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Regional Research of Witchcraft Today (on the Example of Eastern Slovenia)

Mirjam Mencej

Puni tekst: hrvatski pdf 211 Kb

str. 199-219

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The paper is based on fieldwork material on witchcraft that was collected in the rural environment of eastern Slovenia in 2000-2002. The author endeavours to emphasize the complexity of witchcraft as well as the fact that there are different categories of ‘witches’ in this area. The research should take into consideration all of these different aspects, levels of witchcraft in order to offer a complete picture of witchcraft in this part of Slovenia.
The first level involves social tensions within the community, especially among neighbors: here I am referring to those accusations which directly touch on relations between people, for which people consider the envy, jealousy or wickedness of their neighbors to be the main driving force behind the harm which is done. The person who is typically accused in such a case is an envious neighbor whom people attribute the presumed practice of witchcraft/magic: in the desire to damage someone‚s crops or livestock, the person places or
buries in a neighbor‚s or villager‚s field, under a threshold, in a barn etc. various objects most often eggs and bones. Other methods of causing harm by these neighborhood witches‚ also originate from various degrees of intent, control or lack of control over the destructive power of envy.
The second subcategories of witches, still social‚ beings, but with
somewhat different characteristics, are the so-called village witches, i.e. women who have the reputation of being a witch throughout the entire community. The line between an envious neighbor and a village witch is not always easy to determine. At any rate it seems that the same evildoing which is ascribed to envious and jealous neighbors is sometimes also ascribed to the women who have the reputation of being village witches in this area: the placing of objects, praise with evil intent, sending toads/turning themselves into toads. However, there are also other, more common reasons for the existence of the reputation of being a village witch which are not
directly connected with the evildoing of such women which is born of the envy of their neighbors. One of the categories of village witch are women who are said to possess unusually large amounts of wealth (more precisely: unusually large amounts of milk or butter) in relation to their circumstances, i.e. the number of cows they own. One reason for women acquiring such a reputation is the reputation of their family, or, as appeared in a number of cases, also their involvement with healing, herbalism etc. On the other hand such labels are often applied to women who simply conform to the image
of a stereotypical witch.
Beside this ,social’ level of witchcraft in the area under study there was another one which should be differentiated from the first since it concerns tensions with the supernatural world: here I am referring to all allegedly supernatural occurrences, which usually occur at night or at the time which borders night and day, most often near space boundaries (at the edge of or outside the village, in the forest, near water). These are apparitions, phenomena or occurrences which people in this region interpret as encounters with witches. Most often people tell stories about getting lost, being led astray or being unable to continue on their path, some sort of blockade which the people in this area generally ascribe to the witches. They frequently describe
such occurrences as temporary losses of reason, disturbances, and shifts of the psyche or consciousness. Typical variants of such stories tell of people who on their way home find themselves trapped among thickets and unable to continue and when the day comes or passersby rescue them, it usually turns out that they have been standing in the middle of the path the whole time. Sometimes they involve total disorientation: the victim walks in circles or crashes about the forest for the entire night, through thickets, brambles
and streams in a completely wrong direction, and ‘comes to’ in the morning, where they usually find themselves in utterly different places, far off the path they intended to take. Frequently, nighttime encounters are described with witches in the form of multi-colored lights; this type of encounter can also lead to losing one’s way, but not necessarily. In addition to these two levels of witchcraft we should also mention various migratory legends about witches, which are known and told in this area, although they are not really
a part of the complex of beliefs about witches, since they are not supported by accounts or personal experiences (and are not told as memorates); the people consider them to be more some sort of amusing anecdotes.

Ključne riječi

witchcraft, folk beliefs, eastern Slovenia, mythical beings, lower mythology, social relationships

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Podaci na drugim jezicima: hrvatski

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