By Phoenix of Elder Mountain – It gives me great pleasure to gather this wonderful information of the traditional Whispering Folk Healing rites from various sources and my own experiences. As a Dreamer (shaman) along with my extensive whispering gifts, my ancestral lineages are from my families region of southeastern Poland at the Ukraine border. I both whisper for the sick all the way to the shamanic ends of whispering in ceremonial rights and even exorcisms. My birth was fated to do this and always been deep within my roots and my blood as I began my path in my mid-thirties with earlier mystical and out of body experiences in the late 80s. And this never stopped, the path became very real and things would happen both to me and the people I helped when whispering or doing folk healing or leading journeys with my shaman’s drums.
Very self disciplined and a devout life to my spiritual nature, around forty, I entered my path even deeper and would also dream about those I help. this also required me to do my own healing path very seriously and develop sobriety and very strict boundaries in spiritual ways. I chose never to channel or let any spirit or walking soul enter my space, because when you can enter the death rites of spiritual traditions and see first hand what comes, you would never allow such things to enter your personal space. And I didn’t and this paid off the deeper and more open the realms became between this physical plane and the energetic ones (dreaming fields). As an empathic person when young, I could feel and take on others sicknesses, sometimes so much, that when I was young I thought they were my thoughts of suicide or emotional pain. I soon learned in my late twenties that they were not my sicknesses, they were other peoples pain.
The traditions of shamans are in all countries, red, white, yellow, black and brown peoples and shamans within all those are rare, even today. In the Slavic traditions, the Boyko (Бойко) is a Polish and Ukrainian ethnographic group located in the Carpathian Mountains of Ukraine and Poland who have hidden in small villages women and men who still practice their folk traditions of shamanism. They inhabit the central and the western half of the Carpathians in Ukraine across such regions as the southern Lviv Oblast (Skole, Turka, Drohobych, Sambir and Stary Sambir raions), western Ivano-Frankivsk Oblast (Dolyna and Rozhniativ) and parts of the northeastern Zakarpattia oblast (Mizhhiria), as well as the adjacent areas of southeast Poland and northeast Slovakia.
Parts of Southern Poland at the Ukraine border at one time were Ukrainian lands, and when the lands were divided, some far southern groups of Polish people have Ukrainian ancestral lineages like myself. The term “Ukrainian” replaced the term “Ruthenian” in Eastern Ukraine and became more common among Western Ruthenians/Ukrainians, including Boykos, as well. The name, “Boyko” is thought by some to originate in a pattern of speech, specifically the uses of the affirmative exclamation “bo-ye!”, meaning the only or because it is so.
On the grounds forming Boyko, there are Boykos with Lemkos and Hutsuls in an area that was known as White Croatia and with their dialect, language, folk costumes are almost equal with Dinaric Croatian and it is to be considered as Croatian ethnic group.
To the south or southwest live the Lemkos and to east or southeast live the Hutsuls, the two other highlander ethnic and more indigenous Ukraine people. In regards to both the corruption of ancient cultures from the kingdoms of religious military and pagan traditions, who like the religious took on a more male leadership, despite their destruction it had on the earlier pre-12th century indigenous people. The Molfarka (women) and Molfar (men) (мольфа́р) still exists of course but as I stated, all shamans are rare even in larger populated areas.
A Molfar is a lighter version of shaman, more like a medicine woman or medicine man, which are just called Carpathian Folk Healer. Most Slavs and Balkans call their gifted shamans Folk Healers and the terms can really be thought of as the same, even the ones who are Witch healers. In the more indigenous traditions of the Hutsul culture, they still call themselves shamans. When religion arrived, the shaman name was eventually called witches because most healer shamans were women. Gifted healing abilities that tend focus more on faith combined with nature, healing, seership, herbalism and the inseparable relations with nature in a more supernatural and shamanic ways still survive in Balkan and Slavic hearts or at least the ones who have the gifts themselves
The few people who are born to enter a more advanced path of healing, of dreaming abilities reconnect to the Slavic and Balkan earlier shamanic tradition. As the pagans had risen to power, the opportunity to explore more in the ways of healing like the rest of the world has, will also reclaim and step into ore pre-religious traditions and for some who allows shamanic healing as well, into a pre-pagan origins of shamanism.
People who are of the Slavic and Carpathian ancestral traditions and even those who had to move around the world and leave their country, will find interest in such ancient traditions again and explore them like I did as I was entering adulthood. They have different names according to the respective cultures, such as in Poland the women shamans are sometimes called witches and also called Szeptuchami, the Polish & Belarus Folk Healers are called Whisperers (which some have undertones of shamanic gifts as well). Like their Ukraine Molfarka, Molfar neighbors, more Polish women are beginning to return to the roots of their ancient practices of healing that existed before the spread modern religion just as the men are returning to Paganism.
