Sorcery and witchcraft in Slavic folklore and mythology were based on “the intervention” of gods, spirits, and natural forces by the common people (who often believed that they were able to control these “supernatural” forces).
Practitioners of sorcery (and the so-called old believers) in the pagan era also believed that conjuring spells and magical rites could help them understand natural phenomena and protect their wellbeing.
For a long time, historians and folklorists of Slavic traditions and mythology have been interested and intrigued by the world of Slavic witchcraft, rituals, magic, and occult practices .
Table of Contents
Magic was an integral part of the pagan traditions. It was practised by the ancestors of the Slavic people for centuries. They believed that misfortunes and negative energy could be cast away through magical rites or witchcraft.
All kinds of magic were used in those days (and long before JK Roling thought of Harry Potter).
From spells and charms to Slavic black magic, the incantations for good luck were used to increase the chances of victory or destroy the opponent.
The sorcery and witchcraft of Slavic people is a synthesis of paganism and Christianity, i.e. the influence of the Orthodox Church (I would say – the synthesis of the old world and the modern beliefs).
Today, there are still people who celebrate pagan festivals.
The Slavic practice of witchcraft and magic is present in Russia, Belarus, Ukraine, the Baltic States, and the Balkans.
Many people evoke their ancestors when facing problems and challenges in life, seeking their help and trying to find solutions by using spells and curses.
The Clash between Tradition and Christianization
When Christianity was introduced, the traditions and religious beliefs of the Slavic people faced challenges.
The Slavs in the Medieval period were reluctant toward the Christian practices which eventually led to the so-called “double faith” or “dvoverie” (in Russian).
The practice of double faith kept the deities, customs, and rituals from paganism. At the same time, it introduced new elements from Christianity.
Pagan Christianity or Christian Paganism
When discussing paganism and Christianity in Slavic countries, it may be difficult to conclude which prevailed in history.
The reason for this is the Christianization of “the pagan origins which overshadowed the Christian dogma”, as stated by Cardinal Helie de Talleyrand Perigord .
In Russia, there was a constant struggle for domination of the consciousness and beliefs of the majority, between Eastern Slavic traditions and Christianity.
However, it didn’t take long before these two distinctive systems started complimenting each other.
Russian Sorcery and Eastern Traditions
According to some of the folklorists, Russia was baptized and Christianized by force. The authorities struggled to impose the new faith on people because they were naturally resistant to the new system of belief.
This of course resulted in a dual game of acceptance and rejection which created the aforementioned “dual faith” or “dvoeverie”.
On the one hand, this altered the original folklore and religion. On the other hand, it encouraged the assimilated tribes to preserve the originality and the uniqueness of the Russian culture.
The persistence and influence of sorcery and eastern Slavic magical rites are evident even today.
People living in Slavic countries protected what is left of paganism, but also accepted the customs and traditions of Christianity.
The Old Believers
The Old Believers (or the Original Believers) were people who were members of a huge tribe that inhabited the territory of today’s Russia, Belarus, Ukraine, the Baltic states, and the Balkans.
These people worshiped the pagan gods from the pre-Christian period and often brought them rich offerings during rituals (in return for bountiful harvest and peace).
The Four Elements
The ancestors held celebrations and performed rituals that were the basis of the magic rites.
The central theme in these were the four elements (fire, air, earth, and water) which represented nature in its purest form.
They celebrated the elements through songs, dances, effigies, and a wide range of customs.
They believed that nature gave strength to their magic by combining all the elements in a single power.
Earth was a symbol of a mother and a protector. Earth provided crops and gave food.
Water was the staple element. The Slavs would settle along the rivers to cultivate their crops.
Air was regarded as essential as water but was also the ruler of winds and storms. Therefore, deities that represented the air were praised with special reverence.
Fire gave warmth, light, and protected people from wild animals.
The fire was regarded as a unique gift from the gods that not only provided the people with the ability to cook and warm their homes but also gave them the ability to make weapons and tools.
