Variations: Iditxu, Iritxu


Ieltxu is a Basque creature found in the caverns and wells of Gernika. Notable haunts include a pit in Nabarrizmendi and the Busturia well.

Ieltxu appears either as a human or as a bird shooting flames from its mouth. At night only its burning fire is seen. While its appearances are sudden and terrifying, an ieltxu is not evil, merely mischievous. It enjoys leading people astray and getting them lost, especially if they can get lost near a cliff.

Around Bermeo it is Iditxu or Iritxu who appears as a small pig. It leads people on a merry chase through the night only to return them to where they started, exhausted and empty-handed.


Altuna, J.; Fornoff, F. H., White, L., and Evans-Corrales, C. trans. (2007) Selected Writings of Jose Miguel de Barandiaran: Basque Prehistory and Ethnography. Center for Basque Studies, Reno.


Variations: Boyg, Bøjgen, Bojgen, Bøygen, Boygen, The Great Bøjg of Etnedal


The Great Bøjg of Etnedal is a troll encountered by Peer Gynt in his Gutsbrandal adventures. It was memorable enough that Ibsen included it in his version of Peer Gynt, making it an even more otherworldly creature.

The Bøjg is vast, slimy, slippery, persistent, and shapeless. In the original fairytale, it has a head, which lessens its shapelessness somewhat. Ibsen describes it as a misty, slimy being, neither dead nor alive. Running into it is like running into a nest of sleepy growling bears. Its name comes from bøje, to bend, implying something twisting but also something that forces you to turn elsewhere, conquering without attacking. It coils around houses in the dark, or encircles its victims and bewilders them. Attacking the Bøjg directly is futile.

Wherever Gynt turns, he finds himself running into the clammy unpleasant mass. The Bøjg blocks his path to a mountain hut and nothing Gynt does can defeat it. In the fairytale Gynt fires three shots into the Bøjg’s head but to no avail; he eventually defeats the Bøjg through trickery. In Ibsen’s play the Bøjg is overcome by women, psalms, and church bells.

Within Ibsen’s symbolism it is seen as an insurmountable obstacle, a being of compromise and lethargy.


Hopp, Z.; Ramholt, T. trans. (1961) Norwegian Folklore Simplified. Iohn Griegs Boktrykkeri, Bergen.

Ibsen, H., Watts, P. trans. (1970) Peer Gynt. Penguin Books, Harmondsworth.

Stray Sod

Variations: Ar Iotan, Egaire, Fairy Grass, Faud Shaughran, Fair-Gortha (potentially), Herb of Distraction, Herbe à Adirer, Herbe d’Egarement, Herbe d’Engaire, Herbe de Fourvoiement, Herbe Maudite, Herbe d’Oubli, Herbe à la Recule, Herbe Royale, Herbe des Tournes, Lezeuen Eur, Lezuenn er Seudann, Tourmentine


“Stray sod” is a general term used here to refer to any plant that, if trodden upon, causes travelers to lose their way. Stray sods have been reported primarily from France and Ireland, and come about in a number of ways. Usually they are specific herbs with magical properties that grow along footpaths. At other times they form over the graves of unbaptised children, or are patches of grass enchanted by fairies. They themselves may be fairies or inhabited by fairies.

No matter the origin, the result is always the same. A solitary traveler at night will inadvertently step on a stray sod, and no matter how good their sense of direction, they immediately lose their path. All landmarks seem to vanish, all roads are dead ends. The unfortunate victim is compelled to wander aimlessly through the night, trudging through hedges and thorns, crossing rivers, slogging through marshes, and feeling their way through thickets. The spell is broken at daybreak, when they find themselves with their clothes torn and stained, their hands and feet bleeding, and miles away from home.

When this happens it is advised to turn one’s coat inside out to counteract the spell. Other remedies include the usage of metal as abhorrent to fairies, or finding certain plants or benevolent spirits to regain one’s bearings.

