Storytelling Matters

The Live Art and the Power of Words

Daily Ghost Post – Z is for Zduhac

The inner essence of a person is called many things, such as spirit, soul, or personality. It is that core part of friends and family that we love best. And when loved ones die, it is their essence that we miss most.

Mythology and ghost stories tell us that sometimes deceased spirits leave the world of death to visit the world of the living. Sometimes the spirit or essence manifests in an unseen manner. At other times, there is a physical manifestation of their earthly form, which I call for fun their “phosphor-essence.”

When corpses unleash their restless spirits to return to the land of the living, they are called ghosts. But when living people send their spirits on a visit or quest, does that make them ghosts in life?


The Zduhac is a superhero from Serbian folklore. Although he lives among regular villagers, like Superman, he has a super secret.

The person destined to become a Zduhac was typically born with a caul (amniotic sack). Moms would save the caul and then attach it to articles of clothing to protect the Zduhac in his dangerous work. Although the piece of caul was not as big as a cape, it was thought to offer cape-like protection to the wearer. In addition to the birth caul, another identifying mark of the Zduhac is tufts of red hair on his body. But these are not the only characteristics of this supernatural being. Solemn, wise, quiet people of stature in the community who also happen to be heavy sleepers might be among the Zduhaci (the plural of Zduhac). And although women and children were sometimes Zduhaci, more often than not, they were men, hence my choice of pronoun in this article.

A Zduhac’s spirit leaves its sleeping body at night to protect the village or region from bad weather. After making its bodily exit (sometimes in the form of a fly), the spirit of the Zduhac whisks off into the sky to fight the bad weather demons. Serbian lore suggests that sometimes they fight in teams against other evil Zduhaci bands. On one level, this sounds like a prototype for The Avengers comic and movie franchise.

But on another level, there could be something profound embedded in this folklore. In battles with winds that destroy crops, the Zduhac (or Zduhaci band) would fight the whirling weather and redirect it to another part of the landscape, to another region. For the local people, the Zduhac was a hero, a protector, a savior of grave import and value. One way I like to think of the the Zduhac is that he was a weather knight doing thrilling community service.

But what about the other places which suffered the ravages of the redirected winds?

If Wikipedia is accurate, different bands of Zduhaci fought against one another – the Zduhaci bands hailed from places like Bosnia, Herzegovina, and Montenegro. In an effort to protect their own, they had stormy, airborne tug-of-wars with wind. I find it incredibly interesting that these very same ethnic groups have experienced serious unrest in recent historic times. Does history repeat itself? Is the future based on the past? Are myths based in facts? Might a little of all of the above apply?

Books of traditional stories from folklore and mythology are not located in the fiction section of the library. Insights like this provide a clue as to why that is, no?

Thoughts? And what do you think about the Zduhac’s ability to transmigrate? Does its temporarily body-free essence, fighting in the windy skies, make it count as a ghost?

— Jeri

P.S. Thanks to those who enriched this A-Z series and whose work I enjoyed as well. It has been a pleasure, I look forward to continuing our “blogmunity” over time!

P.P.S. I have not yet found a way to properly notate the word Zduhac. There should be an accent over the letter “c” – an accent that looks like this: ‘

Copyright 2015 The Storycrafters. All rights reserved.

Wikipedia – zduhac

PHOTO CREDIT: By Warrenlead69 (Own work) / CC BY-SA 4.0-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 / Wikimedia Commons

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18 thoughts on “Daily Ghost Post – Z is for Zduhac

  1. Winds and ghosts – hadn’t considered than angel. Excellent end to the challenge!

    • Thanks for all the wonderful comments. I’m glad you like the end to the challenge – I struggled hard finding a Z I was willing to write about – partly because they bugged me and partly because I wanted to end on a nice note. Thanks for noticing… 🙂

  2. The A to Z Ghost Post was incredible!

  3. I think myths and legends and even folk tales always talk about the people and the culture who tell those stories. They also talk about people in general. That’s why they are so relevant to us, no matter how old these stories are.

    When I read Tolkien’s ‘On Fairy Stories’ (fantastic read, but I bet you’ve already read it) one think that stayed with me was this idea: we always wonder why some parts of stories shed over time and haven’t come to us, when we should actually wonder how is it that what came to us stayed in the story.

