„May the spell fall on a dog!”

May the charm fall on the dog! – is a spell that originated in folk medicine. It was intended to remove a disease or evil spell from a person and transfer it to a dog.

Presented in the period 7.12.2023-2.06.2024 in F. Kotula Ethnographic Museum, Branch of the Regional Museum in Rzeszów, the exhibition „May the charm fall on the dog!” is an excellent educational path and a source of information on beliefs and protective practices against all evil, once used in the areas inhabited by the Lasowiak, Rzeszowiak and Pogorzanie people.

The theme of the exhibition introduces the viewer to the world of ancient beliefs and related healing and remedial methods; the so-called folk medicine.

The terms folk medicine, traditional medicine were constructed by nineteenth-century researchers, addressing issues of culture and describing the mentality of the rural population.

The issues of quackery and rural ways of healing were quite frequent themes in 19th-century literature. The widely known short story by B. Prus entitled „Antek” cites the fate of Rozalka as one of the most drastic images of the ignorance of the countryside at that time. The state of consciousness of the people in this regard also appears on the pages of novels: Chłopi, Noce i Dnie, Nad Niemnem, Znachor. Oskar Kolberg’s publications are also an important ethnographic source in this regard.

In the 18th century, attention was first drawn to the problem of hygiene, living conditions and the health of the countryside. In Poland, the Commission of National Education headed by Hugo Kołłątaj began working from the ground up to improve the living and mental conditions of the countryside.  The state of medical care in the mid-18th century in the former Galicia is clearly illustrated by the strikingly low number of pharmacies and medical personnel. In the mid-18th century, there were nine pharmacies in the area in question and eleven doctors practicing, whose knowledge was mainly based on herbalism, not far from the level of knowledge of a quack or village baba.

Lack of access to medicines and doctors meant that the village developed and nurtured its own ways of preventing and warding off illness, based on a system of ancient Slavic beliefs and magic, as well as tradition and the state of knowledge about how the world works, which had been accompanied by dualism for centuries. Prayer books, for example, can be used as an example, helping to take off diseases and charms.

Traditional folk healing thus took two directions:

  1. magical, supernatural – treating through various types of witchcraft and superstition, accompanied by casting spells (charms and warding off),
  2. real – based on herbal and animal medicines.

The above scheme was used to build the narrative of the presented exhibition may the charm fall on the dog!

The magical vision of the world of a traditional rural community, presented in the first part of the exhibition, was illustrated by the artwork of 20th-century representatives of the ethnographic groups of Lasowiak, Rzeszowiak and Pogórze, i.e. Maria Kozłowa, Władysław Chajec and Jan Stasiowski.

Folk medicine saw the cause of all illnesses in the casting of spells and charms and the action of malevolent spirits and demons. The latter were imagined both as the action of an impersonal force and taking the form of a human, animal or zoomorphic creature. Images depicting these malevolent mummies, drowning mummies, meridians, squishy nightmares and similar entities are presented in a collection of drawings by the well-known Lasowiak woman Maria Kozlova of Machow.


Nightmare… Invisible creature crawls through a hole around the window, but mostly through a hole created after a knot falls out in the door. It prowls around midnight every day or two, soliciting the young single men, and more often than not the unmarried ones. As soon as it enters the room it transforms itself into any form, but most often as a cat it crawls onto a sleeping person lying on his back, slowly moves from his legs towards the heart, and here it remains and clings to the place so strongly that signs of its claws can be seen on the side near the heart. The sleeping person feels an incomparable weight on his chest, difficulty in breathing, drenched in sweat and inert, can neither move nor scream.

(…) Those who come into the world with two souls, and get only one godfather’s name, become a nightmare after death. And that’s why  … two names at baptism are given. If three pregnant ones meet together, and one of them passes between two others, such a child becomes a nightmare[1].

In the Rzeszowiaks, Lasowiaks and Foothills, the nightmare was known as gnieciuch (crasher). It took on both a zoomorphic form resembling a cat, and a short, stocky man with a large belly.



However, criminal witchcraft was most feared. Witches and sorcerers, possessing mystical knowledge, brought death, disease, impotence, and also helped those concerned to gain power. This type of sorcery was stigmatized and exterminated, so in fear of the sanctions for it, the practice was practiced in secret, usually hiding in the forest. This type of magic was practiced by so-called sorcerers with supernatural powers ascribed to them, who, using secret spells and mixtures of herbs and tissue fragments of living beings, were able to create reality according to their own will.



The nature of magical power depended on the type of star that shone at the time of the birth of the person dealing with magic.

It was the star that directly determined whether the person engaged in magic would serve or harm people. Those born under a good planet were a kind of counterbalance to the former. Thus, they rushed to help most often in situations of illness and danger to life, plagues and disasters. An example of a sorcerer serving people is płanetnik.

Płanetnik became the souls of those who died a sudden death or suicide, who returned to earth as a storm cloud, the so-called płaneta. They could also be men with the gift of controlling the weather, who just before a storm were pulled through the sky and fought a battle of storm clouds in the air or drove the storm away with magical incantations.

The longevity of this belief is evidenced by the fact that the last płanetnik known by name – Wojciech Rachwał of Przysietnica in the Podkarpacie region – died in 1971 at the age of 81..

(…)Płanetnik, or a person from the village professionally engaged in dispersing storm clouds.

Wojtek, a religious man by nature and raised in an atmosphere of submission to God and the Church, originally intended to become a priest, but discovered another vocation in himself. This was also influenced by the fact that he was born with the silver spoon in his mouth. Wojtek was known for going to a fixed place (dziol) outside when strong storm clouds were gathering and performing the act of rolling (dispersing the clouds). He would then hold a consecrated thimble and a booklet of prayers in his hand, throw off his cap, and then recite the appropriate prayers and proceed to bid farewell to the cloud with the sign of the cross. The broken cloud would then separate into smaller fragments and be less harmful. In this way, he protected the area from hailstorms and storms that could threaten crops[2].

The continuity of the belief in the power of the płanetnik is illustrated by a drawing by Jan Stasiowski, a folk artist from the Ropczyce area, presented at the exhibition – Płanetniki pull clouds with ropes.


Rural women, baba and quacks specializing in warding off witchcraft, who were most trusted by the villagers, used so-called prayer books and charm practices, to which mystical power was attributed, as a tool to help ward off witchcraft.

With their help, the divine will was influenced, for example, forcing the reversal of illness. Thus, in folk tradition, the sacred and profane became intertwined, creating rituals and formulas for warding off illness and charms.


In the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit!

Tsar maru, Tsar maru, Tsarny cross, Poludnica must come.

Poludnica, Poludnica, you wretch, penitent,

Take these wages into the hollows, into the wilderness, in the debris, throw them, shorten the child’s torment!

