The Leshy is a shape-shifting forest divinity
in traditional, pagan Slavonic mythology
. He is a strange creature, the very soul of the forest, with blue blood and a long, grassy beard, bushy eyebrows, and bulging green eyes. He can be taller than the tree-tops, or smaller than an ant, but either way he has no shadow. His shoes
were worn on the wrong feet and his coat was buttoned on backwards. A traveller in the vast forests could hear him shrieking, whistling, cackling, or singing somewhere in the distance through the trees.
The Leshy is a mischievious, jealous spirit (with a character that brings to mind the Native American tricksters such as Raven and Saynday). As one walks through the woods, he the crackle of leaves one hears just behind, and the presence one sometimes feels watching, from a small distance. He would lead travellers astray in the woods, making them circle around and around. Every tree begins to look the same, landmarks melt away. However, Leshy would almost always release them, especially if they put their shoes on the wrong feet, which is a sure way to break his enchantments. Sometimes, a good joke will persuade him to let you be. Still, the Leshy has a temper if someone crosses him, and will not hesitate to send the person into the dark forest to their death.
Many legends hold that he is the son of a demon and a mortal woman. The Leshy is linked to the forest's life, dying in the fall and returning that spring, angry and vicious. He has a wife, the Leshachikha, and children, the Leshonki, and they live together, making mischief in common.
Sources: New Larousse Encyclopedia of Mythology. New York: Hamlyn Puplishing Group, Ltd. 1974.
"Slavic Fairy Creatures" (http://www.slavjanskij.boom.ru/SlavicFairyCreatures.htm) vis. 2/8/04.
Obviously, there are many different incarnations, names, and stories of the Leshy. This node simply recounts some of the most common.
My screenames, Lesha and Leshachikha, are derived from the Leshy's female counterpart.