Episode 142: The Unquiet Dead

This week, we discuss The Unquiet Dead - Slavic spirits who cannot rest peacefully in death. Amanda proposes spring is the most haunted season. Julia yells about how you can’t control birds (or bird husbands!). Long leg, long neck, head cat...can’t lose?  

This week, Julia recommends My Hero Academia

Content Warning: This episode contains conversations about suicide, drowning, child death, sexual harrassment, sexual intercourse, blood, beheading, and some body horror. 


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Amanda:            Welcome to Spirits Podcast, a boozy dive into mythology, legends, and folklore. Every week we pour a drink and learn about a new story from around the world. I'm Amanda.

Julia:                    And I'm Julia.

Amanda:            This is episode 142, the Unquiet Dead.

Julia:                    Yeah, just that title is going to get you all excited, isn't it?

Amanda:            Oh, so good. It's so creepy. We're not in October yet, but I'm ready for it. I'm stoked.

Julia:                    It's more sad than creepy, I feel like, but you'll see what I mean.

Amanda:            Well, this is one of the rare episodes where we record the intro before recording the episode, so listeners, you and I will find out together.

Julia:                    Ha ha, that's always a plus.

Amanda:            Do you know who I would choose to find out really anything together with me, Julia, because they're so good and supportive?

Julia:                    It's our new patrons.

Amanda:            Our new patrons Ally and Richard. You join the likes of our wonderful patrons, including our supporting producer level folks. Phillip, [inaudible 00:00:43], Skylar, Mercedes, Samantha, Marissa, Sammy, Josie, Neil, Jessica, and [inaudible 00:00:47].

Julia:                    You all just... I want to have a prohibition cocktail with you.

Amanda:            Delicious, and I would absolutely pour a cocktail for our legend level patrons. Mark, Ayla, Cody, Mr. Folk, James, Jess, Sarah, Sandra, Audra, and Jack Marie.

Julia:                    I would even break out the egg whites for you all.

Amanda:            Speaking of which, Julia, let me know please. What beautiful cocktail is in front of me.

Julia:                    Oh, well, obviously Amanda, you have a lovely cocktail here. I didn't break out the egg whites for this one, but, it is a Corpse Reviver No. 2.

Amanda:            I don't know what happened to number one, but number two is so good that I don't really need it.

Julia:                    I'll tell you a little bit more about it once we get into the episode.

Amanda:            I'm excited. Good, and would you please let me know something that you're reading, watching, listening to this week?

Julia:                    Well, currently Jake is having me watch The Sopranos from start to finish, which I've never done before.

Amanda:            Oh, it's the most Jake thing in the world.

Julia:                    But, that's not my recommendation for this week. I'm going to recommend My Hero Academia, which a real good anime currently outside of our studio Eric Silver is watching it on his laptop because I recommended to him a little while back and it is very good. It's both goofy and also scary, and it's incredible world-building and I like the show quite a lot.

Amanda:            Yeah, I just moved in together with Eric, who is my partner in life, love, and podcasting as I realize I've not talked about on the show before, but it's true. My Hero Academia has been the only show that has been on in our house. Not usually into anime, but I really like this one. It's very sweet, it's very interesting, all the powers are really cool. The problem solving is neat, little 25 minute chunks, so I recommend it too.

Julia:                    Yeah. I got you all to watch Food Wars earlier in the year and that was-

Amanda:            Oh, so good. Eagerly awaiting the next season-

Julia:                    Me too.

Amanda:            Give me those subs. But if you run out of anime to watch or you're in a situation where you only have to listen to podcasts and obviously you're all caught up on Spirits, maybe recommend the other shows in Multitude. There's so much going on these days. Potterless just finished the books, is done with Deathly Hallows and he has so many fun things coming up including some familiar voices that you may want to listen to.

Julia:                    Yeah, also Join the Party is coming back.

Amanda:            Yeah, we are. We just released a super-size and hour-long after party at the end of the world. As we prepare for our final story arc, we answered a bunch of questions about the story, our future, our production, our budgets, our workflow, and it was super fun to do.

Julia:                    Honestly, the after parties are one of my favorite things that you all do, and it's wonderful. It's wonderful to see the story behind the story in my opinion.

Amanda:            HORSE is somehow more dramatic now in the off season of the NBA and the end of the WNBA than it was in the peak of both. It is extremely wonderful. Every single time you're going to walk away with a good story, like how a white samurai almost killed the legend of basketball.

Julia:                    Michael Jordan.

Amanda:            Yeah, Jordan. Yeah, almost died because of a katana.

Julia:                    A white samurai.

Amanda:            Wild.

Julia:                    It's wild.

Amanda:            It's wild. Just type multitude into your podcast player and make sure you subscribe to all of our other shows.

Julia:                    Yeah. Also before we get into this episode, I just want to put a content warning at the beginning. This episode does have heavy mentions of suicide and also child death. If those are topics that can affect you, just take care of yourself. If you have to skip this one. We understand it's okay. We'll see you next week.

Amanda:            Take care of yourself. That's what's important. In the meantime, enjoy Spirits podcast, episode 142 the Unquiet Dead.

Julia:                    Amanda, I was going on a Slavic folklore deep dive like I occasionally do on my free time.

Amanda:            Man, I sing the bird husband song so often.

Julia:                    It's very good. I really love it. I stumbled across a phrase that was the unquiet dead, so evocative. The first few references I found to this category were associated with vampires. However, in Slavic belief, the phrase is a little bit more broad of a category. It's not just vampires or what we understand vampires to be. Here's actually a quote from a book by Bruce McClelland, hope I pronounced that right, called Slayers and Their Vampires: A Cultural History of Killing the Dead, which sounds like a very cool book-

Amanda:            I need it.

