to it a valuable essay containing much information on the subject. Among other things, he mentions that, in the Government of Pskof, on the occasion of a marriage, the bridegroom and his friends are not allowed to enter the bride's cottage until they have answered all the riddles her friends propound to them; and in one of the villages in the Yaroslaf Government, on similar occasions, a bargain, of which the bride is the subject, is concluded between the Druzhka, or groomsman, and the "seller of the bride"--riddles, answered by gestures instead of in words, taking the place of coin.
The Oriental tales about riddles, which spread so widely during the middle ages, were fully appreciated in Slavonic lands; many of them, indeed, so impressed the popular mind, that to this day the Russian peasants retain among their own stories some of those which they borrowed, centuries ago, about such foreign personages as Solomon and the Queen of Sheba, or the Sultan whom a Croatian version of a familiar tale represents as ordering a supposed Abbot to solve three problems--the last being
"What am I thinking," to which the answer is, "You think I am the Abbot, but I am really the cook." Of more interest than such avowedly borrowed stories are those in which, not Oriental potentates, but Russian historical characters, such as Ivan the Terrible or Peter the Great, are introduced. In one of these, for instance, a number of tribute--bearing kings and princes propound certain riddles to Ivan the Terrible, offering to pay him twelve barrels of gold if he finds them out, on the condition that if he is unable to solve them he is to lose his throne. By the aid of an old man, to whom he promises one of the barrels, the Tsar is enabled to give the requisite answers, but he afterwards cheats his benefactor by filling two thirds of the barrel with sand. His device is at once seen through by the sage, who says to the dishonest monarch, "Thou hast introduced treason into orthodox Russia, and thou wilt never be able to root it out 7."
Still more interesting are the riddle-stories belonging to the class of old Slavonic skazkas, tales which have formed part of the heritage of the people from time immemorial. In a Russian version of a wide-spread story, a princess says to her father, "Permit me, my father, to guess riddles: if I guess any one's riddles, let his head be cut off."
Her request being granted, various suitors set conundrums, and lose their heads. At last the inevitable Iván-Durák, Iván the Foolish, the Slavonic
"Boots," the youngest of the stereotyped "Three Brothers," enters the perilous lists. On his way to the palace he sees a horse in a cornfield, and drives it out with a whip, saying, "Here's a riddle!" A little farther on he kills a snake with a lance, and makes a similar observation. When he is confronted with the princess he says to her, "As I came to you I saw by the roadside what was good; and in the good was good, so I set to work and with what was good I drove the good from the good. The good fled from the good out of the good." The puzzled princess pleads a headache, and postpones the unriddling till the next day. It arrives, and Iván favours her with his second enigma.
"As I came to you, I saw on the way what was bad, and I struck the bad with a bad thing, and of what was bad the bad died."
Whereupon the Princess accepts Iván 8.
In a manifestly mythical story a Slavonic Penelope [the Earth?] who is constantly annoyed "by suitors, is sitting at table with them one day, when she sees the glasses every now and then dashed from their lips by an unseen hand. She guesses in a moment that her Ulysses [the Sun, or the Thunder-god, whom winter has long kept away?] has returned, wearing the invisible-rendering cap which she had given him. Looking out of window, she sees that "in the garden all the tree-tops are budding," and so, feeling sure that her surmise is
correct, she immediately propounds a riddle to her suitors.
"I had a self-acting casket with a golden key. I lost the key and despaired of finding it, but now that key has come back of its own accord. Whosoever guesses this riddle, him will I marry."
The "Tsars and Tsaréviches, Kings and Princes," long rack their "wise heads" over the zagádka, but they cannot make it out. Then the Queen exclaims, "Show thyself, my dear love!" and her husband doffs his cap; "takes her by the white hands, and kisses her sweet lips."
"Here is my riddle," then cries the Queen: "The casket am I, and the golden key is my true husband." So the suitors had to drive away home 9.
By way of conclusion I will give one of the numerous songs, the theme of which is the zagádka.
A maiden fair was strolling in a garden,
Gathering rosy flow'rets was the maiden.
By that way a merchant's son came driving.
"Now may God be with thee, beauteous maiden,
God be with thee, rosy flow'rets gathering!"
"Many thanks! O merchant's son! Thanks many!"
"Shall I ask thee riddles, beauteous maiden?
Six wise riddles shall I ask thee?"
"Ask them, ask them, merchant's son,
Prithee ask the six wise riddles."
"Well then, maiden, what is higher than the forest?
Also, what is brighter than the light?
Also, maiden, what is thicker than the forest?
Also, maiden, what is there that's rootless?
Also, maiden, what is never silent?
Also, what is there past finding out?"
"I will answer, merchant's son, will answer,
All the six wise riddles will I answer.
Higher than the forest--is the moon,
Brighter than the light--the ruddy sun.
Thicker than the forest--are the stars.
Rootless is, O merchant's son, a stone.
Never silent, merchant's son, the sea,
And God's will is past all finding out."
"Thou hast guessed, O maiden fair, guessed rightly,
All the six wise riddles hast thou answered.
Therefore now to me shalt thou be wedded,
Therefore, maiden, shalt thou be the merchant's wife 1."
The zagádka has now completely lost the venerable character it once possessed, being degraded from the lofty realm of mythological philosophy to the humble field of popular amusement; but time has not dealt so hardly with the relic of heathenism to which we will next turn our attention, the Zagovór, the Slavonic Spell, Rune, or Incantation. The riddles belonged to the people in general, and no one had any special interest in maintaining their accuracy, and handing them down to posterity intact. But the spells were the peculiar property of a small body of sorcerers, who watched over them with jealous care, and delivered them to their successors as precious heirlooms from which nothing was to be taken away, for the whole virtue of the zagovór depended upon its absolute correctness. If any change was made in its wording its pronouncer became as power--
less to kill or to cure as was Groa when, in her joy at recovering her husband, she forgot the Runes which would have loosened the stone from Thor's head 2, or as the Finnish deity in the Kalewala, Wäinamöinen, when he was unable to remember the magic words that would have stanched his flowing blood 3, and so was obliged to bleed on till an old wizard with a stronger memory came to his aid. In order not to be placed in so unpleasant a predicament the Russian sorcerers--of whom more will be said farther on--used frequently to commit their spells to writing. Some of these manuscripts still exist, but none of them, it is said, can be referred to an earlier period than the eighteenth century; for, until the time of Peter the Great, the Church and the State agreed in strongly objecting to sorcerers, and when they burnt them they unfortunately burnt their manuscripts also 4.
Among the old Slavonians, as among all other peoples, spoken words were supposed to possess certain magical powers. In their figurative language the lips and the teeth are often spoken of as locks, of which the key is the tongue. When that has once unloosened them, out shoots the word, like an arrow from a bow, and it is capable of flying straight to, and acting directly upon, the object at which it is aimed by its utterer. "A word is not a sparrow," says a Russian proverb; "once let it fly out, you will
never catch it again 5." In olden times countless magical formulas, for good or for evil, seem to have been known to those persons who were originally styled "Wise Men" and "Wise Women," and afterwards wizards and witches. Many of these spells have come down to our times--for the sorcerer's occupation is not yet gone in Russia, though his class only exists now where it formerly flourished--and large collections of them have been formed by various careful gleaners in the field of folk-lore.
The name under which these spells are generally known is that of zagovórui. As "sprechen, singen, become besprechen, besingen, schwören beschwören, jurare conjurare, cantare incantare, etc. 6," so the Russian govorít', "to speak," becomes zagovórít', one of the meanings of which is to conjure, to utter a spell or zagovór--a form of words in which, though now written as prose, there is always rhythm, and sometimes rhyme. In primeval times the zagovórui may have been mere prayers [mólvit' = to speak, molítva = a prayer], which, as years went by, degenerated into spells. At first sacred hymns bless and implore the gods; at a later period they demand from them (zaklinayut) what their utterers desire, and are known as spells, zaklinániya or zagovórui 7.
These spells were no doubt originally preceded by
rites, but the rite long ago stiffened into a verbal formula. The zagovór generally begins with a narrative, in which often occur highly poetic descriptions of nature. The utterer goes forth "in the early morn" to "the open field;" there he bows to all four quarters, but eventually turns his face "to the eastern side;" he washes himself in the morning dew, dries himself in the sunlight, and becomes "clothed with the clouds," and "girdled with the countless stars." Sometimes he strikes the stars, which are represented as silver nails, or covers himself with the brazen heaven. Then he addresses himself to the elements, asking the earth--Mother Earth, bright with flowers and full of vigorous life--to make his life bright and vigorous; asking the strong blue sea to strengthen him, and the wild winds to brace his courage, and the stars--the eyes of heaven--to make his eyesight keen 8.
As regards the world-wide custom of turning towards the east before praying, it will be enough to say that it still prevails in many parts of Russia among the peasantry, who are also of the opinion that it is from the East that sick people must look for alleviation of their complaints. 1n Bohemia it used to be required of persons who were about to take an oath, that they should do so looking eastward, appealing, as it were, to the rising sun. And a similar idea lay at the root of the custom of pronouncing the zagovór, in most cases, at the hour of
sunrise. Sometimes, however, these spells were probably intended to be uttered at other hours, at moonrise, for instance. To this day the Russian peasant, when he sees the new moon, will say,--
"Young moon God give thee strong horns and me good health!"
As the stars, also, are frequently addressed in the zagovórui, it is very likely that some of the spells were spoken at night, and others may have been meant to accompany the sunset or the gloaming.
The spells were originally uttered in a loud, clear voice. Now-a-days many of them are always whispered, a practice which may have been derived from the Finnish sorcerers, who have had so great an influence on Russian superstition, or it may have gradually crept in as the subject of conjuring assumed more and more the character of something secret and forbidden. The addresses to the elements, the celestial luminaries, and the various forces of nature, which they contain, were of old the prayers with which the heathen Slavonian worshipped his elementary gods, and were meant to be, as it were, "spoken on the house-top," not whispered in the secrecy of the closet. And so still in the muttered speech of the rustic who desires to be freed from some trivial annoyance, or to be gratified by some small gain, may be heard the echo of the words with which his far-off pagan ancestor greeted the return of day, or watched the sinking of the western sun, or " blessed the kindly light" of the "gleaming moon" and the "many stars," or
acknowledged the past aid, and implored the future assistance of those heavenly beings whom he adored--beings to whom, perhaps, in immemorial times, when what are now the many Aryan nations formed but one people, his and our ancestors offered their simple worship somewhere far away in Central Asia.
"Dost thou hear, O Sky? dost thou see, O Sky?" cries the peasant of to-day, addressing the Svarog, the Ouranos, the Varuna of old religion. "O ye bright Stars! descend into the marriage-cup, and in my cup let there be water from a mountain spring. O thou fair Moon! bow down to my klyet', [kind of store-room]. O thou free Sun! dawn upon my homestead. O ye Stars! deliver me, the servant of God so and so, from drink! O Moon, turn me from drink! O Sun, draw me from drink!"
"O righteous Sun! do thou in my foes, my rivals, my opposers, in the powers that be, and public officials, and in all people of godly mouth and heart, parch up evil thoughts and deeds, so that they may not rise up, may not utter words baleful for me!"
Or, addressing the zaryá, the dawn and gloaming,
"Ho, thou morning zaryá, and thou evening zaryá! fall upon my rye, that it may grow up tall as a forest, stout as an oak!"
"Mother zaryá [apparently twilight here] of morning and evening and midnight! as ye quietly fade away and disappear, so may both sicknesses and sorrows in me, the servant of God, quietly fade and disappear--those of the morning, and of the evening, and of the midnight!"
Here is an address spoken by a lover to the winds. In the ocean sea, on the island Buyan [i. e. in the cloud-island sailing over the heavenly sea?] there live three brothers, three winds: the first northern, the second eastern, and the third western. Waft, O winds, bring on the servant of God (such and such a maiden) sorrow and dreariness [sukhota = dryness], so that without me she may not be able to spend a day nor pass an hour!"
The force of the zagovór sometimes depends upon the assistance of the heavenly and other bodies adjured, as may be seen from the following spell to prevent swarming bees from wandering afar 9.
"I take a bee, I place it in the hive. But it is not I who place thee there; the white stars place thee; the horned moon, the red sun, they place thee and keep thee still."