Poludnica, penitent, take these wages, carry them to the ends of the world! [3]


A charm, understood as an energy attack intended to bring harm to the object against which it was directed, could be cast both consciously and unconsciously. Charm was commonly imagined as a sinister coating covering a person’s body, which had to be removed in some way. Various methods were used to do this, such as blowing, huffing, blowing off, scraping, licking, burning, scorching, scaring, disgusting and beating.

One way to get rid of a nightmare was to disgust it by eating its own dung. The procedure of spitting behind one’s self while uttering the formula Tfu, tfu may the charm fall on the dog was very popular. Today, although devoid of its original function, it is still in use.

The old countryside was particularly concerned about the casting of charms by people with „eyes full of charms.” At the time, people spoke of charming with ozion or the evil eye.


There are individuals, possessing supposedly, so called by our people: charming, spelling, magical, evil, or simply bad eyes. Such eyes are very dangerous; a charming,  person, or charmer can be captivated by them (…). A creature that has met with this falls into a special state of sorcery called charm, enchantment (…) According to some, the charm comes into being when a person with evil eyes looks at someone (…) A person in the Przeworsk area complains that an old witch flew in, gave an evil look and that’s how she enchanted me. Someone else in Krakow expresses the belief that witches, when they stare with evil eyes then they bewitch[4].


The second direction in folk medicine, the realistic direction, presented at the exhibition, was based mainly on herbalism and knowledge.

The place where manorial and rural culture intermingled was the Polish manor. Often distant from cities, it relied on the knowledge and foresight of its inhabitants.

Herbariums and herbariums usually served as the primary source of medical knowledge. The most popular of these are the 16th-century herbariums of Stefan Falimirz and the 1595 herbarium from the collection of the Regional Museum in Rzeszow by Marcin of Urzędów, presented at the exhibition.

The herbarium by Marcin of Urzędów is an outstanding work of botany and medicine. It is among the first printed herbariums to appear during the Renaissance. The work consists of two books. Book one – the most extensive – is titled: On the nature of various herbs. It includes 372 chapters devoted to medicinal herbs growing in Poland. The plants are arranged in alphabetical order according to their Latin names. A woodcut depicting the natural appearance of the plant is placed next to most of the herbs presented.

Book two, which is a kind of medical handbook, consists of three parts:

  1. On the properties of trees and some overseas herbs ,
  2. On ores,

III. On water things or soft things needed for medicine.      

The final section contains an alphabetical list of Latin and Polish names of plants described in the Herbarium, as well as an index listing diseases and a list of herbal medicines used against them.

An equally important source of information was Simon Syrenius’ Herbarium. One of the thousand copies published in print in 1613 in Cracow and presented at the exhibition May the spell fall on the dog! comes from the collection of the Regional Museum in Rzeszow.


Information from medieval sources provides us with knowledge of the first monastery pharmacies. They served not only monks, but also the rural population. The 16th century saw the development of pharmacies, which, in addition to medicines, offered various types of exotic and expensive cooking spices.

Similar home first-aid kits were possessed by every country manor, for the use of themselves and the landowners, who sometimes sought help from the manor in their helplessness. The first-aid kit was directly in the possession of the lady of the house or a trusted first-aid lady. Her duty was to collect herbs and prepare appropriate infusions, extracts, teas and tinctures from them. Here the magical and real worlds collided and interpenetrated each other.

Until relatively recently, one of the main methods of treatment was bloodletting, which had been used since ancient times as a kind of antidote to all ailments. This method was used both by medics and village quacks. Various types of blood „drains”, often made by hand, were used for this purpose.

Popular healing methods also included placing cups. The purpose of placing cut cups was to remove bad blood from the body and drain it through a hole punched in the bottom. Ordinary cups, on the other hand, were designed to draw out disease by moving stagnant blood[5].

Complementing the arrangement of the exhibition is a herbarium of nearly 70 species of dried herbs, collected in the Rzeszow area by Ilona Podczaszy, as well as an ordained garland and a bundle of herbs obtained by her during field research.  The picture is completed by illustrations of selected herbs with quotes indicating their use, taken from interviews conducted during field camps and deposited in the Archives of the Ethnographic Museum in Rzeszow) in the 20th century.

The last part of the exhibition was devoted to modern methods of using herbs, both in medicine (so-called phytotherapy) and cosmetics. Currently, the use of herbs in everyday life is experiencing a renaissance. Herbs are used not only for medical treatment, they also have a wide range of applications, including in the production of cosmetics. Among the many companies on the cosmetic market, the VIANEK line by Sylveco from Łąka near Rzeszów, whose motto is braided from Polish flowers and herbs, stands out. VIANEK is a line of natural cosmetics dedicated to women. The herbs used in their production come from ecologically cultivated areas of pure Podlasie. The VIANEK brand’s packaging was graphically inspired by a unique floral motif, characteristic of the folk painting of the village of Zalipie in Lesser Poland.

In addition to selected materials and photographs of the exhibits presented at the exhibition, the catalogue also contains texts devoted to issues related to the various parts of the exhibition. The first, on traditional folk medicine, introduces the subject of applied prophylaxis and healing methods at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries. The second, devoted to phenomena in the field of folk beliefs and demonology, is based on materials acquired during field camps conducted by Franciszek Kotula in the 20th century. The next describes issues related to the acquisition and use of plants and herbs, and points out various ways of preparing them. The last presents a brief historical sketch of Galician apothecary.

The publication also includes selected contemporary photographs, taken as a part of field documentation carried out by the Ethnographic Museum on the territory of the present-day Podkarpackie province, the subjects of which confirm the vitality of some of the ritual practices presented in the exhibition. The text and illustration layer is supplemented by materials from the Museum Archives.

In conclusion, we would like to express our sincere thanks to all Institutions and Individuals, for their assistance in the realization of the exhibition. We would like to express our special gratitude to Lidia Czyż and Sylwia Tulik and Ilona Podczaszy for their help in arranging the exhibition.


Barthel de Weydenthal M., Uroczne oczy, Lwów 1922.

Między dawnymi a nowymi laty… Studia folklorystyczne, Ed. R. Górski & J. Krzyżanowski. Wrocław-Warszawa-Kraków 1970.

Modlitewka, zamówienie na płacki, Teki Kotuli, from the collections of Ethnographic Museum in Rzeszow.

Ogrodowska B., Medycyna tradycyjna w Polsce, Warszawa 2012.

Zieleniewski M., O przesądach lekarskich ludu naszego, 1845, in: Z. Kuchowicz, Leki i gusła dawnej wsi, Warszawa 1954.


[1] M. Zieleniewski, O przesądach lekarskich ludu naszego, 1845, w: Z. Kuchowicz, Leki i gusła dawnej wsi, Warszawa 1954, p 78.

