This week: Slavic Mythical CreaturesEdited by: ~Minja~
More Newsletters By This Editor
1. About this Newsletter
2. A Word from our Sponsor
3. Letter from the Editor
4. Editor's Picks
5. A Word from Writing.Com
6. Ask & Answer
7. Removal instructions
"Myth must be kept alive. The people who can keep it alive are the artists of one kind or another." ― Joseph Campbell
"After all, I believe that legends and myths are largely made of 'truth', and indeed present aspects of it that can only be received in this mode; and long ago certain truths and modes of this kind were discovered and must always reappear."
― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien
"A myth or legend is simply not made up out of a vacuum. Nothing is or can be. Somehow, there is a kernel of truth behind it however distorted that might be." ― Isaac Asimov, Foundation's Edge
ome of my friends knew how excited I was about the new Netflix's show "The Witcher" because it is a rare fantasy show that features Slavic creatures, spirits, entities, medieval world. "The Witcher" is based on the book series of the same name by Polish writer Andrzej Sapkowski. The books, also, have been adapted into three video games that became highly popular and, as of March 2018, they have sold over 33 million copies worldwide.
As I was growing up, fantasy books, in general, were part of my daily life and the reason why I started to love reading. Seeing the entire first season of "The Witcher" set me on the trip down the memory lane when my sister and I used to sit on the floor while our mom sat on the couch and told us stories about the invisible creatures that lived in our household. She really tried hard to make us forget the war that was happening outside and my seven years old self knew I will be forever grateful for the magic in the middle of the war zone. We started school soon after that and, of course, I discovered that magic didn't only happen in our household but also in the school library. It became my favorite place and even today I remember the smell of books on the shelves and how cozy it was inside. There were dwarves and dragons, vampires and werewolves, knights and heroes that were nothing like those you can see today in Hollywood movies or western literature. Somewhere around the fourth grade, I learned about Stribor who lived and ruled the bewitched forest. The story about Stribor showed up in Tales of Long Ago by Croatian writer Ivana Brlić-Mažuranić. Her stories were translated in 15 different languages and, due to the way she combined original fantasy plots with folk mythology, literary critics compared her to Hans Christian Andersen and J.R.R.Tolkien. If you read or watched "The Witcher" then you have to know that The Witcher's Stribog and Ivana's Stribor are the same persona, although portrayed differently. Originally, Stribog is a god and spirit of the winds, sky, and air. He is said to be the ancestor (grandfather) of the winds of the eight directions. The etymology of his name is disputed.
Being part of the Slavic culture is truly amazing and, as "The Witcher" is trying to find its place in non-Slavic readers/viewers, I want to share with you a small list of Slavic mythical creatures that shaped my childhood with the hope they will inspire you in some way.
Stribog (Stribozh, Strzybóg, Stribor, Стрибог)
Stribog is the god and spirit of the winds, sky, and air. He is a connector of heaven and earth. People believed that to a large extent they depended on his actions because he could bring frost but, one way or another, also wealth while he gave the right part of the deal to the right person. He is usually described as a thin old man with long tangled gray hair and a very thick beard. According to the legend, he was born from the sparks that occurred when Svarog, the heavenly smith, hit the Alatir stone and from the wind he made with each swing of His hammer. Stribog has two brothers, Semargl and Dažbog.
Baba Yaga is a supernatural being (or one of a trio of sisters of the same name) who appears as a deformed or ferocious-looking old woman. In Russian fairy tales, Baba Yaga flies around in a mortar, wields a pestle, and dwells deep in the forest in a hut usually described as standing on chicken legs. She can either help or hinder those who encounter or seek her out. According to Vladimir Propp's folktale morphology, Baba Yaga commonly appears as either a donor, villain, or may be altogether ambiguous.
Kikimora is a female house spirit. When the kikimora inhabits a house, she lives behind the stove or in the cellar and usually produces noises similar to those made by the mice in order to obtain food. There are two different kinds of Kikimoras— the one that comes from the forest is married to the Domovoi and the other one comes from the swamp and is married to Leshy. It is said that she can be identified by her wet footprints. It is a common belief that mora (English: nightmare) enters the room through the keyhole, sits on the chest of the sleepers and tries to strangle them. Vuk Karadžić, a Serbian philologist and linguist, mentions that people would repel moras by leaving a broom upside-down behind the door, or putting their belt on top of their sheets, or saying an elaborate prayer poem before they go to sleep.
Domaći (English: Domestic, Homey)
Domaći are household spirits that appear from the fireplace and wreak havoc on the household they are in. They are mischevious spirits that like to dance and sing and play pranks on people and are believed to be deceased unbaptized children.