When heathenism was dethroned by Christianity, these ancient adjurations were so far altered, that for the names of the elementary deities were substituted those of the Saviour, the Virgin Mary, the Apostles, and various saints and martyrs. Sometimes the old and the new names occur together, as we have seen is often the case in the mythical songs; but there are also instances in which, while the archaic form of the zagovór is preserved, its tone has become to all appearance thoroughly Christian; so that it has even found its way, under the heading Molítvui, or prayers,
into the church books called trebniki, both Russian and Servian, of the 15th-17th centuries 1. This is a different case from that of the well-known poem of the Merseburg MS., in which a spell intended to cure a lame horse is preceded by an account of how, as Baldr rode through a wood in company with other Teutonic deities, his horse met with a sprain; a poem which, in this instance, has preserved its heathen complexion intact, although it figures in a copy of "Hrabani expositio super missam," but is generally found in as Christian a tone as that of the Norse--
Jesus reed sig til hede, etc.,
or our own--
The lord rade,
And the foal slade, etc. 2
The copyist in the case of the Merseburg MS. may have wished to stand well with the old powers as well as with the new, but in many of the variants of the spell its heathen character had probably been forgotten. The mixed nature of these superstitious formulas is best shown, perhaps, in some of those preserved by the wilder sects which discredit the Russian Raskól, or general body of dissenters from the Established Church, and are too often carelessly identified with the respectable though bigoted body of Old Believers, the Russian Nonconformists. Here is a specimen of the strange adjurations in
use among the Skoptsui, the most fanatical, in all probability, of the Raskolniks who now exist in Russia:--
"Forgive me, O Lord; forgive me, O holy Mother of God; forgive me, O ye Angels, Archangels, Cherubim and Seraphim, and all ye heavenly host! Forgive, O sky; forgive, O damp-mother-earth; forgive, O sun; forgive, O moon; forgive, ye stars; forgive, ye lakes, ye rivers and hills; forgive, all ye heavenly and earthly elements 3!"
In this case it is easy to see that the alteration which has taken place is one of heterogeneous combination, not of corruption or decay.
After the old prayers had passed into spells, their magical properties were often supposed to be automatic, no longer depending on the aid of the divinities they invoked, but acting, for good or for evil, by the force of their own inherent attributes. Zagovórui of this nature generally end with the phrase, "My word is firm!" or "My word will not pass away for ever!" or,--
"May my words be sticky and tough, firmer than stone, stickier than glue or resin, salter than salt, sharper than a self-cutting sword, tougher than steel. What is meant, that shall be fulfilled 4!"
It has already been mentioned that the mouth is defined in metaphorical language as a lock--the
Russians use padlocks to a great extent--of which the tongue is the key. That idea is expressed in the following termination of a zagovór:--
"For these words of mine [my] lips and teeth [are] a lock; my tongue, the key. And I will fling the key into the sea [but] remain thou lock in the mouth!"
Here is one of a slightly different nature:--
"I, the servant of God, 5 will make fast thrice nine locks. I take out from the thrice nine locks the thrice nine keys. I fling those keys into the clear ocean-sea; and from that sea will come out a golden-finned, copper-scaled pike, and will swallow my seven-and-twenty keys, and will sink into the depth of the sea. And no one shall catch that pike, or find out the seven-and-twenty keys, or open the locks, or do hurt to me the servant of God 6!"
The range attributed to the force of the zagovór is as wide as that with which the Lieder and Runen used to be credited, and the Russian spell was supposed to be fully capable of performing most of, if not all, the actions of which, in speaking of its Teutonic equivalents, Jacob Grimm has given so long a list 7, or which
used to be claimed as the effect of the songs of Odin. These were, apparently, mythical in their origin, but the figurative language of the spell has been interpreted literally at a later period. In some of the Russian zagovórs, however, remarks Afanasief, their mythical character is still plainly visible, and he quotes, in illustration, two spells against toothache. The first is as follows:--
"O thou young moon! test the dead and the living: the teeth of one who is dead, do they ache? Not at all ache the teeth of one dead, [whose] bones are tanned, [whose] teeth are mute .... Grant, O Lord, that the teeth of me, the servant of God, may become mute, may never ache!"
The other spell must be three times pronounced by its utterer while he bites at the portal of the church:--
"As this stone is firm, so may my teeth also become stony--harder than stone!"
In the first spell, says Afanasief, the sufferer, who wishes his teeth to be mute as in death, addresses the moon, remembering the ancient character of a ruler in the land of the dead, which it, as the nightly luminary, used to bear. In the second, his appeal to the stone of the church portal is supposed to be a reference to that of which in older days the stone was a symbol, the hammer of Thor or Perun, which could turn all things into stone-the hard-hitting thunderbolt 8. But all this seems very doubtful.
But in order to convey an idea of the peculiar nature of the zagovórs, it will be necessary to give some specimens of those among their number which are of the greatest length, and which contain most mythical allusions--those for which the Russians proudly claim a greater fulness and a more poetic colouring than is generally to be found in the Teutonic Runes. Before doing so, however, I will quote the following short spell. in order to introduce, in connexion with each other, two names about which some remarks must presently be made, the "island Buyan," and the "white stone Alatuir." Here is a specimen of the numerous zagovórs used for the cure of cuts, stabs, etc:--
"In the sea, in the ocean, on the island, on Buyan, lies the white burning stone Alatuir. On that stone Alatuir there sits a fair maiden, a masterful sewer. She holds a steel needle, threads it with a silken thread, of reddish-yellow hue, and sews together bloody wounds. I charm the servant So-and-so from cuts. Steel, stand aloof, and thou., blood, cease to flow 9!"
I will not dwell at present on the mystic stone, Alatuir, but it should be mentioned, in order that an allusion in the next zagovór may be intelligible, that from the elysian isle of Buyan comes toská, grief or longing. This may at first sight appear to be a strange dweller in what is represented as a land of eternal light and life. But the longing here alluded
to is that which springs from love, and leads to marriage, and therefore it is that it derives its origin from the same source as beings associated with all that is bright and joyous. Here is--
A ZAGOVÓR TO GIVE A GOOD YOUTH A LONGING FOR A FAIR MAIDEN.
I, the servant of God ---------, stand still, uttering a blessing.
I, crossing myself, go from the room to the door, from the courtyard to the gates.
I go out into the open field, to the eastern side. On the eastern side stands an izbá [cottage or room], in the middle of the izbá lies a plank, under the plank is the LONGING.
The Longing weeps, the Longing sobs, waiting to get at the white light. The white light, the fair sun, waits, enjoys itself, and rejoices.
So may He wait longing to get to me, and [having done so] may he enjoy himself and rejoice! And without me let it not be possible for him to live, nor to be, nor to eat, nor to drink; neither by the morning dawn, nor by the evening glow.
As a fish without water, as a babe without its mother, without its mother's milk, cannot live, so may he, without me, not be able to live, nor to be, nor to eat, nor to drink; neither by the morning dawn, nor by the evening glow; neither every day, not at mid-day, nor under the many stars, nor together with the stormy winds. Neither under the sun by day, nor under the moon by night.
Plunge thyself, O longing I gnaw thy way, O longing, into his breast, into his heart; grow and increase in all his veins, in all his bones, with pain and thirst for me 1!
In some zagovórs the longing is said to spring from underneath the stone Alatuir, whence it is borne on the wings of seventy-seven aerial beings called both birds and winds. In some cases its bearers are styled "The Three Brothers," in others "The Seven Brothers," who are implored "to gather together from all the white world the griefs of widows, of orphans, and of little children." In some of the charms a lover addresses to fire and storm the following appeal: "Take from me my longing; carry it away, and do not drop it, but make it enter into such and such a female heart." In one of the zagovórs three mystic smiths are mentioned, who assist in forging hooks, by which one person can be "attached" to another.
In a Siberian zagovór a "Fiery Snake" is invoked for the kindling of amorous longing. With this idea may be compared the popular belief, that with the beginning of every January--that is, at the end of the festival in honour of the return of the sun towards summer--the Fiery Snake begins to fly, enters into the izbá through the chimney, turns into "a brave youth," and steals by magic the hearts of fair maidens. In one of the Servian songs, a girl who has been carried off by a fiery snake calls herself his "true love."
All this, says a bold mythologist, is explained by the fact that in mythical language the Fiery Snake is one of the forms of the lightning. The blooming Earth, fructified by the rains poured forth during the first spring storms, is turned in the myth into
the bride of the Fiery Snake. But the wedder of nature became looked upon at a later period as the patron of weddings among the children of men; and so the inducing of love-pangs naturally became ascribed to the Fiery Snake.
Sometimes the powers of darkness are represented as having to do with the creation of amorous desire. Some of the zagovórs begin, "rise up without uttering a blessing," and they go on to invoke "the demon Sanchak," and sometimes the "longing" is borne on the wings of seventy-seven demons, instead of as many winds. But all this is said to be of a later date. Originally, however, there was opposed to the fiery snake and the vivifying winds a malignant "spirit of the whirlwind" [dukh-vikhor'], which congealed instead of melting, and was invoked by evil conjurors in order to produce coldness between man and wife.
Some of the charms are meant to preserve men from drunkenness, which the sun, the moon, and the stars are called upon to keep away; others to gain the good will of a superior, or to ensure safety during a campaign. Here is a specimen of the latter class:--
The red sun has come forth from beyond the Caspian Sea, the moon has gone up into the blue sky, the clouds have drawn together from afar, the dark-blue birds have met in the stone-built city.
Within that stone-built city did my mother bear me, and while bearing me thus did she speak:--
Be thou, my child, sound and unhurt, whether by guns, or by arquebuses, or by arrows, whether
by wrestlers, or by boxers. May the champions not challenge thee, nor smite thee with weapons of war; neither piercing thee with lance or spear, nor cleaving thee with halbert or hatchet, nor crushing thee with ail axe, nor stabbing thee with a knife.
"May the old delude thee not, may the young men do thee no harm; but mayst thou be before them as a hawk, and may they be as thrushes. And may thy body be firmer than stone, thy shirt than iron, thy breast than the stone Alatuir.
And mayst thou at home be a good father, abroad a brisk youth, in war a brave soldier; in the outer world a source of pleasure, in the upper chamber of the maidens an ornament, at the nuptial feast [a guest] without a trace of guile; and [mayst thou live] with thy father and mother in peace, with thy wife in concord, with thy children in harmony."
But perhaps the most interesting, and certainly the most poetic of the spells, are those which are intended for the relief of sufferers from a longing that is of a different nature from that produced by amorous impulse, for the solace of friends and relatives who have been torn asunder, and especially of parents who have been deprived of children. As a specimen of those may be taken the following
ZAGOVÓR AGAINST THE GRIEF OF A MOTHER ON PARTING WITH A BELOVED CHILD.
I have sobbed away the day--I his own mother, the servant of God--in the lofty parental terem [upper chamber], from the red morning dawn, looking out into the open field towards the setting of my red sun, my never-enough-to-be-gazed-on child. There I remained sitting till the late evening glory, till the damp dews, in longing and in woe. But at length
I grew weary of grieving, so I considered by what spells I could charm away that evil, funereal grief.
I went into the open field, I carried with me the marriage cup, I took out the betrothal taper, I fetched the wedding kerchief, I drew water from the well beyond the mountains. I stood in the midst of the thick forest, I traced an unseen line, and I began to cry with a piercing voice,--
I charm my never-enough-to-be-gazed-on child, over the marriage cup, over the fresh water, over the nuptial kerchief, over the betrothal taper. I bathe my child's pure face with the nuptial kerchief, I wipe his sweet lips, his bright eyes, his thoughtful brow, his rosy cheeks. With the betrothal taper I light up his long kaftan, his sable cap, his figured girdle, his stitched shoes, his ruddy curls, his youthful face, his rapid gait.
"Be thou, O my never-enough-to-be-gazed-on child, brighter than the brilliant sun, softer than a spring day, clearer than fountain water, whiter than virgin wax, firmer than the fiery stone Alatuir.
"I avert from thee the terrible devil, I drive away the fierce whirlwind, I keep thee away from the one-eyed Lyeshy [or wood-spirit], from the stranger Domovoy [i. e. from the house-spirit of another family], from the evil Vodyany [or water-spirit], from the witch of Kief, and from her evil sister of Murom, from the beckoning Rusalka, from the thrice-accursed Baba Yagá, from the flying Fiery Snake. I wave away from thee the prophetic raven and the croaking crow, I screen thee from Koshehei-Yadun, from the wily enchanter, from the spell-weaving wizard, from the daring magician, from the blind soothsayer, from the hoary witch.
And thou, my child, by night and at midnight, through all hours and at the half-hours, on the highway and the byway, when sleeping and when waking be thou concealed by my abiding, words from hostile
powers and from unclean spirits, preserved from untimely death and from misfortune and from woe, saved from drowning when on the water, and kept from burning when amid the flames.
"And should thy hour of death arrive, do thou, my child, remember our caressing love, our unsparing bread-and-salt, and turn towards thy well-loved birth-place, bend thy brow to the ground before it with seven times seven salutations, take leave of thy kith and kin, and fall into a sweet, unbroken slumber.
"And may my words be stronger than water, higher than the mountains, heavier than gold, firmer than the fiery stone Alatuir, more powerful than heroes.
"And he who tries to beguile or to cast a spell over my child, may he be shut up beyond the mountains of Ararat, in the lowest gulfs of hell, in boiling pitch, in burning flame. And may his spells be for him no spells, his deceit be no deceiving, and his guile lead to no beguiling 2."
We will now return for a time to the "Isle of Buyan," and the "White Stone Alatuir."
