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Leshy (1906)
Leshy (leszy, lesij, lesij, Leshii, Lešy, Lesiy, lechie, leshiy) (Ukrainian: Лісовик, Russian: ле́ший) is a male woodland spirit in Slavic mythology who protects wild animals and forests.There are also leshachikha/leszachka (wives of the leshak) and leshonky (children of the leszy). He is roughly analogous to the Woodwose of Western Europe and the Basajaun of the Basque Country. The Church turned him into an evil creature and gave him the features of a demon, also know as Boruta. Other names and spellings include Lesovy, Lesnik, Lesun, Lesny, Lešak, Leshak.

Leshy is analogous to the Woodwose of Western Europe, the Green Man of Britain and the Basajaun of the Basque Country.

Name forms and etymologyEdit

The Leshy is known by a variety of names and spellings including Lesiy, Leshii, Leszi, Lesovik, etc.

Main name forms:

  • Leshi (Albanian: Leshi),
  • Leshy (Czech: Leši, Polish: Leszy, Russian: Ле́ший, Belarusian: Лешы, Serbian: Лешиј)
  • Lesovik (Russian: Лесови́к, Ukrainian: Лісовик, Belarusian: Лесавік, Serbian: Лесовик)
  • Lesovy (Czech: Lesovij, Russian: Лесово́й, Serbian: Лесовој)
  • Lesny muzhik/ded (Czech: Lesní mužík, Slovak: Lesný mužík Belarusian: Лясны дзед), (Polish: Leśny dziad) meaning "forest man" or "old forest man"
  • Leshak (Russian: Леша́к, Serbian: Лешак)
  • Lesnik (Russian: Лесни́к, Serbian: Лесник, Bulgarian: Лесник)
  • Lesun (Russian: Лесу́н, Belarusian: Лясун)

Leshii means Forest lord from "les", the slavic for forest. There are also leshachikha/leszachka (wives of the leszy) and leshonky (children of the leszy). Boruta has been related to the Slavic terms barč (beehive) and bartnik (bee-master), a figure who, in some people, had functions similar to those of a shaman.

Description/MorphologyEdit

A leshy usually appears as a tall man, but he is able to change his size from that of a blade of grass to a very tall tree. He has hair and a beard made from living grass and vines, and is sometimes depicted with a tail, goat's hooves, and horns like Pan. He has pale white skin that contrasts with his bright green eyes. A leshy has a close bond with the gray wolf, and is often seen in the company of bears as well. He is the Forest Lord and carries a club to express that he is the master of the wood. He has blue blood, which makes his cheeks the shade of blue. He has fiery green pop-out eyes. Legend describes him as having a red scarf and his left shoe on his right foot. He also had no shadow. He was really big, but to hide from people in the forest he turned into dwarf-like creatures.

AbilitiesEdit

Leshy is the protector of all animals and birds in the forest. Mass migration of animals supposedly happens at leshy's instruction. He is said to have the ability to shapeshift into any form, animal or plant. When he is in human form, he looks like a common peasant, except that his eyes glow and his shoes are on backwards. In some tales, he appears to visitors as a large talking mushroom. He can also vary in size, shrinking himself to the height of a blade of grass when moving through open fields, or growing to the size of the tallest trees when in the forest.

If a person befriends a leshy, the latter will teach them the secrets of magic. Farmers and shepherds would make pacts with the leshy to protect their crops and sheep. The leshy has many tricks, including leading peasants astray, making them sick, or tickling them to death. They are also known to hide the axes of woodcutters. If a leshy crosses the path of a person in the woods, the person will get lost immediately. To find the way out, you have to turn your clothes inside out and wear shoes on opposite feet.

Leshies are terribly mischievous beings: they have horrible cries, and can imitate voices of people familiar to wanderers and lure them back to their caves, where the leshies will tickle them to death; they also remove signs from their posts. Leshies aren't evil: although they enjoy misguiding humans and kidnapping young women, they are also known to keep grazing cattle from wandering too far into the forests and getting lost. Sometimes cow herders will make pacts with a leshy by handing him their crosses from around their necks and sharing communion with him after Christian church gatherings; these pacts are said to give the cowherds special powers.

If more than one leshy inhabits a forest, they will fight for territorial rights. The evidence is in the fallen trees scattered about and scared animals.
Leshi1

Artist: Nadezhda Antipova

PlacesEdit

The Leshi is fond of trees and is said to be heard weeping when one is cut down. He is also said to live in deep caves that lie in the mountain areas.

FriendsEdit

A leszy has a close bond with the wolf, and is often seen in the company of bears as well. In myth and art, the Leshy is often associated with the psychotropic mushroom Amanita Muscaria. This may connect him in some way to Shamanic mind-altering techniques.

BehaviorEdit

Leshi2

Artist: Boris Zabirokhin

In his evil form, Leshi became a terribly mischievous being that could imitate voices of people familiar to wanderers and lure them back to his caves, where he would tickle them to death. He has many tricks, including leading peasants astray, making them sick, or tickling them to death. He is also known to hide the axes of woodchoppers.

Upon entering a forest, one always uttered a protective spell or prayer lest they run into him. Should one ever encounter Leshi, one must thwart him immediately by turning all your clothes inside out and backwards as well as the collar of one's horse, and placing your shoes on the opposite feet. Other remedies include the sign of the cross or singing "Sheep's mug, sheep's wool", but in the worst extremity, setting the forest ablaze behind you should grow him so concerned with putting out the fire that he will forget why his mischief fell upon your poor soul.

If he got hold of a child, he might replace it with one of his own (a changeling), who would grow up stupid, with a voracious appetite. If the child returned it would ever afterward be a useless tramp. When the leshi got his hands on an adult, the adult would return sometimes mute and covered with moss, othertimes unable to concentrate and would act oddly for the rest of their lives.

The Leshi likes offerings of kasha, suet, blini, bread & salt. He is also perfectly happy with a cookie or candy left on a stump or log. To protect against the leshi, one should turn all his clothing backward chant or get him to laugh.

When the leshi could be coaxed to befriend a human, the human often had to make a pact, never again wear a cross or take the eucharist. In return, the Leshy would teach the human the secrets of magic. Sometimes cow herders will make pacts with Lechies by handing him their cross from around their neck and sharing communion with him after Christian church gatherings, these pacts are said to give the cowsmen special powers.

OriginEdit

Leshi or Boruta would be the negative inversion of the God Borevit, subsequent to the introduction of Christianity in the Slavic peoples. Borevit is also portrayed as an imposing figure, with horns over the head, surrounded by packs of wolves and bears.

Dictionnaire InfernalEdit

Lechies

From Collin de Plancy's Dictionnaire Infernal

A leshy is a demon or spirit in the Dictionnaire Infernal. There he is a Slavic forest being, similar in nature to the Polevik sprites. He protects the birds, trees, and animals of the forest; he appears in the shape of a human with blue skin, two great horns, green hair, a long green beard of a she-goat across his face, and from the waist down, they had a goat's body, carrying a club or whip indicating his mastery of the forest. They would shrink themselves to the height of the grass when marching through fields, but would grow to the size of the tallest trees when they ran through the forest. They had horrible cries, but could imitate voices familiar to wanderers & could lure them back to their caves, where they would tickle them almost to death.

Should one ever encounter a leshy, one must thwart him immediately by turning all one's clothes inside out and backwards, and placing one's shoes on the opposite feet.

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