Samodivi – Witches of Darkness or Thracian Goddesses?

We’ve mentioned Samodivi throughout the campaign. They are mentioned only in passing in the herbs book, but we thought you’d like to know a little more about them.

Who are the Samodivi? Where did they come from?

Let’s start with their name. Samo (alone) and diva (wild), so “Wild alone” or “Wildalone.” What exactly does that imply? First off, although diva describes them as wild creatures, the word also comes from divine. In fact, it has been said the Samodivi were daughters of the Thracian goddess Bendis. What samo signifies is they shun interaction with people. When humans come across a Samodiva, the nymph may harm them or befriend them, depending on her mood.

Being the daughters of Bendis (often associated with Artemis, the Greek goddess who was a protectress of nature), Samodivi have a special connection with nature and have the power to heal using herbs, and so their role is to protect the forests and its inhabitants. They are a symbol of the coming spring, the awakening of nature. Each year on Blagovets, March 25, they return from their secret winter village in Zmeykovo (Dragon Village) to the human world and go back to their own world in late fall.

These nymphs are renowned for their beauty, power, and magical seductive voices. Described as blonde women with long, curly hair, they are enchanting mythological creatures who have been portrayed for centuries in Bulgarian folklore — in fairy tales, poems, and legends passed from one generation to another. Numerous legends about them are still alive, and people in Bulgaria claim to still see them in forests and near water bodies.

Most often their eyes are bright and light blue (although sometimes green). People with blue eyes have long been attributed with being able to connect to the spiritual world and cast the “evil eye” to harm others. Samodivi wear white robes made out of moon beams along with a green, golden, or rainbow-colored belt. A wreath of wild flowers adorns their heads and it, along with their clothing, is a source of healing and magical power. The Samodivi carefully guard their clothing so men cannot steal them. Sometimes they are careless when they bathe, and a man captures her source of power, forcing the Samodiva to live with the man and have his children, until she finds the stolen garment and escapes.

On occasion, Samodivi choose to associate with humans. They befriend women who have been kind to them and teach these women how to use nature to heal. A Samodiva may also willingly marry a man and have his children. Those offspring become legendary heroes.

Then why are people afraid of Samodivi?

One reason is because Samodivi love to perform the horo circle dance under the moon in forest glades. Better yet they prefer it if the dancing is accompanied by the music of the kaval, or shepherd’s pipe. In many tales, they seduce and kidnap a shepherd to play for them.

Samodivi entice people who disturb their dance to join in with them until dawn breaks. Humans are unable to keep up with the wild, fast pace of the Samodivi, and die from exhaustion. Or according to some tales, the Samodivi take the fallen person’s eyes and heart. People in remote villages still believe that trespassing on a Samodiva’s special places will cause them harm, even blindness.

Samodivi cause havoc in other ways as well. In remote villages, people pay respect to them and are afraid of these creatures who can seduce men with their beautiful songs. In Bulgaria, small villages have been deserted, locals afraid of the powers of the nymphs. Stories circulate about a man who was found dead in the woods, murdered and left naked. The common belief is that this was done by Samodivi. People see flashes of white among the trees and claim they are the Samodivi.

In another story, the mysterious disappearance of men has often been attributed to them being captured by Samodivi. A story tells of a village where five men disappeared. Two were eventually found, but they had no recollection of what happened.

The existence of Samodivi has not been proven and may never be. Sightings of them may simply represent fear and respect of the unknown and of nature. When we don’t understand something, we call it magic, witchcraft, or evil, but in reality, it’s an issue we don’t want to face.

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Magical Herbs of Love in Bulgarian Folklore

Disclaimer: The information in the article is not a recommendation for treatment, but to acquaint you with interesting old customs and historical facts. You should always consult a medical professional before undertaking any herbal remedies.

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Happy New Year! We wish everyone luck, health, and love. We look forward to what the new year will bring even though we don’t know what is in store for us during the days that follow.

In Bulgarian folklore, on December 24, families start the process of forecasting the future with their ritual bread. Inside it are hidden lucky charms – messages for health, love, and success – normally wrapped in foil. Everyone in the household hopes to get one and secure their fortune for the entire year.

In the past, in addition to such rituals and traditions, our grandmothers and great-grandmothers knew the power of each herb and how to keep their home healthy and happy. They used herbs and flowers to cast love spells. And love itself is magic.

In Bulgarian myths and legends, you can find this magic by using herbs. Herbal rituals could fill many books, but with Valentine’s Day swiftly approaching, I’ve selected a few to help you learn how you can use them to attract love into your life and how to keep it.

