Leshy, Slavic Forest Guardian
Submitted by: swampy
“Watch out for the Leshy, for he is sly.
Is that he? That tree?
Or is that he? The wind in the tree?”
(Russian Folk tale)
In the Baltic and Slavic countries, there is a forest spirit or elf called a Leshy (the plural of which is Leshiye). The word ‘Leshy’ is derived from the old Slavonic word meaning “forest” – which is appropriate since the Leshy are the guardians of the forests. Leshy are also called Leszi in Polish; Leshii, Lychie or Leshy in Russian; or Laskowice in Old Slavic. These little guys protect wild animals and have an especially close relationship with the wolf. The Leshy are also seen as the guides and guardians of some domesticated creatures, like the reindeer.
The Leshy live in the dark pine forests of the Baltic countries, although some have recently made their way to other areas of the world. They are all shape-shifters and can make themselves small enough to hide under leaves. They also can change into ancient and tall trees, forest animals or even whirlwinds of blowing dust and leaves. Usually the Leshy remain in human form, but they are easily recognized due to their blue skin, a result of their blue blood. The Leshy have green hair and long green beards, plus have green eyes which they can easily pop out of their sockets. Some sources say that they have curling horns and the cloven hoofs of a goat. The Leshy wear their clothes backwards and wear their shoes on the wrong feet.
The Leshy can be cruel to those who abuse the forest or the wild creatures, or can be playfully malicious to those who just wander blindly into Leshy territory. It is often said that the Leshy is that which you can feel watching you in the woods, but never manage to see. That tingle up the spine and the raising of the hairs on the nap of the neck are sure signs of a Leshy being near-by. The Leshy’s most common activity is to cause travelers to become lost in the forest. In the winter a Leshy will brush away the footprints of travelers in the snow, so that they can not retrace their steps. During other times of the year they use magick to make every tree and landmark look the same. If you are out in the woods and have the misfortune to run into an unfriendly Leshy, the best way to thwart him is to wear your shoes on the wrong feet and your clothes backwards. This will confuse the Leshy who will not be able to tell which way you are going, and will therefore he will be unable to keep you from getting to your destination.