[2] https://www.facebook.com/EtnologiaCieszyn/photos/a.546171382084787/1050235405011713/?type=3  (access: 02.04.2024)   Anna Kisielewska: Wojciech Rachwał – płanetnik z Przysietnicy. In: Między dawnymi a nowymi laty… Studia folklorystyczne, Ed. R. Górski & J. Krzyżanowski. Wrocław-Warszawa-Kraków 1970, pp. 321-341.

[3]  Modlitewka, zamówienie na płacki, Teki Kotuli, from the collection of Ethnographic Museum in Rzeszow.

[4] M.Barthel de Weydenthal, Uroczne oczy, Lwów 1922, p 3.

[5] B. Ogrodowska, Medycyna tradycyjna w Polsce, Warszawa 2012, p 268.





Traditional folk knowledge in the field of healing was a complex system of concepts and actions that were acquired through intergenerational transmission. Both knowledge and beliefs or manifestations of religious life interacted in it, so it is difficult to divide it into the rational and the irrational.

At the turn of the 20th century, contact with the manor, monastery, or school, but also with itinerant traders, soldiers, or gypsies, was important in spreading this knowledge among the rural community. The formation of certain concepts and beliefs was also influenced by herbariums, farm guides and popular calendars available in printed form.

Common folk views on the causes of diseases were conditioned by both rational knowledge and, to a large extent, beliefs (the action of supernatural forces). Diseases, according to folk etiology, came from an alien world, hostile to man. They were often explained as the effect of witchcraft or charms. There was also a belief that some diseases could also be punishment sent by God. Hence there are many healing rituals referring to both magic and Christian beliefs, and their lack of separation from each other is very characteristic of folk beliefs.

A great role in folk medicine was played by plants growing in meadows and forests, known as herbs or herbals, which were often used during magical procedures. They were believed to have the power to counteract spells and charms. Herbal treatment itself has an ancient origin. In order to help themselves, man looked for medicines in their immediate environment. Thus, i.e. plants were used for treatment. They were used when they proved to bring improvement in health or relief from illness. Among the considerable number of herbs harvested for medicinal purposes were e.g. St. John’s wort, vermilion, mint, wormwood, .

In addition to herbs, folk plant medicine also used leaves, flowers, fruits, phloem and bark of various trees and shrubs (linden, birch, pine, oak, elderberry, hawthorn), as well as vegetables (onions, garlic, among others). Animal products (such as butter or goose lard, or fat), as well as human urine, were also used for treatments. Other natural remedies included surgical procedures (including setting and folding broken limbs, tearing teeth, releasing blood, and vacum cups).

A very extensive branch of folk medicine was magical healing. In the past, the basis of primary knowledge was magic, and practices of this nature expressed man’s relationship with the world. Therefore, they were the foundation of traditional healing and the methods used in it. [1][2]Among the most popular ways was the so-called order or the of illness, which was associated with certain verbal formulas, pronounced when performing certain actions around the sick person. [3]Characteristic is the inclusion of religious elements in the texts of the order .

Charming is the treatment of a disease or the destruction of some misfortune by means of words. The main cure for almost all diseases is spelling. Charmers read over the sick person various prayers, which I do not know in detail. The guest doctors are usually very popular in their area, because they often cure effectively. By charming they not only cure, but also „bring”(cause) diseases. Charmed by whom – cured by whom with an „charm”[4]

Charms and requiems, in terms of the role they were intended to play, differed little from the prayers contained in prayer books. The religious elements were intended to increase the patient’s faith in the cure and to protect them from being suspected by the community or priest of curing through contact with evil powers. The charming person called on God or saints for help in healing the sick person: „I don’t do by my own power. Only the Lord Jesus, the Blessed Mother will help (…) only by divine power (…) and all the saints help.[5]Many saints, according to beliefs, were credited with the power to cure specific diseases .


Prophylactic treatments were also used to prevent various diseases, closing in magical-belief categories. In doing so, there were numerous magical practices (including charming, dispensing, casting spells, various rituals and symbolic gestures).  Residents of traditional villages often feared the evil eye, or so-called charm. The belief in the unlimited evil effect of the gaze was widespread throughout Poland. A protective measure in such a situation could be, for example, a red ribbon (tied to children), carrying garlic with you, or rubbing part of your shirt over your face just before leaving the house. For the same purpose, spitting on the ground was usually accompanied by the words to reverse the charm: hoic hoic, for the dog’s charm.

Protective functions for various ailments were very often performed by holy water.  It was also practiced during the Easter season, washing oneself in running water (in a stream or river) on Good Friday before sunrise, maying homes and homesteads, smelling smoke from consecrated herbs (people, homestead and cattle), and adding salt and bread consecrated on St. Agatha’s Day (February 5) to food.

Various apotropaic remedies were widely known and used to counteract misfortunes caused by charms and diseases. These included, for example, crosses made of consecrated palms nailed over the entrance to the house, the sign of the cross outlined with smoke from a consecrated thimble (on Our Lady of Thunder, February 2) made on the doorframe, various signs painted (on the outside walls of the building, but also, for example, on Easter eggs) and the sign of the cross made in case of any danger.

Other treatments used in the field of folk therapy include at least burying the disease, or the common removal of the quiver.

Plants in magic treatments

As mentioned earlier, herbs also played a large role in applied prevention, due to the many beliefs associated with them. In this category, plants with the power to counteract spells and charms formed a large group. The most popular of these included St. John’s wort, poppy, lovage, meadow cornflower, nettle, garlic, and common mugwort.

„On the Eve of St. John the Baptist (June 23), people girded themselves with stalks of mugwort, on the bare body several times – so that during the year a person would not get sacrum pains.[6]

Plants, which were generally sacred, were used for magical procedures to further enhance their effects. They were used singly (herbs, conifer twigs, thorny plants, elderberries) or in sets, forming garlands or bundles of herbs. Garlands were ordained on Corpus Christi or in its octave, and after consecration were often hung next to the sprinkler on the walls of buildings to protect the house and people from evil. For the bouquets, the so-called herbs were used cereals and various plants that were holy on the day of Our Lady of the Herbs (August 15). Both bouquets and garlands were magical apotropaic remedies, used in the form of already dried plants.

The Easter palm, whose basic ingredient is a willow branch, is still blessed throughout Poland on Palm Sunday.  It used to be an important attribute of the practices described. After coming from church, the entire farmyard and all buildings were sprinkled with it, and catkins from the palm were swallowed so that the throat wouldn’t hurt all year long. It was kept behind holy images, or on by the window. It was believed to protect the house from lightning strikes. Palm branches were also placed in the fields as a means of diverting storms and hailstorms. It was also used to hit cattle coming out to graze for the first time after winter. This was done to protect against spells and charms, which were believed to bring illness.