Herbs for love

Basil (Ocimum basilicum)

Based on Bulgarian folklore, if you sprinkle your partner with powdered basil while he or she sleeps, the person won’t cheat. I prefer to use basil for my watermelon and feta cheese salad, but you’re welcome to try this ritual for a little love magic.

Common ivy, English ivy (Hedera helix)

If you know someone who’s getting married, give the bride a branch of ivy. It’s supposed to bring her happiness in marriage.

Mistletoe (Viscum album)

Oh, Mistletoe… I have one in my yard. I never knew how powerful the plant is. Do you know why you need to kiss under the Mistletoe?

Shakespeare calls it ‘the baleful Mistletoe,’ an allusion to the Scandinavian legend that Balder, the god of Peace, was slain with an arrow made of Mistletoe. He was restored to life at the request of the other gods and goddesses, and Mistletoe was afterwards given into the keeping of the goddess of Love, and it was ordained that everyone who passed under it should receive a kiss, to show that the branch had become an emblem of love, and not of hate (from: Botanical.com. “Mistletoe”).

In Bulgarian folklore, mistletoe is a sacred and magical herb. In winter, the bushes remain green and fresh on top of the tree host, reminiscent of spring and new birth. If a girl hangs a branch of mistletoe hangs over her bed in the winter, she’ll meet or marry her lover during the year.

Maybe give this one a try if there’s someone you long to be with and see if this ritual works. It’s harmless enough.

Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale)

If you worry too much about a loved one who’ll be away on a long business trip, place dandelion flowers and seeds into his pockets or luggage. He won’t even think about infidelity. Dill seeds have the same effect.

Valerian (Valeriana officinalis)

“Samodivi,” Bulgarian woodland nymphs, rub their arrows with valerian, so that whomever they catch or wound immediately hates a woman or lover for life. The woodland nymphs wanted the men to love them instead.

Ginger (Zingiber officinale)

If you burn a pinch of ginger in your home, the relationship between you and your partner will improve.

Dill (Anethum graveolens)

If a woman washes her face and hands with a decoction of dill seeds, her partner’s love for her will increase.

Melilot (Melilotus officinalis)

Many songs and folklore tales mention this plant. It helps protect girls from being abducted by the dragon zmey. In Bulgarian folkore, the herb is also used to separate lovers as well as saving someone from zmey’s love.

Lentil (Lens culinaris or Lens esculenta)

In Bulgarian folklore, lentil is used in magic love potions. To do this, you’ll need to collect one lentil from forty different shops. After boiling them, knead them into bread while saying, “As I tried to collect 40 grains from 40 shops, so should my husband work so hard for me and love me forever.” Then, when the bread it done, give it to your spouse to eat (from Lilia Stavreva’s Български магии и гадания [Bulgarian Magic and Foretelling], p. 209).

Lemon balm (Melissa officinalis)

Beloved calming Lemon Balm. Besides its great aroma, this herb has a calming effect. Give your love tea made with it to calm them and also nourish their love.

Yellow Avens or Common Avens (Geum)

This herb is called an “old herb” (staro bile), probably because it is as old as its love magic. It will not only help you find the love of your life, it’s also used to keep away bad spirits and help you lose weight and get in shape. Stories tell how once pierced yellow avens with his arrows, and then gave it to the fairies so they could enchant and ruin the lives of more than one lover.

If you wear the herb, it will enchant everyone around you. That sounds like the movie “Love Potion No. 9” with Sandra Bullock.

Iris (Iris germanica)

The iris is a magical flower. Whoever takes a bunch of irises and puts them on his belt or hat, his soul will forever remain with the one who wears it.

Wormwood (Artemisia absinthium)

Wormwood is another herb used to separate lovers. A girl who doesn’t want to marry an old bachelor picks up “bitter wormwood” in a dewy meadow and rubs her face it it so that the man will not like her.

An Old Love Charm

On St. Luke’s Day, take marigold flowers, a sprig of marjoram, thyme, and a little Wormwood; dry them before a fire, rub them to powder; then sift it through a fine piece of lawn, and simmer it over a slow fire, adding a small quantity of virgin honey and vinegar. Anoint yourself with this when you go to bed, saying the following lines three times, and you will dream of your partner “that is to be”:

“St. Luke, St. Luke, be kind to me,

In dreams let me my true-love see.”

(From Botanical.com, “Wormwoods”).

European wild ginger (Asarum europaeum)

Wild ginger evokes a feeling of love. People use this magic grass to cast spells to unite two young people.

***

I hope this information helps you spice up your holiday on Valentine’s Day. As you can see, your love life can be improved just by going to your pantry. Many of the spices and herbs in your spice rack can make both your kitchen and your relationship magic. It’s as easy as pie if you know the power of herbs and seasonings. Our mothers and grandmothers understood the power of herb and used them in everyday life for love, health, and great meals, uniting everyone in the kitchen and around the heart.

