Forgotten hunting nightmares

by Krzysztof Turowski

Today’s woods are almost like an open book for the hunters. We have designated hunting units, divisions into regions, and there is no way to get lost. We are guarded by all sorts of programs on our smartphones using GPS. Even if by some accident we go wrong, it usually takes a few hours to find ourselves in a civilized world. However, in the past, many hunters did not return to their homes.
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The forests were often dark secrets, and many did not venture into certain areas. I am talking about times when we did not know electricity, and many things were attributed to magical beings such as phantoms, ghosts, gnomes or nixies.

When someone strayed, “Błędnica” (name made from “err”) was blamed for this. She brought people to the wrong trails. She confused travelers and hunters by adopting a form of a light ball, a flying candle, or a white-headed one. Man followed her to finally get lost in the forest and often fall victim to wild animals. Those who managed to escape bribed her with pieces of hunted game left at the edge of the forest.

Even if Błędnica accepted the gift, the hunters could fall victim to “Borowy” (Boric) also called “Leszy”. He also tangled paths and scared travelers in the form of a bear. However, he was also helpful in comparison to “Błędnica”. He would lead people out of the forest and sometimes he would give the host lost game and protect his children against wild animals.

Before the “Leszy” appeared in the legends, forest had been guarded by the “Lasownik” who existed even before Christianity. He lived with his wife at the cemetery of wild animals in the farthest, most hidden nooks and crannies of the forest. He haunted the wanderers, he mixed their paths, and they wandered for hours. Rescuing the lancer’s spell was using the trick of turning the shirt over to the left or putting on the reverse of the footwear. Such a wanderer had to look comical, but it is known – everyone is afraid of magic tricks, and everybody understood that the left shoe on the right leg saved the life of an unfortunate person.
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If the hunters managed to survive the previous nightmares, then a beast called “Lejiń” (very similar name to deer) could stand in their way. This magical creature resembled a great proud stag or a deer, but it was not the one that Saint Hubert met. Lejiń were angry and crafty. Pretending to be wounded, he was dragging hunters to ruin, he was able to pretend to melt in the swamp, so that the hunter would like to get him out and drown himself in the mud. Those who could not be deceived were brutally attacked with antlers by Lejiń. Lejiń did want to kill everyone. Even the children collecting the forest fruits did not feel safe.

There was another evil soul called the “Dziki Myśliwy” (Wild Hunter) hunting on the hunters. The wild hunter hunted at night with a pack of spectral dogs. Not many hunters came out of such meeting alive. Hunters were afraid of the night. Those who went out into the woods at night were treated as incredibly courageous or incredibly stupid people.

Today, forests are no longer haunting hunters, forestry nightmares do not hurt anyone and old beliefs have gone into oblivion. But how to explain that sometimes at night in the forest our sweat is cold, and our heart starts to beat faster? Have the ancient forest ghosts really gone to oblivion, or maybe they just want us to think like that, while waiting for us when we unknowingly enter their dark world …

Happy Hunting!
The descriptions are from the book “Bestiariusz Słowiański Część pierwsza i druga ” by Witold Vargas and Paweł Zych.

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