Far away amid the ocean waves, according to Slavonic tradition, lies the isle called Buyán, one of the many forms of the Rai, or Paradise, of which mention has already been made, the Slavonian counterpart of that happy land which figures in the mythology of all the Aryan nations. In that eastern isle is the home of the sun, which goes there every evening after it has set, to rise from it again with the return of morning. In Buyan are collected, says
Afanasief, all the mighty forms of the spring-tide storms, all the mythical personifications of thunder, wind, and tempest. There are to be found "the Snake older than all snakes, and the prophetic Raven, elder brother of all ravens," and the Bird, the largest and oldest of all birds, with iron beak and copper claws, and the Mother of Bees, eldest among bees. That is to say, continues Afanasief, there lies the Lightning Snake, and broods the Tempest Bird, and swarm the Thunder Bees who bless the longing earth with the honey of rain 3.
On Buyán, also, stands a dripping oak, under which lies the snake Garafena [perhaps a corruption of Goruinich, Son of the Mountain, the name usually borne by the snake of the Russian fable], and there sits the divine maiden, Zaryá [the Dawn, or the Spring-tide Sun, or a Thunder-goddess?]. Thither turned the Old Slavonian with prayers, entreating the gods to preserve him from wounds and from diseases, to inspire him with martial courage, to
bless him with success in love, in hunting and fishing, and in household affairs.
On Buyán is found the white stone Alatuir, the name and the nature of which have been discussed at some length by various Slavonic scholars, who have not, however, entirely dispelled the mystery which hangs about them. The zagovórs generally describe it as lying on the Buyan isle, but sometimes they merely say, "On the sea, on the ocean, lies the fiery stone 4." From under it flow rivers of healing. On it originally was wont to sit either a "fair maiden who sewed up bleeding wounds"--supposed to be the Dawn, or the bird Stratim, the meaning of whose name has not yet been discovered--or some other mythical being. But under the influence of Christian ideas the locality of the stone was altered, and with it the character of its occupants. Sometimes, for instance, we find a spell in which the stone has been transferred to the neighbourhood of the river Jordan, and over it rises "a golden church," or a throne of gold occupied by "the Lord Himself," or by "the Holy Mother of God," or by one of the Apostles, or by some member of the heavenly host. Or near it stands a sacred grove composed perhaps of cypresses--the cypress having been the tree of which the cross was made--or a golden staircase up which the Archangel Michael is ascending to heaven. But whatever else has been changed, the idea of warm, blazing light is always connected with the stone. "Look, wife,
on the blue sea," says a husband in a national song, when leaving his wife for ever; "when the fiery white stone grows cold, then will I come home;" meaning that he will never return. Sometimes, instead of the epithet "fiery white," the designation kip [kipyet' = to boil, foam, seethe, etc.] is applied to the stone.
Various suggestions have been made with regard to the etymology of the word Alatuir. One writer compares it with the Greek êlektron, the, Russian yantar [amber], and another with alabastros, each supporting his argument by the fact that the word he suggests represents something specially bright. The alabaster theory seems to have fallen to the ground, but the identity of the words alatuir and yantar seems to be generally admitted, though it is difficult to see, as Afanasief remarks, why such magical properties should have been attributed by the Old Slavonians to amber 5. It may be that, as Buyan seems to have been turned from an epithet into a proper name, so Alatuir may, in the course of time, have changed its meaning, which possibly was at first "amber-like."
And now it is time that we should turn from the spell to its wielder--that having gained some familiarity
with the language of Sorcery, we should make the acquaintance of the Sorcerer himself. And having done so, it may be worth our while to trace his spiritual pedigree, to test his own claims, and those of his predecessors, to magic power, and to attempt to account for the readiness with which, century after century, those claims were admitted. Such an investigation will lead us back to the region whence we started, for if we perseveringly trace backwards up the stream of time the ancestral line of that poor creature, the Sorcerer of to-day, we shall find ourselves at last in the presence of those ill-defined but still majestic shapes of gods, under which the fanciful reverence of the heathen Slavonians seems to have personified the powers of nature.
But a little time ago every Russian village had its wizard, almost as a matter of course, and to this day it is said there is not a hamlet in the Ukraine that is not reported to keep its witch. In the vicinity of the great cities the supernatural, as revealed by the professors of the black art, may have lost its attractive hold upon the popular mind; but out in the open country the Koldún still holds his own, the Vyéd'ma still retains her power 6. To him and to her the rustics still have recourse in their troubles, still
trustfully turn for such advice and aid as may enable them to obtain blessings and ward off evils. They are supposed to be able to look into the future, and to decipher the hidden meaning of omens and auguries; to possess charms which will cure the diseases of the body and calm the troubles of the mind; and even to be capable of controlling the elements, of bestowing the gift of fertilizing rain, or of ruining by the curse of drought or storm. The faith, in short, which was once professed in every European land, and which was the cause in them of so many thousands of terrible deaths, is still held in Russia, where, however, it has seldom assumed the virulent aspect which it used to wear farther west.
In Russia, as in many other lands, the common people look upon diseases as evil spirits, to be driven away by purification with fire and water, and so the
popular practice of physic is founded on a theory of fumigations, washings, and sprinklings, attended by exorcisms of various kinds. Some of the strangest of the magical practices to which the peasants have recourse are those which they employ as a defence against the attacks of the malignant beings whom they identify with the cholera, the small-pox, and the cattle-plague. Of some of these rites an account will presently be given. Against the evil influence of an angry house-spirit, or of nightmares and other baleful demons, the Wise Men and Women contend in various ways, all highly prized by the peasants: they keep away fevers from a house by washing the lintels of its doorways, and by performing certain magical rites in the fields they prevent insects and other vermin from hurting the crops., For the success of a wedding, the presence of the wizard is in many places considered indispensable 7. His duty is to preserve the young couple and their friends from the attacks of hostile magicians; and so, in the Government of Perm, the bride is always attended by a znákharka, and the bridegroom by a znákhar' who goes in front of the bridal procession, and anxiously pries around, whispering to himself the while. The people imagine that he is contending with the evil spirit which pursues newly-married persons, and attempts to
ensnare them. In some districts, when a wedding is being celebrated, all the doors and windows are carefully shut, and even the chimney is stopped up, to prevent malicious witches from flying in, and doing the bride or bridegroom an injury.
As in other countries, so in Russia, according to the opinion of the peasants, wizards and witches are greatly addicted to stealing the dew and the rain. These they either hoard or pour forth at their discretion. Thus, for instance, there is a story in South Russia of a wizard who could control the elements. Once, in harvest-time, a storm-cloud was seen moving towards the fields where he and his fellow-villagers were at work. They hurried homewards, but he stopped where he was, saying there would be no rain, though all the sky was black with clouds. Presently there gallops up to him a black rider on a, black horse. "Let go!" he cries imploringly to the wizard, who refuses to do so. The clouds take a lighter hue, and the peasants this time look for a hail storm. Up rides a second horseman, "all white and on a white steed," and cries, "Let go, please do!" "No, I won't," replies the wizard. "Do let go; there's no holding out!" exclaims the white rider. At last the wizard sends him on to the other side of the corn-field, where in a little time a hail-storm comes pelting down 8.
With whirlwinds, also, the wizards have a great
deal to do. The Russian peasant generally attributes such winds to the wild dances in which the devil indulges when celebrating his marriage with a witch; but sometimes, he thinks, a wizard is being whirled about in the "dust-spouts" which may be seen in summer in the open plains. And so if a sharp knife be thrown with good aim at one of them, it will fall to the ground streaming with blood. There is a Little-Russian story of a peasant who flung his hatchet at one of these revolving columns, in which it stuck, "just as if it were in a tree," and by which it was carried off into space. Some little time afterwards the peasant, while making a journey, happened to spend a night in a cottage, the owner of which lay ill in bed, having cut himself, said his family, with a hatchet. As the guest lay down to sleep, he caught sight of something gleaming under a bench, and recognized it as the hatchet he had lost. Immediately he knew that he had wounded a wizard, so in fear of his life he fled from the cottage into the darkness 9. When our sailors fire cannon at waterspouts they, of course, do so for purely philosophical reasons.
In Little-Russia the witches are reported to steal from the sky its rain and dew, which they carry off in pitchers and bags, and hide in their cottages. A long time ago one of their number, it is said, did this to such an extent that not a single rain-drop fell in a whole summer. Having to go out one day, she
gave strict orders to the girl whom she left in charge of the house not to meddle with the pitcher which stood in the corner. But no sooner had she disappeared, than the girl opened the pitcher and peeped in. Nothing was to be seen inside, only a voice was heard coming from it, "Now there will be rain!" The frightened girl ran to the door, and, sure enough, the rain was coming down "just as if it were rushing out of a tub." The witch came running home, and closed the pitcher, when the rain stopped in a moment. "If the pitcher had stood open a little longer," she said to the girl, "the whole of the village would have been drowned 1." In some versions of the same story the witch forbids certain tubs to be touched. When they are opened by an inquisitive visitor they are found to be full of frogs, toads, water-snakes, and other vermin, which set up a strange croaking and crawl away in different directions. Immediately the blue sky turns black, and a terrible storm arises, only to be quelled by the return of the witch, and the restoration of the toads and their companions to their prison-tubs.
In some places, and especially in Little-Russia, the witches are supposed to steal and hide away, not only the rain and dew, but even the moon and stars. With particular eagerness they attempt to do so during the festivals of Kolyáda and of Kupála, [i. e. at the times of the winter and the summer solstice], when the principal gatherings of unclean spirits and
their families take place. There was once a village, they say in the Chernigof Government, in which there lived as many as a thousand witches, and they went on clearing the sky of stars until there were none left "to light up our sinful world." Then God sent St. Andrew [one of the Christian successors of Perun], who struck with his mace, and that wicked village sank into the earth, the place it had occupied becoming a swamp 2. Akin to these witches must have been the heroine of the following spell:--
The maiden fair
Through the forest went.
Evil she muttered,
Herbs she collected,
Roots she extracted,
The moon she stole,
The sun she ate.
Aroynt her, hag!
Aroynt her, witch 3!
In Russia, as elsewhere, the objects by means of which a sorceress flies through the air are those which are connected with the domestic hearth--the brooms and besoms used for sweeping up ashes, and the equivalents for our tongs, poker, and shovel. A Russian witch always keeps by her a supply of water which has been boiled together with the embers of a kupála pyre, or Midsummer bonfire. When she wants to fly she sprinkles herself with this, or she rubs herself under the armpits and the
knees with an ointment, the chief ingredient of which is the magical herb tirlich, or gentian. Sometimes witches cleave the air in the cauldrons wherein they prepare their magic broths, or, like the Baba Yagás, they skim along in mortars, sweeping away their traces with a broom.
The witches generally hold their meetings on "bald hills," though in Servia they haunt threshing-floors for this purpose. And their chief gatherings take place three times a year; at springtide, and at the periods of the summer and winter solstice. According to Sakharof the witches begin to seek their trysting-place on the 26th of December. On the 1st of January they wander about with unclean spirits, and on the 3rd, returning from their wanderings, they take to milking cows. In Ruthenia it is believed that on the Feast of the Annunciation [March 25, the day on which spring subdues winter], witches and vampires are born. On St. George's day [April 23], and on the "Kupála-night" [June 24--both days originally consecrated to Perun] wizards and witches collect on a bare hill, and there hold diabolical orgies. Sometimes they may be followed thither. In the Ukraine they tell how a certain soldier happened to see a witch, in whose house he lodged, preparing herself for flight. After she had gone he followed her example, and was immediately caught up, through the chimney, into the sky and on to the "bare hill." There he watched the revels for some time. At last his landlady caught sight of him, and immediately told him
to be gone, if he valued his life, without a moment's delay. "Here is a good steed," she cried; "mount and be off." Away he was borne home by the good steed, which he tethered at the end of his journey. The next morning he saw that the tether was attached to a log.
It is unnecessary to go into the details of these meetings of witches and wizards, for they differ but little from those of such assemblies as the well-known Walpurgisnacht and other Teutonic gatherings of demons and their earthly associates. In Russia, as in other lands, the connexion between sorcerers and devils is very close, and when a wizard is about to die, evil spirits enter into him, and tear his life out with terrible agonies. With him all nature seems to suffer. The earth shudders, the winds howl, the wild beasts roar, and flocks of crows and ravens, or rather of evil spirits in their forms, throng the roof and chimney of the house, seize the soul of the dying wizard or witch, and, with wild cries, bear it away to the other world.
Among the defensive weapons employed against witchcraft, some of the most important are the different objects connected with the domestic hearth, or supposed to refer in some way to the lightning. Thus a kochergá, or stove-rake, if suspended at the door of a cottage, will prevent any wizard who may have gained admittance from getting out again. As in Germany, on the first nights in May, so in Russia, on the eve of the Epiphany, says Afanasief, crosses may be seen chalked on every door and window.
These are to keep of witches, who fear every symbol of the Thunder-god's hammer, as, for instance, the sallow, the aspen-stake, and the fern. If any one takes a willow or aspen-twig with him to matins on Easter day, say the peasants in the Poltava Government, and looks at the congregation through it, he will see all the wizards and witches among them turned upside down 4. In the Chernigof Government it is believed that if, on the last day of the Máslyanitsa any one takes a piece of cheese, wraps it up, and carries it about with him during the whole of Lent, then on Easter eve the witches of his village will appear to him, and ask for cheese.
