Magic. A set system of notions, rituals, and invocations that are believed to have a mysterious mystical power to influence physical phenomena or natural events. Magical practices can be traced into the distant past. They can be classified by their social function into malefactory, military, love, medical, preventative, productive, and meteorological, or by their psychological mechanism into contact (touching an object), imitative (similarity or mimicry), and sympathetic (substitution of part for the whole).

Magic played an important role in the life of Ukrainians, particularly the peasantry. Not a step could be taken without it. It was used widely in medicine: shamans used spells and charms, often combined with rational practices, employing medicinal plants or psychotherapy. Water, fire, and eggs were held in the highest esteem by Ukrainian sorcerers. Magic was also an important part of calendric folk rituals tied to farming (sowing, harvesting [see Harvest rituals], taking livestock to pasture) and family life (birth, wedding, and death [see Burial rites]). Wetting with water, leaping over a fire, and the use of fur coats as a symbol of wealth often appear in these rituals. The most common form of malefactory magic was witchcraft. Witches were believed capable of depriving a cow of milk, of harming crops, and of inflicting disease and even death on particular people, but also of charming young men, of protecting people from disease, and of canceling the spells of other witches.

Magic is closely tied to religion. In the Middle Ages white magic, which invoked the saints and angels, and black magic, which turned to ‘unclean spirits’ such as devils and demons, were practiced widely in Ukraine (see also Demonology). The alleged practitioners of black magic were often tried by the community or the courts, but there were no witch hunts comparable to those known in Western Europe.

Antonovych, V. Chary na Ukraïni (Lviv 1905)
Bogatyrev, P. Actes magiques: Rites et croyances en Russie Subcarpathique (Paris 1929)

Mykola Mushynka

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