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Witches' Zoopsychonavigations and the Astral Broom in the Worlds of Croatian Legends as (Possible) Aspects of Shamanistic Techniques of Ecstasy (and Trance)Vještičje zoopsihonavigacije i astralna metla u svjetovima hrvatskih predaja kao (mogući) aspekti šamanističke tehnike ekstaze (i transa)

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STUDIA MYTHOLOGICA SLAVICA IX - 2006, 169 - 201
169
I shall attempt to interpret witches' zoopsychonavigations in the worlds of Croatian leg-
ends as (possible) aspects of shamanistic techniques of ecstasy (and trance), in the framework
of which I shall be trying to designate the concept of zoopsychonavigation as the border of
permeation between shamanistic ecstatic experiences and the witches' experience of lethargy.
In addition to the above concept of zoopsychonavigation, I establish equally possible
contacts between witchcra and shamanism on the basis of the mythem about the mutual
agon between shamans as well as between witches, the distinctive features of their birth (for
example, their birth in a caul), the axis mundi topos – the mythic geography of mountains
and trees (the parallelism between the shamanistic tree and the fairies’ tree), the use of hal-
lucinogenic plants that have been noted in the practices mentioned, as well as the light-en-
hanced hypostases of the witches' bodies in the context of Eliade's attribution of the shaman
as "a master over fire".
Taking as a starting-point the book Mythic Images and Shamanism: A Perspective on
Kalevala Poetry in which Anna-Leena Siikala, emphasises, among other points, that "sha-
manism is not a religion, but rather a complex of rites and beliefs existing within differ-
ent religions",1 I shall consider witches' zoopsychonavigations in the worlds of Croatian
legends as (possible) aspects of shamanistic techniques of ecstasy (and trance). In this
framework, I try to designate zoopsychonavigation as the border of permeation between
shamanistic ecstatic experience and the witches' experience of lethargy. I shall be en-
deavouring in the possible search in question to achieve a theoretical peaceful and active
co-existence between two contradictory concepts – Klaniczay's hypothetical concept of a
transition from shamanism to another belief system dominated by witchcra2 and Gustav
Henningsen's contradictory concept, which assumes that European witchcra developed
out of a shamanistic system of which it was an "important and integrated part".3 I admit
Witches' zoopsychonavigations and the astral
broom in the worlds of Croatian legends as
(possible) aspects of shamanistic techniques of
ecstasy (and trance)
Suzana Marjanić
e article was prepared for the journal Studia ethnologica Croatica (Vol. 17, 2006) in the Croatian language,
and was written for the conference Shamanism: a eoretical Construct or a Living Tradition, organised by the
Department of Ethnology and Cultural Anthropology of the Faculty of Arts in Zagreb and the Department of
Ethnology and Cultural Anthropology of the Faculty of Arts in Ljubljana, held in Motovun in Istria on 25 June
2004.
1 Siikala 2002: 43.
2 Klaniczay 1984: 413, 415.
3 Henningsen 1991/1992: 301.
One should also emphasise here the research done by Éva Pócs, who shows that the roots of witchcra – think-
ing of the witchcra of Central and South-eastern Europe – lie in so-called European shamanism. In other
words, this author sets forth from Eliade's differential guidelines on shamanism in the broad sense and on
central shamanism – the shamanism of Siberia and Central Asia (Pócs 1999: 13–14).
170
Witches' zoopsychonavigations and the astral broom in the worlds of Croatian legends ......
that the assertion in question is somewhat paradoxical, due to the fact that the gure of the
paradox nevertheless continues to be, it seems to me, a f undamental poetic figure of witch-
cra imaginings within the framework of the European witchcra studies concept.4
e psychoanalytical paradigm or "comprehending mental illness similarly to
comprehending witches"5
To st art with, let us briefly scrutinise certain joint paradigms within which witchcra
and shamanism are incorporated, in the framework of which I shall place the emphasis on
the psychoanalytical paradigm. For example, numerous scholarly disciplines – folklore re-
search, ethnology, anthropology, archaeology, gender studies, history, performance stud-
ies, psychology, religious studies6 – are interested in shamanism, and equally in witchcra.
Shamanism and witchcra are also equally linked by their use as terms; in other words, the
term shaman is used in anthropology partly in order to avoid the sensationalist or nega-
tive connotation of the term witch and witch-doctor.7 Points of contiguity are revealed,
of course, in psychoanalytical paradigms, since psychopathological phenomena are oen
attributed to the abstract figures of the shaman and the witch.8 Shamanism as a "mental
disturbance" (mainly in connection with schizophrenia and epilepsy) – or to use the more
precise syntagm – a state with symptoms of mental suffering, was also interpreted, beside
other ethnographers, by Åke Ohlmarks, the last investigator to favour explaining shaman-
ism by Arctic hysteria, by his differentiating definition of Arctic and sub-Arctic shaman-
ism, concluding that shamanism is an exclusively Arctic phenomenon that emerges under
the influence of the cosmic environment on the mental instability of inhabitants of polar
regions. Namely, according to his interpretation, for example, excessively cold, long nights,
desert solitude, and a lack of vitamins affect the nervous system of Arctic inhabitants,
causing either Arctic hysteria (meryak, menerik) or shamanic trance.9 However, Eliade
stresses that similar psychopathic phenomena – including cataleptic trance (separation of
the soul from the body) – are actually found everywhere (geographically).10
4 Concerning the paradox of solving the shaman enigma cf. Harvey 2003: 1–3.
5 Szasz 1982: 17.
6 Cf. Harvey 2003: 1.
7 Harner 1976a: XI.
8 On the criticism of psychoanalytical interpretations which attributed psychopathological phenomena to
witches through the claim that witches were mentally disturbed women, whose illness neither well-intentioned
Inquisitors nor great ignoramuses managed to diagnose cf. Szasz 1982: 111. As stated by Penelope Shuttle and
Peter Redgrove, we are speaking of 9 million menstrual murders, since the proportion of executed women in
relation to men in the witch hunts was in a ratio of 100:1 (Shuttle, Redgrove 2002: 192, 197).
Beside the psychoanalytical paradig m, the abstract figures of the shaman and of the witch are also in the same
way linked by the inquisitorial methods of the Christian missionaries, who were not indulgent towards the
shamans either, almost completely rooting out shamanism during the 19th century: for example, "it was even a
crime to possess a drum, but some trance techniques managed to exist" (Stutley 2003: 65).
9 Eliade 1974: 24.
On fasting as a type of physical mortification resorted to by early aspirants to spirituality from the aspect that
undernourished persons usually suffer from neuroses, depression, hypochondria and anxiety, and visions cf.
Huxley 2001:142-146. Similarly, Anna Reid adds that Siberian shamans undertake soul-journeys in a state of
trance, which they achieve through dance, fasting, or the ingestion of hallucinogenic plants (Reid 2003:5).
For example, Tokarev quotes numerous ethnographic sources that also interpret shamans as persons with a
tendency towards epilepsy (Tokarev 1978: 291).
10 Eliade 1974: 27.
171
Suzana Marjanić
Within the framework of the deeper stages of altered states of consciousness that are
attributed to shamans and witches, the two most powerful forms of hallucinogenic experi -
ence are manifested in transformations into animals and a sense of floating,11 which, as I
will explain later, I comprehend as zoopsychonavigations. In this respect, Richard Noll uses
the term shamanistic state of consciousness (consequently, in the above context – a more
specific term than altered states of consciousness) – which he adopts from the book e
Way of the Shaman (1980) by Michael J. Harner – thus denoting that which anthropolo-
gists call a séance, trance, or ecstasy, thereby negating the psychopathological interpreta-
tion of shamanism, emphasising its psychotherapeutic techniques.12 Here, of course, we
must return to the points of contact and differences between psychoanalysis and shaman-
ism – or in Lévi-Strauss' definition: "In the schizophrenic cure the healer performs the
actions and the patient produces his myth; in the shamanistic cure the healer supplies the
myth and the patient performs the actions."13
Points of contiguity between shamanism and psychology are also realised in ecops-
ychology (the conjunction between psychological and ecological paradigms), which is
practised today, for example, by Leslie Gray, an ecopsychologist and shamanistic consult-
ant, on the path of eodor Roszak's book e Voice of the Earth (1992).14
In the same way, the points of contact between witchcra and shamanism are ef-
fectuated today in neo-shamanism, which encompasses three paradigms – Wicca, Dru-
idism and Paganism – since, for example, some adherents of Wicca designate their own
religion as "Shamanic Wicca", "Shamanic Cra" and "Wicc an-shamanism",15 just as Tanya
Luhrmann does, and representatives of Wicca oen state that it derives from pre-historic
European shamanism.16 is idea has been extensively popularised by the Egyptologist,
Margaret Murray, who stressed in her book e Witch Cult in Western Europe (1921) that
the victims of witchcra courts pract ised the survivals of pagan religion,17 whos e followers
worshipped Cernunnos, the horned god (a Gallic deity whose name covers the meaning
the one who has the top of the skull like a stag).18 He was known in Rome under the name
Janus, or Dianus, while Frazer described him in the first chapters of e Golden Bough.
Murray explained that Diana was in fact the female form of that name (Janus Dianus) and
figured throughout Europe as the leader of the witches, so that the cult was called the Di-
anic Cult.19 In studying the possible correspondence between witchcra and shamanism,
I had access, of course, to the book, e Spiral Dance, by Starhawk, one of the best-known
contemporary witches, who states that the religion of witches is a shaman religion and,
11 Dowson, Porr 2001: 171.
12 Noll 1983: 443–444.
Richard Noll's terminological intervention in the shamanistic state of consciou sness ties in with Eliade's apho-
ristic explication: "(…) though the shaman is, among other things, a magician, not every magician can prop-
erly be termed a shaman" (Eliade 1974: 5).
13 Lévi-Strauss 1963: 201.
14 Cf. Gray http. and Leslie Gray's interview, in which she explains that ecopsychology has its roots in shamanism
(Gray 1995: 172–182).
15 Wallis 2001: 214.
16 Luhrmann 1989: 134, 329.
17 Cf. Wallis 2001: 214-215.
18 Chevalier, Gheerbrant 1987: 228.
19 Cf. Eliade 1981: 99.
172
Witches' zoopsychonavigations and the astral broom in the worlds of Croatian legends ......
as such, allocates spiritual value to ecstasy.20 For example, Marina Milićević Bradač links
the very figure of the horned deity, Cernunnos, with the ideosphere of shamanism, estab-
lishing identification between the shaman drum and the stag that leads shamans into the
other world.21 In t hat way, invok ing Eli ade, sh e stat es that the drum is an esse ntial p art of
shaman equipment and that, the Yakuts and Buryats, for example, believe that the drum
in question leads into astral journeys and call it the shaman's horse (a horse is also painted
on the Altaic drum). If the drum is made of roebuck skin (as among Karagases and Soyots)
then they call it the shaman's roebuck, or, as among certain Mongol tribes, it is called the
black stag.22
Shamanistic and witches' agon and the light-enhanced antisacrum of the witch-
es' body
In the context of legends about krsniks,23 dominated by the mythem of their strug-
gles (agon) with štriguns (wizards) in animal form (for example, in battles between the
krsnik as a white dog, a white cat, a dappled ox, and a štrigun/wizard in the form of a black
dog, a black cat, or a black ox),24 Maja Bošković-Stulli points out that Eliade mentions
only in passing the shaman's combativeness; "in certain Siberian traditions shamans are
believed to challenge one another constantly in animal form".25 Continuing the forego-
ing statement, Eliade adds: "What is fundamental and universal is the shaman's struggle
against what we could call 'the powers of evil'", while, in another place in his book on
shamanism, he mentions that the shamans engage in struggles between themselves in
the form of animals and, if a shaman's alter ego should come to grief in the conflict, then
the shaman soon also dies. In addition, Eliade attributes the foregoing mythem as being
extremely frequent in shamanistic belief and folklore.26
20 Starhawk 2000: 30.
Cf. the computer drawing of Witchdance (2001) (http://ratko.20m.com/ira/veduta_files/slika9.htm) and
the painting e Witches' Dance (1994) (http://ratko.20m.com/ira/veduta_files/slika12.htm) by the artist
Krešimira Gojanović. e Witches' Dance painting is also on the cover of the Croatian translation of the book
e Spiral Dance by Starhawk (translated by Lidija Zafirović).
