Południce (singular: południca) are demons of young women who died before, during or short after their wedding – lost souls of betrohed maidens who didn’t manage to fulfil their fate as a wife. In the oldest tales they are also described as spirits protecting the cultivated plants.
They are appearing around noon on the hottest days of summer, wandering in the fields of golden crops. From a distance they might look like beautiful girls, dressed in blinding white linen clothes, with their hair loose, sometimes wearing a wreath or a flower crown (traditional headpieces of a bride at the start of a wedding). On a second glimpse, one might notice unusual elements of their appearance like steel teeth, swollen tongue, or spots of rotten and burned flesh on their skin. They typically hold a sickle or a rod.
People who encounter a południca are asked tricky questions or riddles which might save their lives. Victims are usually ambushed from behind. The worst fate meets those who fall asleep under the Sun, not being able to protect themselves in any way. They are tortured, getting heavily injured or even killed. Most often they’re burned by the heat she’s radiating with. Meeting her might cause heavy headaches (at the best case), heart attacks, paralysis, or loss of consciousness. Men might be charmed and become insane over her appearance as a beautiful woman. Children who play alone in the crop fields are kidnapped or permanently blinded. She’s often arriving with whirlwinds that appear in the hot air before the summer storms. Sometimes seven black dogs are accompanying her.
Południca is attacking mainly those who go alone into the fields, though she can be also seen wandering around small villages or along main dirt roads. According to some of the tales, she’s targetting only the people who deserved it – the cheating men, or the farmers who do not honor the rites dedicated to the Mother Earth during the harvest season.
Anyone could protect themselves against them – it is only necessary to perform the proper rites, and never venture alone nor fall asleep in the open fields when the Sun is at its highest.
During the winter they’re waiting in a hibernated state below the ground until the summer hotness wakes them up again.
In the English language they are referred to as midday ladies or noonwraiths.
Other local names known in Poland: przypołudnica, biała pani, żytnica, żytnia baba, rżana baba, baba o żelaznych zębach, diablica południowa, diablica polna.
Other creatures from Polish mythology described on my blog:
- ogniki (błędne ogniki) – demons comparable to ignis fatuus
- płanetnicy – supernatural beings called ‘shepherds of the clouds’
- zmory – demons feeding on human vitality during sleep
- boginki – female spirits / demons connected to childbirth
- latawce – demons of the wind forces
- biesy – primeval spirits, evil forces of nature that hide in untouched parts of nature
- strzyga – a demon similar to a vampire, often travelling in a form of a bird
- bieda – a shapeshifting demon bringing misfortune and poverty
- biali zimni ludzie (white cold people) – demons being a personification of illnesses