Friday, July 24, 2009

Sotek - The Czech Pukka


The first Scottish professional soldier came to Moravia as early as July 1619, but other Scots had arrived in central and eastern Europe several decades earlier not as soldiers but as peddlers. In Bohemia and Moravia the inhabitants referred to them as ‘soti’, and the diminutive form ‘sotek’ gave rise to a comic figure in folklore, a ‘little devil’. . . .


A host of European sprites and elves – brownies, Kobolds, Spanzifankerl and Golden Dove, Lauterfresser and Chick of the Devil – appear from a cockerel’s egg which as been brooded in the armpit. Be sure not to talk or laugh until it is read, warn the Pomeranians, or the Kobold will not survive. Some take on semi-human form. Coqwergi is a Swis dwarf known in the Valias Alps, and the Czech sotek appears as a little boy with claws on hands and feet. Hungarians feared lidercz, their will-o’-the-siwp, and smashed any small eggs as a precaution. But for the most part these are amiable, helpful sprites, whose names reflect their nature. The Tyrolese were especially fond of Lauterfresser, who lived on a diet of raw eggs, because he helped to build up one’s strength.


<Regretably -- just by myself, for my own selfish reasons – Sotek seems to have been co-opted by various Internet Trolls and Implemented as a Deity in at least one Interactive Internet Game, without particular reverence for the historical basis of the character, so I can’t be responsible for nor bothered by these intrusions. For me, and thus for you, as my reader, Sotek is the Czech Pukka, which is the European Kokopelli, alleged troublemaker, but really, the innocent and misunderstood victim of tragic-comic circumstances, someone who does not look for trouble, but somehow always winds up in trouble, just as in Golf, if you see how I mean . . . . >


The old Bohemian word Setek or Sotek may be compared, in point of meaning, with the Ded or Deduska. The Setek is 
believed to resemble a small boy with claws, instead of nails, on his hands and feet, and he generally stays in the sheep-shed, 
though he also hides in the flour, or in the peas, or on a wild pear, while in winter he sits on the oven and warms himself. 
The Setek protects the flocks from disease and brings good harvests and money; and he is also said to be able to go without 
eating and drinking for nine years, returning, after the lapse of this time, to the place of his birth, where he annoys the 
imnates. He may be bred out of an egg carried for nine days in the arm-pit. 
In the belief of the Styrian Slovenians the Setek of olden times was a good spirit, about the size of a thumb, who gen- 
erally haunted places where salt was kept, or lived in stables near young cattle. Unless a portion of all that was boiled or 
roasted was put aside for him, he caused the fire in the oven to go out, or made the pans crack, or caused the cows to yield 
blood instead of milk, etc. Being of very small size, he could hide in any place and play tricks on those who teased him. 
Another designation of the family genius was Skfitek ("Hobgoblin") which was derived from the German Sckrat.  
Like the Russian DMuika Domovoy (pp. 240-43), the Czech Djadek is in reality an ancestral spirit raised to the dignity of guardian of the household, after clay statues found in Sileaia. 
While the Djadek (Plae XXVIII) is an ancestral spirit, the §etek, like the SkHtek (pp. 244-45), though now degraded to the low estate of a hobgoblin, is in origin a divine being who was the special protector of the household . . . or Sckratt. This goblin, who appeared in the shape of a small boy, usually lived behind the oven or in the stable, favouring the household and sharing the joys and sorrows of the family; and he liked to do some work in the home, such as weaving on the loom, sweeping the floor, or tending the flocks. 
In order to court his favour the household set aside a portion of their meals for his consumption, especially on Thursdays and at Christmas dinner, when three bits from every dish were assigned to him. If they failed to do this, he was angry and stormed about, worrying people, damaging the flocks, and  doing all sorts of harm to the master of the house. 
His memory still lives in popular tradition, and he was represented by a wooden statue, with arms crossed on its breast and wearing a crown upon its head. This image stood, as a rule, on a chiffonier in a corner behind the table; and in any absence of the family the SkHtek was placed on a chiffonier or on a table to guard the house. The Slovaks call this spirit Skrata or Skriatek and conceive him as a drenched chicken; while in Poland he is known as Skrzatek, Skrzat, or Skrzot, and is represented as a bird (again most frequently a drenched chicken) dragging its wings and tail behind it. He often transforms himself into a small bird emitting sparks from its body, and he may be bred from an egg of a peculiar shape carried for a certain length of time beneath one's arm-pit. He haunts the corn-loft and steals corn; in bad weather he also visits human dwellings; and those who give him shelter under their roofs will profit by his presence, for he brings the householder grain and will make him rich. 
The Slovenians in Styria likewise believe that the Skrat (Skratec) brings money and com. He assumes different shapes, looking now like a young lad, and now like an old man or woman, or he can transform himself into a cat, dog, goose, etc.; but since he is covered with hair, he takes great pains to hide his body. He likes to dwell in mountains and dense forests, and does not allow people to shout there; by day he perches on a beech-tree or takes his rest in dark caves; at night he haunts villages and smithies, where he forges and hammers until the dawn. 
This goblin may be hired for one's services or bred from an egg of a black hen; but to gain his assistance it is necessary to promise him one's own self, as well as one's wife and children, and such an agreement must be signed in one's own blood. In return for all this the skrat will bring whatsoever a man may wish, placing these things on the window-sill, although when he carries money, he comes in the shape of a fiery broom, flying down the chimney. Since millet gruel is his favourite dish, it must be placed on the window-sill  whenever he brings anything. 

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