Iele – the Ladies of the Woods

Dear traveler, maybe you have already heard that Romanian girls are very pretty.

But did you know that some of them have magical powers and can be a bit mischievous with those who upset them?

Have you ever heard of Iele, the nymphs of the woods, springs, and meadows? If not, pay attention to the following lines, as they get really angry if someone meets them and has no clue of their entitlements.


The story about Iele, the Ladies of the Woods

Ielele (pl.) are visible only by night, when they enjoy dancing in soft, translucent dresses that reveal their voluptuous bodies, with their loose hair, crystal-like voices, and a beauty that is hard to describe in words. Deemed the true goddesses of the woods, their origin story has caused a hot debate among historians and folklorists.


Some historians claim that the iele are the soul of women who were cursed, and who never managed to find peace in the afterlife, while others argue that they are the daughters of Alexander the Great, and some claim that they are actually Dacian High Priestesses, the guardians of the entire nature.

When it comes to their name, things aren't any clearer. While some claim that their name comes from the Cuman word of "yel" meaning wind, others claim that its origins lie in the Sanskrit "vel", a word that makes one think of passing and death. Another group of people claims that the word "iele" actually derives from "iele", meaning "them" in feminine, and referring to a group of women. However, the Romanian folklore also refers to Iele as the Ladies, the Beauties, the Empresses or the Powerful Ones.


One thing is sure though. They don’t like to be seen dancing, and they severely punish all those trying to spy on them. There are a lot of stories about men accidentally meeting with Iele that remained mute or mutilated for life.


People claiming to have seen Iele, say that they prefer walking in groups of 3, 5, 7 or 9 and rarely more than that. Their favorite places are the lonely cliffs, mountains, glacial lakes, and sunny meadows, where they dance the hora by joining hands and forming a circle. Where they dance, the grass disappears, the earth remains burnt and the circle becomes a sign of their passing. If someone crosses that place he will get immediately ill forever. Even animals don’t dare to walk on those burnt pieces of land and avoid them as something unseen is still there, keeping away any living creature for many years to come.

It is also believed that Iele prefer to bathe not only in lakes but in people’s fountains, water buckets, or even in people’s cups or glasses. This is probably why many people prefer to use lids or to deposit their cups upside down.


Though Ielele are not evil creatures, everything they touch becomes dangerous. So beware, dear tourist. When you decide to visit Romania avoid walking in the woods at night and stay away from the strange circles. And if you meet the lovely Iele, be polite and tell them that you are a stranger and maybe they will forgive you this one time.

If you want to read other amazing legends from Romania, we recommend you the story of Moroi

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