A Study of Rusalki – Slavic Mermaids of Eastern Europe – Nonfiction, Folklore, Social Customs
“A fun way to discover what makes spirits different from one another.”
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Mankind’s fascination with the sea has sparked imagination since the first person beheld its mighty waters. Curiosity led people to invent the means to travel across the great oceans and eventually explore beneath them, trying to discover their secrets. Throughout the centuries, millennia in fact, people have created myths and legends about creatures living within the sea’s depths. One of the most alluring and formidable beings to inspire writers, artists, children, and adults is the mermaid, who has been forever immortalized in stories such as Hans Christian Andersen’s The Little Mermaid. But there’s more to this sea maiden than that story tells. In Slavic folklore, she is called a Rusalka.
This book is meant to be fun, to inform you about these fascinating spirits, to give you a glimpse into a culture you may be unfamiliar with. You’ll “experience” the spirits through more than words. Where possible, it includes various interpretations of the spirits: in art, music, and video, as well as in literature, both old and new. It also includes additional material to enhance your understanding of the people and culture.
This series about spirits and creatures from Eastern Europe developed from an idea about a future book in the Dragon Village series. In the first story, “Unborn Hero,” a character possesses a book called Lamia’s Bible, which holds the secrets of all the mythical creatures in Zmeykovo (Dragon Village). I wondered what those secrets might be. If I owned a magical book, I’d want to know the weak spots in my adversary’s character. How could I defeat each creature? How could I control them? I discovered a wealth of information—too much to include in a magical tome, but too much to discard as well. Thus, this series about spirits and creatures begged to be written.
My original intent was for the book to contain beings that appear only in Bulgarian folklore—whether from Thracian, Slavic, or Proto-Bulgarian origins—since the focus of my work to date has dealt with Bulgaria. But again, as I extended my research, many of the Slavic spirits and creatures I came across were not popular in Bulgaria, but they add so much color to the world of Eastern Europe that to exclude them would have been a loss to the reader.
The stories and other information from across Eastern Europe vary from country to country, and even from region to region. I have compiled that information into a composite whole to paint a picture of each spirit and creature. There are so many more, too many to include in each book. What I have included are some of the most popular.
Many, if not all, of the beliefs and rituals about these spirits originate from pagan times. When Christianity dominated the region, “double-belief” became popular—a mixture of Christian-orthodox and pagan belief systems. The old gods may have vanished or become insignificant, often being replaced with the saints. However, the lesser divinities, including the spirits, remained. Christianity did not “replace” the old beliefs; it merely added to them. Peasants viewed the new religious beliefs relevant for their life after death, but to survive in this life, they believed they needed the protection of the spirits who lurked everywhere.
This book is meant to be fun, to inform you about these fascinating spirits, to give you a glimpse into a culture you may be unfamiliar with. You’ll “experience” the spirits through more than words. Where I could, I’ve included various artistic interpretations of the spirits: in art, music, and video, as well as in literature, both old and new. I’ve also included additional material to enhance your understanding of the people and their culture.
As you read this book, imagine you live in a rural area, filled with the unknown. You make your living from the land, where nature is sacred. She can be harsh or she can provide you with plenty. Understand that all of these beliefs and rituals have not completely faded from existence. You can still find places where these spirits are a part of people’s lives. Who’s to say they’re wrong? I certainly won’t.
Whether you believe or not, it’s an enlightening journey discovering these spirits who have existed at least on the pages of stories and have spread from one generation to the next by word of mouth. And I hope it will be a journey you’ll enjoy and remember.
Praise for A Study of Rusalki – Slavic Mermaids of Eastern Europe
“This is a fascinating compilation of folklore about mermaids. Not only is it full of interesting references, but is written in a way that made me want to keep reading.”
“[A] book to treasure and one that I know I would enjoy in paperback form.”
“A natural and highly intelligent storyteller, Aveela, brilliantly tells of water spirits, and the rituals and customs people practice that relate to the maidens.”
“The writing is of a high academic standard while being accessible and highly readable, while the illustrations are numerous and enchanting.”
“Truly a work of passion and a learning experience.”
“An enchanting guide to Rusalki. ”
“This book is easy to read, well organised and quite fascinating.”
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July 6, 2020 – Book Squirrel – Book Review: ‘A Study of Rusalki : Slavic Mermaids’ by Ronesa Aveela