Bauk (English: Bogy)
Bauk is a horrifying creature that lurks in dark places, shadows, and abandoned houses, preying on an unsuspecting human. The only way to fight against it is by making a lot of noise and light. It has a clumsy gait called bauljanje, and its onomatopoeia is bau. He usually appears in bedtime stories and is used as a threat from parents to disobedient kids.
Azhdaya, Zmay (English: Dragon)
Zmay in Slavic mythology is a dragon but is a different kind of dragon than those usually portrayed in western culture, especially Hollywood. Zmay is a demonic version of a dragon and, in the stories, it usually has an odd number of heads. Naturally, it spits fire, but it also has terrible roar and evil look on its face. Zmay lives in caves or mountains, from where he escapes and cause hailstorms or devour humans or cattle. In the stories I read, Zmay usually takes the princess away and then a hero goes on a journey in order to kill Zmay and save her. The concept is quite similar to the Super Mario video game.
Vila (English: Fairy)
Vila is a creature from Southern Slavic beliefs that is usually benign to humans. She is imagined as a very beautiful and eternally young girl with bird or butterfly wings, golden hair, white dress and armed with bow and arrows. By beliefs, her power is in her hair. She can transform into any animal, especially falcon, wolf, swan or mare. It is believed that Vila is born from dew.
Drekavac (English: Screamer)
Drekavac is a demon from Southern Slavic folklore, created from dead, unbaptized toddlers although there are other versions of Drekavac, depends on the place the myth about him is told. Some people believe he is a soul of the dead soldier who doesn't have its peace because of the sins of this world and he is walking around the graveyard, screaming and scaring humans. Other people believe he is the material manifestation of a dead, unbaptized man who can't find its peace in the afterlife and is roaming around at night in order to scare those who wronged him in this life. Either way, Drekavac seems to be a dead soul searching for tranquility. It is represented as a tiny hairy creature with long sharp claws and long fur, which he stomps upon and yells in a mixture of child's cry, scream, and wolf's howling. He can scream so loud that people can go completely deaf. He lives in the forest, mountains, rivers, caves and he can't be destroyed unless his soul finds peace.
I hope I didn't scare you with all these creatures but I didn't really grow up reading Disney tales. Anyway, these stories weren't as dark and horrific as they might appear. They were ordinary tales with good moral lessons. If you haven't read it before, Tales of Long Ago by Ivana Brlić-Mažuranić is in a public domain and is available at The Public Domain Review . If you are interested in reading "Stribor's Forest" and other tales, here is the link to the collection: https://publicdomainreview.org/collection/croatian-tales-of-long-ago-1922
Until next time, I hope you found the new favorite mythical creature
Excerpt: A faerie holds the master key
to a land of hope and mystery;
this place that only children see,
an enchanted realm by her decree.
Excerpt: "Back to your village?" Atoo` shouted out,
as fire escaped in a glorious flame.
"Everyone loathes me, so what's this about?
I'm not a pet for your people to tame."
"Oh, please, Mr. Dragon, it's time for a deal!
We need your protection--our enemies grow.
Nobody loathes you, it's fear that they feel.
But I'm not afraid to beg you, please know."
Excerpt: Kazia Czartoryscy peered through the throng of friends and patrons, catching one glimpse of Gregor Brannigan shouldering out the door. I have to see him again, somehow. Will he accept the mystical side of me? Believe in the Rodzanice? Stop thinking so far ahead. He's not yours yet.
Excerpt: "It's true, then," I whispered. "Your kind does exist!" I stepped back a pace as the human moved forward. He held up his hands, showing he held no weapon.
"Don't worry," his grin was lopsided. "I won't hurt you." His eyes flickered to my head. I reached up self-consciously with one free hand. The snakes that looped over my scalp hissed at my touch.
"Shouldn't I have turned to stone by now?" the human asked. I blinked and pursed my lips.
"Because of the stories," he said. "Medusa turns men to stone, once they see her beautiful face."
Excerpt: The dirt road winds
through the fallow fields of fall,
which cast a dark shadow
across the soul
of the lone traveler
making his way toward
the covered bridge
that marks the half-way point
between the Mountains of the Dawn
and those of the Sunset.
Submit an item for consideration in this newsletter!
Have an opinion on what you've read here today? Then send the Editor feedback! Find an item that you think would be perfect for showcasing here? Submit it for consideration in the newsletter!
Don't forget to support our sponsor!
To stop receiving this newsletter, click here for your newsletter subscription list. Simply uncheck the box next to any newsletter(s) you wish to cancel and then click to "Submit Changes". You can edit your subscriptions at any time.