Whatsoe'er at eve had raised the workmen,
Did the Vila raze ere dawn of morning.
Bowring, Servian Popular Poetry.
A DEMON, in the attire of a mourning widow, used, in the Eastern Russia, to go through the fields at noon in harvest-time, and break the legs and arms of the workmen, who failed, when they saw her, to fall on their faces. There was a remedy, however, against this. Trees, long venerated, grew in the adjacent wood, the bark of which being laid on the wound, removed the pain and healed it. [a]
The Vends believe in a similar being; but a Vend knows that when be converses with her for an hour together about flax and the preparation of it, if he always contradicts her, or says the paternoster backwards without stopping, he is secure. [b]
The Russians also believe in a species of water and wood-maids, called Rusalki. They are of a beautiful form, with long green hair; they swing and balance themselves on the branches of trees--bathe in lakes and rivers--play on the surface of the water--and wring their locks on the green meads at the water's-edge. It is chiefly at Whitsuntide that they appear, and the people then singing and dancing, weave garlands for them, which they cast into the stream. [c]
The following is the Polish form of a legend which we have already met with in several places: [d]
There came to a nobleman an unknown man, who called himself Iskrzycki (spark or firestone), and offered to engage in his service. The contract was drawn up and signed, when the master perceived that Iskrzycki had horse's hoofs, and he accordingly wanted to break off the agreement; but the servant stood on his right, and declared that he would enter on his duties, even against his master's will. From this time forwards he took up his abode invisibly in the stove, and performed all the tasks set him. People gradually grew accustomed to him, but at last the lady prevailed on her lord to remove, and he hired another estate. His people left the castle, and they had already gone the greater part of the way, when on a bad part of the road the carriage was near turning over, and the lady gave a loud cry of terror. Immediately a voice answered from behind the carriage--"Never fear! Iskrzycki is with you!" The lord and his lady now saw that there was no way of getting rid of him, so they went back to the old house, and lived there on good terms with their servant till the term of the engagement had arrived.
The Servian ballads, that have lately appeared [e] have made us acquainted with an interesting species of beings called Vilas. These are represented as mountain-nymphs, young and beautiful, clad in white, with long flying hair. Their voice is said to resemble that of the woodpecker. They shoot, according to popular belief, deadly arrows at men, and sometimes carry off children, whom their mothers in their anger have consigned to them or the devil: yet the general character of the Vilas is to injure none but those who intrude upon their kolos, or roundels.
The Vilas sometimes appear gaily dancing their kolos beneath the branches of the Vishnia or Vistula cherry; sometimes a Vila is introduced comforting the sorrows of an enarnoured deer; at other times collecting storms in the heavens; [f] now foretelling to a hero his impending death; [g] now ruthlessly casting down each night the walls of a rising fortress, till a young and. lovely female is immured. within them. [h] She usually rides a seven-year old hart, with a bridle made of snakes.
The following are specimens of these Servian ballads:
[a] Delrio, Lib. ii. Sect. 2. Boxhorn Resp. Moscov. Para I.
[b] Grimm, Deut. Mythol. p. 447.
[c] Mone, vol. i. p. 144. Grimm, Deut. Mythol. p. 460.
[d] Grimm, ut sup. p. 480.
[e] Published by Wuk and translated by Talvi and others into German, by Bowring into English.
[f] Bowring, p. 175. Sabejam oblake, Cloud-gatherer, is an epithet of the Vila, answering to the Grecian Zeus.
[g] Death of Kralwich Mèrko. Bowring, p. 97.
[h] The building of Skadra. Ibid. p. 64.