The vocabulary of demonic symbolism on the subject “Water elements”

The vocabulary of demonic symbolism on the subject “Water elements”

Demonology is a set of mythical ideas of people based on their beliefs in evil ghosts or demons. The demon in the Greek mythology is “a general concept about certain undefined and non-formalized divine power of evil or, occasionally, of good. Early Christian imaginations about demons are connected with image of evil, demonic power. Demon is a symbol of those supernatural characters which are not gods and compared with gods have lower place in hierarchy or are at lower levels in the given mythological system. In more narrow and exact definition demons are evil ghosts” /Myths of world nations. – Vol.1. -Moscow, 1980.-Pages 366-367/.
During adoption of Christianity the Ukrainian people developed demonology. However in the course of time under the influence of Christianity the outlook on demonology changed: it definitively turned supernatural power into evil devil forces /Metropolitan Ilarion. Pre-Christian beliefs of the Ukrainian people. – Pages 122-123/.
Ethnographers consider that the overwhelming majority of characters of Ukrainian demonology have a pre-Christian origin. People’s beliefs in evil ghosts were connected with their imaginations about outward world. Among the most widespread characters in Ukrainian demonology there are witches, mermaids, mavkas, brownies, ghouls, vampires, snakes, cynocephaluces, etc. Some of them are the genetic continuation and some kind of transformation of the character of devil which, according to folk beliefs, appeared earlier than the world was formed of chaos.

V.Miloradovych considers the issue of origin of devil character - fantastic being which has similar conformities in various nations. In the imagination of the Australian savages the souls of dead people who were not buried turn into ings – the spirits similar to people but with long sharp ears and tail. According to the New Zealand imaginations the souls of the dead go to forests where they become evil ghosts and harm even to their relatives. The Chinese people, the Indo-China nations and the Indians are afraid of souls of people that were not buried, sick of leprosy, plague, who suffered violent death and due to child birth. Among the classical nations people that were not buried also became evil spirits - laurels. Among the Malorossiyans drowned people whose bodies were not buried turned into water spirits. Even children killed by their mothers at birth could become devils. Similar facts give the basis to experts to assert that the shade of the dead person is a primary type of supernatural being, spirit or soul whose genealogy was lost with time, and on the basis of imaginations about human soul the outlooks on other spiritual beings were formed /Miloradovych V. Ukrainian witch. - Кyyiv, 1993. – Pages 26-27/.

In the Ukrainian demonology, as indicated by S. Plachynda, in the most ancient times the devil had the name and the image of Black god - antipode of White god /see Black-god – White god/ that symbolized the forces of light and everything beautiful on the earth. The devil is a son of Black god and Mara. According to the legend the devil was the only one for the whole world and suddenly this loneliness became annoying to him. Then he went to White god asking him about a companion. The White god allowed the devil to dip his finger into the living water and to shake it over himself. Fr om that water drop his companion should have appeared. However the devil did not listened to the White god and instead of his finger he dipped his hand and then he shake the drops off himself, therefore multitudes of devils appeared which started to do evil to Vyriy. Then gods have removed them fr om the Vyriy and the devils flew for 40 days. Eventually White god said: “Amen”, and devils forever remained in those places where they were during the specified moment: some in the water, some in the forest, some in the field, etc.

In the Ukrainian mythology devils are zoomorphic and anthropomorphic beings. “Small, blackish, restless, with small horns, pig’s snout, hooves and tail, they were omnipresent and extremely hardy” /Suprunenko V. Narodyny. Cradles of nations: symbols, beliefs, custom and life of Ukrainians. - Zaporizhzhya, 1993. – Page 123/. They symbolize mysterious supernatural forces, all bad undertakings on the earth. Devils and characters deriving fr om them are also symbols of evil in spite of the fact that under certain circumstances they can help people. “First humans regularly saw many characters of supernatural forces around them. These supernatural forces harmed to them especially due to the fact that they usually were very invisible, and people in due time did not know what they should do and where to expect for disaster. The Christianity brought certain system into supernatural forces. With time devil became in charge of all malicious forces, now named deuce, Satan or demon, and all other forces little by little finally submitted to him: masters of house and nature and wreckers of life - all of them started to be called demons and all of them in times of Christianity passed into evil vile forces” /Metropolitan Ilarion. Pre-Christian beliefs... – Page 138/.
Holy /living/ water is a symbol of external and internal clarification; health, athletic power; phylactery fr om evil spirits; resurrection, spiritual revival.

Fr om ancient times water was deeply respected by the nations of the whole world /see Water/.  Christmas Eve, Jordanian, Candlemas water was considered to have special healing power and holy /sanctified/. Sanctified at church, it was widely used in common life: it was given to women recently confined, children, sick people, dwellings and wells were sprinkled with it as well as other items. Holy water was a symbol of purification of body and soul. The Christianity kept symbolical value of water at sacred baptism, water sanctification, etc. Beekeepers, according to the information of G.Bulashev, “sprinkle bees with this water in order to help them in such a way to get a chance for obtaining of honey from various flowers safely”.

