Slavonic

Slavonic reverence for 'rivers and nymphs and various other heathen powers' is already noted by Procopius (Bell. Goth. 3. 14. 24). Cosmas of Prague (10461125) wrote of the foolish people's adoration of mountain and tree nymphs (Oreades, Driades, Amadriades).39 Mountain nymphs were widely known throughout the Balkan peninsula as vile planinkinje or samovile samogorske. Tree nymphs danced in the woods and lived in certain trees designated by the southern Slavs as sjenovite drveta, 'sprite-trees', which could not be cut down. These were generally oaks or limes, and they received cult attention.40

Water nymphs are widely attested in Slavonic lands, generally under the name of vily or rusalky or terms meaning 'goddess'.41 They are said to be the souls of girls who died before their time. They are described as beautiful maidens with long golden or green hair, dressed in white. They sing and dance in a circle, which leaves its imprint in the long grass or as a ring of fungi. At night they make swings in the trees. They are widely thought to live in, on, or beside lakes, rivers, springs, and marshes. Some of them possess springs with curative properties, and these have prophetic powers. People bring offerings to their springs, and girls pray to them for beauty. They like young men, and may help them and protect them in battle. But they can also do harm if offended. They can send sickness, confuse men's wits, lead them away from the path, inflict heatstroke, or cause them to drown; they may also steal children.42

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