Plica Polonica in Belarusian Beliefs and Incantations

Pp. 59-81

  • Tatsiana Valodzina
Keywords: Belarusian ethnomedicine, healing ritual, kautun (Plica Polonica), incantations, contemporary beliefs, ethnographic fieldwork


Apparently, there is no disease that attracts so much attention from researchers (both medical doctors and ethnographers) as kautun (Plica Polonica, the Polish plait). However, to this day there is no generally accepted solution regarding the etiology and history of the disease, which manifests itself in entangled hair and is accompanied by rheumatic pains, sores, rash, crooked nails, blurred vision, as well as attacks of nerves, spasms and increased heart rate. This article will feature Belarusian materials that represent the eastern extent of the area of beliefs related to Plica Polonica. The article is based on the folklore and ethnographic data collected by the author over the past 20 years, and aims to analyse the ontology of the disease named kautun, its involvement in human communication both with the body and with non-human beings. The article also provides comments on the historical evolution of beliefs and magical practices associated with the Plica.