Mythology

Slavic Spirits – Suđaje

Slavic Spirits

Suđaje (Sudice), pronounced /suđaje/ (with đ like in Italian “buonGiorno”) were female demon spirits which played very important role in the Slavic mythology. It was believed that people’s destiny completely depends on the free will of the Suđaje. They had powers to decide what kind of life they were going to have and for how long. Nobody could escape it, everybody’s destiny was already determined, “written” as people used to say, what is going to happen and for how long it was going to last.

In all the books which describe culture and customs of the Slavic people human life is presented from the fatalistic point of view. Reasons for such fatalistic beliefs were rooted in the fact that Slavic people believed in existing of the spirits whose obligation was to give every newborn a different kind of destiny. Their decision could not possibly be changed because it was not brought in the moment of fun and their personal will but according to many factors like the behavior of the ancestors, destiny of their country and the time the baby was born.

Unlike many other customs and myths, even today Suđaje are well known spirits to all Slavic nations. They are maybe called differently but they have the same function. Slovenes call them „sujenice“ or „sojenice“, Serbs call them „суднице“ or „суђенице“, Croats call them “rojenice” or “rodenice”, Bulgarians call them “oриснице”, Czechs call them “sudičke” or “rodičke” , Sorbs of Lusatia use “sudžička“ or „rodička” word for them and Russians „роженице“, „рођенице“ or „наречнице“.  The words used in Russian „narečnice“ come from the old Slavic language and means „determine“ and Serbian and Bulgarian from the Greek language and mean the same.

Suđaje were female spirits, something similar to fairies, sent by God, who were responsible for the newborns’ destinies. Like all other demonic creatures they were also symbolically connected to the number 3. There were 3 of them and they appeared on the 3rd night after the baby was born. In some Slavic nations they could also appear on the 7th night, also a number connected to demonic rituals. It was believed that they appeared at midnight. They entered a house through the chimney, as some other demons, and only the mother of the baby could see them. Believing in existing of Suđaje was so strong that people were expecting them and tried to make them feel more comfortable in their homes, of course in order to receive a better destiny for the baby. So, it was not unusual to find fruit, coins or cloths on the table or next to the baby, as a gift for midnight visitors. The child should have been nicely dressed, clean and well fed. It was believed that families who do not respect this tradition would bring a bad destiny to their child. Even today there is a proverb about people who are constantly having bad luck „He/She was not nicely taken care of on the third night.“

As we said, it was believed that there were 3 of them and each of them had her own purpose and area of influence. The first one was the most dangerous one; she was the Suđaja of death. The second one was also negative, but not so lethal. She was in charge of misfortunes, illness and life difficulties. And the last one, the third one, was in charge of happiness, good luck and prosperity. They are here numbered as One, Two, Three, but the order of their appearance on the third night was not determined in any way. In fact, that was the whole point of the forecasting. The way in which they appeared was the life path of the baby. Having this in mind Slavic people believed that all people must have these three periods in life: happiness, misfortune and death. The only difference would be the order in which they appear. Justification for believing in this myth was found in destinies of some people who were born as very poor and later became enormously rich or in those when people were rich practically for generations  and had a very happy childhood and early life but died as poor people, often hungry and homeless.

There is another spirit connected to this old baby custom and it is called Usud. Usud is a male spirit who came to the house after Suđaje and wrote down the order they came and the decisions they made. What he would write down that was unchangeable. That was the destiny of that newly born person. People were used to say in conversation: “If the Usud wrote down that you will eat green grass in life, then you definitely will“.

This old custom was very popular within Slavic people. Actually, it was so popular that stories connected to it are still alive, changing through time but not disappearing. As a matter of fact, other non-Slavic people have also heard about it and were inspired to create their own stories. One of them is definitely the story about Sleeping Beauty and their fairy godmothers. The number of the fairies was changed but the rest of the story is pretty much the same. Putting the main plot on side for a moment, the point would be exactly the same, no person, no matter how rich or poor is or how influential their parents or family are, cannot escape or be protected from its own destiny.

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