Before the spread of Christianity, the Slavic peoples of Central and Eastern Europe held fascinating beliefs that gave rise to a vibrant array of mythical deities, spirits and monsters. These creatures were described in stories that were orally passed down through generations long before they were written down. We've picked 10 of the strangest and spookiest of these ancient beings to share with you. Enjoy!
Before Wes Craven's "Swamp Thing" there was Vodyanoy- a male, river-dwelling creature said to resemble something between a naked old man and a frog. Covered in mud, algae, and fish scales, this fearsome creature floats up and down rivers on a log and is referred to as "grandfather" by locals. When angered, these web-handed beings destroy dams, flood mills, and drown people and animals. Sometimes they lure individuals to the murky depths and use them as slaves! Rude!!
Thought to be the ultimate embodiment of bad luck, misfortune and evil, Likho is either portrayed as a one-eyed goblin or as an old, skinny woman dressed entirely in black. Her MO includes possession, spreading disease and haunting the hopeless. What a total buzzkill.
According to Slavic folklore, these pesky little spirits live in threshing houses and make a habit of setting them aflame by burning the grain and surrounding shrubs. (Cue an Adele remake entitled "I Set Fire to the Graaaaainn".... Sorry. I had to). In order to appease these malevolent forces, peasants would offer them roosters and Russian crepes called blini. On New Year's Eve, a warm touch from an Ovinnik would portend good fortune, while a cold touch meant unhappiness in the coming year.
This large, humanoid fairy was believed to be the guardian of the forest. Leshy casts no shadow, wears clothing backwards and boots on the wrong feet. Other than having superhuman strength and speed, he can assume the appearance of any animal or human. Leshy feels pain when the forest is harmed, and sometimes his cries cause powerful rainstorms. If you cross him or hurt his habitat, he may abduct and eat you. Another reason to save the environment!
This may be the only good-natured entity on this list. Domovoi are protective house spirits that resemble small, bearded gnomes or goblins. They guard homes and take care of the household when they are out of sight, and live quietly beneath the floorboards or in sheds. If the head of the house forgets to leave snacks or gifts for his Domovoi, or if the family is messy and disrespectful, the creature will make knocking noises around the house. Sometimes, they will leave to find a better, more accommodating family.
Like the Domovoi, the Kikimora also lives in the nooks and crannies of houses. However, this little bugger isn't as nice. Although a Kikimora sometimes looks after chickens and housework, he also breaks dishes, makes lots of noise, and disturbs your sleep. In fact, the Slavs blamed this mischief-maker for their sleep paralysis and bad dreams.
Rusalka is the mermaid of slavic folklore. Although she was once a lovely, nurturing force, she eventually became a wicked evil-doer. Rusalki usually have red hair and captivating beauty that they use it to lure men into the water and drown them. They are magically able to go onto land during the summer months, when they enjoy sitting near docks and in trees. However, it is said that a Rusalka will die if her hair ever fully dries.
In some parts of the Slavic world, dragons, or "zvey", were not all considered bad. In Bulgarian folklore specifically, male dragons were thought to protect crops while some female dragons were considered destructive. In other parts of Europe, however, zvey were thought to be purely evil, and would kidnap people and breathe deadly fire from their many mouths. Some were thought to have regenerative powers, and would regrow their heads once they were cut off. The only way to prevent this was to quickly cover the neck with ash immediately after beheading. It sure is good not to be a hero.
9. Koschei The Immortal
Koschei is an old, immortal wizard, who lives within an ancient castle. His favorite pastime is transforming himself into a handsome young man in order to abduct beautiful young women. As legend has it, the only way to kill this trickster is to find his soul, which he has hidden far away from his body. Where you ask? It's common sense really. Koschei hid his soul in a needle, and hid the needle in and egg, and hid the egg in a duck, and hid the duck in a hare, and hid the hare in a chest, and buried the chest under an oak tree somewhere on the mythical island of Buyan.
10. Baba Yaga
Baba Yaga is one of the most famous mythical witches in history. When this bony, sinister woman ins't flying around looking for children to eat, she can be found inside her magical forest home that sits on chicken legs and moves at her command. Although she is mostly feared and shunned ("baba" is a disrespectful word for woman, after all), she can be persuaded to show favor to certain people, and has even given magical gifts to heroes who have crossed her path.
So which Slavic creature is your favorite? Let us know in the comment section below.