Julia:                    Here's the quote, "These unfortunates are construed as the unquiet dead or vampires or other restless demons with human form. It is likely that the category of the restless or unquiet dead in Slavic belief is an older mythological category than the vampire. Since related beliefs about the unfortunate consequences of premature death or improper burial are found in many Slavic, and even non Slavic areas where vampires are either nonexistent or insignificant."

Amanda:            That's super fascinating. I see now what you meant in intro by this being a little sadder than it is spooky, because that makes complete sense. Unquiet restless roaming, those are things that we don't think about when we wish someone a peaceful afterlife.

Julia:                    Yeah, absolutely. I feel like we've touched on this topic of the unquiet dead in a lot of different episodes even in non Slavic countries, but I think that I really want to do a deep dive here because there are a lot of really interesting stories that do all tied together but have different flavors, which is one of my favorite things for a roundup episode.

Amanda:            I love that. It's not something we usually... I don't know. I mean, in thinking about the dead, we often think about their powers or their effect on humans. Are they haunting? Are they malicious and coming after you? Are they protecting something or people? But it sounds like these are creatures that are bound together, not by what they do, but how they were made.

Julia:                    Yes.

Amanda:            I think that is super interesting.

Julia:                    Oh, you got the exact point that I wanted to go for. Thank you for that.

Amanda:            Good communication.

Julia:                    Basically what differentiates a normal person who dies and passes on from a spirit that is born out of that death. Perfect. Thank you for hitting my topic exactly right. Okay. Basically the unquiet dead or spirits in Slavic folklore that are typically associated with a death that is unnatural, or the ritual of burial is not performed properly as was mentioned in the quote. We're going to talk about a couple of different unquiet dead in this episode, but first let me tell you about the cocktail that we're drinking. I picked, for this episode, the Corpse Reviver No. 2. This is a prohibition era cocktail. Originally it was devised to act as a hangover cure, which is reviving the dead. See.

Amanda:            Hell yeah. I do feel like a corpse on days when I have overindulged.

Julia:                    Now we just drink them to give us a hangover, which is a bit of a change. Things change.

Amanda:            Reminds me of Jekyll and Hyde, RIP.

Julia:                    Oh, I miss it so much.

Amanda:            I miss it so much.

Julia:                    This drink is gin, Lillet Blanc, Cointreau, a dash of absinthe, and fresh lemon juice traditionally. To play with the foresty vibe that we're going to be seeing in a lot of the Slavic myths, I garnish with rosemary and thyme, slightly bruised. Best way to bruise your herbs, by the way is just-

Amanda:            Is it to do a wrestling move on them?

Julia:                    No, it's just to put it between your hands and then clap on it and then drop it in. Just releases the oils without getting weird herby bits in your drink.

Amanda:            Julz you know that I love a garnish. We're here for garnishes. Whenever I go to a cocktail bar where it's like fancy and they make something based on your tastes, I go, "I want the forest-sized garnish and pebble ice. Anything you would serve in that situation is a drink that I want.

Julia:                    You're a big tiki bar fan then, huh?

Amanda:            It's true.

Julia:                    That's just all the things-

Amanda:            You taught me well.

Julia:                    I do my best. The addition of rosemary and thyme adds a complexity that detracts from the bitterness of the lemon juice and the absinthe, which are traditionally pretty bitter. We'll take a quick sip and then feel like we've raised ourselves from the grave, and then we're going to get started with one of my favorites of the unquiet dead. The vila.

Amanda:            Tell me all about the vila please.

Julia:                    The Vila is typically portrayed as a beautiful woman with long blonde hair and they come in a couple of different forms. Similar to nymphs and dryads in Greek mythology. Same basic concept but specializing in different areas.

Amanda:            I dig it. Not Fleur Delacour, I'm assuming.

Julia:                    Inspiration for the Harry Potter one. We can talk about that at the end of the thing.

Amanda:            Sorry, I had to contractually get a Harry Potter reference in the first 10 minutes.

Julia:                    Thank you. The ones that live in the forest are known as pozemne vila and the spirits from the water are known as pozemne vila. Hopefully this is good Slavic-

Amanda:            Listen we're trying.

Julia:                    I'm so sorry, already. My apologies. Then the ones that are found in the air, and the clowns are known as pozemne vila. Like many spirits in various folklore, they can take the form of animals as well as their human forms. Vila can sometimes be seen as swans, falcons, horses, and wolves in the the air ones, they are known to transform into whirlwinds that sweep across the countryside. I really, really like that imagery-

Amanda:            Dang. That's awesome.

Julia:                    This is why some scholars believe that the term vila comes from the Slavic word to wind or whirlwind or the Sanskrit word for air or wind. At night, the vila are said to roam in the clouds playing pipes and drums in a terrifying way. I love a terrifying way to play pipes.

Amanda:            Oh yeah, me too.

Julia:                    If you were caught at night and you hear them go by and you call out to them, bad move first off, don't do that. Don't engage with the spirits.

Amanda:            Let them go.

Julia:                    Just let them do their thing. You would instantly become stiff and find it difficult to move and then you are stricken with disease and would die sometime in the next year or two. Amanda, I know you have thoughts on the period of time before the thing ends.

Amanda:            Oh, I sure do Julia.

Julia:                    How do you feel about a year or two versus like seven days before you die?

Amanda:            Worst case scenario.

Julia:                    Okay.

Amanda:            Worst case scenario.

Julia:                    It's just like, "Sometime in the next year or so."

Amanda:            Because, I mean, imagine you have a shiver or you have a muscle cramp walking in the evening in Russia, which I just assume is always fucking cold, and then you're like, "Well, am I going to die? Guess I won't know for the next year to two." What? That's horrible?

Julia:                    You want very specific timelines if you're going to be-

Amanda:            Strike me down immediately don't give me a chance to think about it.

