Russian Myths: The Rusalka

The Rusalka of Russian myths are the spirits of young women who were murdered before marriage and are then cursed to live in a lake in the form of a mermaid. There they will sing sweet songs to entrap men into the water and drown them. A Rusalka can be released from her demonic form if someone avenges her murder.

These Russian mermaids are slim with long, loose hair, blazing eyes and magnificent breasts. Their hair may be light brown, blond or green. They can assume the form of a fish or have legs like a human. In the latter form, they haunt the forests, dance with the moon and swing from the branches of trees. Often we see them sitting on the bank laughing with their friends the water sprites. Sometimes they visit local villages to join in the dances and entice men into their lakes to become their husbands - or kill them.

If you would like to go swimming with the Rusalki (plural of Rusalka) put fern in your hair so they cannot pull you under and drown you. Some say that only witches can swim safely with the Rusalki.

Another group of myths claim that the Rusalka are water nymphs who marry the Wodjanoj. The Wodjanoj are male water spirits who live in great castles under the water and can change their shape at will.

Marriage alters the Rusalka. She goes from wild and lustful to sweet and demure.

There are many obvious links between the Rusalki and the mermaids of Celtic myth. Both are beautiful, sexually liberated and occasionally dangerous. They are both descended from goddesses of fertility and retain some of their characteristics. One article I read makes especial reference to the hair of the Rusalka. It is loose and uncontrolled like the Rusalka themselves. Notice how even now we associate loose, wild hair with sexuality.



Click here to read a very different story from the Russian myths.