Back to the journal

Ethno-Psychological Aspect of Incantations and Swears in Folklore of the Transcarpathian Ukrainians

Read the articleRead the articleDownload the article
The authors of the publication:
Tykhovska Oksana
Bibliographic description:
Tykhovska, O. (2020) Ethno-Psychological Aspect of Incantations and Swears in Folklore of the Transcarpathian Ukrainians. Folk Art and Ethnology, 5/6 (387/388), 63–74.


Oksana Tykhovska

Ph.D. in Philology, associate professor at the State Higher Educational Establishment Uzhhorod National University’s Ukrainian Literature Department

ORCID ID 0000-0003-4663-5960


Ethno-Psychological Aspect of Incantations and Swears in Folklore of the Transcarpathian Ukrainians



The article aims at reconsidering the psycholinguistic aspect of incantations and swears, which folklorists Petro Svitlyk, Stefan Rosokha, and Fedir Potushniak recorded in the territory of Transcarpathia in the early to mid-XXth century. While studying the topic, the authoress applies the following methods: psychoanalytical, philological, comparative, analytical, and structural-semantic.

The article considers love, medicinal, familail and household, and calendar incantations, which were performed mainly by women and girls. Most of them are based on the principle of analogy and the laws of contagious magic. Such verbal formulae are often aimed at influencing the sphere of the unconscious of a person and promoting of the negative Shadow archetype’s assimilation, as well as protecting a person from uncontrolled acts of aggression and evil. The article emphasizes the connection of magical verbal formulae with the rites of passage and time limits: the incantations uttered during a nuptial ceremony were to change the life of a speaker at the next border (motherhood stage). The incantations on Easter night (when the boundaries between the world of the living and the dead allegedly became quite nominal) were believed to be also effective.

A swear, from a psychological point of view, provided a person with inner discipline, human balance and focus on the implementation of a certain action or refraining from certain ones. A swear made at a border was considered the most dangerous, because the border, a road or a crossroads was perceived as a place of transition between the world of people and the afterlife. Evidently, a physical boundary (the boundary between some two land plots) was identified with the limit between consciousness and the unconscious, while a devil that could appear on the boundary is apparently a personified image of the negative Shadow archetype.

The article examines fragments of ancient curses and swears, whose meaning has become incomprehensible nowadays; they contain such words as navkhtema, navramakhta, ssena, pek, and mara. Using such words imparted a certain mystique to a person’s speech, sacralized the desire expressed by him/her. A mindset to perceive words as energy, and an incantation – as a certain rhythm that arranges time and space, is manifested in the specificity of combining lexemes in a magic formula. A performer mechanically reproduces a text of magical formulae, while their latter’s projection allegedly builds a new, desired scenario of reality, as well as influences the sphere of the unconscious and metaphorically protects a person from possible manifestations of destructive, antisocial behavior.



archetype, incantations, swear, magic word, curse, magic ritual, psychoanalysis, Ukrainian folklore.