To a wizard who dealt in náuzui, or amulets, [úzui = ties; úzel = a knot; úzit' = to tighten], was given in old times the names of Náuznik or Uzol'nik. These amulets generally consisted of various materials, such as herbs, roots, embers, salt, bats' wings, heads and skins of snakes, etc., which were tied up in small packets, and hung round the neck. Sometimes a spell was written on a piece of paper which was attached to the pectoral cross worn by Russians. After the introduction of Christianity, incense [ládon] entered so largely into the composition of these amulets that they received from it the general designation of ládonki. These amulets are still in great request among the peasants, especially among those who have to undertake long and hazardous journeys. In olden days it seems to have been customary to
take young children to a witch, who provided them with suitable amulets.
The efficacy of these tied or knotted amulets depended to a great extent upon the magical force of their knots. To these knots frequent reference is made in the spells. Here is one, for instance, intended to guarantee its employer against all risk of being shot:--
"I attach five knots to each hostile, infidel shooter, over arquebuses, bows, and all manner of warlike weapons. Do ye, O knots, bar the shooter from every road and way, lock fast every arquebuse, entangle every bow, involve all warlike weapons, so that the shooters may not reach me with their arquebuses, nor may their arrows attain to me, nor their warlike weapons do me hurt. In my knots lies hid the mighty strength of snakes--from the twelve-headed snake 5." With such a spell as this it was supposed that the insurgent chief, Stenka Razín, had rendered himself proof against shot and steel.
Sometimes the amulet is merely a knotted thread. A skein of red wool wound round the arms and legs is supposed to ward off agues and fevers; and nine skeins, fastened round a child's neck are deemed a preservative against scarlatina. In the Tver Government a bag called vyázlo is fastened round the neck of the cow which walks before the rest of a herd, in order to keep off wolves. Its force binds the maw of the wild beast [vyazát' = to bind]. In accordance with a similar
idea, a padlock is carried three times round a herd of horses, before they are allowed to go afield in the spring, he who carries it locking and unlocking it as he goes, while these magical words are being uttered, "I lock from my herd the mouths of the grey wolves with this steel lock." After the third round the padlock is finally locked, and then, when the horses have gone off, it is hidden away somewhere till late in the autumn, when the time comes for the herd to return to winter quarters. In this case the "firm word" of the spell is supposed to lock up the mouths of the wolves. The Bulgarians have a similar method of protecting their cattle against wild beasts. A woman takes a needle and thread after dark, and sews together the skirt of her dress. A child asks her what she is doing, and she tells him she is sewing up the ears, eyes, and jaws of the wolves, so that they may not hear, see, or bite the sheep, goats, pigs, and calves. In the Smolensk Government, when cattle are being driven afield on St. George's day, the following spell is used:--
"Deaf man, deaf man, dost thou hear us?"
"I hear not."
"God grant that the wolf may not hear our cattle!"
"Cripple, cripple, canst thou catch us?"
"I cannot catch."
"God grant that the wolf may not catch our cattle!"
"Blind man, blind man, dost thou see us?"
"I see not."
"God grant that the wolf may not see our cattle 6!"
Sometimes the amulet locks away hurtful things from a man's body. A net, from its affluence of knots, was always considered very efficacious against sorcerers; and therefore, in some places, when a bride is being dressed in her wedding attire, a fishing-net is flung over her, to keep her out of harm's way. With a similar intention the bridegroom and his companions are often girt with pieces of net, or at least with tight-drawn girdles, for before a wizard can begin to injure them he must undo all the knots in the net, or take off the girdles. The girdle, with which the idea of a snake is frequently connected, has some mystic sympathy with its wearer, and therefore the peasants in some parts believe, that if a sick man's girdle be taken off, and thrown on the highway, whoever picks it up and puts it on will have its former wearer's diseases transferred to himself 7. The knotted surface of a harrow (made of interwoven branches) gives it great power against witchcraft. The best way to catch a witch is to hide under a harrow, and angle for her with a bridle.
Russian cows have always been as liable as those of other countries to be drained of their milk by witches. During the Christmas Svyatki the peasants object to letting their cattle leave the cow-sheds, for fear of attacks from the powers of darkness. On the 3rd of January the witches return from their Sabbath in a state of ravenous hunger, and are to be debarred from the cow-sheds only by means of a church taper
attached to the doors. Crosses chalked upon the eve of the Epiphany are also very useful. On St. Vlas's [Blasius's] day [Feb. 11] it is necessary to sprinkle the flocks and herds with holy water, for at that time, in Little-Russia at least, werewolves, in the shape of dogs and black cats, suck the cows, mares, and ewes, and slaughter their male companions. On St. George's day in April, and again during Whitsun and Trinity weeks, the danger is no less to be dreaded. At Midsummer bonfires are made of nettles, etc., and the horned cattle are driven through the flame, in order to keep off wizards and witches, who are then ravenous after milk. On the 30th of July witches frequently milk cows to death, dying themselves afterwards of a surfeit.
A witch can milk a cow from a great distance. In order to do so she sticks a knife into a plough, a post, or a tree: the milk trickles along the edge of the knife, and continues to do so till the cow's udder is emptied. On the eves of St. George's day, Whit-Sunday, and Midsummer day, witches go out at night without clothing, and cut chips from the doors and gates of farmyards. These they boil in a milk-pail, and so charm away the milk from those farms. Careful housewives are in the habit of examining their doors, and of smearing any new gashes they find in them with mud, which frustrates the plans of the milk-stealers. In such cases the witches climb the wooden crosses by the wayside and cut chips from them, or lay their hands on stray wooden wedges. Then they stick into a post in the cattle-sheds, and
press them with their fingers till milk flows from them freely, as from a cow's udder. As in Germany, so in Russia, witches often bear milk-pails on their heads. In Lusatian Wendish a witch is called Khodojta [doit' = to milk], from her nefarious dealings with her neighbours' cows.
As a farmer's cows are exposed to the attacks of the witch, so are his crops to those of the wizard, who sometimes takes a handful of ears of corn, bends them down to the ground, and ties them together with a string; or he twists them round toward the west, the quarter with which is connected the idea of death, and fastens them in that position. This ceremony, which is done only with malicious intent, is of course entirely different from the somewhat similar rite styled "the plaiting of the beard of Volos." [See p. 231.] The wizard's proceeding is called making a zakrút. [zakrutít' = to twist]. The old church books called trebniki contain prayers intended to be employed against the zakrút. After they had been said, it was formerly the custom to pull it out with a church cross, and so to deprive it of its power to do harm. Now-a-days it is customary to hire the services of a friendly wizard, who cuts an aspen-stake, splits it asunder, and pulls out the enchanted ears with it. Afterwards the zakrút is set on fire with a holy taper, and the aspen-stake is driven into the spot it had occupied, the latter proceeding giving rise to terrible pains inside the hostile wizard 8.
Besides destroying crops and cattle, the dealers in magic were supposed to be able to bring disease and death upon mankind. The Kashoubes along the Baltic still attribute most illnesses to sorcery, and in former days such an explanation of plagues, and murrains, and other evils of a like nature, seems to have been generally accepted. The Russian peasants believe. that wizards and witches can bring destruction on men as well as beasts, letting loose on their enemies evil spirits, which manifest themselves in hiccoughs, ravings, and fits, or wreaking their vengeance upon them by means of poison. The victim who accepts a beverage from the hands of a witch, will perhaps swallow with it the "Fever-Sisters" or other demons of torment, who will become transformed within him into snakes, toads, or mice, and will suck dry his veins, and bring him, amid prolonged agonies, to the grave. Sometimes, instead of sending evil spirits to torment a man internally, a witch is supposed to change him by night into a horse, and ride him over hill and dale until he is all but dead with fatigue--an idea of which Gogol has made excellent use in his story of the Vy. At other times she is believed to ride on his spirit, while his body sleeps. In that case he finds himself utterly exhausted the next day, though he knows nothing about what has been done to him.
As a general rule, however, wizards and witches are supposed to destroy their victims by means of poison distilled from herbs and roots. The girl who poisoned her brother by mistake, when she merely intended to
kill the lover who had offended her--as described in a song already quoted-probably belonged to the same class as the wilfully murderous sister of the following weird story:--
A brave youth splintered chips.
A fair maiden gathered the chips,
Gathered and set them on the fire,
Baked snakes and distilled poison.
The sister thought her brother to kill.
Into the midst of the court she went,
Filled a cup betimes,
Offered it to her brother dear.
"Sister, be thou the first to drink."
"Brother, I drank when pouring forth,
Wishing good health to thee."
A drop fell on the horse's mane,
The horse's mane began to burn.
Down from his good steed leaped the youth,
Drew from its sheath his sabre keen,
Struck off his sister's head.
"No sister true of mine art thou,
But a snake from under a log."
Faggots he piled in the midst of the court,
And her body white he burnt,
Till nought but ashes remained.
Her dust he scattered across the plain;
No voice would he suffer to mourn 9.
Sometimes the poisoning is supposed to be effected on a large scale, as when an epidemic is introduced by means of unholy science. In that case recourse is had to magic, to counteract the designs of the malicious sorcerer. The rites which are performed by the Russian peasants in order to ward off an attack
of the cattle-plague are very striking, whether they are intended to prove efficacious against an evil spirit invoked by a human will, or one that acts of its own accord. In olden days, it is said, when such a disease broke out in Ruthenia, it was customary to seize some old woman who was suspected of dealing in magic, and to bury her alive, or to fling her into a river, having previously fastened her up in a sack along with a cock, a dog, and a black cat. After that it was expected that the epidemic would disappear. Not long ago, an opinion was expressed by the peasants, that if the first cholera patient were to be buried alive, the disease would lose its power. In some villages a hole is dug in the earth at the precise spot on which the first victim to cattle-plague has fallen, and in it they bury its remains, with a live dog, cat, and cock fastened to its tail. The Commune recompenses the owner of the dead beast for the loss of its hide. In the Nijegorod Government the Siberian Plague is supposed to be kept at a distance by ashen stakes being driven into the ground at crossways, and the remains of a dog, calcined for the purpose, being scattered about the village. Sometimes, when a murrain is dreaded, the assembled peasants drive their herds overnight into some farmyard, and keep watch over them till morn. Then the cattle are counted, and if a beast which no one claims is found among them, it is looked upon as the Cow Death in person, and is immediately burnt alive. Sometimes the popular fancy personifies the Cow Death under the form of a haggard old
woman, against whose attacks various precautions of a heathenish kind are taken. When a village is alarmed lest such a murrain should fall upon its herds, the men are all ordered to shut themselves up in their cottages. Then the women meet together, clad only in white shifts, having their hair hanging loose about their shoulders--in striking resemblance to the Prophetesses of heathen times--and provided with the various utensils connected with the hearth, such as brooms, shovels, and the equivalents for pokers and tongs. In some places, also, they carry scythes and sickles, and other instruments used in their daily avocations, but this seems to be an innovation of later date. The oldest woman among them is then yoked to a plough, and she must draw it three times round the whole of the village, the rest of the party following after her, and singing the songs set apart for such occasions. It is supposed that the malignant spirit whom they recognize in the cattle-plague will be unable to cross the lines thus traced by the plough, or to get at the cattle, which, during the ceremony, have been kept shut up within the village. Here is one of their songs, many of which are quite unpresentable:--
From the ocean-from the deep sea
There have come out twelve maidens.
They have gone on their way, by no short road,
Up to the steep, the high mountains,
To the three old Elders . . .
"Get ready the white oak tables
Sharpen the knives of steel,
Make hot the boiling cauldrons,
Cleave, cut unto death,
Every life under the heavens!"
The Elders comply with the request of the Twelve Maidens, and all living things are put to death. Then,--
In those boiling cauldrons,
Burns with an inextinguishable fire
Every life beneath the heavens.
Around the boiling cauldrons
Stand the old Elders;
The old Elders sing
About life, about death,
About the whole human race.
The old Elders give
To the whole world long lives.
But on the other, on evil Death,
The old Elders fix
A great curse.
The old Elders promise
To all the human race 1.
The Three Elders, says Orest Miller, are evidently beneficent divinities, but it is not clear who the Twelve Sisters are. They are often mentioned in exorcisms, many of which are intended to be used as a protection against the attacks of these "Evil Shakers," as they are called; shakers of mankind, that is to say. Sometimes each one has her own name, that of some special disease. In the exorcisms preserved in writing, most of which show evident signs of having been submitted to Christian influences, these weird sisters are called the Daughters of Herod.
Tereshchenko, in his description of the Opakhivanie, the ploughing rite to plough] used as a preservative against the cattle-plague, gives a few additional details. In the villages of which he speaks, the procession is headed by a young girl who carries the image of St. Blasius--Vlas, the Christian representative of the old Slavonic deity Volos, the patron-god of cattle 2. Behind her walk the rest of the female villagers, those in the front row carrying besoms and handfuls of hay and straw. Next comes an old woman, riding on a broomstick, her locks dishevelled, a single shift her only covering: around her are several women and girls with stove-irons. The third row is composed of women who shout, dance, gesticulate, and beat frying pans. A number of old women, bearing lighted fir-splinters, form a circle around a widow, who wears a horse-collar round her neck and nothing else, and the old woman yoked to the plough. In front of each farmyard the procession halts, while its members knock at the gates, and, amid the din of beaten pots and pans, exclaim "Ai, Ai! cut, hew the Cow Death! Ai, Ai! cut, hew! There she goes! Ai, Al!" If a dog or a cat happens to rush out it is killed on the spot, being taken for the cattle-plague in person.
