Here in this land it's difficult to tell if you are in the fairy realm in the sky, the underworld, or still in the Middle Realm of Humans and strange spirits. For a person can find themselves in fairyland simply by stepping off the path, or walking out their door at the wrong time.
Mari-el has a dizzying array of spirits, everything and anything you can think of has a spirit. Clean water ways are ruled over the But Aba, the colic of horses is ruled over by a spirit known as Asera. Forests themselves have dozens, if not hundreds of spirits which rule over and divide up the land. For example; there are the Targeldes, which are the spirits of either those who died in the forest (especially murder victims) or still born babies. Appearing as massive headed, giant Cyclopes, they rove the forest near where they were murdered but will occasionally be seen wandering through fields, meadows, and even into town. Mischievous with a cruel streak they are known to shift their form to that of animals, logs, haystacks, they shriek to frighten cattle and laugh at the chaos which results. Similarly they frighten mushroom gatherers, berry pickers, and anyone else who might find themselves in the forest. Worse they also chase people down or lure them into the forest in order to tickle them to death.
The forest itself seems to be a Topsy-turvy place in general, for here the obda will appear with their feet on backwards. When they steal a horse to ride about the horse even runs backwards, and typically they face backwards as well. They ride about on a single ski in the winter, or sit in the forest laughing wildly and clapping madly. When they are seen Obda appear as naked, hairy people, with the females having such long breasts that they need to throw them over their shoulders when they run. Like other forest spirits they love to capture and tickle people to death, though they also enjoy using their control over people to make them dance themselves to death. Still most of the time they are more prankish than this and they love to pop out of random places to scream and startle people. In order to escape one can't simply fight them as every drop of their blood which falls to the ground will become another obda. The only real way to defeat them is to keep them away with dogs, which they fear, or to reach inside the holes which are under their armpits for doing so causes the obda to loose it's power. Further it seems that the obda can't run back on its own tracks, so as long as a person runs away from the obda over it's tracks it will be unable to follow them.
Targeldes and Obda also shares the forest with Codra Kugua and Codra Kuba (the old man and old woman of the forest) who are the owners of all the animals in the forest. Any hunter who wishes to have luck in hunting must offer these spirits porridge or else they won't be able to catch game. Worse these spirits might grow angry, causing the forest to shake with their fury. When they demand that the hunter share his food or leave another offering, they'll begin knocking (while invisible) on a nearby tree. Often bored they love games of chance and so are known to gamble with each other, using their animals as the stakes, with the winner getting more animals in their forest, and the looser having less.
As if the woodland weren't crowded enough there are also Keremets (the spirits of people who died badly or heroes that can act as deities and disease bringers) L'esak which are giant forest spirits with a bristly hair like a hay stack and big eyes and a giant head. Which loves to drink liqueur, and howls like a dog or makes sounds like a raven. A weird trickster they will often make dung appear to be bread, or do other similar sorts of things. They are also fore-tellers of tragic events, for those who hear them know that someone they love will soon die (given the nature of the l'esak it may be that they think it’s funny to let someone know something bad is coming so they can watch the person panic and try to prevent it).
As human civilization began to grow, it seems that many of these wilderness spirits began to move into human lands. Araptes, a spirit which appears as beautiful three foot tall girls, haunt abandoned bathhouses, though Araptes can also be the spirit of a murderer who haunts a region, or the spirit of a forest which can also be dangerous.
Similarly the Suksendal are feral spirits which lived in the mountains where they would hide under stones. Now, however, they have started to hide under stones in the homestead or in the bathhouse. They appear as short blond men or girls, cause people to have nightmares or rape people in their sleep. They are also known to kidnap babies and commit murder, though one could use sharp iron knifes to keep them away. Further it seems that as they began to live among humans for longer periods of time some of them came to care for the people around them as there are more recent stories about a few of them acting helpfully. One even took a soldier to be an invisible guest at his brothers far away wedding.
