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Rusalka (1968), a painting by Konstantin Vasiliev.

In Slavic mythology, the rusalki lived at the bottom of rivers. In the middle of the night, they would walk out to the bank and dance in meadows. If they saw handsome men, they would fascinate them with songs and dancing, mesmerise them, then lead the person away to the river floor to live with them.


The rusalka is an unquiet dead being, associated with the “unclean force”. People who die violently and before their time, such as young women who commit suicide because they have been jilted by their lovers, or unmarried women who are pregnant out of wedlock, must live out their designated time on earth as a spirit.

The ghostly version is the soul of a young woman who had died in or near a river or a lake and came to haunt that waterway. This undead rusalka is not invariably malevolent, and will be allowed to die in peace if her death is avenged.

Rusalki can also come from unbaptised children, often those who were born out of wedlock and drowned by their mothers for that reason. Baby rusalki supposedly wander the forest begging to be baptised so that they can have peace. They are not necessarily innocent, however, and can attack a human foolish enough to approach them.


While her primary dwelling place was the body of water in which she died, the rusalka could come out of the water at night, climb a tree, and sit there singing songs, sit on a dock and comb her hair, or join other rusalki in circle dances in the field.

Her eyes shine like green fire, others describe them as extremely pale, with no visible pupils. Her hair is sometimes depicted as green, and perpetually wet.

Rusalki like to seduce men. They can do so by enticing men with their singing and then drowning them. Men seduced by the rusalka could die in her arms, and in some versions hearing her laugh could also cause death.

Rusalka Week

The rusalki were believed to be at their most dangerous during the Rusalka Week (Rusal’naia) in early June. At this time, they were supposed to have left their watery depths in order to swing on branches of birch and willow trees by nights. Swimming during this week was strictly forbidden, lest mermaids would drag a swimmer down to the river floor. A common feature of the celebration of Rusal’naia week was the ritual banishing or burial of the rusalka at the end of the week.

You hear unearthly singing, you look up, and see sitting in a tree a beautiful woman combing her wet hair.

The Dancing Hut
Author Michael Tresca
Series Torassi
Publisher Monkey God Enterprises
Publish date 2002

Medium-size undead (water)
Hit Dice2d12 (13 hp)
Initiative+4 (+4 Improved Initiative)
Speed30 ft., Swim 30 ft
AttacksDagger +2 melee
DamageDagger 1d4+1
Face/Reach5 ft by 5 ft/5 ft
Special AttacksSpell-like abilities
Special QualitiesSymbiosis, undead
SavesFort +0, Ref +0, Will +5
AbilitiesStrength 12, Dexterity 10, Constitution –, Intelligence 14, Wisdom 15, Charisma 18
SkillsKnowledge (any one) +6, Escape Artist +7, Hide +7, Listen +9, Move Silently +7, Sense Motive +7, Spot +6, Swim +8, Wilderness Lore +7
FeatsAlertness, Dodge, Improved Initiative
Climate/TerrainAny freshwater aquatic
OrganizationSolitary or group (4-7)
Challenge Rating1
AlignmentUsually neutral evil
Advancement3-4 HD (Medium-size)


Rusalka have been known to tickle to death those who can’t answer their riddles and those who don’t carry wormwood while in the forest.

Spell-like Abilities (Su): Three times per day, rusalka can cast control water, uncontrollable hideous laugther, plant growth, and water breathing as a 7thlevel sorcerer. A rusalka can also use Charm Person three times per day, as cast by a 4th-level sorcerer; targets must succeed at a Will save (DC 15) or be charmed for 4 hours.

Symbiosis (Su): Each rusalka is mystically bound to a single body of water and must never stray more than 300 yards from it. If she does, she disintegrates into a puddle of water within 4d6 hours.

Undead: Immune to mind-influencing effects, poison, sleep, Paralysis, stunning, and disease. Not subject to critical hits, subdual damage, ability damage, energy drain, or death from massive damage.

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