In order to protect the house, people and domestic animals from spells and evil powers, on Pentecost the houses and homesteads were Mayflowered, usually with calamus, mugwort and green tree branches (mainly linden, birch). Similar functions were performed by birch branches from altars built for the octave of Corpus Christi, which were kept at home or plugged in the fields (as protection against storms).

In traditional folk medicine, both magic and religious practices formed a single set of magical-religious practice, in which the ritual and formula for ordering an illness or clearing a charm were supported by appropriate prayer and holy attributes.


In the rural environment of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, opportunities for professional medical care, remedies and treatments were severely limited. A doctor was usually available in the nearest town, and the cost of treatment was an expense that few in the countryside could afford, and often the rural population lacked confidence in the efficacy of the remedies he recommended. In this situation, there was a traditional medical system in the countryside. Peasant families were treated primarily with home remedies and medicines. The help of specialists available in the countryside was also used. People went to them for advice because they were „their own,” on the spot, able to understand the problems of the rural population, and their often very mysterious and bizarre healing practices inspired respect and confidence in the success of the treatment. [7]In addition, they often charged less for their services or satisfied themselves with naturals: eggs, lard, flax, butter, etc. . The best known and most popular was the so-called baba, who specialized in curing diseases and obstetrics; as a rule, she was also a proficient herbalist. She was also capable of preventing or ordering certain diseases, as well as casting charms. If she could not help, help was sought from a witch doctor or quack, who stood higher in the hierarchy of folk healers. They made diagnoses and treated mainly internal diseases, and usually acquired their skills from their families. Witchcraft was often hereditary and, in the case of men, passed from father to son. [8]In cases that were particularly difficult (illnesses that were believed to be the result of sorcery and cast charms, or severe illnesses resistant to treatment) and life-threatening (such as the bite of a rabid dog or a venomous viper, or severe poisoning from, for example, mushrooms), a shaman was called. This was a man endowed with supernatural knowledge and power, whose practices and uttered incantations were widely believed to have great causal power. According to Kolberg, they were people who wanted to help others, to give advice. Often people also went to the spellers, who brought the gout out of people. Another specialist was a sheepherder, a shepherd, a shepherd – known for helping to put together broken bones, set dislocations, etc., but was also adept at treating animals. He was also familiar with medicinal plants and effective spells. It is also worth mentioning the so-called „guest people,” i.e. the picture makers, gypsies, or itinerant stallholders, usually from far away, who were engaged in selling balms and medicines and healing.[9] Alongside these types of „village doctors” there were witches. The rural population believed that witches focused their activities on harming rather than helping someone.


Elements of magical activities, which were determined by relevant beliefs, were still popular in the countryside in the interwar period. At that time, home treatment was important, and professional help was used sporadically, usually in hopeless cases.  [10]After World War II, with the spread of health care organizations, the nature of folk medicine changed . This was influenced, among other things, by easier access to free medical care, the better material situation of rural residents, and the changes taking place in their consciousness. Despite the growing popularity of industrial pharmaceuticals, familiarity with and usefulness of traditional folk medicines remained high. On the other hand, magical ways of combating illness (casting spells, charming) decreased in scope, primarily due to transformations in the worldview sphere, and were associated mainly with the oldest generation.

QUOTATIONS TO USE – protective formulas against charms

„Charms are given to cattle or grain to which someone amazes or praises them. When praising them, it is usually added: ’for a dog’s charms’ – so that those charms that they were to get, on the dog they passed”[11]

” Praising someone or something, especially untimely, at the wrong time – causes charms. Therefore, if anyone says someone is pretty, he adds: ’For the dog charms’ (those that he could bring upon him).”[12]

„It was thought that some people gazing inquisitively could cast charms or bewitchment, that is, cause headaches, nausea, etc., or harm the cattle. A stranger was not allowed into the stable, and if he came he was expected to say „for dog’s charm”, not to be surprised, not to look around the stable, but first to look up to make the cattle growl, and only after these ceremonies could he talk freely. If anyone got the charms, it was necessary to throw three glowing coals into the water and spit three times.”[13]


[1] The author of one of the few studies devoted to charms, which was based on field materials collected in the third quarter of the 20th century, when faith in the effectiveness of treatment by this method was lost, is Franciszek Kotula (Signs of the Past , Warsaw 1976). This book contains interesting examples of charms, fright, rheumatism (gout), scaly eye (cataract), erysipelas, dislocation of an arm or leg) and great weakness (epilepsy) .

[2] A verbal formula of a magical nature uttered under certain circumstances in order to produce a desired effect or prevent an adverse phenomenon, K. Ruszel, Lexicon of folk culture in Rzeszowskiem, Rzeszów 2004, p. 460

[3] Few people today realize that the commonly known word Abracadabra, associated with magic rituals, comes from the Syriac dialect and in Hebrew means „Father, Son and Holy Spirit” (D. Simonides, Folk Wisdom. Cultural heritage of Opole Silesia, Wroclaw 2007)

[4] O. Kolberg, Tarnowskie -Rzeszowskie, Dzieła wszystkie, vol. 48, compiled by. J. Burszta, B. Linette, Wrocław-Poznań 1967, p. 297

[5]A. Ciechomska, Ziołolecznictwo ludowe w Polsce, in Multifacetedness of cultural anthropology, Lodz 2018, S.28

[6] 1596 MRE TK VII-1

[7] A. Szlagowska-Papuzinska, Mythization of illness. Illness as a social and cultural construct, Wrocław 2021, p.92

[8] In Podlasie,the orderers were called whisperers because they pronounced secret spell formulas in whispers so that no outsiders could hear them.

[9] B. Baranowski, Ludzie gościńca w XVII-XVIII wieku, Łódź 1986, p. 92.

[10] Until the 1950s and even the 1960s, views on the causes of disease in popular culture continued to be dominated by theories flowing from the medieval understanding of the world and man’s place in it. Belief in the constant and omnipresent activity of God and Satan, as well as various beings 203 DWOK, vol. 35, p. 235. 204 A. Lebeda, Folk knowledge and beliefs, Wroclaw 2002, p. 155. 205 J. Pełczyński, Przyczynki do lecznictwa ludowego, „Vistula,” 1893, vol. 7, p. 166. 206 Stomma, op.cit., p. 100. 64 Demonic beings had their impact on the distrustful attitude of the rural population toward official medicine, which was developing its social face. Doctors working in rural health centers often encountered resentment, sometimes hostility, from the residents of the village where they worked. This was due, among other things, to the fact that they did not try to understand the rural population or delve into the motives of their behavior, treating their practices as superstitions. On the other hand, the rural community was reluctant to adopt new methods of treatment, believing that there were no better treatments and cures than those passed down from generation to generation. Witches all kinds were the perpetrators of every ailment that befell a person, through witchcraft, casting charms, or ground. (The Mythicization of Disease pp. 61-62)

[11] O. Kolberg, Tarnowskie-Rzeszowskie, Dzieła wszystkie, vol. 48, compiled by. J. Burszta, B. Linette, Wrocław-Poznań 1967, p. 287

[12] O. Kolberg, Tarnowskie-Rzeszowskie, Dzieła wszystkie, vol. 48, compiled by. J. Burszta, B. Linette, Wrocław-Poznań 1967, pp. 296-297

[13] 1596 MRE TK VII-1


Demonic entities causing diseases and healing methods based on the material deposited in the archives of the F. Kotula Ethnographic Museum in Rzeszow.