Julia:                    All right, good. I'm glad we're on the same page there.

Amanda:            I also like this ominous pipe and drum. It reminds me of the opening to Songs for a New World, a little deep-cut for the musical nerds out there.

Julia:                    That is deep-cut-

Amanda:            Where there is in fact an ominous pipe and drum.

Julia:                    Yeah there is now that I remember that. Man that show's weird.

Amanda:            The new orchestrations. Wild.

Julia:                    Yeah, I had to re-listen to it.

Amanda:            Of the concert version. There are very good choices actually, it's very interesting. Anyway-

Julia:                    I'm going to have to re-listen. I appreciate it. Vila are somewhat associated with Artemis and Diana because they are noted for their wild hunts where they ride on either horses or stags. I personally think the stag is the better option for [inaudible 00:10:52]. It just looks cooler.

Amanda:            Yeah.

Julia:                    Horns make everything better.

Amanda:            They do.

Julia:                    In my opinion.

Amanda:            Yeah. You're conscripting a male animal to women's hunt.

Julia:                    Yeah.

Amanda:            It's great.

Julia:                    It's okay. They're also associated with the Valkyrie in many ways as they often seek out strong, handsome men and assist them in battle and destroying their enemies, which honestly, relationship goals.

Amanda:            I love that.

Julia:                    Despite the fact that they're often associated with death, there are several stories in which they have healing powers.

Amanda:            Interesting.

Julia:                    One of the most important aspects is their circle dance in which they do magic, but it's also a way of attracting the ire of vila, which is bad. While they typically are neutral to benevolent, they will take revenge on anyone who insults them, disregards orders that they make, or comes into the circle dance uninvited.

Amanda:            That just checks out.

Julia:                    Yeah, I mean it's classic face stuff on this-

Amanda:            Don't break a circle, just don't break a circle.

Julia:                    Don't do it. As I mentioned, the unquiet dead, typically were restless souls. In the case of the vily, they were typically restless souls of deceased girls who died, heartbroken or were killed by their lovers.

Amanda:            Wow.

Julia:                    Yeah.

Amanda:            I mean it is obviously tragic, but I love the poetic justice of a very, filled with agency kind of afterlife. Because it sounds like you're just killing and wreaking havoc among your enemies, which sounds like a poetic afterlife for someone who died under those circumstances.

Julia:                    Absolutely. I agree 100%. This actually ties in to an interesting aspect about the vily. The fact that in Serbian traditions, heroes and also your average young teenage girl basically could have a vily as a blood sister. They would help improve one's beauty and also protect a distant lover if you appealed to them.

Amanda:            Dang, so wait, they were related to you in life or they're a spirit, like a fairy godmother that you bring to you and attract to you.

Julia:                    The latter.

Amanda:            Oh.

Julia:                    Yeah, it's not interesting-

Amanda:            I like that. I like the interplay of the spirit and flesh and blood stag or a person. That's a really cool crossover.

Julia:                    Yeah, I like that. Because you mentioned the Harry Potter thing, I will say, vila in Harry Potter or somewhat tied to this. Weirdly, J.K. Rowling decides that they're half bird creatures, which is not completely accurate. They're most likely getting that inspiration from the Greek theories or something to that effect. But yeah, the beautifulness and whatnot and the being able to attract men to them definitely fits into the original Slavic traditions.

Amanda:            Fleur Delacour is said to have vila blood, and to be a full vila. It's possible that maybe a vila was a blood sister or there was some kind of vila relation or, I don't know, down the line.

Julia:                    Yeah, no, I think if I remember my Harry Potter correctly, she's one eighth vila, so I think one of her grandparents was a vila.

Amanda:            Yeah, that makes sense.

Julia:                    That makes sense. I like it.

Amanda:            Or great grandparents. I don't know-

Julia:                    Grandparents? I don't know. Next up is a somewhat more similar version of the vila and that it's a female, beautiful naked spirit, but this is a much more malicious one. This is the mavka.

Amanda:            Thanks for building up to the maliciousness.

Julia:                    Yeah, of course.

Amanda:            Always good.

Julia:                    The name comes from the Proto-Slavic term for the dead.

Amanda:            Great.

Julia:                    It's straightforward. I appreciate that. Again, much like the vily, they are the spirits of girls, but these are ones that more broadly just died of unnatural, tragic, or premature deaths. Unchristened babies is a popular one as well, in terms of origin story. It is said that, if the soul of the baby is not rescued for seven years and does not go to heaven, then the baby will be turned into a mavka. Here's what makes the mavka stand out compared to our other unquiet dead. Mavkas have no reflection in the water, which is very vampiresque.

Amanda:            I like it.

Julia:                    They have no shadows, they don't cast shadows, and most notably they have no back, meaning that you can see their insides when their back is not covered with their long hair.

Amanda:            Yearlings.

Julia:                    Yeah, I like that a lot. That's cool imagery.

Amanda:            It is super cool. It's not as horrifying as other body cutout/mashups situations that we've talked about before.

Julia:                    Yes. I think that there's another Scandinavian spirit that also has no back or has a hole in their back or chest or something like that. I don't really remember, and my preliminary Googling did not bring anything up. If you know what it is, tell us.

Amanda:            Another great reason to follow Spirits on Twitter and Instagram at Spirits Podcast. We're so good Julia, we're so good.

Julia:                    I do my best. They're well known for luring young men into the woods where they then tickle them to death. We've talked about tickling to death before-

Amanda:            We sure have-

Julia:                    ... and I did more research. Tickle torture is something that was a legitimate thing that was practiced across various cultures and dates back as far as the Han dynasty in China and also ancient Rome. However, I think it's much more likely that this is a reference to being tickled to death and it's more a polite way that they're just being killed during sex with the mavka. Yes, or tickled, its a euphemism, like washing feet in the Bible.

