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Teachings of the Mythic Past

Fairies and Plants in Slavic Folklore and Spirituality

(The Mythology of All Races Vol. 3)

The ancient Slavs worshiped and believed in a broad range of magical creatures found in nature, and various perspectives on the male and feminine facets of divinity. Folktales from all across the world contain fantastical beings that sometimes resemble people and animals, and sometimes both simultaneously. Folklore holds the key to the numerous stories of giants, people, fairies, animals, and so on. We have referred to these stories as “fairy tales” for generations due to the relevance of these widely known and popular creatures. These beings are sometimes referred to as fairies, faeries, fey, or fae in modern English. In Slavic folklore, the enigmatic creatures are referred to as the vile (vila, singular form). The vile (mentioned in Harry Potter as “veela”) have appeared in folktales under a variety of names. Slavic literature; past and present, is full of magical tales and warnings about these fairies.

The life force or life energy is represented by the vile. They represent the cycle of life and death. In life we witness and are part of continuous cycles of growth, decay, and rebirth. A surplus of growth is dangerous. For instance, too many plants in one place don’t have enough room to spread out and grow. Both life and often folktales too, require a balance of energies (life and death). An organic ebb and flow of energy is necessary for all who are part of the cycle. As a result, there are fairies with growth energy and death energy; like a waxing or waning moon, for example. “White fairies,” “belici or bilwis,” and “dark or black fairies” are the names given to them (mora, mor meaning “dark” or “death”). Since both forces are essential to the cycle of life, they shouldn’t be seen as “good” and “bad.” Fairies don’t make judgments or have the same perspectives as humans. Since they don’t have human bodies, they might overlook things like the fact that one cannot dance all through the night without getting tired (Slavic Magic & Lore of Plants Series).

In Slavic mythology, fairies (called vila, vile, vele, wili, etc.) take on a variety of shapes, and the spelling of their names varies depending on the language and where exactly the vila make their homes. Some vila are the spirits of the meadows or fields. Some wander more than others. The Slavic vila are known to reside or dwell in diverse parts of nature. Some of them are known as forest nymphs and are associated with trees. Additionally, others may be associated with water (like Rusalka); or spirits of death, and woodland fae creatures. Vile can be depicted as dark and mysterious beings. Khovanets or domovoi (household spirits) should also be mentioned as these creatures are closely related to the vile . Domovoi are capable of often altering their shape and appearance. “Dolia” (fate), “polyovyk or polevoi” (field spirit), “perelesnyk” (spirit of seduction), “lesovyk” or “leshyi” (woodland spirit), “blud” (wanderer), “mara” (specter, spirit of confusion), “chuhaister” (forest spirit of Carpathian Mountains). The vile are mostly from Ukrainian folklore stories. However, vile are seen all over Slavic folklore as a whole (Academic Dictionaries and Encyclopedias). The important thing to remember is that vile are spirits, one might even describe them as souls. A dryad is the spirit or the soul of the tree. Maras have been described as vampiric spirits, but they can also be the wandering spirit or “astral body” of a witch (wise one).

All of the vile share similar characteristics. This is despite having various names, histories, origins, and locations. They have a very important connection to nature. Vile are frequently portrayed in Slavic mythology as forest nymphs that resemble the Baltic vele. The vile and rusalki are titles commonly used interchangeably. A well-known Russian folk tale featuring a vila is the story of Prince Marko. The story goes something like this: Prince Marko observed a group of vile one night as they frolicked around the woodlands and water. He was instantly impressed by the beautiful wings and headdress of their leader, Nadanojla. He desired to capture her mystical headdress and wings and keep them for himself. He would lure Nadanojla by doing this, of course.

To take the headdress and wings of their commander, Nadanojla, Marko set free his companion falcon to complete the task. With lightning speed, Nadanojla took off after the thieving Prince Marko who stole her magical treasures. The lovely yet angry vila who followed Marko was going to be his wife. Well, that is what he told everyone who saw him as he rode away with her possessions! He wanted to capture her. He did, and once legally wed, the pair enjoyed a period of peace and satisfaction. That is until Marko one day started bragging that his wife was a vila. He did this and she put on her wings and soared out in the distance to get away from him. Nadanojla, upset, did not want to recognize her status as the bragging Marko’s wife until he had at once captured her again. From then, whenever Prince Marko chose to proclaim that his lovely bride was one of the vile, all she could do was laugh in his face, as a symbolic gesture of denying that she had magical roots (Dixon-Kennedy). This folktale illustrates how male authority affects shamanic women and other female figures. Folktales frequently feature a male character that kidnaps swan wings or seal skin, leaving the majestic woman defenseless and compelled to wed him. It is crucial to bring up this concept in order to alter how shamanic women are perceived throughout history, culture, and folklore. These stories’ female protagonists had the ability to change, but male supremacy forced them to submit.