  1. ANTONOVYCH,Volodymyr. Sorcery in Ukraine. Translated from the Russian and edited by Volodymyr Hnatiuk. Lviv: Shevchenko Scientific Society, 1905, 78 pp. [in Ukrainian].
  2. BORYSIUK,Iryna. Incantations in the System of Archaic Magical Practices: A Structural-Semiotic Analysis.In: Volodymyr HAVELIA, ed.‑in‑chief, Proceedings of the Petro Mohyla Black Sea State University, A Branch of the Kyiv-Mohyla Academy. Series: Philosophy, 2015, vol. 257, iss. 245, pp. 71–76 [in Ukrainian].
  3. VYSOTSKYI, Anatoliy, Yuliay MAKARETS. Archetypal Image of Fire in Linguistic Space of Ukrainian Paroemias and Incantations. In: Studia Slavica Academiae Scientiarum Hungaricae, 2019, vol.64, pp. 1–11 [in Ukrainian].
  4. LÉVI-STRAUSS,Claude. Structural Anthropology. Moscow: Science, 1985, 536 pp. [in Russian].
  5. LOZKO,Halyna. The Circle of Svaroh: RevivedTraditions. Nizhyn: Aspect-Polygraph, 2009, 228 pp. [in Ukrainian].
  6. Central State Archives of Foreign Archival Ucrainica’s Fund: PETROV, Viktor. The Ukrainian Folklore (Spells, Lamentations, andCeremonial Folklore of the Folk Calendar Cycle: A Manuscript. Munich: Ukrainian Free University Press, 1941, 142pp. [in Ukrainian].
  7. POTEBNIA,Aleksandr. On Some Symbols in Slavonic Folk Poetry. In: Albert BAIBURIN (editor, preface’s author). Word and Myth. Moscow: The Truth, 1989, pp. 285–378 [in Russian].
  8. POTUSHNIAK,Fedir. Water, Earth, and Air in Folk Beliefs. Ungvár: Subcarpathian Society of Sciences Publishers, 1942, no. 24, 29 pp. [in Ukrainian].
  9. POTUSHNIAK,Fedir. Snakes in Folk Beliefs. In: Ivan HARAYDA, ed.‑in‑chief, Literary Sunday. Uzhhorod, 1941, yr. 1, no. 12 (October 26), pp. 101–103 [in Ukrainian].
  10. POTUSHNIAK,Fedir. Swears in Folk Beliefs. Ivan HARAYDA, ed.‑in‑chief, Literary Sunday. Uzhhorod, 1943, yr. 3, no. 11, pp. 127–130 [in Ukrainian].
  11. POTUSHNIAK,Fedir. Crosses and the Power of Cross in Folk Beliefs. In: Andriy BRODIY, ed.‑in‑chief, The Russian Truth, Uzhhorod, 1940, April 20, p. 3 [in Russian].
  12. ROSOKHA,Stefan. Our Easter Traditions. In: Our Native Land. Tiachiv, 1932, yr. X, no. 8, pp. 194–196 [in Ukrainian].
  13. SVITLYK,Petro. Folk Beliefs, Soothsayings, Sayings, and Customs of the Village of Imstycheve – Ber. Verxovyna. In: Ivan PANKEVYCH, ed.‑in‑chief, Subcarpathian Ruthenia. Uzhhorod, 1928, yr. V, no. 4, pp. 86–91 [in Ukrainian].
  14. SVITLYK,Petro. Folk Beliefs, Soothsayings, Sayings, and Customs of the Village of Imstycheve – Ber. Verxovyna. In: Ivan PANKEVYCH, ed.‑in‑chief, Subcarpathian Ruthenia. Uzhhorod, 1928, yr. V, no. 6, pp. 144–152 [in Ukrainian].
  15. SOLIAR,Olha. Ukrainian Folk Incantations: IssuesofTheir OriginandPoetics. An author’s abstract of Ph.D. thesis in Philology: speciality 10.01.07 / Ivan Franko Lviv National University. Lviv, 2005, 16 pp. [in Ukrainian].
  16. SUMTSOV, Nikolay. Wishes and Curses (Mostly Lesser Russian Ones). Kharkov: Governorate’s Printing House, 1896, 26 pp. [in Russian].
  17. TEMCHENKO, Andriy. Ukrainian Medicinal Incantations: Verbal-PromotionalUniversalia, Their Symbols and Semantics. An author’s abstract of Ph.D. thesis in History: speciality 07.00.05 / NAS of Ukraine’s M. Rylskyi Institute of Art Studies, Folkloristics and Ethnology. Kyiv, 2003, 17 pp. [in Ukrainian].
  18. SHYNKARENKO,Viktor. Semantic Structure of the Socio-Cultural Sphere: Myth and Fairy Tale. Moscow: KomKniga, 2005, 208 pp. [in Russian].
  19. JUNG,Karl‑Gustav. Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious. Translated from the German by Kateryna KOTIUK. Lviv: Astrolabe, 2013, 588 pp. [in Ukrainian]. DOI
  20. YATCHENKO, Volodymyr. On the Development of Spirituality of the Ukrainian Ethnic Group in the Pre-Christian Era: A Monograph. Kyiv: Vipol, 1998, 200 pp. [in Ukrainian].

The texts are available under the terms of the Creative Commons
international license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0