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Leshy (1906).jpg
An illustration, 1906
GroupingTutelary deity
CountrySlavic Europe

The Leshy (also Leshi; Russian: леший, IPA: [ˈlʲeʂɨj]; literally, "[he] from the forest", Polish: borowy, leśnik, leśniczy, lasowik, leszy) is a tutelary deity of the forests in pagan Slavic mythology. As the spirit rules over the forest and hunting, he may be related to the Slavic god Porewit.[1]

There is also a deity, named Svyatibor (Svyatobor, Svyatibog), who is mentioned in the beliefs of the Eastern and Western Slavs as the god of forests and the lord of the leshies. His functions were identical to those of the god Veles.[2]

The Leshy is masculine and humanoid in shape, is able to assume any likeness[3] and can change in size and height.[4][5] In some accounts, Leshy is described as having a wife (Leshachikha, Leszachka, Lesovikha and also, sometimes, the Kikimora of the swamp) and children (leshonki, leszonky). He is known by some to have a propensity to lead travelers astray and abduct children (which he shares with Chort, the "Black One"), which would lead some to believe he is an evil entity. He is, however, also known to have a more neutral disposition towards humans, dependent on the attitudes and behaviours of an individual person, or local population, towards the forest.[6] Leshy could take children who were cursed by their relatives (in particular, parents) away to the forest people.[7] Some would therefore describe him as more of a temperamental being, like a fairy.[8]

Names and etymology[edit]

The Leshy is known by a variety of names and spellings including the following:[9][10][11][12][13]

Main name variations:

Euphemistic titles:

  • He (Russian: он) also used for the devil, based on superstition prohibiting invocation of evil
  • He himself (Russian: он сам) like "he"[8]
  • Les chestnoi (Russian: Лес честной) "honorable one of the forest"
  • Les pravedniy (Russian: Лес праведный) "righteous one of the forest"
  • Lesnoi dedushka/ded or Dedushka-lesovoi (Russian: Лесной дедушка/дед, Дедушка-лесовой, Belarusian: Лясны дзед, Polish: Leśny dziad) "forest grandfather"
  • Lesnoi dukh (Russian: Лесной дух, Polish: Leśny duch) "forest spirit"
  • Lesnoi dyadya (Russian: Лесной дядя) "forest uncle"
  • Lesnoi khozyain (Russian: Лесной хозяин) "forest master"
  • Lesnoi zhitel' (Russian: Лесной житель) "forest dweller" or "woodsman"
  • Lesny muzhik , "forest man"

In popular culture[edit]

  • Leshy is used as a prototype for the main character of Vladimir Vysotsky's song "Lukomorye", where Leshy is depicted as an alcoholic who spends all his money on drinking and is abusive to his wife.[7]
  • Leshy was the inspiration for an antagonist of the video game Inscryption, who is also named Leshy.[15]
  • In Karol Kalinowwski's comic book Łauma the main protagonist is guarded by Yotvingians' version of Leshy, Lauma. He/she also appears on the cover. [16]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Alexander Porteous (1 January 2005). The Lore of the Forest. Cosimo, Inc. p. 108. ISBN 978-1-59605-105-8.
  2. ^ Kaysarov Andei Sergeevich (1810). Slavic and Russian mythology. DirectMEDIA. p. 245. ISBN 5998918851.
  3. ^ Ushakov,Dmitry. (1896) Материалы по народным верованиям великоруссов, Этнографическое обозрение [Materials on the folk beliefs of the Great Russian, Ethnographic Review]. (Vol. 8), no. 2-3, pg. 158.
  4. ^ Maksimov, S. V. (1912) Нечистая сила. Неведомая сила // Собрание сочинений [The Unclean Force, The Unknown Force, Collected Works]. pp. 79-80.
  5. ^ Tokarev, Sergei Aleksandrovich. (1957) Религиозные верования восточнославянских народов XIX — начала XX века [The religious beliefs of the peoples of East 19th – early 20th centuries]. AN SSSR Moscow and Leningrad. p. 80.
  6. ^ Barbara., Podgórska (2005). Wielka księga demonów polskich : leksykon i antologia demonologii ludowej. Podgórski, Adam. Katowice: Wydawn. KOS. ISBN 8389375400. OCLC 62151653.
  7. ^ a b "Mythological Creatures | Leshy". History & Culture Academy of Latgale.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  8. ^ a b Ivanits, Linda J. (1989) Russian Folk Belief. Routledge. p. 68 ISBN 0-873-32889-2
  9. ^ Afanasyev, Alexander Nikolayevich. (2013) Поэтические воззрения славян на природу [The Poetic Outlook of Slavs About Nature]. Akademicheskii Proyekt. Moscow. ISBN 978-5-8291-1451-0 ISBN 978-5-8291-1461-9
  10. ^ Afanasyev, Alexander Nikolayevich. (1983) Древо жизни и лесные духи [The Tree of Life and Forest Spirits]. Sovremennik. Moscow.
  11. ^ Afanasyev, Alexander Nikolayevich. (2008) Славянская мифология [Slavic Mythology]. Eksmo, Migard. Moscow. ISBN 978-5-699-27982-1
  12. ^ Krinichnaya, Neonila Artyomovna. (2004) Русская мифология: Мир образов фольклора [Russian Mythology: The World of Folklore Images]. Akademicheskii Proyekt. Moscow. ch. 3, "Leshy: Totemic origins and the polysemy of images". ISBN 5-8291-0388-5 ISBN 5-98426-022-0
  13. ^ Levkievskaya, Elena E. (2011) Мифы русского народа [Myths of the Russian People]. AST, Astrel, VKT. Chapter "Leshy". ISBN 978-5-17-072533-5 ISBN 978-5-271-33771-0 ISBN 978-5-226-03926-3
  14. ^ "Lauma". Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Encyclopædia Britannica Inc. Retrieved 11 March 2013.
  15. ^ Kapron, Nicola Jean (October 28, 2021). "Inscryption Interview: Developer Daniel Mullins on Bringing New Life to 3D Retro Horror Games". Game Rant. Retrieved November 6, 2021.
  16. ^ "'Łauma' by Karol Kalinowski – Image Gallery".

External links[edit]

  • Media related to Leshiy at Wikimedia Commons
  • The dictionary definition of leshy at Wiktionary