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An illustration by Ivan Bilibin, 1934
Grouping Fairy
Relict hominid[1]
Country Slavic Europe
Habitat Houses

A domovoi or domovoy (Russian: домово́й, IPA: [dəmɐˈvoj]; literally, "[he] from the house") is a protective house spirit in Slavic folklore. The plural form in Russian can be transliterated domoviye or domovye (with accent on the vowel after the v). In some accounts, the domovoi is described as having a wife (domovikha or kikimora) who lives in the cellar or henhouse.[2] The Slavs and Balts of former times kept idols of the domovoi.[3]

Domovye are masculine, typically small, bearded, and sometimes covered in hair all over.[4][5] According to some traditions, domovye take on the appearance of current or former owners of the house, sometimes with tails or little horns.[6] This belief is commonly held to be a remnant of the pre-Christian cult of ancestors[7][8] which is also reflected in some of the titles of the domovoi (e.g., dedko, dedushka "grandfather"). There are tales of neighbors seeing the master of the house out in the yard while in fact the real master was asleep in bed.[9][10] It has also been said that domovye can take on the appearance of cats or dogs.[9][10][11] The domovoi is more often heard than seen and his voice is said to be hollow and harsh.[12]


Traditionally, every house is said to have its own domovoi who lives either in the stove, under the threshold, in the cattle shed, or in the stables. The center of the house is also said to be their domain.[2][6] The domovoi is seen as the home's guardian, and if he is kept happy he maintains peace and order and rewards the household by helping with household chores and field work. To stay in his good graces, his family leaves him gifts such as milk, porridge, tobacco, bread, and salt.

If angered by the family's slovenliness, disrespect, or abuse, the domovoi acts in a way resembling a poltergeist but is rarely harmful. The Russian word barabashka (Russian: бараба́шка; "knocker, pounder") is a pejorative term sometimes used to describe domovye in connection with this poltergeist-like activity. If he becomes irretrievably offended he abandons the family. In times past, this flight was viewed as a great catastrophe as his benevolence was essential to the livelihood and well-being of the household.[9] In Latvian folklore, the house spirit (analogous with the domovoi) would occasionally pinch the family in their sleep. If the resulting bruises didn't hurt, no meaning was to be derived from this action, however if the bruises were painful, it meant that the house spirit wanted to drive the family from the house.[12]

Domovoi Peeping at the Sleeping Merchant Wife, by Boris Kustodiev

The domovoi is also an oracle, as his behavior foretells or forewarns about the future. If he laughs, sings, jokes, or dances good times can be expected, and if he strums a comb there is a wedding in the future, but if he wails at night, extinguishes a candle or makes himself visible it means a family member, usually the head of the household, will die.[6] The touch of the domovoi is also a harbinger. If his furry hand feels warm, good fortune is indicated; however, if his touch is icy cold, misfortune is coming.[6][12]

Name variations[edit]

Main name variations:

Euphemistic titles:[6]

  • D'edek Czech: Dědek, Slovene: Dedek "grandfather"
  • Dedko (Russian: Дедко) "grandpa"
  • Dedushka (Russian: Дедушка) "grandfather"
  • Dobrokhot (Russian: Доброхот) "well-wisher"
  • Drugaia polovina (Russian: Другая Половина) "the other half"
  • Gospodarchek Slovene: Gospodarček "master"
  • Khoziain (Russian: Хозяин) "owner"
  • Kormilets (Russian: Кормилец) "breadwinner"
  • On (Russian: он) "he"
  • Sam (Russian: сам) "himself"
  • Stopanin Bulgarian: Стопанин "householder"
  • Tot-to (Russian: тот-то) "that one"

Popular culture[edit]