Another rite, of an equally heathenish nature, is considered efficacious against various epidemics. The female inhabitants of a village heap up two piles of
refuse at midday, one at each end of the street, and set them on fire at midnight. To one of these bonfires the girls, in white shifts, with loosely flowing hair, drag a plough, one of their number following the rest and carrying a holy picture. To the other bonfire a black cock is taken by the older women--who wear black petticoats and dirty shifts--and carried three times round the flames. Then one of the women seizes it, and runs away with it to the other end of the village, the rest following and screeching "Ah! Ai! Atu! disappear, perish, black disease!" When she reaches the glowing heap at the other end, she flings the bird into it. While it is burning, the girls, after heaping dry leaves on the fire, take hands and dance round it, repeating "Perish, disappear, black disease!" The women then drag the plough three times round the village 3.
Near Mtsensk, in the Government of Orel, the Cow Death procession is headed by three girls who carry a picture of St. Vlas, with a taper burning in a lanthorn before him, or a censer containing live coals and incense. After them walk three widows, and in some places three soldiers' wives. As they go round the village they sing,--
Death, O thou Cow Death!
Depart from our village,
From the stable, from the court!
Through our village
Goes holy Vlasy,
With incense, with taper,
With burning embers.
We will consume thee with fire,
We will rake thee with the stove-rake,
We will sweep thee up with the broom,
And we will stuff thee with ashes.
Come not to our village!
Meddle not 4 with our cows,
Nut-brown, chestnut, star-browed,
White-teated, white uddered,
After them follow the other women, one dragging a plough which another directs, and a third riding on a broomstick, while the others carry, and strike together, various utensils, chiefly of iron. The rest of their proceedings resemble those which have already been described, but their narrator adds that "if a man falls in their way, they set upon him furiously. It has often occurred that the man thus met has not at a cheap rate made good his escape from them 5."
One of the stories about the Cow Death relates that--
A peasant was driving from a mill, at a late hour. Towards him comes crawling an old woman and says,--
"Give me a lift, grandfather!
"There, my own, to the village you're going to yourself."
"And who are you, grandmother?
"A doctoress, my own; I doctor cows."
"And where have you been doctoring?"
"Why I've been doctoring at Istomina's, but they're all dead there. What was to be done? They didn't call me in till a little time ago, and I couldn't manage to stop the thing."
The peasant gave the woman a seat on his cart, and drove off. Coming to a cross road he could not remember the way, and by this time it had begun to grow dark. Uttering a prayer, the peasant took off his hat and crossed himself. In a moment there was no old woman to be seen!
Turning into a black dog, she ran into the village. Next day three cows died in the outside farm; the peasant had brought the Cow Death there 6.
Under such circumstances, according to Tereshchenko, instances of voluntary immolation have been known. In a village attacked by an epidemic, "the men and women have been known to cast lots, and the person on whom the lot fell has been buried alive in a pit, along with a cock and a black cat."
In the month of February, according to the Russian peasants, the Cow Death wanders through the villages in the guise of a hideous old woman, withered and starved in aspect, bearing a rake in her hands. Sometimes, however, as we have seen, she takes the form of a black dog or cow, and, among the Slovenes, of a mottled calf. In the Tomsk Government the Siberian murrain is represented as a tall, shaggy man, with hoofs instead of feet, who usually lives among the hills. The Bulgarians have a tradition that when the cattle-plague, or the smallpox, wishes to depart from a village, she appears to
some one in his sleep, and orders him to convey her to such and such a place. The person thus designated takes bread smeared with honey, salt, and a flask of wine, and leaves them, before sunrise, at the appointed spot. After this the epidemic disappears, having accompanied the bearer of the food out of the village.
The rites which serve to keep away the cattle-plague are supposed to be efficacious against the Cholera also. In Ruthenia that disease is personified as an old woman, with a hideous face disfigured by suffering. In the Vladímir Government she bears the name of the Dog Death. In Little-Russia it is affirmed that "she wears red boots," that she can walk on water, that she is perpetually sighing, and that at night she haunts villages, exclaiming, "Woe was; Evil will be." In whatever house she passes the night, there she leaves not one soul alive. In some villages they think that the Cholera comes "from beyond the sea," and that she is one of three sisters, all clad in white shrouds. Once a peasant, going into a town, gave a lift to two of the sisters in his cart, on which they sat, "holding on their knees bundles of bones. One of them was going to slay in Kharkof, and the other in Kief 7."
One of the strangest superstitions about disease is that which is connected with small-pox. In some places the Russian peasants hold that it is sinful to
vaccinate children, such a deed being equivalent to impressing upon them "the seal of Antichrist." Moreover it is believed that whoever dies of smallpox "will walk in the other world in golden robes." For this belief even the professional wizards can give no reason, grounding their faith entirely on tradition. Professor Buslaef accounts for it in the following manner:--The modern Greeks, he says, personify small-pox in the guise of a supernatural female being, and the Servians call her bogine, or goddess. And the ancient Greeks knew of a spectral creature called Alphitô (ἀλφιτώ), "a spectre, or bugbear with which nurses frightened children"--Liddell and Scott), a name supposed to be akin to that of the German Elbe, or the English Elves. The kindred word Alphos (ἀλφός) also meant a skin disease, apparently a form of leprosy. Professor Buslaef thinks that the small-pox was originally represented as a female being with whom was connected the idea of whiteness or light, and that from that idea arose the notion of her victims being clad, after death, in bright or golden robes.
The power of dealers in magic to transform themselves or their victims into various shapes is widely spread in Russia, and plays an important part in the popular mythology of the country. A person thus changed bears the name of óboroten [oborotít' = to turn], or, when changed into a wolf, of volkodlák [volk = wolf, dlaka = a tuft of hair, and so a hide 8].
Werewolf stories are so well known among all nations 9, that it is unnecessary to give a detailed account of the proceedings of the Russian volkodlaki. But it may be as well to mention that the collection of laws, etc. called the Kormchaya Kniga states that in these transformed beings the people used to see no mere mortals, but "chasers of the clouds." Afanasief connects them with the okrutniki, or maskers disguised as various animals, who used to participate in the religious games of the Old Slavonians, and who still, though their original signification is forgotten, play a part in the rustic festivals at springtide, and Christmas. So strong an odour of heathenism still hangs about them, that the peasants think the wearing of a mask at the Christmas Svyatki is a sin, one which can be expiated only by bathing in an icehole, after the benediction of the waters.
Connected with the idea of transformation is the belief, common among the Russian peasantry, that all witches have tails, and all wizards have horns, and that a werewolf may be known by the bristles which grow under his tongue. Such dealers in sorcery take various shapes, but generally, says Afanasief, those of the animals known as symbols of the cloud and the storm. In the Ukraine witches
assume a canine form; their long teats trail on the ground, a fact on which Afanasief lays stress, remarking that the bosom, udder, or teat, was a well-known mythological synonym for a rain-cloud. Cats are generally thought uncanny in Slavonic countries, the Russian peasants believing that evil spirits enter into them during storms, and the Bohemians holding that a black cat at the end of seven years becomes either a witch or a devil 1. The owl is considered to be of a demoniacal nature, while the dove is so pure and holy that no witch is able to assume its form.
Of all living creatures, magpies are those whose shapes witches like best to take. The wife of the false Demetrius, according to popular poetry, escaped from Moscow in the guise of a magpie. As a general rule, no such bird is to be seen in that city, its race having been solemnly cursed by the Metropolitan Alexis, on account of the bad behaviour of the witches who often assumed its plumage. At the present day the peasants often gibbet a dead magpie, just as our gamekeepers do, but it is in order to scare away witches from stables and cow-sheds. Besides changing into the birds and beasts, of which mention has been made, Russian witches often assume the forms of stones, hay-cocks, or balls of thread--that is to say, observes Afanasief, of various objects mythologically connected with clouds.
Here is a specimen of a zagovór to be employed by a wizard who desires to turn into a werewolf---
"In the ocean sea, on the island Buyan, in the open plain, shines the moon upon an aspen stump, into the green wood, into the spreading vale. Around the stump goes a shaggy wolf; under his teeth are all the horned cattle; but into the wood the wolf goes not, in the vale the wolf does not roam. Moon, moon! golden horns! Melt the bullet, blunt the knife, rot the cudgel, strike fear into man, beast, and reptile, so that they may not seize the grey wolf, nor tear from him his warm hide. My word is firm, firmer than sleep or the strength of heroes 2."
In this spell, says Buslaef 3, the aspen stump is mentioned because a buried werewolf or vampire has to be pierced with an aspen stake. The expression that the wolf has all the horned cattle in or under his teeth resembles the proverb now applied to St. George, "What the wolf has in his teeth, that Yegory gave"--St. George, or Yegory the Brave, having taken the place which was once filled by the heathen god of flocks, the Old Slavonic Volos. And the warm hide of the werewolf is in keeping with his designation Volkodlak, from dlaka, a shaggy fell.
There is, of course, a great difference between the voluntary and the involuntary undergoers of transformation. Dealers in the black art who have
turned themselves into wolves are, for the most part, ravenous destroyers of all that falls in their way, but people who have been made wolves against their will seldom disgrace their human nature. Such gentle werewolves as these attach themselves to men, and by tears and deprecatory pawings attempt to apologize for their brutal appearance. Unless driven beyond endurance by hunger, they never slay and eat, and when they must kill a sheep, they seek one belonging to some other village than that in which they used to live. There once was a youth, says a Polish tradition, who was loved by a witch, but he scorned her affection. One day he drove into the forest to out firewood, but no sooner had he swung his axe in the air than his hands turned into wolf's paws, and in a short time his whole body bristled with shaggy hair. He ran to his cattle, but they fled in terror; he tried to call them back, but his voice had become a mere howl. In another instance a witch turned one of her neighbours into a wolf, and he stated, after he had regained his former shape, that during the period of his transformation he made friends with a real wolf, and often went out hunting with him, but that he never forgot that he was really a man, though he had lost the faculty of articulate speech. The White-Russians have a tradition that once, when a wedding party were thoroughly enjoying themselves, they were all transformed by some hostile magician--the bridegroom and the other men into wolves, the bride into a cuckoo, and the rest of the women into magpies.
Ever since that time the metamorphosed bride has flown about seeking for and lamenting her. lost bridegroom, and moistening the hedges with the "Cuckoo's tears," which we less poetically style "Cuckoo's spittle."
In order to produce such an effect as this on a wedding party, the hostile wizard, it is generally believed, must girdle each member of it with a leather strap or piece of bast, over which unholy spells have been whispered. According to a Ruthenian story, however, a witch once gained her end by simply rolling up her girdle, and hiding it beneath the threshold of the cottage in which the wedding festivities were being held. Every one who stepped across it immediately became a wolf. In order to effect the cure of an involuntary werewolf, it is necessary either to strip off his hide, or to remove the magic girdle or other amulet which has reduced him into his brute state. In one of the Russian stories a black dog behaves in so reasonable a manner, that the people to whom it has attached itself take it to a wizard for relief. Acting upon his advice, they heat a bath as hot as possible, and scald the dog's skin off. No sooner is this done than the dog turns into a young man belonging to a neighbouring village, whom an old sorceress had bewitched 4.
Witches and wizards constantly metamorphose people by the touch of a magic wand, stick, or whip.
Sometimes, however, even this is not essential. In Ruthenia, at least, it is believed that a wizard, if he only knows a man's baptismal name, can transform him by a mere effort of will, and therefore a man should conceal his real name, and answer to a fictitious one. Such a power as this is supposed by the Russian peasantry to have been employed upon one occasion by the Apostles Peter and Paul. As they were passing over a bridge one day, "a bad woman and her husband," who had agreed to frighten the holy travellers, and had dressed themselves up in sheepskins turned inside out, ran at them, roaring like bears. "Then the Apostles said, 'Go on roaring from this time forward and for ever!' and at that very instant the mockers were turned into bears 5."
More terrible even than the werewolf, but closely connected with him, as well as with the wizard and the witch, is the dreaded Vampire. It is in the Ukraine and in White-Russia--so far as the Russian Empire is concerned--that traditions are most rife about this ghastly creation of morbid fancy. There vampires are supposed to be such dead persons as in their lifetime were wizards, witches, and werewolves; or people who became outcasts from the Church and its rites, by committing suicide, for instance, or by drinking themselves to death; or heretics and apostates, or victims of a parental curse. The. Little-Russians, on the other hand, attribute the birth of a
vampire to an unholy union between a witch and a werewolf or a devil.