21 Milićević Bradač 2002: 31.
22 Cf. Eliade 1974: 173–174.
Cf. the picture of the Tung usic shaman drum that the shaman strikes in order to catch hold of spirits and enter
into an ecstatic state: "e edge of the drum skin is decorated with pictures of reindeer and the handle of the
drum stick is carved into the shape of an animal's head" (Lissner 1961: photo 102). Or, as Hoppál stated, the
shaman drum figured as a means of ecstatic transport and "it is not accidental that the ever-quickening drum
beat resembled the drumming of horses’ hooves. Apart from the drum the shamans used horse-head tipped
sticks during their 'journeys'" (Hoppál 1993: 190).
23 On krsnik cf., for example, the study by Maja Bošković-Stulli (2003) and the study by Zmago Šmitek (1998).
24 Bošković-Stulli 1962: 531.
Andrija Bartulin notes that dead krsniks fight with kudlaks (vampires) on the island of Cres, and zoometa-
morphosise at the same time into cats, dogs, sheep, oxen and horses (Bartulin 1898: 267). Reporting on the
island of Krk and the township of Kastav, Milčetić stated that kudlaks and krsniks can transform into all sorts
of animals, most frequently into pigs, oxen and horses: "e kudlak is usually black, while the krsnik is white
or mottled in colour" (Milčetić 1896: 224).
Here it would seem necessary to explain the term kudlak. Namely, according to beliefs in Istria and the imme-
diately neighbouring regions, the kudlak (ukedlak) is a vještac, strigo, or strigon (wizard) during his lifetime,
but becomes a vukodlak (kudlak) in the sense of a vampire only aer death (Bošković-Stulli 2003: 20).
25 Cf. Eliade 1974: 509, Bošković-Stulli 2003: 19.
26 Eliade 1974: 94–95.
173
Suzana Marjanić
e mythem about the mutual battles between the shamans can be partly placed in
parallel with the mythem of the battles between witches and wizards, which Maja Bošković-
Stulli underscores as having been noted in the territory of Dalmatia, where witches and
wizards fight between themselves, largely in the clouds when, for example, they usually
fly in the form of ravens, with one group defending their village, whilst the other attacks
it.27 At the same time, mutual conflict is also characteristic to moguts as village protectors
since, according to the belief that each individual area has its own mogut, and that they
do battle in the clouds in the form of various animals (for example, the conflict between
the reddish pig and the mottled one), and, as to the victor, "his state is more bountiful and
fertile".28 For example, M. Bošković-Stulli defines the core of the legend about the battle of
two višćuns (wizards) in "a tempest", in the forms of a black and a white ox, as an archaic
tradition "about people with the hallmarks of shamans and the function of local (clan)
protectors", drawing attention to the fact that višćaks, štri(n)guns, vremenjaks, and nagro-
mants are "polyvalent, so that they can both harm and help".29
Within the framework of the above ethical polyvalence of witches and wizards, I
would draw attention to Eliade's explanation of the specialisation among individual na-
tions between "white" and "black" shamans, within which it is not always simple to define
the difference.30 In other words, he emphasises how the difference is clearly expressed
among the Buryat who differentiate "white" (sagani bö) and "black" shamans (karain bö),
the first of which have relations with the gods, and the second with spirits. ey are also
differentiated iconographically: the robes of the white shamans are white, while the others
wear blue. Here he also mentions that the mythology itself of the Buryat expresses clear
dualism and the fact that the bipartition of the shamans could be a secondary and even
quite late phenomenon, deriving perhaps from Iranian influence or from negative evalua-
tions of chthonic and "infernal" hierophanies which with time, of course, star ted to denote
"demonic" powers.31 In the same way, he underscores how shamanism among the Yakut
people involves a vague "dualism", since the Yakut shaman can serve in equal measure the
upper and lower (the gods "below") gods, "for this 'bis below' does not always mean 'evil
spirits'". He goes on to provide the example from Altaic shamanism in which female sha-
mans are always black, because they never effectuate the way to heaven.32
ere is more on the possible dualistic interpretation of the mentioned mythem
regarding the conflict between two mythical beings in Croatian oral tradition. Namely,
Petar Šimunović (Brač. Guide Around the Island, 1972) interpreted the above legend about
the battle between two višćuns (wizards) in a tempest, in the form of a black and white ox,
27 Bošković-Stulli 1991: 148.
M. Bošković-Stulli points out that the opponents in the battles in the Istrian and Croatian Littoral region
(Hrvatsko primorje) are clearly ethically differentiated: the noble krsniks fight against the wicked wizards and
witches, largely in animal forms (Bošković-Stulli 1991: 149).
28 Chloupek 1953: 246.
e most frequent version of the origins of the mogut is noted in the belief that if "a woman is pregnant for
seven years (while some say nine), then she will give birth to a mogut" (ibid.: 241). e mogut is the village
guardian on whom the produce of the land depends "and that is why the mogut contrives the weather". Drago
Chloupek interprets the mogut as the agathodaimon who takes care of his village, helps the sick and defends
his area from alien moguts.
29 Bošković-Stulli 1975: 106, No. 85, ibid.: 148 (cf. Bošković-Stulli 1991: 148).
30 Eliade 1974: 184.
31 ibid.: 185–186.
32 ibid.: 188–189.
174
Witches' zoopsychonavigations and the astral broom in the worlds of Croatian legends ......
by the dualistic interpretation personifying the good and evil spirit, as a survival of Early
Slavic dualistic belief "that was vital among the Croats when they came to Brač from the
pagan region around the Neretva (River) during the 7th century".33
On the trail of the shaman as "a master over fire" (M. Eliade),34 texts/legends speak
of the glimmering hypostases (the sparks and glittering effects) of witches' bodies that
are linked with their ornithological myth – a matter of an illuminated antisacrum (to use
Rudolf Otto's term), light of the darkness, due to the manner in which they are shown in
the ethics and poetics of the folklore imaginary.35 Since this is a case of verticalism (an
ascent), the rising of the soul is connected with glimmering-fiery effects, but since witches
are incorporated in the folklore imaginary of the light of the darkness, the epiphanies of
the witches' lights produce lunar and stellar light. e connection between the witches'
epiphanies mentioned and the light-enhanced modifications can be linked with the con-
cept according to which the human soul is "fiery in nature", as Nodilo mentions in the
concept of his own "pneumatology" or, more precisely – it figures as "a spark that flew off
the celestial fire", concluding how the fiery genesis of the soul is not known in the Chris-
tian concept of the soul.36
It is also possible to demarcate between mythological and ecstatic interpretations of
the witch personage in the same way that Zmago Šmitek fixed the boundaries between the
mythological and ecstatic of the (Slovenian) kresnik, in the framework of which he takes
as his starting point Ginzburg's definition of ecstatic cults tied in with archaic Eurasian
shamanism.37 Let us take a brief look at one 19th -century mythological interpretation of
the witch personage, according to Natko Nodilo. Namely, in the Day/Night and Summer/
Winter cosmological dualism, Nodilo defines Night as a masculine form, and Winter – as
an old hag.38 Nodilo finds confirmation for the driving out of the Winter hag in the Spring
33 Cf. Bošković-Stulli 1975: 149.
M. Bošković-Stulli refutes Radoslav Katičić's thesis that suggests that the roots of the myth about the duel
between the underer/Perun and the Dragon/Veles (B ošković-Stulli 1997: 77, Bošković-Stulli 2003: 32–34)
can be detected in legend from the island of Brač. Namely, the author in question stresses that, in reviewing the
above thesis, one would have also to take into consideration how a change could have come about in the roles
between the personage of Perun's pestilential opponent, the Dragon (Snake), and the later Balkan beneficent
protector, the Dragon (Snake), who protects from the malevolent enemy, the hala or lamja (also dragons)
(Bošković-Stulli 2003: 34). Perhaps the solution to this enigma lies in the claim that there is an absence of
division in the natural religions into (ethical) good and evil deities, since (each) deity possesses good and evil
(cosmic) aspects (cf. Nodilo 1981: 451).
34 In any case, shamans are more than mere "masters over fire" (Eliade providing on this track a comparison with
devils in European folk beliefs), but can incorporate the spirit of fire and throw flames from the mouth, nose
and their entire bodies during séances (Eliade 1974: 474).
35 Cf. Marjanić 2002: 242–243 on individual examples of legend that testify to the connection between witches
and glimmering hypostases. For instance, there are examples of viškas (witches) from the village of Ivčević
Kosa who fly on brooms to Klek Mountain on the eve of St George's Day: "ere is talk among the common
folk that bright sparks can be seen in the air on that night, and that these are the viškas journeying to Klek"
(Hećimović-Seselja 1985:195). Cf. Mirjam Mencej's text (2004), in which the author points out that the glit-
tering light-effects phenomena, which are linked with the souls of the dead in the popular beliefs of the Slavs
and peoples throughout most of Europe, are sometimes also interpreted as (nocturnal) witches in the region
of Slovenia and in other Slavic cultures.
36 Nodilo 1981: 536–537.
I have written more extensively on Nodilo's concept of the World Tree (arbor mundi), w ith which he also tried
to link the mythem of the fiery genesis of the soul (cf. Marjanić 2004).
37 Šmitek 1998: 97.
38 Nodilo 1981: 142–143, cf. Marjanić 2003.
Cf. Nodilo 1981: 59–61, 192, 216 on Nodilo's polysemy of the Evil of winter horrors in the figures of Mora/Vada
175
Suzana Marjanić
(March) customs of the western and south-western Slavs, when they carried out of the vil-
lage a puppet personifying Morana/Death (Mora, Morana, Morena – the deity of Winter
and Death), in the figuration of an old woman, in order to drown her (smother her) or saw
her up (cutting up the hag).39
Regarding the belief that when storm clouds are fired upon, witches are "hit, and fall
to the earth from the clouds", Nodilo writes that he is not sure whether this belief about
witches stemmed from Mediaeval demonology or whether this was a case of an original
Indo-European meteorological belief. For that reason, he said, he had omitted witches from
his study.40 In other words, the traces of this belief about the stormy activity of witches in
folk meteorology are found in the Rigveda (II, 20, 7).41 Let us look at the notation of a leg-
end from the island of Zlarin about the alleged stormy activity of witches. e legend was
written down and published under the title "ey Shot Into the Tempest" and states that
the army, shooting at a sudden storm, killed an old woman who – as she said in her dying
agony – was supposed to destroy by hailstorms vineyards. is is her interpretation from
the narration in question:
"I was /.../ in that tempest, I was sent. I was sent there, I myself wouldn't have
wanted to I was sent so that we destroy by hailstorm the vineyards /.../ belonging
to this one and that one – depending on who hated whom."42
Zoopsychonavigation
In the framework of the above attempt to resolve the points of contact between the
abstract fig ures of shaman and witch, I shall try to designate the border of permeation be-
tween shamanistic ecstatic experiences and the witches' experience of lethargy through the
concept of zoopsychonavigation. If we observe the concept of the shape-shiing of the soul
during the temporary death of supernatural persons and mythical beings, which could be
referred to as catalepsy, taking as our example a particular legend or, more precisely, a col-
locutor's view of a neighbour who was allegedly a mora, and who was obviously in a state
of lethargy in which the pulse and breathing were virtually imperceptible: "And I called
her (name), (tried to) move her, pushed her, pulled at her. All for nothing. As dead as
dead can be. Upon my word, I was frightened."43 With the notion of zoopsychonavigation
(psychonavigation of the soul in an animal existence), on the one hand, I observe zoom-
etempsychosis (shape-shiing of the soul into an animal form) that takes place in the ex-
perience of lethargy among supernatural persons and mythical beings, due to the fact that
metempsychosis demands a transgression through death – as a temporary death.44 In the
(Kavga) – Ruga (Baba Ruga), who are linked with the aspect of the wind and the isomorphism of the broom
as the terrifying weapon of the winter monster.