Herbs Cover

I’m working on a new book about the 77 1/2 healing herbs from Bulgarian folklore. It includes information like the above, as well as recipes from Baba Vanga and other famous, trusted healers, as well as more interesting facts about herbs.

Sign up for our newsletter for updates on this book and others.

 

Samodivi – wind, water, and fire, all those elements that awaken human freedom

October 7, 2018

Dear friends, readers and fans, I would like to present to you an interesting project, the film “Samodiva.” I had the pleasure of meeting the talented Olga Docheva and Nikol Kostova, who are behind this project, and I wanted to share with you more information about it.
(Bulgarian version below)

How was the idea for the script and the movie “Samodiva” born?
The original idea of ​​a “samodivi” film was born in 2016 when I was taking a script-writing course at the New York Film Academy led by Golan Ramras. Of course, the initial idea had nothing to do with the current version; the only thing that is the same is the “samodivi”. From the first version of this idea, we attempted with my colleague Nicol Kostova around five or six different variations until we reached the final story we are working on now. When we met Nicole, she liked the idea very much, and we began to develop a new story together, keeping some of the characters enriched, but some of them drastically changed.

How did you select the team?
The vast majority of the ship’s crew, “Samodiva,” as I like to call it, has come naturally. There were people who were enthusiastic at first and then dropped out, and those who had joined at the last moment took off like jet engines and became part of the group.

Samodiva Movie

Samodiva Movie

The selection was a cosmic feeling, as we say; it attracted the right people at the right time, and this is an indisputable fact that our experience showed us. We are far from believing that we did it on our own; with a clear purpose and being proactive, we moved toward our objective. Enough on that subject. There are enough literature and videos available for anyone auditioning who wonders how to be selected. For those who don’t believe this, I can only say that if they want a break, they have to reach out and grab what they want in life.

Which actors did you choose and how did you find them?
The Samodivi were chosen first by their appearance, because we had predetermined what they should look like. For the main female roles (as well as males), we had auditions and we knew in advance which Bulgarian actors would fit them best. What’s intriguing is that long before we knew we could get in touch with some actors, they appeared after our initial wish. One of them is Stefania Kocheva, whom it is an exceptional privilege and joy to work with. She is a true incarnation of a Samodiva.

Samodivi

Samodivi

We also work with Ralitsa Stoyanova; her character is Magda, the most powerful and terrible Samodiva, both beautiful and magnetic, but she veers away from your typical exotic beauty. Of course, the skills of the professionals were taken into account for each of the cast; they are actors, not mannequins. We all had the pleasure of working on the Meisner technique during rehearsals.

Why exactly did you choose “Samodivi” for the main characters in your movie?
Because we want to bring out folk mythical beings and started with the samodivi; because they are beautiful, fabulous and unseen on the big screen. The Samodivi themselves wished and allowed themselves to be shown. It’s time for them.

How did you come up with the idea for the script and the film Samodiva?
In the early autumn of 2017, Olga and Nicole met; perhaps this meeting was fateful and predestined. We created a magical and fabulous story based on the idea of ​​preserving nature and how each person can believe in his abilities.We have been pondering, prodding, and digging into myths, legends, and tales to build our insights into the samodivi and how they rescue nature from pollution and external influences.

In fact, she was joking about the whole story – Olga often traveled to London, and from there she discovered more and more interesting stories.

Samodivi

Along with Olga, we decided that this is history and this is a movie that can touch both children and adults as an unforgettable adventure. Of course, its very creation is a much bigger adventure in which we both believe we will succeed. And here we gathered a team of friends of professionals and actors with whom we rehearsed and conceived a proof of concept in a few shooting days, and the magic happened.

Who is the designer of the costumes?
The costume designer is our wonderful designer Velina Kokalova, who has been a stage designer for 10 years and who graduated from the National Academy of Arts and then photography. She participated in many performances in our theaters, in our well-known Bulgarian feature films from the big screen as well as abroad, constructed and created costumes and decorations as well as a poster design.

For a very short period of time, Velina made ten suits, entirely inspired by fairy tales and folklore, to ride the vision of the samodiva. Our other designer is Nikolay Gerata – he designed a concept for the boys’ vision. Nikolay Geranliev – Gerata, is engaged in hip-hop music and clothing.

 

Which actors did you choose and how did you find them?
Each of the actors did not happen accidentally in our project. We held an audition for the boys; we watched we discussed and we decided that Todor Berov is best suited for the character of Damien, typical and curious.

