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The Devil Taken In

Country: Poland

Region: Lesser Poland

Type of inspiration: Folklore Source:


The devil is one of the most popular and complex characters in folk beliefs and folklore. In the stories of highlanders from Nowy Sącz and Pieniny, this evil spirit was most often of biblical origin. It was said that devils previously were angels who refused to bow down to God and were thrown from heaven as punishment and scattered throughout the world. Also, the soul that did not get to heaven, but hell, because it did not apologize to God, became a devil. 

The devil could take many forms. Most often he was black, with horns and a tail, sometimes he had great wings and in his hands, he held a pitchfork with which he stabbed sinners. This is what devils from folk Christmas performances looked like, probably inspired by images known from polychromes in rural churches. However, the devil was also imagined as a handsome, elegant young man, dressed in a German-style tailcoat, in a hat and with a cane, or as a naked, dirty child. According to others, he looked like an ordinary man but was betrayed by a large nose, long claws and a horse's hoof on one or both legs. It was said that the devil could take the form of a black animal - a dog, horse, bull, hen or rooster. He also appeared as a half-human, half-wildcat, or badger, a creature that screams with a devilish voice. The devil could be found at the crossroads, in the fields and in the roadside willows. Sometimes, he was believed to be in a wild lilac: “He wraps around the trunk, black in his appearance, he has fire in his mouth, he laughs, shows his white teeth with a burning fire inside. When it is near the tree, he either whistles or screams his head off”.    

There was a wide range of devilish activities. He persuaded people to do evil, and he wrote down human sins on cowhide - such a scene can be seen in the polychrome in the All Saints Church in Krościenko. He punished those who cursed. He was mean, mischievous and threatened people. He was especially eager to tease drunkards. He made them carry a heavy load up the hill, he mixed up the roads and roughed them up. He spoiled crops, but he could also bring home things taken from others (house devil). He made the wind blow, which, it was believed, starts when someone hanged himself when persuaded to do so by the devils. Near Łącko these devils were calledpokuśniki[tempters]. They were believed to carry the hangman’s soul to hell. He knew the future and shared his devilish knowledge with sorcerers.

In folk tales, the devil tried to equal God who creates the world, but instead of a sheep, a goat was created. He tried to create a bumblebee but made a hornet. He created a wasp instead of the divine bee.  He was easily deceived by a man, he willingly entered competitions with a peasant, who always turned out to be smarter. The inhabitants of the Pieniny Mountains knew the story of a devil who wanted to sneak into the human heart in the form of a fly. The peasant, who saw the devil's trick, lured a fly into a bottle and then sealed it with a sacred bladdernut seed, a plant used to make rosaries. He kept the fly in the bottle for seven days and seven nights, until the devil died. Source:

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Nowy Sącz

Poland Lesser Poland


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