Most of the spirits within the household, even the ones that likely came from the wild have similarly become, or always were helpful. Kude Bodez, for example is a deity which lives in the holy corner of the house, where the family continually places fresh twigs for him. Generally friendly the kude will occasionally appear in human form to the family members and bring them good luck and happiness. Still the Kude is a bit like a sensitive child and will become destructive and dangerous if offended, or especially if the people in the house begin to fight with each other. When this happens the kude will begin to act like a poltergeist or bring sickness to the offending family member so that it needs to be calmed with offerings. These offerings are usually of honey, cake, bread, and sacrificed animals (black sheep, duck, hen or hare). After these sacrifices are made the family is expected to share in the kude's feast, eating a family meal of the various offerings, while the head of the household begs the kude for forgiveness and puts a piece of the sacrificed animals organ on the kuda's sacred shelf.
Spirits of Cold and Frost
Poksem Kuguza and Poksem Kuba are the male and female spirits of the cold who live as close knit and mischievous family groups, with their grandfather being the most destructive of them (perhaps because being really really old he's suffering from a bit of Peter Pan syndrome and wants to be childlike again). People sacrifice animals to them, so that they have something to eat, rather than needing to destroy crops.
Justa Kuguza and and Justa Kuba ar ethe male and female spirits of the frost who are much more mischievous and obnoxious than their cold counterparts. They beat on fences, walls and trees while people are trying to sleep. They call for children to come out to play, pinches people's feet and noses, hits people over the head with a mallet so that they become confused from the cold, and will sew the door closed with frost to make it hard for people to get out. They especially love to harass drunk people and will push them about and occasionally go overboard killing people. Occasionally they also climb up into people's rafters, (especially their children Justa Ega and Justa Ebeza (son and daughter respectively)
The vampires of the Mari People they travel about as a shooting star, as a woman with long hair, or a man with a long beard with sparks trailing from their hair as they fly through the air. They can also appear as a bird which pecks at trees killing them.
They fly out of the their grave through small holes to suck the milk out of cows (causing the remaining milk to have blood or dirt in it) or the blood out of people’s mouths by kissing them. Other dangerous activities include eating people and animal’s eyes, or entering women to eat their fetuses and the stomachs of people. They also become especially beautiful people to become a human’s lover so that they can toy with their emotions and drive them insane. Finally they would possess people, causing them to do evil while in a dream like trance.
In order to deal with them people would dig up the body of the person whose spirit they were and beat it with mountain ash branches and burn it. Though sometimes before they could kill it it would escape from the corpse’s mouth in the form of a butterfly and become a buber bird. To prevent this people would put a stone from the craw of a chicken in the corpse’s mouth. Other times it could be reborn from the ashes after it was burned, so killing it was really hard. The only real way to deal with it then was to put a horseshoe at the threshold of a house so that it couldn't enter.
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Souls of the Mari-El
Everyone had three souls known as Sules, Con and Ort. Should the Sules or Con leave the body the person would die almost instantly. The Con would move about within a person’s body, and if the place where it was located was struck the person would also die.
Unlike the other souls the ort regularly leaves person’ s body when they dream, or when a shaman sends it out in a form of astral projection. Though if it remains outside of the body too long illness and even death will eventually result. As a free flowing soul ort is also able to remain behind when a person dies, sometimes flying about as a butterfly or a bird, or wandering invisible (or visible) through the village. After forty days people would have a feast to say goodbye to this spirit as if it enter the land of the dead at this point it was likely to grow malicious.
Pancakes are an important food in Mari-El Tales. One man who discovers a wishing tree is gathering wood so that he can have pancakes. Indeed they are perhaps the most commonly mentioned food in Fairy Tales.
The Pancakes include those made with Barley Flour, with Rye, With crushed Onions in the batter, Oats, or Various Berries.
Various Grains boiled with Pork, Mutton, and Beef
2 Cups Oats, 1 Cup Lard, 1/2 Cup Pork, Clove of Garlic, Water, Salt
Boil until the Pork is well cooked.
Dice Apple's and Turnips, Add a little Sugar, Serve with Sour Cream
Fry Liver in Butter with Chopped Onion.
When brown add a little hot water, and a tomato. Simmer with Rice until water is evaporated.
Bake the resulting rice in the oven for a while.
Mushrooms, onion, pepper, salt for the dumpling mixture.
Serve with butter or sour cream.
Boil a large cleaned fish in water salted to taste.
Remove the Fish
Boil Potatoes and Onions in the Broth, remove.
Cook the Noodles in this broth.