Kiril Nedkov was Jay’s best friend Daimian from the university, an explorer who is hungry for adventure. They themselves do not know what awaits them when they go to Jai’s father among the splendid peaks and forests; mystical creatures expect both of them.

Where did you shoot the scenes?
We took pictures first at Pancharevo with only three samodivi, then we had a photo shoot at Krushuna Waterfalls with Stefania Kocheva as Dana and Ioana Dralchev in the role of Sevda.

 

The proof of concept itself was shot in several locations – Prohodna Cave, more commonly known as God’s eyes, Topolnitsa Dam.

Samodiva Movie

Samodiva Movie

After visiting many lakes and dams, we found Topolnitsa, a magical place surrounded by fabulous flora and fauna and ecosystem. We also shot near the dam the scenes that are in the woods.

 


What connects you to Samodivi?
The intriguing thing that connects us to Samodivi is freedom and nature. Everyone knows or has heard of the samodivi that kill men, but we do not kill men. The Samodivi are the closest fairy-tale creatures embodying forest beauties in Bulgarian folk tales. Samodivi are the guardians of the forest; both in animal and in human form they communicate with plants, trees, wind, water and fire, all those elements that awaken human freedom.

Thank you, Nikol and Olga. We all wish you good luck with this awesome project, sending powerful message to the world.

Photos are selections from the movie.

The painting is mine. It’s called “Samodivi.” I painted it when I wrote “Mystical Emona,” inspired by the legends of the Samodivi and their dangerous charm. As you know, all my books are inspired by Bulgarian legends and myths. They help us understand the world around us.

Mystical Emona: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00M9FEYF6

Please share and support this unique project with friends and other admirers.
Support Samodiva Movie:https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/samodiva-fantasy-movie-development-stage

Ronesa Aveela (aka Nelly Toncheva and Rebecca Carter)
Ronesa Aveela Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/Ronesa-Aveela/e/B00N02ZS20


Самодивите  – дърветата, вятъра, водата и огъня, всички онези стихии които будят свободата у човека


Скъпи приятели, читатели и почитатели с удоволствие искам да ви представя един интерес проект, филмът “Самодива”.
Имах удоволствието да се запозная с талантливите Олга Дочева и Никол Костова който стоят зад този проект и да споделя с вас повече информация.

Как дойде идеята за сценария и филмът “Самодива”?
Първоначалната идея за филм за самодиви се роди през 2016, когато бях на курс за сценарийно писане при преподавателя от Ню Йорк Филм Академи – Голан Рамраз. Разбира се, тогава историята нямаше нищо общо със сегашната й версия, единственото което е същото са самодивите. От първата версия на тази идея преминахме заедно с колежката ми Никол Костова през пет-шест различни варианта, докато достигнахме до финалната история по която работим. Когато се срещнахме с Никол темата за ‚Самодива‘ сякаш си дойде сама. Тя много хареса идеята и започнахме да развиваме заедно една нова история, като запазихме някои от персонажите, обогатени рабира се, а някои от тях коренно променени.

Как подбрахте екипа ?
По-голямата част от екипажа на кораба ‚Самодива‘, както аз харесвам да го наричам, си дойде някак естествено. Имаше хора които много искаха в началото и после отпаднаха, и такива които се включиха в последния момент като реактивни двигатели и станаха част от цялото.
Избора беше на космическо усещане, както ние казваме, има реално привличане на точните хора на точното време и това е неоспорим факт, за който опита ни говори. Далеч сме от идеята, че става от само-себе си единствено, става с ясно намерение и проактивни действия в посока на намерението. Толкоз по темата. Има достатъчно литература и видео материали в пространството на варианти за всички онези, които четат тези редове и се чудят ‚как?‘,  а за онези които не вярват – мога само да кажа, че това им е основната и вероятно единствената спирачка да не осъщесвят това което желаят.

Кои актьори избрахте и как ги намерихте?
Самодивите ги избрахме първоначално по визуални характеристики, тъй като образите, които пресъздават са предопределени от преди нас. За главните женски роли (също както и мъжки) си имахме кастинги и предварително знаехме кои от българските актьори биха се вписали по най-добрия начин. Интресното е, че много преди да знаем, че ще успеем да се свържем с дадени актьори, те присъстваха в първите ни желания. Една от тях е Стефания Кочева, с което е изключителна привилегия и радост да се работи. Тя е едно истинско превъплъщение на самодива. Работим и с Ралица Стоянова, която на първо четене не е типичната ‚самодива‘ във визуално описание, но персонажа й – Магда – най-властната и страшна самодива, същевременно красива и магнетична, предполагаше да излезем от типизирания образ и да изберем по-скоро екзотична хубост. Разбира се акьорските умения бяха взети под внимание за всеки един от каста, все пак това са актьори, а не манекени. С всички имахме удовослвието да работим по техниката Майзнер, по време на репетиции.