39 Nodilo 1981: 59, 286.
On Morana's (the aged virgin Mara) death, which occurs aer the burning/burying of the Carnival puppet
(Poklad, Fašnik) cf. Belaj 1998: 323–324.
40 Nodilo 1981: 396–397.
41 ibid.: 397, 408.
42 Marks 1980: 265, No. 48, italics S. M.
43 Kutleša 1993: 386, italics S.M.
44 Chevalier, Gheerbrant 1987: 401
176
Witches' zoopsychonavigations and the astral broom in the worlds of Croatian legends ......
same way, I take the term zoopsychonavigation also to mean witch zoometamorphoses,45
as well as riding (flying) on the backs of animals (theriomorphic vehicles) by which, for
example, witches hover in the air (the binomial anatomy/iconography of the Woman-
Animal)46 and, of course, incubus-like riding on men (shared by fairies and witches).47 I
have already mentioned that omas A. Dowson and Martin Porr stress that transforma-
tions into animals and a sense of floating is usually a hallucinogenic experience of deeper
stages of altered states of consciousness.48
Zoopsychonavigation is, of course, also shared by shamans whose souls manifest
themselves as animal shapes. In other words, shamanistic imitation of the movements and
voices of animals denotes taking possession of the helping, tutelary spirits – the moment
at which the shaman transforms into an animal – as is also achieved when they put on a
mask or – as Eliade notes – one could speak of the shaman's new identity due to the fact
that he becomes an animal-spirit and sp eaks, sings or flies like an animal or bird. What def-
initely seems important to me here is Eliade's claim: "From the most distant times almost
all animals have been conceived either as psychopomps that accompany the soul into the
beyond or as the dead person's new form."49 And further, when the shaman participates
in the manner of becoming an animal, he establishes a situation which had existed in illo
tempore when there had been a connection between the human and the animal world. e
tutelary animal makes it possible for the shaman to transfigure into an animal, just as it
figures as his double, his alter ego, "the shaman's soul", ("the soul in animal form"), or "the
life soul".50 Shamanistic animal metamorphosis and riding on the backs of animals sym-
bolically expresses ecstasy: temporary death is designated by the exiting of the soul from
the body in an animal form.51 Eliade concluded that symbols "in relation to 'flight', and the
45 M. Bošković-Stulli differentiates three types of witch transformations into animals: when they fly in the clouds;
when they fight between themselves or with krsniks; and when their spirit emerges, assuming animal form
(Bošković-Stulli 1991: 151). J. Lulić noted that, according to beliefs on the island of Dugi Otok, štrigas possess
a wide range of transformation possibilities – for example, from zoometamorphosis (into snakes, hens, cats,
sheep, goats) to metamorphosis into objects (sieves) and natural phenomena (such as the wind) (Lulić 1993:
363).
46 When it is said that Isis "rides on a sow", in sacred or visionary language that means that she is riding on her
fertile instincts, which include her so-called swinishness of menstruation. Namely, female genitals were called
"the swine" in Greek and Latin (Shuttle, Redgrove 2002: 230).
47 I wrote about fairies and witches and their incubus-like riding on men in texts in 2002 and 2004. Namely,
individual narrations indicate that both witches and fairies also ride on men in their nocturnal riding, using
them as horses, where the witches in this gallop assume the role of the incubus (Lat. incubare – to lie upon;
those who lie upon: devils in male form), while the male who assumes the passive, that is to say – feminine role
of the succubus (Lat. succubare – to lie below, to lie beneath someone, by which the position of the female in
the act of love is described: they who lie below, the devil in female form) is in a state of ecstasy – a stupefaction
of the consciousness. At the same time, the hypomorphic binomial horse (man) – witch is also present in the
imaginary about fairies, which choose the best horse (man) to ride.
48 Dowson, Porr 2001: 171.
49 Eliade 1974:93.
50 ibid.: 94.
Triinu Ojamaa (1997:1) differentiates three methods of zoomorphic and ornithomorphic transformation in
Siberian shamanism: objective transformation (for example, costumes symbolize a certain animal or a bird);
sounding transformation (imitating sounds made by animals and birds, where the author adds that the Ostyaks
have songs that denote animals and birds, but do not contain sounding imitation, regarding that as degrading
for said animals and birds [cf.. Ojamaa 1997:6]); and expressive transformations (imitating the movements of
animals and birds which could be "rhythmless movements, such as the turn of the body, and the wave of the
hand etc., pantomime, or dances").
51 Ginzburg 1991: 172.
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Suzana Marjanić
'riding' or the 'speed' of shamans, are figurative expressions for ecstasy, that is, for mystical
journeys undertaken by superhuman means and in regions inaccessible to mankind".52 In
the same way, Ginzburg explains in the book e Night Battles (I benandanti, 1966) that
the trance, journeys on the backs of animals into the other world or in animal forms that
ensure fertility, and part icipation in processions of the dead, create the pattern that evokes
shamanistic rites.53
Claude Lecouteux points out that the zoomorphic soul is an archaic pagan con-
ception characteristic to shamanistic peoples.54 Namely, the essence of Lecouteux's book
Witches, Werewolves, and Fairies: Shapeshiers and Astral Doubles in the Middles Ages
(1992) is comprised of the hypothesis that we do indeed have Doubles, usually two – one
material and one physical, the former having the capability of taking on an animal form
or retaining a human form, while the other Double is spiritual and psychic, and also pos-
sesses the possibility of metamorphosis, but this manifests itself mainly in dreams. e
(binomial) Doubles referred to above are able to reach the other world – "or any place
whatsoever in this world – in one or another of their forms" – during sleep, or a trance or
catalepsy.55
Let us pause for a moment on the point of the witch's and mora's zoopsychonavigation.56
e witch's (as well as the mora's)57 astral, Hesperian, nyctomorphic activity is designated
by transformation of the soul, separation of the soul from the body, where the body (of the
woman – mora, witch) remains in the bed, while the soul achieves zoometempsychosis,
with the mora and the witch figure as the psychonavigating Woman-Animal, the animal in
the female (the animal as a shape-shied soul). is is a case of the alter ego, the spiritual
twin of the archetypica l personage of I (Woman), of the brief nyctomorphic zoomaterial i-
sation of the soul: the soul assumes the form of an animal, which will also be maintained
in the etymological proximity of the Latin words anima and animalis.58 Night is the time
when her (the witch's, the mora's) animal transformation takes place, while she returns to
the body (the bed) of the Woman when morning comes. In the framework of the witches'
zoometempsychosis – which is included in tantric experiences and Siddhi power59 linked
52 Eliade 1974: 174.
53 Ginzburg 2001: 123.
Cf. the sketch by the Dutch researcher Nicolaas (Nicolaes, Nicholas) Witsen dating from 1705, which depicts
a shaman (of the Siberian Evenki tribe) as half-man half-animal. Apart from being dressed in the fur of an
animal, he has bear claws, wears tall horns on his head, and holds a drum in one hand and a clapper/rattle in
the other (cf. Milićević Bradač 2002: 29).
54 Lecouteux 2003: 51.
55 ibid.: 147–148.
Claude Lecouteux finds the roots of the shape-shiing of the soul in shamanistic concepts of the soul and
interprets astral Doubles – witches, werewolves and fairies – in a really attractive and simple manner. Namely,
Lecouteux points out that the term soul is not at all justified in the cited concept of the free soul (Freiseele) of
the witch, werewolf and fairy, and that it is much more appropriate to use the term animus and/or if we want to
be precise – the term Double or alter ego (Lecouteux 2003:103). Cf. Marjanić 2004a on folklore conceptualisa-
tions of the soul.
56 I wrote about this in more detail in 1999 and 2002 texts.
57 Just briefly to remind readers that, according to individual Croatian popular beliefs, only a young female can
be a mora – or as the collocutors put it more juicily, a broad – but when she weds, she then becomes a witch.
Namely, in some regions, for example, in Veli Iž (a settlement on the Island of Iž), the terms štriga and mora
have the same meaning (cf. IEF MS 1195: 3).
58 Visković 1996:57
59 Mauss 1982: 101
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Witches' zoopsychonavigations and the astral broom in the worlds of Croatian legends ......
with shamanistic ecstasies and in the context of Eliade's remark on how, where the sym-
bolics of flying and the mythology of the bird-soul are concerned, what is in question is
universal magic60 it is believed that they can pass through every aperture on a house in
Hesperian psychonavigation (in spirito), while the dominant conviction is the belief in
the possibility of their passing through a keyhole.61 For example, Mijat Stojanović noted
that a spirit-vjedina comes out of the sleeping witch's body, while the body remains dead
(temporary death) in the body (the body-bed): "When the first cocks crow and thus start to
greet the dawn, there, a vjedina comes back, and once again enters the body." Otherwise, a
vjedina who is le without a body-habitat-wrapping remains dangerous,62 and if the body
of such a woman (a witch) turns upside-down in bed, her spirit/soul is incapable of achiev-
ing the return into the body-bed.63
Zoometempsychosis into a fly, which is attributed in legends to moras, witches and
krsniks, through the activities of authoritative power (in Sloterdijk's definition) of ecclesi-
astical authorities and folk ethics, is diabolised when moras and witches are in question,
but is regarded from the aspect of its supernatural features when zoometempsychosis ap-
plies to krsniks. Similar ethical differentiation of the cited animistic conceptions64 was also
realised in the process of folk imagination of witches' zoometamorphoses that were diab-
olised, while the zoometamorphoses of krsniks,65 attained in psychonavigational struggles
for a fertile year (such facilitators include "other analogous beings ranging from Slovenia
to Montenegro", for example, obilnjaks, brgants, kombals, vedomacs, moguts, veds, vrimen-
jaks/vremenjaks, višćaks, legromants/nagromants, vjedogonjas/jedogonjas, stuhas, zduhačs)
were understood as being fructiferous.66
Let us look, for example, at the zoometempsychosis of a Woman/mora (the soul)
into a cat.67 Psychonavigation of a mora in the form of a cat68 summons up symbolisation
60 Eliade 1974: 481
61 For example, Vladimir Ardalić (1917: 306) noted down that the people of the Bukovica region believed that
witches can enter through a keyhole and that they largely transform "into flying things, such as birds of every
kind, and into black hens and turkeys". e witches' zoometamorphoses referred to are linked with the orni-
thomorphic symbolics of shamanism. Cf. legends about witches and warlocks in the clouds in ornithomorphic
form – according to Bošković-Stulli (1991:148), as eagles and ravens. is is the matrix legend of cloud-fly-
ing witches and warlocks, who bring stormy weather and hail, in the framework of which M. Bošković-Stulli
(ibid.) adds that "they encompass a motif from deeply archaic times, which is foreign to theological thought
about witches".
62 Stojanović 1852: 384
63 Zečević 1981: 10
64 Bošković-Stulli 1959: 223.
65 M. Bošković-Stulli emphasises that the wanderings of the krsnik’s spirit are mentioned much more rarely than
is the case in legends about the warlock or witch (Bošković-Stulli 1991:150). But let us, nevertheless, take a
look at a notation that testifies to the wanderings of the krsnik's spirit: "ey say that prior to the grišnjak (the
krsnik) starts to fight with the štrigas, he falls asleep lying on his back and a large, black fly, which the y call the
'parina' comes out of his mouth – and then he goes to fight as far as the ninth border/i onda ide tući se čak na
deveti konfin" (Ital. konfin. – boundary stone; border, boundary line) (Žiža 1913: 192).
