Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Let me sing you a song - The Rusalka

Hi! Thank you for dropping in to Myth Perceptions where I'm sharing with you various myths and legends I've discovered while researching for my fantasy writing!

Right now, I'm exploring various myths about Mermaids. Having recently spent a lovely Saturday enjoying a Ukranian and a Polish Festival, I am delighted to now share a Slavic "mermaid" myth--The Rusalkas.

Rusalkas are the Slavic form of mermaids, or naiads. Stories say that they are not creatures of their own, but the ghosts of maidens who die a violent death or suicide. The Rusalkas are described in various ways, sometimes with tails when they are lying in the bottom of rivers or streams, but usually with legs when they leave their watery homes to dance in the fields alongside the water or sit, singing, in trees to seduce young men to their deaths. The stories give them either green eyes or white eyes and long hair of either green or golden hue that is perpetually wet. Often, the Rusalka would leave the water to sit in a tree and sing songs or sit on the dock and comb her hair. Like a fish out of water, the Rusalka cannot live long without it, and it is said that if their hair dried out they would die. Their combs are how they call water to them.

There is a Czech opera about the Rusalka, which shares some similar elements as Hans Christian Anderson's famous story. However, in the opera, it is not the mermaid who dies, but the prince.

The Rusalka are said to be their most dangerous during a festival called Semik or Green Week which occurs on the seventh week after Easter. Traditionally, women would hang ribbons a birch tree as offerings to ward off the Rusalkas and swimming was strictly forbidden during this week. Green Week was also a traditional fertility festival and the birch tree would be "drowned" at the end of the week to bring rains to the fields. A wonderful example of sympathetic magic.

I hope you'll come back next month to find out what other types of mermaids I've encountered in my research. Until then, Blessed Be.

Denise Golinowski is a reader and writer of fantasy and romance. Her newest enovella, Collector's Item, is available from  The Wild Rose Press

Her first enovella, The Festival of the Flowers: The Courtesan and the Scholar is also available  through the Wild Rose Press. You can visit her blog at Golinowski's Gambol.


  1. I love all the cool stuff you come up with, Denise! Although I have to say that illustration of the Rusalka in the tree is creeping me out a little!

    1. She is a bit creepy, isn't she? The white eyes things is very disturbing. When Storm's eyes go white in X-Men, I feel the same way. Thank you for stopping in and commenting.

  2. OMG!! I'm a Rousalka! Gold hair, green eyes, and my hair looks wet because it's so oily. Thank you, Denise, for helping me find myself. Now where are some young men to seduce????

    1. LOL, Elvy! You're a hoot! I'll be sure to send any young men your way. Thanks for stopping by and commenting. "oily" Hahahaha