The stray sod is known as the herbe à adirer (“herb of misplacement”) in Anjou, the herbe à la recule (“herb of turning back”) in Besançon, the herbe d’oubli (“herb of forgetfulness”) in Brittany and Lorraine, the egaire in Normandy, and the herbe maudite (“damned herb”) or herbe des tournes (“herb of turning”) in Saintonge. The ar iotan (“golden herb”) of Brittany is inhabited by a spirit that shines like a glowworm; touching a piece of wood or metal breaks its spell, as does changing horseshoes on one side. The lezeuen eur (“golden herb”) and the lezuenn er seudann (“herb of dizziness”) of the Morbihan cause their victims to walk in circles until daybreak. The herbe royale (“royal herb”) of Saint-Mayeux causes even horses to lose their way. The herbe d’engaire of the Berry grows in vast plains, and causes those who step on it to lose sight of the path entirely. The tourmentine (Potentilla erecta, formerly Potentilla tormentilla) of Forez, which causes disorientation for 12 hours, can be countered by the parisette (Paris quadrifolia), a plant whose fallen seeds guide travelers by pointing in the right direction.

The faud shaughran of Ireland induces a sensation of flying, of being incapable of stopping until one is over twenty or thirty miles from home. There is a herb that counteracts its effects, but it is known only to the initiated. The similar fair-gortha causes unnatural hunger and craving for food if stepped on. One man in County Leitrim turned his coat and hat inside out but was unable to find his way home, ending up miles away from his destination.


Barton, B. H. and Castle, T. (1845) The British Flora Medica. Henry G. Bohn, London.

Dubois, P.; Sabatier, C.; and Sabatier, R. (1992) La Grande Encyclopédie des Lutins. Hoëbeke, Paris.

Duncan, L. L. (1893) Folk-Lore Gleanings from County Leitrim. Folklore, vol. 4, no. 2, pp. 176-194.

Rolland, E. (1904) Flore populaire, Tome V. Librairie Rolland, Paris.

Sébillot, P. (1894) Les travaux publics et les mines dans les traditions et les superstitions de tous les pays. J. Rothschild, Paris.

Sébillot, P. (1898) Les Forêts. Revue des Traditions Populaires, t. XIII, no. 12, pp. 641-661.

Sébillot, P. (1904) Le Folk-Lore de France, Tome Premier: Le Ciel et la Terre. Librairie Orientale et Américaine, Paris.

Sébillot, P. (1906) Le Folk-lore de France, Tome Troisième: La Faune et la Flore. Librairie Orientale et Américaine, Paris.

Wilde, F. S. (1887) Ancient Legends, Mystic Charms, and Superstitions of Ireland, v. II. Ward and Downey, London.



The Alicanto is a glowing nocturnal bird comparable to the Carbuncle, perhaps sharing the same folkloric origin. It is  known to inhabit Chile, and has been reported from Atacama, San Bernardo, Santiago, Talagante, and Tarapacá.

Alicantos feed exclusively on metal ores, and take on the color of the metal they ingest – a gold-eating alicanto emits a golden light, while the silver-eating variety glows a cold metallic gray. The rare copper-eating alicanto is greenish, with large wings, a hooked beak, long legs, and sharp claws. Due to its phosphorescence, an alicanto does not cast a shadow. The eyes are bright and gleam silver.

These birds are flightless, but their wings are perfectly functional. They will often gorge themselves on metal, filling their crop so much that they cannot fly. At best they run fast with their wings held open; a full alicanto can barely drag itself along the ground.

Alicantos live around mines and hidden treasure, and nest in small caves. The female always lays two eggs, the shells of which are made of the metal she eats.

As an alicanto indicates the presence of precious metal, finding one can be highly lucrative. For that reason they are sought out by prospectors, engineers, miners, and unscrupulous looters hoping that the birds will lead them to rich veins. However, an alicanto is highly protective of its food sources, and if it knows it’s being followed, it will stop glowing and disappear into the darkness – or worse, lead its pursuers to a cliff.