Over the centuries, people have tried to ensure their health through various means. One of these was the use of natural medicines, especially herbs. In addition, they drew on a rich store of magical folklore-texts of „prayers” to aid the sick, or charms for various diseases. The entire ceremonial year was full of treatments and rituals designed to ensure good fortune and, consequently, health. An important role was also played by pilgrimages to shrines known for their miraculous images, taking vows and offering votive offerings.

All these ways must be considered in a broad cultural context. The different spheres of activity of people living in the countryside in the past did not have their own „expert” language. Analyzing the texts of spells uttered during the recitation of charms and the expulsion of diseases, one can see what attitude the people of the old villages had to time, number and space.

The place where herbs were collected and the space to which diseases were „sent” were closely related to the value and understanding of space. Inhabitants of the former villages, the place they inhabited was considered the only real world. Therefore, diseases during healing practices were „sent” outside, to a land of strangers, which had no definite shape, aroused anxiety and was shrouded in mystery. Looking at the charm texts, we see the opposition of these two worlds.   What is familiar, tamed, on the inside – teems with life. What’s outside, death reigns there. And in the middle there is power.

Therefore, when casting charms it was said:

Sorrowful woman go to the city/ There is your woman/ Go to the mountains/ To the forests/ To the dry roots,

Where no man can reach you/ Nor any creature/ Go to the red sea.

Herbs were harvested most readily on boundary strips (even though these places were often identified with the abodes of demonic beings), in the vicinity of fences and enclosures, as well as shrines and holy statues. On the other hand, they were not harvested in cemeteries (or along roads leading to them) or under trees where someone had hung themselves and those struck by lightning.

The time most suitable for collecting herbs or performing healing (magical) procedures was cosmic. According to the villagers’ understanding, time did not run in a straight line, but in a circle (returning constantly to the starting point) and was reversible. Significant events repeated themselves in a yearly cycle. The year as a unit of time was always a repetition of the first year in the history of the world, counted from its creation. Charm texts often referred to sacred time:

Happy that hour was/When the Mother of God gave birth to Jesus/That happy hour may be/That I may recite these three nineths charms.

Such incantation was intended to „transfer” in time a person suffering from some illness – to mythical times. He was to cross the boundary dividing the two worlds, which influenced his healing.

It was believed that plants should be harvested in May (while in bloom), June or July. Sometimes the boundary for this activity was set by St. John’s Eve. Sometimes it was believed that herbs should be collected during the full moon. Charms, on the other hand, were most effectively reversed during the waning of the moon.

Great importance was also placed on the repetition of certain practices, or ” enchantments.”

Numbers in popular culture were understood in a meaningful way. They were divided into even and odd numbers. Odd ones defined „open” situations, subject to change. Even ones, on the other hand, were not subject to change, corresponding to closed situations.

Even numbers were used in fortune-telling (the number of pegs in the fence, onion skins) and to ensure invariability (it was believed, for example, that the number of guests at the Christmas table must be even, if one person was missing, it could cause the death of someone in the household).

Thus, odd numbers were used in medicine to force change. An important number was three and its multiples. Often, healing activities had to be repeated for 9 consecutive days. (Ruszel: 1993, p. 65)

Delving into the contents of the files deposited in the Archives of the Ethnographic Museum in Rzeszow, one can see that Franciszek Kotula, who is its patron, was extremely fascinated by the subject of magic, demonology and folk medicine. He returned to it many times, both during the scientific research camps he conducted and in the articles and books he worked on. These materials are available in the Museum Archives for anyone interested.



Man has always wanted to protect himself and his loved ones, to safeguard them from the misfortunes and dangers of the surrounding world. Not surprisingly, many rituals were designed to protect their participants from evil. Witches, demons lurked on man and on the moment of his carelessness. Ubiquitous, unspecified dangers prompted the population to summon supernatural forces. It was believed that since there was evil there must also be good , that one only needed to know how to summon, ask. The basis of folk medicine was herbs. They were the only medicines that were given to the sick. Using them, one could not afford to make a mistake, which could result in worsening of health or even death. Gathering herbs therefore required great knowledge, familiarity with the material, initiation and sometimes sharpened instinct.

Plants had to be harvested before or at sunrise, before noon, at noon, because after sunset and at night it was done by witches. Plants were not harvested when the moon was waning, but when it was rising, so on a new moon, preferably a full moon. All these orders and prohibitions stemmed from a deep belief that the development of plants, the arrival of sap, magical power is related to the arrival of day, moon and sun. The culmination of the development of life in nature as believed to occur on St. John’s Day or the spring summer solstice of the sun. On that day at noon plants were believed to have the greatest power, later their power diminished.

Gathering plants was ritualistic in nature, not everyone could participate and only those people who by their nature or status were beyond the fullness of life were in closer or further relations with the afterlife world. Therefore, gathering herbs was the occupation of the elderly, especially women, children, virgins, quacks and witches. Herbs could not be collected by middle-aged people, menstruating women, pregnant women, postpartum women the latter as believed belonged to this and that world. They could not meet the necessary condition – to maintain physical and moral purity. Small girls before their first menstruation, older women after menstruation and widows who had lived in chastity for 7 years were allowed to collect plants.

Plants had to be picked clean white shirt, fasting in silence, secrecy. The decisive factor was the utterance of a spell or charm over the plant and the proper picking of the plant.  Incompetent picking of elderberry could even result in death. Picking was forbidden because it was believed to cause wind. Plants had to be dug up or cut with a knife or sickle. An offering was made in exchange for obtaining the plant. Bread, money or alcohol was placed in the place of the harvested plant.

Herbs were harvested from meadows, border strips, fields, near fences, by the river in forests. They were harvested from dry and clean places. There are two concepts regarding the harvesting of plants. The first forbids harvesting herbs from the roadsides where the funeral procession went, from cemeteries, chapels, roadside crosses. Because, as believed, these herbs are impure and dangerous.  And the other is that plants obtained in the cemetery or at shrines have the same properties as those ordained in church.

