Comparative Mythology



Bards from Estonia told a really sad story about goddess Lindu, Uko’s daughter, King of the Sky. The same Lindu was a sovereign, better known as Queen of the Birds. She lived on Baltic seashores among her winged subjects. Every season she knew where the birds came from, furthermore she tried to make them keep their correct route while migrating through the skies.

Many suitors descended the skies to ask her hand in marriage. Lindu refused to get married with both Sun and Moon, because too much predictable: they followed the same route every day. She refused Pole Star, too, because a routinist in its behaviours: it never left its position in the sky.

Whereas, as soon as Lindu was wooed by Light of North, she was ravished by its beauty and splendour, thus she immediately fell in love. Light of North couldn’t tolerate daylight sunshine for so long, so it asked for Midnight Land as an engagement dowry and obtained it successfully. Then, it went away and promised it would come back for marriage. Indeed, Lindu happily started preparing herself for nuptials but Light of North revealed its inconstant nature and it never came back.

As days went by, Lindu became sadder and sadder and she cried so much that her wedding dress got fully wet by tears.

She started floating upon the skies, totally indifferent to flights of birds which were navigating all around her.

Uko gave a sight to the skies over his Palace and he felt a big sorrow for his daughter. Thus, he ordered the winds to carry her out of Earth and drive her to the skies in order to see her reign by his side.

When Lindu was brought there, her wedding veil was flying behind her and its trailing turned into millions of stars. Their lights formed the long nocturne path called Milky Way. Singers usually say that Lindu keeps on watching migrating birds. Sometimes, on winter noons, she takes a look at the Light of North: old sorrow has ceased by now and she wonders how she could love it.

THE LESHIYE Guardians of Russian Taiga

In ancient eras as well, few places were as mysterious as taiga, the forest of fir-trees, birches, pine-trees and poplars which take up a huge area in Asian Russia.

Taiga is a weird and dangerous realm. Here wolves, bears, lynxes, deers, elks and bucks circulate freely. As legends from villages commonly tell, every animal was ruled by the mysterious and bewitched People of Forests called also Leshiye (from the Russian word lios = wood).

Few human beings had a chance to see a Leshy and each of them usually provided a contradictory description of what they had seen.

Magic creatures living in these places had such a changeable aspect, very similar to sunshine on a leaf. They could easily camouflage with their surroundings.

A Leshy could be as tall and slim as an old tree, green and tentacled as tendrils which imprisoned it, or still it could be coloured like its trunk. He could also be as small as a harvest-mouse, passing unnoticed through the undergrowth, unless being pounded by an incidental visitor’s step. Yet he could appear as a whirl, with leaves dancing in its core. Among his powers, he could appear as an animal, a wolf, an owl, or still as an elderly fur-dressed man.

People say Leshy’s real aspect was human, with green beard and hair like ivy, a long and thin face, a bright cold look, small horns on its forehead and cloven goatish hooves.

In reality, these members of bewitched people were heard more than seen. They were able to produce all typical taiga sounds such as owl’s call, wind howling, rain tapping or the rustling of leaves when stirred by a breeze, yet echoes heard among secular trees.

Only the bravest men who attempted to walk though those secluded forestal depths, could recognise those harmless sounds and seductive calls.

Hunters, woodmen and coalmen knew they would be corrupted and forced to abandon their original path, coming up against big troubles, if they carefully listened to a Leshy call. Every single noise could disguise an obscure danger.

They used to say a Leshy was deceitful and adverse to mankind. That creature often lived on branches, sleeping like a baby in a cradle. Somebody heard him laugh, cry or sigh in his sleep. A Leshy acting in that way was also called Zuibotschnik, the name Russians gave to cradle.

Sometimes they lived in semi-abandoned huts, used by travellers as shelters. A human being who tried to get in huts inhabited by a Leshy was in fact condamned to be surrounded by howls, tickings and cries all night long.

At the height of his powers, a Leshy was a capricious and wild sovereign, as ambigue and complex as the same Taiga. On spring time, big creakings, wind howlings and sudden rain fallings resounded through the woods by Leshy fightings. Late in autumn, before taking an underground refuge, a Leshy had to cover himself by fur and all animals ran away from his destructive rage. On summer time, fortunately, his temper improved a lot: sometimes he put path-signs back in their places, then he helped wayfarers pretending to be one of them, or he was able to drive a lost child back to his village. Some other times, on the contrary, he amused himself by carrying a traveller to the wrong track and leaving him in the middle of marshes as well as on the edge of fearful precipices.

Now pleasant then terrorizing, a Leshy laugh was able to get over forest borders.

Sad stories are told about women drawn into the woods by enchanting voices and then raped by Leshiye having the appearance of goats.

Sometimes travellers were terrorized to death by those creatures. Leshiye screamed loud, whipped men’s faces with branches or they tortured them till they got totally crazy and they breathed their last. Whoever tried to walk through the wood, he exposed himself to a big risk. Therefore, somebody tried to get into Leshiye’s good graces by several offerings: shepherds used to kill a cow and leave its body on the grass as an offering to Leshiye, before venturing through pastures with their herds. Whereas, hunters used to leave bread and salt as a promise of eternal friendship. Bread was a symbol of life, and salt, with its preserving properties, meant eternity.

