Monday, January 25, 2010

Leshy - Protector of the Forest

In the Slavic countries there is a spirit that is thought to protect the forest and it's inhabitants. It is said to favored the Birch trees, but most forests have these creatures protecting them. They are very protective of their territory.
     Their name is derived from 'les', which means forest. They have a shape of a human but with long hair and green bush eyebrows like the grass. They say his hair and beard is actually made out of grass and vines. His skin is pale but his blood is blue which gives his cheeks a bluish appearance. His eyes are fiery green and they have a popping-out appearance.  In some tales he is depicted with a tail, horns and hooves. Sometimes he was described wearing a red scarf and his left shoe on his right foot. He can shape shift into any form, shape or size depending on where he is seen. In the forest he could be a giant but just outside the forest, in the fields, he could be as small as a blade of grass. He casts no shadow and has a horrible cry. When he is in human form, he usually takes the form of a common peasant, except his eyes glow and his shoes are on backwards. He is said to be the Forest Lord and carries a club or a whip to punish the people who mistreats his animals or property.
     His wife is called a Leshachikha and his children are called the Leshanke. He was considered the son of a demon and a human woman.
     He loves and protect the forest animals. His favorable companion with which he held a close bond is the Gray Wolf and many times he is seen in the company of bears.
     He loves to play tricks and games on people especially the hunters and the rich. He mostly left the poor people alone. He would mislead his victim on the wrong path by imitating the voice of a person they knew and eventually the victim would be lead back to where they started. Some tales state that he would lead them to his cave where he would tickle them to death. He would also cause those that he didn't like to be very sick. Another prank of his would be to take signs of the post to confuse people and get them lost. He didn't particular like the wood cutters for sometimes he would hide their axes to stop them from cutting his trees.
     As I said before, he mostly left the poor people and those who respected the forest and the animals alone. He wasn't totally evil, the Leshy would keep cattle from wandering too far and getting lost. Farmers, shepherds and cattle herders would make pacts with the Leshy and in turn he would protect their crops, their sheep and cows. He also would teach them the secrets of magic. Some cow herders would make a pact with him by handing him their crosses from around their necks and sharing their communion with him.
     If you ever were in his territory and you felt that you were becoming a victim of the Leshy then to escape him you had to take your clothes off and put them back on backwards and put your left shoe on your right foot. He then would respect you and let you go. Another way to escape him would be to set the forest on fire. While he is putting out the fire to protect his forest, the you could run away from him. Some people would leave, as an offering to the Leshy, a piece of bread with salt on it. They would leave it at the base of a tree, on some stones or on a stump, before entering the forest.
     So be careful traveling through the grove. Be respectful to the forest and it's inhabitants for if you don't then the Leshy will get you. Make sure you take some bread and salt with you. I bet Hansel and Gretal wish they had done that. LOL

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