My novelette Lured From the Path features a mythical creature called Vila. I thought I’d give a little background on this creature.
I scoured the internet for information on the women of the forests. I found many places, including a couple of Eastern European chat rooms where people told and retold many different versions of the Vila myth. I take little pieces from everywhere, never big chunks, and write it all down. Then I go through the list and pick what strikes me and weave it into my own imagination. (Smorgasbord storytelling.) This is why most of my stories will have a sentence in the very front explaining that literary license has been taken, resulting in an amalgamation of whatever myth or legend I’m writing about.
If I did my job right, the reader will never know what came from research and what just popped out of my head.
So the Vila stories are told throughout Eastern Europe and each country seems to have its own take on it. These are the most popular:
1. They are nymphs who lure men from the forest paths. The stories that focus on the nymph aspect is very typical of what you’d find in Celtic fairy tales. They can hurt you or they can help you. They could play practical jokes, cause mischief or simply satisfy their own curiosity. Sometimes they are associated with fairy mounds, or forest clearings, especially where lightning has struck. These stories claim the women have control over wind.
2. They are female spirits who have been too frivolous in life to move on after death. Their voices are beautiful, like a siren in the woods, and this is how they lure men from the paths. They make the men dance with them and can help them, but will kill the man if he defiles them or breaks a promise. They also have clearings where they’ve danced, and to step on one is to bring bad luck. These spirits also have power over the wind, cause the ground to shake and have prophetic gifts.
3. They are spirits of women who were engaged, but died before their wedding could take place. This is the saddest version I found. Some stories say they make the men dance until they die of exhaustion.
Those are the main three, the most popular versions- or at least the most told. There are countless other stories, though, everything from mean witches to gentle protectors of nature. Some say the Vila can be kept if you take a piece of hair, or killed if you burn a piece of their skin. Some say men should leave offerings for the Vila, in the form of cakes, fruit, flowers and ribbons, at sacred sites.
There have been countless stories, ballets, and plays written about the Vila. When I stumbled across the mythology, I was captivated. I grew up on Celtic fairy tales, so I was actually a bit surprised to find something so similar in the Eastern European culture, although I shouldn’t have been. Celts were in Eastern Europe too, after all.
I thought the very idea, and especially the three versions mentioned above, were beautiful. They are sad, they are strong, they are tragic and playful and lovely. They dance and sing, they shape-shift into swans, wolves and snakes. They are all about female empowerment, and yet are still romantics at heart.
And that, is the mythology of the Vila. If you want to know more, do an internet search and you will find many places where the stories are told and debated.
If you want to read my version, you can find it on