on VILENICA AND VILENJAK: BEARERS OF AN EXTINCT FAIRY CULT in Croatia published by the Croatian Journal of Ethnology and Folklore Research
by Zoran Cica, M.A.
External Associate of the Institute of Ethnology and Folklore Research, Zagreb
Note: Full text is in Zoran in Characters (Under Steven, Croatia); also hard copy in his paper file
Synopsis of Research
Historical and cultural anthropological research has revealed that in Croatian popular pre-Christian tradition existed a cult that included both women and men (vilenicas and vilenjaks), who were selected and initiated by fairies, being bestowed a secret knowledge of herbs, healing, clairvoyance, and certain other special capabilities. They had a special status in their village communities because they had certain abilities to communicate and keep contact with fairies. This relationship was usually built in childhood or early youth, when fairies would abduct a child, a young man or girl and they would be absent from the community for a time. After their return they would manifest abilities of healing, prediction, as well as magic protection against wicked influence.
This cult was very well known to the learned culture (literary and theological) of the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries, and some of the Renaissance Croatian writers included their personages into their works. However, this was the time in early modern Europe when a certain phobic concept was created in the theological scholarship, about the existence of international conspiracy against Christianity led by Satan and spread by local witch members of the satanic cult. Over the course of centuries the struggle of the Church to root out pre-Christian notions and cults who were perceived as ontological enemies (members of the witch cult), led to persecutions of the vilenicas and vilenjaks and suppression of their cultural identity. Traces of this process can be found in historical records and contemporary ethnographic narratives.