Kikimora is an evil house spirit from Slavic mythology. Her name either derives from the noun mora which means nightmare or the verb moriti which means ‘to bother’ or ‘to strangle’. She is said to sit on the chest of her victims as they sleep, making it hard for them to breathe and impossible to move. She also lurks in the corners of the room, always blending with the shadows as the victim is about to glimpse her. Kikimora is the explanation for sleep paralysis in times when the doctors could not find a more logical and scientific explanation.
There are differences between the southern and northern presentations of this creature. In Russian mythology, Kikimora is an ugly and hunchbacked old lady with a pointy nose, long beard, and chicken legs. She lurks in the darkness behind the stove, under the floorboards, or in the cellar and produces weird noise. When the occupants of the house are sleeping, she passes through keyholes in order to get to the bedrooms. She then sits on the chest of the men and disturbs their sleep. There are two types of Kikimora: the swamp Kikimora that is married to Leshy and the forest Kikimora that is married to Domovoi.
In Serbia and Croatia, Kikimora is more commonly called just Mora, and she is considered a type of witch, rather than a spirit. Moras could only be young and beautiful women, born either from a witch mother or as a baby born in an amniotic sac. They also have a curiously shaped mole or some other kind of mark on their bodies. Similarly, they only haunt men in their sleep.
Both Kikimora and Mora can serve as an ill omen. If they are seen inside the house, it is an indication of great misfortune. Children are especially sensitive to her presence and must always avoid looking her in the eyes because that would mean certain death for them.
If the Kikimora is yet to inhabit a house, she could be stopped by burying a silver object underneath the foundation or by drawing a line with salt on the doorstep. It was also believed that they could not pass through the door if there is a broom turned upside down at the entrance or if there are blades thrust into the door. They are also repelled by garlic, sage, and immortelle. If Kikimora has already entered the house, there is a complicated incantation that could be read before going to bed.
Kikimora has inspired Andrzej Sapkowski, the writer of the Witcher Series, to create an insectoid monster by the name Kikimore. Other than the name and the fact that both lurk in the darkness, there are few similarities between the two evil creatures.