The name itself has never been satisfactorily explained. In its form of vampír [South-Russian upuír, anciently upír], it has been compared with the Lithuanian wemptî = to drink, and wempti, wampiti =to growl, to mutter, and it has been derived from a root pî [to drink] with the prefix u = av, va. If this derivation is correct, the characteristic of the vampire is a kind of blood-drunkenness. In accordance with this idea the Croatians call the vampire pijawica; the Servians say of a man whose face is coloured by constant drinking, that he is "blood-red as a vampire;" and both the Servians and the Slovaks term a hard drinker a vlkodlak. The Slovenes and Kashubes call the vampire vieszcy, a name akin to that borne by the witch in our own language as well as in Russian. The Poles name him upior or upir, the latter being his designation among the Czekhs also.
"There is a whole literature of hideous vampire stories, which the student will find elaborately discussed in Calmet," says Mr. Tyler ["Primitive Culture II., 175], who thinks that "vampires are not mere creations of groundless fancy, but causes conceived in spiritual form to account for the specific facts of wasting disease." Some writers, however, of whom Afanasief is one, explain the vampire stories mythologically. Of their explanations some account will presently be given.
In the opinion of the Russian peasant vampires,
as well as witches, exert a very baneful influence on the weather. To them, and to werewolves, are attributed the presence of storms, droughts, famines, cattle-plagues, and similar evils. Where such unholy beings wander, one woe succeeds another. But worse than their evil effect upon the weather--one which they produce in common with the spirits of all persons who have died by violence--worse than their attacks upon cattle, are their terrible dealings with mankind. As a specimen of the Russian vampire stories, the following, heard in the Tambof Government, may be taken:--
A peasant was driving past a grave-yard, after it had grown dark. After him came running a stranger, dressed in a red shirt and a new jacket, who cried,--
"Stop I take me as your companion."
"Pray take a seat."
They enter a village, drive up to this and that house. Though the gates are wide open, yet the stranger says, "Shut tight!" for on those gates crosses have been branded. They drive on to the very last house: the gates are barred, and from them hangs a padlock weighing a score of pounds; but there is no cross there, and the gates open of their own accord.
They go into the house; there on the bench lie two sleepers--an old man and a lad. The stranger takes a pail, places it near the youth, and strikes him on the back; immediately the back opens, and forth flows rosy blood. The stranger fills the pail full, and drinks it dry. Then he fills another pail with blood from the old man, slakes his brutal thirst, and says to the peasant,--
"It begins to grow light! lot us go back to my dwelling."
In a twinkling they found themselves at the graveyard. The vampire would have clasped the peasant in its arms, but luckily for him the cocks began to crow, and the corpse disappeared. The next morning, when folks came and looked, the old man and the lad were both dead 6.
According to the Servians and Bulgarians, unclean spirits enter into the corpses of malefactors and other evilly-disposed persons, who then become vampires. Any one, moreover, may become a vampire, if a cat jumps across his dead body while it lies in the cottage before the funeral, for which reason a corpse is always carefully watched at that time. In some places the jumping of a boy over the corpse is considered as fatal as that of a cat. The flight of a bird above the body may also be attended by the same terrible result; and so may--in the Ukraine--the mere breath of the wind from the Steppe 7.
The bodies of vampires, of wizards, and of witches, as well as those of outcasts from the Church, and of people cursed by their parents, are supposed not to decay in the grave, for "moist mother-earth" will not take them to herself. There is a story in the Saratof Government of a mother who cursed her son, and after his death his body remained free from corruption for the space of a hundred years. "At last he was dug up, and his old mother, who was still alive, pronounced his pardon; and at that very moment the corpse crumbled into dust 8."
Every one knows that when a vampire's grave is opened no trace of death is found upon its body, its cheek being rosy and its skin soft; and that the best way to destroy the monster is to drive a stake through it, when the blood it has been sucking will pour forth from the wound. The Servian method of discovering its grave may not be so well known. According to Vuk Karadjic 9 it is customary to take an immaculately black colt, and drive it through the churchyard. Over the vampire's grave it will refuse to pass. The whole village then turns out, the vampire is dug up, pierced with a white-thorn stake. and committed to the flames.
It is worthy of remark that the stake with which the vampire's corpse is pierced must be driven into it by a single stroke. A second blow would reanimate it. This idea is frequently referred to in the Russian skazki and other Slavonic stories, in which it is customary for the hero to be warned that he must strike his enemy the snake, or other monster, once only. A repetition of the blow would be certain to prove fatal to himself.
Sometimes, instead of blood-sucking vampires, heart-devouring witches trouble the peasant's repose. A Mazovian story relates how a certain hero was long renowned for courage. But at last one night a witch struck him on the breast with an aspen twig as he lay asleep; his breast opened, and out of it she took his heart, and inserted a hare's heart in its
place. The hero awoke a trembling coward, and remained one till the day of his death. Another Polish story of a similar nature tells how a witch substituted a cock's heart for that of a peasant. From that time forward the unfortunate man was always crowing 1. Sometimes the witches did not eat the hearts they stole, but merely exposed them to a magic fire so as to create love-longings in the breasts from which they had been taken. The idea still survives, as Jacob Grimm remarks, in our expressions of "giving" or "stealing one's heart 2."
A fondness for human flesh is attributed to ogrelike beings all over the world, so there is nothing remarkable in the depraved appetites of the supernatural man-eaters of the Slavonic tales. Somewhat singular, however, is one group of stories in which a dead wizard or witch is described as coming to life at midnight, and desiring to eat the person who is watching beside the bier. The body has generally been enclosed in a coffin, secured with iron bands, and conveyed to the church in which the watcher has to read aloud from Holy Writ above it all night long. As the clock strikes twelve a mighty wind suddenly arises, the iron bands give way with a terrible crash, the coffin-lid falls off, and the corpse leaps forth, and with a screech rushes at the doomed watcher, of whom, as a general rule, nothing remains next morning but bare bones. His only chance of escape is to trace a magic circle around him on the
floor, and to remain within it, holding in his hand a hammer, the ancient weapon of the thunder-god. Here is one of the stories of this class from the Kharkof Government. "Once, in the days of old, there died a terrible sinner. His body was taken into the church, and the sacristan was told to read psalms over him. The sacristan took the precaution to catch a cock, and carry it with him. At midnight, when the dead man leaped from his coffin, opened his jaws wide, and rushed at his victim, the sacristan gave the bird a pinch. The cock uttered his usual crow, and that very moment the dead man fell backwards to the ground a numb, motionless corpse 3."
It would be easy to quote many stories of this kind, for Slavonic folk-lore abounds in them, but I will not do so now, preferring to devote such space as remains to me to a brief sketch of the history of Russian witchcraft. What has been said will probably give some idea of the wizards and witches of modern times; the following remarks may serve to convey a similar idea of those of a remoter period.
In very distant times, it is supposed, the Slavonians, like many other peoples, placed great faith in the power of certain spells to rule the elements, to turn away storms, and to provide sunlight or rain according as either might be requisite; they even deemed such utterances necessary in order that the day might succeed to the night, and the summer follow the winter. These charms were then known only to
professed seers. At first the persons who were acquainted with them were looked upon merely as exceptionally wise people.. A koldún--afterwards a wizard in the bad sense of the word--was originally, as we have seen, a kind of priest. For even if the Old Slavonians recognized no separate caste of priests, at all events, as time passed by, there arose a special class of men and women who preserved the secret of composing such charms and incantations as were held to sway the seen and the unseen world. The hoarders of this mystical lore were generally old men, but the gift of divination was usually ascribed to women, and especially to young maidens, the volition of whose fresh, pure minds was supposed to exercise a magic influence over the forces of nature.
But when Christianity drove out the Slavonic deities, all the old dealings with the spirit-world were declared illicit, and those who were versed in them fell into dishonour. The Koldún became a mere conjuror or wizard, who by his spells realized unholy gains, and the Vyeshchaya Zhená, the Divining Woman or Prophetess, turned into the feared and hated Vyéd'ma, or witch. Their nature and their occupation became equally degraded.. the witches, for instance, for private gain milking their neighbours' cows; whereas, in old times, they milked the heavenly cows-i.e. they drew down rain from the clouds-for the general good. As in pagan days many sacrifices were offered up on high places, especially at three fixed times in the year, so in after-days it was supposed that often on mountain
tops, and especially at those very times, the wizards and witches held unholy revels, characterized by just such music, dancing, and feasting as used to accompany the heathen festivals 4; as the smoke of other sacrifices formerly rose to heaven from the domestic hearth, so witches came to be associated with the various implements connected with the hearth, and were supposed to ride on the broom or the oven-fork, and to soar into the air through the stovepipe or the chimney 5.
It has been mentioned already, that although the wizard and the wise woman were generally respected in heathen times, yet there were occasions when they sank in the estimation of the people, who sometimes even carried their disrespect so far as to bury them alive in sacks, each attended by a dog, a cat, and a cock. But if they were liable to such treatment, it seems to have been only at times when the popular judgment was unhinged by some great calamity, such as a drought or a pestilence. As a general rule they stood high in the opinion of the masses, and their exaltation was attended by material advantages, so that it is scarcely to be wondered at that they watched the progress of the new religion with particularly unfavourable eyes, and did all that they could to impede it. On the other hand, the Christian hierarchy set them down as "devilish vessels," by the aid of which Satan was enabled to prolong his unwelcome resistance.
The introduction of Christianity by St. Vladímir was not allowed to take place without a struggle. The inhabitants of Novgorod, for instance, broke into revolt, and those of Rostof, about the year 1070, put St. Leontius to death, and forced the Bishops Theodore and Hilarion to fly for their lives. Still more closely connected with the subject of the present chapter is the fact that, during the eleventh century, several risings against Christianity were instigated by dealers in magic. Thus in 1071 a wizard appeared in Kief, and prophesied that at the end of five years the Dnieper would flow backwards, and that the Russian and the Grecian lands would change places. Certain "ignorant persons," says the chronicler, gave heed to his words, but "the faithful" laughed at him, saying, "the devil plays with thee for thy ruin;" and in truth the wizard disappeared one night and left no trace behind. Another wizard, also, who appeared at Rostof in 1091, soon perished, and at Byeloozero two warlocks were seized by an armed force, and put to death, their corpses being left a prey to the beasts of the forest. At Novgorod, during the rule of Prince Glyeb, an insurrection was stirred up by a wizard, who gave out that he would publicly walk across the river Volkhof. Many of the townspeople took his side, and wanted to kill their bishop; but that courageous prelate put on his robes, seized a cross, and called upon the faithful to follow him. So the people were divided into two bodies, the Prince and his drujina, or military companions, following
the bishop, while the common herd sided with the wizard. Then the Prince hid an axe under his dress, and drew near to the wizard, and asked him--
"Knowest thou what will happen in the morning, and in the evening?"
"I know all things," answered the wizard.
"Knowest thou what is going to take place now?"
"I shall perform great wonders."
At this point of the argument the Prince drew out his axe, and struck the wizard with such force that he immediately fell dead. Whereupon the people gave up all faith in him, and went quietly home 6.
Even after the adherents of heathenism had given up what they saw was a hopeless struggle, and Christianity had become the recognized religion of the Russian people, the old gods retained a hold, if not upon the affections, at least upon the fears of those "ignorant persons" who formed the great mass of the rural population. What had occurred at an earlier period in many other European lands was now repeated in Russia. Many a peasant who went publicly to church, privately worshipped the ancient objects of his allegiance, the old pagan rites being long kept up in sequestered nooks within dense forests, or by the side of lonely streams. At the same time, in Russia, as in other countries, even the "faithful" proselytes of the new religion could not at once forget the teaching of the old, so they retained a mass of familiar traditions, chiefly of a mythical nature, but they substituted in them for the names of
their elementary gods and demigods, others which they took from the calendar of the Church. The consequence was a confusion of ideas which justified the epithet "two-faithed" which an old ecclesiastical writer bestowed upon the Russian people.
The superior clergy did all they could to remedy what they naturally considered a serious evil, levelling from time to time severe denunciations against the believers in "conjurors, witches, and wizards," and the performers of "demoniacal rites." In the twelfth century, the Metropolitan Ioann ordered that no practiser of magic should be allowed to participate in the sacraments of the church. The book of laws called the Kormchaya Kniga, according to a copy dated 1282, inflicted a six years' exile from church on persons addicted to "pagan practices," such as dealings in witchcraft and the like, and similar restrictions were laid on the indulgence of a leaning towards spiritualism by a series of ecclesiastical ordinances. But it was in vain that St. Cyril rebuked his flock for having recourse in illness to "accursed women," and that the Metropolitan Photius, in 1410, besought his clergy to "induce their congregations to abstain from "listening to fables, and frequenting wicked women." The wizards and witches held their own, just as the people, in spite of the remonstrances of their pastors, continued the "satanic games," attended by dance and song, which had come down to them from their heathen ancestors.