66 Bošković-Stulli 2003: 20–21.
67 I wrote in more detail about the mora's zoopsychonavigations as a cat, fly or moth in a 1999 text.
To take a look at a fragment of a particular legend: "And that Mada would lie down normally at night, and
would then be absent. Her child would cry, and her husband would call out to her. But she looked as if she
were dead." According to this narration, her husband would place her head in the position of her legs, and
in the morning at dawn, "when the cocks crowed, a fly would come and buzz around the room". Of course,
according to the narrative matrix about moras and in this case about a witch's zoopsychonavigation, the fly
(the materialisation of the soul) could not enter the body "until the head was back in its place, and the legs as
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Suzana Marjanić
of the lunar and nyctomorphic animal that suffered most because of demonically denoted
apantomancy in witch hunts, although it set out on its historical journey as a sacred Egyp-
tian animal in the cult of the Goddess of the Moon Bast/et.69 Otherwis e, the English words
puss/pussy derive from the theonym Pasht, as the alternative name for Bastet/Bast – the
Egyptian goddess who was revered in the form of a cat.70 Can this animal, which shared
the common destiny of witches at the stake,71 be placed in the archetypical imaginary
in parallelism with the animal, spiritual assistants of the shaman?72 Pennethorne Hughes
pointed out that the popular etymology of the archaic word cat, meaning a stick, may have
become confused with the animal, and, in faulty interpretation, substituted by the animal
– the cat.73 Let us take a brief look at the shaman's animal helpers. While the shaman can
have numerous guardian spirits in human form, he possesses only one spirit helper repre-
senting each species of animal, which Uno Harva calls the soul-animal. On his journey to
the supernatural, the shaman's soul takes the form of this sort of animal helper.74
Now we come briefly to the materialisation of the soul as a butterfly. According to
Nodilo's concept of pneumatology, the soul among the Slavs figures as a bird,75 while it was
a butterfly among the ancient Greeks (Gk. psyche – soul, butterfly). Nodilo assumed that
the deeper historical beginnings of the soul-butterfly should, nevertheless, be sought for
in Lithuanian beliefs, where the soul was conceived as both a bird and a butterfly (moth):
"When a moth enters a house and flies around a candle, Lithuanian women say that some-
one has died and that that person's soul is making its rounds (Grimm, Deutsche Myth., s.
692)."76 Mov ing on fro m thi s belie f, Nodi lo adds that the conception of the butterfly-soul
belongs to the Indo-European matrix. Milan Budimir established that the terms vještica
(witch) and vukodlak were also used for the Death's Head moths (Acherontia atropos) that
fly around light at night, and that the similar small moth is called a witch (vještica), while
the conception of the soul of a departed forebear in the form of a moth (Seelenschmet-
terling), which is know from the Minoan epoch, had "an essential role in that semantic
evolution".77 e belief that the moth was a herald of death, and sometimes the counte-
nance of death, derived from the concept of the moth as the deceased's soul.78
they were. And then the fly would enter into her, and only then would she respond. And then they knew that
she was a witch. And her husband gave her a sound beating" (Bošković-Stulli, Marks 2002: 511, No. 68). Jakov
Mikac wrote that he had noted a belief in Brest in Istria that štrigas cannot be seen because "they transform
into a spirit, a fly, a mouse, a hair etc." (Mikac 1934: 196) and how domestic animals can oen become štrigas
and vukodlaks (ibid.: 197). Or: the spirit can exit the body in the form of a fly (Milčetić 1896: 236).
68 Cf., for example, Bošković-Stulli 1959: 143, No. 139, Milčetić 1896: 236, Pederin 1976: 282, No. 15.
69 Douglas Hill reminds readers how, during the time of witch hunts, pets – cats, squirrels, spiders, mice and
frogs – could be declared to be the witches' demons "particularly if an old woman was in question who lived
alone and kept animals to keep her company" (Hill 1998: 38). Cf. the connection between cats and witches
according to Bošković-Stulli, Marks 2002: 510–511, No. 67.
70 Sax 2001: 58.
71 ibid.: 60.
72 Cf. Musi 1997: 15.
73 Hughes 1975: 156.
74 Siikala 2002: 234.
75 Although the conception of the soul in the form of a bird is widely disseminated in Christ ian literature, Le cou-
teux states that the zoomorphic soul is an archaic conception characteristic to shamanistic peoples (Lecouteux
2003: 51).
76 Nodilo 1981: 509.
77 Budimir 1966: 272.
78 Gura 1997: 487.
180
Witches' zoopsychonavigations and the astral broom in the worlds of Croatian legends ......
One should add that the Church initially opposed the popular beliefs about the
flights of Hesperian women, this being testified to by the Canon Episcopi (around the year
900) that came down against the popular belief according to which malevolent women
"with the pagan goddess Diana and a large band of women ride upon animals during the
night hours and travel across great distances in the wee hours of the night".79 e Canon
Episcopi explicitly states that this is a lie and that the unfaithful women experience the cited
psychonavigation in their sleep, and definitely not when they are awake. Consequently, it
is no table that th is Chu rc h doc ument re fut es the realistic basis of the conception of night
flight by women-sorceresses and that of the bewitched transformation of one creature into
another. However, 13th and 14th century Inquisitors managed to cast aside this document,80
and declared the Tr uth to be quite the opposite – anyone who did not believe in the reality
of the Hesperian acts referred to was also negating the ostensible "Truth" of the Church.
e witches' psychonavigational broom
Within the framework of the witches' psychonavigational astral riding, the astral
broom – which they usually choose as their astral and psychic vehicle in the attainment
of the ecstasy technique – can be seen as an isomorphism of a phallomorphic applicator
for the hallucinogenic ointment made from an atropine-containing plant, and as an iso-
morphism of the shaman's horse-headed stick (with a horse-head shaped handle), used by
the Buryat shamans in their ecstatic dances. In any case, it is called the horse (and is not
unlike the handle of the witches' broom) and figures as some sort of hobby-horse,81 upon
which the shaman rides, travelling into the other world or, in Eliade's definition – the
symbolic "riding" expressed the departure from the body, the "mystic death" of the sha-
man. It should be mentioned that Ginzburg stresses that the suggestion that the dances
and seasonal ceremonies should be interpreted as a derivation of shamanistic rituals, on
the basis of elements such as, for example, the use of the stick with the horse's head (the
hobby-horse), does not seem to be sufficiently well-founded.82
A modern witch called Gwydion defines the belief that witches fly on brooms as an
obvious instance of misunderstanding of the magic al-poetic codes that indicate shaman-
istic ecstasy and visionary flig ht of the spirit.83 at is probably so since, according to indi-
vidual Croatian popular beliefs, witches do not achieve ecstatic take-off by means of their
brooms, but leave them in their beds as an alter ego.84 In the distant year of 1846, Luka Ilić
Oriovčanin published the belief according to which witches rubbed fairy (vilonjska) oint-
ment in their armpits and on the soles of their feet prior to their flying out of the window,
79 Bayer 1982: 63.
80 ibid.:64-65, cf. Levack 1995: 46–48.
81 On this point, the horse-headed sticks are called "horses" by the Buryat, while the drum of the Altaic shamans
is called also called "horse"; cf. Eliade 1974: 175, 407–408, 467 (cf. Chevalier, Gheerbrant 1987: 272).
e Buryat sticks can represent a horse, a snake or a human being, each one of which is used for a particular
type of astral journey, either as a symbol of authority and mastery, or as a weapon for punishing offenders
(Stutley 2003: 48).
82 Ginzburg 1991: 195.
83 Gwydion 1994: 58.
84 However, M. Bošković-Stulli pointed out that a weak echo of the international theological conception from the
witch trials has been retained in Croatia, the one that witches fly to their covens at night, leaving an object (a
broom, for example) in their place in their houses (Bošković-Stulli 1991: 150).
181
Suzana Marjanić
and le their broom in their place in the bed before achieving psychonavigation.85 Divna
Zečević noted a legend in Remete (an outer suburb of Zagreb) that led her to believe
that the broom was a prop, but also a synonym for sorceresses (coprnice) and sorcerers
(coprnjaci), "so that it replaced the woman in the bed and made her visible and present to
her husband, even when she was on a nocturnal trip on Sljeme"86 (the highest peak of the
Medvednica Mountain Range near Zagreb). Still, there are numerous legends testifying to
witches' psychonavigations on brooms or some other astral and psychic vehicle.87 In any
case, we need only to recall Mephistopheles' intriguing question to Faust: Wouldn't you like
to have a broomstick? (J. W. Goethe: Faust, 3835).
One also finds riding on theriomorphic vehicles in shamanism. For example, there
is one particular segment of the shamanistic ritual among the Altaics: a few steps away
from the tent (the yurt) there stands a scarecrow in the shape of a goose that the shaman
straddles and then waves his arms as if flying, while his song is about flying above white
and blue clouds, and how he climbs up into the heavens on this bird.88
e text entitled Broomstick History (http.), which achieves cyber-flight in the Inter-
net imaginary of the witch's broom, indicates that the broom-stick denoted tantric erotic
sitting to the witches, which would connote the symbolisation of the phallic divinity of
the broom. Riding on a broom, similarly to the above-mentioned fairy/witch riding on
a horse, can denote the erotic, feminine active position that was oen denounced as per-
version, in which the male was in the position or perhaps the role of a horse. e witch's
position on the broom is described erotically and picturesquely by the verb to ride and
its variants to mount, to straddle (the broom), and to spread one's legs, which conjure up
the iconogram of sexual practice. I would also like to refer to Róheim's interpretation of
shamanistic ecstasy, in w hich he could not resist the temptation to explain in the Freudian
manner the shamanistic flight and ascent (ascensus): "(…) a flying dream is a dream about
the erection, that is, the body represents the phallus in such dreams. Our hypothetical con-
clusion would be that the dream about flying is the nucleus of shamanism."89
And while wings (krila i okrilje) were allocated to fairies as an ornithomorphic aid
in psychonavigation, verticalism, and the angelisation of eroticism (cf. Marjanić 2004),
an astral vehicle in the form of a naturalistic phallusoid broom-handle (or stallion) per-
tained to the witches. In addition to the fact that Croatian witches – or, perhaps more
appropriately – witches in Croatia, flew on brooms, the y could also achieve psychonaviga-
tion on other vehicles, while the following astral aids are usually noted in legends: cherry
wood brooms,90 shas, T-shaped windlasses, spindles,91 ravulje (dračevile – two-pronged
bramble forks), billhooks, mortars (stupa, avan),92 churns (a narrow, tall wooden vessel
in which butter was churned)93 and, for example, even fire pokers, barrels, and tubs,94
85 Ilić Oriovčanin 1846: 291.
86 Zečević 1995: 79.
87 Cf., for example, Deželić 1863: 219.
88 Eliade 1974: 191–192.
89 Cf. ibid.: 225.
90 Cf. Jardas 1957: 104.
91 Cf. Lovrenčević 1969–1970: 88.
92 For tales and beliefs on how Baba Jaga and witches ride or fly on mortars that symbolise the female principle
and are oen shown with pestles, symbolising the male principle, cf. Toporkov 2001: 517, 545.
93 Cf. IEF MS 172: 136, No. 12.
94 Cf. Bošković-Stulli, Marks 2002: 510–511, No, 67.
182
Witches' zoopsychonavigations and the astral broom in the worlds of Croatian legends ......
along with noted animal psychonavigation vehicles – for example, male goats.95 It should
be stressed at this juncture that the witches in Croatian oral legends also choose animals
as astral vehicles, in addition to the above, while the horse figures as the most frequently
mentioned theriomorphic vehicle or, as in Kompolje – the aforementioned male goat.
e notion of the witches' psycho/navigation on brooms/broomsticks, hoes and shovels
probably emerged from archaic rituals in which the dancers used tools with long handles
as wooden horses. 96
In order to avoid confusion – the broom's triangle was located in front of the witch's
vulva in flight, although the brushy part of the broom was usually also located behind the
witch's buttocks in iconographic depictions of the Hollywood imagination. For example,
in Goya's picturesque imagination of witches' flight (Fine Teacher!, Capricho 68, 1797-
1798),97 there are two naked witches with long, flowing hair seated on one broom, where
the broom's triangle is turned forward; an old witch is in the role of leader of the astral
navigation. However, in the Harr y Potter cycle of films, Harry is shown riding on a broom
whose brushy triangle is behind the young rider. Kevin Carlyon, a British White Witches
high priest, criticised this film imagination as lacking authenticity since "woodcuts from
the 16th and 17th centuries show broomsticks being ridden with the brush part in the front"
of its levitating rider.98
e broom that has the function of cleaning, chasing away and destroying the old
(thus, also the unclean) by new (pure) forces is the symbol of the revolutionary corrective,
since, just as the broom clears away dirt and rubbish (where material cleaning is involved),
the broom in the metaphorical sense also projects spiritual cleansing, by which, as Marijan
Stojković tells us – in the article "Room-dust, rubbish, broom and rubbish dump" from
1935, which to date is the only Croatian study on symbolisation and the imagination of
the broom and the rubbish dump – "(it) sweeps or sweeps away evil, the malevolent spirit,
misfortune, spells, disease and death; that is a ritual and magical cleansing".99 rough its
structure, the broom unites the male principle – the phallic symbol upon which the witch
rides-flies – and the female principle of the triangular (delta-shaped) apex, and in that way
symbolically demonstrates the antithesis between the pure (phallic handle in the hands)
and the impure, dangerous (female triangle of the swe eping broom).100 Another interpreta-
tion that is near to the foregoing is the one in which symbolisation of male pubic hairs, as
the regenerative symbol of fertility and re-birth, are read off from the phallusoid handle in
the broom's triangular brush.
