Hmm, I overlooked this topic somehow. Thank you Hobotnice for the bump.  :)

The study Svevlad posted is excellent, I strongly recommend to everyone who is interested to read it. It makes an especially good point in distinguishing the heroic epic vila from the folkloric one, which is an important thing that often gets neglected. Below is a map of the geographical distribution of terms used for these beings known in the South Slavic dialectal continuum, including Slovenian divje žene, divje dekle and divje babe (they are a bit different typologically, but their names are probably related to East-South Slavic samodivi). It's taken from E. Plotnikova's "Ethnolinguistic geography of South Slavia"*. Click on the image to see the full size.


Vila most likely stems from Proto-Indo-European *wei- 'to turn, to twist, to bend'. Samodiva is probably a composite of samo 'most, merely' and *diva 'goddess, female demonic being', with samovila being a result of a contamination with vila. The samodivi's name might be related to Lithuanian deivė, female spirits in the shape of beautiful long-haired maidens; Russian linguist O.N. Trubachov also suggested Iranian etymology, but later dropped that theory, iirc. Macedonian juda is thought to be related to, or stem from *juditi 'to deceive, to tempt, to instigate'. The alternative etymology is that it's cognate to Latvian jods 'devil, demonic being'.
Bulgarian dialects also use a lot of tabooistic euphemisms, like sladki i medeni 'of sweet and honey', beli i červeni 'white and red', sestrici 'little sisters'.

Btw, the first mention of Slavic fairies is from the 6th century, in Procopius' De Bello Gothico.

They believe there is one god, that of lightning, creator of all; they believe him to be sole lord, and they sacrifice oxen and all sacrifical animals to him. They neither acknowledge fate nor that it has some decisive influence in human affairs. Whenever death is already close to them, or they are seized by illness, or they are arrayed for battle, they promise, if they escape, to make a sacrifice immediately in return for their life. When they have escaped they sacrifice, that which they promised and think that the salvation was purchased for them with this sacrifice. Moreover they revere both rivers and nymphs and some other daemons, and they sacrifice to all of them. They carry out their divinations in these sacrifices.

* http://www.inslav.ru/images/stories/pdf/2004_Plotnikova_Etnolingvisticheskaja_geografija_Juzhnoj_Slavii.pdf

As for trees – around here the samodivi are generally associated with poplar and aspen trees, and especially the rowan, which is sometimes called samodivsko dǎrvo 'fairy tree'. I'll go into more detail on Macedonian and Bulgarian fairy folklore, if you're interested, but not right now, since I'm very tired.


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