Russian Folk Belief, by Linda J. Ivanits

This is a fascinating exploration of Russian ideas about the supernatural and the intersection with Christianity. First published in 1989, it’s been reissued in the mid 2010s. I picked up a copy when I realized I was writing a story set in eastern Russia in the 1830s (aka western Poland)–and the pov character would encounter a rusalka. There are a lot of different ideas about what rusalka are, and the Dvorak opera was not at all suited to the story the character in my head wanted told. The book offered alternatives — many of them. Indeed, I learned of several other kinds of female water spirits, both kind and unkind. I shared the story with a Russian-born co-worker. She told me later that I’d included types of Russian spirits she hadn’t heard of! (She also said my story was quite Russian, except for the ending.)

So if you’re interested in different types of spirits, consider picking up this book and learning about not only rusalki, domovoi, and leshii, but also vodianoi and vodianikha, or the beregini.

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