An illustration, 1906
The Leshy (also Leshi; Russian: леший, IPA: [ˈlʲeʂɨj]; literally, "[he] from the forest", Polish: boruta, borowy, leśnik, leśniczy, lasowik, leszy) is a tutelary deity of the forests in Slavic mythology. The plural form in Russian is лешие, leshiye (retaining the stress on the first syllable). As the spirit rules over the forest and hunting, he may be related to the Slavic god Porewit.
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.
The Leshy is masculine and humanoid in shape, is able to assume any likeness and can change in size and height. He is sometimes portrayed with horns and surrounded by packs of wolves and bears. 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. Leshy could take children who were cursed by their relatives (in particular, parents) away to the forest people. Some would therefore describe him as more of a temperamental being, like a fairy.
Names and etymology
Main name variations:
- Borovoi (Russian: Боровой, Polish: Borowy) "[he] of the forest"
- Gayevoi (Russian: Гаевой, Polish: Gajowy) "[he] of the grove"
- Leshak (Russian: Лешак, Serbo-Croatian: Lešak, Лешак)
- Leshy (Russian: Леший, Belarusian: Лешы, Polish: Leszy, Serbo-Croatian: Lešij, Лешиј)
- Lesnik (Russian: Лесник, Polish: Leśnik, Bulgarian: Лесник, Serbo-Croatian: Lesnik, Лесник)
- Lesovik (Russian: Лесовик, Belarusian: Лесавік, Ukrainian: Лісовик, Serbo-Croatian: Lesovik, Лесовик)
- Lesovoi (Russian: Лесовой, Serbo-Croatian: Lesovoj, Лесовој)
- Lesun (Russian: Лесун, Belarusian: Лясун)
- Mežainis, "forester"
- Miškinis, "woodsman"
- Miško velnias, "forest devil"
- Vir'ava (Erzya: Вирьава) "forest mother"
- He (Russian: он) also used for the devil, based on superstition prohibiting invocation of evil
- He himself (Russian: он сам) like "he"
- 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) "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
- Leshy is used as a prototype for the main character of Vladimir Vysotsky's song "Lukomorye", where leshy is depicted as an alcoholic that spends all his money on drinking and is abusive against his wife.
- Leshy appeared in Season 5 of Supernatural. Leshi started killing and feeding on more people after Sam and Dean started the Apocalypse. The creature wanted to fully feed himself and would do so by taking on the form of the idols of his victims and then feeding on them.
- Leshy appears throughout The Witcher Saga by Andrzej Sapkowski and the world renowned The Witcher video game series.
- Leshy is present in the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game as both an ancestry for player characters, as well as an option for supernatural magical companions.
- Äbädä (Tatarstan)
- Basajaun (Basque Country)
- Berstuk (Wend people of Germany)
- Boruta (Slavic region)
- Grand Bois (loa) (Haiti)
- Hidebehind (Americas)
- Jinn (Arabian, Islamic)
- Vörsa (Komi Republic)
- List of nature deities (Slavic mythology)
- Ochopintre (Republic of Georgia)
- Shatans (Belarus, Russian Federation)
- Shishiga (Russia)
- Silvanus (Ancient Rome and Gaul)
- Woodwose (medieval Europe)
- Yum Caax (Mayan)
- Theresa Bane (9 January 2012). Encyclopedia of Demons in World Religions and Cultures. McFarland. p. 85. ISBN 978-0-7864-8894-0.
- Alexander Porteous (1 January 2005). The Lore of the Forest. Cosimo, Inc. p. 108. ISBN 978-1-59605-105-8.
- Kaysarov Andei Sergeevich (1810). Slavic and Russian mythology. DirectMEDIA. p. 245. ISBN 5998918851.
- 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.
- Maksimov, S. V. (1912) Нечистая сила. Неведомая сила // Собрание сочинений [The Unclean Force, The Unknown Force, Collected Works]. pp. 79-80.
- 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.
- Barbara., Podgórska (2005). Wielka księga demonów polskich : leksykon i antologia demonologii ludowej. Podgórski, Adam. Katowice: Wydawn. KOS. ISBN 8389375400. OCLC 62151653.
- "Mythological Creatures | Leshy". History & Culture Academy of Latgale.
- Ivanits, Linda J. (1989) Russian Folk Belief. Routledge. p. 68 ISBN 0-873-32889-2
- 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
- Afanasyev, Alexander Nikolayevich. (1983) Древо жизни и лесные духи [The Tree of Life and Forest Spirits]. Sovremennik. Moscow.
- Afanasyev, Alexander Nikolayevich. (2008) Славянская мифология [Slavic Mythology]. Eksmo, Migard. Moscow. ISBN 978-5-699-27982-1
- 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
- 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