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WITCHES IN BALTIC FAIRY TALES

WITCHES IN BALTIC FAIRY TALES

Gliwa, Bernd

Onomasiology Online 4 (2003)

Abstract

The following article discusses names for witches in Lithuanian and Latvian fairy tales. For Lith. ragana, Latv. ragana the common etymological reconstruction *‘seeress’ is rejected. Instead, Balt. *ragana is derived from Balt. *rag- ‘to raise, rise’ < I.-E. *re -,*ro – ‘to move straight, rule’ leading to Balt. *ragana ‘who is raised (from death) and has seen, e.g. a ghost’. An alternative interpretation suggests I.-E. rog- ‘to rule’ and asks whether Lith. ragana can be compared straightforwardly to Lat. r g na ‘queen’, OI. r jñi ‘id.’. In any case, ragana holds a key position in the semantic transformation from ‘to rise’ to ‘to see’, which sheds light on the origin of Lith. ‘to see’. Lith. laume Latv. lauma ‘fairy’ has often been seen as representing I.-E. *loudh-m : loudh– ‘to grow’. The fairy is related to fertility and child-bearing. Lith. íe ula and Latv. spigana can be explained on the fact that the witch partially appears with light, i.e. as ‘phantom; ignis fatuus’. Lith. viedmà, which commonly seen as a loan from Sl., can be explained purely on Baltic material. Thus, it is to a certain degree a matter of belief whether Lith. viedmà is seen as a borrowed or inherited word. In either way an initial meaning *‘who is seen, ghost’ can be assumed.

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