The clergy were more successful in their attacks on the books of a superstitious nature, mostly of
Byzantine origin, which they placed upon their Index. Many of these, of which Afanasief gives a full account, extending over six pages, were destroyed by Orthodox fire, and with them not a few of the persons whose property they were. In 1227, for instance, a chronicler relates how four wizards were burnt to death at Novgorod. In 1411 the people of Pskoff burnt "twelve divining women," probably because a deadly epidemic was then ravaging the country. Sometimes, however, witches were only beheaded, or, as we have already seen, buried alive in a sack with various animals. Ivan the Terrible greatly harassed the dealers in magic, but, if tradition is to be believed, they had their revenge. In the winter of 1584 a comet appeared which the Tsar, whose health was fast failing, took to be a sign of his approaching death. In order to obtain more certain information on this point, he appealed to the sorcery which he had tried to exterminate, sixty wizards from the north of Russia being brought together for his convenience in Moscow. There every attention was paid them, but in spite of this they prophesied that he would die on the 18th of March. On the morning of that day he felt himself stronger than usual, so he sent to tell the wizards that he intended to put them to death as false prophets. But they, probably remembering the celebrated Ides of March, received his message with contempt; and their behaviour was justified by the fact that the Tsar was soon afterwards seized by a fit in the middle of a game of chess, and died before he had time to carry out his intention.
This story is an evident fable, but the sufferings of persons accused of witchcraft in Russia are proved by incontestable evidence. The number of such victims to the superstitious terror of the civil and religious authorities seems to have been small, compared with that of the multitudes who perished in other lands, but the story of their martyrdom is sufficiently sad. At one time we find Iván the Terrible slowly roasting one of his generals, Prince Mikhail Vorotuinsky, in order to extort from him a confession of having attacked the royal health through the agency of "whispering women." In vain did the unfortunate sufferer protest his innocence. The Tsar listened to his agonized expressions, and then raked the coals nearer to his victim with his curved staff. At another time we read of cruel sufferings undergone by persons charged with having bewitched members of the royal family by means of magic practices brought to bear upon the traces of their footsteps. At various times we meet with accounts of the executions of men and women from whom confessions of dealing in magic had been wrung by torture. One of these, a woman named Fedosia who was put to death in 1674, declared her innocence on the scaffold, saying that she had accused herself only because she could not endure her torments. The annals of the law courts contain numerous cases of persons accused of having thrown others into convulsions, or at least of having afflicted them with hiccoughs. These convulsions were sometimes fictitious, being assumed for the
purpose of ruining an enemy by a charge of witchcraft. Even at the present day in the north of Russia, says Afanasief, the hiccough is supposed to be a demon inflicted on the sufferer by means of sorcery, and persons afflicted with epilepsy and St. Vitus's dance are regarded as the victims of hostile enchantments, and are called klikushi. As late as the year 1815 a charge of this kind was brought before a legal tribunal in the Pinejsk district. A peasant named Mikhail Chukharef was accused of afflicting his cousin, Ofimiya Lobanova, with "an evil spirit" in the shape of a hiccough. The accused pleaded guilty, stating that he had, after removing the cross he wore round his neck, whispered a certain spell over salt. The formula he used was as follows:--"Lodge in such and such a person, ye hiccough-pains! tear and torture him to the end of time! As this salt shall dry up, so may that man also dry up!" and the salt thus enchanted was to be scattered on the road along which the intended victim had to pass. The court sentenced Chukharef to undergo thirty-five blows of the knout, as well as "a public church penance 7."
In 1715 Peter the Great gave orders that in future klikushi, or "possessed people," should be subjected to an examination, so as to find out whether they were really "possessed," or were only feigning "possession" (klikushestvo)--as did a certain Varvara Loginova, a carpenter's wife in St. Petersburg,
who, after accusing a number of persons of having bewitched her, ultimately confessed, in 1714, to having been an impostor throughout. In 1770, in the Yarensk district of the Government of Vologda, several persons were accused of having bewitched certain girls and women, and were flogged till they confessed their guilt. One of the women of their number stated in her confession how she had acted on her victims--namely, by means of worms which the devil had given her. Some of these worms she produced, and her judges forwarded them to the Senate. On examination these diabolical worms turned out to be simple maggots,--whereupon the Senate ordered the "possessed woman" to be flogged, turned the provincial judges out of their seats, and gave orders that in future similar complaints were not to be listened to 8.
But though the law has long ceased to examine such charges, they still command attention among the peasantry. The belief in vampires, also, retains its hold upon the popular mind, and the old custom of digging up those among the dead who are suspected of unfavourably affecting the weather is to this day observed, it is said, in remote localities. While the Slavonians were heathens they all seem to have been in the habit of resorting to this practice, and even after they had accepted Christianity they retained their original theories with respect to the influence of the dead upon the elements.
In the thirteenth century Serapion, Bishop of Vladímir, was obliged to utter sharp reproofs of those superstitious men who would not allow the bodies of drowned or suffocated persons to rest in their graves, but exhumed them on the ground that they caused drought and scarcity; and in the sixteenth century a similar reprimand was considered necessary by Maxim the Greek. The false Demetrius was suspected by the people of dealing in witchcraft, and when, after his burial in the early part of May, 1606, a strong frost set in, hurtful to cornfields, gardens and orchards, they attributed it to his demoniacal influence. His dead body had been exposed for three days to public view, stretched on a table along with a reed-pipe, a mask, and a bagpipe, objects generally associated with jugglers and "transformers;" and it had afterwards been buried in one of the "poor-houses," the winter receptacles of the bodies of the unknown and friendless dead. Thence the populace tore his remains, and having consumed them with fire, mingled his ashes with gunpowder, and shot them from guns into the air. It is but a little time ago, if common report may be believed, that the peasants. of any district in which a drought had long prevailed were in the habit of digging up the corpse of some person who had died from excess of drink, and of sinking it in the nearest swamp or lake, with the full belief that this proceeding would ensure the fall of rain. About three years ago the prospect of a bad harvest, caused by continual drought, induced the peasants
of a village in the Tarashchansk district to have recourse to the following means of procuring better weather. They dug up the body of a Raskolnik, or Dissenter, who had died in the previous December, and had been buried in the village graveyard. Some of the party then beat it about the head, exclaiming, "Give us rain!" while others poured water upon it through a sieve. Then they put it back into the coffin and restored it to its resting-place 9. All that can be said in excuse of such a practice as this is, that it is not as bad as that which so long prevailed in England, as well as in other lands, of testing a woman suspected of witchcraft by flinging her into a pond or river. The Servians are said still to keep up the practice, and it is asserted that among the Ruthenians bordering on Hungary a witch was drowned in this manner as late as 1827. But, as has already been remarked, sad as are the records of the sufferings inflicted among Slavonic nations upon the victims of a fear of witchcraft, they are far less tragic than those which tell of the thousands upon thousands of innocent persons whom a similar fear, in lands tenanted by Teutonic and Latin races, condemned to torture and to death. The Russian peasant sometimes murdered in his blind wrath; the legal tribunals of his country too often behaved with dull cruelty; but neither among the populace nor on the bench does there ever seem to have been found so persistent a murderer as our own Hopkins
the Witchfinder, nor can any Russian laws on the subject of witchcraft be fairly charged with the cold-blooded malignity which characterizes the pages of the "Malleus Maleficarum."
From the dreary picture of fanaticism and superstition offered by the records of trials for witchcraft--always so monstrously terrible, whether they took place in Russia or in any other land--it is a relief to turn to the speculations in which some comparative mythologists have indulged, while endeavouring to account for the belief which gave rise to those trials; a belief of world-wide extent and of the most venerable antiquity. Disinclined to accept such theories as that supported by Mr. Tylor, who considers that "witchcraft is part and parcel of savage life 1," and apparently looks upon the belief in it rather as the rank growth of an untilled soil than as the decayed form of one of the results of ancient mythological culture--preferring to trace back such stories as those of witches who feloniously milk their neighbours' cows to the poetic ideas of the primeval Aryans about storms and clouds, rather than to explain them by a partnership in the superstitions of the most degraded of African and American savages--these writers have applied to witchcraft traditions another system of explanation, a similar one to that which has restored to order and meaning so many of the apparently wild and irrational myths of old religion.
A considerable part of the twenty-sixth chapter of that work of Afanasief's which has been so frequently quoted in these pages, is devoted to an attempt to prove that the wizards and witches of modern days are, as a general rule, the representatives of the priests and the priestesses, or the "wise men" and "wise women," of pagan times; and also that the greater part of the superstitious ideas now connected with them are remnants or survivals of a mythical system, in which were expressed, in figurative language, the views of the ancient Slavonians about the forces of nature, the strife of the elements. Whether his arguments are or are not conclusive, I leave to more competent critics to decide. It will be sufficient here to mention a few of their most striking points.
The Koldún and Vyed'ma he considers--whether in their modern forms of wizard and witch, or in their old capacities of priest and prophetess--as types of certain atmospheric forces or phenomena, and as the human inheritors of a reverence originally paid to the demons of cloud-land. Therefore it is, in his opinion, that they are supposed to direct the storm-cloud, to guide the whirlwind, to dispense the rain and hail, to be able to steal the dew or to hide the lights of heaven, to love to glide above the surface of the earth, to gather on the bare hill-side, to whirl to and fro in a wild dance, and to change at will from one form to another; therefore it is that dealers in magic are mentioned in old Slavonic documents as "cloud-compellers"--oblakoprogonniki
[óblako = cloud, gonyát' = to chase], a word closely associated with the epithet of Zeus, nephelêgeretês 2.
The steeds on which wizards and witches make their aerial journeys are of a nature to suggest some connexion with the element of fire, either as burning on the domestic hearth or as flashing across the vault of heaven. Such are, according to Russian traditions--closely akin in this respect to those of Teutonic or Lettic extraction--the broom (in its different forms of metlá, pomelá, and vyénik), the poker (kochergá), the tongs (ukhvát = oven-fork), the shovel (lopáta), and the rake (grábli). On these the wizard or witch flies fast, resembling in rapid course the swift winds which sweep the, clouds from the sky, or rake them together in masses which at times are rent by the fiery dart of the lightning. So closely are some of these implements still associated in parts of Russia with the storm, that the peasants often try to frighten away an ominous cloud by flinging a frying-pan out of doors, together with a broom, a shovel, or a poker.
Sometimes Russian traditions represent witches as riding to the Midsummer festival, not only on wooden or metal instruments, but also on actual horses. These, as well as all the other animals with which the popular fancy associated dealers in magic, are supposed to have been meant, in mythical language, for types of the cloud and the storm. The
wolf, the cat, and the snake constantly figure in Russian stories as the associates of the witch or the Yaga Baba, and the cock, the well-known symbol of fire, plays in them an important part.
The wizards of Russian storyland are usually represented as old men with long beards and flashing eyes, and the witches--like the German Hexen--either as hideous old hags, or as young and fair damsels; just as in ancient times the clouds were depicted, in the language of poetry, as bearded demons, or as female forms, whether nymph-like or haggard. According to Russian tradition, a witch, when she gathers dew, or milks cows, or performs any other unholy deed, is always clothed in a long white shift, and has her hair loosely flowing over her shoulders. In this array she strongly resembles the Vilas, Rusalkas, and other fairy beings of aqueous nature, whose occupation it so often is to spin and weave, producing filmy textures which seem not unlike the clouds which now veil, and now melt away before the sunlight. As not only by spinning and by weaving, but also by other womanly employments, such as washing, milking, and the like, were the actions of the elementary forces of nature represented in ancient mythical language; so at last it became usual to associate women rather than men with the idea of commanding the elements; and thus it was more usually a witch than a wizard who was supposed to be on terms of familiarity with the inhabitants of the invisible world 3.
Of all these womanly employments that of milking is the most prominent, and, according to some commentators, the most evidently mythical. The vulgar witch of to-day steals the milk from the earthly cows of her neighbour; her prototype was wont to milk the heavenly cows, that is to say, to draw the rain from the clouds. In the Government of Kief, it is affirmed that witches by night, when good folks sleep, "go out of doors, wearing long shifts and with dishevelled hair, trace a line with their hands round the starry sky, and eclipse the moon with clouds (or steal it); then, on the approach of a storm, they betake themselves to milking the cloud-cows themselves, and milk them so violently that from their teats, together with milk, there begins to flow blood (another metaphor for rain) 4." In some villages, also, the witches are said to chase the moon into a cow-shed, and there to milk cows by her light; and the Bulgarians have a tradition to the effect that sorceresses can take the moon (luná) out of the sky, which accounts for lunar eclipses, and that she is then turned into a cow, which they milk, thus eventually obtaining such butter as heals otherwise incurable wounds.
In a similar manner, according to Afanasief, the stories about werewolves and other transformed creatures, and also about vampires, may be accounted for. As the clouds shift their plastic shapes, now "backed like a weasel," and now resembling a
whale, so the mythical beings, under whose forms the philosophy of our ancestors personified the forces of nature, were originally supposed to undergo rapid metamorphoses; and the power of similar transformation was eventually attributed to the human beings who, in many respects, replaced them in popular belief. Thus, in the Ukraine, there lingers a tradition that a werewolf who is touched with a pitchfork or a flail immediately resumes his human form: this is explained as meaning that the thunder-god strikes a blow with his mace [the lightning], which tears the wolf's hide from his opponent [or disperses the cloud] 5.
