The Domovoi, or How I Invited a Tiny Hairy Old Man into My House
Article By: Sergey Poberezhny
I recall in my Junior year of college, I had the delightful pleasure (thought this class was going to be an easy A) of taking a course on Russian folklore. What was interesting was that this was the same time that I really started to invest my time with the Paranormal Research Society, and suddenly there was a cultural crossover. The one creature that I remembered learning about was the Domovoi, or house spirit. “Dom” itself translates to house in Russian.
Often the spirit found residence within the house, near the stove, under the entrance, or in the attic. The Domovoi can take many shapes, but he tended to appear as a small hairy man. Sometimes he would take shape of either a current or former owner of the house. Reports would include neighbors seeing a farmer tending to his horses when, as it turned out, he was actually away. It seems however, that as descriptive as the sightings were, he preferred to remain invisible and would make his presence known through bangs and knocks.
An interesting relationship between spirit and man slowly developed. If the household was clean and kept properly, and if no one in the family misbehaved, then the Domovoi would help the family out in numerous ways. This could include anything from helping you find your keys to feeding the animals on the farm. He would even be able to act as an oracle and predict the future. Furthermore, offerings of milk and bread would sometimes be made, which is similar to a pagan belief system. Of course this should come as no surprise, as long before the spread of Christianity and well after, many peasants continued to hold on to their belief of the Domovoi
Now, when the mood of the Domovoi changes, it suddenly takes on the likes of a poltergeist. Banging pots and slamming doors throughout the night are just a start before it turns downright nasty. Stories of households getting choked at night, as well as mistreatment of animals, can follow if the spirit is not appeased. Luckily, a small offering could easily do that. Sometimes no offering would do, especially if he saw a member of the house breaking a sacred rule. One story recounts the tale of woman who broke the rule of going outside without a scarf covering her head. The Domovoi grabbed her by the hair and dragged her back to the house as punishment.
Enter present day. Tales of the Domovoi have slowly slipped out of existence, in a way killing the spirit of the house. I recall one night as I was getting ready to go to bed, I started to shut down any unnecessary electronics when something odd happened. Whether it was my imagination or not, I could have sworn the stove top where I brewed hot water for my tea turned off. Sometimes as the pipes bang and knock, I wonder, is that the Domovoi trying to talk, or just a silly fairytale.