The magical roots of vila may be less discussed in comparison to more popular folk stories, but like trees that have stood for hundreds of years, these stories remain and stand tall even if you need to search through forests to find them. Slavic vile, in some cases, are known to make their homes in trees, flowers, and various plants. According to legend humans and vile formerly lived together in relative harmony and in near proximity. Vile can manifest in any shape because they lack a physical embodiment. Due to this, young women who drowned themselves, according to myth, turn into rusalki. Considering humans and vile did at one time live closer together, the legend of rusalki luring victims to their deaths via drowning is quite accurate. There are folktales that specifically display the difference between men and women in regard to consequences for unwanted pregnancies. Men received no punishment for their part in the deed; so naturally, a rusalka may hold resentment against young men wandering near her stream – and then lure him to death. Vile, however, to reiterate are neither good nor evil. In some tales they are helpful to humankind.

In the good old days, when the fields produced wheat and other types of grains without the support of man and when people lived in peace, contentment, and mutual goodwill with one another, the fairies, or vile, provided assistance to humans. The vile helped in the gathering of their harvests, trimming their grass, feeding their cattle, and the construction of their homes.

Vile also instructed people in plowing, sowing, draining meadows, and in the proper burial of deceased people. But as soon as people abandoned their traditional ways, as soon as shepherds stopped singing and playing their flutes and drums in their pastures and instead began cracking whips in their pastures the vile became scarce. Humans shouted obscenities and cursed and as soon as the first reports of guns were heard, as soon as nations began to go to war with one another, the vile vanished from the countryside. It is said that they went to lands beyond their own borders. Because of this, there are not nearly as many opportunities to see the vile when they are frolicking in the fields, as Prince Marko once did. However, one should still make it a point to respect any land spirits that may still be present. When people became consumed with combat, they didn’t respect humans, let alone spirits that weren’t in human bodies or shapes.

In a manner that is analogous to this, Slovenians believe that fairies were kind and mindful of humans and that they would remind them of the times of year that were optimal for planting, harvesting, and sowing crops. In return for all of this, the vile asked for food, which they would consume when it was dark outside. Considering the collections of oral stories as recorded by 19th-century ethnographers, the theme of Slavic vile in connection to plants has been prevalent since pre-agricultural eras. It is known that vile engage with people in not just amorous settings as well as agricultural settings. Even a single encounter with a vila creates a long-lasting memory due to its bright eyes and lovely, pleasant voice. Legend says that when a man is exposed to or observes a vila, he will have an unquenchable desire for her. In fact, the desire may become so strong that it will consume him to the point when his yearning for her will take his own life. Men are usually transfixed by a vila’s alluring appearance.

The vile (fairies) are also famous for their love of horseback riding and stag hunting, again showcasing their connection with nature. In addition to this, they are capable of transforming into other animals, their favorite forms being swans, falcons, wolves, horses, or snakes. They make their home in the sky, as well as the seas and mountains covered with various yet sometimes particular flowers. In addition to residing in magnificent mountainous castles, the vile who inhabit the woods may also be seen dwelling high in caverns, and ravines. The woodland vile ride horses or stags through the forest shoot arrows at deer, slay any who dare to defy them and enjoy perching on trees with which they are intricately tied. It is possible to see from a distance the lush, thick, and green grass that serves as a marker for the spots where the fairies have been dancing. The vile have a tendency to leave behind rings of tall and dense grass after their ritual like dances. These are known as fairy rings. The white vile bring vitality to the area, resulting in tall, lush grass in the spots where they dance. To the contrary, the dark vile have an energy that will cause the grass to wither and die.

The unpredictable nature of fairy rings’ magical force makes it best to avoid stepping on them.

Never step on these circles as doing so will bring bad luck to the person who does so. Anyone who violates the rules of a fairy ring should anticipate suffering as a result of their actions.

It goes without saying that one must stay on the good side of the vile, the woodland spirits and nymphs of Slavic folklore. The vile are powerful warriors who defend their people and the natural lands to which they are inextricably bound, despite their gentle and feminine qualities. When they fight, it’s reported that the ground itself trembles. In Slavic countries, there are tributes or offerings made to the vile to this day that represent the spiritual and folkloric beliefs of Slavic people; as well as remnants of ancient ideas and traditions. Young women in Croatia, for example, place fruits from the field, flowers, or silk ribbons on stones in caves as an offering to the deities. In Bulgaria, on the other hand, ribbons are strung from trees, or little cakes are placed close to wells. Both of these practices are considered to be forms of worship. (The Mythology of All Races Vol. 3)

In Croatian folklore, the beautiful mountain range of Velebit is well-known for the fairies that reside there. The name Vila Velebita or Velebitska Vila is given to the fairy who is considered to be the most well-known of these creatures (translates to “The Fairy of Velebit ”). You might call her the “Queen of the Fairies” but they don’t have hierarchies like that. The “Elder Fairy” might be the most accurate. The Velebit mountain range is claimed to be guarded by the spirit known as the Vila, who has a reputation for being friendly and peaceful. The story “Vila Velebita”, which was published in the 19th century, is perhaps the most well-known of the many tales and songs that have been written and sung in Croatian culture about the vile. In addition to that, a number of other songs and stories have been written on the Vile. (Hidden Europe).

