Borda (legendary creature)

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The Borda is a legendary creature that belongs to the culture of the Emilia-Romagna and other areas of the Po Valley in Italy.

It is a sort of witch that appears, blindfolded and horrible, both at night and on foggy days and kills anyone who has the misfortune to meet her. It is a personification of the fear related to swamps and marshlands, and to ponds and canals, invoked by adults to scare children and keep them away from such potentially dangerous places.


The Borda, known by this name especially in Modenese, is also known as 'Bourda' in Bolognese, 'Bùrda'in Ferrarese, 'Bûrda' or 'Burdâna' in Emelian. The masculine form takes the name of 'Bordón' in Parma, 'Bordö' or 'Bordoeu' in Milan (meaning Ogre), 'Bordò' in Bormiese (with a generally derogatory connotation). In Milanese, as well as in the dialects cremasco and bormiese, the word 'borda' means fog. In bergamese the name has the meaning fog as well as that of paper mask.[1]

Some scholars of local folklore [2] trace the etymology of the term Borda to the root "bor-" which can be traced back to Borvo, of celtic mythology, who presided over thermal and spring waters, and would be found, in a vast area united by an ancient celtic presence, in toponyms and terms related to the water element. Examples being: the river Bormida, spa resorts such as Bormio, Bourbon-Lancy, Bourbon-l'Archambault, words in French such as brouillard and brume (meaning fog) or bourbe (slime).

Origin and diffusion of the myth[edit]

Some lullabies in Romagnole are dedicated to the Borda, which kills children who are not good and do not want to sleep by strangling them with a lasso or a rope. Some scholars point out that this peculiar way of killing can be traced back to the human sacrifices practiced in ancient Germanic cults and would be known by the discovery, in some Danish and British peat bogs, of bodies of people suffocated with a rope tied around their neck and then drowned, such as the Tollund Man.[5]

The legend of Borda is central to the novel Mal'aria by Eraldo Baldini, from which the Mal'aria (it) TV miniseries was created.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ From the essay "La Borda" by Anselmo Calvetti published in the magazine La Ludla (number 1, Year XIV[dead link], pag.12), Magazine of the Association "Instituto Friedrich Schürr" for the enhancement of the dialectal heritage of Romagna, published by the Publishing Company Il Ponte Vecchio in January 2010
  2. ^ Calvetti, Ancient myths of Romagna
  3. ^ Guerrini, Alcuni canti popolari romagnoli, pp.17 e 18
  4. ^ Guerrini, Alcuni canti popolari romagnoli, pp.17 e 18
  5. ^ Green, Dictionary of Celtic mythology , p.272


  • Anselmo Calvetti, Antichi miti di Romagna, Maggioli Editore, 1999
  • Miranda Green, Dizionario di mitologia celtica, Rusconi, Milano, 1999
  • Libero Ercolani, Nuovo vocabolario romagnolo-italiano/italiano-romagnolo, Edizioni del Girasole, 1994
  • Umberto Foschi, I canti popolari della vecchia Romagna, Maggioli, 1974
  • Tomaso Randi, Saggio di canti popolari romagnoli raccolti nel territorio di Cotignola, Atti e Memorie della R. Deputazione di Storia Patria per le province di Romagna, 1891
  • Olindo Guerrini, Alcuni canti popolari romagnoli, Zanichelli, Bologna, 1880