Congratulations to me and this little blog for achieving the anniversary of talking nonsense. It has been a year. For this occasion, I intended to make a special post. I wanted to write something you would like to read and perhaps learn a thing or two. I asked what you would like and Commander Viola the Demonslayer said, she would like to read something about the ghosts in Slavic culture and mythology. Well, she was the only one who replied, so this post is fully dedicated to her.
During my research about potential ghostly figures of old, I found nothing that would be interesting to hear about. Yes, there is a word for ghosts in south Slavic language that refers to the widespread concept of a ghost. The popular name is ‘duh’ (spirit), symbolizing the mental image you have when thinking about the ghosts. It’s synonyms ‘Avet’ and ‘Utvara’, sound and leans towards a more grim version of what we take under ghost concept. Avet is a ghost, but wrap it in more chilling feel, add spookiness, it’s like a wraith in „Lord of the Rings“ that attacked Frodo when he first used the ring. The scene of Aragorn having the first fight in the broken outpost, that is the one. Silky white ghost, absolutely haunting. Avet is also very similar, but black. It represents a quiet specter of black cloud doing nothing, but glide from point A to point B. Stories about these are very rare, so they do not qualify.
In Slavic mythology, there are evil spirits, but they take different forms and dwell in different surroundings, like the back of the house, in front of the house, in the woods, in the fields, around the rivers, among the roots of an oak. Most of these creatures have the same way of torturing people. Usually, they will prey on travelers during the night, hop on their back and force them to a piggyback ride until their victims die from exhaustion before the dawn. These creatures would then run to the forest and hide, leaving a limp human body around the rivers, graveyards and notable landmarks. Some spirits would eat people, drink their blood, drain them from energy and power, however, the biggest worry about them is that they will cast a spell on you, enchant you and force you to participate dancing or any other activity, which will you, perform until you die in the morning.
According to other sources, there is a claim that Slavic folk did not have burial grounds, but they practiced bonfires to burn the dead. Ash and residue were then used in rituals, cast on the doorstep so their loved one’s spirit could protect the entrance from the bad people. At times, the ash was thrown on the tools, weapons, so a family member can give strength to these objects. Some say, Slavic ate their dead, so the soul and strength of the loved one would stay within them to carry on living. Even this is a disturbing ritual, it radiates with thoughtfulness. Besides, if the family devours a soul of the fallen one, there is no soul left to be used by the evil spirits. Do you want a hellhound with sharp teeth to eat your face? No? Eat your grandfather’s soul, honey. Who wants an arm?
We can conclude that belief in ghosts is somewhat reserved for the ghostly creatures and not the ghosts themselves. A soul of those that died in a bad way, accounting misfortune or violence, is the perfect breeding ground for these evil spirits to be born out from, not transforming the very soul into something grim. In a way, the human soul is incorruptible, yet it represents a gateway for something to come out from it. Now, pass me the grandfather’s leg.
This leads us to something that falls to no usual creature, nor under the image of ghosts. The most dreadful thing Slavic mythology has to offer is the concept of Theodorians. You’ve probably read my story „Georgians“ about the Saint George the Dragonslayer and the speculative assumption of what the dragon was in that legendary story. Theodorians are something very similar to that.
On a special day named Theodor’s Saturday falling on the first Saturday of March, right before the Easter fasting, Slavic folk has a superstition about ominous riders in the night. This holiday is also called, in rough translation, the White Spirits. On that day, folk throws a great bonfire made of hay and straws to cleanse the village from bad spirits. This holiday is also dedicated to horses and hoofed animals. They too get the feast so they will stay domesticated and peaceful. It is a prayer to the animals to not turn against their masters.
The belief is that Theodorians (thodorians – todorians – todorovci) ride at night, come out of nowhere and travel the streets in full gallop, stomping and killing anyone and anything they find in their path. They are like horses with a human half growing out from their backs, just a torso, and no legs of the rider. They are armed with saber, swords, spears and other sharp weapons. They call people to step outside, mimic the sound of a wounded child, just to get their hands and hoofs bloodied. Nobody knows why they do it, but they are the most terrifying thing in Slavic mythology. For reference, see what Mongolian Horde did in their frequent rides.
After the night passes, people are safe until the next year for when Todorovci appears again, ride and butcher anything crossing their route. It is unclear how one becomes a Todorian, but some suggest they are a herd of wild horses or people’s cattle in the field that fell under the spell and was transformed in a ‘wild hunt’. Speaking of the wild hunt, if you played „Witcher“, or read Andrzej Sapkowski, this is one familiar concept. Wild Hunt in novels and Polish mythology, that is a branch of Slavic mythology, describes these spirits and ghostly riders much like Todorovci who come from the mist in the north, pillage and reek havoc to settlements in their path. The connection between cultures, Slavic mythology uses the similarity in the Slavic languages to pass the superstitions, stories and legends about various creatures, therefore, finding an origin from where did the legend sprouted from is an impossible feat. Yet, belief in Todorovci is characteristic of the rural part of Serbia.
Still, this is a concept found in several cultures, which can only be interpreted as something that happened in real life and was turned into an unwritten story that is passed from a father to a son. The same is to be said about Great Flood, a biblical event we all heard about, that goes to claim a legend of rain and water levels rise to the point of human extinction. Later on, we learned that there was a flood, but not that massive as said in the Holy Scripture. That flood was big enough to cause so much damage that the word about it traveled through the continents until someone placed it in the bible quoting that event on a bigger scale. Todorovci probably was a war party so bad and dreadful, it was turned into a legend. Still, imagine the concept, and the legend unveils. There is you, cornered between the two houses, stand on the street during the night when the sound of hoofs starts approaching with a thunderous noise slowly amplifying in the back. You come face to face with a horrific rider, wild and drenched in blood, coming to get you.
This concludes this post, specialized blabbering from one whole year of talking random stuff to you about my life, my doings, my culture, and me. I hope you are pleased and well entertained with my sporadic spouts that do not concern anything too problematic or interesting.