She Brings Bad News: The Scary Slavic Household Spirit Called Kikimora

She Brings Bad News: The Scary Slavic Household Spirit Called Kikimora

(Read the article on one page)

Some spirits are thought to be dangerous even by people who don't necessarily believe in them. One of the scariest creatures in world mythologies is the spirit from the Slavic culture known as Kikimora.

In literature, she is also known as sziszimora or szyszymora. The meaning of her name may come from the Finnish language, where “kikke mörkö” means scarecrow. No matter what the roots of the word are, it is used for a being without a body, a nightmare, or a scary spirit which disturbs people at night. Kikimora is a creature which settles in a house and doesn't want to leave - making the lives of people who live there unbearable.

Kikimora is usually blamed for sleep paralysis, nightmares, and anything bad which happens to food at night. She was well-known in the territory of Ruś, but is also known in several Slavic countries. Her story also spread to many other countries. Her appearance is usually associated with bad news.

‘The Nightmare’ (1781) by Henry Fuseli.

‘The Nightmare’ (1781) by Henry Fuseli. ( Public Domain )

In most legends she is a messenger of bad tidings, but there are some stories which shed a positive light on the spirit. Her name is also related to the sound of the spindle she was said to use - a scary sound, which was a prophecy for a bad or tragic situation.

Beware the Bad Spirit!

She was usually said to grow from a dead fetus or stillborn baby. Sometimes the spirit could come from the body of woman who died during childbirth. In this case, it could have the face of dead woman or her mother, grandmother, etc.

Illustration of a scary Kikimora.

Illustration of a scary Kikimora. ( Musical Musings )

Kikimora is still known as “mora” in the Polish countryside. The same word is used in Croatian, and it means the same thing – a nightmare. In Serbia, Kikimora is called “mora” or “noćnink” (which sounds very similar to the Polish word ''nocnik'' meaning ''chamber pot'' – which isn't related to the meaning of the Serbian word). In the region of Poland called Kashuby (and in the Slovak language) Kikimora is known as mora too.

In most of these languages a form of “mara” also exists - which is related to a more attractive form of Kikimora. Sometimes she appeared as a young woman who was incredibly beautiful. She was believed to visit men in their dreams to torture them with desires and destroy their relationships with real women. She would enter the dreams of women too – in their dreams she showed them images to make them jealous and suspicious that their men preferred other women. Even today, when people in Slavic countries wake up due to a nightmare they say bad words to the mora or mara who apparently caused their unpleasant dreams.

Drawing of Kikimora (1934) By Ivan Yakovlevich Bilibin.

Drawing of Kikimora (1934) By Ivan Yakovlevich Bilibin. ( Public Domain )

It is believed that Kikimora travels at night between rooms using a keyhole, so some people try to close doors carefully and put keys or pieces of paper in the holes. Nobody should look Kikimora in the eyes, so children were always taught to look at their pillows or windows if they thought she was in their rooms. If they heard Kikimora, they were told to never look at doors, chests, wardrobes, etc. because those are places where she was said to like to hide.

A Good Role for Kikimora

Polish folklore also knows Domowicha - who is a protective spirit. However, sometimes Kikimora seems to connect bad and good sides. Domowicha could also have a face of a deceased member of the family, but in this case she appears as a spirit who helps those who are alive. It seems that Domowicha is the bright side of Kikimora.

In is important to understand that the role spirits play in folklore was created with human imagination.  It is possible that the legend of Kikimora and Domowicha grew from spiritual experiences people had, but the interpretation of those events was still created by the human mind.

A representation of Kikimora covered in yarn.

A representation of Kikimora covered in yarn. ( rusosmundo)

A Russian understanding of two Kikimoras is a little bit different. One Kikimora is known as a forest spirit and her husband is Domovoi. The second Kikimora is from the swamp and is Leshy’s wife. The second one leaves wet footprints on the floor of any house she visits. According to the Russian beliefs, if a person who ordered the building of a house was nasty to the builders, they could invite Kikimora to the new house. With such an invitation, it would be very difficult to get rid of her later.

Register to become part of our active community, get updates, receive a monthly newsletter, and enjoy the benefits and rewards of our member point system OR just post your comment below as a Guest.

Top New Stories

Smuts house
The farmstead of General Jan Smuts on the outskirts of Pretoria, is reputed to be one of the most haunted private homes in the country, according to Mr Mark Rose-Christie, raconteur and social scientist, who regularly takes brave visitors on a tour of haunted sites on his mystery ghost bus.

Human Origins

Map of sites and postulated migratory pathways associated with modern humans dispersing across Asia during the Late Pleistocene.
Most people are now familiar with the traditional "Out of Africa" model: modern humans evolved in Africa and then dispersed across Asia and reached Australia in a single wave about 60,000 years ago. However, technological advances in DNA analysis and other fossil identification techniques, as well as an emphasis on multidisciplinary research

Ancient Technology

The School of Athens
Much of modern science was known in ancient times. Robots and computers were a reality long before the 1940´s. The early Bronze Age inhabitants of the Levant used computers in stone, the Greeks in the 2nd century BC invented an analogue computer known as the Antikythera mechanism. An ancient Hindu book gives detailed instructions for the construction of an aircraft –ages before the Wright brothers. Where did such knowledge come from?

Our Mission

At Ancient Origins, we believe that one of the most important fields of knowledge we can pursue as human beings is our beginnings. And while some people may seem content with the story as it stands, our view is that there exists countless mysteries, scientific anomalies and surprising artifacts that have yet to be discovered and explained.

The goal of Ancient Origins is to highlight recent archaeological discoveries, peer-reviewed academic research and evidence, as well as offering alternative viewpoints and explanations of science, archaeology, mythology, religion and history around the globe.

We’re the only Pop Archaeology site combining scientific research with out-of-the-box perspectives.

By bringing together top experts and authors, this archaeology website explores lost civilizations, examines sacred writings, tours ancient places, investigates ancient discoveries and questions mysterious happenings. Our open community is dedicated to digging into the origins of our species on planet earth, and question wherever the discoveries might take us. We seek to retell the story of our beginnings. 

Ancient Image Galleries

View from the Castle Gate (Burgtor). (Public Domain)
Door surrounded by roots of Tetrameles nudiflora in the Khmer temple of Ta Phrom, Angkor temple complex, located today in Cambodia. (CC BY-SA 3.0)
Cable car in the Xihai (West Sea) Grand Canyon (CC BY-SA 4.0)
Next article