The term bosorka denotes
various types of beings. First of all, they are old women from another world who
come to exchange unbaptised newborn babies. After a child's baptism – or a similar
ceremony that, in other religions, would be the equivalent of a Christian baptism
which opens the child's way to the world or to the society of people – the evil
force loses its power over the child. (Comp: [Boňa]). In
some areas, another evil being, e.g. a jagalo manuš or
a luca replaces the newborn child.
A family often realised too late that their child had been replaced by
another (prečerancos) and that they now had a child who was evil,
retarded, or handicapped in some way. Stories are told about how a mother gets the
bosorka to take the prečerancos back
and return her own child. The mother takes the substitute child to the woods and
there she beats him with a thin stick. The crying of the prečerancos
causes the bosorka to come. To protect her child from further
beatings, she returns the kidnapped child and takes her own away. Similar beliefs
and analogous practices are known throughout central European cultures.
Evil magic forces can manifest themselves in real female human beings. Either a
woman may be born as a bosorka, or another
bosorka can, before she dies, transfer her abilities to a
woman by grabbing her by the arm.
A bosorka usually manifests herself as a peasant woman
(gadži). She changes herself into a frog and, at night, she
goes around sucking milk from cows belonging to other farmers. If such a frog is
killed, the next morning a peasant woman will be found dead, and so people will
realise that she was a bosorka.
A Gadži bosorka can also transform a man into a
horse and then ride him at night. She can make the horse sick or even run it
to the ground. Sometimes, on the other hand, she can change herself into a horse and
then it is necessary to make her harmless by throwing around the horse's neck a
halter that has been blessed. Roma share belief in this type of
bosorka with their Gadže (Slovak,
Ruthenian, Ukrainian, and Hungarian) neighbours. They used to tell stories about
peasant - bosorki, for example, while stripping feathers, an
activity in which Roma women also participated. The Roma women transmitted these
stories to their Roma communities.
A bosorska-čohaňi is usually a
Roma woman. She can te pokerel (perform magic),
te phandel paňi (bind water, i.e. turn a glass filled with water
upside down and the water will not spill out), te nasvaľarel
(send for an illness) and even send for death. On the other hand, she is capable of
curing and having a positive effect. Similar forces can even be concentrated in men.
Nevertheless, such people are dreaded because they assume the right to control
supernatural forces, a right which belongs only to God.
Bosorki / čohaňa (pl.), as beings in whose existence people believe, appear in a favorite semi-formalised folklore genre: vakeriben pal o bosorki / čohaňa (tales about witches). Based on given attributes – characteristics and behaviour that are typical for witches – comes the "really true story"(kada pes čačes ačhiľa – "it really happened"), which the story-teller attributes either to himself or to someone he heard about from a "reliable witness."
Bosorki as supernatural beings also appear in heroic stories (itejzika paramisa). Most of them are evil and harm people. A Roma hero (čhavo), however, can win over a bosorka as her aide if he is polite to her and can greet and speak to her kindly. [Paramisi]
O Del mi del tut lačho ďives, mri kedvešno phuri daje.
"May God give you a good day, my dear little old mother."
Whereupon the bosorka answers with the usual formula:
Mi del o Del the tuke, mro čho. Imar pal kadi phuv / pal e žeľeno čar na phirďalas, te mange na džanľalas kada lav te phenel.
"The same to you, my boy. You would no longer walk on this earth / on the green grass, if you had been unable to greet me that way." (lit.,"say such a word.").
Synonyms for a fairy-tale bosorka which are not used for other types of witches are striga and indžibaba.