Russian Leshiye were only a small portion of the numberless bewitched creatures living in wild earthly places

When Celtic Tuata Dè Danan left our world and reappeared by chance getting smaller and smaller, anyhow the ancient power of nature remained strong...

Spirits, Elves and Nymphs Guardians of fields, woods and orchards

In the boundless fields of Russia lived a spirit called Polevik. Few people could see him walking through the crops because he was so cunning and he could change his height rapidly. In springtime he grew together with the ears of wheat, whereas he used to lessen after corn-pickings till he was hidden among the stubbles.

Lazy-bones people, being hidden among the ears to avoid labours, knew him well: he used to wander through the fields with a pony who kicked out whoever refused to do his duty.

In Germany the Kornböcke named spirits watched over corn fields and made them mature. As elusive as Poleviks, they managed the hot winds which made ears ripen, hiding themselves and looking like bluebottles, or they rushed and plundered the crops, having the appearance of unchecked goats. It’s not so clear if those spirits have ever tried to help peasants do their jobs or if they just protected fields and orchards which had become their abodes.

Well known by English people who gave them nicknames like Dick or Peg Butter-maker, fairies of England lived in hazel groves and used to inflict dreadful pains and cramps to those who picked their nuts in a bad way. Probably they got crossed more by the pain inflicted to the trees than by the actual theft.
Anyhow, other tales from Great Britain show that such bewitched creatures undoubtely made friends with men, on condition that men would behave correctly giving some help in this way.
Among the sweet hills of Dorset, they say that a wild young elf used to wander through the orchards looking like colts and being unnoticed by lawful owners. While, he was familiar to the thieves who dared to slip into the orchard and who were immediately paralyzed by his eyes, as green as an apple…

A legend narrates about a widow who supported herself by selling fruits from two small orchards, which were really esteemed on the market. She was an old woman with arthritis making her bones aching and keeping her from picking the highest apples on a tree.
A wicked neighbour , who knew some black magic formulas, decided to plunder one of the orchards. Thinking to be unnoticed by the paralyzing guardian elf, the suspicious man hid himself in a huge apple-wood nest and he acted some few formulas to go down the village, forward the orchard. The nest first got invisible then it materialized all over again in the middle of the orchard. The thief pronunced another magic formula till the apples came off the branches and fell into the nest violently. Were perhaps his formulas wrong? Damning his not so shrewd plan, the thief tried to ward off the fruits but he was hit strongly by an apple on the left eye. Thus, he started cursing and he jumped quickly out of the nest but, we say, in that way he fell out of the frying-pan into the fire! : actually the bewitched colt was waiting for him until it started biting and kicking him out, then staring at him with its paralyzing green look.
The day after, the old woman walked through the orchard and saw the thief lying down , bited all over his body and aching a lot. No tracks were left by the colt, though.
In reality, the thief clearly knew what he would have gone towards if he had tried to plunder an orchard, because the magic colt was well known in the country, furthermore people knew orchards had been the houses of such bewitched creatures since the remotest eras.
Woods of Ancient Greece, for instance, were inhabited by a multitude of nymphs. Some used to dance in lonely woods and they were known with the name Dryads, from the greek word drus which means tree. While, Hamadryads were an integrating part of a small kind of tree: their body melted with the trunk and if somebody cut the plant down, the magic creatures died also.
The nymphs and their offspring had lived in European forests for ages. In Germany wood-elves lived inside trees using holes in the trunks as thresholds to their abodes. Many trees gave hospitality to Hamadryads, whose life was linked to the trunk and to the leaves.
Czeck people, for example, tell a story about a fairy living on a willow-tree. She used to walk through men’s places in the sunshine while at night she came back to her tree. She got married with a man. She gave him a baby and they lived all together happily till, one bad day, a group of woodsmen cut down her tree and she died immediately. Her grieved husband made up a magical cradle with her wood, a cradle having the power of lulling their magic baby.
Among the trees determining a boundary, rounding a village or shading a church-square, nobody has ever known which one was inhabited by a bewitched creature. In that age it was necessary to keep old trees away as they had been warped by age or illness, or still they had been ruined by storms: that’s why they were full of holes and they could shelter magical spirits.
Such trees, indeed, were strictly connected to the supernatural world. Somebody thought english oaks growing in bushes had developed from very old roots which were the abodes of some kind of dwarfs, hostile to intruders. The presence of bell-flowers among those bushes was a clear evidence of dwarfs living in that place, therefore men had to pay attention.
Elder-trees usually sheltered a guardian spirit known in both England and Denmark with the name Mother Elder. This creature was so powerful and protective towards her properties that peasants never forgot to ask permission before picking her berries. What is more, as men had to cut trees down in order to clean a field, elder-trees were spared at their places and flower-beds were preserved all around to protect them. Whoever cut an elder-tree was fated to spend a life between misfortunes and diseases. The penalty could be even worst.


Comparing with other Cultures