Sorry I missed so many days of valuable terrible stories time. I’ve been dog sick with yet another disease my children brought home from that little petri dish called school. So I had to take a few days to hack up a lung. But now I’m back and better than ever. Or, I’m back anyway.
Today, I thought we’d do Russian scary stories. I’ve always had an affinity for all things Russian. Why I don’t know. I have no Russian in my family history, I don’t speak Russian and I’ve never been to Russia. But if I was a man, I’d totally buy me a Russian bride. Not really, I just wanted to see if you were paying attention. Because if I did buy a Russian bride she might be a Rusalka. Or just really bad tempered. Because you really shouldn’t marry people you’ve never met.
When I was in high school I encountered the legend of the Rusalka for the first time in the book of the same name by CJ Cherryh. I loved that book and the following stories. And thus began my fascination with Rusalkas.
Rusalkas are a Russian ghost, if you haven’t picked that up yet. But she isn’t just any ghost. The Rusalka is the ghost of a maiden who has drowned. Most stories make her out to be the victim of spurned love affair and often a suicide by drowning. Because, really, what good is a story if you can’t put a spurned love affair in there somewhere.
A Rusalka can also be the spirit of an unbaptised infant, which puts a rather depressing spin on it but makes the behavior of a typical Rusalka kind of nonsensical. For a baby anyway. Usually a Rusalka will take the form of a beautiful young woman with a pallid face wearing a long flowing white gown. Which begs the question do all Rusalka look the same? Is it the same beautiful young woman with a pallid face?
Or sometimes they take the form of a mermaid who can walk on land. Although I’m not certain what distinguishes them as a mermaid but I do have a lovely image of someone with fins shuffling their way along a trail looking for a man to drown.
The Rusalka goes around finding dudes wandering around at night and lures them into a river and into a beautiful underwater castle, where they drown. Really, I think there’s a story in here about how a man will follow a beautiful pallid faced, flowing gown wearing mermaid girl anywhere. Let this be a lesson to you.
They will also drown children. And then all the victims are forced to join the Rusalka in their underwater dances. I guess I could think of a worse afterlife but imagine the surprise if you followed some sweet, innocent grandmother into a barn where she killed you suddenly and then made you spend eternity square dancing with her.
There is a story though of a peasant who managed to trap a Rusalka by tricking it into a magic circle and holding a cross over it. Then he kept it and made it do chores for him until it escaped. But I’m a little fuzzy on how he kept it from escaping at all. How many chores could it do trapped in a magic circle?
Until the 1930’s many Russians observed Rusalka Week, the first week in June. During this week, the Rusalka was considered especially powerful, and no one dared go swimming. At the end of the week, the rusalka was driven away with the sign of the cross, garlic, incense, magic charms, and special songs. Then the river was considered safe again.
Incidentally, the first week of June is also National Fishing Week here in America. There’s some sort of irony there, I just know it.
There’s also the Domovoy who is a house spirit. It guards the family and their possessions and often presents itself as a hairy little man. I don’t know about you but I’m getting shades of Dobby here. Nice families leave things like milk and bread out for their Domovoy. Really considerate ones will give Dobby a sock.
Orthodox Russian Christian belief holds that there is a 40-day period after death in which the soul stays near its earthly home. During the first few days of this period, in very rare cases, the dead might revive but not as a normal human. These revived corpses would become monsters harassing the living, or vampires who devoured humans and livestock.
Now, it’s more commonly believed that ghosts will visit you in a dream and not so much in a river inexplicably deep enough to house a beautiful underwater castle. However, on the plus side, there’s dancing. And who doesn’t love dancing?