Natko Nodilo pointed out – unfortunately, without citing his source – that the
broom was reputed as the warlike symbol of winter, the "terrible weapon of the wintry
behemoth"101 among Indo-European peoples. As with witches, for whom the broom is
their astral vehicle, the broom is also an attribute of the mora (admittedly, here it is a
95 Grčević 2000: 503.
96 Hill 1998:10.
In addition, as Margaret A. Murray reported, witches in the Middle East rode on palm branches (Murray 1970:
89).
97 Cf.. Buchholtz 1999:82 (cf. Fig. No. 2).
98 Davis 2001, http.
99 Stojković 1935: 25.
100
Radenković 1996: 150–151.
101
Nodilo 1981:61.
183
Suzana Marjanić
matter of the broom as an apotropaic against the mora's influence), which is symboli-
cally linked with the aspect of flight and wind. I would remind readers of the fact that
the Mesopotamian (Babylonian-Assyrian) name of the archedemon Lilitu (the Assyrian
storm demon) denotes the spirit of the wind,102 with which one aspect of the mora's and
the witch's identity card is connected. In Southern Slavic folk beliefs, the broom is oen
denoted as an apotropaic against the mora and the witch, with a significant instruction
that it is necessary to turn the broom upside-down behind the door, which intensifies its
apotropaic power: "driving out Evil with Evil".103 Or there is Nodilo's mythological inter-
pretation: when a broom is turned upside-down behind a door, it overturns the Aryan
weapon and insignia of the avaricious and gluttonous M/mora and the storm-borne Ruga,
and thus thwarts their activity.104
e astral broom, a significant iconographic instrument in the witch's demonic
technique, is read off either in the symbolism of a purifying (material and spiritual) correc-
tive, or in Nodilo's definition – as a warlike symbol of wintry horrors (stormy seas), or in
the context of tantric copulation; the sha, the T-shaped winch, and the spindle – which
is connected with spinning and weaving techniques – links witches with the goddesses
of destiny (weaving); two-pronged bramble forks and the billhook – as agricultural tools
– place witches in the context of the vegetation cycle; the mortar and pestle and the churn
– as utensils associated with the preparation of Good – give her the role of bread-winner
of the family; while the poker links the role of the witch with the cult of the hearth, as the
sacred place where the witch/old woman, as guardian of the holy fire/the hearth, prac tices
the pagan (village, peasant) religion/magic, since traditional witchcra relates to the cult
of vegetation and livestock fertility. Mircea Eliade drew attention to the gynaecomorphic
symbolics of the hearth (the hearth = the vulva) as the seat of fire and that fire or the divine
(spiritual) fire is of "demonic" origin "since, according to certain ancient beliefs, it comes
about through sorcery in the sexual organ of the witch".105
Apart from that, the hearth in Croatian oral literary legends about witches is
shown to be the place where our demonic flyers keep their flying balm.106 For example,
Ivan Milčetić noted on the Island of Krk that viške/štrige (witches) rub themselves with
balm that they store in a pot below the hearth,107 before they take to the air. A legend
from the area of Bukovica tells of an old witch who stripped naked; she picked up a staff
and struck with it "on the le-hand hearth trestle by the fire and (started) enticing as
if she was tempting a ram before her. When a small pot the size of a walnut emerged,
the old woman smeared (the contents) all over her from head to toe and said: 'Not of
wood nor of stone, but under the walnut-tree below Promina'" (one of the mountains
in the Dinaric Mountain Range – the highest peak at 1146m).108 Such imaginings about
witches' balm are (largely) linked with the hearth cult (lararium) that figures as the seat
102
Graves, Patai 1969:67.
103
Stojković 1935:28.
104
Cf. Nodilo 1981:59–61,192.
105
Eliade 1983: 40, 214.
106
Lecouteux stressed that there were three traditions in witches' flight: flight with animals (which became
entrenched around the year 1000); with the aid of satanic balm; and fantastic riding on a stick, "a tradition
that grew to include a broomstick" (Lecouteux 2003: 84–85).
107
Milčetić 1896: 233.
108
Ardalić 1917: 306.
184
Witches' zoopsychonavigations and the astral broom in the worlds of Croatian legends ......
of the clan's home idols, the souls of forebears.109 In the regions of the Southern Slavs
sacrifices in the form of human blood were made to the hearth trestle (prijeklad, zaklad,
konj, nadžak – the rack against which the logs were leaned)110 as the clan idol, accord-
ing to which the future was foretold, depending on whether the blood boiled or not. It
was taken as an unfortunate sign for the clan if the blood boiled; they then abandoned
the house and the hearth trestle-idol.111 Linking the witches' balm in folklore imagin-
ings with the hearth topos can be denoted as a survival of pagan religions, that were
practiced particularly by older (in the sense of: more skilful, experienced) women (old
women, hag witches).
Briey about apotropaic birth in a caul
Another fact linking shamans with some of our mythical beings and supernatural
persons is birth in a caul; for example, as the future shaman is determined at birth among
the Jurak-Samoyeds in Siberia. In other words, children who come into the world in a caul
are predestined to become shamans, and those born with the caul covering the head only
will become lesser shamans.112
Claude Lecouteux pointed out that ancient Scandinavian literature, because of the
triad conception of the soul – fylgja, hamr and hugr (by which the ancient Scandinavians
and the Germanic people termed that which Christians denoted with the concept of the
soul) can help us in understanding the concept of ecstatic travel. If we examine briefly
these concepts of the soul: fylgja, fylgjur (daimôn, genius) is a psychic, spiritual Double of
an individual with a guardianship role, "one who follows, the female follower", who can
leave a person during sleep and at the moment of death, while her dominant nature is
animal.113 Hamr (hama in Old English) remains with the body as a physical double right
up until the corpse is completely decomposed, and is thus, in this sense, related to the
shamanistic soul of bones.114 Hugr (anima mundi, mana), as the third component of the
soul in Scandinavian pneumatology, corresponds with the Latin concepts of animus and
spiritus, and can also denote the Greek concept of nous, "faculty of thought, mind, intelli-
gence", just as it figures as mens.115 e Early Norwegian verb fylgja – as Claude Lecouteux
shows, writing out his register of the meanings of this term – means to follow, and also
has the physiological meaning of the placenta – the membrane that follows the delivery of
a newborn.116 Invoking Ginzburg's interpretation that hamr (one of the soul concepts in
Scandinavian "pneumatology"), covering in Norwegian the meanings of "skin", "Double",
and "caul", Claude Lecouteux, similarly to Ginzburg, established a profound link between
109
Vukanović 1971: 174.
Cf. Marjanić 2002: 234–238 for some examples which testify to the cited coupling of the hearth – sorcer-
esses' balm.
110
Cf. IEF 1127: 18.
111
Vukanović 1971: 188–189.
112
Eliade 1974: 16 (cf. Ginzburg 2001: 123).
Eliade (1981: 108) reports that, according to popular beliefs in Romania, strigoi are born in a caul and, when
they reach maturity, they put it on and become invisible. Lecouteux refers to the belief that persons who are
born in a caul have second sight (Lecouteux 2003: 126).
113
Cf. Raudvere 2002:98 on the animal and feminine fylgja.
114
Lecouteux 2003: 45–47.
115
ibid.: 49.
116
ibid.: 68, 97.
185
Suzana Marjanić
the caul – a portion of the foetal membrane (amnion, amnios) that certain babies have
on their heads when they come into the world – and nocturnal flights.117
According to Croatian legends, moras and witches are born in a bloody/red caul
(a red or black bladder),118 while krsniks (similarly to zduhačs, for example)119 in an
ethically white caul.120 Maja Bošković-Stulli mentions that the colour of the caul is ir-
relevant in certain regions, but that, particularly in Istria and neighbouring areas, be-
cause of polarisation into krsniks and štrigons, the colour and type of caul are of utmost
importance.121 For example, the red caul is entered into the embryological mythologem
of the genesis of a mora and gynaecophobia has structured the belief on the ways in
which a mora is born: a baby girl born in a red caul was fated and gynaecomorphologi-
cally predestined to become a mora.122 e genesis of a mora could be prevented if the
bloody caul was destroyed immediately aer birth – it was to be burnt or buried, which
people were loath to do because it was believed that the caul was a human being's alter
ego and so, the birth of a baby girl in a bloody caul was announced to everyone.123 e
caul would be taken outside the house and the midwife would shout loudly that a little
girl in a bloody caul had been born in that house; this was done to hinder the develop-
ment of her demonic powers.124 If a baby girl was born in a white caul (in a normal birth,
117
ibid.:95–96. It is worth noting here that individual interpretations ignore the difference between the placen-
ta (posteljica) and the caul (košuljica). e caul, which is located under the decidua membrane, is wrapped
around the foetus itself (Sučić 1943: 68). Still, Tihomir Đorđević also gave some synonyms for košuljica
(caul) in individual Southern Slavic regions, including the lexeme posteljica (placenta) (Đorđević 1941: 89).
Cf. Plotnikova 1999 and 2001: 291, Schneeweis 2005: 78, for positive and negative meanings attributed to
being born in a caul, and also about its colour.
118
Cf. Bošković-Stulli 1991: 149.
119
Cf. Bošković-Stulli 1953: 336.
Zduhačs are found in legends from Bosnia and Herzegovina and Montenegro.
120
For example, cf. the legend which speaks of how the štrigo is born in a black bladder, and the krsnik in a
white caul (košulja) that is like a net, while a child born in such a caul has to wear it under its arm – the caul
has to be sewn in under its armpit (Bošković-Stulli 1959:148, No. 157, Bošković-Stulli 2003: 14).
Bartulin described the krsnik's caul according to beliefs on Cres: they are born "wearing a thin net of milk like a
shirt (a caul), which should be given to the child in some sort of soup so that it drinks it, they usually give it in cof-
fee" (Bartulin 1898: 267). Milčetić noted down that the skrstnik or krstnik (in Vrbnik and Spinčić) is born "under
a small cap of skin. ey dry out this cap and give it to the child so that it eats it with some food" (Milčetić 1896: 225).
Branko Fučić noted down a belief from the island of Cres that the krsnik is born "in a caul, a placenta, while
the mrkodlak (is born) with 'a cap on its head, part of the amniotic sack (amnion)!", and, according to this
belief, the krsnik must drink his caul, which gives him special powers (MS IEF 1142: 1, italics S.M.).
ere is an interesting instruction in legends about the birth of krsniks, which says that the caul should be sewn
in under the skin of the armpit, while the armpit topos also appears in oral poetry about the children/sons of
dragons (zmajevita djeca), who are born with wings below their armpits (Zečević 1978:39). Cf. certain other
legends about the birth of krsniks – according to Mikac 1934: 195, MS IEF 118: 55, Žiža 1913: 192, MS IEF
88:22,23, MS IEF 118: 54, Bošković-Stulli 2003: 28.