The First Slavic Witch
The legend about the first witch of the Slavs began when the world was created.
A beautiful young woman was going through the woods to pick mushrooms. Shortly after, the skies above her became gloomy and it started to rain.
The woman hid beneath a tree, took all of her clothes off, and put them in her bag. The rain finally stopped and she carried on with picking mushrooms.
Suddenly, Veles, the god of the forest, (a horned, grand creature) approached her. Mesmerized by her beauty, the god asked her if she knew any magic to protect herself from storms and rain in the forest.
The woman said to Veles that if he shows her the secrets to his magic, she will teach him how to keep dry during storms.
Tempted by her beauty, Veles told her all his magical secrets and then the woman told him how she removed her clothes and hid under the tree. Veles felt tricked and ran off in embarrassment and rage. This is how the first Witch was born.
The Legend of Kudryash
The Russian folklore tale, related to Slavic witchcraft, tells the story of the heroic quests of the bravest knight in one village called Kudryash.
One day, Kudryash woke up and find himself thinking only about his death. He couldn’t do anything to stop this. As days went by, he became more and more scared and could not fight the feeling.
Soon, a day came when he heard that a group of robbers came into the village and threatened to burn it down. People called out for Kudryash but he was hiding and felt embarrassed.
He felt that he was losing his honor and dignity by avoiding his duty but he did not know what to do so he went down to the river. Just when he planned to end his life and drown, a gorgeous water nymph came up and gave him a garland made of the most beautiful flowers.
The nymph advised Kudryash to wear the garland every time he goes to battle to keep him safe and protected.
The knight took the garland and went to fight off the robbers. He defeated them. The villagers proclaimed Kudryash as their hero and the word of his heroic deeds was soon spread throughout the entire land.
Herbs in Slavic Magic
One of the greatly used assets and features of Slavic magic and witchcraft was the power of nature that natural elements, such as herbs and plants, could provide.
Ancient Slavs were highly interested in practicing their sorcery and adding a few natural spices and charms.
Reportedly, the spells and rituals were performed with the use of herbs that were believed to be beneficial for many health conditions and ailments. However, they were also used for cursing or blessing through black magic .
The seeds of the herb Angelica (in Latin Archangelica angelica) were turned into tea, known as “angelic water”. The tea was believed to be anti-inflammatory and to soothe the pain.
The Angelica was also believed to chase away nightmares, eliminate insomnia and hysteria.
Historical records mention its root as an amulet that should be gathered during times of trouble and misfortune and hung around the person’s neck. It was believed that it would make people careless and bring joy to their hearts.
Belladonna is a toxic plant with hallucinogenic properties that could be lethal. It grows in Poland, on the Carpathians, and was used for black magic rituals by the so-called witches.
In Slavic folklore, the tree White Birch was the epitome of female beauty, graciousness, and tenderness. This tree was associated with the Rusalki – who is a female mythological entity presented as a water nymph with certain demonic characteristics in Slavic paganism.
It was believed that the White Birch is related to the Underworld and that the souls of the dead ancestors live inside it.
Some tales also present the White Birch as the Great World Tree of the so-called Tree of Life.
The folklore of ancient Slavs contains a rich treasury of spells, including spells for domestic prosperity, wisdom, and knowledge. Also, you could find special charms for love, fertility, and wellbeing. Black magic spells were also used for revenge, protection, and power.
The Spell of Domovoi
The spell of Domovoi, who was considered a patron of the home and the spirit of the household, was said to work if someone would stand in festive attire in front of their home and invite Domovoi to enter the house and bring blessing to the family (and flocks).
However, Domovoi could sometimes get angry and causing misfortune to the family and their home. Because of that, it was believed that people should get rid of him by reverting the spell and asking him to leave by making 3 bangs on the wall with a broom.
