Halloween in Ukraine: a guide to traditions and the list of evil spirits to inspire your costume choice

Ukrainian All Hallows Eve Ever wondered how do we celebrate Halloween in Ukraine? From around October 21st to the first weekend …

Ukrainian All Hallows Eve

Ever wondered how do we celebrate Halloween in Ukraine? From around October 21st to the first weekend of November is a time, called in Slavic believes ‘Didy.’ Literally translated as ‘grandfathers’ this time of the year should be devoted to the commemoration of the dead relatives. It is thought that at that time, the deceased ancestors come to visit us on earth.

Surprisingly enough a meal to cook for Halloween in Ukraine is very similar to Christmas kutya: a wheat porridge with a lot of sweet adding. The explanation of this tradition is simple. Slavic people used to have several times in a year to commemorate deceased. Christmas (or more accurately Winter Solstice) time is one of them.

Treat or Trick

First Saturday of November is the time to commemorate your male ancestors, while the Friday before it should be devoted to the female ones. The Thursday before this Friday is the time for children: you should remember relatives that passed away before they turned 18.

You should eat one spoon of kutya for each relative, biting three times. It is necessary to say out loud the name of a relative you are devoting the ritual. If all done right, your ancestors will treat you with their support and luck. But if you forget to do it, wait for their tricks, that could harm you.

If all the ancestors are taken care of, you might make some time to think about your costume. Ukrainian mythology might help you here.

Devil

There are various interpretations of the devil’s image in Ukrainian folklore. The most common one is a hairy creature with a tail, ram or goat horns and claws. It would also have a dog face or a pork snout, chicken legs or hoofs, and bat wings. Often it could have a bold head, be halt or blind.

In later versions there was an image of the devil, as a foreigner, dressed in a trench coat. He would have a funny hat, and a pipe. Ukrainian folklore says that the devil can possess different forms. It could be a little boy, or a handsome, seductive guy, or even your deceased relative.

Animals

Ukrainian myths consider certain animals evil. A raven is known as an omen of death, an owl is believed to show other birds nests to the devil. Ukrainians thought that a hair and a frog were created by the devil, that’s why seeing them is a bad omen.  

A goat was considered an extension of the devil, while horses allegedly protected people from the evil spirits.

Household spirits

Our ancestors believed that good house spirits (Domovyks) protect every household. Mostly those guys would live in the attic and protect their families from evil. Besides, they would make sure all the household members strictly follow family traditions. In poor houses, Domovyk would look dirty, naked and dangerous, while in rich one it would have a fur on himself, as a symbol of prosperity.

Werewolf

Some werewolves, according to Ukrainian beliefs could not only turn themselves but also set the others into wolves. Others could just be converted during the weddings. There are also female wolf images in the culture.

Wizards and witches

‘Vidma’ (Ukrainian equivalent for the witch) comes from the word knowledge. This presumes that witches had certain knowledge. Each of them allegedly had a specialization, and don’t intervene in the sphere that is not her area of expertise. Mostly witches gathered for their covens at the witch hills or ‘bold mountains.’

Wizards could go either good or bad. Some of them could heal with the magical means while the others would do the opposite. They’d send various diseases and misfortune on people.

Spirits of the dead

Those spirits would mostly be classified by the type of death they had. Drowned men would look like ordinary people just very dark. They are allowed to chase humans as far as the water can go during the flood. Ancestors believed they can allure people to the river and try to drown them.

Hangmen just like drowned men are allowed to hang around the earth for 7 years after their death. The only thing that can scare them off is the poppy seeds. Ukrainians believed that you can not cry for the deceased because that will make him or her to carry a big bucket of the tears. Such a burden could naturally make the spirits angry.  

Spirits of nature

People usually imagined the Forest spirit as a guy with shabby hair and beard. It can turn into a wolf, an owl, or even a grumpy old guy who can offer you a ride. His goal is to scare people out of the forest. To do that the spirit can cry, moan, moo or bark.

A Waterman would usually have a look of an old guy covered with algae. Often Ukrainians imagined him having some animal features: tails, paws or horns. Hi allegedly could not only drown people, but also ruin dams and mills.

Mermaids had great importance in Slavic mythology. People usually imagined them as pretty young girls with very long hair and pale skin. They love music and can become invisible if they take off their clothes.

How to celebrate?

There is no particular pumpkin related tradition here, but there are more than a lot of pumpkins this time of the year. So go ahead and carve some, while cooking something delicious from its inside.

Got any inspiration for your costume? One way to celebrate the night is to spend it at a great witch bar “Lysa Hora.” Scared to go alone? Take our Bar Crawl Tour, and we’ll help you to get a real authentic experience!

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