; Phantoms and Monsters: Pulse of the Paranormal

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Legendary Humanoids: Dziwożona, Female Demon

Some mythical creatures have their origin in tradition and tales from the distant past. However, each culture is associated with a multitude of interesting and odd creatures, many of these beings are humanoids. One of these legendary humanoids is the Dziwożona.

The Dziwożona is a female swamp demon or evil fairy in Slavic mythology known for being malicious and dangerous. It is also referred to as a Mamuna. These beings supposedly live in thickets near rivers, streams and lakes. Some say she took the form of an ugly, old woman with a hairy body, long straight hair and breasts so huge that she uses them to wash her clothes. Dziwożona is also be a shape shifter and can appear as a beautiful nymph capable of luring young men to their death. On her head she sometimes wore a red hat with a fern twig attached to it. It is said that she can lead anyone down the wrong path, literally and figuratively.

Dziwożona kidnapped human babies just after birth and replaced them with her own offspring, known as foundlings or changelings. A changeling could be recognized by its uncommon appearance...disproportionate body, often with some kind of disability...as well as an inherent wickedness. It had a huge abdomen, unusually small or large head, a hump, thin arms and legs, a hairy body and long claws. Its behavior was said to be marked by a great spitefulness towards people around it, a fear of its mother, noisiness, reluctance to sleep and exceptional gluttony. They rarely reached adulthood...but if it did, it was disabled and spoke gibberish. Many traditional Slavs thought Dziwożona was a goblin.

There were several ways to discourage child abductions but the most prevalent was that mother would tie a red ribbon around the child's hand, put a red hat on it's head and shield the face from the light of the moon. The red ribbon around the child's hand is still practiced in Poland today but the meaning behind it is mostly lost to the populace.

If the Dziwożona managed to take the infant away, there was still a method to get it back. The mother had to take the changeling to a waste heap, whip it with a birch twig and pour over it water from an eggshell, chanting "Take yours, give mine back!", at which point Dziwożona would fell sorry for her offspring and took it away, returning the child she stole.

Women at risk of becoming one of these demons after death were thought to be midwives, old maids, unmarried mothers, pregnant women who die before childbirth, as well as abandoned children born out of wedlock.

The following is a translated passage from a 18th century Polish narrative that warns of the Dziwożona (translated as Surprisewife):

...it is a midget or giant with scary eyes, big head, with twisted arms, green skin and long, reaching bottom breasts. At times theses deamons are not so frightful but they attack only mothers of illegitimate or non-baptized children. They cause harm with their breasts - like a flail with precision and determination, that they can even kill with such weapons.

One must be careful during contact because they also could switch the children. When mother doesn't care enough for her child, Dziwożona tries to still her baby and switch with the devil's child.

There is however a way to get back a stolen child. The mother has to leave the devil's child so the Dziwożona would be touched by baby's cry and will take him and give back the taken one.
- slowianie.republika.pl