Slavic mythology from Poland (part 6): BIESY

artwork © Paweł Zych / Bestiariusz Słowiański

Biesy (singular: bies) are a personification of all the undefined evil forces in the nature. Once they were placed amongst the most dangerous and the oldest demons in the central and eastern Europe. Their name is derived from Proto-Slavic *bĕsъ, coming from the Proto-Indo-European root *bboidh-, which meant “causing fear and terror”.

Biesy can penetrate souls of individuals and control their physical actions, what eventually leads their victims into insanity (thus the adjective “zbiesiony” in the Polish language which describes someone under evil influence or devoid of free will and charisma). Sometimes they are waiting in ambush around remote crossroads, and the travellers who see animals making unusual sounds, for example cats crowing or roosters barking, are warned to turn back not to cross their path with a bies.

Biesy live in primeval forests, swamps and deep waters, usually far from human settlements. They are also believed to be guarding treasures hidden in the ground. The brave warriors who venture into their territory are warned with shill shrieks and malicious giggles.

Over the centuries, in the process of Christianization, the word bies / bes (as well as the very similar Slavic demon czart / czort / chort) became synonymous with the word “devil” in many Slavic languages, and many Slavic folk tales describe them as devil’s minions.

My general sources / book recommendations [in Polish only].

Rebloggable version on my tumblr blog: [link].

Other creatures from Polish mythology described on my blog:

  1. ogniki (błędne ogniki) – demons comparable to ignis fatuus
  2. płanetnicy – supernatural beings called ‘shepherds of the clouds’
  3. zmory – demons feeding on human vitality during sleep
  4. boginki – female spirits / demons connected to childbirth
  5. latawce – demons of the wind forces
  6. południce – midday ladies, demons of betrohed women who died before wedding
  7. strzyga – a demon similar to a vampire, often travelling in a form of a bird
  8. bieda – a shapeshifting demon bringing misfortune and poverty
  9. biali zimni ludzie (white cold people) – demons being a personification of illnesses

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