In the case of vampires, their sucking of blood is explained by Afanasief in the same manner as the draining of milk by witches. When winter condemns all nature to a temporary death, the thunder-god and the spirits of the storm sleep a sleep like that of death in their cloud-coffins. But with the return of spring they assume renewed life, and draw rain from the clouds, or, in mythical language, suck blood from sleepers 6. According to this system of interpretation, some glimmering may be obtained, he thinks, of the original meaning of what, if taken literally, seems a needlessly improbable story--that of the vampire father who eats all his daughters but one; her escape being effected by her throwing off, as she runs, various portions of her dress, each of which her too fond parent has to tear up and then restore to its
original form, before he can recommence his furious pursuit.
Whether these explanations are sound or not, they have at least the merit of ingenuity. Moreover, it would be a relief to our feelings if we could succeed in resolving the werewolves, vampires, and other demoniacal creatures, who have so long made night hideous, into not only harmless, but even beneficent elements--recognizing in their laidly lineaments the shapely features of the mythical beings under whose forms our Aryan ancestors personified the powers of nature. But before indulging in the pleasure of a belief in such desirable transformations, it may be as well at least to remember the existence of very different hypotheses on the subject. Even if we do not altogether agree with Mr. Fergusson 7, that none of the serpents and dragons, none of the dwarfs and magicians and such like creatures, are of Aryan extraction,--that "all the fairy mythology, in fact, of the East and West, belongs to the Turanian races,"--yet we may find, in his and in similar arguments, reason enough to make us pause before considering the opposite theory conclusively made out.
And if it would be hazardous to form rapid conclusions with respect to our own familiar fairies, still more dangerous would it be to decide hastily in the case of foreign demigods and demons. Great caution is requisite on the part of every one who undertakes to evolve a mythological system from a mass of
popular traditions. In no case is such caution more urgently demanded than in that of a student who has to deal with materials of so mixed a nature, and of so doubtful an extraction, as are the songs and stories of the Russian people.
Of that people I trust I have not conveyed an unfavourable idea. The nature of my work has led me to speak frequently of their foibles, to dwell at length upon their superstitions. But it is not by such weaknesses as these, which are to some extent common to all mankind, that we ought to judge of a peasantry who have always been signally remarkable for family affection, for reverence towards age, for sympathy with misfortune--who have retained for centuries, even under the pressure of that system of slavery which has but recently been overthrown, so keen a sense of loyalty, so warm a love for their native land.
In one of the most popular of the Russian stories--a Slavonic variant of a world-wide tale--the hero sits for thirty years beside his father's hearth, a helpless cripple, incapable of active life. But, at the end of that time, he is not only cured by two mystic personages, disguised as beggars, to whom he has given a draught of water, but he is endowed by them with gigantic strength. So, when he has risen from his lowly couch, he goes forth into the world, a noble
conqueror, overcoming infidels, and slaying monsters, and freeing Christian prisoners, and in all ways succouring the needy and the oppressed. In the career of Ivan Muromets--this Slavonic counterpart of the Norse Askepot--the Russian people are said to have long recognized, in accordance with a vague tradition, a symbol of their own national life. For centuries, the story ran, they were doomed to remain inactive and despised. But the time would come, it proceeded to say (if reliance can be placed upon a somewhat improbable report), when they would shake off their lethargy, and put on irresistible might, and enter upon a warlike progress through the world, conquering and to conquer.
It may be that the prophecy is destined to receive a fulfilment, but one of a peaceful nature. The common people of Russia may, figuratively be said to have lain long among the ashes. For nearly ten times the thirty years of the tale the great mass of the population was "fastened to the soil," debarred by law from anything like continuous progress. Now, at last, thanks to the unwearied efforts of what was once but a small body of statesmen, thanks, above all, to the forethought and the courage of the present Emperor, the land has been freed from the plague of slavery, and the millions whom its deadening influence had benumbed have the prospect opened out before them of a wider and a higher existence. They may be destined, like the long crippled Ivan Muromets, to mighty struggles terminating in decisive victories. But the struggles may
perhaps be of the nature of those by which the labourer and the artisan work out their honest livelihood; the victories may prove of that priceless order by which men, having overcome their own besetting sins, emancipate themselves from a moral thraldom which is by no means less degrading than a physical servitude.
346:1 "Primitive Culture," I. 131-141.
347:2 Afanasief, P. V. S. I. 25.
348:3 Afanasief, P. V. S. I. 52. An interesting account of the riddle among savages is given by Mr. E. B. Tylor, " Primitive Culture," I. pp. 81-85.
350:4 See Prof. Max Müller's " Lectures on the Science of Language," Second Series, p. 510.
351:5 Sakharof, I. ii. 91. For Buyán, see infra, p. 374.
353:6 Afanasief, P. V. S. I. 23.
354:7 Afanasief, Skazki, VIII. 435-459.
355:8 Afanasief, Skazki, II. No. 20.
356:9 Afanasief, Skazki, VIII. 147.
357:1 Quoted by Prof. Buslaef as a song heard in Moscow.--Istor. Ocherki, I. 33.
358:2 Deutsche Mythologie, 348, 1197.
358:3 Castren, Finnische Mythologie, p. 249.
358:4 Afanasief, P. V. S. I. 45.
359:5 Afanasief, P. V. S. I. 404.
359:6 Deutsche Mythologie, 1173.
359:7 Afanasief, P. V. S. I. 414, who refers to Prof. Kuhn's remarks, [Herabkunft des Feuers, p. 147], as to how the power of prayer as a personification in the Brahmanaspatis takes Indra's place, and the personified worship destroys dragons, etc.
360:8 Orest, Miller, Opuit. I. 73.
363:9 Zagovórs about bees are very common. In the Deutsche Mythologie, 1190, J. Grimm says that as he has met with no German Bienensegen, he will quote a Latin one.
364:1 Afanasief, P. V. S. I. 420, from whose pages the greater part of this account is condensed.
364:2 Deutsche Mythologie. pp. 1180-1183.
365:3 Quoted by Afanasief from Nadezhdin's Report on the Skoptsui Heresy, one of the many valuable documents, it may be worth remarking, reprinted in London by the late Alexander Hertsen at the "Free Russian Press."
365:4 Afanasief, P. V. S. I. 120.
366:5 In these spells the words "servant of God" are intended to be followed by the name of the utterer, or of some other person.
366:6 Loc. cit. p. 422. With these Zagovór-terminations may be compared the ending of a Parsee Patet from the Khordah-Avesta (Bleek's translation, p. 171)--"This heavenly Patet (or confession-formulary) shall be a fast brazen wall like as the earth is broad, the mountains high, the heavens strong, that it may keep the gate of hell fast in bonds," etc.
366:7 Deutsche Mythologie, p. 1176.
367:8 P. V. S. I. 426.
368:9 Sakharof, I. ii. 27.
369:1 Sakharof, I. ii. p. 34, No. 62.
374:2 Sakharof, I. ii. 19. Every one who is interested in the subject of spells should read Professor Kuhn's excellent article on Indische und germanische Segenssprüche in the 13th vol. of the Zeitschrift für vergleichende Sprachfarschung.
375:3 The word Buyán was originally, says Afanasief, an epithet only of the fabled isle, but afterwards it became looked upon as its name. Even now, instead of Buyán-ostrof is written buevoi-ostrof. The root bui is synonymous with yary, which includes ideas of what is burning, ardent, passionate, fruitful, vernal, etc. The verb buyat' means to grow luxuriantly. The adjective buiny, when applied to fields, is equivalent to fruitful, etc.; when to the wind, it means stormy, etc.; and when to a hero's head, it stands for bold, daring, etc. [P. V. S. II. 131]. Some connexion between Buyán and the grave may be suspected from the fact that bui and buivishche mean the fenced-in ground around a church, in which the dead used to be buried, and buevo is a name for a cemetery. [P. V. S. II. 140.]
376:4 The epithet goryuch means inflammable, easily set on fire.
377:5 P. V. S. II. 148, 149. In a note to this passage (III. 800, 801) Afanasief remarks, "The Russian alatuir and the Greek ἤλεκτρον are derived from a root which in Sanskrit is found under the form ark ( = αλκ), to flash, to emit rays (ark-as = light, the sun, crystal, etc.: ἠλέκ-τωπ = the sun, i. e. the Shining One, ἤλεκτρον = shining metal (a mixture of gold and silver)"--and so = Alatuir in its form latuir or lak-tuir. Dahl in his great dictionary looks on yantar as a Tartar form of êlektron.
378:6 Of the numerous names for the wizard and the witch, those of Vyédun and Vyéd'ma, springing as they do from a root vyed, answering to the Sanskrit vid, mean people who know, having exactly the same primary signification as two other terms applied to them, Znákhar' and Znákharka (znat' = to know). Of another like couple of synonyms, Koldún and Koldún'ya, the root has not p. 379 yet been satisfactorily made out. Professor Sreznievsky thinks that the Koldún was anciently the sacrificer to the gods, for in Croatian Kaldovati means to offer a sacrifice, and a Kaldovants is a priest.
Besides these names there are those of the Charóvník or Charodyéets (fem. Charóvnítsa, etc.), the dealer in chárui, spells or magic; of the Kudésnik (fem. Kudésnitsa), the worker of wonders, (chudesá = kudesá); and finally of the Volkhv (fem. Vlkhva, Volkhvitka), a term which was used by Nestor as a synonym of Kudésnik, and which Professor Buslaef considers as having had the same meaning as zhrets,--a heathen priest, deriving Volkhv from a root akin to the Sanskrit valg =to shine, and zhrets from zhryeti, to burn, and comparing Vlkhva with the like-meaning Scandinavian name of völva, völa, vala.--See Afanasief, P. V. S. I. 405-409, III. 423-426; and Buslaef, O Vliyanii Khristianstva, pp. 21-24.
380:7 By the peasantry, of course. Their superiors in social rank are said to have been wont in former days to lay equal stress on the presence of a general. Satirists declared that the confectioner who contracted for the wedding-breakfast always asked his customers whether they supplied "their own generals."
381:8 A Bohemian version of this story is given by Grohmann, Aberglauben ... aus Böhmen, etc., p. 31.
382:9 Afanasief, P. V. S. III. 448.
383:1 Afanasief, P. V. S. III. 450.
384:2 Afanasief, P. V. S. III. 455.
384:3 Afanasief, P. V. S. III. 456.
387:4 Afanasief, P. V. S. III. 497.
388:5 Afanasief, P. V. S. III. 434.
389:6 Afanasief, P. V. S. III. 437.
390:7 A similar belief is said to be still prevalent in England.
392:8 Afanasief, P. V. S. III. 516.
394:9 Sakharof, I. iii. 202.--See also supra, p. 23.
397:1 Orest Miller, Opuit, I. 10.
398:2 See supra, p. 251.
399:3 Tereshchenko, VI. 41.
400:4 Chur--here translated "meddle not is now an exclamation, or a word meaning a border or boundary, but was once the name of a friendly deity resembling the Roman Terminus.
400:5 Ethnograf. Sbornik, VI. Mezhof's article, pp. 63-65.
401:6 Tereshchenko, VI. 42.
402:7 Afanasief, P. V. S III. 114-116. A number of similar superstitions are given in the Deutsche Mythologie, art. Pest, pp. 1133-1141.
403:8 This is Afanasief's explanation (P. V. S. III. 527). Dahl suggests volk and kúdla, the latter word signifying something shaggy, p. 404 a hide, etc. The Great-Russian volkodlák becomes, says Afanasief, in Little-Russian vovkulak, in Bohemian wlkodlak, in Servian vukodlak in Dalmatian vakudluk, in Bulgarian vrkodlak, in Lett wilkats.
404:9 A long list of references is given by Mr. Tylor in his "Primitive Culture," I. 279-284.
405:1 There is a Bohemian tradition, however, that the devil invented mice in order to destroy "God's corn," whereupon God created the cat.
406:2 Sakharof, I. ii. 28.
406:3 Istor. Ocherki, I. 36.
408:4 Afanasief, P. V. S. III. 549-553.
409:5 Afanasief, P. V. S. III. 552.
412:6 Afanasief, P. V. S. III. 558.
412:7 Afanasief, P. V. S. in. 559-568.
412:8 Afanasief, P. V. S. III. 565.
413:9 Quoted by Afanasief, P. V. S. III. 576.
414:1 Afanasief, P. V. S. III. 571.
414:2 Deutsche Mythologie, 1035.
415:3 Afanasief, P. V. S. III. 584.
417:4 Afanasief, P. V. S. 483.
417:5 Orest Miller, Opuit, etc. I. 67-69.
419:6 Afanasief, P. V. S. III. 596-599.
423:7 Quoted from Maksimof's "Year in Siberia," by Afanasief, P. V. S. III. 66.
424:8 Afanasief, P. V. S. III. 637.
426:9 Afanasief, P. V. S. III. 572-574.
427:1 " Primitive Culture," I. 125.
429:2 The word occurs in the Kormchaya Kniga--in a copy dated A.D. 1282--and in the Domostroi.
430:3 Afanasief, P. V. S. III. 466-469.
431:4 P. V. S. II. 488.
432:5 Afanasief, P. V. S. III. 556.
432:6 Afanasief, P. V. S. III. 564.
433:7 Tree and Serpent Worship, p 73.