    And congrats on finishing the challenge. I enjoyed your blog a lot, because, you know, I think we’re indeed interested in the same things, as you said.
    I’ll keep haunting your blog. I’m sorry, I guess you’ll have to cope with it 😉

    • I totally agree with you (about how folklore speaks volumes about people). As a storytellers steeped in folklore, I see it all the how story and people reflect each other – still that moment when I learned about the ethnic groups ghost fighting, I felt smacked in the face. It was a powerful example.

      Yup, I read Tolkien, but my memory of it was of other things. It is quite a piece. Thanks for sharing that, shows me it is time to re-read it that article.

      I’m DELIGHTED to have you haunt me. I will be haunting you as well 🙂

  4. This myth feels brooding, like storms. It’s amazing that now we know that storms are not the product of demons or the result of rerouting by a neighbouring weather Zduhac, still there is conflict and bad feeling. I think the placement of myths in the non-fiction section of a library is just because they are historical beliefs held by real people, but it’s intriguing to think that their provenance may have their root in different cultures and their conflicts. Congratulations on getting to ‘Z’, your interesting posts, and thank you for your visits to my blog! Liz

    • Yes, you are right, the historical beliefs held by people then put these tales in non-fiction – I know this and yet…but the truths of these also make me shudder every time. Culture and conflict are intertwined and stories of the same can be used to minimize conflict. At least that’s my hope and part of my life’s work. Thanks for your thoughtful comments Liz.

  5. How interesting. I think I would call Zduhac a spirit. Ghost sounds like a dead person’s spirit, whereas a spirit is just a being without a corporeal form. Splitting hairs, I suppose, but it’s a distinction I draw. 😉

    I do think myths are based on facts, or at least an attempt to understand facts as people were able at a given point in time. It is interesting that folklore and mythology aren’t labeled as fiction. Gives weight to the idea that perhaps they do stem from a source of reality that regular fiction lacks.

    Anyway, that’s enough rambling from me. Congratulations on finishing the challenge! I really enjoyed the posts I read, and will have to come back and read the earlier ones. It was great having met you. 🙂

    • I enjoyed having met you (and Hazel, etc). I agree with you about spirits. I think the word is a broader one than ghosts.

      I love what you said about folkore/myth not labeled as fiction …..”perhaps they do stem from a source of reality that regular fiction lacks.” That is an excellent point, and I think that those stories do too – and yet your statmeent made me wonder of this – isn’t fiction based in reality much of the time in that it carries human universals (as does folklore)? Just wondering how fiction writers would respond to that question… are your flash tree stories completely fiction and not rooted in reality (pun intended 🙂 — ? They feel real to me, metaphorical yes, but rooted in reality. Might stories like yours be folklore in 200 years? Thoughts for a Sunday morning, and ideas for my next blog post perhaps…!

      • A very interesting point, and I encourage you to write a blog post about it because it would be interesting to explore it further. However, after thinking about it a bit, I do think there needs to be certain belief system in place for stories to become folkloric. And modern-day stories, while they do exhibit certain truths of human nature, they are known to be fiction and I don’t think they can ever get away from that. I think modern-day religions have a better chance at becoming folklore in a couple hundred years, assuming a different belief system rose to replace the ones existing today. That, I think, is at the heart of folklore and myths. That they were thought to be true at one point.

        I find myself wanting to go on, but I’ll leave it at that. Heck, perhaps I should write a blog post about it as well. 😉

      • Ummmm much to chew on here Sara. I am not a trained folklorist (next life I hope, I did on Ph.D., don’t care to do another, haha), but my best understanding is that mythology is based on religious belief, so that makes sense. Perhaps modern religions are mythology of the future (if they aren’t already deemed so by scholars). But folk tales…. are animal stories true? Did/do people believe that animals talk and trick and plan and problem-solve the ways stories say they do? Did a tortoise and a hare have a race? Or are these fictions that people believe(d) to be have truth (like modern day fiction)? I am not disagreeing with you but trying to dig even deeper. And then there are “true” stories that are definitely NOT religious – like urban legends. These are believed to be true and passed from one to another and the on into modern folklore (though I bet there are some true stories that become urban legends, but I’m not an expert…). My personal belief is that there are stories that are told (true, fiction, folk tale style) that get passed into oral tradition over time. Yes a future blog post when I am not, to grab a phrase I love from the UK, knackered. 🙂 I hope you write one too, maybe we should schedule them to post on the same day??

