Mythology

Slavic Demons & Spirits

Slavic spirits
Rusalka, Kikimora, Alkonost /DeviantArt.com MiguelCoimbra, InkYami, noeinan

The ancient Slavic people believed in many gods and goddesses. They worshiped them through different celebrations and rituals. 

They also believed in the existence of many Slavic demons and spirits that you will be reading about in this article.

Names of Mythical Characters and Spirits

The supernatural characters in Slavic mythology appear in a wide range of forms. 

The name of a single being may be encountered with a different spelling or transliteration according to a specific language of a specific Slavic country.

For example, the “Vodanoi” is a male water spirit from Slavic mythology. He is called “Vodnik” in the Czech Republic and Slovakia, “Wodnik” in Poland and “Vodyanyk” in Ukraine.

Slavic Demons Before Christianization

There is a small amount of written evidence about Slavic demons and spirits in the pre-Christian period. 

The stories in Polish mythology (or the legends of Russian demons) speak about demonic creatures and spirits from forests, skies, or lakes. 

Although these stories contain evident Christian elements they are still considered pagan sources and are often used by historians and folklorists who investigate Slavic mythology.

Those Christian elements, of course, affected the characters themselves as well as their traits. 

For example, the Polish forest demon Leshy was reportedly invented by the pagan Slavs but was altered over the years, eventually becoming Borowy and then Boruta (a devil) [1].

Slavic Mythologies and Legendary Creatures

The mythological folklore heritage of each Slavic country has supernatural and demonic characters. Many of these share the same “storyline” or features.

10 Mythological Beings in Slavic Folklore

1. Azhdaya

The Azhdaya is a version of the mythological dragon known as Zmay or Zmey. The pagan folklore interpreted it as a polycephalous demonic serpent that lived for several hundred years, spat fire, ate humans, and performed evil deeds. 

The Azhdaya was quite a dominant villain in Slavic mythology which is why it was transformed into the image of the Devil after Christianization.

2. Alkonost

The Alkonost is a character from Russian folklore who, according to the tale, lives in Heaven. This creature is represented as a beautiful girl with the head of a bird.

The secret powers of the Alkonost included a beautiful voice and the ability to send messages from the underworld to the Earth (world of the living).

It was believed that in the wintertime, this bird-woman would lay eggs and then drop them on the bottom of the sea.

Several days later, storms would cause havoc which will signal the bird-woman to hatch the eggs that she had to keep safe from harm. This is one of the reasons why the Alkonost was the protector of the weather.

3. Baba Yaga

Baba Yaga is a witch popular in all the Eastern Slavic countries (though she should not be mistaken with the creature known as Babaroga).

In most of the tales, Yaga is depicted as an evil old woman that rides a mortar or a broom, wields a pestle, and loves chasing, scaring, and eating little children.

She lives deep in the forest, in a hut that is built upon chicken legs (with horse hooves on the door).

Although she is mainly known as the “enemy of children”, some versions of her tale also present her as someone who provides advice.

4. Poludnitsa

Poludnitsa (also known as Lady Midday or even Lady Midnight) is a mythical character that is common in Slavic countries of Eastern Europe.

Poludnitsa is a demon, usually portrayed as a young woman who is dressed in white. She wanders the fields and assaults villagers and workers that work at noon, causing them heat strokes, neck aches, and in some cases madness.

Poludnitsa would appear amid hot summer days, in the form of whirling dust clouds, carrying scythes or shears. 

Then she would land on the ground in the form of a woman and engage villagers by asking them riddles that were too difficult to answer. Them not being able to answer would eventually lead to their death.

5. Rusalka

In Slavic folklore, the Rusalka is a female supernatural spirit, connected to water. Rusalka is imagined as someone who is often malicious towards people [2].

The exact features of this entity have been long debated by folklorists. They do agree on one thing – Rusakla stems from pagan times, where it was regarded as a benevolent spirit. 

The Rusalka occasionally appears in the modern culture of Slavic countries as a mermaid or a nymph.

The Rusalka spirits were considered to be the souls of young women who drowned or were murdered in lakes. They were represented as ghosts, with bodies made of water, who sought to avenge their deaths or wandered around the haunted lakes [3].

6. Beda

Beda is a Southern Slavic demon who is a descendant of evil ghosts. She is also known as “Bijeda”, translated as “misery” or “Chuma” which means  “plague”. Ancestors of Slavs believed that Beda wanders around the world attacking and torturing people.

She was imagined as a bony creature, drenched in slime, that can breed quickly, likes to steal things from people and bury them deep under the ground.

7. Vila

The Vila is, in fact, a fairy from Southern Slavic mythology that is portrayed as a beautiful girl who is eternally young.

Depending on the version of the story, she can have bird or butterfly wings, a white silk dress, and long golden hair that stores all her magical powers.

The Vila lived in forests, near lakes, on mountains, or in the clouds. She could transform into many animals (usually falcon, swan, or a wolf).

It was believed that she healed the wounds of warriors in battles and had in her possession the elixir of eternal youth.

8. Vodyanoy

The Vodyanoy (also known as Vodanoi) is a water creature from the Eastern and Western Slavic stories, that was a spiritual embodiment of the souls of the people who drowned.

The Vodyanoy had a long tail, claws and was covered in grass or moss. Some versions also depict it as an old man with long hair and a beard that was covered in algae and mud.

9. Kikimora

Kikimora is a female house spirit present mainly in the Eastern Slavic folklore traditions.

This creature is represented as a demonic spirit that comes from the swamp and possesses houses. This creature lives in the cellar or behind stoves, produces noises, and leaves wet footprints.

10. Nav

Nav is a demon who rose from the souls of dead, unbaptized, newborn children.

It was represented as a blackbird with the head of a baby that attacked pregnant women and children. Nav also stole milk from cattle.

Sources
  1. https://culture.pl/en/article/slavic-daemons-the-good-the-bad-the-ugly
  2. http://greek_greek.enacademic.com
  3. https://www.lenntech.com/water-mythology.htm

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