in the Carpathians



region remote landscape
bone personify settlement
sacred foretell generations
faith predate tools of her trade
nail trade (3) pendulum
oracle dull (2) associated with
herbs ward off passed down
heal timber spirituality
evil disappear practice (2)
earn ancient supposed to
witch timber buy/bought/bought
earn influence read/read/read
as well skeptical shamanism
mix coexist separatist
amiss spell (2) the other way around
spare diagnosis pendulum
palm warmth feel/felt/felt
coin demon withdraw (2)
path still (2) forget/forgot/forgotten
envy torture inseparable
toll show (2) celebrated (2)
burn relieved alongside
pain conjure superstition
air wage (2) on behalf of
recite against influenced
border high up for all time
cart promise horse-drawn cart


Video: The Shamans of the Carpathians





The landscape around the settlement of Verkovinya in the Carpathians is remote and magical. So it’s perhaps understandable that the region is associated with magic.

This is Magdalena Mochiovsky. She’s a molfarka, as the female molfar are known. She personifies the secret knowledge of her homeland.

Magdalena Mochiovsky, Molfar: “You can’t become a molfar — you have to be born one. Molfars have sacred knowledge that is passed down for generations.”

People here have always been religious: there are 40 churches for some 30,000 people in Verkovinya, and their faith predates Christianity.

Magdalena shows us the tools of her trade: a nail pendulum, a dull knife and herbs. She says she can use these things to heal people. Oracle bones are used to foretell the future. They come from rabbits. This one helps ward off the evil eye.

Magdalena Mochiovsky, Molfar: “You can recognize a witch by looking through a witch bone.”

We buy some bread and water. We’re supposed to keep them overnight so that a molfar can read the future. We’re skeptical.

People in the Carpathians earn money from tourism and timber. Their spirituality is heavily influenced by ancient practices. Magic and shamanism have learned to coexist here alongside Christianity — or is it the other way around? Molfars use Christian symbols as well and they mix prayers in with ancient spells.

There’s something amiss between this woman Pavla and her neighbor. Only magic will help. Dovbush, the molfa, uses a pendulum to make the diagnosis.

Dovbush, Molfar: “Okay show me who is my friend and who is my enemy. Do you feel something on your palm, warmth? You have a good friend who envies you, your work.”

Before things get really serious, Pavla has to put a coin on the side of the path; it’s a toll for demons. Then Dovbush and Pavla withdraw.

Dovbush, Molfar: “Burn, burn my black pain. Don’t forget to burn the queen of pain. Return to her. Torture her. Punish her; don’t spare her during the day or the night.”

Pavla says she’s relieved.

Molfar Dovbush has promised her neighbor’s envy will disappear.

Faith and superstition are as inseparable as smoke and air in the Carpathians.

Recently molfars have been conjuring on behalf of their entire country Ukraine, which is waging war against separatists in the east. Magdalena recites a spell for protection.

Magdalena Mochiovsky, Molfar: “Just a smoke leaves fire so shall the enemy leave our borders, today and for all time.”

We head on by horse-drawn cart to a town high up in the mountains to see another celebrated molfarka. This woman is seventy-two (72) but people still come to her. She doesn’t want to tell our fortune today. but does show us how it’s done.

Molfarka: “You need bread: it’s put three times into water, and you count from nine to one. If everything’s fine, the bread will float. If not it sinks.”

But we’ve come during fasting season and it’s forbidden to practice magic right now.

The woman says that politicians also have their fortunes told. But she’s careful around them. Politicians from Kiev reportedly also consulted the famous Mykhaylo Nechay. Five years ago he was discovered stabbed to death. Magdalena believes it was a political assassination.

Magdalena Mochiovsky, Molfar: “He knew Ukraine’s future, and he spoke many times of a war that was about to break out. So they probably decided to kill him so his secrets would go to the grave with him.”

Whatever the truth magic hasn’t been able to protect Ukraine from war.

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1. The molfars and molfarkas mostly practice in large, urban areas. True or false?

2. According to Magdalena the Molfarka, anyone can train and become molfar a molfarka?

3. Do they use tools, equipment and materials? Give examples.

4. The main industries in the Carpathians are high-tech. Is this right or wrong?

5. Are the beliefs and practices influenced Christianity, Paganism, both or neither?

6. People consult the molfars only for physical ailments, aches, pains and illnesses. Is this correct or incorrect?

7. Has this involved politics?


A. There are spiritual healer, psychics and soothsayers where I live. Yes or no?

B. Is or was there such a tradition?

C. Do people dismiss these or is there an interest?

D. Are there lots of media coverage, news reports, books and documentaries about them?

E. What might happen in the future?


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