Jerina (Irene) Dushmani was an Albanian princess, daughter of the Albanian Prince Lekë Dushmani. She was often compared to Helen of Troy, in fact her beauty caused in 1444 the conflict between powerful Albanian Princes: Prince Lekë Dukagjini and Prince Lekë Zaharia. She preferred Prince Zaharia, but this was not accepted by Prince Leka Dukagjini, who killed Zaharia. Jerina didn’t accept to be married after the death of Prince Leke Zaharia, and lived a closed life as a nun on the island of Sardinia in Italy, stating in her last will was that her remains be brought to Danja near the tomb of Prince Leke Zaharia.
Vilas are supernatural fairy-like creatures in slavic folklore. They were believed to be the spirits of women who had been frivolous in their lifetimes and now floated between here and the afterlife. They prominently appear in the epic poetry of Serbia and Croatia.
In Croatian folklore, the Velebit mountain range is famous for mythical fairies, the most celebrated called Velebitska Vila or Vila Velebita (“The Fairy of Velebit”). The Vila is described as being quiet spirits, and is the patron of the Velebit mountain range, whose significance in Croatian culture has led to tales and songs of the Vila, the most popular one created in the 19th century titled Vila Velebita, which is still popular today.
Offerings for vilas consist of round cakes, ribbons, fresh fruits, and vegetables or flowers left at sacred sites (a certain mound, a ring of trees in the mountains, or even a hill that lightning strikes multiple times).
They can appear as swans, snakes, horses, falcons, or wolves that they can shapeshift into, but usually they appear as beautiful maidens, naked or dressed in white (sometimes in gowns coloured green or blue) with long flowing hair.
The voices of the vilas are as beautiful as the rest of them, and one who hears them loses all thoughts of food, drink or sleep, sometimes for days.
In some sources, they can appear as a ghost-like figure with a long billowing cloak wrapped around them.
In the localisations of the traditions about the vila, it is noteworthy that their powers seem environmentally based; the magic they are capable of is appropriate to the environment in which they are found. They live either in the clouds, on wooded mountains, or in the waters.
Despite their feminine charms, however, the vilas are fierce warriors. The earth is said to shake when they do battle. They have healing and prophetic powers and are sometimes willing to help human beings. At other times they lure young men to dance with them, which according to their mood can be a very good or very bad thing for the man. They ride on horses or deer when they hunt with their bows and arrows and will kill any man who defies them or breaks his word.
Vila rings of deep thick grass are left where they have danced; these should never be trodden upon, as this brings bad luck.
The cloud-dwelling vila may cause winds and storms, and have eagles for helpers; at times, she will transform herself into a bird, floating earthwards to prophesy the future and to protect mankind against disaster.
A mountain-dwelling vila also sees into the future, roams about on stags or horses, and chases deer with arrows; such a vila will kill the man who defies her. The mountain-dwelling vila may transform herself into a wolf, horse, deer, and in rare instances, a snake.
The water-vila lives in springs, rivers, or lakes, but, for the most part, will stay outside the water. Young men who happen to be bathing while the vilas are dancing on the banks of streams will drown. This vila may sometimes poison the water, and will punish anyone who drinks of the spring without asking for permission. A water-vila most frequently transforms herself into a swan.
It is said that if even one of their hairs is plucked, the vila will die, or be forced to change back to her true shape. A human may gain the control of a vila by stealing a piece of the vila’s skin. Once burned, though, she will disappear.
Named vilas in the Serbian mythology are:
Ravijojla is the best known of them, connected to Prince Marko, while Jerisavlja is considered to be their leader.