In a Romanian folk song called “The Chicory” a girl refuses the Sun’s marriage proposal and is turned into a chicory flower (Chelairu). Folklorist Ion Ghinoiu expands on this that the “Flower Fairy” Illiana Simziana would wash herself with dew before dawn, but one morning the Sun saw her and “sent two Lucifers” to fetch her (referring to the Morning Star and to the Evening Star). But Illiana refused the sun and was transformed into a chicory flower that watches the sun until late autumn. Chicory opens at sunrise, closes at sunset, and is picked in the evening (Journal of Romanian Linguistics and Culture). This is a clear connection to night and day, just like the vile are associated with the cycles of life and death. In a Russian folktale, a man was turned into a cornflower by the vile. The Russian name for the flower, according to legend, came from the name of a young man Vasily (Vasilek), who was enchanted and then assassinated by a rusalka (derivation of vila). Carried away by her in the field, he was turned into the blue chicory flower, reminiscent of deep blue water. It is known that chicory/cornflower has been used in various rituals pertaining to farming and harvesting, and invoking the creative forces of Mother Nature. (Ruskalki (1888), by Jacek Malczewski (1854-1929))

Vile have made their way through songs, oral narratives, motifs, and myths alike. Within the depths of Slavic folklore, there are numerous mentions of these mystical beings, as well as their connections to plants, trees, and flowers. Ivy, hazel, geranium, and lilies are just to name a few. In the upcoming Slavic Magic & Lore of Plants Series by Patricia Robin Woodruff, the abundance of particular flowers and plants along with their connection to the vile and fairies are detailed in-depth.

The connections between flowers and vile vary. In some cases, specific plants may offer protection against angry vile. Artemisia, for example, is said to protect against mischievous entities, such as angered fairies. It is also one of the most ancient plants in the world (Oak Spring Garden Foundation). In Bulgaria the fairy, (also known as the samovile) like to conceal themselves in geraniums, ivy, and mistletoe (Georgieva, CEEOL). A further example is a primrose. Primrose is occasionally referred to as a “fairy cup,” which denotes the plant’s connection to vile. According to certain myths, you should plant primroses in the cowshed to keep the fairies on your side and prevent them from stealing your milk. Additionally, primroses on your doorstep tempt fairies to bless your house. (Folkard. Plant Lore, Legends, and Lyrics).

The connection between flowers and vile is also relevant during specific times of the year, and around certain holidays and festivals. Both Austeja and Zozim hold roses in the utmost regard due to their title as the “queen of flowers.” The goddess Austeja is linked to fertility and the cycles of life and harvest because she is connected to flowers, bees, and women, especially those who are pregnant. Austeja’s male counterpart is Zozim (Slavic Magic & Lore of Plants). Although Rugosa roses (Rosa rugosa) are blessed and used in wreaths on particular holidays in Ukraine, they are not indigenous to that nation. The summer solstice and Kupala wreaths and vinok (flower crowns) can also be made using roses.

The festivities for the rusalki, which are celebrated in memory of the deceased’s souls, also honor the vile, in whose honor numerous rites are performed. It is believed that fairies have a close relationship with the souls of the deceased since they regularly can be observed dancing by moonlight at the graves of those who have died violent deaths. Teenagers go to the meadows to gather flowers, make bouquets out of them, and sing songs about the vile. When the vile get young boys, shepherds, or singers to dance with them, they also decide who would receive good fortune or misfortune.

The wall bellflower, Campanula portenschlagiana, is a species of flowering plant in the Campanulaceae family that is indigenous to Croatia’s Dalmatian Mountains. It is a robust, low-growing perennial that forms mounds and blooms in the summer with deep purple flowers (Plant Details). These blue and purple bell-shaped flowers with five petals open in the early spring. Flowers with bells are thought to draw fairies according to Croatian, Celtic and Anglo-Saxon folklore. According to legend, these bellflowers awaken fairies in the spring, and “new elves are created from the newly opened bells.” Additionally, it’s thought that bellflowers’ wonderful aroma induces deep sleep and strange dreams and visions in people. In some cases, bellflowers are called “fairy thimbles” (Britannica). Ileana Simziana, often known as the Romanian Fairy Queen, is referred to as “the queen of the flowers”. The image of Ileana Simziana, also known as Iana Sanziana or Ileana Cosanzeana, is based on this prehistoric deity that is mentioned in Romanian folklore. Ileana Simziana is considered to be the most beautiful fairy in the country. She has been the focus of a great number of lullabies, fairy tales, and songs. In Romanian folklore, Ileana goes by several different names. She is a goddess in many different cultures, including the Romans (who call her Flora), the Thracians (who call her Semele), and the Slavs (who call her Jarila). “One could stare at the sun but not at her,” the proverb goes because she is so breathtakingly attractive. She is the queen of the fairies and the most beautiful of them all. The “lovely,” “the moon fairy,” “lady of the flowers,” and “protector of the woodlands” are some of the nicknames that have been given to her. Ileana is a radiant goddess who has golden hair, which is said to resemble wheat fields when they are blown by the wind.

