Slavic Folklore: Lesnik – Leshy

By | November 11, 2017

Lesnik (Leshy) is a Slavic forest spirit similar to Greek satyrs. He is loud, friendly towards shepherds, and depicted as either a humanoid with horns and hoofs or as an old man.

Slavic peoples of the pre-Christian era were deeply connected with the nature. The belief that the nature is inhabited by spirits and demons was so strong that traces of those beliefs are still present nowadays. All scientists dealing with Slavic mythology agree that the forest had an important role in Slavic folklore (as elsewhere).

Similarly to Germanic beliefs, groves were extremely important in Slavic folklore, as they were believed to be inhabited by spirits, demons, and ancestral souls. Many Slavic peoples still practice planting a tree next to a grave. This habit has roots in the belief that ancestral souls live within the tree.

One of the best known Slavic forest spirits is Lesnik (South Slavs) or Leshy (East and West Slavs). The term stems from the old Slavic word les (forest).

Southern Slavic Koleda processions included masked people called Lesnici (plural form of Lesnik). There were usually two of them, and they would wear sheep skins with fleece facing outwards. They wore masks depicting a horned animal. These people’s role in the procession was to make noise. They were also to make sexual insinuations towards Snashka (Snashka is a man dressed as a woman during the Koleda procession).

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