With this latest installment in the Nightmare Fuel series, we present a curious female monster-spirit positioned somewhere between guardian and antagonist: the Kikimora.
In some tales, a Kikimora seems to overlap in function with the (largely benevolent) Domovoi as an aide to the smooth running of the household. She assists with the housework and taking care of the poultry, provided that the human occupants also pull their weight. She can mimic the sounds of mice, seemingly in an effort to acquire food. Though why a supernatural entity would need food (as we know it) is unclear, as is the rationale behind creating mouse sound effects in order to obtain it (perhaps as a cover for late night food hunts?).
As with the Domovoi; things go decidedly downhill when household standards fall. They can be placated by washing the pots and pans in fern tea; apparently a sweet and aromatic brew.
To show her irritation in the face of such slovenly behaviour, she antagonises the children of the house by whistling and whining at them during the night, even resorting to tickling them for added irritation. She may also break the crockery or create more audible disturbances to generally unsettle the home’s occupants. Such behaviour seems confined to harassment and ‘nagging’ rather than overt destruction – with one crucial exception, should anyone be unlucky enough to witness her directly whilst at her favourite occupation: spinning thread (a major pursuit amongst these supernatural interlopers).
Such an unfortunate is said to die soon after, though whether this is a direct result of viewing the spirit or that the Kikimora is a mere omen of the impending event is unclear. Is seeing a non-spinning Kikimora therefore “safe”? Who knows?
Other antisocial pursuits can encompass entering a sleeper’s room via the keyhole and either perching on his/her chest whilst attempting to strangle them, or manifesting to inflame a male with nocturnal lust whilst feeding upon his life force. Such occurances neatly cover our Western understanding of “Sleep Paralysis” and “Entity Attacks” respectively.
At any rate, visual representations of the entities depict a thin, boney, long-haired female form with features that are a hybrid of both human and animal. She is slightly hunched and dressed in Babushka-style shawl, head-scarf and dress, against which her animalistic characteristics contrast markedly.
Protruding from her headscarf or flowing hair is a pointed nose or swine-like snout. Some descriptions veer more towards the human, others toward the animal – we’ll come to “why?” shortly.
Descriptions also furnish a Kikimora with pointed elfin or equine ears, and optional, bestial horns. The bird-legs and feet protruding from under the lengthy skirt are not in doubt however and seem to be a constant unsettling feature.
The divisive issue seems to be that there are two species of Kikimora. One (presumably the more humanoid) is said to originate from the forest and be married to the house’s resident Domovoi. She has therefore ‘moved in’ with her husband, though dwells in the cellar or behind the family stove.
The other Kikimora is originally a swamp-dweller, married to one of the woodland Leshy; her origins betrayed by her wet footprints left throughout the house. Whether the former is largely good and the latter bad is not overtly clear, perhaps good and bad exist in both?
However, if disgruntled builders wish to bring harm onto a house’s subsequent owners, they may magically invite or install a Kikimora to visit the aforementioned terrors and inconveniences upon the frightened residents. Such incumbent spirits are apparently hard to evict – regardless of their origins.
Naturally enough, alongside descriptions of their nature and behaviour lie remedies and means to combat their activities. These include saying a prayer or special verse, looking to the window rather than at the manifestation, turning the pillow and tracing upon it the sign of the cross, leaving a belt on the bed covers or a broom upturned behind the bedroom door, and possibly other rituals depending upon the region in which they are encountered. Kikimora, you see, are found not only in Russia but widely across the countries and cultures of Eastern Europe, where their nature varies somewhat depending upon whom you ask. Coming soon to a bedroom near you?