Amanda:            Ugh.

Julia:                    Washing feet is sacred. Don't take that away from me. All right, that's a thing though, by the way.

Amanda:            I do though appreciate how spirits walk through the world and don't have a physical effect the way we would expect, like a super unnerving. The no shadow, no reflection, no photography. Which I love in our favorite Tilda Swinton, Tom Hiddleston movie-

Julia:                    Last Two Lovers Alive.

Amanda:            Only Lovers Left Alive. Yes-

Julia:                    Only Lovers left alive.

Amanda:            Extremely good. But I also liked the bees spirits, they have a very physical effect on the living, just not the ones that we expect.

Julia:                    Yes. Besides fucking to death. They're not entirely malicious. They're are often said to help farmers by protecting cattle and driving away predators from farms where farmers are kind to them. That's nice. That's something. It said that they usually live in groups typically in mountain caves or sheds, which they decorate with rugs, like you would if you lived in a group house with a bunch of friends at hippie college. It's a very specific pull.

Amanda:            Yeah, or lots of group homes that have happened in earlier societies.

Julia:                    I'm just talking from my own personal experiences. Hippie colleges. Upstate New York.

Amanda:            Yeah.

Julia:                    Yeah. I'm not wrong.

Amanda:            You drive through New Paltz just, people throw tapestries at you.

Julia:                    Yeah, that's just-

Amanda:            And stoner sweatshirts.

Julia:                    So many stoner sweatshirts. They will also steal flax and weave see-through clothing for themselves.

Amanda:            Oh, that's extremely neat.

Julia:                    I like that a lot. It's really good imagery. Often they're depicted as braiding flowers into their hair and they're associated with planting flowers in enticing patterns in the spring in attempt to lure young boys down the paths.

Amanda:            Hell yes. Oh, so good.

Julia:                    It's very good.

Amanda:            Landscaping for-

Julia:                    Murder.

Amanda:            Murder.

Julia:                    Landscaping for murder. I appreciate that.

Amanda:            Wonderful.

Julia:                    Very good.

Amanda:            Sounds like a Midsomer Murders Season Three plot line-

Julia:                    I like it.

Amanda:            ... and I'm here for it.

Julia:                    Mavka are associated with fertility because it is said that the fertility godess Kostroma was the first mavka. The whole story basically. But the goddess boasted basically that she would never get married but instead fell in love with her long lost brother Kapalo. The two married, but then the gods told them the truth after the wedding and then the two committed suicide because they could no longer be together.

Amanda:            Awful.

Julia:                    Kostroma ran into the forest and drowned herself in a forest lake, but she did not die but rather became the first mavka. Because she must forever be separated from her true love, she lures young men to the edge of her lake and then pulls them into the depths of the lake. She realizes too late that the man is not her lover, and when she does the man is already drowned.

Amanda:            That is a very interesting and tragic take on the vengeful water spirit.

Julia:                    Yeah. It's just like, "Oh my love has finally come back to me-"

Amanda:            Just evil.

Julia:                    I'm sorry.

Amanda:            All right. Sips drink.

Julia:                    Sips drink quietly I'm so sorry. That's the mavka's whole thing. Getting away from women's spirits for a second, we're going to switch over to the drekavac which their name literally translates to the screamer or the screecher.

Amanda:            Yearlings.

Julia:                    This unquiet dead... Literally unquiet.

Amanda:            I mean. It sounds like it.

Julia:                    Has a couple of different origins and descriptions, which I'll lay out for you and you can tell me which one you like the best. Hint, they're all not great. In Eastern Serbia, the drekavac is a humanoid dog or wolf that typically walks on its back legs and can primarily be found in cemeteries.

Amanda:            Don't like that one.

Julia:                    A broader version of the story depicts him as an undead man who will crawl out of his grave at nighttime and haunt the people who wronged him in life.

Amanda:            Okay.

Julia:                    Pretty straightforward.

Amanda:            Return to the grave. I like it.

Julia:                    Similarly, there is a story where it is a unbaptized baby who will rise out of his grave to haunt his parents, and if the parents cannot be found, it will call out to people passing cemeteries to baptize him so it can finally rest. Oh. Sometimes they're depicted as ghosts of soldiers that wander around at night, unable to rest. In particular in a small Serbian town, they're depicted as having long necks, long legs, and they have a cat-like head.

Amanda:            Mm-mm (negative).

Julia:                    Yeah, I figured you'd-

Amanda:            Worst one. Nope. Don't like that one.

Julia:                    My personal favorite is one from central Serbia where the drekavac is a creature with a dappled elongated and spindle thin body with a disproportionately large head, which can also fly because it wasn't already terrible.

Amanda:            Mm-mm (negative). Don't like that one.

Julia:                    So, in the total, which one? They all scream real good.

Amanda:            The soldiers with the long legs, long neck is their heads a cat?

Julia:                    Soldiers are separate one. This one's just long neck, long leg, head cat.

Amanda:            Don't like the head cat one.

Julia:                    Yeah, I figured.

Amanda:            No.

Julia:                    I figured that was going to be a-

Amanda:            Bad, bad, bad. It seems like it's going to crawl out to me in a dream and take me to Wonderland, only instead of Wonderland they kill me.

Julia:                    Yes. Wonderland is death.

Amanda:            Mm-mm (negative).

Julia:                    According to older beliefs, it can be only seen during the 12 days of Christmas-

Amanda:            Why?

Julia:                    ... only at night-

Amanda:            No.

Julia:                    ... and in early spring where Slavic tradition say that spirits are more active. If you were to see one in the form of a child, that predicts that someone in your family is going to die, but if you see one in the form of an animal, that means it's predicting cattle disease for the upcoming year.

