Alina Oprelianska
Make Ukraine Great Again: Gogol’s Viy, St.Cassian and Ukrainian Beliefs

Video by: Kikee Doma Bhutia 22.07.2021 1407 views Folkloristics

Lecture Series "Unraveling Tales: Exploring Intersections between Folkloristics and Literature" - 8th July to 26th August 2021

The paper aims to outline the connection between Ukrainian writer Mykola Gogol’s horror novella “Viy” (published in 1835), witch-lore and Ukrainian beliefs about St.Cassian. Gogol’s novella is about monastery student Khoma Brut who happened to cause the witch’s death and was called to provide a funeral service for her, and who managed to stay alive for two nights, but died once he saw Viy on the third night. The novella has evoked lots of discussions about the origin of the Viy and whether or not he existed in Ukrainian folklore. Although there are no notions about the title Viy in Ukrainian folklore, beliefs about St.Cassian display some similarities between the Saint and Viy. Being an ambiguous figure, St.Cassianwas believed to appear between the living once per four years, has huge eyebrows and kill the living creatures with one glance only. Another belief describes him as the chained guardian of Hell, whom God allows to look up at Leap year.

Meanwhile, Ukrainian folklorist PavloChubyn’s’kyi in 1872 collected a legend with a similar plot to Gogol’s novella, except for Viy. Instead of him, the key figure is a newborn witch who is capable to see where the young priest is hiding. The legend reflects the beliefs about the born-witches and trined-witches, as well as Ukrainian mortuary customs for witches that will be discussed in the paper.  

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