Words and Witchery: Some References for Slavic Mythology

A tall man in a Mother Christmas t-shirt stands beside a short woman in a Ukrainian embroidered blouse.
Stephen and Valya at Chicon8

Over Labor Day weekend, Stephen and I took the younger two teenagers to their second World Science Fiction Convention: Chicon 8 (San Jose was their first Worldcon in 2019).

Both of us were on panels (usually at the same time), and I was delighted to be on the Slavic Mythology panel with moderator Dr. Jeana Jorgensen, Alex Gurevich, and Alma Alexander. (Unfortunately Alex Shvartsman did not make it to the panel.)

We had a really wonderful and engaged audience, and at the end of our discussion, someone asked for additional references about Slavic Mythology. I agreed to post a list of resources published in English on my blog.

4 masked panelists seated at a table talking with a curtain behind them.
Slavic Mythology panel at Chicon 8.

I’ve done my best to collect them here. I will try to remember to update the post as I acquire new books, or as new media come to my attention.

A small disclaimer: Many books have been published recently about Slavic magic and Baba Yaga. I have not included anything as a nonfiction reference here that I have not personally read and reviewed. Some of the fiction and films, on the other hand, come from other panelists and audience members. I cannot speak to the accuracy of their portrayal or sources.

Nonfiction:

  • Slavic Folklore: A Handbook by Natalie Kononenko
  • Encyclopedia of Russian and Slavic Myth and Legend
    by Mike Dixon-Kennedy
  • The Bathhouse at Midnight: An Historical Survey of Magic and Divination in Russia by W. F. Ryan
  • Mother Russia: The Feminine Myth in Russian Culture by Joanna Hubbs
  • Baba Yaga: The Ambiguous Mother and Witch of the Russian Folktale by Andreas Johns
  • Fairy Tales of the Russians and Other Slavs: Sixty-Eight Stories Edited by Ace G. and Olga A. Pilkington
  • Witchcraft in Russia and Ukraine, 1000–1900: A Sourcebook (NIU Series in Slavic, East European, and Eurasian Studies) by Valerie A. Kivelson and Christine D. Worobec
  • Ukrainian Minstrels: Why the Blind Should Sing: And the Blind Shall Sing (Folklores and Folk Cultures of Eastern Europe)
    by Natalie O. Kononenko
  • The Paths of Folklore: Essays in Honor of Natalie Kononenko
    by Svitlana Kukharenko, Peter Holloway
  • The Gods and Goddesses of Old Europe: 7000 to 3500 BC myths, legends and cult images by Marija Alseikaitė Gimbutas
  • The Magical Universe: Everyday Ritual and Magic in Pre-Modern Europe by Stephen Wilson

Folklorica: An open-access peer-reviewed journal produced by the Slavic, East European & Eurasian Folklore Association. The Slavic, East European, and Eurasian Folklore Association (SEEFA) is devoted to an exchange of knowledge among scholars interested in Slavic, East European and Eurasian folklore.

Fiction that draws from Slavic mythology:

  • Night Witches by L.J. Adlington
  • The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden
  • Shadow and Bone series and Grisha trilogy by Leigh Bardugo
  • Rusalka, Chernevog, and Yvgenie by C.J. Cherryh
  • The Age of Witches by Marina & Sergey Dyachenko
  • American Gods by Neil Gaiman
  • “Viy” by Nikolai Gogol (Mykola Hohol)
  • Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors by Mykhailo Kotsiubynsky (translated but difficult to find)
  • The Silence of Trees by Valya Dudycz Lupescu
  • Sticks & Bones: Home Is Where the Hearth Is (comic) by Valya Dudycz Lupescu & Madeline Carol Matz
  • Uprooted and Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik
  • The Secret History of Moscow by Ekaterina Sedia
  • Deathless by Catherynne M. Valente
  • The Forest Song by Lesya Ukrainka (play, translated by Percival Cundy)
  • Mesopotamia by Serhiy Zhadan

Television & Film

  • American Gods (Starz)
  • Shadow and Bone (Netflix)
  • Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors (1965 – Ukrainian: Тіні забутих предків, directed by Sergei Parajanov)
  • The Witcher (Netflix)

Articles:

A stack of books topped by a Baba Yaga figurine.

Published by Valya

Valya Dudycz Lupescu has been making magic with food and words for more than 20 years, incorporating folklore from her Ukrainian heritage with practices that honor the Earth. She’s a writer, content developer, instructor, and mother of three teenagers. Valya is the author of THE SILENCE OF TREES and the founding editor of CONCLAVE: A Journal of Character. Along with Stephen H. Segal, she is the co-author of FORKING GOOD: An Unofficial Cookbook for Fans of The Good Place and GEEK PARENTING: What Joffrey, Jor-El, Maleficent, and the McFlys Teach Us about Raising a Family (Quirk Books), and co-founder of the Wyrd Words storytelling laboratory. Valya earned her MFA in Writing from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and her poetry and prose have been published in anthologies and magazines that include, The Year's Best Dark Fantasy & Horror, Kenyon Review, Culture, Gargoyle Magazine, Gone Lawn, Strange Horizons, Mythic Delirium. You can find her on Twitter @valya.

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