Amanda:            I mean, neither good.

Julia:                    No. Not great.

Amanda:            But let's pause to appreciate how good it is. I move to displace fall with spring as the most haunted season. A, earth is just fucking up my sinuses left and right all the time, up and down, day and night. But B, I love this idea that the earth is displacing and unsettling these spirits, right? You're all sorted, you have your wintertime, you're doing what you do, everyone's hibernating, and then the earth-

Julia:                    It's quite interesting.

Amanda:            Exactly. Starts to till itself from the inside and all the spirits awaken and just go wreak havoc, because they're like, "There was a tulip where I used to sleep."

Julia:                    Damn, I like that. There's a tulip here now I can't rest.

Amanda:            I mean that's what I'm like. Whenever I walk into a room and there's flowers, I'm just like, "Fuck, I can't rest now."

Julia:                    I really like that. Cattle disease upcoming year. It is also said that if it's shadow is to fall upon you, you will turn sick and die within the next year. I know, at least it gives you a timeline. It's sometime in the next year.

Amanda:            I know, but just for seeking refuge in shadow, I am a shadow hopper in the summer. I jump across the street to walk in shadow.

Julia:                    I appreciate it. I get it.

Amanda:            My pale, pale skin Julia.

Julia:                    To be fair, they only do come out at night though.

Amanda:            Okay, okay.

Julia:                    It's got to be full moon shadow.

Amanda:            But then isn't just the whole world their shadow, or the zone where their shadow would be, or just under a full moon?

Julia:                    Full moon shadow.

Amanda:            Oh.

Julia:                    Moon shadow. I feel like that's a Warrior Cat name.

Amanda:            Or like a Holly Black book.

Julia:                    Sure. That sounds right. If you are trying to avoid him, they avoid dogs and also bright lights. Have a pupper and a torch if you can.

Amanda:            Okay.

Julia:                    Pretty straightforward-

Amanda:            Just a good way to live your life.

Julia:                    Actually, one of my favorite parts about this myth is that this is one of the few unquiet dead that has modern sightings that I could find at least. In 1992 villagers in a Serbian town found the remains of an animal that could not be identified as any local species. They described it as looking like a dog, but having a snake-like head and the hind legs of a kangaroo.

Amanda:            Bad. That's the year we came into the world. Don't like that one one bit.

Julia:                    Yeah. Adults who are familiar with the story claimed that it was a drekavac. However, it was later identified as a rotten fox carcass.

Amanda:            Gross. Isn't that what they think the Three Mile Island creature was? A manatee, or dog, or raccoon, or something?

Julia:                    Thy think it was a raccoon I think. I don't know.

Amanda:            Every six months or so, my mom will text me, "Amanda, have you covered Three Mile Island yet on Spirits?" I'm like, "Mom, no."

Julia:                    "We have not."

Amanda:            Government secrets, man. Above my pay grade.

Julia:                    In 2003 a series of attacks on sheep had villagers assuming that it was a drekavac, however many villagers disagreed with that theory because the attacks took place during the daytime rather than the night, and as we described, they don't like light.

Amanda:            Better.

Julia:                    They don't like those bright lights. The sun, the brightest light.

Amanda:            True. What if it's just during a solar eclipse, just during those 30 seconds?

Julia:                    Interesting.

Amanda:            Why hasn't there been literature or lore about super quick hauntings, lightning round hauntings doing eclipses?

Julia:                    Super quick vampire attack.

Amanda:            Yeah.

Julia:                    I mean that's the plot of 30 Days of Night, right? Where it's a vampire movie about how they're all in the most northern town possible because the winters get so dark.

Amanda:            That sounds like an original-

Julia:                    And the sun never comes out-

Amanda:            ... concept. I like that-

Julia:                    ... doesn't come out for 30 days.

Amanda:            I like that.

Julia:                    I know it's very good.

Amanda:            Well, by that logic then, in the summers in Iceland you can just piss off whatever fucking spirit you want because there's no night.

Julia:                    They are not going to come out.

Amanda:            No.

Julia:                    Except the summer.

Amanda:            True. True. They just have a 30-day orgy.

Julia:                    They probably do. On that note, why don't we think about mortality and go grab a refill?

Amanda:            Always Julz. Julia, we are sponsored this week by HoneyBook.

Julia:                    Tell me.

Amanda:            As you know, last week we were at Podcast Movement and it's one of the situations where we have a full week of conference to do. We have so many live shows and meetings to take, and travel to do, and maybe a pool to go into if we can find the time. But unfortunately the business keeps running, and there is a lot to do. You got to invoice people, you have to take care of your booking and try to find new clients and keep track of your time. HoneyBook is a tool that makes that really, really easy for folks like us who are busy trying to run a business and also do all the things that the business has to do.

Julia:                    Yeah, it's hard, but thank God for HoneyBook.

Amanda:            Absolutely. Best of all, right now they are offering our listeners 50% off when you visit honeybook.com/spirits. Best of all, I love this so much, you can actually apply that discount to either the annual or the monthly plans.

Julia:                    That's cool.

Amanda:            Businesses, you don't always have a few hundred bucks to spend on whatever it is that you need for a full year and being able to extend that discount to the monthly plan I think is really wonderful. That's at honeybook.com/spirits for 50% off your first year.

Julia:                    That's honeybook.com/spirits. Amanda, the year rages on.

Amanda:            We're in the second act of 2019.

Julia:                    We are, we are. I'm getting there. I'm getting there. I'm getting there because of Care/of. Care/of is a subscription service that delivers vitamins and supplements customized to your specific health needs. If I just want to get swole Care/of is there to help me. They are here to help you get into a healthy routine. You take their online quiz, which is fun, easy and it asks you questions about your health goals, your lifestyle choices. Only takes five minutes and then you are given recommendations for vitamins and supplements based on scientifically backed information, which is really, really cool. It's also super easy and convenient. They send you them in these little packages and it's 30 days, you don't have to think about it, and then they ship you the next one. It's really, really simple.

