Yoŭnik and Yara

Copyright Natalia.sk

Yoŭnik (also called Yovnik) is an adorable farmstead creature in Belarusian mythology. He lives in a drying barn, called yoŭnya or yovnya in Belarusian. Here the sheaves of grain were dried before threshing. Yoŭnik is rather small, and perpetually blackened from smoke and soot. He’s also frequently covered in spider webs.

He’s very ashamed of his appearance, and so always hides from people. However, he’s very hardworking, and always serving his people. Yoŭnik starts the fire in the oven, airs out the sheaves, sweeps the floor, and protects the harvest from evil spirits and bad people.

Sometimes, he comes to the barn window to cough up the soot and dust. More rarely, he crosses the threshold to inspect the sheaves in the warehouse, deflect or direct the wind during winnowing, or look at the people working in the barn.

Copyright Natalia.sk

If a bad person comes into the barn, Yoŭnik waits for him or her to fall asleep, and then disturbs the person’s sleep, sends smoke, or sometimes even burns the barn down or strangles the person. Yoŭnik himself can’t burn in the fire, unless lightning strikes. If that happens, he leaves behind no dust.

A parallel figure is Ovinnik, a protective barn spirit in the shape of a black cat, as big as a standard dog, with eyes burning like coals.

Copyright Oosoom

Yara (also called Iara, Uiara, or Mãe das Águas) is a water nymph, mermaid, or siren in Brazilian mythology. Her form changes depending upon the story. Yara originated in Guarani and Tupi mythology.

Yara is described as green-haired, brown-eyed, with copper or light brown skin (either a native Brazilian or a caboclo, someone of mixed-race ancestry). She sits on a rock by the river, combing her hair or napping in the sunlight. When she feels the presence of a man, she begins to softly sing to him.

Once under Yara’s spell, a man will leave anything to join her in her underwater world forever. This was no trick, as Yara is very beautiful, and will cater to all of her lover’s needs for the rest of his life. Though Yara is immortal, her lovers eventually get old and die.

The Yara legend was one of the more common explanations behind the disappearance of those who got lost in the jungle.

Yara means “water lady,” derived from Old Tupi y (water) and îara (lady). The name is very popular in Brazil, both as Yara and Iara.

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2 comments on “Yoŭnik and Yara

  1. Nick Wilford says:

    Younik does look faintly embarrassed. I think he’s underappreciated, getting on with things quietly without asking for much recognition.

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