  6. What I find the most interesting about this is the acceptance that there will be consequences no matter what…so you do not have the power to disperse the storm, instead you can only redirect it at others. Gives it a different sort of moral angle than your typical superhero story! 🙂 Thanks for the great read – this is such a fascinating series topic. And congratulations for getting to Z!

    • Oooh, great observation Sue. Thank you…. it adds another layer of realism that way, doesn’t it? It also suggests that calamity is part of life – it’s just that where it falls could be under our control if we have a Zduhac around. I appreciate your visiting and taking the time to comment.

  7. It won’t let me reply to your post above, so I’m continuing the discussion here (you’d think I’d take the hint, but no). 😀 I’m certainly not a trained folklorist either, so we might have a case of the blind leading the blind, but it was my understanding that animal stories are fables, and not necessarily folklore. You bring up urban myths, and I think that’s an excellent example of modern folklore. Fables, from my understanding, were stories that were told with the intention of conveying a moral lesson (you know, “and that’s why you don’t poke a lion with a sharp stick” type thing). Of course, you could be right in that fables are part of folklore all the same, and it’s my understanding of it that’s lacking. Perhaps folklore really is (are?) stories that exist among societies that impact the collective in some way. Who knows, maybe Game of Thrones will become folklore of the future. It’s certainly an interesting concept.

    I hope you don’t mind me continually posting about it, it’s just I find discussions like this incredibly interesting. I think doing simultaneous blog posts about it could be fun. We could compare notes. 😀 Just throw a date at me and we can make it happen if you’d like.

    • I’m delighted that you are intrigued by this, it is my world. Although I am not a trained foklorist, my work is still in folklore. I am a storyteller with a passion for traditional stories – myth, folk tales, fables, ghost stories, urban legends – all o them count as those! (The way you can be sure is to look in the library at 398.2 – that is where folklore lives and fables are there). You are right, fables have the lesson – and some writers write them (Arnold Lobel) – but many are considered folklore (Aesop for instance). If you trace them back, fablesI are even older than Aesop’s fables (back to India at least – and someone might correct me or add more, but fables go back at least to the Panchatantra and possibly beyond). And YES folklore, as far as I understand them, do impact the collective. The folklorist Alan Dundes says that folklore is a “mirror of culture” – and he is a SERIOUS dude in the folklore realm.

      I have to run now, but let’s keep this chat up. (And I’m thinking about the simultaneous blog post idea, it would be a hoot, but I have to leave the blog alone for a bit as I’m WAAAAY behind on other deadlines… (one is to develop a TREE story, Sara!!)

      • You know, I think I finally get what you’re saying (it sometimes takes a while… 😉 ), and I had a little bit of an epiphany on why I’m thinking the way I am. I think it largely has to do with the way I think stories are perceived (and told) these days compared to yesteryear. And if folklore mirrors culture, then I wonder what kind of stories of today would fill that category. Literary fiction seems like a better contender, as it perhaps better represents the struggles and virtues of humanity than genre fiction (but that’s a pretty big generalization). Or maybe comic books… 😀

        Anyway, I will more than likely write a post about it. Boo for deadlines, but cool that you have projects! I’ll probably do my post in a couple of weeks (maybe three) as I’m not a terribly frequent blogger. Let me know if the clouds part and angels sing and you find the time to do a simultaneous post. 😉 And a tree story–how cool is that?!

      • Yes, yes I think I would really like to co-post (haha). My deadlines are self-imposed (A to Z isn’t making me anymore, haha again but TRUE). A few weeks sounds terrific.

        All that sounds like terrific thinking on your part. I will probably fall into the realm of folklore more – it will be neat to cross-post/cross-link. Wanna do some pre-drafts via email before uploading? Or do we want to surprise each other?

        I know some tree tales that I want to tell, but the venue for which I’m developing them isn’t quite right. I think I’m moving onto a different story for this event – there are many great stories about trees. Such hulking and important living things just outside our doors…

        Now I have a new deadline. This blog post with you! Funn!

        Like you I am not a frequent blogger – well, I go through fits. This was my second A to Z and both did a bit of a burnout on meeeee….. oh and thank you so much for the shout out on your reflections post (someone came by my blog thanks to you 🙂 ) . I didn’t do the shout out part on my reflection post, but I would have put you in if I did!

        So should we clarify topic for the post?

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