Cf. Marjanić 1999:60-–2 on beliefs connected with the birth of moras in cauls.
121
Bošković-Stulli 1975a: 219.
For example, in some beliefs its colour is not at all crucial in becoming a Hesperian creature: "If a female is born
in a caul, she becomes a mora" (Milčetić 1896: 236).
122
Cf. Marjanić 1999: 60–62.
123
Zečević 1981: 146.
124
MS IEF 1608: 17, No. 33.
According to beliefs on the islands of Brač and Hvar, a štriga (stringa) was born in a black caul so that it was
necessary that the midwife (the baba) take the child out onto the house threshold as soon as it was born and
call out three times: "A višćica (witch) has been born,/ But not a witch,/ Rather a real little girl", or: "A
višćun (wizard) has been born,/ But not a wizard, rather a real young man" (Carić 1897: 710).
186
Witches' zoopsychonavigations and the astral broom in the worlds of Croatian legends ......
a birth without difficulties, the uterine side of the aerbirth is a shining greyish-white in
colour), it was believed that she would be fortunate: "(...) but I think in an ordinary caul,
that's what they say, the one born like that is happier. But I don't believe that because I
was born in one."125 Namely, both the birth of a krsnik and mora, and štrigons and štrigas
in Istria, like moras and witches in the Dalmatian regions, were loudly announced; Maja
Bošković-Stulli identified the lack of logic in this practice, since it was believed that a
krsnik could die or lose his powers if his identity was uncovered. is author concluded
that the announcement of the krsnik's birth became customary analogously with that
of the štrigon.126
Consequently, particular attention was paid if a child was born in a caul. In other
words, in rare cases a child is born wrapped in the birth membrane – the caul; a child
born in this way has less chances for survival, but if it does survive, that means that it is
stronger than other children. In such cases, popular beliefs are grouped either around the
birth in a caul or its colour, and in that way the mystic link between the caul and the
child are revealed.127
Axis mundi – the mythic geography of mountains and trees
Folklore conceptions about the witches' and fairies' trees as their meeting places
can be approximated to the concept of the World Tree as the topos of the soul.128 Mov-
ing on to the following (possible) point of contact between witchcra and shamanism,
they are also linked by mythic geographymountains and trees that figure as the axis
mundi, the Centre of the World,129 while the customary witches' tree in Southern Slavic
oral literary legends is the walnut-tree.130 In Konavle, however, witches gather in hollow
olive-trees and underneath walnut-trees.131 Related to the trials of witches in Croatia,
Ivan Tkalčić mentioned that witches gathered under oak trees, but rarely under linden
trees.132 Josip Kotarski noted down a belief from Lobor that witches hold their covens at
night on Good Friday, where they have a table in a spruce that has no crown.133 Moun-
tains are designated as the gathering places of witches' power (the mountain peaks), in
Eliade's definition cosmic peaks, and trees (arbor mundi), these being Earthly centres-
protuberances (axis mundi) that establish contact between the celestial and the terres-
trial world.134 e cited mythic geography has been preserved in the witches' magical
verbal formulae (the verbal symbol of the ritual) that witches utter aer they have
125
MS IEF 1608:17, No. 33.
126
Bošković-Stulli 1975a: 219.
127
Trebješanin 2000:85, 87.
128
Veleckaja 1996: 36–37, cf. Marjanić 2004a: 233–239 on the concept of the World Tree as a topos of the soul.
129
Eliade 1974: 12–127, 269–274, 477–482, cf. Čiča 2002: 89–90.
130
Zečević 1981: 141, cf. Marjanić 2002: 235.
Establishing that ecstatic ascent into the Heavens was oen replaced ritually by symbolically climbing up into
a tree, and Zoran Čiča came to the conclusion that fairies in the world of legends were usually located under
the following fairies' trees – the oak, elm, pear, and hawthorn or under a holly tree (zapis) (Čiča 2002: 89–90,
95), while Dušan Bandić mentioned that the oak, elm, pear, hawthorn, mulberry, and holly tree (zapis) figure
as fairy trees (Bandić 1980: 244–245).
131
Bogdan-Bijelić 1907: 307.
132
Tkalčić 1891: 25.
133
Kotarski 1918: 50.
134
Eliade 1974: 266–269.
187
Suzana Marjanić
rubbed themselves with balm, which is the concluding magical act through which they
achieve astral navigation: "To Biokovo under the walnut tree";135 " Not of wood nor of
stone, but to Muć under the walnut tree",136 or, as this formula is uttered on the island
of Brač: "Not of wood nor of stone,/ But into the field (polje) under the walnut tree."137
Apart from these mythic oronyms, there is also mention, of course, of Medvednica/
Sljeme,138 Klek,139 Aršanj (probably Harsány Mountain in Hungary) and Pulja.140 And
while Maja Bošković-Stulli deciphers the toponym Pulja as Puglia in southern Italy,
Slobodan Zečević defines it as Pula (the coastal town of Pula) due to the legendary
walnut tree, but according to Carić's notation, as the above-mentioned example shows,
what is in question is a field (polje). Pulja usually appears as a zoopsychonavigational
topos for witches in Dalmatia,141 on the island of Lastovo, for example, where a belief
existed that witches came together on the eve of the saints' days of St John and St Peter
and went to a walnut tree on Pulja; "they come together there and later return and do
damage". In the same way, when jumping over the holiday bonfires, the verbal symbol
of the ritual was incanted: "'In the name of God and St John (or Peter) let the witches
burn wherever they be!' or 'In the name of God and St Peter may the witches' manda
burn!' (Manda is a coarse expression meaning female genitals, and there is also the
expression 'You manda!' with the aforesaid meaning)."142 We can find this explanation
in another legend, also from Lastovo, in which the collocutor, Petar Lešić (son of Pavle)
(born 1916) says: "When jumping over the fire, one speaks. Women there, when they
jump over the fire, usually don't wear any panties. And then they say: In the name of
God and St Peter, may it burn up among the witches… hop! – over the fire."143 Or, in the
modified version on the island of Korčula: "In the name of the Father and St Vid, may
the witches' 'cunts' burn up!".144
Eliade underscored that the ecstatic journey of shamans always takes place near
to the Axis/Centre (the World Tree), which evokes a three-storied cosmology – the
Earth with the Celestial World above and the Netherworld below, and how the Buryats
call the shamanistic birch "the Guardian of the Door" (udeši-burkhan), since it opens the
135
Bošković-Stulli 1967–1968: 405, No. 8.
136
Bošković-Stulli 1993: 293–294, No. 175.
137
Carić 1897: 711, italics S.M.
Cf. Đorđević 1953: 33–34 for witch psychonavigational formulae.
138
Zečević 1995: 79, 96.
139
Bayer 1982:242, 572.
140
About Pulja, cf. for example, the legend according to Marks 1980: 267, No. 52.
Antun Pavić noted that fairies frequently gather on hills such as Papuk and Brizovo Polje, but largely on
Haršanj that is located in the middle of the Baranja region (Pavić 1852: 342).
Cf. the legend containing the witch psychonavigational formula "Not on a log nor on a stump, but straight to
Aršanj" according to Bošković-Stulli 1963:293-295, No. 149. Cf. Jardas's notation on štrigas (witches) in the
Kastav region (Jardas 1957: 102).
141
Cf. Bošković-Stulli 1991: 135, Zečević 1981: 142.
For example, Marijan Livijo noted down the belief from Veli Iž (a settlement on the Island of Iž) that "they used
to come to Pula or even further, as far as Af rica. ey could also come in a cloud and cause thunder, hail, rain
and storms" (MS IEF 1195: 4). In addition to the mentioned Pula form, M. Livijo also noted the form Pulja
(ibid.: 6). Kadčić did not define Pulja geographically, but only wrote: "Because there were so many walnut trees,
and large ones at that, in Pulja. Witches oen go there" (Kadčić 1859: 332).
142
MS IEF 959: 20–21.
143
MS IEF 1218: 69, No. 50.
144
MS IEF 783: 11.
188
Witches' zoopsychonavigations and the astral broom in the worlds of Croatian legends ......
entry to the Heavens145 for the shaman. e shamanist birch in Altaic shamanism sym-
bolises the World Tree, which is located in the centre of the universe, the cosmic axis
that connects the Sky, the Earth and the Netherworld, while the seven, nine or twelve
notches (tapty) represent the Heavens, the celestial planes.146
Due to the permeation between witch and shaman cosmology in the context of
the axis mundi mythem,147 it is obvious that this type of cosmology is not limited to the
shamanist context. us, this reveals another link, as Zoran Čiča demonstrated in his
book e Vilenica and the Vilenjak: the Destiny of a Pre-Christian Cult in the Period of
Witch Persecution (2002), showing the link between the vilenica and shamanistic phe-
nomenology, while pointing out that this does not also suggest the shamanistic charac-
ter of the phenomenon in the narrow sense.148 e author carries through an extremely
interesting comparison in observation of the ecstatic cult of vilenica and vilenjak in the
context of Euro-Asian shamanistic practice, examining, for instance, the shamanistic
ecstasy technique (astral journeying) and the mythic geography of mountains and trees
(os sacrum) in the initiation of the vilenica (ascensus to a tree as the venue of the initia-
tion process, ecstasy, and establishing a relationship with spiritual/astral beings) and the
vilenjak (for example, ecstatic ascensus to a mountain, conferring power).
In Siberian shamanistic mythology, the axis mundi figures largely as a white birch
(Betula alba) that is planted in the centre of the round yurt (tent) during the shaman initi-
ation ceremonies and reaches up to the opening in the top of the tent, which represents the
Door of Heaven or the Sun, through which the shamans depart from the Cosmos into the
Axis of the Polar Star.149 In this connection, Zmago Šmitek mentioned that fairytales with
the motif of climbing into a tree are definitely connected with the concept of the Euro-
Asian shamanistic tree and/or with the concept of the World Tree (os sacrum), which is
also known among the Indo-Europeans.150 Otherwise, the shamans' drums are made from
the bark of the World Tree, and from its trunk or branches.151
Hallucinogens and psychonavigation
Researching the role of hallucinogens in European witchcra and in shamanism,
Michael J. Harner concluded that these two magical practices were mutually linked with
psychotropic drugs, and that they largely used plants from the order Solanaceae (the
potato family) – thorn apple (Datura), mandrake, henbane (Hyoscyamus), and Deadly
Nightshade or belladonna.152 For example, the latter (L. Atropa belladonna), was proc-
essed together with other ingredients from other plants from the Solanaceae order for
the so-called magical balm, which was rubbed in to the mucous membrane around the
145
Eliade 1974: 194.
146
ibid.
L.L. Abaeva did research on the role of the tree cult among the Mongol peoples (the Mongols, Kal-
mics, and Buryats), charting the transformation of the World Tree – World Mountain concept of the
archaic world-view into the shaman's tree and, finally, into the shaman's stick (cf. Hoppál 1993a: 278).
147
Cf. Čiča 2002: 90.
148
ibid.: 86–87.
149
Chevalier, Gheerbrant 1987: 62.
150
Šmitek 1999: 184.
151
Cf. Bowker 1998:181, Vitebsky 1995: 81.
152
Harner 1976: 128.