Aguirre, S. M. (2003) Mitos de Chile. Random House, Editorial Sudamericana Chilena.

Cifuentes, J. V. (1947) Mitos y supersticiones (3rd Ed.). Editorial Nascimento, Santiago, Chile.


Variations: Polevoi, Polievik, Poludnitsa, Poludnica


The Polevik or Polevoi (from pole, “field”) is the Russian spirit of fields, plains, and noontime.

His appearance varies considerably. In Belozersk District and the northern forest regions he is a man dressed in white. In Iaroslavl Province he is an ugly little old man. In Orel Province he is black as the earth, his head covered with green grass, and he wears no clothing. In Tula Province he looks like a shaggy-furred Leshy. Sometimes his eyes are different colors. His skin and hair mirror the soil and vegetation of the fields, and his height grows and shrinks with the crops.

Unlike some of the other spirits, the polevik can be benevolent or evil. A polevik is primarily seen at noon. He likes to lead peasants astray, losing them in endless yellow golden stalks of grain. He disapproves of laziness, and will strangle drunkards sleeping in the fields. Poleviks are capable of seeing the future, and in Iaroslavl Province their appearance is an ill omen. Poleviks are also accomplished horsemen and will ride horses across the fields at breakneck speed, running over anyone in their path.

The female equivalent of the polevik, sometimes replacing him entirely, is the Poludnitsa, Poludnica, or Midday Spirit (from poluden or polden, “noon”). She can be a tall, beautiful woman in white; in Siberia she is an old curly-haired crone dressed in rags, while she has horses’ hoofs in Moravia. In summer, during harvest time, she walks through the fields, protecting the grain. If she sees someone working at midday she pulls their hair violently, twists their heads, and breaks their bones. Other times she quizzes people on agriculture, inflicting disease upon them if they fail to answer correctly. She enjoys misleading children in cornfields.

Polevik children run around the fields catching birds for their parents to eat. They will smother anyone sleeping on the edges of the field.

While poleviks can be destructive, a happy polevik will aid with the harvest, and crops will always be successful under a polevik’s patronage. To earn a polevik’s good will one must leave an offering of two eggs and an old rooster who can no longer crow, in a ditch when nobody is around. Traditional observances must also be followed, and nobody should work at noon.

With the advent of Christianity, poleviks and poludnitsas became mere bogeys, monsters used to frighten children out of cornfields.


Aldington, R. and Ames, D. trans.; Guirand, F. (1972) New Larousse Encyclopedia of Mythology. Paul Hamlyn, London.

Dubois, P.; Sabatier, C.; and Sabatier, R. (1992) La Grande Encyclopédie des Lutins. Hoëbeke, Paris.

Ivanits, L. J. (1989) Russian Folk Belief. M. E. Sharpe, Inc., Armonk, New York.

MacCulloch, J. A. and Machal, J. (1918) The Mythology of All Races v. III: Celtic and Slavic. Marshall Jones Company, Boston.



The Nurikabe (“plaster wall”) is a type of yokai that resembles a large wall with varying amounts of anthropomorphic elements. It may have legs, hands, and facial features; sometimes it looks somewhat like a flattened elephant with three eyes. Nurikabe were first reported from Kyushu, specifically Fukuoka and Oita Prefectures, but have since then moved to the rest of Japan.

Nighttime travelers are the primary targets of the nurikabe. It appears without warning, blocking further movement, and any attempts to bypass it are futile. Sometimes it impedes without materializing, slowing travelers down as though they were slogging through tar.

Nurikabe will disappear if struck at the base with a stick, but doing so to the upper part of the wall has no effect.

The tanuki no nurikabi, or nurikabe caused by tanuki, is a variant from Oita Prefecture. It prevents its victims from seeing ahead of them.


Foster, M. D. (2015) The Book of Yokai. University of California Press, Berkeley.