Amanda:            Best of all they're in a compostable plant-based film, so they are those convenient individual packs that help you know whether you've taken it for the day or not, because I forget almost every morning if I've taken my pills for that day. But they are still compostable, which is wonderful.

Julia:                    You don't have to worry about throwing the individual ones in the recycle, which I appreciate.

Amanda:            Totally. Vegan and vegetarian options are available.

Julia:                    That is so, so cool, and that's the Care/of difference. Honestly, they are here to make sure that your needs are met, and I appreciate that. You can go to careof.com and enter the promo code 'spirits' for 25% off your first Care/of order.

Amanda:            That's 25% off your first Care/of order at takecareof.com with the promo code, 'spirits'. This being a podcast movement Julz, we were weirdly at a hotel for five days-

Julia:                    We were.

Amanda:            ... and because it was Orlando in August and a mosquitoey swamp outside, we did not want to leave.

Julia:                    We did not.

Amanda:            Did our best to try out the dining establishments there, took a Uber across the street to Publix because it was a highway and got some groceries. But sometimes you need a meal and don't want to pay $35 for hotel prices.

Julia:                    Yeah, that's true. Thank God. We had DoorDash-

Amanda:            We sure did.

Julia:                    ... delivered to our hotel.

Amanda:            We did to cater Eric Schneider’s birthday party and it was totally wonderful.

Julia:                    Yeah, DoorDash connects you with your favorite restaurants in your city or a city you're not familiar with. We don't know Orlando that well.

Amanda:            No, and don't have a car, so please help.

Julia:                    They made ordering super easy. All we had to do was open the DoorDash app, choose what we want to eat, and then the food is delivered to us at our hotel.

Amanda:            Whatever city that you are in, they have 340,000 restaurants in 3,300 cities. Whether you're visiting someone in a smaller town or going to a metropolis that you don't know very well, DoorDash is there for you.

Julia:                    Yeah. Right now our listeners can get $5 off their first order of $15 or more when you download the DoorDash app and enter the promo code 'spirits'.

Amanda:            That's $5 off your first order when you download the DoorDash app from the app store and enter the promo code 'spirits' at checkout.

Julia:                    Yup. Don't forget that. It's promo code, 'spirits' for $5 off your first order from DoorDash. Thanks DoorDash.

Amanda:            Thanks.

Julia:                    We will start out our second half with the kikimora, which is a female house spirit. Now you probably remember that our good friend, the domovoi was also a house spirit-

Amanda:            Oh yes-

Julia:                    ... we've mentioned them on the show before, but the kikimora is... If the domovoi is there to help you out with household stuff-

Amanda:            If you don't piss him off-

Julia:                    ... and be real cool. The kikimora is the bad side of that.

Amanda:            Oh no. It's like good or bad roommate, like angel versus devil roommate situation.

Julia:                    Her name comes from the Finnish word for scarecrow, literally bag-made person. But it-

Amanda:            Also Finland, what are you doing up there? You all have so many folklores.

Julia:                    Yeah, it's good. I like it. Appreciate it. But her name might also be associated with the mare, as in nightmare. The mora part.

Amanda:            Oh.

Julia:                    Uh-huh (affirmative). When a kikimora lives in a home, she's said to live behind either the stove or in the cellar. She doesn't make much noise other than a noise reminiscent of a mouse digging through food.

Amanda:            Oh no, Julia, this is two of my worst fears. A, cleaning behind the stove, and B, mice.

Julia:                    Yup. That's why she's bad. However, unlike the domovoi, she isn't living in your home to help you out, but rather she's the one there to give you nightmares. She-

Amanda:            Actual nightmares.

Julia:                    Yes. She's the traditional explanation for sleep paralysis in Slavic folklore. It is said that she will enter into the bedroom through a keyhole and will sit on the chest of the occupant and try to strangle them.

Amanda:            No.

Julia:                    Yeah, that's real bad. Parents will also advise their children that if they are attacked by kikimora to look past it out the window or to turn on their pillow and make the sign of the cross on it. I don't suffer from sleep paralysis, so I'm not entirely sure if this is good advice or not, but that's the advice that they give them.

Amanda:            Oh, that really gives me real shivers around dissociation and trying to distract yourself. Oh boy. Yikes.

Julia:                    Additionally, one could leave a broom upside down behind the door, put a belt on their sheets, or perform an elaborate prayer before bed in order to ward her off.

Amanda:            Would the broom be distracting the kikimora that, that's the person instead of the person in the bed?

Julia:                    Oh, I'm not sure.

Amanda:            Or maybe it's just a luck or fortune, like reversing of the household cleaning implements.

Julia:                    Yeah, they did not provide info as to why those were the things to do. The belt thing, I don't understand why that is.

Amanda:            I mean anyone with personal experience let us know.

Julia:                    Yeah. Cool. She can typically be tracked because of her wet footprints, and she was often convinced to come into a home by home builders if they want to cause harm to someone who is buying the house.

Amanda:            Wow. What a good reason to pay your contractors on time and well.

Julia:                    Please tip the laborers who helped build your home.

Amanda:            Yeah.

Julia:                    Once she's inside, she's very difficult to get her to leave. She will sometimes help look after chickens and do housework, but most of the time she's found whistling, breaking dishes, and making noises in the night that keep up members of the household.

Amanda:            I mean chicken tending at what cost?

Julia:                    Yes. At what cost? How many eggs do you really need?

Amanda:            Also, I will say I appreciate the traditional gender reversal of household labor here. She is there to sow discord and not to keep your home clean and be silent and just perform that labor.

