Domovoi, domovoy, domachi, domovoj, domovik, dedek(grandfather)—All names for a particular type of house spirit.
Think brownies. Very hirsute, macho brownies, ones that beat the hell out of anything looking for trouble on your property. And I mean the Scots brownies, not the delicious type. I’m talking specifically of Slavic domovoi here today; tomte, brownies, zashiki-warashi, hob, and any others will be focused on in later posts. Also the domovoi’s wife, the kikimora won’t be covered here. One house spirit at a time, folklorists.
Home Is Where The Hearth Is (Ancestral Origins)
Domovoi live under the hearth, or under the entrance, of a home. Wherever the heart of the home is, that’s where the little guys watch from. Usually under the hearth, or in later years stove. They were a form of ancestor worship, being that many believed they were the original start of the family line, or farm.
Sharp Dressed Little Man (Description)
Look of domovoi vary, generally they are small, hairy, and have a deep hollow voice. Sometimes they even wear clothes, small blue suits or traditional garb. Most always described with heavy beards, and often with yellow hair. They can take on the appearance of the master of the house, in hairy mini-me format.
Shapeshifting is another ability attributed to them, turning into dogs or cats. Also they can turn invisible at will and more often heard than seen.
Master of the Home (A Good Side)
So what does a domovoi do? Like most household spirits, he generally watches over the place. Ensures the family is in good care, help your daughters find good suitors, do a bit of housework, and beat the effing tar out of interloping creatures who’d otherwise cause their share of troubles. True defenders of the home, they’d keep pests at bay and ward away famine. When in a good mood…
Master of Mayhem (And a Bad One)
When things aren’t so good, the domovoi tends to take it personal. He’s not outright violent (normally), although he will pinch, and pull hair. They generally just knock about the place, make odd noises, and annoy people. If one moves house without inviting the domovoi, the new tenants will find a pissed off house spirit waiting. The old domovoi will fight it with the new one, and this will last until the old tenants return for their forgotten spirit.
If one continue to disrespect the domovoi, his behavior will escalate to smashing your stuff, moving it around and finally suffocation. Apparently not to death, more like a sleep paralysis torture to guarantee he gets his point across.
A Little Gift and a Little Elbow Grease (Defenses)
So unless you want to get choked out by a hairy guy in your sleep (I’m not judging), generally just treat the home with respect. Keep it clean, avoid profane language, be respectful, don’t mention the domovoi at night, and give him a few gifts. Offerings of food and other small gifts can appease the domovoi, improving his mood and ensuing he doesn’t start suffocating you.
Oracle (Special Effects)
Besides being great at keeping the house not haunted—by anything else, I guess—and strangling people who leave the kitchen messy, the domovoi was a household fortune telling machine. He could offer advice or warnings to those in his good graces. When the domovoi sings, dances, or laughs, good things come for the family. When he puts out candles, wails at night, or makes himself visible it’s death on the way for a member of the family.
Alternatively, if a domovoi touches you and: warm palm = good fortune, cold palm = bad fortune. Easy enough.
In modern times the domovoi is sometimes demonized. Despite their minor bad rep, many still believe in and respect the creature. Wooden or cloth idols of domovoi are popular and there was a weird kids movie many consider the Russian Totoro.
His role is changed a little and he’s moved with his people, becoming a city domovoi and a denizen of the new world. Maybe there isn’t much room in modern life for old beliefs or tiny superstitions, but seeing the little ways a people’s folklore evolves is brilliant, isn’t it?
Thanks for reading. I miss anything about the domovoi? Got a bit of folklore you’d like my take on? Just enjoyed reading? Let me know in the comments and have a great day.