Domovoi – A Protective House Spirit From Slavic Mythology and Folklore

We bet you’d love to have one at home…

Frantisek_Krejci (CC0), Pixabay

Domovoi is a protective house spirit from the Slavic mythology. The word Domovoi comes from the Slavic word “dom”, which literally translates to “home”. Domovoi is especially protective of the children and the animals in the household. He shares both sorrow and joy of his family, and might even get in a fight with other Domovois to protect the wellbeing of his kin.

A tiny, male humanoid, Domovoi is usually depicted with a long gray beard, sometimes completely covered in hair. In some images, he even has a tail, tiny horns, and horse ears.  A common folk story is that he also likes to mimic the appearance of the house owner or takes the shape of a cat or a dog.

Domovoi the hidden little Spirit

But despite the detailed descriptions, Domovoi usually stays hidden. He enjoys dark corners of your home and particularly likes to reside near the stove. I think we can all relate to that, given the fact that nothing really compares to the smell of a homebaked bread in the oven.

Although you might be curious, don’t be overly anxious to actually meet your Domovoi. According to ancient Slavs, this is a clear warning of your approaching death. If he also snuffs out a candle or you hear some gruesome wails in the night, enjoy the time that you have left, because these are all surefire signs of a death in the near future.

But not all demonstrations of Domovoi’s existence are this morbid. He likes to reveal his presence through sounds of his daily movements, like footsteps or knocks. He might even move things around the house, sing, laugh or jump. He usually does these things to amuse himself, and it’s his way to say: “I’m happy to be here for your family”. All of these, including a warm touch of his furry hand, are signs of good fortune. Domovoi will guard your family and its wealth, but only if you are hard-working and respectful.

Domovoi like to be treated nice

If your family disrespected Domovoi in any way he will frighten you and make sure you have sleepless nights. So next time you hear a strange loud noise in the middle of the night, reconsider your recent actions because your little-bearded friend might not be satisfied. Also, if you get burned by hot water or steam, a discontented Domovoi will again take the blame. Even if you are brave enough to not believe in this house spirit this is still a great way to camouflage your clumsiness. But your Domovoi will only give you these signs of warning until he’s had enough. If your family continues with the bad behavior, Domovoi will pack his things and leave, leaving your family unprotected.

How to treat your Domovoi

However, this can be easily avoided, and we all know how talented Slavs are in quid pro quo relationships. Our ancestors would commonly offer gifts to their Domovoi, to be sure they’ll get his love and protection in return. They would hide some milk or bread near the stove to bribe their Domovoi to stay good and to show their respect towards him. Food isn’t the only treat you can offer Domovoi since, like many of us, he also enjoys some good quality tobacco. All these gifts were only natural to the families at the time, because if you take a good care of this creature, it will not only keep you wealthy and healthy but will also protect your house from floods, fire and lightning bolts.

If the household residents were going to be out of the house for some time, to go for a vacation or meet their relatives, they would sit in silence for a while before their departure. This was a respectful way to greet their Domovoi before they temporarily vacate the house. However, if they decided to move to a new house, the house-elder would always invite their Domovoi with them. This is only logical because no one wants an unexpected disaster in their new home. The Domovoi is transferred in a bast shoe or a slipper and would get a treat when he arrived in the new house. This is another good example of how paganism and religion interlaced with Slavic culture because, besides their house spirit, they would also invite a priest to give a blessing to their new home.

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