Julia:                    Yeah, there is a little bit of a reason behind it. Basically she's sometimes described as a malevolent ghost who attaches herself to a particular house, but the term is also used to describe an ugly woman who strives to make her husband's life miserable by being ill tempered and grumbling.

Amanda:            I mean, sounds more likely that the husband's bad, and the person's just living their life.

Julia:                    Yeah, as I mentioned earlier on the episode, Jake and I have been watching a lot of The Sopranos, and I just feel terrible for every single woman on that show.

Amanda:            I bet.

Julia:                    Because they're just like, "I get that there's a lot going on in this man's life because he's chosen a life of crime for himself. But please give your wife attention, please tend to her needs. That's all I ask." Anyway. One of my favorite versions of the kikimora story, however, comes from Poland where she is not the soul of the dead, but rather the soul of a living person, which leaves the body during the night and is seen as either a wisp of straw, hair, or a sphinx moth, or a night butterfly.

Amanda:            Whoa, that's awesome.

Julia:                    I know, I like the imagery of just my soul leaving my body and just going to be a moth somewhere in the night.

Amanda:            Yeah, and your nighttime self just being super chaotic, evil creature while your day self sleeps.

Julia:                    Yeah. I mean that's very similar, and I'll touch upon this a little bit later because there's another story that is similar to that. The benandanti episode that we talked about, that they were much more benevolent than malicious. It's even in their name ben-andanti.

Amanda:            Yeah. That reminds me of when we walked into the Italy showcase in Epcot and Jake just started speaking Italian and we were like, "Hello?"

Julia:                    I was like, "I didn't even know you spoke that. What are you doing?"

Amanda:            As I paid for my drink he's like, "Say Grazie signore," and I was like, "Okay."

Julia:                    Okay. Well thank you. We'll swap over now to something I hinted at earlier in the episode, the Slavic version of vampires.

Amanda:            Tell me all about it.

Julia:                    There's a bunch of different ones. It's very exciting. In Slavic folklore, vampires are considered the unquiet dead because of unnatural or untimely death. Again, suicide is a big cause in this one, but sometimes it's stuff like excommunication from the church, being buried improperly, or even an animal or bird crossing over the corpse or the corpse's grave before they're laid in it. Which I feel like probably happens a lot. You can't control birds.

Amanda:            No, you can't.

Julia:                    Birds are free animals.

Amanda:            Birds do what they will.

Julia:                    Birds just fly over stuff all the time. It doesn't matter if it's an empty grave or not.

Amanda:            No, on their way to just be good husbands.

Julia:                    They are very good husbands. When it comes to the creation of vampires, especially close to Romania, the first 40 days after death are crucial. First the soul starts as a invisible shadow and then slowly gains strength as it starts to steal blood from the living. It becomes this jelly-like, boneless mass during this period of time. But as they take more and more blood and feed on more and more, it becomes more and more human-like as the body gains sustenance. This is very similar to when we were watching the mummy, and every time he stole a piece of the body parts from the people, he became more human-like or, mummy-like-

Amanda:            [he future of jellyfish evolution.

Julia:                    Oh no, don't say that.

Amanda:            That sounds terrifying. Also, this is like anti-lent, right? Think about it for a minute. It's a 40-day time period. Traditionally, during lent you give something up to clarify your spirit, to do penitence, to focus on what's really important, and to make a sacrifice to honor the sacrifice of Jesus that you're going to honor and celebrate during Easter. Sorry. But this is the opposite where, instead of your soul growing more clarified and pure, your sin manifests and manifests and manifests and becomes more and more, I don't know, corporeal until at the end of it you got a vampire there.

Julia:                    That's a very good point. Thank you. Amanda. That's very, very good. Eventually they'll feed enough to create a body that was identical to their own in life. The lore is also a whole thing because once their body is complete they can fuck.

Amanda:            Oh.

Julia:                    Yeah.

Amanda:            Okay.

Julia:                    Yeah, so-

Amanda:            Truly the anti-lent.

Julia:                    It's said that vampires can become sexually active and have children and those children are sometimes born with the ability to see and kill vampires, which makes them vampire hunters. This is a whole, [shit. I really appreciate-

Amanda:            Julia, why do we have this universe to live in and play in?

Julia:                    I feel like we do. I feel like that's very similar to what Bram Stoker laid out with his Dracula series.

Amanda:            That's true. We have other kinds of crossover, mythological creature, human, power scenarios and all kinds of books and movies, but-

Julia:                    I just think when you lay it out like that, it sounds like some shit.

Amanda:            It sure does when [inaudible 00:36:11] is up in here.

Julia:                    There we go. Thank you for that. There are actually some pretty cool alternative versions to vampires in this area. For instance, some will appear as butterflies, again we talked about this before, representing a soul that has departed a body. Additionally, there are some traditions of living vampires, which are people who have the ability to have their souls leave their bodies and engage in vampiric activity while the body sleeps. Like I said, the benandanti. There is another version where the recent dead have 'not lived piously' and so they will appear at crossroads, bridges, caves, and graveyards. They will then attack people in their homes and drink their blood. This is the type of vampire that we get the wooden stake killing technique from, which... You got to love that. It's very cool.

Amanda:            Okay Julz, second motion of the episode. Not only are we replacing fall with spring as the most haunted season, but I think that we should either consider a sequel to our bar, the Bull Moose party, speakeasy behind the bookstore. We should make something at a crossroads. I feel like there aren't enough places at crossroads for us to hang out, be witchy, and just chill in a liminal space where nothing matters and there is no law.

Julia:                    You just reminded me of a script that I feel like I wrote based on an idea that we had about four or five years ago.

Amanda:            Yes.

Julia:                    Crossroads diner.

Amanda:            Yeah. Oh shit.

