The Skogsrå: Horror of the woods

The skogsrå, or the huldra, is a spirit of the forests that frequently appears in cautionary tales told around campfires and hearths to warn people from going too deep into the woods. There are many variations of the story, but it centers around a beautiful woman appearing to some unlucky traveler, enticing the traveler to follow her into the woods. Then she either shows her true nature or the unlucky traveler finds himself under “woodcover”, referring to a state where he is unable to find his way out ever again.

Skogsrå appear as beautiful, often naked women who appear behind trees and when someone tries to follow one, they only move deeper into the woods until the traveller is lost. Then they show their true nature: while being beautiful on one side, their backside is like a hollow rotten log. Once they abandon their illusion, they appear as humanoids made entire out of rotten wood, moss and lichen and attack their victims. Not many have lived to tell about the true appearance of the skogsrå. A traveling preacher from Kokemeki has written a description regarding tree-creatures riding on elks in the forests north of Somoro, which might be related to the skogsrå.

Even if the skogsrå only leaves a traveller under woodcover, the traveller is still probably lost forever. The forest around him turns into a dreamscape where nothing is solid, everything changes constantly or he finds himself going in circles. The world goes quiet around the lost: they cannot hear birds singing or the sound of the wind. The only way for them to be found is either through the lost knowing the rites that allow him to find his way again, or someone with the knowledge of those rites looking for them.

Woodsmen know a few rituals to placate the skogsrå: smear honey on a rowan you pass before going into the woods and when you go deeper into the woods, be sure to speak out loud about how beautiful the forest is, thereby placating the spirits. It is also said that you shouldn’t shoot elk in April. No one knows if these rites and customs actually work, but they’re quite frequently followed on the frontier. The safest way to avoid them seems to be travelling in larger groups, avoiding going too deep into the forests and of course never following the skogsrå when they appear. Hunters and tarmakers who need to spend time alone in the woods sometimes tell about women appearing at their campfires, trying to entice them to leave their camps.

Like other such things, skogsrå almost never appear in the more civilized areas of the Baltic region.

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