My interest in the traditional witchcraft and folklore of the Balkans began a few years ago, when I was blessed to stumble upon Balkan Traditional Witchcraft by Radomir Ristic. In the book, Radomir describes what is very much a living tradition, one that had evolved and adapted over time yet nevertheless maintained very ancient roots. While I cannot claim to practice the traditional witchcraft of the Balkans, the concepts and lore I discovered from reading what little is available (mainly the works of Radomir Ristic, and Thracian Magic by Georgi Mishev) has inspired my own practice greatly, particularly the concept that another person doesn’t make you a witch, rather the spirits themselves do. One such being found within Balkan folklore is the zmaj, a kind of dragon spirit entirely unlike the beasts slain by St. George and St Michael. Very little is said of the zmaj in the works of Radomir Ristic, the newest release in the Guides to the Underworld series from Hadean Press aims to address that.
The zmaj are dragons descended from the stars in the form of meteors and lightning bolts, transforming the animals, spirits, and landscapes they embrace. The zmaj is not only a powerful protector of the people but a mythic ancestor. They are known for their legendary lust, they marry young virgins, teach them witchcraft, and sire offspring known as the zmajevit: humans with zmaj souls. Syncretized with the Nephilim and protected by the Prophet Elijah, many of Serbia’s most distinguished tsars, princes, and knights are counted among their ranks, with songs of their zmaj heritage still sung to this day. Author Katarina Pejovic brings this lore to English speaking audiences for the first time. While short, she weaves together a fascinating overview of the folklore, granting a rare insight into a culture where witchcraft and belief in the spirits never died.
It is said much of the genesis of the Dragon Book of Essex was inspired by Andrew Chumbley’s friendship and magical work with Radomir Ristic, that the work is to an extent built upon zmaj lore. While I cannot confirm this, I can say that this booklet will give lore to consider. There are no workings, no rituals, and no spells in this work. A relationship with the zmaj is a highly personal one as the lore shows.
Of course, we are outsiders to this culture, we cannot simply barge in and demand access to their magic. However there is much lore to consider involving the zmaj and certain saints. The Balkan peninsula is a heavily Orthodox Christian region, here Christanity sits side by side with a belief in spirits and witchcraft. Perhaps through certain Saints, one may gain a glimpse of these magnificent spirits. To that end, Katarina has graciously shared a traditional Balklan prayer and spell to St. Marina.
A Prayer to St Marina
Oh, holy great martyr Marina, you were a living fire of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, and because of this faith you joyfully and fearlessly died and stood up to receive the wreath of martyrdom from the Lord Himself. With your holy actions, you have shown for all time that the greatest enemy of our salvation can be overcome – the body and the devil. Therefore, the Lord has rewarded you with a great power to help us in our many troubles, especially in the battle against the evil demonic forces. For this reason, we who are full of sin and helpless approach you, Holy Marina, and we ask your gracious help. Help us to overcome our body, which inflicts us in countless ways and which, at every turn, is making us to err and sin. Through our prayers, the Lord makes us stand up from the muddy clay in which we roam and purify ourselves from all physical impurities through deep and sincere repentance, so that we can walk enflamed along the path of salvation.
But we even beg you to help us in this difficult and bloody, invisible struggle, which we fight against the demons of evil and who deceive us and lead us into sin, even though we are often not aware of it. Therefore, with all the holy prayers from the heavenly heights, drive away all the demons who engulf the pitfalls around us and take us out of the path towards salvation. With their malice and cunning they sowed in us the pride, selfishness, hatred, envy, evil, power, pity, and all other passions that have come to us in our midst.
Therefore, with your fiery prayer, Martyr Marina, chase out all those passions that have stumbled upon us and help us rise against them reborn through the Church of Christ, through repentance, through virtuous and pious life. Help the unbreakable fire of the love of God to burst into you, with which you so burned so intensely, to tremble over every part of your mind and to encircle your soul with constant prayer and divine ecstasy. Then the demons will flee from us with fear and will not be able to do much harm to us. May your holy prayers so revive until the end of earthly life stretching to the Upper World.
And once as souls we move through the realm of spirits, let us pass through the evil Satanic armies and enter into the light of the Empire of Heaven, where all the armies of the angels and all the saints, among whom you illuminate with your flame, the holy Marina, The Holy Trinity, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, now and forever in the ages of the ages. Amen.
One balkan spell involves drawing a black dragon (not a zmaj but the usual european dragon with the lizard body and wings) and writing on it all the things you wish banished that are constricting you, usually in the belly. Then you pray the above prayer and as you pray the portion about her inflamed with fire while she was inside the dragon, you anoint yourself and the image with the sign of the cross in holy oil and burn the paper.
Prayer translated and spell provided by Katarina Pejovic
Purchase Balkan Folk Magic: Zmaj here.