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.