189
Suzana Marjanić
genitals, on the forehead and under the arms in order to attain a feeling of intoxication.153
omas S. Szasz mentioned the fact that sorceresses had once been called Good Women
or Lovely Lady – Bella Dona, thus, by the name of their remedy that is still used today
in pharmacopoeia.154 Apart from these psychoactive plants, hemlock and aconite/monk-
shood, which also contain powerful psychoactive alkaloids,155 were used as well. e
folklorist Will-Erich Peuckert explained in his interpretation of the broom that the cited
psychonavigational vehicle was used as an applicator for lubricating the sensitive vagi-
nal membrane with hallucinogens that contained atropine, which induced the feeling of
flying.156 Consequently, in addition to rubbing their bodies with ointment, and rubbing it
into their skin, which made possible its absorption into the bloodstream, they also used
it on their vehicles – brooms, spindles, sticks, benches...157 According to one particular
Mediaeval recipe, Peuckert mixed a witch balm from thorn apple, henbane and Deadly
Nightshade, which he rubbed into his armpits and onto his forehead. He described the
twenty-four-hour-long state of intoxication and deep sleep with images: "wild hellish rid-
ing, intoxication with love, fantastic flights into eternity, and a fort surround by disfigured,
grotesque creatures".158 e witches' balm in the worlds of Southern Slavic legends, as
well as in the theological instrumentary, was sometimes diabolised. Namely, according to
Southern Slavic legends, it was believed that the witch brewed her balm by cooking the
outcome of her coupling with the Devil, and by boiling up human blood and fat… It was
also believed that the ointment was made of nail cuttings, the remnants of the foreskin
removed in the circumcision of male children, and from pubic hair.159
Harner underscored the fact that he does not claim that hallucinogenic plants
were used in all shamanistic practices,160 while, in Eliade's opinion, the use of narcot-
ics as an ecstatic stimulant represents a vulgarisation of shaman tradition: "(...) the
use of narcotics is, rather, indicative of the decadence of an ecstasy technique or of its
extension to 'lower' peoples or social groups" and that the use of narcotics (tobacco…)
is a relatively new phenomenon in the far North-East.161 I would remind readers that
Gordon R. Wasson in his study Divine Mushroom of Immortality (1968) examined the
153
Schaffner 1999: 49.
Deadly Nightshade (variously known as luda trava, vučja trešnja, norica, L. Atropa belladonna), one of the
most poisonous plants found in the South-Slavic regions: "When someone is deceived and eats its sweetish
berries, then, according to what witnesses say, that person formally becomes insane, walking as if he/she
has gone amok and talking all kinds of nonsense. When more of those berries are eaten, then they cause a
type of rabies with hallucinations, paralysis, unconsciousness and uncontrolled body movements. en the
people say: 'he blundered into a witches' dance' (vrzino kolo), or 'he suddenly went mad'" (Kazimirović 1986:
174).
154
Szasz 1982: 101.
155
Plant 2004: 104.
156
According to Petersdorff 2001: 162, cf. Plant 2004: 105.
157
Hruškovec 1998: 31–32.
158
According to Petersdorff 2001: 162.
159
Cf. Zečević 1981: 141. For several examples of Croatian oral literary legends which have witches' balm as
their theme, cf. Marjanić 2002. For example, Johannes Hartlieb (Das Buch aller verbotenen Künste, des
Aberglaubens und der Zauberei, 1456) even gives the name of the witches' psychonavigational ointment
(ugentum Pharelis) (cf. Bayer 1982: 357). Following Hartlieb, Lecouteux writes the name of the balm as
unguentum Pharelis (Lecouteux 2003:84).
160
Harner 1976: XV.
161
Eliade 1974: 477, cf. McKenna, McKenna 1994: 15.
190
Witches' zoopsychonavigations and the astral broom in the worlds of Croatian legends ......
essential role of the Amanita muscaria mushroom in Siberian shamanism.162 Elio Schae-
chter pointed out that this mushroom, whose pileus is red on top with white scaling, is
found in children's picture-books and that it not only hallucinogenic but also toxic.163 In
an ironic tone, Sadie Plant added that one of the most permanent embodiments of the
archaic shamanistic journeys visits the world once a year as Santa Claus who, dressed in
red and white, flies through the expanses of the heavens in a sleigh pulled along by rein-
deer and brings gis from the other world.164 Shamans of the northern Asian regions
consume the Toadstool, the Amanita muscaria, which is oen found beside the roots of
the birch or the fir tree – thus, those very trees that they use as the axis mundi.165 Some
hold the opinion that it is that mushroom – which was infamous in the past and was
called the mushroom of the insane and the throne of toads (or T/toadstool) – which could
be the puzzling plant used in making soma according to the Vedic hymns and/or the
haoma according to the Iranian Ave st a. e ethnomycologist Wasson mentions that the
description of soma in the Rigveda as breasts splattered with milk corresponds with the
description of the Amanita muscaria.166
Let us look at another frequent motif concerning moras' and witches' psychonaviga-
tions. F o r e x am p le , i t wa s sa i d in Lu k a on t he I sl a nd o f Du g i O t ok t h at t he štrigas (witches)
arrived by boat from Italy, and, when it drew near to Luka, the boat would transform into
an egg-shell and the oars into bird feathers, w hile legends have also been noted down about
štrigas travelling in an egg-shell.167 Another belief from Veli Iž (a settlement on the Island
of Iž) spe aks of štrigas who travelled "in an egg-shell and rowed with matches for oars with
162
Cf. McKenna, McKenna 1994: 15, Plant 2004: 106.
M. Hoppál mentions that the mushroom Amanita muscaria (fly agaric, mad mushroom) is used in witch-
cra and not only in shamanism, when love-inducing magic potions are in question. He adds that milk
serves as a powerful detoxicant to counteract the impact of fly agaric, which could be linked with the
legend that speaks of the witches stealing milk in village communities (Hoppál 1992: 159). Cf. exam-
ples of fantastic descriptions of witches stealing milk according to Bošković-Stulli 1991: 129. is au-
thor points out that spoiling and taking milk from other peoples' cows was a typical injurious procedure
that was transposed from popular magic into the theological concept of witchcra, and was preserved
in folk beliefs right up to very recent times (ibid.), while, for example, certain theological conceptions,
particularly those about witches' meetings, transposed from learned to oral tradition (ibid.: 126). In
Kompolje it was believed that witches' ointment was, in fact, butter made from stolen milk, while par-
ticularly good butter was that made by witches who "melted it down from milk stolen from women who
were nursing babies" (Grčević 2000: 503). For example, I. Tkalčić wrote in relation to trials of witches in
Croatia that, according to the cited "testimonies", witches like to take the milk of other peoples' cows on
farms (Tkalčić 1891: 7). Writing about Brest, J. Mikac mentioned that, according to beliefs, štrigas could
take a cow's milk "in such a way that they would throw an opta (a yarn rope) over the cow's back and
milk her into a sieve, while the milk from the sieve would go to the štriga's house" (Mikac 1934: 199).
For example, V. Fortunić wrote about the mushroom called vještičine rigotine (witches' vomit) by the people
as being "whitish-red, in the shape of a dome (…). It is said that witches gather in that hole because there
are such mushrooms there (the ones called witches' vomit by the people)" (MS. IEF 192: 12).
163
Schaechter 1998: 190.
164
Plant 2004: 107.
Or, we c an recall the Smurfs, those small blue creatures with white caps (only Papa Smurf has a red cap), who
live in houses made of mushrooms, and possess magic powers.
165
Chevalier, Gheerbrant 1987: 62.
Ginzburg added that, apart from the Altaics, the Siberian peoples used the toadstool, while the practice in
question was implemented especially by the shamans in achieving ecstasy (Ginzburg 1991: 305).
166
Visković 2001: 365, 489.
167
Lulić 1993: 364.
191
Suzana Marjanić
a stroke covering one hundred miles".168 Another belief was: that "witches and moras could
cross the sea in only an egg-shell",169 while an apotropaic defence from the nyctomorphic
activities was that the victim of their attack could escape, because the Hesperian beings
in question could not cross the sea – other than in an egg-shell. e imaginary Lilliputian
image and dreams about moras and witches floating on the sea in a walnut- or egg-shell170
are psychosymbols of Gulliver-type searches for enclosure in one's own shell (room) from
fear of night as the time of dark thoughts171 and miniature moras (Tom umb creatures)
in their animalistic Hesperian activities. Sadie Plant drew attention to the fact that one of
the best known effects of the Amanita muscaria is a feeling that one is growing or reduc-
ing in size, which has a key role, for example, in Carroll's Alice in Wonderland while – as is
known – Lewis Carroll had access to several studies on the Amanita muscaria mush-
room, and probably to the mushroom itself.172
Let us pause for a moment at an apotropaic against the negative activities of mo-
ras and witches.173 Namely, in addition to the broom turned upside-down behind the
door as an apotropaic against witches and moras, other objects such as fine and coarse
sieves can also serve this purpose, because they have so many holes, "while the popular
belief is that witches and moras cannot move forward, cannot do anything or inflict
any harm, before they count all the holes on the fine and coarse sieves". e sieve is
also part of the witches' instrumentary as well as being an attribute of moras who like
to ride in them through the air: "is conception was arrived at through the fact that
somebody saw similarity between a storm cloud and the shape of a sieve, which lets wa-
ter pass through; in a similar way, a storm cloud was conceived as a broom, that sweeps
everything before it; and the derivation from that was that witches on brooms rode in
the clouds or that they ride in a sieve through the air."174 Perhaps the fairytale elements
of the journeys of moras and witches in walnut-shells or egg-shells and in sieves could
also be linked with shamanistic journeys. Namely, Mihály Hoppál mentions the fact
that, in the Hungarian belief system, some very characteristic features of shamanism
were preserved in the form of the drum=sieve=boat equation, while he commences this
parallelism with an indication of how the Hungarian shaman, the táltos, is linked with
the sieve (coarse sieve).175
Consequently, in the (possible) comparisons between witchcra and shamanism
given above, I stress the point that we are speaking only of possible points of contact, since
Gustav Henningsen has emphasised that shamanism is not appropriate for explaining
witchcra as these are, in fact, diverse ecstatic cults and variations of lethargy.176
168
MS IEF 1195: 4, 5.
169
Milčetić 1896: 286.
170
Bošković-Stulli 1959: 220.
171
Cf. Durand 1991: 221.
172
Plant 2004: 107.
173
I wrote in more detail about apotropaics against mora activities in the text "Apotropaics Against the Mora
as a Female-Nyctomorphic Demon" (1999).
174
Stojković 1929: 51–53.
175
Hoppál 1992: 164.
Cf. the earlier quoted part of the legend according to Mikac 1934:199 where the link was established in the
folklore imaginary about witches stealing milk with the aid of a sieve.
176
Henningsen 1991/1992: 301–302. Cf. systematisation of the inducing of shamanistic altered states of con-
sciousness according to Hoppál 1993: 185.
192
Witches' zoopsychonavigations and the astral broom in the worlds of Croatian legends ......
Something should be added here about the terms trance and ecstasy. For example,
Merete Demant Jakobsen points out that the terms trance and ecstasy are used indis-
criminately and that Louise Bäckman and Åke Hultkranz claims that the term ecstasy is
being used by students of religion and ethnology, while the term trance is being used by
psychopathologists and parapsychologists.177 Still, Dragoslav Antonijević, follows Gil-
bert Rouget's distinction between ecstasy and trance, emphasising that the use of trance
indicates movement, noise, society, crisis, sensory over-stimulation, and amnesia, with
the exclusion of hallucinations; in ecstasy – it is a matter of immobility, silence, the
absence of crisis states and sensory over-stimulation, and hallucinations, which means
that witch psychonavigation would have the characteristics of ecstasy, while their nyc-
tomorphic gatherings (the ritual covens) would indicate the structure of trance.178
Still, it is not, unfortunately, possible to establish the parallelism between the ab-
stract figures of the shaman and the witch on the level of the shaman's role as a healer.
Namely, Croatian legends very rarely indicate healer practice among witches. However,
let us look at one case that reveals a witch also in that role. For example, writing about
Praputnik, J. Bujanović noted that one witch (whom we will denote as being ethically
white) fended off the evil spells of an (ethically black) witch: "He was healed by another
witch with the aid of prayers, and he had to jump over a hoe, an axe, a rake, a shovel,
and some boards and other things, into which the witch blew and prayed over them,
crossing herself."179
Briey and in conclusion: the translation of shamanism and witchcra in art,
politics, and cultural tourism…
I would close the case of transference of shamanistic patterns into other spheres
today with the example of shamanism in art – in music as technoshamanism180 and, of
course, in the fine arts, in expressive painting, and in performance art.181 For example,
Joseph Beuys incorporated the shamanism dimension into both his life story and his ar-
tistic work, and, later, he expanded the shaman role into his own role as political leader,
ecology activist and spiritual-artistic educator.182 Namely, he flew in the Crimea war zone
as a member of the German army during World War II and was shot down there in 1943
by Soviet artillery. Tartars found him in the wreck of his Junkers 87 and restored him to
health, while the encounter with Tartar shamanistic culture became an initial element in
his works. During the healing process, the Tartar shamans rubbed fat over his body and
wrapped him in felt, and Beuys remained permanently dedicated in his works to the felt
177
Jakobsen 1999: 17; cf. ibid.: 10.
