Folklore of Vilas
Slavic nymphs said to have power over the wind and to delight in creating storms. In Polish legends they are called wila. These fairylike creatures, appearing as beautiful maidens, either naked or dressed in fabulous blue robes or skirts of leaves, live in the wilderness or in the clouds, and are sometimes said to be spirits of women who have lived frivolous lives. They dwell between this world and the afterlife and their feminine charms belie the fact that they are also fierce warriors whose voices can form gusts of wind powerful enough to lift a house.
Possessing healing powers and the ability to foretell the future, vila will sometimes help humans. They have also been said to lure young men to dance with them and, according to their mood, this can go well or badly for the man in question. A thick ring of grass is left where they have danced, but treading upon this brings bad luck.
In Serbian folklore, a vila is a forest nymph who dwells in rivers or caves. They are shapeshifters and can appear as swans, horses, falcons, or other animals, as well as beautiful young women dressed in long, white gowns. They are benevolent unless provoked and generally help the poor and needy. But be warned: to cross a vila is to incur her wrath, and a glance from an angry vila can prove fatal.”
– The Element Encyclopedia of Fairies by Lucy Cooper.
Variations: Veela, Vilia, Vilya, Vilishkis, Vily, Willi
In Serbian folklore, the vilas were the beautiful and young mountain nymphs clad in white; their voice was said to resemble the call of the woodpecker and was a warning of some mountain catastrophe, such as an avalanche. Vilas were known to carry off children whose mothers had, in a fit of anger, condemned them to the Devil or Hell. The vilas were said to injure those who interrupt their revelries as they dance beneath the branches of the ash or cherry trees, shooting them with deadly accuracy with their bow and arrows. Vilas would heal wounded deer, warn heroes of their imminent death, and had the ability to speak the languages of the animals. These fairies were said to bridle seven-year-old harts with snakes so they could ride them as mounts.
It is possible the vilas may have at one time not been a species of nymph but rather a singular goddess.
In Western Europe the vilia is a type of nymph or nature spirit; nearly always female they are described as being captivatingly beautiful. They will attract the attention and love of men but will eventually end the relationship; according to some tales, if a vilia ever found true love it would die a slow and terrible death. In Dalmatia, a man who is lucky enough to have the blessings of a vila is called vilenik.
As the vily, they are similar to Greek nymphs and found in the mountains of the European Alps and Poland; they are beautiful, female nature spirits who prefer not to become involved in human affairs. Although there are a few stories of the vily rescuing a person from an alpine disaster by guiding the team of rescue dogs it is not because the vily are inclined to help the human but rather because they love dogs over all other animals. The vily are believed to protect over the Saint Bernard Monastery houses and train the much acclaimed rescue dogs.”
– Encyclopedia of Giants and Humanoids in Myth, Legend and Folklore by Theresa Bane. Also in Encyclopedia of Fairies in World Folklore and Mythology by Theresa Bane.
In Thomas Keightley’s Fairy Mythology, this is how the Vila is described:
CHERRY! dearest Cherry!
Higher lift thy branches,
Under which the Vilas
Dance their magic roundels.
Them before Radisha
Dew from flowers, lashes,
Leadeth on two Vilas,
To the third he sayeth–
“Be thou mine, O Vila!
Thou shalt, with my mother,
In the cool shade seat thee;
Soft silk deftly spinning
From the golden distaff.” [a]
“A female being peculiar to Serbian mythology is the Vila, who partakes of the characteristics of both the Fairy and the Elf. These Vilas, represented as Mountain Nymphs, live in the forests and hills, and love singing and dancing. They are young and beautiful, with long flowing hair, and are usually clad in white. They often mount up into the air, from whence they discharge fatal arrows at men, but injure none except those who intrude on their revels. There is a Serbian saying – ustrièlila ga vila – meaning, the Vila has shot him with her dart. They are often seen sitting on Ash trees singing, and they converse with the stags of the forest. A Serbian song narrates how:
‘A young deer tracked his way through the lone forest
One lonely day – another came in sadness –
And the third dawn’d, and brought him sighs and sorrow;
Then he address’d him to the forest Vila:
“Young deer,” she said, “thou wild one of the forest!
Now tell me what great sorrow has oppress’d thee;
Why wanderest thou thus in the forest lonely;
Lonely one day – another day in sadness –
And the third day with sighs and anguish groaning?”
