Mora was a mythical creature very similar to a witch. Various legends concerning Mora were wide-spread in the western parts of Serbia, whereas in the eastern parts and in Vojvodina they cannot be found. It was actually believed that a woman first became a Mora and after that a witch. Only a young girl could turn into Mora, a girl that was old enough to have sex. She could become a witch only after marrying. A girl could be identified as Mora by some mark on her body, a mole for example. Moras could also be born by a witch mother. However, not every mother had to be a witch in order to give birth to a Mora. If the child was born with a red caul, it was a sign that she would become a Mora, and after that a witch. In some areas the caul was burned or buried, but the child's fate was believed to be inextricably bound up with the caul. According to that belief, burning the caul could kill the child. If a girl was publicly revealed as a Mora, she would lose all her powers and become like any other ordinary girl. For that reason, if they saw a child was born with a red caul, midwives would go in front of the house and shout that a Mora or a witch was born. On the other hand, since it could embarrass the family, this custom was sometimes avoided.
Mora could not kill a man like a witch could. She could only torture him. This torture usually took place during the night, while the man was asleep. He would then dream bad dreams and breathe heavily because Mora was choking him. This is the reason why people say that someone was having nightmares (noćna mora = night-mare) if he was having bad and unpleasant dreams. When they went about their evil business, Moras were invisible and could creep through any hole. Meanwhile, Mora's soul was believed to be wandering around in the shape of a fly. It was believed that garlic could protect people from Moras (garlic was a protection against the greatest number of mythic creatures). During the days when moras and witches were believed to be the most active, people used to smear garlic over their skin. Children were particularly taken care of. Like witches, moras could not pass by a broom that was turned over or the blades that were stuck into the door. They were believed to be intolerant of immortelle and wormwood. All sorts of amulets were used as protection against moras. Another defence against moras was to take their hat from them. Then they had to do anything that the possessor of their hat wanted, just to get it back.
by Nikola Milošević
translated by Snježana Todorović