Belief in living water is peculiar to all Indo-European nations. This is “unbelievably powerful, life-giving” water appearing in the form of spring rain. People believed that it can be found in Far Far Away Kingdom and brought by ravens, falcons and eagles. Those who drank living water became all-powerful and invincible. In fairy tales it creates miracles: the split body grows together, the hero revives again. The echo of these imaginations may be found in modern forms   of “inflows”, /sources/, “vivifying moisture”, “living water”.
Besides, there was also “untouched water” which healed the most serious diseases. It was drawn before sunrise under complete silence from the well wh ere the water had not yet been stirred up by anybody. It was carried in silence – otherwise its healing power could disappear.

Ukrainians respected water “Elena” which healed from evil eye, wilding, night blindness. There was also “three-bell” and “star” water. “Star” water, for example, used to be left in a bucket for night under star sky, and stars, ostensibly, gave it special smell and taste, that’s why cows gave a lot of milk/Potapenko O.I., Kuzmenko V.I. The school vocabulary on study of Ukraine. - Кyyiv, 1995. – Page 50/. O.Potapenko.

The Vodyanyk is an evil ghost, embodiment of water elements as negative and dangerous phenomenon. It is a retransformed character of devil expelled from the Vyriy who within 40 days penetrated into water environment and by order of God remained there. Ethnographers consider that beliefs of ancient Ukrainians in the Vodyanyk have their beginning from pagan imaginations about adoration of everything connected with water elements.

The Vodyanyk more often was presented as the old man covered with seaweed, with long beard and tail. He could reincarnate into various beings - child, goat, dog, drake, fish, etc. It was considered that its possessions were lim ited with water pond. The angered Vodyanyk could cause damage to people by flooding rivers, destroying dams, mills, drowning people. This character is in details described in “The Wood song” by Lesya Ukrayinka.
The Vodyanyk symbolizes some evil being catching a person in water.


River symbolizes the deity; the Beginning and the end of life; it is the symbol of fertility; eternal current of time; obstacles, danger; flood; horror; entry into the underground kingdom; boundary between other realms and own area; the “core” of the Universe; mighty athlete-defender; Jesus Christ /“The River of life”; terrestrial veins through which blood flows; a native land and the Native land; the childhood; the space waters; the speech symbol.

The image of a river is one of the most widespread images in the world mythological system. The river symbolized the world way, space waters, life origin. It is not coincidental that such largest rivers of the world as the Huang He, the Chang Jiang, the Ganges, the Tigris, the Amazon, the Volga, the Dnieper and many others were considered as sacral ones. For example, in the “Texts of pyramids” main god Osiris is referred to as “the new water”/Nile/or tears of Isis goddess. In the Biblical and Christian mythologies river is God’s gift. One of the Egyptian plagues was transformation of water into blood / Exodus 7.17.-21/. It was in the Jordan river /according to the New testament tradition / wh ere baptism took place. One of the epithets of Jesus was the phrase “river of life”.

Pagans also idolized rivers and lakes. In their folklore there are many legends about origin of the Volga, the Dnieper /see the Dnieper/, the Danube, the Bug. For example, the ancient myth connects the origin of the Dnieper with the divine smith who drove the dragon harnessed into a plough down to the Black sea.
Often in Slavonic legends rivers are live beings, brothers and sisters, powerful athletes, gods. In the opinion of O.Afanasiev “the name Bug is only a special form of the word “god”/Afanasiev A. Tree of life. – Page 202/.

The motive of entry into river symbolized the beginning of something very important, heroic. Crossing of river meant feat end, getting new life, obtaining social status/see Water/.
It was in the Dnieper river wh ere Volodymyr baptized the Kievans in the year 988.
In Ukraine it was considered that water came out from under the earth with its sources and formed a river. “In the Grubishevskyy district they/rivers/ were considered to be the veins of the earth through which water flew just like blood in human body. In drying up of rivers people saw God’s punishment...”/Bulashev G. Ukraininan nation. – Page 277/.
Symbolical image of river has considerable role in folklore/ the fire river, the dairy river with jelly banks, the river of honey, beer, wine, etc./. Often there is also the image of “the bloody river” that symbolizes severe, mortal battle.

River nimfa.jpeg

In literature the image of river symbolizes the Native land, a native land, barefooted childhood. For example, in O.Dovzhenko writings we read: “Be blessed, o thou, my untouched maiden, the Desna, cause each time of remembering about you for so many years I became kinder and felt to be inexhaustibly rich and generous... O thou, my far beauty! Happy am I for being born on your bank, for drinking in times of unforgettable years your soft, cheerful, grey-haired water, walking barefooted on your fantastic banks..., for counting stars in you on the thrown sky, and even now, looking downwards from time to time, I have not lost happiness to see those stars, even amidst humdrum puddles on vital roads”.