It was believed that a bouquet consecrated in the church takes on extraordinary magical and medicinal properties. The consecration of herbs, is also a thanksgiving and blessing of the church to use these plants for the benefit of all creation.

Herbs from the bouquet were added to a variety of homemade teas and decoctions used to treat people and livestock. They were used to decorate the room and farmyard for protection against storm, fire and epidemics of dangerous diseases. According to the principle that everything within the farm should be useful, so gardens combined utility and beauty. Plants often had several functions or uses, such as: food, medicinal and ceremonial.

Every housewife had to make sure there were enough herbs for the whole year, until their next harvest. Leaves, stems, flowers, fruits, bark, roots were collected and dried for home supplies for the whole family. A pinch of consecrated herb sanctified the entire gathered supply.

The most commonly harvested raw material was the above-ground part of the plant, necessarily during the flowering period. It was recommended to harvest the leaves in the pre-flowering period, then they are not bitter. The first step on the way to the creation of a specific medicine was drying and cleaning. Before drying, the plants were not washed. They were dried in airy places and sheltered from the sun’s rays. Hard parts, e.g.; bark and fruits, so that they would not get moldy before they dried and so that they would not be attacked by vermin – were dried in the oven.

Various forms of the drug:

  • Herbal tea – this is the simplest and most common form of medicine. In an emergency, depending on the ailment, only portions of herbs had to be poured over boiling water and set aside for a while. Teas were most often prepared from herbs that, due to their content of essential oils, did not need to be boiled: chamomile, mint, lemon balm, sage and thyme. The most popular and widely used teas were:
    • For cough – elderberry blossom.
    • For a cold – lime blossom, raspberries.
    • For abdominal pain – mint, chamomile, St. John’s wort and hops.
    • For flatulence – dill and cumin.
    • For constipation – buckthorn bark, mallow or flax seed.
    • For diarrhea -calamus, alder cones or dried blueberry fruit.
    • For insomnia – tea made from oats, nettle leaves, and poppy seeds.
    • For weakness after illness or childbirth – tea from nettle, sage, sea buckthorn fruit and field rose.
    • For headaches – tea from willow bark and elm bark


  • Decoction – was usually prepared from the hard parts of plants, which were mashed, thrown into water and boiled for a while. Decoctions were used for drinking, washing and poultices. For example, a decoction of nettle root was used to wash the head for dandruff.
  • Cold water extract – to obtain it, herbs were poured over boiled cold or lukewarm water, then set aside so that various soluble substances in the water passed into it.

Juice – was made from fresh, healthy and uncontaminated fruits that were common in the countryside. To prevent them from spoiling, sugar was added to them and pasteurized. The most popular juices were those made from raspberries, cherries, blueberries, cherries and elderberries

  • Syrup – is a highly concentrated juice. They are made by boiling for a long time the juice of very ripe fruits that have natural pectin (natural sugars) in them, or sugar is added to it. For example, anti-cough dandelion syrup, also known as dandelion honey.
  • Tincture – a spirit extract – was made by pouring fresh or dried herbs into alcohol, usually vodka or spirit. After pouring, the tincture was set aside in a dark place for about two weeks. Then it was drained and poured into a bottle. The most common tinctures are: quince tincture, hawthorn tincture, cranberry tincture, or nut tincture
  • Ointment – this was made from powdered herbs, or their decoction, mixed with animal fat or butter. Sometimes spruce or pine resin was added to this concoction. An ointment made from linseed oil and bran was used to treat frostbite.
  • Steamer – teas and decoctions were used for this purpose. Steamer was used for earache, toothache, tinnitus. Toothache was treated with a steamer made of sage and chamomile, earache was treated with pine needles from elm tree or from mallow, calendula and chamomile.
  • Bathing and washing – were used to care for children and the sick. Infants and children were bathed in a decoction of chamomile. The bedridden were bathed in a decoction of horsetail, burdock, oats and potato skins.
  • Compress – raw leaves or juice, grated roots were used for compresses. Compresses made from calendula leaves relieved pain and itching after insect bites. Horseradish leaves relieved headaches. Compresses of nettle and cabbage leaves were used for joint pains. Skin wounds were healed with fresh plantain leaves or steamed strawberry and raspberry leaves. Steamed black currant leaf with nettle or birch was used for varicose veins. A poultice of bran with grated horseradish root was used for colds.

In addition, they slept on the plants, were smoked, and carried them as talismans.



Lidia Maria Czyż


 Clever pharmacict prises herbs

On May 14, 1772, the armies of the Habsburg Empire invaded the territory of the southern Republic of Poland, attempting to annex as much of the integral part of Polish lands as possible into Austrian possession. After driving out the Russians, the Austrians entered Lviv on September 15. Because of the empire’s historically justified „claims” to the Ruthenian principalities of Halicz and Vladimir, it was decided to call the Kingdom of Galicia and Lodomeria, which in time was shortened to Galicia. The occupied areas were not the richest or most developed part of the Republic; on the contrary, the country was poor and medically backward. The population continued to believe in witchcraft and superstitions, and even the county towns lacked at least barbers, not to mention doctors. There were six (!) certified doctors practicing in  entire Galicia at the time, while another six were claiming to be doctors without presenting a diploma[1] . Medical functions were performed by four surgeons and thirty-four barber surgeons, only one of whom was properly licensed. There was not a single properly prepared midwife; these functions were performed by village midwives, in fact the so-called „baba” (pheasant woman). The picture of sanitary „care” was completed by pharmacy stalls, where everything but medicines were traded. There were „miracle elixirs,” waters to soothe all ailments l’eau de Carmes or powders pulvis d’Alliod, also medicamenta Hallensia, whatever that meant. All this was supplied by spice stalls during fairs and also by itinerant oilmen, who also provided help for health ailments. There was no shortage of quacks or „all-knowing baba” in the villages.

Court and monastery first-aid kits represented a slightly higher level. In every larger manor house there worked, sometimes called the „apothecary maiden”[2] , an experienced person, usually a relative of the heir, who had in her duties to take care of the health of the household members and also, all those who worked in the manor.

Monasteries, especially large ones erected in pilgrimage sites, had their own herb gardens and infirmaries – a kind of „sick room” – which were also used by needy outsiders.

