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Iveta Todorova - Pirgova:

The world of Demons in Stories and Images


In this paper are analyzed some historical changes of human notions and perceptions about demonic creatures from the ancient times till the present days. These notions are considered as related to an analytical dichotomy inherited / assumed in both the ritual and the urban context. The world of demons has always been "densly populated" although one sort of its "inhabitants" could be replaced with another or could be described in another way by the different generations in different historical periods. At first many of the present demons were gods, but were very rarely perceived only in a positive sense. The idea of their ambivalent nature has motivated human activities in two directions: a) a person (or a community) had to express respect and gratitude for the assistance rendered; b) a person (or community) had to protect "unwise people" from harmful influences. After the establishment of the monotheistic religions with Holy books, the place of demons was strictly fixed. Regardless of their origin, essence and functions, demons were considered as God's antagonists, as associated with Devil and his assistants. So to express respect toward demons is not only unnecessary but also heretical. People just had to be preserved from demonic temptations of the "evil". Folkloric concepts and interpretations connected with demons are rather different from the canonical religious ones. In folklore texts demons continue to exist with their ambivalent nature even today. They live in their specific places and participate in determining or changing a human life. The authoress endeavours to observe and analyze such a process of change using as an example one of the most popular demons among the South Slavs, the so-called vila (samovila, samodiva) documented from the last century in the last few years, among the people with so-called extraordinary abilities.

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