Защо точно самодиви избрахте за герои във филма?
Защото искаме да изкараме на яве фолклорни митични същества и започнахме от самодивите; защото са красиви, приказни и невидяни на големия екран. Самите самодиви пожелаха и позволиха да бъдат показани. Време им е.

Как дойде идеята за сценария и филмът Самодива?
През  ранната есен на 2017 Олга и Никол работиха и се срещнаха в един и същи магичен проект, може би тази среща е била съдбовна и предопределена – започнахме да излизаме редовно и да си говорим за проекти, обикаляхме различни горски места и Олга сподели че има започнат сценарий за самодиви. При което аз реагирах уау самодиви и така започнахме неспирно и с цялото си вдъхновение създадохме една магична и приказна история крепяща се на идея за опазване на природата и как всеки човек може да повярва в способностите си.  Дълго размишлявахме, копаехме и се ровехме в митове, легенди и приказки за да надградим представите ни за самодивите и как те спасяват природата от замърсяванията и външните влияния.  Всъщност малко тръгна на майтап цялата история- Олга пътуваше често до Лондон и от там докарваше все по-интересни истории.
С Олга решихме че това е историята и това е филма който може да докосне и деца и възрастни като едно незабравимо приключение. Разбира се самото му създаване е много по-голямо приключение в което и двете вярваме, че успяваме. И ето ни събрахме екип от приятели професионалисти  и актьори с който репетирахме и съсздадохме Proof of concept в няколко снимачни дни, и  се случи магията.

Кой е дизайнер на костюмите?
Дизайнер на костюмите е нашата прекрасна сценографка Велина Кокалова  сценограф от 10 години завършва Националната художествена академия и след това фотография.Участва в много представления в театрите ни, в наши познати български пълнометражни филми от големия екран както и в чужбина, конструирала и създавала костюми и декори както и дизайн на плакати. Велина за много кратък период от време изготви  десет костюма, изцяло вдъхновени от приказките и фолклора за да съсзде визията на самодивите.

Другият ни дизайнер е Николай Герата – той ни изготви концепция за визията на момчетата. Николай Геранлиев – Герата, се занимава с хип-хоп музика и облекло.

Кои актьори избрахте и как ги намерихте?
Всеки от актьорите не е попаднал случайно в нашия проект, направихме кастинг за момчетата, гледахме обсъждахме и решихме че Тодор Беров най-добре се вписва в персонажа на Деймиян, типичен и любопитен. Кирил Недков в ролята на Джай най-добрият приятел на Деймиян от университета, авантюрист който жаднее за приключения. Те самите незнаят какво ги очаква когато отиват при бащата на Джай сред прекрасните върхове и гори, мистичните същества ги очакват и двамата.

Къде направихте снимките?
Снимките направихме като за начален старт бяхя на Панчарево, само с три самодиви, след това направихме фотосесия на Крушунските водопади заедно със Стефания Кочева в ролята на Дана и Йоана Дралчев в ролята на Севда.
Самият Proof of Concept заснехме на няколко локации – Пещера Проходна или по-позната като Божиите очи, язовир Тополница, след многото огледи на езера и язовири попаднахме на Тополница, едно магично място обградено от приказна флора и фауна и екосистема. Снимахме и близо до язовира сцените които са в гората.

Какво ви свързва със самодивите?
Интересното което ни свързва със самодивите е свободата и природата, всеки знае или е чувал за самодивите, че убиват мъже е ние не убиваме мъже. Самодивите са най-близките приказни същества олицетворяващи горските красавици в българските народни приказки. Самодивите са пазителките на гората, както в животинска така и в човешка форма те общуват с растениятя, дърветата, вятъра, водата и огъня, всички онези стихии които будят свободата у човека.

Снимките са фрагменти от филма.

Картината е моя, казва се “Самодиви”, рисувах я когато писах “Mystical Emona” история вдъхновена от легендите за самодивите и тяхният опасен чар. Както знаете всичките ми книги са вдъхновени от Българските легенди и митове. Една неостаряваща тема, която е неизчерпаем извор на идей.
Mystical Emona: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00M9FEYF6

Моля споделете и подкрепете този уникален проект с приятели и други почитатели.

Support Samodiva Movie: https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/samodiva-fantasy-movie-development-stage

Ronesa Aveela (aka Nelly Toncheva and Rebecca Carter)

Ronesa Aveela Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/Ronesa-Aveela/e/B00N02ZS20

Dragon Village (Zmeykovo) – Dragons in Bulgarian Folklore and Mythology

December 7, 2017

The day fire and ice erupted from the sky everything changed – forever.

