Water has always played an important part in myths and legends, from Enûma Eliš to the Bible, from Scandinavian mythology to Eastern European folklore. It has been linked to the moon, the unconscious mind, birth and chaos, and looked upon as more of a feminine element.
Thus, it is of no surprise that the creatures associated with bodies of water in Romanian folklore are mostly of the sinister type.
One of the names of the Devil himself is Cel din Baltă (the one of the pond). According to Marcel Olinescu, the Devil fell into a body of water when he was cast out of Heaven along with his minions. It is said that at the bottom of each pond a devil has his home. It seems that water cannot extinguish demonic fire, as the devilish lake dwellers love to cook. They have lots of minions which the human eye cannot see because humans are not familiar with their shape – very interesting, a naive way of saying that it is the human eye defining the unknown forces the magician works with, great intuition. Their favorite activity seems to be sinking ships and drowning human beings.
Știma Apei is somewhat similar to a nymph. Marcel Olinescu describes the spirit as a proud, beautiful woman. She has flowing blonde hair and very big breasts – water connected to fertility and abundance. When in water, she is half fish, half woman. Each body of a water has its own Știmă, and she demands a human head a day. When angry, the spirit floods the surroundings of the body of water she resides in. The one meant to be killed by the Știma Apei will abandon his chores and go swim in the water in which she abides. If stopped, he or she will fight until released. Would be interesting to know what happens to the ones destroyed by the Știma Apei.
Vidra (lit. otter) lives at the bottom of the Black Sea. He is the king of sea creatures and all of the fish obey him. It seems he is a trickster spirit.
Oamenii de Apă (water people) seem to be just like us, only that instead of talking they make crow-like noises – this somehow reminds me of China Mieville’s “The Scar”. They are very weak and fearful.
Documentation and image: Marcel Olinescu