178
Antonijević 1990: 9.
179
Bujanović 1896: 234.
180
is term was coined by Frazer Clark in 1987, describing the role of the DJ at a rave (cf. Harvey 2003a:
305).
181
I shall not, unfortunately, be going into detail about this transgression of shamanism, but would recom-
mend Robert J. Wallis's excellent book Shamans/Neo-Shamans, which researches the transition of shaman-
ism from its autochthonic context to Western contextualisation from the 1960s, which is all part of the
globalisation process (Wallis 2003:58), revealing how the processes of democratisation, and the spread of
capitalism and Western values have also had an influence on shamanism, "but it would be naïve to contrast
traditional- and neo-Shamanism in terms of the West doing all the transformation" (ibid.: 207).
182
Cf. Šuvaković 1999: 336.
193
Suzana Marjanić
and fat elements of the shaman process.183 For example, in the shaman action Coyote: I
Like America and America Likes Me (1974) he tried to establish contact with the mythical
animal of the Native Americans – the coyote – as a symbolisation of the America that had
disappeared during the settlers' expansion to the West. A Texas coyote named Little John
took part in the cited action; Beuys spent four days with him (May 23 to 26) in the René
Block Gallery in New York, trying to est ablish mutual alteration of Nature. His daily rituals
included a series of interactions with the coyote, for example, he spoke with the coyote,184
acquainted him with objects – felt, a walking stick, gloves, an electric torch and the Wal l
Street Journal, a symbol of the American God Mammon (the paper was delivered every
day), while Little John tore at it with his feet and urinated on it. Namely, the floor was
covered in straw and then, during the exhibition, with copies of the Wal l Stree t Journ al.185
According to Beuys, the Coyote was an "American" action, the "coyote complex", which
reflected the history of the persecution of the Native Americans as well as "the whole re-
lationship between the United States and Europe".186 During the action, Beuys produced
primary/archaic sounds and minimal music; he also fell to the floor as if in a trance. He
imitated neophyte procedures that Mircea Eliade had described in his study about shaman
ecstasy techniques.187 e study is about the procedure among the Schuswap, a tribe of the
Salish family in the interior of British Columbia. e aforementioned shamanistic initia-
tion sometimes lasts for years, until the novice dreams "that the animal he desired for his
guardian spirit appeared to him and promised him its help. As soon as it appeared the novice
fell down in a swoon:
(…) If an animal initiates the novice it teaches him his language. One shaman in
Nicola Valley is said to speak 'coyote language' in his incantations."188
e director of the Ogulin Tourist Board, Ankica Puškarić, made an excellent trans-
lation with her colleagues of legends about witchcra, and founded a festival called e
Festival of Witches and Fairies. So, for those who would like to participate in some merry
casting of spells – the First Festival of Witches and Fairies was held on Friday, June 13, 2003
on Klek Mountain, and the three main conditions for joining the Witches' Sisterhood
were – a cheerful nature, your own birch broom, and a licence for riding on the aid in
question.189 Instead of actual psychonavigation, of course, the Klek sorceresses competed
183
Borer 2003: 285.
184
Davvetas 2003: 173.
185
Lamarche-Vadel 2003: 121.
186
Cf. Goldberg 2001: 151.
187
Cf. Jacobs http.
188
Eliade 1974: 100.
For example, shamanism in contemporary Croatian visual arts practice is noticeable in the work of Vladimir
Dodig Trokut (cf. 2002), Josip Zanki, Marijan Crtalić (cf. 2004), Damir Stojnić (cf. 2006). Cf. the critical in-
terpretations of using the coyote Little John in Beuys's action I Like America and America Likes Me ac-
cording to Steve Baker (2003) and Damir Stojnić (2006). e aforementioned artist Krešimira Gojanović
(cf. note No. 20), for example, gave a dance performance art as part of the multimedia project Teatar i mit
(eatre and Myth) at the Gavella eatre (Zagreb) in 2000 (the project was conceived and produced by:
Bojan Gagić and Josip Zanki). e theme of the performance art was natural femininity (points of contact
between Nature and female feelings) and a return to white witchcra (Wicca) in touch with the forces/en-
ergies of Nature.
189
In my opinion, since the contemporary Wicca are drawn near to the ecofeministic, and thus, the animal-
istic paradigm, the organisers of this manifestation could perhaps have avoided the elements in which the
194
Witches' zoopsychonavigations and the astral broom in the worlds of Croatian legends ......
with each other in a witches' alka (a ring-tilting game), a witches' races with pedalos,
witches' beach volleyball, witches' balot (Mediterranean bowls), soccer, and belotte (a card
game)…190
e fact that shamanism is also applicable to the political powers-that-be was tes-
tified to in the recent case in which a shaman applied to carry out the ritual purification
of the Russian State Duma (parliament) building and to drive out the evil spirits drawn
to it by the negative energy of political debates. Namely, the Government allegedly hired
him to come from Siberia for that purpose. e shaman and mystic, Toizin Bergenov,
announced that he would come to Moscow in June when "the spirit of the Sun is excep-
tionally powerful". e building was last purified in 1994, when it was decontaminated
by representatives of the Russian Orthodox Church.191
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202
Witches' zoopsychonavigations and the astral broom in the worlds of Croatian legends ......
Vještičje zoopsihonavigacije i astralna metla u svjetovima hrvatskih predaja
kao (mogući) aspekti šamanističke tehnike ekstaze (i transa)
Suzana Marjanić
Polazeći od knjige Mythic Images and Shamanism: A Perspective on Kalevala Poetry
(2002) u kojoj Anna-Leena Siikala, između ostaloga, apostrofira da šamanizam nije reli-
gija već kompleks obreda i vjerovanja u različitim religijama, v ještičje zoopsihonavigacije
u svjetovima hrvatskih predaja interpretiramo kao (moguće) aspekte šamanske tehnike
ekstaze (i transa), u okviru čega pojmom zoopsihonavigacija nastojimo imenovati granicu
prožimanja šamanskih ekstatičkih iskustava i vještičjih iskustava letargije. Pod pojmom
zoopsihonavigacija (psihonavigacija duše u animalnoj egzistenciji), s jedne strane, pro-
matramo zoometempsihoze (drugotvorenja duše u animalnom obličju) koje se odvijaju
u iskustvima letargije nadnaravnih osoba i mitskih bića, s obzirom da metempsihoza za-
htijeva transgresiju preko smrti – privremenu smrt. U okviru navedenoga koncepta zoo/
psihonavigacije promatramo i vještičju astralnu metlu koja se može interpretirati kao izo-
morfizam falomorfnoga aplikatora koji se podmazivao mastima što sadrže atropin, i kao
izomorfizam šamanskoga konjskoga štapa (s ručkom u obliku konjske glave), što ga bu-
rjatski šamani rabe u ekstatičkim plesovima, koji se, uostalom, i naziva konj (a nije bez sli-
čnosti s drškom vještičje metle), te figurira kao neka vrsta hobby-horsea, na kojemu šaman
jašući, pu tuj e u drugi svijet – ili Eliadeov im određenjem simboličko "jahanje" izražavalo je
napuštanje tijela, "mističku smrt" šamana. Jednako tako pod pojmom zoopsihonavigacija
razumijevamo i vještičje zoometamorfoze, kao i jahanje (let) na životinjama (teriomorfna
vozila) kojima, primjerice, vještice lebde u zraku (riječ je o binomnoj anatomiji/ikonogra-
fiji Žena-Životinja) i, naravno, inkubna jahanja na muškarcima (koje dijele vile i vještice).
Primjerice, zoometempsihoza u muhu, koja je predajno pridana mòrama, vješti-
cama i krsnicima, potezima moći na vlasti (u Sloterdijkovu određenju) eklezijastičkih
autoriteta i pučkom etikom dijabolizirana je kada je riječ o mòrama i vješticama, a kada
je pripisana krsnicima, promatra se u nadnaravnim svojstvima. Slična se etička diferen-
cijacija ostvarila i u procesu pučke imaginacije o vještičjim zoometamorfozama koje su
dijabolizirane, dok zoometamorfoze krsnika koje ostvaruju u psihonavigacijskim boje-
vima za rodnu godinu (u plodotvorne zaštitnike ulaze, primjerice, i obilnjaki, brganti,
kombali, vedomci, moguti, vedi, vrimenjaci/vremenjaci, višćaci, legromanti/nagroman-
ti, vjedogonje/jedogonje, stuhe, zduhači) razumijevane su kao plodotvorne.
Pored navedenoga koncepta zoopsihonavigacije, mogući dodiri između vještičar-
stva i šamanizma uspostavljeni su i na temelju mitema o šamanskom kao i vještičjem
međusobnom agonu, osebujnoga rođenja (rođenja u košuljici), toposa axis mundi – mit-
ska geografija planina i stabala (paralelizam između šamanskoga stabla i vještičjega/vilin-
skoga stabla), uporabom halucinogenih biljaka kao i svjetlosnim hipostazama vještičjega
tijela u kontekstu Eliadeove atribucije šamana kao "gospodara vatre".
... It is interesting to note that the sacrament of marriage in Croatian oral legends is placed as the bordering determinant between the mora and witches; in other words, the mora is defi ned as a young girl; only when she marries does she as a mora transform into a witch, according to folklore beliefs (cf. Marjanić 2006). 19 Certain characteristics of the mora and the witch can be defi ned within the concept of zoopsychonavigation, that is, navigation of the soul in animal form. ...
... Th e belief is that if those persons are turned around on the bed, that is, if the head is placed in the usual position of the feet, then the soul in its animal form, either as a fl y or a moth, cannot fi nd the point of entry into the body in which it dwells (cf. Marjanić 2006). Furthermore, as far as zoometamorphosis is concerned, the dominant classic belief about the witches' capability of transformation -largely into a toad -takes place so that she can steal her neighbour's milk, cause discord between a married couple, and the like (cf. ...
... 22 Th us, the mythem about mutual battles between shamans can be compared with the battles between witches and warlocks in which the witches and the warlocks battle among themselves, largely in the clouds, and usually fl y in the guise of a raven, with some defending their village, while the other group attacks it (cf. Marjanić 2006). I am signifying riding or fl ight on animals, animal vehicles -as the third type of zoopsychonavigation 23 -this being mainly on the back of a he-goat, she-goat or horse. ...
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Đorđević 1953: 33-34 for witch psychonavigational formulae
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Carić 1897: 711, italics S.M. Cf. Đorđević 1953: 33-34 for witch psychonavigational formulae.
Hod kroz godinu. Mitska pozadina hrvatskih narodnih običaja i vjerovanja. Golden marketing
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Belaj, Vitomir (1998): Hod kroz godinu. Mitska pozadina hrvatskih narodnih običaja i vjerovanja. Golden marketing, Zagreb.
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Istarske narodne priče (Redakcija, uvod i komentari). Institut za narodnu umjetnost
  • Maja Bošković-Stulli
Bošković-Stulli, Maja (1959): Istarske narodne priče (Redakcija, uvod i komentari). Institut za narodnu umjetnost, Zagreb.
excursionists -the fairies and witches at the First Festival of Witches and Fairies came down Klek Mountain to Bjelski, where they toured around the hunting grounds of Gama and Croatian Forests, and where "their hosts had prepared them a large pot of game goulash
excursionists -the fairies and witches at the First Festival of Witches and Fairies came down Klek Mountain to Bjelski, where they toured around the hunting grounds of Gama and Croatian Forests, and where "their hosts had prepared them a large pot of game goulash" (Ogulinski list, 87, June 2003; www.og-list. com/broj87.htm).