A commonality within all of these cultures is that the origin shamanic root base of all these cultures contain whispering. Many of the older women and men still have a devout faith in their Catholic or Christian faith healing traditions, but newer generations like myself do not and this allowed me to explore further without judgment or taboos of shamanism. I knew as a little girl that the religion tradition was not for me, even though I was very spiritual and that my father had out of body experiences as well as myself which made me respect all religious, pagan, shamanic and goddess cultures equally. The more open I was to all traditions of earth, the more I saw at the root of shamanism, they were all the same.
The rarer Molfar and Szeptuchami are exorcists as well, but again the church took over this tradition and so not many have performed them because people will just go to a priest instead because of the lack of education. A whisperer works with sicknesses of the soul that effect the physical body, and things that effect the physical body are generally the last of the illness to appear. If one has a karmic issue, then the physical body might have isolated issues of sickness of the body without the mental or emotional issues. But even within that, the past life soul issues is basically what has caused the current reincarnations physical issues and this of course is called Karma. The emotional body and the blocks of the mental body cannot be separated and I teach my students that to touch this in another, they must be willing to touch it within themselves and open it up to be a powerful healer, regardless of whether they are fated to be a shaman or a healer.
The depth and mystery of ancient healing in my eyes is a seed within the self that can be nurtured and walked with as a living (healing) art, and why herbalists, ceremonial shamans must be completely dedicated to the devotion of their own path and also make small sacrifices. A shaman must make major sacrifices and doesn’t have a choice. Many wish to be my friend, but too many things will surface if I accept ordinary friendships as a shaman and I can only enter peoples spaces who need healing because of that. So, that is just one of the many sacrifices shamans must make and that is true of Balkan and Slavic shamans.
The Slavic Shaman like the Native American or Aboriginal Indigenous shamans (those whose souls are fated to be shamans) are able to step into and enter the energy of both the earth along with the magical living soul of all humans who wishes to become well. We can pass through the veils and enter the natural forces from the inner spaces in both time (our mundane life) along side the no-time (dreaming or dreamtime), if one is advanced beyond the mental body. A Whisperer who is also is a dreamer, can become one with the natural or nature’s forces and have a real relationship with the consciousness of nature herself if they can pass the life tests and purify karma of their dark past lives. Then a Whisperer or Molfarka can enter the shamans realms.
There are many folk legends of weather shamans and magic in shamanism of the Slavic and Balkan traditions, I do not separate folk lore from shamanism in many traditional Slavic folk magic stories because most of these are all true. In Polish tradition I underwent my Vesta initiations and those are true because I lived them. All of the stories are true that I have found in the supernatural world (except for Unicorns), which were more of a cultural 14th century creation rather than a shamanic reality. But if I meet a Unicorn one day then I will accept and I have met many magical creatures and celestial ones as well, even fairies and domovois, but no unicorn.
Men and women who are powerful healers, are fated by birth and they may not even know or understand this until their 30s or even 40s when they have some life skills and experiences already. Through many previous lives, soul accumulations of purified karma, a life of purity, and undergoing fated initiations adds to the Molfarka (and those around the world like them) because for thousand of years as human beings, we have been able to enter the non-physical aspects of diseases or spaces in what is called dreams.
Viking, Medieval and Archaic Pagan magicians attributed these qualities to the gods, but in more archaic and advanced shamanic forms, some Szeptuchami and Molfar possess the same qualities as their shaman counterparts, who connect to the natural power of nature, and their own more powerful higher souls. Humans don’t seem to understand that waking up spiritually gives us a view into our higher and multiple animism souls. All paganism and religion did was create a middle man between the god and goddess, removing it from our inner god and inner goddess called the higher self, the divine self. This too is part of shamanism.
Shamanism is completely opposite of traditional 12th -15th century magick which is based on controlling the elements or to use spells to control and manifest. Shamanism is the opposite which is about letting go of all control and power and let nature guide and teach. In Slavic shamanism, those who misuse spiritual power find sooner or later that ego, pride, power or being popular or famous in spirituality, has no real place in real mysticism or shamanism.
As an example, I was at a native american gathering in the Pacific Northwest for a peace ceremony, with some very powerful native elders who hosted many nations of tribes. I never really go to any of these things anymore, sine I turned 40 but something strong within me called me to go. I realized what it was, when I arrived, and saw a young Norse man about 35 years old, who worked with the Viking pagan tradition and had been invited to be in the ceremonial with the elders. I was just a visitor to this event and I had walked up to the young man and his girlfriend and said that the Native Americans do not treat their “sacred fires” like the Balkan or Slavic people do and shared with him how to respect their fire since he didn’t know. He was doing an energy healing on his girlfriend and throwing the residue into the fire an hour before the ceremony started.
