Saturday, 12 November 2022

Babice

Babice are birth demons from Serbian mythology, which can cause disease or even kill the newborn child and the mother...

There are very few descriptions of these birth spirits. In some parts of Serbia it is believed that they appear as women with long black hair and dressed in black. But mostly it is believed that Babice are evil beings that can not be seen...

It is interesting that these birth demons, who always come in threes, to "kill the new mother and the newborn child" are called "Babice", plural of "Babica", considering that Serbian word "Babica" means, midwife, any woman who helps other woman to deliver a baby...

"babine" or "babinje" is the period of 7 days after birth, during which babies and their mothers are especially vulnerable to evil spells and spirits like Babice. But the new mother and the child remained under threat from Babice for 40 days after birth....

It is believed that Babice were most dangerous during the night, which is why they were also called Noćnice (the night demons). But generally, in Serbia Babice were rarely mentioned by name as it was believed that just by saying their name you could summon them to your house...

So most frequently they were euphemistically just referred to as – "they"...

It is because of the great fear of Babice demons that many special magical measures are undertaken to protect the mother and the baby during the first 40 days after the birth...

Mother and baby were literally in hiding and did not come out of the house for the first 40 days after the birth. Mother also never left the baby alone during this period...

Because Babice are the most dangerous during the night, the new mother especially never left the house after dark and the mother and the baby were never left in the darkness...

It was believed that Babice could attack indirectly as well, through an object that the baby and its mother came into contact with. For that reason clothes or any other objects that were touched by the mother and the child were never left outdoors overnight...

If however any such object was  left outside after the sunset, it had to be shaken over the fire in the hearth in order to cleanse it. Fire was one of the main weapons against Babice. This is why fire had to be kept constantly burning for 40 days and nights in baby's room...

Water was also a form of protection. It was purifying in every sense, and therefore defended the mother and the child. Ritual bathing, in water with medicinal herbs, was also a common practice...

Garlic was also very effective against the Babice demons. This is why there is always garlic somewhere near the mother and the baby and also inside their clothes...

Red colour, particularly red wool is another powerful weapon against Babice. This is why both mother and the baby were protected with the red woollen threads which were tied around their wrists or necks or hair...

Unpleasantly, sharp, pungent smelling smoke is another thing that will drive Babice away. So things such as tar, brimstone, horn and the like were burned around the baby...

One of the things that Babice were the most afraid of were sharp iron thing like knifes (particularly with the black scabbard), axes, sickles and fireplace pokers...These were place in the bed (cot), under pillows...

Additional protection was added through magic incantations and spells. Being Baptized was considered to be the strongest "spell" against Babice 🙂 Interesting isn't it?

So who were Babice really? The most common belief is that Babice are ghosts of women who died at birth... 

But here is something very interesting: 

Babice are also known as Nave or Navije. The word "nav" means both "soul" and "the land of the dead" in Slavic mythology...

I think this points us towards the true identity of "Babice"...I think that originally they were believed to be the spirits of the dead ancestors, who came to witness the birth of the new clan member and their descendant, and to decide his/her faith...

This I think can shed some new light on the identity of Moirai who "appeared three nights after a child's birth to determine the course of its life, and its death"...

Example from Slovenia by @another_barbara

Reading: folk tales from Slovenian Istria region.

"Milka's baby girl cried night after night. As it got dark, she started and cried untill the morning. She couldn't eat and was nothing but skin and bone any more. Luckily her mother remembered that she had once forgotten baby's nappies outside. That she went out to get them after dark. They quickly ran to get U. Č. who was "krsnica" and knew how to perform spells. The woman came. She poured some blessed water into a cup. In it she put 4 pieces of embers - all from the same log. Then she offered the baby to drink from four ends of the cup. After that she made a sign of the cross on her forehead with that water saying: As you're 'mrak' (dark), as you're 'štriga'(witch), may you be the devil or anyone else - as you came, so you go. When she threw each one of those 4 charcoals (from 4 embers) into 4 corners of the room, the baby girl was saved."

Original ritual words (just in case of need 🙂):

"Ku si mrak, babatak, ku si štriga, babariga. Naj si vrag al ta ki bodi, kur si pršu, taku hodi."

1 comment:

  1. this is an area of particular interest to me. and thank you for including the actual words to the charm!

    ReplyDelete