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Ziemeļvidzemes spīganu tradīcija [Spīgana Tradition in Northern Vidzeme]

  • Institute of Literature, Folklore and Art, University of Latvia, Riga, Latvia


The aim of the article is to analyse the sources of North Latvian spīgana ('a witch') tradition to answer the following questions: 1) Which are the typical traits of this tradition and what is the tradition area? 2) Are there any substantial differences between the tradition of spīgana on the one hand and the traditions of other Latvian witches ragana and lauma on the other hand? 3) To what extent spīgana tradition has been diabolised and influenced by doctrines of Christian demonology? Folklore sources analysed in the article have been recorded between 1870 and 1970. The text corpus consists of 181 folklore units – 118 legends and 63 belief records. Methods applied in the research are frequency-analytical approach, motif analysis and tradition-geographical approach. The area of spīgana tradition in the 19th–20th century covered the territory of the former Valmiera district and the adjacent parishes of the Limbaži, Cēsis and Valka districts in Northern Latvia. At least since the first half of the 17th century the core of the tradition was based on a belief that certain persons possess the ability to release the soul from the body which goes to milk the cows of their neighbors in a form of a fiery ball (a meteorite or a comet). Spīgana tradition was not diabolised and influenced by the ideology of the Christian demonology which leads to the conclusion that the tradition of flying witches – spīgana – existed before the witch-craze period which in Latvia lasted from the middle of the 16th to 18th century. Article is published in Latvian. Key words: diabolisation, legends, spīgana, Vidzeme, Latvia, witchcraft beliefs.
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