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Domovoi – the spirit who guards the household & likes milk and tobacco

Tijana Radeska
Domovoi
Domovoi

The matryoshka is not the only souvenir you can buy in Russia. There is also the “domovoi” or “domovoy” doll which represents a spirit that would guard your home.

The Domovye is masculine, small, bearded creature and sometimes it is all covered in hair. Domovye might represent the current or the former owner of the house, and it is archetypically imagined with a gray beard and sometimes a tail or little horns.

An illustration by Ivan Bilibin, 1934

An illustration by Ivan Bilibin, 1934

The concept originates from the pre-Christian cult of ancestors – the domovoi might also be called dedko or dedushka, which means grandfather.

According to the tales, sometimes neighbors might see the master of the house while in fact, the real master was asleep in bed. However, it is more common to hear the domovoi than to see it.

An illustration by Ivan Bilibin, 1934

An illustration by Ivan Bilibin, 1934

The domovoi lives either in the stove, under the threshold, in the cattle shed, or in the stables. If the family takes good care of it, the domovoi will regard them by keeping the peace and order in the household. To keep him happy, the family should leave him gifts such as bread, salt, milk, porridge, and tobacco.

If there is disharmony in the family, abuse or disrespect towards the domovoi, he might get disturbed and even though he is never harmful, he can get angry. When the domovoi is acting angry people call him barbashka which means “knocker, pounder.”

Domovoi. Photo credit

Domovoi. Photo credit

Sometimes, when he is not happy, and the family is not preventing his anger, he might abandon them. In the past, it was a serious disaster for the household if the domovoi abandoned it because he was perceived as crucial for the well-being of the family.

In Latvia, people believe that the domovoi might pinch them in their sleep. If they don’t feel any pain, then there isn’t much meaning attributed to the event. But if they do, it is a sign that the domovoi wants the family to leave the house.

The domovoi is also respected as a being which can foretell or forewarn about the future of the family members. He can also be very content and happy, and he expresses his satisfaction by singing, dancing, and laughing.

But sometimes he might cry in the evening, put out a candle, or to make himself visible. If any of this happens, it means that someone in the family is going to die.

Domovoi doll

Domovoi doll

The domovoi is part of the Slavic folklore, and as such today there are a lot of different material representations of it, especially in Russia.

Now here’s another story from us: Julia Pastrana: “Ape Woman” or “Bear Woman” who was mummified by her husband

So if anyone travels to Russia, they should buy themselves a domovoi to bring them good fortune and keep the order and happiness in their household.