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Boginka literally means “Little Goddess”. Always described as plural, boginky (“little goddesses”), they are tutelary deities of waters. They are distinguished into various categories, under different names, and they may be either white (beneficent) or black (maleficent).
The root *nav which is present in some name variants, for instance Navia and Mavka, means “dead”, as these little goddesses are conceived as the spirits of dead children or young women. They are represented as half-naked beautiful girls with long hair, but in the South Slavic tradition also as birds who soar in the depths of the skies. They live in waters, woods and steppes, and they giggle, sing, play music and clap their hands. They are so beautiful that they bewitch young men and might bring them to death by drawing them into deep water. They have been compared to the Greek Nymphs.
Samodiva/Samovila are a type of woodland spirits known to Bulgaria, of which samodiva is the more commonly used, while samovila is more specific to Western Bulgaria. The words diva has the meanings of “wild”, “rage”, “rave”, “divinity” whereas vila means “spun” or “spinning” (such as tornado or a hailstorm spinning). The “samo-” prefix means “self-“. Iuda/Iuda-Samodiva generally refers to an evil spirit (or to Judas if used as a given name). These samodivas/samovilas are said to share a strong resemblance to Roman Nymphs (as well as to a lesser extent to fairies, elves and other similar spirits). They are described as playful woodland humanoid beings clad in white and wearing wreaths that can be beneficent or maleficent to men and women alike, depending on how they perceive being treated. They are sometimes young and beautiful, other times old and revolting. They are said to be found in woods, mountains, near fairy rings, near water sources where they bathe (especially near dictamnus albus) or in contrast dwelling in graveyards, dangerous places and to build invisible cities below the clouds when they are associated with malice. They can sometimes be attributed to: have wings, transform in various animals such as wolves, send ravens/crows as messengers, ride white-gray deer or bears, shoot arrows. The cult of the Vila was still practiced among South Slavs in the early twentieth century, with various offerings.
This article is part of RELIGER Gods Ledger
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