Incantation (Ukrainian: zaklynannia). The use of chanted, spoken, or written formulas to bind spiritual powers to certain actions that will accomplish a desired goal. Incantations in Ukrainian folklore can be classified into several groups according to their purpose. (1) Productive incantations to bring success in mushroom picking, hunting, fishing, beekeeping, and crop harvesting, ensure rainfall, clear away clouds, and destroy pests. (2) Defensive incantations to ward off or combat evil spirits that cause illnesses. (3) Family incantations to ensure personal and family happiness and prosperity, and success in love, marriage, and in giving birth. (4) Social or communal incantations to secure a superior's favor or success in litigation, and ward off fines, wounds or death in war, and epidemics in the community. (5) Malevolent incantations to inflict psychological suffering, illness, or death on an enemy in revenge for such wrongdoings as jilting, libel, robbery, and slaughter of livestock.

Incantations are one of the oldest genres of folklore. They originated in pre-Christian societies and reflect an anthropomorphic and magical world view. Later, they absorbed elements of the Christian religion such as petitions to Jesus Christ, the Virgin Mary, and various saints. Although folklorists deny this, incantations are still used in Ukraine today. It is interesting to note that there was no mention of incantations in the Soviet textbook (1983) on Ukrainian folklore for post-secondary schools, although a separate chapter was devoted to this topic in all previous editions.

Efimenko, P. Sbornik malorossiiskikh zaklinanii (Moscow 1874)
Antonovych, V. Chary na Ukraïni (Lviv 1905)
Novitskii, Ia. Malorusskie narodnye zagovory, zaklinaniia, molitvy i retsepty (Katerynoslav 1913)

Mykola Mushynka

[This article originally appeared in the Encyclopedia of Ukraine, vol. 2 (1989).]

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