Vote for the New book Dragon Village on Amazon Kindle Scout. If the book gets chosen, you get a free copy!

The Unborn Hero of Dragon Village Cover

The Unborn Hero of Dragon Village Cover

To review and vote for the book you can use this link.  If Amazon selects to publish the book through Kindle Press, anyone who nominated the book will receive a free, advance copy. This is your chance to read and review it and tell the world what you think.

The Unborn Hero of Dragon Village is the first book in a series that will expound upon Bulgarian mythology and customs. When twelve-year-old Theo’s sister is captured by a dragon on Midsummer’s Day, he’s determined to rescue her. His journey takes him to the mystical land of Dragon Village, a place he thought existed only in legends. As he searches for the way to defeat the three-headed dragon Lamia, he encounters inhabitants of the land—some friendly and others treacherous.

Fascinating legends about Lamia and Zmey, dragons from Bulgarian folklore, inspired this middle-grade series. The books will include many other Bulgarian mythological creatures, in particular Samodivi (woodland nymphs or fairies) and Baba Yaga (a witch).

Bulgarian folklore is filled with tales about dragons (zmey, male, and lamia, female) who lived in forest and mountains in caves, holes, or cracks in rocks. Serpents or carp would turn into dragons if they were not seen by humans for forty years. Therefore, dragons often had characteristics of various other creatures: snakes, fish, birds, and even humans. Flashes of lightning, shooting stars, large clouds, and rainbows were ways dragons manifested themselves.

Dragon Village

Map of Dragon Village

The lamia is what we typically consider a dragon to be: dangerous and malicious. She does not appear as a human like the zmey. Some tales describe her as a “huge lizard with a dog’s head. Her mouth is so big that it can swallow a whole man and her body is covered with yellow scales. The lamia also has wings, four legs, sharp claws, and a long tail.”  Some had three, seven, or nine heads.

The zmey, however, who often was depicted as a man with wings under his arms, was more kind. He often fought against the lamia when she appeared as a storm or hail to destroy crops. The zmey didn’t abduct a maiden to harm her. Instead, it is because of his great love for her. He often tries to entice her to marry him, telling her of the riches she will have. If persuasion fails, the zmey restorts to abducting the maiden while she performs the horo dance in the village. However, the dragon’s marriage to a human always meets with misfortune. The bride suffers depression and is ostracized from the community.

Zmey and Bride

Zmey and Bride

One tale tells of a girl who married a dragon she met at his well. After a few years, she wanted to visit her family. Unfortunately, she had grown a dragon’s tail. Wanting to appear normal to them, she kept trying to bite it off. When she heard the songs of friends she had once known, she became frantic and died when her heart burst with the effort of removing the tail. The girls buried her by the well. Every year thereafter they performed a buenetz dance, not the traditional circle horo dance. In the buenetz, they dance in a snakelike fashion in honor of the dragon maiden.

While researching for the book, I’ve discovered many creatures of Thracian, Slavic and proto-Bulgarian mythology. The hardest question has been which ones to include in the first book. On this page, I’ll post information about them to try to open the door to the magical world of Dragon Village (Zmeykovo).

Samodiva

Diva the Wild Samodiva

Samodivi – Witches of Darkness or Thracian Goddesses?

May 22, 2015

Veelas, Wilis, Yuda, Samovili, Vili. These are a few names of nymphs of Slavic folklore, each group a little different from the Bulgarian Samodivi. Are they real or merely myths that have survived throughout the centuries? Who are these creatures? Where did they come from? And why do people fear them so much they are willing to leave their homes and move to another village or town?

You may be familiar with some of these nymphs already. The beauty and enchantment of Veelas has been portrayed in the Harry Potter series, and Wilis in the ballet “Giselle” dance men to their death.

samodivi-painting

Samodivi painting by Nelinda

But who are the Samodivi? Where did they come from?

Let’s start with their name. Samo (alone) and diva (wild), so “Wild alone” or “Wildalone.” What exactly does that imply? First off, although diva describes them as wild creatures, the word also comes from divine. In fact, it has been said the Samodivi were daughters of the Thracian goddess Bendis. What samo signifies is they shun interaction with people. When humans come across a Samodiva, the nymph may harm them or befriend them, depending on her mood.

800px-Artemis_Bendis_Louvre_CA159

Artemis Bendis Louvre CA159.jpg, from Wikipedia Commons

Being the daughters of Bendis (often associated with Artemis, the Greek goddess who was a protectress of nature), Samodivi have a special connection with nature and have the power to heal using herbs, and so their role is to protect the forests and its inhabitants. They are a symbol of the coming spring, the awakening of nature. Each year on Blagovets, March 25, they return from their secret winter village in Zmeykovo (Dragon Village) to the human world and go back to their own world in late fall.