As an elder, I was very shocked by his disrespect to my helpful information and his girlfriend became very fearful at those moments as she obviously understood that his ego had gotten in the way or that they were not really who they pretended to be. Since in his own country, pagan men rule and not many elder women have power over shamanic ceremony, rare do these older men ever invite grandmother to the power circles to lead the ceremonies. But this was not the case this day and during the ceremony when it was the Viking Pagan man’s turn to do his ritual in front of everyone in the greater circle, he happened to be directly facing me in the outer ring of people.
Since I am not a pagan, but a shaman, mystic and healer, I have never done one spell, nor influenced anything of individuals without their permission, because I carry very high ethics and values, nor do I wish to accrue karma from a whole life of paying karma off, plus I slayed my own ego from many circles of healing and healers I went to and elders I worked with when I was his age and honored them very much. During his 10 minute ceremony, there was a big cracking sound in the fire and it flamed up behind him, the same fire pit I tried to explain to him, and at that precise moment, his sacred bag around his hip fell to the ground. Then about a minute later his sacred Nordic Viking symbol necklace, flew off his body and landed about ten feet away.
I then saw the fear in his face, he was trying to stay focused but could not, he looked down (as he had his hands up praying to his gods with his eyes closed) and as he looked forward by the disturbances, he caught my eyes looking at him as he began to look away from the sky in his prayers. I put my hand in the prayer position and bowed and we locked eyes, without any facial expression nor intent except knowing that the youth are not powerful, they are victorious (over their own personal shadow if they work that instead of popularity and ego, which this young man worked from).
The intensity of really pure healers and really powerful shamans are sometimes ostracized in many pagan and socio-religious or socio-spiritual societies still, this happens to them most of their life, but this is for a good reason. Those who are dedicated to such practices will always endure because they are tested over and over again by fate and the shamans, molfarka, whisperers are given much more pain and severe consequences for their actions, much more than other healers or spiritual people. True ancient paths are rarely attainable to their full extent without severe suffering, and the most difficult are very hard to attain, for a whole life must be dedicated to it. For the true shamans and folk healers, fate is absolutely necessary for advancement in mysticism and spiritual growth and the burning of karma. Who would chose such depth of pain for such a profession willingly? No one but the fated.
Obviously contemporary shamans as most shaman practitioners are trained in schools, or by book writers or online including plant (drug) shamans, and they tend not to encounter any such initiations by fire, rain, thunderstorms, demons, demonic tests etc and therefor do not respond to the levels of responsibilities in an everyday way of life that whisperer and real shamans do and believe me when I say, that is a blessing not to suffer such horrific mysticism and dark nights of the souls that can last two and three decades to be a shaman. Power that is grounded, disciplined, free from ego and a life of total dedication for decades shows many magical things are what Slavic shamanism is at its best when taken seriously and the path is do… or die.
The Belarus Whisperers
Babka Yanina, Belarus Whisperer (pictured above): “My husband was seriously ill for a very long time; nothing helped him. The doctors said that they could not do anything for him. I began to whisper in the water and gave him this water to drink – and then he got better. After this people from the neighboring villages and towns came to me and asked me to whisper in the water. Now I am very old and whispering takes a lot of energy. I have to go into the forest to gather strength. That makes me feel better and I can carry on.
Babka Yanina, Belarus Whisperer: “My uncle taught me to whisper. He was a powerful sorcerer. He knew words that you could say to paralyse a snake. I am able to heal tumours, fears, nerves and stammering. I attained my gift when I became blind.”
Babka Nadzeja, Belarus Whisperer: “My mother’s gift was feared because of the times she lived in: the Soviet government did not recognise anything holy. During the war I fought as a partisan against the Nazis, and then worked in the school. People would laugh at me when they found out about my gift but when they asked for help I could not refuse them. Sadly, I could not help my family, Whispers only can help strangers in our family tradition.”
Babka Stasia, Belarus Whisperer: “My Catholic family was very religious, but I lost my mother when I was three and my father when I was seven, and I became an orphan. Most whisperers are Orthodox not Catholic. When I was older my mother-in-law and two old women in my village taught me to whisper, and how to burn threads and use smoke (smudge) to heal people.“
Babka Fiadora, Belarus Whisperer: “I never went to school, not even once. When I was young times were hard, and children had to work. For 12 years I looked after cows in return for food. It was my grandmother who showed me how to use herbs and taught me to whisper. It was all word of mouth, because I can’t read. I only treat people when I know I will be able to help them.”
