Rusalki
The lovely river nymph of southern Russian legend endowed
with human beauty and the gentle characteristics of the
Mermaids of northern European nations. Shy and benevolent,
she lived on the small alluvial islands that stud the rivers or in
the detached coppices of their banks. Her pastime and occupation
was to aid in secret the poor fishermen in their laborious
and precarious calling.
The rusalki (also spelled ‘‘rusalky’’ or ‘‘rusalka’’) were believed
to have originated with young women who met an untimely
death either by suicide, drowning, or murder by strangling
or were not buried in holy ground. At times the rusalki
would turn on people and kill them, especially young men who
would go bathing in the streams without wearing a cross
around their necks.
Little is known of these beautiful creatures. Thomas Keightley,
a knowledgeable source in the lore of fairies, says little of
rusalki in his book The Fairy Mythology (1850) and gives only this
brief notice
‘‘They are of a beautiful form, with long green hair; they
swim and balance themselves on the branches of trees, bathe
in the lakes and rivers, play on the surface of the water, and
wring their locks on the green meads at the water’s edge. It is
chiefly at Whitsuntide that they appear; and the people then,
singing and dancing, weave garlands for them, which they cast
into the stream.’’
Sources
Arrowsmith, Nancy, and George Moorse. A Field Guide to the
Little People. New York Wallaby, 1977.
Cherryh, C. J. Rusalka. New York Ballantine Books, 1989.Rupa
In theosophical teachings, rupa denotes form, appearance,
or the physical body, the most gross of the seven principles of
Encyclopedia of Occultism & Parapsychology • 5th Ed. Rupa
1331
which personality consists. It is a term originating in Hindu
philosophy denoting the subtle essence of form. (See also
Mayavi-rupa.)