This was the situation found by the first proto-medic, or chief physician, who was appointed by Empress Maria Theresa of Austria in 1773, a Pole, Jedrzej Krupinski (1744 – 1783). A tremendous amount of work was put in by this young doctor (he was 28 years old at the time of his appointment) to improve the existing state. His reforms included the poorest classes, as he rightly assumed that eradicating outbreaks of all diseases and epidemics would affect the health of the entire population. He also banned the practices of quacks and charlatans, the activities of pseudo-doctors and pseudo-apothecaries. He was the first to call for medical coverage of the rural population.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           He forced the Viennese government to require everyone practicing medicine without a diploma to pass exam at a state commission.  On the initiative of J. Krupinski, as early as 1773 a Medical School, known as the Collegium Medicum, was established in Lviv to educate

barber foremen and apothecaries’ assistants. He petitioned the empress to have landowners finance the training of certified midwives.

Much was accomplished by this young Polish doctor in reforming the sanitary condition of Galicia during the first years of Habsburg rule.

Gradually, all pharmacies operating in the new province of the empire, whether in cities or newly established in places where they saw favorable conditions for profit from the operation of such an establishment, were subjected to the conditions of Austrian law, contained in the General Health Normative of January 2, 1779, on an equal footing with other pharmacies of the empire. It is interesting to note that this Normative and its supplement of April 10, 1773 remained in effect in Austria until 1906, when a new piece of legislation, the Pharmacy Act, was introduced.

This law, in turn, was already in force in the lands of former Galicia in independent Poland after 1918, as well as in Poland after World War II, until 1951.But that’s another story …

Pharmacies are establishments for the circulation of medicines, preparations made from them in the pharmacy laboratory and, of course, products of the pharmaceutical          industry, popularly known as medicines. They are subject to state legislation, must meet all its requirements and be run by a professional employee with academic training. But a pharmacy is a place where everyone will enter, at least once in his life, there he will leave some of his pain and worries and gain hope. In the pharmacy he will also buy some humor, and it will ask for Parish Oil[3] , and for herbs scooter[4] ; there were requests for rake for penicillin[5] and even for mosquito lard[6] or blazder for dry pains[7] . The enlightened apothecary fulfilled such requests without a word.

Officina sanitatis is the place where anyone in need of help will get it the fastest. However, a pharmacy is also a commercial establishment, which should bring in funds to support the owner and his family. Therefore, these establishments were opened most readily in places where the largest number of potential regular patients lived, or where periodic fairs or markets were held. Each larger town surrounded by villages had its own market day, on which wagons of villagers would descend. All interested parties bought and sold, but also entered the pharmacy for emergency health advice. At the so-called „first table” of the pharmacy, various conversations took place. But most often the patients observing the pharmacist had remarks to him and his work, that he was working so slowly („Sir, faster, or my wagon will drive away”), not knowing the specifics of the work of preparing a drug, when you have to weigh certain substances according to the prescription, they criticized took a bottle, poured into it from the other something, then poured a little powder, so he walked from cabinet to cabinet, into the drawers he looked, surely he had already run out of everything and such leftovers pulled out. And I would want real „medicine” and not such leftovers.  But there was also ad hoc apothecaries’ advice on the spot, for example, for „chafing in the legs”: the apothecary to the elderly patient said – I will sell you, although it costs a little, such herbs, what’s this, let your wife go to the spring, fetch water, boil it, put it in a bucket, pour water, and you will soak your legs in such heat and cover them with a rag.  And under the feather bed. This will help. And indeed – the peasant apothecary praised the apothecary, because all his life he walked barefoot and it did not occur to him to warm his aching legs.

Galician roads in the 18th century in particular were in deplorable condition. After the first visit of Emperor Joseph II in 1773, a decision was immediately made to build a real transportation route. The first Galician Postal and Commercial Road (also called the Imperial Guest Road or Vienna Route) was built from scratch in 1780-1785, was about 400 kilometers long, ran from Bielsko through Andrychów, Wadowice, Brzesko, Tarnow, Ropczyce, Rzeszow, Yaroslavl, Przemyśl to Lvov, where work was completed on May 1, 1785. The road was used by mail, first on horseback, then by stagecoach, connecting the capital in Vienna with the provincial capital in Lviv.  The imperial guest road had many connecting roads and branch roads linking all important centers in the province. On the same, almost, route in the second half of the nineteenth century, the Charles Louis Railway was built (it reached Rzeszow in 1858, Przemyśl in 1860, and Lviv in 1861. Successive routes were built in the south of Galicia, to the east and south. The mileage of these routes is not insignificant for the development of the pharmacy network in Galicia.

Each pharmacist with a diploma authorizing him to establish a pharmacy was also a reserve officer in the Austrian army, having served his apprenticeship in the fortresses of Krakow and Przemyśl. As such, he also had the right to run a postal station. New pharmacies were established in places where postal routes intersected. This was the case, for example, in Sokolow Malopolski (Leżajsk -Sokolow Kolbuszowa and Rzeszow- Sokolow – Nisko), a pharmacy in Kańczuga (Sanok – Kańczuga – Dubiecko- Przemyśl ) was established for the same reasons, and the pharmacy in Dynów, which had existed since the 18th century, was connected through its post office with Krzemienna on the way to Sanok and with Rzeszow via Błażowa and Łańcut. Pharmacies in such places always had a richer supply of pharmaceutical raw materials (transportation was free), maintained contacts with pharmacies of larger towns, pharmacists performed many functions that would not have been possible without such communication. Wilhelm Zajączkowski, M.D., of Strzyżów n/Wisłok, was vice-president of the Society of Provincial Apothecaries, author of „Commentary to the seventh edition of the Austrian Pharmacopoeia,” and cooperated with Warsaw authors in compiling a monumental list of synonyms for the names of pharmaceutical raw materials in six languages. Apothecary Stanislaw Tokarzewski of Kanczuga was an observer of the Meteorological Station in Biala. Pharmacists in Biecz – Wilhelm Fusek (grandfather), was the author of a colorful atlas of Polish mushrooms and an atlas of local plants, his son Witold was among the founders of scouting, President of the People’s Reading Room in Biecz; Wilhelm’s grandson and Witold’s son Wieslaw a military pharmacist in the Independent Carpathian Rifle Brigade, a talented watercolorist, author of war memoirs „Through the Sands of Deserts”.

Many pharmacists worked for their localities, and a separate story could be written about each of them, each working ad maiorem pharmaciae gloriam.

In the course of the history of pharmacies in the Subcarpathian region, after the opening of railroads, precisely because of the ease of movement, one can observe the emergence of these establishments in localities that were previously deprived of this basic medical care. An administrative curiosity was the impossibility of opening a new pharmacy in a locality where a doctor did not prescribe. Pharmacies in neighboring localities had the right to object – such was the situation with regard to the project to open a pharmacy in Kamień; pharmacists from Sokolow Malopolski, Lezajsk and Nisk protested until a doctor settled in that locality.             Pharmacists led differently: Prof. Wojciech Roeske[8] cites an anecdote from pharmacist circles – What’s up with dear Magister? – Dog time – replies the pharmacist – If it were not for the good old typhoid, we would not have anything to put in our mouths….

