Mommy’s Little helper: The Domovoi

by Rebecca

Want a little help around the house?  Why not try attracting one of these little guys?  The worst that could happen is only death!  Seriously, this month we are discussing the Domovoi, the helpful little house spirits found primarily in Slavic folklore.

The Domovoi are house spirits.  They are viewed as protectors of the home and sometimes even help with chores (ala the shoemaker’s elves).  The Russians acknowledge its guardian aspect so much that they call their Domovoi “Grandfather” behind its back.

Domovoi are rarely seen.  Most often when seen they are mistaken as a family pet skittering from one spot to another.  Some stories speak of the Domovoi as a shapeshifter that can change its appearance to mimic that of the master of the house.  Frequently in Russian folktales they are described as elderly men with beards, the Slavic tradition has them as small friendly old men sometimes covered in hair, and most impressively the Polish say they resemble the male head of family living or dead.

The favorite place for these guys to live is either the threshold under the door or under the stove.  When a new house is constructed, homeowners can attract Domovoi by placing a piece of bread down before the stove is put in.

So, you have a Domovoi…now what?  Proper respect must be paid to your little household helper.  They enjoy salted bread wrapped in white cloth (sodium and carbs, they’re smart little guys), laying out white linen to invite him to eat with the family, and old shoes in the yard are all things that help keep your new friend happy.  In addition, great care should be taken when choosing live stock or household pets.  Animals they like they treat with great care (traditionally caring for livestock) but if they take a dislike to any animal they will take great glee in tormenting the animal.

A properly run house keeps your Domovoi happy, which is good because the Domovoi can act as an oracle for your home and family.  If your Domovoi is playing music on a comb there very well could be a wedding in the near future.  A warm friendly touch always signals good fortune.  If he shows himself, it’s a warning of death, and if he is weeping then it will be a death in the family.  A cold touch at night from him might be a warning of your own impending death.

Now before you go, these guys are great why wouldn’t every home want to attract one keep this Russian folktale in mind:

The Domovoi are well known for braiding the manes of horses.  Well one Domovoi took to braiding a maiden’s hair each night.  Her hair always looked lovely despite the fact that she didn’t even own a comb!  He told her to never unbraid her hair and to never get married.  However, like all lovely maiden’s of folklore she decided to marry and to comb out her long hair.  On the morning of her wedding the bride was found dead.

Although helpful bear in mind that Domovoi are known to cause death in those they feel have wronged them by choking them with their hands or sitting on their chest until they suffocate.  No wonder why some tales speak of the Domovoi as if they are fallen angels!

Holy crap!  I have a Domovoi but now that I have read that I don’t want him!  What do I do?  Well my friend, you may be stuck.  You are better off seeking his goodwill and protection but you can try to disarm him with offerings of kasha, juniper, and tobacco.  If you have one and are moving, do the next guy a favor and formally invite your Domovoi to move with you and your family.  If you do not he will avenge himself on the departed family as well as the new one.

Overall Domovoi are pretty good guys to have around.  They are helpful members of the household, just be sure to treat them as such or else…