The spirit of girls who have drowned in the rivers of Russia. During the cold winter months they live deep in the water and even survive under the ice. When summer sunshine warms the waters, the rusalki climb the branches of overhanging trees and go to spend a kind of summer holiday in the forest.
There are two spieces of rusalki: northern and southern. Both are dangerous to humans who venture near the water, but the two spieces use very diferent methods of destroying them. The rusalki of the gloomy northern rivers, who look like the naked corpses of drowned women, snatch any innocent wayfarer and drag him down into the depths. There, they bully and torture him before putting him out of his misery. But the southern rusalki, who resemble beautiful girls clad in gossamer garments of water vapour, entice mortals to join them by singing with irresistable sweetness. The man who hears a rusalki song wades into the depths and drowns with a smile on his lips.
Both types of rusalki are extremely mischievous during their summer holidays. They may ruin the harvest with torrential rain, tear up fishermen's nets, damage such constructions as dams and watermills, and steal the garments which women are making for their families.
Anyone who ventures near Russan rivers should protect himself against rusalki by carrying a few leaves of wormwood, Artemisia absinthum, in an amulet. Wormwood also protects any article which rusalki might steal, damage or destroy. In cases of severe infestation one should scatter a quantity of leaves upon the surface of the river.