  • Domoviye or Domaći appear in the popular Croatian story from Ivana Brlić-Mažuranić (Šuma Striborova).
  • The Rusalka trilogy of novels by C. J. Cherryh feature domovye.
  • In the TV show Lost Girl a Domovoi is presented as a feral guard for Baba Yaga's treasure.
  • In the Artemis Fowl books by Eoin Colfer, Butler's first name is revealed to be Domovoi.
  • "Domovoi" character in the 1994 computer game Quest for Glory: Shadows of Darkness by Sierra Entertainment
  • Bentley Little's novel The Town features Jedushka Di Muvedushka, the "Owner of the House", a spirit based on the mythology of the domovoi.
  • Domovoye appeared as the antagonists in an episode of the cartoon the Real Ghostbusters
  • Domovoi is the title of a graphic novel by Peter Bergting, published by Dark Horse Comics in 2013.
  • Domovoi also makes an appearance as a common enemy in Final Fantasy IV.
  • Domovoi appears in the digital card game Cabals: Magic & Battle Cards.
  • Domovoi are protective spirits that guard households and villages in the serial webnovel Earthcast.
  • In the Princess Maker second game, if the Daughter regularly helps out at home or at homework-related works (Bar, Restaurant), Domovoi will visit her and raise her home-related skills (Cooking, Temperance, Cleaning) and Housework reputation. In his fourth visit he will say goodbye to the girl and give her a Perfect Flour item, securing that she will win the Cooking Contest of every October without fail.
  • In Changes, a novel in the Dresden Files Series by Jim Butcher, the fairy Toot-Toot, a Polevoi, is enraged when he is mistakenly called a Domovoi by Sanya, the Russian Knight of the Cross.
  • In the Winternight trilogy of novels by Katherine Arden, some characters can see and interact with domovoi.
  • The Domovoi is the name and subject of a short, interactive fiction game by Bravemule.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Vinogradova, Dina (2003). "Rodich – bog – demon – snezhny chelovek (chapter 11)" (in Russian). 
  2. ^ a b Dixon-Kennedy, Mike. (1998) Encyclopedia of Russian and Slavic Myth and Legend. ABC-CLIO p. 73
  3. ^ Hupel, August Wilhelm. (1774) Topographische Nachrichten von Lief ind Ehstland [Topographic Information of Livonia and Estonia]. vol. I. p. 151
  4. ^ Coulter, Charles Russell; Turner, Patricia (2000). Ancient Deities: An Encyclopedia. McFarland & Company. p. 155. 
  5. ^ Morfill, William R. "Slavonic Religion". Religious Systems of the World: A Contribution to the Study of Comparative Religion. Swan Sonnenschein & Co. I: 266. 1904. Retrieved 4 June 2015. 
  6. ^ a b c d e Ivanits, Linda J. (1989) Russian Folk Belief. Routledge. p. 49-54 ISBN 0-873-32889-2
  7. ^ Kagarov, E. G. (1918) Религия древних славян [Religion of the ancient slavs]. Moscow. p. 20
  8. ^ Kharozina, Vera. (1906) К вопросу о почитании огня [Concerning the veneration of fire]. p. 93
  9. ^ a b c Tokarev, Sergei Aleksandrovich. (1957) Религиозные верования восточнославянских народов XIX — начала XX века [The religious beliefs of the peoples of East 19th – early 20th centuries]. AN SSSR Moscow and Leningrad. p. 97.
  10. ^ a b Ushakov, Dmitrii. (1896). Материалы по народным верованиям великороссов. [Materials on the folk beliefs of the Great Russians] vol. 8. no. 2-3. p. 151
  11. ^ Pomerantseva, Erna V. (1975). Ярилки // Советская этнография [Iarilki // Soviet ethnography]. no. 3. p. 99
  12. ^ a b c "MĀJAS KUNGS" [The Domovoi]. LATVIEŠU FOLKLORA (in Latvian). 30 April 2005. Retrieved 4 June 2015. 
  13. ^ Zusne, Leonard. (2009). Latvian-English Dictionary, Volume I A-M. Xlibris. p758
  • Herbert Gottschalk, Lexicon Der Mythologie. Safari-Verlag. Berlin. 1973.