We all know that superstitious beliefs still exist all over the world. From Santeria, and Voodoo, to Wicca and the Mari shamanistic faith, the list goes on. But did you know that the mountains and forests of present-day eastern Serbia still harbor a mysterious religion called Vlach magic? 

Little is known about the history of the Vlachs, except for the fact that they are an ethnic minority of Romanian descent.  Pieces of information can be found in the descriptions of their customs, traditional costumes, and economic life. The Vlachs have passed their language down the generations and their folklore, culture, and tradition. Although they belong to the Christian Orthodox Church, they have kept many pre-Christian, Paleo-Balkan, and Indo-European elements in their religious life. 

One of the places in Eastern Serbia where Vlach beliefs are still alive and well, is the area around the famous “Đerdap” gorge. If you’re looking to experience something unique on your Serbia tour, then look no further. Book an Iron Gate Private Tour and glide down the Danube River through the magnificent gorge, while you listen to legends and stories that have been around since ancient times.

Today, we’re going to dive into the mysterious world of the Vlachs, and show you how these people have preserved one of the most powerful types of magic in the 21st century. 

Vlach Magic

The Vlachs respect pagan customs and believe in the so-called “Black” and “White Magic”. These beliefs are characterized by various rituals that take place in areas such as streams, rivers, and forests, depending on the purpose of the magic. Although such beliefs are characteristic of people living in Eastern Serbia,  Vlach magic attracts people from different parts of Serbia and even Europe, who believe that local Vlach women possess a shamanistic talent. 

A typical Vlach village treats shamans and conjurers as important central figures. They represent mystical figures that possess certain magical skills. Apart from possessing magical skills that are used for disease treatment or prevention, Vlach shamans are mediators between the supernatural “divine powers” and the souls of their ancestors.

 In the “Homolje” region there is a custom to avoid abandoned mills or ancient Roman military fortifications at night. This especially goes if these buildings are located at crossroads. If an individual finds himself in such a situation, they will usually bring a dog, because animals can sense the presence of evil spirits and demons. 

Rituals and Beliefs

Villagers dressed in lamb skin with pagan masks practising a ritual.

Vlach magic

Source: mediasfera.rs

According to belief, the doorstep of a household is where the souls of ancestors reside. Also, the roads are areas of strong magical powers, and intersections contain a risk of being exposed to black magic. Naturally, white magic is used to fight black. However, locals rarely talk about it publicly, and the process of removing black magic remains a secret kept within the family. 

It is a well-known fact that Vlach magic is passed down through the woman’s side of the family. Vlach women can take part in some ceremonies and rituals after they pass a certain age. Interestingly, women are the so-called shamans and they function as priests. However, this isn’t a surprise, because matriarchy is pronounced in Vlach societies. 

Many rituals have to do with burning fires that burn throughout the night. The shamans then go to streams and water mills, however, they must not look back or trip. These rituals are backed with incantations and singing in the Vlach language. During these rituals, shamans regard the sun, moon, and stars as deities. Using the power of these celestial bodies, they help people overcome illnesses or try to prevent those trying to get revenge through black magic.

Shaman women called “Rusalje’’ are particularly interesting, as they possess a special gift. Namely, they lose consciousness, fall into a trans, and apparently can “fall into the underground”. During this trans, these women can acquire supernatural powers and can talk with the dead. According to witnesses, they can find out things only known to closest family members, and can also predict the future. However, when they wake up from the trans, they are completely unaware of what they talked about and can’t remember anything.

 Black and white photo of a Vlachian funeral.

Vlachian cult of the dead   source: pulse.rs

Cult of the Dead

The Vlach people are particularly focused on the cult of the dead. Some villages don’t even have cemeteries, because family members are buried at home. They are commonly buried at a place where there is a great view over the house and property. The Vlachs might belong to the Orthodox church, however, the church doesn’t play a significant role as it does with the Serbs.  They respect all Orthodox practices, but they have somehow combined them with their Vlach pagan beliefs. 

The Vlachs also hold so-called funerals (dachas) for the dead. They pour water for the dead and make a “Priveg” – a large bonfire-like fire around which they dance long ritualistic dances( Kolo). They also prepare special caravans for the dead, go to cemeteries at night, and light fires. Until the end of the 20th century, they held posthumous rituals of “exhumation of the dead” and “black weddings”. All these magical-religious actions are accompanied by rich feasts because it is believed that with an abundance of food, drinks, and music, the deceased in the other world, which is dark, cold, and waterless, is introduced to paradise and prosperity.

Conclusion

 Vlach magic is one of the most unique ancient religions that still exist in south-eastern Europe. As an ethnic community, the Vlachs with their impressive cultural characteristics are extremely fascinating. Over the years, they have assimilated with the Serbian population and accepted their way of life. Still, they have also transferred their beliefs and traditions to those with whom they coexist. So, if you’re looking for something unique on your Serbia tour, remember that Vlach culture intertwined with pagan customs and interesting rituals makes the municipalities in Eastern Serbia a must-see.