These nymphs are renowned for their beauty, power, and magical seductive voices. Described as blonde women with long, curly hair, they are enchanting mythological creatures who have been portrayed for centuries in Bulgarian folklore—in fairy tales, poems, and legends passed from one generation to another. Numerous legends about them are still alive, and people in Bulgaria claim to still see them in forests and near water bodies.

Most often their eyes are bright and light blue (although sometimes green). People with blue eyes have long been attributed with being able to connect to the spiritual world and cast the “evil eye” to harm others. Samodivi wear white robes made out of moon beams along with a green, golden, or rainbow-colored belt. A wreath of wild flowers adorns their heads and it, along with their clothing, is a source of healing and magical power. The Samodivi carefully guard their clothing so men cannot steal them. Sometimes they are careless when they bathe, and a man captures her source of power, forcing the Samodiva to live with the man and have his children, until she finds the stolen garment and escapes.

On occasion, Samodivi choose to associate with humans. They befriend women who have been kind to them and teach these women how to use nature to heal. A Samodiva may also willingly marry a man and have his children. Those offspring become legendary heroes.

Then why are people afraid of Samodivi?

One reason is because Samodivi love to perform the horo circle dance under the moon in forest glades. Better yet they prefer it if the dancing is accompanied by the music of the kaval, or shepherd’s pipe. In many tales, they seduce and kidnap a shepherd to play for them.

In some ways, Samodivi are similar to the “Dames Blanches” (White Ladies), Fées from French mythology and folklore who also live near caves and caverns. La Dame d’Apringy from Normandy is one well-known Dame who forced humans to dance with her before she allowed them to pass through a ravine she lurked by. Anyone refusing to participate was thrown into the thistles, while those who danced were unharmed.

Samodivi-and-Bendis

Samodivi and Bendis, painting by Nelinda

In a similar fashion, Samodivi entice people who disturb their dance to join in with them until dawn breaks. Humans are unable to keep up with the wild, fast pace of the Samodivi, and die from exhaustion. Or according to some tales, the Samodivi take the fallen person’s eyes and heart. People in remote villages still believe that trespassing on a Samodiva’s special places will cause them harm, even blindness.

Samodivi cause havoc in other ways as well. In remote villages, people pay respect to them and are afraid of these creatures who can seduce men with their beautiful songs. In Bulgaria, small villages have been deserted, locals afraid of the powers of the nymphs. Stories circulate about a man who was found dead in the woods, murdered and left naked. The common belief is that this was done by Samodivi. People see flashes of white among the trees and claim they are the Samodivi.

In another story, the mysterious disappearance of men has often been attributed to them being captured by Samodivi. A story tells of a village where five men disappeared. Two were eventually found, but they had no recollection of what happened.

Samodivi and their world are portrayed in Mystical Emona: Soul’s Journey as close as possible to the way legends describe them. The excerpt below will help you envision them as they dance beneath a full moon.

A soft, slow music drifted toward him as he neared the cheshma. Several women held hands and danced in a circle around the ancient walnut tree, a blue light glowing at its base. Wreaths of flowers crowned their unbound hair, their locks gliding over their shoulders. Their long white robes fluttered like lustrous moths under the shimmering moon.

At the edge of the glade, a shadowy image, playing a long flute-like instrument, cast out eerie notes. They hung over the darkness like a delicate silk net, enfolding the women within its threads. The longer Stefan listened, the more the sound hypnotized him.

The tempo of the music quickened, and the women kept pace with it. Their feet danced through the dewy grass, while their bodies, bathed in silver and gold rays of moonlight, twirled closer together, narrowing the circle around the tree. Their dance became wild and erratic, their voices louder, filling the night with a chilling sound.

A final shrill note reverberated through the air. The women released hands, raised them to the sky, and began whirling in a frenzied torrent. The belts around their robes loosened and slid to the ground. As the note faded, the women lowered their hands. Their robes, too, slipped off and drifted away, leaving nothing on their gleaming bodies but the magical light of the moon. Stefan’s sharp intake of breath caught in his throat at their loveliness. Unable to tear his eyes from them, he envisioned the scene captured on canvas.

Then, the flutist played a soft melody. The women lifted their faces to the moon and sang strange words. Stefan listened in awe to the splendor of their voices, as their bodies, like exotic flowers gliding back and forth in the breeze, swayed to the rhythm of the trees. Their words encircled him, as if the women themselves surrounded him. He glanced around, but the night revealed nobody except the dancing women before him.

