Slavic myths for children

I recently finished reading “Slavic Myths for Children” by Alexandra Barkova. Perhaps the sage was right; knowledge increases sorrow. Or maybe it’s best not to read children’s books if you know the history too well. It seems to me that not all fairy tales and myths have ancient origins. Translators might have made their own amendments to the texts during the recording and translation process. Another intriguing theory is that a talented translator might have even surpassed the original author.

I was particularly fascinated by the idea of studying myths through the lens of folk conjurations. A whole picture of peace emerges there. The customs studied by scholars, many of which are presented here, are of pre-Christian origin. However, expressing sympathy for paganism was punishable by death according to royal decrees. People could only whisper the names of their gods while looking around cautiously. This is why Christian saints appear in printed texts: the Church combined John the Baptist with Kupala, resulting in the holiday of Ivan Kupala, and replaced the Heavenly Mother-Rozhanitsa with the Mother of God, among other adaptations.

For instance, to prevent bleeding from a wound, healers in the Meshchovsky district would recite: “A raven flies across the Black Sea, carrying a thread of silk; your thread breaks, and you stop bleeding.” This incantation was repeated three times while blowing on the wound. Similarly, if someone cut themselves, they would recite another charm: “I will become a servant of God (name of the river), blessed, crossing myself as I leave the hut doors and the courtyard gates, into the open field. In the open field stands the holy Okian-stone, upon which a red maiden with a silk thread sews up the wound, removes the thorn, and stops the bleeding. May there be no stinging, aching, or swelling, with my kind word, the key and lock from now on, forever, amen.”

There are also love charms, such as one for a young man longing for a red maiden: “On the sea of Okiana, on the island of Buyan, there is melancholy; melancholy is defeated, cast from the board into the water, from the water into the fire. Satan emerges from the fire, shouting: ‘Father Romanea, run quickly, and blow on the lips, teeth, bones, and body of the white-skinned slave (name). Make her heart fervent and liver black, yearning every hour, every minute, at noon and midnight. Let her yearn for him more than any other young man, more than her own father and mother, more than her own kin. I seal this charm with seventy-seven locks, seventy-seven chains, throwing the keys into the Ocean Sea, beneath the white flammable stone Alatyr. Whoever is wiser than me and can drag sand from the entire sea will drive away melancholy.'”

There are also spells to maintain distance between people, such as: “As the Volga River flows fast and the sands rinse with sand, and bushes twine with bushes, so a slave (name) will not be with a slave (name) neither in flesh, nor in love, nor in youth, nor rage. As in a dark dungeon and in a den, there are undead with simple hair, and with long hair, and with bulging eyes; so the slave (name) would seem to him (name) bare-haired and long-haired and with bulging eyes; just like cats and dogs, dogs and cross-hairs, so a slave (name) and a slave (name) will have no contract, neither day, nor night, nor in the morning, nor at noon, nor at dusk. My word is firm.”

When I lived in Kazakhstan, my friend and I went to see one grandmother, who was famous throughout the city for her conjurations.. Interestingly, she did not take money for her work, only gifts. You could bring her anything you want.

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