Ileana can also be called Dragaica, which translates to “the Lady of the Flowers.” Dragaica is also the Romanian name of a yellow flower, Galium verum, which has both magical and medicinal properties. Together with chicory flowers, these flowers are worn around the waists of women during harvest in the hope that they will protect them from the discomforts of labor-intensive field work. The Romanian cultures used all of these plants, including chicory, hemlock, mandrake, wormwood, and “dragaica,” in fertility ceremonies. As previously mentioned, women would only purchase these plants on the day of the fairies, or Sâmzanii, Sânziene (June 24th, the Summer Solstice). On this day, they would rise very early and head out into the meadows at the crack of dawn to look for and gather these special medicinal plants covered in fresh dew, at the time when it was thought they were the most potent and effective for treating various needs or ailments, or they would simply wear them around their waists to aid in the laborious work (Journal of Romanian Linguistics and Culture).

Samovida and vile maintain a deep-wooded home where they protect the local fauna and flora, clear debris-filled streams, and ensure adequate precipitation. Hunters had to exercise caution around a stunning woman who could communicate with animals since a vile was very possessive of her wild herds. Vile’s competence derives from attentive readings of Polish and Slavic literature, more so than from direct interactions with actual events. In a wide variety of poems and short stories, vile are typically retold to serve as cautionary tales for male characters who are ignorant or insensitive. The reason for this is also due to the various origins of the vile themselves.

Vile in Slavic folktales are distinct from other European fairies. Vile are depicted and viewed as being reborn as nature spirits after death; in opposition to just being born a fairy. What’s important to also keep in mind is that vile, like their rusalki counterparts, are capable of maintaining a specific kind of multidimensional energy.

They have the ability to transform into solid forms that can touch and be touched by the natural environment that surrounds them, or they can retain their incorporeal state, remain translucent and intangible, and blend in with the environment around them, just like plants and flowers. It follows from this that these fairies have the powers of both life and death. In addition, they are simply a component in a cycle, just like the plant and animal life that lives, matures, and eventually passes away on our Earth just to re-bloom again and again.

Works Cited

“Slavic Fairies.” Academic Dictionaries and Encyclopedias,

“DEEP ROOTS Chapter 1. Periodization of Slavic Paganism.” Rodnoverie,

“The Mythology of All Races .. : Gray, Louis Herbert, 1875- Ed : Free Download, Borrow, and Streaming.” Internet Archive, Boston, Marshall Jones Company,

Meet the Slavs. “Fairies in Slavic Mythology.” Meet the Slavs, 14 May 2022,

Warnke, Agnieszka. “Little-Known Polish Fairy Tales.”,

Dixon-Kennedy, Mike. Encyclopedia of Russian & Slavic Myth and Legend, ABC-Clio, Santa Barbara, CA, 1999.

Slavic Magic & Lore of Plants Series, Patricia Robin Woodruff

“Hidden Europe – The Magazine Exploring Europe’s Special Places.” Hidden Europe, 2008,

The Most Prevalent Feminine Mythical Characters in Romanian Folklore – (

CEEOL – Article Detail

Kujawska et al. Journal of Ethnobiology and Ethnomedicine (2015) 11:85

DOI 10.1186/s13002-015-0073-8

Juric_Dorian_B_201904_PhD.pdf (

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About the Author:

Kimberly Anne is a USA freelance writer and Library Circulation Clerk from Chicago, Illinois. She holds a bachelor’s degree with honors in Creative Writing and English Literature. Kimberly Anne is also a member of the International English Honor Society. After devoting a decade to the personal study of global mythology, she began writing about mythology and ancient literature. She focuses primarily on Nordic, Germanic, and Slavic witchcraft and paganism. Kimberly is the official amanuensis of Patricia Robin Woodruff, PhD, MDiv. She spends her spare time communing with Landvættir, hugging trees, and chatting with her magical cats since she is a dedicated polytheist who also believes in animism. You can find her in the book stacks or on social media at @kimberlyanneinc