Encyclopedia of Vampire Mythology

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RUSALKA

(Roo-SAW-ka)
Variations: Mokosh, Rusalky, Samovily
In the Republic of Slovenia there is a type of vampiric fay known as a rusalka ("shore"), said to be a member of the Unseelie Court, a spinner of Fate, and a regulator of the seasons. It is created when a child dies before it has been baptized or if an adolescent dies a virgin.
Rusalka descriptions vary slightly from region to region. In some areas it looks like a young girl on the brink of womanhood—very beautiful with long, flowing HAIR that is GREEN and decorated with poppies. In other places the rusalka wears a beautiful gown or tunic or nothing more than some strategically placed leaves. Other accounts describe the rusalka as looking like a drowned corpse or a mermaid. Its male counterpart is called a VODYANIK. It looks like a very handsome young man, but no matter where it is or what it is wearing, the left side of its body is always wet. But no matter the region one is in or the gender of the rusalka one may see, it will always be attractive and in or near the water.
On the nights of the full moon, rusalka can be found in ponds or rivers, and it will kill cattle and horses that come too close to the water's edge. If it sees a handsome man, it will lure him into the water with it, as it is looking for someone to pass the night in pleasure with. However, the man seldom survives the experience; the rusalka ends up draining him of his youth and life (see ENERGY VAMPIRE), and more often than not, forgets in the throes of passion that its human lover needs to breathe air. However, the very few men who have managed to escape the embrace of a rusalka say that its love is literally worth dying for. Apart from men, from time to time a rusalka will want a child of its own and will snatch one up from the water's edge. It takes the child to its home under the water, where the human will inevitably drown.
Rusalka do not allow anyone to bathe in the water it calls home or even in water near its favorite dancing places. It will do everything in its power to drown them. To prevent one from attacking, one should tie ribbons and scarves to its sacred trees and leave gifts of eggs for it. Under Christian influence, the rusalka cannot stand the sight of the CRUCIFIX and will quickly flee if it hears prayers being recited.
Before Christianity came to the region, the rusalka was most likely originally the singular entity Mokosh, goddess of bounty, fertility, and moisture. Mokosh looked after women while they worked.
Source: Hubbs, Mother Russia, 24 ­35; Ivanits, Russian Folk Belief, 75­80; Mack, Field Guide to Demons, 19; Willis, World Mythology, 211­13
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