The Spell of Leshi
The spell of Leshy ought to bring one ultimate knowledge of everything in this world. The only thing a person needed to do is address the lord of the forest and patron of hunting (by the name of Leshy).
The person needed to cut down a tree, make its top fall down toward the earth, and ask the forest lord to come as a man (not as a raven, a fir tree, or a grey wolf, as the spell says).
The Love Spell
Slavic love spells had many purposes – to attract someone’s beloved, bring fertility or bring love blessings for a new life and prosperity.
It was believed that a person should tell the spell to the three wind rules, which were called the Western Waft, the Eastern Waft, and the Northern Waft.
The person would address the winds and tell the name of their beloved. This way, they could make him or her fall hopelessly in love.
Through the Eyes of a Modern Occultist
An exquisitely interesting perspective on Slavic witchcraft and Slavic pagan magic can be found in writings of the Eastern Slavic author Natasha Helvin.
She made a great range of findings, based on the personal family archive and historical books that she analyzed.
Helvin’s research and practice in this field have been compiled in the book Slavic Witchcraft: Old Conjuring Spells and Folklore which is also available as an audiobook .
Who is Natasha Helvin?
Natasha Helvin is described as a modern occultist and a hereditary witch, that is also a priestess in the so-called Haitan Vodou tradition.
Helvin shows great interest in other traditions of magic as well, but the Slavic magical secrets and sorcery are her specialty.
These were passed on to her from her family and, as she says, in her young years she witnessed the use of magic by her grandmother and mother who were inclined toward these practices in order to help their relatives or friends.
Helvin lives in the Pacific Northwest and her professional profile stands for a professional rootworker and spiritual coach.
Modern Written Guide to Slavic Witchcraft
Helvin’s book is a practical guide (of some sort) to the ancient magical tradition of Russian sorcery and Eastern Slavic magical rites.
The Russian sorcery and Eastern Slavic magical rites are explained and described through over 300 spells, charms, amulets, and rituals in practice that is thoroughly explained.
The author explains that these would enhance success and prosperity in love, career, health and healing but also provide communication with spirits or ancestors or divination in different situations and under different circumstances.
Her book also mentions places that, reportedly, have magical power in the natural world. These can be found in graveyards, churches, and other places where spells were cast.
Spells of the Old Believers
Helvin notes that she decided to share her extensive knowledge which she inherited from her mother and grandmother.
Among those are the so-called “Old Believers”, a previously unknown spell for the people who were never acquainted with Slavic witches.
These and other conjuring spells (including Slavic folk history and practice of Russian sorcery and Eastern Slavic magical rites) are what she writes about the most.
By offering a rich collection of over 300 Slavic pagan spells, Helvin hopes that she will spread the good word about Slavic paganism.
Among those are incantations, charms, and practical rituals for love, relationships, career success, protection, healing, divination, averting the evil eye, and ways of communication with spirits and ancestors.
All of these things are well structured, written as a step-by-step guide in such a way that Slavic magical rituals can easily become one’s favorite field of interest.
Helvin: Slavic Gods and the Eastern Orthodox Church
According to Helvin, for centuries, the Slavic folk tradition has been covered by the facade of Christianity which imposed its influence on the pagan origins of the ancient Slavic people.
This turned Slavic pagan gods and goddesses into saints that were praised by the Eastern Orthodox Church.
Helvin claims that the magical energy for these spells and rituals was drawn from the forces of nature and reveals specific places in the world where there are remnants of ancient graveyards, churches, and temples where Slavic magical rites were practiced.
Her research is based on the importance of icons, amulets, and talismans and how these were created. She also talks about the language of magic and the rituals during spells. In addition, she explores what was required to become a witch or a sorcerer.
Advice on Slavic Witchcraft for the Modern Era
Reportedly, the book of Helvin also includes Slavic folk advice, adapted for the modern era.
The author reveals what it means for one to be a Slavic witch or sorceress and how this vocation pervades in every life aspect, showing that each individual has magic within which can be learned or used in different ways.