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The Leshy or Lesovik (plural leshiye) is a male woodland spirit in Slavic mythology who protects wild animals and forests. There are also leshachikha/leszachka (wives of the leshak) and leshonky (children of the leszy). He is roughly analogous to the Woodwose of Western Europe and the Basajaun of the Basque Country.
A Leshy usually appears as a tall man, but he is able to change his size from that of a blade of grass to a large tree. He has hair and a beard made from grass and vines, is usually missing a right ear and is sometimes depicted with a tail, hooves, and horns. He has pale skin that contrasts with his bright green eyes. A Leshy has a close bond with the gray wolf, and is often seen in the company of bears as well. He is the forest lord and carries a club to express that he is the master of the wood. He has blue blood, which makes his cheeks the flush blue. Legend describes him as having a red scarf and his left shoe on his right foot. He also has no shadow
Leshy protects the animals and birds in the forest and tells them when to migrate. He can shapeshift into many different forms. As a human, he looks like a peasant with glowing eyes, and his shoes are on backwards.
A person who befriends a Leshy can learn the secrets of magic. Farmers and shepherds would make pacts with the Leshy to protect their crops and sheep. The Leshy has many tricks, including leading peasants astray, making them sick, or tickling them to death. They are also known to hide the axes of woodcutters. A person gets lost in the woods when a Leshy crosses their path. To find the way out, you have to turn your clothes inside out and wear shoes on opposite feet.
Leshiye are terribly mischievous beings: they have horrible cries, and can imitate voices of people familiar to wanderers and lure them back to their caves, where the Leshies will tickle them to death; they also remove signs from their posts. Leshies aren't evil, although they enjoy misguiding humans and kidnapping young women, they are also known to keep grazing cattle from wandering too far into the forests and getting lost. Sometimes cow herders will make pacts with a Leshy by handing him their crosses from around their necks and sharing communion with him after Christian church gatherings; these pacts are said to give the cowherds special powers.
Sometimes more than one Leshy inhabits a forest, and then they will fight for their territory, knocking down trees and scaring animals.
A Leshy is a demon or spirit of the Dictionnaire Infernal. There he is a Slavic forest being, similar in nature to the Polevik sprites. He protects the birds, trees, and animals of the forest; he appears in the shape of a human with blue skin, two great horns, green hair, and a long green beard across his face, carrying a club or whip indicating his mastery of the forest. Should one ever encounter a Leshy, one must thwart him immediately by turning all one's clothes inside out and backwards, and placing one's shoes on the opposite feet.
Names in Slavic languages
- Borovoi (Russian: Боровой, Polish: Borowy) "[he] of the forest"
- Gayevoi (Russian: Гаевой, Polish: Gajowy) "[he] of the grove"
- Leshak (Russian: Леша́к, Serbian: Лешак, Croatian: Lešak)
- Leshy (Russian: Ле́ший, Belarusian: Лешы, Polish: Leszy, Czech: Leši, Serbian: Лешиј, Croatian: Lešij, Leši)
- Lesnik (Russian: Лесник, Polish: Leśnik, Bulgarian: Лесник, Serbian: Лесник, Croatian: Lesnik)
- Lesovik (Russian: Лесови́к, Belarusian: Лесавік, Ukrainian: Лісовик, Serbian: Лесовик, Croatian: Lesovik)
- Lesovoi (Russian: Лесово́й, Czech: Lesovij, Serbian: Лесовој, Croatian: Lesovoj)
- Lesun (Russian: Лесу́н, Belarusian: Лясун)
- Mezhsargs (Latvian: Mežsargs) "forester"
- Mishkinis (Lithuanian: Miškinis) "woodsman"
- Mishko velnias (Lithuanian: Miško velnias) "forest devil"
- Vir'ava (Erzya: Вирьава) "forest mother"
- Les chestnoi (Russian: Лес честной) "honorable one of the forest"
- Les pravedniy (Russian: Лес праведный) "righteous one of the forest"
- Lesnoi dedushka/ded or Dedushka-lesovoi (Russian: Лесной дедушка/дед, Дедушка-лесовой, Belarusian: Лясны дзед, Polish: Leśny dziad) "forest grandfather"
- Lesnoi dukh (Russian: Лесной дух) "forest spirit"
- Lesnoi dyadya (Russian: Лесной дядя) "forest uncle"
- Lesnoi khozyain (Russian: Лесной хозяин) "forest master"
- Lesnoi zhitel' (Russian: Лесной житель)"forest dweller" or "woodsman"
- Lesny muzhik (Czech: Lesní mužík, Slovak: Lesný mužík), "forest man"