Dew is a symbol of sanctity; the dawn messenger; blessing /in Christianity/; life-giving powers; purity; love; health; tear; impregnating source; fertility; childhood; tough job.
The symbol of dew is developed in cultural inheritance of various nations. For example, in western semitic mythologies Tinith, the goddess of sky and moon, was at the same time the donator of “life-giving dew”. In the Maya nation Itsaman was the goddess of rain and dew. Similar function was carried out by ancient Indian Soma. The Scandinavian mythological system describes the world tree Iggdrasil covered with “honey dew”, wh ereas the Chinese mythology represents sacred immortal Syan who “inhaled wind” and “drank dew”. The ancient Greeks arranged special holidays called arreforiya devoted “to donation of dew for crops”. Southern Slavs respected Dodola who ostensibly caused moisture /rain, dew/: “Kneel and pray to god “O god, Give us nourishing dew!”

According to the Bible food by which “the sons of Israel” were fed in the desert for 40 years appeared together with dew. Generally in Christianity dew is a symbol of blessing. The pagan mythology kept ancient myth “Dawn, keys, dew and honey”. At daybreak the Dawn unlocks heavenly gates with a key and lets the Sun out. It runs after the beauty-girl the Dawn who runs away and becomes a well. On the earth “the sacred dew” falls which impregnates it. Bees drink fragrant dew and bring sweet honey. Thus the greatest miracle of miracles is born – that is life. So, the Dawn and dew were the symbols of life-giving and fertile nature.

There were also legends about origin of dew from tears of the Dawn, the Blessed Virgin. O.Voropay describes ancient Ukrainian belief according to which spring dew was let out by holy Jury who unlocked the sky with keys. It symbolized impregnating source, healing life-giving power. On May 6, the day of Holy Jury, peasants “before the sunrise collected dew and sick people washed their eyes with it, girls washed themselves “for beauty”, senior people washed their head, - “lest it aches”, and mistresses sprinkled poultry with this dew. But the main action that took place this day was pasture of cattle on Yury’s dew, and this was connected with the whole variety of magic acts performed in order to purify domestic animals from all malicious and dark powers...”/Voropay O. Custom of our nation. V.II.-Page 69/.

People liked dew very much and named it with various deriving forms for affectionate and expressing endearment. Milk was considered as “the divine dew”. You should not take money for the divine dew /Nomys/. People believed that without dew even grass would not grow. Or: We all grow under red sun, on God’s dew /V. Dal/. People used to wish to one another: “Grant us, our God, still water and warm dew!” In folklore and literature dew symbolized bright childhood, tear, grey hair, dawn. For example: “And happiness has already smiled like the morning dewdrops”/Name of poem/; “Only dews early in the morning will wash them with little tears”, “And Lileya began to cry with dew tears”/from the poems of T.Shevchenko/, “And dews! Who will tell whose tears they are, so strange, pure like precious pearls” P.Tychyna/, “It is dawning, My God, it is dawning... The Earth is in dew like in brocade. Maria, the Blessed Maiden, was it You who cried so at night?”/L.Kostenko/.

Mermaids are quite outstanding characters of the Ukrainian demonology representing goddesses of ponds. It was considered that these young beautiful girls live on the very bottom of rivers in remarkable crystal palaces. Less widespread idea is that mermaids live under water in the nests twisted from straw and feather stolen by them in village during Green week. Mermaids have magnificent long blonde or green hair down to their knees. Around the year they live in water and come out to earth in spring on the day of pure Thursday and walk there until autumn. Most of them are on the earth from pure Thursday day to St. Peter's holiday. Mermaids rock on branches of trees, sing, dance, run on grass, call for people, allure young boys with their remarkable songs and attractive appearance, and then dip them down into water and torture by tickling. Cross and wormwood were phylacteries from mermaids /see Yevshan-hebon/.
River holes of the Dnieper were considered to be the native land for mermaids. From here mermaids dispersed to other ponds. They chose young drowned girls and girls who died unbaptized and thus increased their clan.

“According to the Belarusian legend, - V.Miloradovich notes / The Ukrainian witch. – Page 22/, mermaids are drowned women who tickle people; when caught they serve people up to year and perform different works; they are fed in pairs. Nevertheless such representation of mermaids as of adult girls and women is met only in poetry, literature and painting. To nations, at least in the central Malorossiya, it is strange. Here there are no any fairy tales, songs, legends about such mermaids, as well as there are no any ceremonies. Only mermaids-children are known to the people. These are dead-born kids, lulled by mothers, generally unbaptized children. Children killed by their mothers at birth also belong to mermaids”.

The other world life of mermaids is represented by gloomy paints: it is dark to them in that world; their souls do not have a haven. Mermaids bear pain in their souls and mourn at their mothers that they could not keep their lives.
Now people believe that mermaids are the souls of drowned girls and unbaptized children. But there was a time when children were not baptized and it is possible to assume that then people considered mermaids as souls of children or human souls which after death of people remained on certain water space and wandered through it, finally being joined to the kingdom of water spirits” /Nechuy-Levytskyy I. World outlook of the Ukrainian people. – Page 50/.
From the above-mentioned it is possible to draw the conclusion that mermaids symbolize temptation, danger that watches over person in water. They are also the symbol of sincere sorrow and melancholy for earth life. Mermaids can symbolize beauty of water elements.


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