The existence of Samodivi (Wildalone) has not been proven and may never be. Sightings of them may simply represent fear and respect of the unknown and of nature. When we don’t understand something, we call it magic, witchcraft, or evil, but in reality, it’s an issue we don’t want to face.

Enchanting Samodivi (Wildalone)

January 17, 2015

In Mystical Emona: Soul’s Journey, you’ll discover samodivi (singular, samodiva), wild, wildalones beautiful nymphs, who have enchanted Bulgarians for centuries. They can be found in the woodlands and by water sources from spring until autumn. After that, they return to the palace of the Sun for the winter.

Numerous legends about them are still alive. In remote villages, people pay respect to them and are afraid of these creatures who can seduce men with their beautiful songs. One of the people I met in an online writers’ group (scribophile.com) lives in a secluded village in Bulgaria. I asked him what the people there believed about the samodivi. Here is his response.

“The common belief in this village is that since we started having electric all the time, the samodivi went away. Apparently they were real and people would see them all the time, but it all stopped after they were freed from Turkish rule. In our village during that time the water was taken from wells or from a spring in the woods, so if you didn’t have a well you’d have to go to the woods. It was quite often that they saw shapes in the trees and believed them to be samodivi. Now a lot of the younger adults, the mothers and the father instead of the grandparents, believe that it is all legends, too many drunk nights. The people here still believe in creatures that come down with the lightning and stay as energy and run around even after the storm has passed. My next door neighbour claimed to have seen one running up his house last summer. But as for samodivi, they believe that they all vanished. It’s funny because I have been told that it was normal practice to run through the forest naked in hope that you’d find a samodiva. But after a few drinks, you might bump into someone else running naked and think you found one.”

In Mystical Emona, we don’t have people running naked through the forest, but the following passage from the book is our interpretation of what you might see if you happen to run across samodivi in the forest.

A soft, slow music drifted toward him as he neared the cheshma. Several women held hands and danced in a circle around the ancient walnut tree, a blue light glowing at its base. Wreaths of flowers crowned their unbound hair, their locks gliding over their shoulders. Their long white robes fluttered like lustrous moths under the shimmering moon.

At the edge of the glade, a shadowy image, playing a long flute-like instrument, cast out eerie notes. They hung over the darkness like a delicate silk net, enfolding the women within its threads. The longer Stefan listened, the more the sound hypnotized him.

The tempo of the music quickened, and the women kept pace with it. Their feet danced through the dewy grass, while their bodies, bathed in silver and gold rays of moonlight, twirled closer together, narrowing the circle around the tree. Their dance became wild and erratic, their voices louder, filling the night with a chilling sound.

A final shrill note reverberated through the air. The women released hands, raised them to the sky, and began whirling in a frenzied torrent. The belts around their robes loosened and slid to the ground. As the note faded, the women lowered their hands. Their robes, too, slipped off and drifted away, leaving nothing on their gleaming bodies but the magical light of the moon. Stefan’s sharp intake of breath caught in his throat at their loveliness. Unable to tear his eyes from them, he envisioned the scene captured on canvas.

Then, the flutist played a soft melody. The women lifted their faces to the moon and sang strange words. Stefan listened in awe to the splendor of their voices, as their bodies, like exotic flowers gliding back and forth in the breeze, swayed to the rhythm of the trees. Their words encircled him, as if the women themselves surrounded him. He glanced around, but the night revealed nobody except the dancing women before him.

Samodivi dancing
“Samodivi” by Nelinda. nelinda.com

Silver Butterflies 

Behold the silent beauties ruffling winds,
spelling purity of a love so bold,
goddesses of water, woods and land,
swish their dresses upon your pool.

Vedra’s hands could raise the seas,
bring upon you draught or prosperity,
oh heaven behold, she was blessed,
with silky dresses and a voice so sleek.

Sweet Carina is ladened with lands,
to hold the minds of all mankind,
her thoughts dance upon the sands,
meaning to show a man his heart.

Dear Morena burdened the most,
to see the loss of those she loves,
always hunted by the future,
she’s to ever be your seer and guard.

Nymphs so pure, embrace the world,
call with golden songs to the skies,
listen as they guide you home,
listen as they hold your hand.

—Noor Lek

Travel to the world of the Balkans with Mystical Emona: Soul’s Journey and discover the secret lives of Samodivi (Veelas, Samovili) or Wildalones. You’ve met these wondrous, mythological creatures or as some people called them “forest witches”  in different books. Now let Mystical Emona introduce you to Samodivi or “wildalones”  as legend portrays them. Discover the Magic of Bulgaria and the mystical spell of Emona.

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