And thus the young deer to the Vila answered:
“O thou sweet sister! Vila of the forest!
Me has indeed a heavy grief befallen:
For once had a fawn, mine own beloved,
And one sad day she sought the running water;
She entered it but came not back to bless me.”’
– The Forest in Folklore and Mythology by Alexander Porteous.
The Vila in Slavic myth, are one of “a race of female spirits of the dead” (Tresidder, 2004:504). Described as being “forever young and beautiful” (Tresidder, 2004:504), in Bulgarian tradition they are said to represent the souls of young, unbaptizes girls (see also Tresidder, 2004:504). “The Poles claimed that the vila was condemned to float between heaven and earth because she had been frivolous in life. Prominent in southern Slavic folk myth, she was beneficial and loved to dance and sing”(Tresidder, 2004:504). Tresidder (2004:504), adds that there “are stories of vilas marrying mortal men”.
Vila in Modern Culture
The heroine Giselle for which the classic ballet is named, served only a brief stint as a Wili (an alternate spelling of Vila). Inspired by a work of Romantic Era poet Heinrich Heine, this tale follows the plight of a young peasant girl, betrayed by her love and her own weak heart. Upon discovering her lover’s hidden identity, Giselle breaks into a fit of hysterics and collapses in the town square when her heart stops.
Wilis in this story are female ghosts who had suffered heartbreak and died before their wedding day, doomed to haunt the mortal world every night seeking revenge upon those who had jilted them. Following her untimely demise, Giselle unwittingly becomes one herself and is ordered by Myrtha, the Queen of the Wilis, to dance her lover to exhaustion, thus causing his death. She refuses to succumb to hatred, and wills her love prevail despite the heartbreak she suffered. This transcendence granted her lover safety and Giselle herself was then able to rest in peace, having been freed from being a Vila. She seems to be the only one who has done so, as far as we have found…
“Veela are semi-human magical beings; beautiful women with white-gold hair and skin that appears to shine moon-bright. When angry, Veela take on a less pleasant appearance; their faces elongate into sharp, cruel-beaked bird heads, and long scaly wings burst from their shoulders.”
The Veela are a race of semi-human, semi-magical humanoids reminiscent of the Vila in Slavic folklore. Little is known about their biology; they appear to be young, beautiful humans. Their looks and especially their dance is magically seductive to almost all male beings and some female beings, which causes such people to perform strange actions in order to get nearer to the Veela.
Veela were the mascots for the Bulgarian National Quidditch team during the 1994Quidditch World Cup, which indicates an Eastern European origin, although the Delacours, who are from France, are proof that they can be found all over Europe.
Veela are thought to have their own type of magic which does not require a wand. When Veela are angry, however, they transform into something more like Harpies— their faces turn into cruel-beaked bird heads while long scaly wings burst from their shoulders, and they can launch balls of fire from their hands.
The Vilas are obviously powerful Fae who have been misunderstood for time immemorial.
Vila [From the Origin of the Fae page]
Vilas are captivatingly beautiful Fae who live in both the Otherworld and the world of the living.
They have beautiful singing voices and are mesmerising to watch when they dance – which they love to do.
They are excellent archers and usually display this skill when mortals interrupt their revels. They have their revels beneath cherry trees.
Vilas have long flowing hair and typically wear white, though they are partial to shades of blue. They are the Keepers of the Blue Festival where all Fae who are blue can enjoy a revel designed to pay their Tithes and build their glamour.
They do not particularly like humans, though they know that it is necessary to enthral them to take part in their revels as sacrifice. They’ll do what they must to lure humans to their special revels. A thick ring of grass, a type of faery ring, remains after such a revel and those who are wise know not to pass, for their life-force will immediately be drained and they will become part of the forest.
They are the peacekeepers of the forest. Any animal or Fae with a problem can go their sacred Ash trees and have the Vila waiting there decide judgement. Though they love all animals, they are partial to dogs.
They delight in creating storms just for the fun of it. Though they’ll heal the injured and sometimes use their prophetic powers to avert tragedy.
Vilas are shape-shifters, a trait they share with most Fae.
It turns out that the main character in Tuesday’s story The Blue Festival is in fact a Vila. I certainly didn’t know that while writing 😉
When did you first hear about the Vila? Do you know any other stories they feature in? What are your thoughts about this Faery? Check out my Pinterest board dedicated to the Vila for more inspiration.