The Domovoi is a masculine household spirit.
In appearance, the Domovoi is typically:
- Covered in hair all over.
According to some traditions, domovye take on the appearance of current or former owners of the house and have a grey beard, sometimes with tails or little horns. There are tales of neighbours seeing the master of the house out in the yard while in fact the real master is asleep in bed. It has also been said that domovye can take on the appearance of cats and dogs.
Traditionally, every house is said to have its Domovoi. It does not do evil unless angered by a family’s poor keep of the household, profane language or neglect. The domovoi is seen as the home’s guardian, and he sometimes helps with household chores and field work. Some even treat them as part of the family, albeit an unseen one, and leave them gifts like milk and biscuits in the kitchen overnight.
- To attract a Domovoi, you would go outside of your house wearing your best clothing and say aloud “Grandfather Dobrokhot, please come into my house and tend the flocks.”
- To rid yourself of a rival Domovoi, you would beat your walls with a broom, shouting “Grandfather Domovoi, help me chase away this intruder.”
- When moving, some might make an offering to the Domovoi and say “Domovoi! Domovoi! Don’t stay here but come with our family!”
People made sure they only kept animals the Domovoi liked, as he would torment the ones he did not. Salted bread wrapped in a white cloth would appease this spirit, and putting clean white linen in his room was an invitation to eat a meal with the family. Hanging old boots in the yard was another way to cheer him.
The Domovoi was also an Oracle, as his behavior could foretell or forewarn about the future. He would pull hair to warn a woman of danger from an abusive man. He would moan and howl to warn of coming trouble. If he showed himself, it forewarned of death, and if he was weeping it was said to be a death in the family. If he was laughing, good times could be expected, and if he strummed a comb there would be a wedding in the future.
It is also said that Domovoi like to make the sound, “He! He! He!, Ho! Ho!, Ho!” when they are excited or happy.
The Kikimora is a feminine household spirit.
Appearance varies, in some tales, she looks like an average woman with her hair down (married Slavic women typically kept their hair covered, and young unmarried girls kept it braided.) She may also be described as a small humpbacked woman in dirty clothes.
There are two different kinds of Kikimoras. One kind lives in the forest; the other kind lives in the swamp. The Swamp Kikimora is the wife of Leshy. Her presence can be recognized by wet footprints. When home builders wanted to do something harmful to the person buying the house, they would bring in Kikimora. Once inside, it is difficult to get her to leave.
Her role in the house is usually juxtaposed with that of the Domovoi, whereas one of them is considered a “bad" spirit, and the other, a "good" one. When the kikimora inhabits a house, she lives behind the stove or in the cellar, and usually produces noises similar to those made by the mice in order to obtain food.
When the house is in order, Kikimora looks after the chickens and housework. If not, she whistles, breaks dishes, and makes noises at night. She also comes out at night to spin.
To appease an angry Kikimora, one should wash all the pots and pans with fern tea. An adder stone or a bunch of juniper twigs is hung above the nesting place of chickens to protect their eggs from Kikimora.
The Dvorovoi is the spirit of the courtyard.
The Dvorovoi is similar to the house spirit Domovoi, although it was less benevolent and lived further away from humans. He hates animals with white fur (commonly cats, dogs, and horses), so it was seen as a threat and danger to livestock. However, white chickens were not afraid of the Dvorovoi as they were protected by the chicken god (куриный бог).
Some peasants would ask the Dvorovoi to take care and feed their cattle by offering him glittering objects, bread, and sheep wool.
A tale tells of a Dvorovoi who fell in love with a girl and lived with her for a very long time. The Dvorovoi plaited her hair and told her to keep it that way. However, the night before her marriage, she brushed her hair and unbraided it. The Dvorovoi strangled her while she was sleeping and she was found dead the next morning.