Likho

Likho

Likho, liho (Russian: Лихо, лі́ха, licho) is an embodiment of evil fate and misfortune in Slavic mythology, a creature with one eye, usually (but not always) depicted as an old, skinny woman in black (Лихо одноглазое, One-eyed Likho) or as an evil male goblin of forests; it is a small and ugly creature. It is not a member of the Slavic pantheon, it is a personage of fairy tales, some of which contain traces of the Odyssey's episode with Polyphemus cyclops.

Likho is not a real proper name, but a noun meaning bad luck in modern Russian (Don't wake likho while it's quiet proverb), similar to Polish (sayings "Cicho! Licho nie śpi" -Quiet! Licho does not sleep, "Licho wie" -Licho knows = only licho knows – nobody knows). In old Russian the root meant "excessive", "too much" with pejorative connotations. Compare to Russian lishniy - one in excess. The word is likely to be related to Indo-European leikw meaning something to remain, to leave. The derived adjective likhoy can be used to describe someone who is a bit too daring or brave. In Czech, lichý means odd (number), idle, vain. In Polish, lichy means shoddy, poor, flimsy. In Belarusian language, ліхі means bad, evil (like in prayer), odd (side of clothing).

There are several basic versions of tales how a person meets with Likho, with different morals of the tale.

  • A person eventually cheats Likho as in the Odyssey.
  • A person cheats Likho, runs away (with Likho chasing him), sees a useful thing, grabs it, the person's hand sticks to it and they have to cut off their hand.
  • Likho cheats a person and rides on his neck. The person wants to drown Likho, jumps into a river, drowns himself, but Likho floats out, to chase other victims.
  • Likho is received or passed to another person with a gift.

Within the framework of superstitions, Likho was supposed to come and eat a person. In particular, this was used to scare small children.

Recently, some Slavic neopagans attempt to "retrofit" Likho into the Slavic Pantheon.

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