Domovoi

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Domovoi
Domovoi.jpg

An illustration by Ivan Bilibin, 1934.
GroupingFairy
Spirit
Relict hominid[1]
First reportedIn folklore
CountrySlavic Europe
HabitatHouses
 
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Domovoi
Domovoi.jpg

An illustration by Ivan Bilibin, 1934.
GroupingFairy
Spirit
Relict hominid[1]
First reportedIn folklore
CountrySlavic Europe
HabitatHouses

A domovoi or domovoy (Russian: домово́й, IPA: [dəmɐˈvoj]; literally, "[he] from the house") is a house spirit in Slavic folklore. The plural form in Russian can be transliterated domoviye or domovye (with accent on the vowel after the v).

Domovye are masculine, typically small, bearded, and sometimes covered in hair all over. According to some traditions, domovye take on the appearance of current or former owners of the house and have a grey beard, sometimes with tails or little horns. There are tales of neighbours seeing the master of the house out in the yard while in fact the real master is asleep in bed. It has also been said that domovye can take on the appearance of cats or dogs, but reports of this are fewer than of that mentioned before.[2] Other stories either give them completely monstrous appearance, or none at all.

The actions performed by a domovoi vaguely resemble (but are not limited to) those of poltergeists and are not necessarily harmful.

In the course of the 20th century, there have been notable reported sightings of domovye in Russia, many of which were purportedly "caught on tape".

It is believed that saying the word "master" in front of a domovoy who shows itself to the person is a sign of praise to the creature and a proper way to address it, even for the family head.

The Russian word barabashka (Russian: бараба́шка; "knocker, pounder") is a pejorative term sometimes used to describe domovye, although in this case its connotation purely corresponds to poltergeist activity.

Folklore[edit]

Traditionally, every house is said to have its domovoi. It does not do evil unless angered by a family’s poor keep of the household, profane language or neglect. The domovoi is seen as the home's guardian, and he sometimes helps with household chores and field work. Some even treat them as part of the family, albeit an unseen one, and leave them gifts like milk and biscuits in the kitchen overnight. To attract a Domovoi, you would go outside of your house wearing your best clothing and say aloud "Grandfather Dobrokhot, please come into my house and tend the flocks." To rid yourself of a rival Domovoi, you would beat your walls with a broom, shouting "Grandfather Domovoi, help me chase away this intruder." When moving, some might make an offering to the Domovoi and say "Domovoi! Domovoi! Don't stay here but come with our family!"

It is said the favorite place for these spirits to live is either the threshold under the door or under the stove. The center of the house is also said to be their domain. The Domovoi maintains peace and order, and rewards a well-maintained household. Some peasants feed him nightly in return for protection of their house. When a new house was built, the Polish homeowner would attract one of the domovye by placing a piece of bread down before the stove was put in, and the Russian one would coerce the old house's domovoi to move with the family by offering a bast shoe or an old boot as a hiding place. People made sure they only kept animals the domovoi liked, as he would torment the ones he did not. Salted bread wrapped in a white cloth would appease this spirit, and putting clean white linen in his room was an invitation to eat a meal with the family. Hanging old boots in the yard was another way to cheer him.

Domovoi Peeping at the Sleeping Merchant Wife, by Boris Kustodiev.

The domovoi was also an oracle, as his behavior could foretell or forewarn about the future. He would pull hair to warn a woman of danger from an abusive man. He would moan and howl to warn of coming trouble. If he showed himself, it forewarned of death, and if he was weeping it was said to be a death in the family. If he was laughing, good times could be expected, and if he strummed a comb there would be a wedding in the future.

The domovoi does have a more malicious side. Although one's own domovoi could be considered an ally, the domovoi from a neighboring household brought no happiness. Russian folklore says that a domovoi could harass horses in the stable overnight, as well as steal the grain of a neighbour to feed his own horses. Still, domoviye could befriend one another and were said to gather together for loud winter parties.

Tradition says if a domovoi becomes unhappy, it plays nasty tricks on the members of the household. Those include moving and rattling small objects, breaking dishes, leaving muddy little footprints, causing the walls of a house to creak, banging on pots and moaning. If the family can determine the cause of their domovoi's discontent, they can rectify the situation and return things to normal. If not, the spirit's tricks may escalate in intensity, coming to more closely resemble those of a poltergeist (cf. tomte), or he may threaten to stifle people in their beds (this myth is likely to be based on sleep paralysis). More often than not, however, families live in harmony with the spirits, and no problems arise.

It is also said that Domovoi like to make the sound, "He! He! He!, Ho! Ho!, Ho!" when they are excited or happy.

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Popular culture[edit]

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