Julia:                    Yeah, we should write that.

Amanda:            Oh shit.

Julia:                    Yup.

Amanda:            We were thinking about that before we started Spirits.

Julia:                    Yeah we were.

Amanda:            Oh, oh, okay.

Julia:                    You [crosstalk 00:37:37] to sit down and write that at some point huh?

Amanda:            Join the multicrew and stay tuned.

Julia:                    Yes. Good [inaudible 00:37:42]. There is also a Slovakian myth of a vampire called the pijavica, which translates to literally leech, which is very cool. The way to protect yourself from that is placing mashed garlic and wine in the thresholds of your house in order to keep it from entering, and it can only be killed with fire while it's awake.

Amanda:            Okay. I mean that sounds like not a bad way to aroma your house.

Julia:                    Yeah, honestly wine and garlic, that's just our house on a Sunday.

Amanda:            Yeah, that sounds really likely, and probably smells better than whatever was being smelled back in the day-

Julia:                    Yeah, that's true. I'll finish with the earliest recording of vampire activity from the area, which dates to 1672.

Amanda:            In Slovakia?

Julia:                    Yes. The record state that a man named, Giure Grando, I don't know if that's how you pronounce it. I am so sorry. In a village known as Kring, K-R-I-N-G.

Amanda:            Kring.

Julia:                    ... was causing a panic in his town. He died in 1656 but according to local villagers, he returned from the dead and began drinking the blood of villagers and sexually harassing his widow.

Amanda:            No.

Julia:                    Yeah, not great-

Amanda:            [crosstalk 00:38:48]-

Julia:                    Don't like that. Villagers attempted to drive a stake through his heart, but it failed to kill him, so instead he was beheaded, which ended his reign of terror.

Amanda:            Okay. Okay. I mean, that's where we get beheading vampire law from. That makes sense.

Julia:                    It makes sense. I feel real bad that the stake didn't work, beheading did. Not great. I want to finish just this roundup with the rusalka, because there's some debate as to whether or not she's technically the unquiet dead. She most likely started as a regular nature spirit before she was later associated with the unquiet dead because of their origins being conflated with being an unclean death.

Julia:                    Originally rusalka were water spirits associated with fertility and it wasn't until the 19th century that they were viewed as malicious spirits. It was probably one of those [inaudible 00:39:35] not picking it's fine situations. Similar to the mavka, they are young women who committed suicide via drowning due to either an unhappy marriage or a jilted lover, or drowned against their will, typically because they had an unwanted pregnancy and the family didn't want to deal with that kind of stuff. Many stories mention that the souls of young women who died near a river or a lake would come back to haunt that area. The only way that a rusalka can die in peace is if her death is avenged. But until then, she is this malevolent spirit who will lure young men to the waterways, entangle their legs with her long hair, which I really like that imagery, and then pull them under the water and drown them.

Amanda:            Like sentient seaweed.

Julia:                    I know. I love sentient seaweed. It's very, very good. That's our Unquiet Dead episode. Amanda, I'd love to hear your thoughts on just everything as a whole as always.

Amanda:            Oh, I mean, just there's so many different depictions of what spirits can do, look like, manifest as the physical boundaries of when they interact with the world, which you know is my jam. I love this way of looking at these spirits as a cross section. Like I was saying earlier, not as that there is alignment or what effect they have on the world, but how that spirit was made. I think a lot of the time the first thing that we learn and the stuff that's depicted in cartoons or Scooby Doo or something is, an evil person becomes an evil spirit. But that's not always how it goes. Sometimes evil done to you creates. The act and the person left behind together are manifested in the death. It's not like the essence of the person that ends up surviving, unfortunately.

Julia:                    I mean that's something that we see in ghostlore all the time is that, I have unfinished business or I can't rest peacefully because something was done to me. I feel like, the fact that we've been telling those stories for ages and ages and eons and eons is very cool because people have understood that there's wrong ways to die since the dawn of time, and the fact that we can tell stories about those spirits, and they can live on because their stories are this lesson for us to learn as living people I think is really touching in a way. It's sad for sure, but it's also touching and emotional in a way that I can't really describe.

Amanda:            There's something too about the rituals that we do after a death where... Especially from a secular point of view, it doesn't have a logic to why we have an obligation to people after they die. We've talked before about how morning rituals, obviously, are so important to the living to process, to deal with, to honor that death. I was just at a wake last weekend and there is something of the routine of it, of knowing what's happening, of seeing everybody, of making that pilgrimage. That makes a lot of sense. Seeing burial and post death rituals manifested in such a concrete way like, "If you don't do this, this will happen to the person."

Amanda:            There's a power to it that I can't necessarily name or point to. Obviously this is such a concrete and integral part of every, I think, tradition pretty much. Just seeing this little cross section of ways that we can choose to do right by somebody after death or not, it's really moving.

Julia:                    Yeah. I think there's something to be said or just at least to point out the fact that most of these unquiet dead come from vulnerable groups. Young children or women who are in either abusive relationships or domestic assault. I think that, the fact that, not only do they get a life after, but they get a option of redemption. With the rusalka, they can be avenged and find peace or with the mavka, maybe one day she'll find her love again and she won't have to go on drowning people. I think there's something to be said that we've understood for a very long time, that certain groups are vulnerable to things and that they deserve better than what they get.

Amanda:            Yeah. I think that hope that your life is not necessarily one and done. Regardless of your viewpoint about what happens after death, having these stories and examples of ways that we can influence the world and not just be influenced by it. There's a lot of hope in that.

Julia:                    Yeah, I agree.

Amanda:            Guard your open graves. Don't let any birds fly over that.

Julia:                    Don't let the birds fly over them.

Amanda:            Don't let it, and remember...

Julia:                    Stay creepy.

Amanda:            Stay cool.