Babka Katia, Belarus Whisperer: “There was a communist in our village called Misha. One day he mowed the grass near the river and he was bitten by a snake. He became really ill and was close to death. He sent his wife to me, to ask for help. I was scared because he was a Communist. They disliked us believers so much; they mocked us, closed churches and sent priests to Siberia. But I could not say no, so I whispered in the water and he drank it and he got better. I don’t know if Misha ever believed in God but he knew the power of the word.”
The Hungarian Lidercz and Táltos – Shamanistic remnants in Hungarian folklore
I wanted to add this last part, the Hungarian Lidercz, because comparative methods used in analyzing ethnographic data of Hungarian folktales, reveal some features of Hungarian folklore which are remnants of the older shamanistic beliefs. Táltos are believed to be the remnants of Hungary’s pre-Christian shamanic pre-pagan culture, but are only in folklore today. The article I read from a book translated from Hungarian to english, really described more paganism than it did shamanism.
The Táltos is a woman in Hungarian mythology which means shaman. In the book “Magyar mitológia” Hungarian Mythology from 1854, a táltos is in direct contact with creatures and spirits during the pre-natal period and before incarnation. Once born, the Táltos has a special mission in life to help the souls of other members of her society and it is by fate of her birth that she carries the shaman power.
There is a reason most of the cultural shamanism of Balkan and Slavic traditions are rarer and this is because these traditions were held by women and of course as women were pushed out by religious corruptions and pagan leadership of men, so too were their shamanic traditions. Only in the more or most remote areas and mostly hush hush do these traditions survive.
Some information about the Hungarian shamanic traditions were maintained from the deep past, possibly borrowed from Turkic peoples with whom Hungarians used to live together before having wandered to the Pannonian Basin; and maybe is an effect of Eastern influence thereafter (Cuman immigration).
Places where these remnants exist, like many Slavic and Balkan shamanism as well…
- refrains of certain folk songs accompanying some customs
- certain motifs of folktales, e.g. sky-reaching tree, which was a specific belief among several Uralic peoples, having some resemblances to the world tree concept, but it was also related to the shaman’s tree and had some other peculiarities as well.
There were also people who filled in similar roles to those performed by shamans among other peoples: such as fortune-tellers, weather magic, finding lost objects, seers and herbal healers, but those too were later pagan traditions (except for herbal healers). These people can be related to shamanism (contrasted to the cunning folk of non-shamanistic cultures), because the former are recorded to go through similar experiences to expansion of consciousness, really are not those of many shamans. The folk and oral traditions of those born with surplus amount of bones or teeth, illnesses and sicknesses of distortion and perception distortions (seeing things that are not there by normal people), dismemberment by a mythological, supernatural and celestial beings, recovering with enlarged increased capabilities, struggles with other shamans etc are all related features can be recognized in several examples of shamanism in Siberia. This is true of all shamans.
As Hungarian language belongs to the Uralic family, we can expect to find them among Uralic peoples. Some of them maintained shamanism until the modern times, especially the isolated location of Nganasan people enabled that shamanism was a living phenomenon among them even in the beginning of 20th century, the last notable Nganasan shaman’s work could be recorded on film in the 1970s. The original location of the Proto-Uralic peoples (and its extent) is debated.
The combined results of several sciences suggest that this area was north of Central Ural Mountains and on lower and middle parts of Ob River. This approach combined ecological, namely phytogeographical and paleobotanic (including palynological) data together with linguistic (phytonymic and comparative) considerations: the distribution of various tree species in Siberia and Eastern Europe (changing in time) was matched against the distribution of the respective tree-names in various Uralic languages (filtered with comparative methods, so that only names of Proto-Uralic or Proto-Finno-Ugric relevance be taken into account).”
Video: In English
Video of Carpathian Molfar Mykhailo Nechay (Ukraine w English Subtitles):
Recently Molfar/Molfarka culture was brought back into the mainstream again when it was popularized by Mykhailo Kotsiubynsky’s book “Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors” published in 1911 and the subsequent film released in 1964 and hopefully the rest of the Slavic, Balkan and Eastern European cultures will also return.
Sources: All photos of the Babka’s of Belarus taken by Siarhiej Leskiec at the https://www.theguardian.com/world/gallery/2016/aug/29/the-last-whisperers-of-belarus-in-pictures; Artwork of Wardruna by David D’Andrea with added words by me of what Wardruna means; Photo of Ukraine woman from http://www.facebook.com/TretiPivni, additional copy at Wiki and Ukrainian websites translated.