[1]     W. Lisowski Ludzie zasługi niepospolitej. Warsaw 1983, p. 113 and col.

[2]     From Gloger Encyclopedia Staropolska Ilustrowana T. 3 s. 319

[3]     Paraffin oil

[4]Cholagoga         herbs

[5]     Ampoules of distilled water

[6]     White Vaseline

[7]     Warming patch, usually Kapsiplast

[8]     W. Roeske Polish Pharmacies Ossolineum 1991




Wladyslaw Chajec (1904-1986)

He was born in the United States, where his parents left for work at the turn of the century. At the age of 7, however, he returned to Poland with his family. He completed only three grades of elementary school, as his education was interrupted by the outbreak of World War I. Although he had to face harsh living conditions and farm work during his childhood, he had always displayed artistic abilities. He was able to hand-craft toys for both himself and other children. He also manifested DIY skills: he could repair farm equipment or make furniture.

It is not fully known when he started sculpting, some researchers say it took place in the late 40s and 50s, when the artist was going through an internal crisis, which consisted of painful personal experiences.

Two world wars broke out during his life, Chajec struggled with poverty most of his life, his first wife and newborn child died, and his second wife left him. All these experiences made his work filled with pessimism, and the artist himself was very sensitive to human issues.

In the early stages of his artistic journey, he mainly dealt with religious themes. He was strongly inspired by church sculpture familiar to him from the surrounding countryside, especially the temple in Siedliska.

In the 1960s, when he had already gained recognition, he sculpted more and better. It was then that historical and customary themes depicting village life began to appear in his works. Despite lack of comprehensive education, he was able to read, and he read a lot. It was in books that he looked for inspiration, interpreted them in his own way, was interested in current world events, about which he learned from newspapers, and often commented on them precisely through his artwork.

  1. Kotula Ethnographic Museum in Rzeszow has gathered the largest collection of sculptures by W. Chajec, as well as a large collection of his drawings, depicting both folk demonology and illustrating the life of villagers. One of the most valuable objects, however, seems to be the „Codex A.D. 1967” made at Kotula’s request. It is a written and illustrated collection of 38 stories on ancient customs, habits, beliefs and magical procedures.

Wladyslaw Chajec was awarded the Oskar Kolberg Prize in 1974.


Maria Kozlova (1910-1999)

She was an outstanding folk artist who engaged in various forms of social activity.

A significant influence on the formation of her personality was exerted by her family environment. She was the daughter of Wojciech Wiącek, a farmer and well-known folk activist, who for many years served as mayor of Machów (now a district of Tarnobrzeg). He was also a columnist and a publisher, campaigner for agricultural education, and fought alcoholism, which was rampant among the villagers. Before World War I, he smuggled illegal publications into the Russian partition, and in 1915, in the Czech Republic, Austria, Germany and Denmark, he led secret agitation for Polish independence. In 1916-1918 he even worked in an illegal enlistment office for the Legions in Sandomierz. Since 1907 he was a deputy to the Austrian Council of State, and from 1926-1927 – a senator of the Republic of Poland.

Maria Kozlova participated in various forms of her father’s social activities from an early age. Her mother, in turn, attached importance to teaching her daughter embroidery, decorating and making ceremonial accessories.

From her family home, Maria Kozlova brought the interest in the traditional culture of the village from which she came, as well as practical skills used later in her own work. In the interwar period, she was mainly involved in running an amateur theater and organizing various courses for rural youth, while after the war she was involved in popularizing folklore and folk art. In 1949 in Machow she founded the Regional Song and Dance Ensemble „Lasowiak”, thanks to which the widely unknown Lasowiak folklore was promoted in the region.

Maria Kozlova’s work was greatly influenced by the loss of her beloved hometown. Machow was occupied for the construction of a sulphur mine, and the artist moved to nearby Baranow, where she continued to create art. A characteristic feature of Kozlova’s work is a kind of eclecticism. The artist almost imperceptibly in her works combined traditional elements, remembered from her childhood, with motifs of her own invention, resulting from the desire to colour simple forms of rural life.

A native of Machow, the activist has invaluable merits in popularizing and revealing to a wider audience the deep values of Lasowiak culture, for which she was awarded the Oskar Kolberg Prize in 1978, and the Franciszek Kotula Prize a few years later.


Jan Stasiowski (1947-2020)

He was born in Brzeziny, currently in the Ropczycko-Sędziszowski district. From an early age he manifested artistic interests, already at Berdechow Elementary School he performed in school plays. He came from a farming family and cultivated the family farm.

Based on his memories collected in the Archives of the Ethnographic Museum, we know that from the early 60s he was involved in drawing, and before his military service (in 1968) he began carving in wood.

This artist had mental problems, which began to intensify at the turn of the 70s and 80’s. He suffered from schizophrenia and had to take strong medication.

Stasiowski was acquainted with Wladyslaw Chajec from Kamienica Górna, whom he often visited.

Franciszek Kotula considered Jan Stasiowski a visionary artist. His work, especially his drawings, is decidedly different from most works of other folk artists. In his drawings, Stasiowski was mainly inspired by folk demonology. His drawings depict individual phantoms or demons, with their brief descriptions. He drew inspiration for his works from stories told by villagers, local legends, or beliefs that arose fear among his neighbors. His drawings frequently depict witches taking milk away from cows, drowning men lurking on passers-by, or creepy-crawlies tormenting people in their sleep. What is, however, less common in his drawing works, are customary scenes.

In our collections we also have sculptures by Jan Stasiowski. Unlike other artists, in his case the level of works deteriorated with time, influenced by his progressive illness. Stasiowski was rather reluctant to deal with themes popular among other folk artists, such as the Sorrowful Christ, as he considered them somewhat clichéd. However, he sometimes made such representations on commission from Cepelia. However, he was quite eager to create sculptures on religious themes, which are characterized by a certain originality and a fresh look at a well-known subject.

Stasiowski made his works in wood, covered with paints of subdued, rather dark colors and then with a colorless varnish.

Most of the sculptures in our museum’s collection date from the first half of the 70s, while drawings from the second half of the 70s.

An excellent summary of Stasiowski’s artistic inspirations, but also his approach to life and his grasp of reality, can be found in a note left by F. Kotula in archival materials. He noted in 1981 after a meeting with Chajec that: „[Stasiowski] sculpts a lot, but he doesn’t sell these sculptures as he used to, but takes them to the forest, where he sets them up. I remembered, he told me that for him in the forest and in the field everything is alive. Simply – the disease – it seems to him that if he takes his sculptures… ghosts, witches, fantastic creations… to the forest they will come alive there and live together with animals, plants, flowers, etc.”


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