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Ancient Slavic Paganism

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    Posted: 06 Jan 2010 at 07:11

This is the topic that I am very interested in and, shamefully, do not know much about. So, this post is rather an invitation for more knowledgeble members to talk than a starting point for a particular discussion on the subject.

Yes, we know very little about the Ancient Slavic religion. Unfortunately, unlike in Greek, Scandinavian, German or Celtic case, there are is only a handful original sources about this subject. And most of them, were, unfortunately, written from the point of view of Medieval Christian chronists which tried to descridite and criticize indecent Slavic "supersitions" as much as they could.

Too bad Slavs didn't have their own Snorri Sturluson. Unhappy
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote drgonzaga Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 06 Jan 2010 at 07:23
Why not start with the Lithuanians? They resisted Christianity for far longer than other Slavic groups. I've always liked them for their "sexual" inversion: The Moon (male, Menulis), the Sun (female, Saule). or the best of all Dimstipati/Dimstipatis tranformed from female to male!
 
Start with these links as an intro:
 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Sarmat Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 06 Jan 2010 at 09:19
First of all, Lithuanians, although very close to Slavs, aren't Slavs. However, as you correctly noted, their mythology is much better studied and may be used for intellectual "comparative" guesses about what the Slavic parallels might have looked like. But nothing more, unfortunately.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote es_bih Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 06 Jan 2010 at 11:45
Thanks for opening this topic up Sarmat. It is of interest to me as well, and do not have that much background in it myself either.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Harburs Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 06 Jan 2010 at 12:15
Interesting topic. Does Scythian or Sarmatian paganism relate to Slavic one or not? If it does we might have some clues.< id="gwProxy" ="">< ="jsCall;" id="jsProxy" ="">
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Sarmat Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 06 Jan 2010 at 12:58
Well. In fact, we do not no too many details about the Scytho-Sarmatian mythology either. Except the Herodotus narative and modern reconstructions based on Caucasian Nardic epic that is arguably is believed to be Sarmatian in origin. Though true, those are again more full than everything related to Slavic mythology. Ermm
 
As far as I know, it is believed that at least two pagan gods of Ansient Rus panteon had Iranic origin. Those gods are mentioned in the Russian Primary Chronicle and are called "Hors" (probably the god of the Sun) and "Semargl" (a kind of god's messenger). Most of the Russian scholars point at the Iranic-Scythian roots of those names. But there are no detailed descriptions of those gods at all, except the story that prince Vladimir erected idols of these gods in Kiev.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Harburs Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 06 Jan 2010 at 13:57
Hors is similiar to Khor-Shid (sun in persian) and Semargl is similar to Simorg (Mythical Persian creature).< id="gwProxy" ="">< ="jsCall;" id="jsProxy" ="">
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote drgonzaga Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 06 Jan 2010 at 14:01
Here is a problem that I am observing from the beginning. Sarmat has discounted the Lithuanians as not really Slavs (let us call them Baltic Peoples); however, he makes reference to the Ancient Rus, but are these actually Slavs since the "dynasty of Rurik" (hey, call them Varangians if you want) could also be considered "Balts" essentially ruling it over an original Slavic ethne. Therein the real consternation.
 
We do know more about the West Slavs and often what is known of them has to be extrapolated as surmises for the East Slavs. Nevertheless, we could have a good discussion in assessing Perun and the associated Veles and take it from there.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Sarmat Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 06 Jan 2010 at 15:15
Originally posted by Suren Suren wrote:

Hors is similiar to Khor-Shid (sun in persian) and Semargl is similar to Simorg (Mythical Persian creature).< id="gwProxy" ="">< ="jsCall;" id="jsProxy" ="">
Yes, these are the comparisons that are usually made.

Edited by Sarmat - 06 Jan 2010 at 15:36
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Sarmat Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 06 Jan 2010 at 15:36
Originally posted by drgonzaga drgonzaga wrote:

Here is a problem that I am observing from the beginning. Sarmat has discounted the Lithuanians as not really Slavs (let us call them Baltic Peoples);
 
We can of course call them whatever we want, but they are, in fact, called "Baltic people" that is a separate group of Indoeuropean people different from Slavs.
 
Originally posted by drgonzaga drgonzaga wrote:

however, he makes reference to the Ancient Rus, but are these actually Slavs since the "dynasty of Rurik" (hey, call them Varangians if you want) could also be considered "Balts" essentially ruling it over an original Slavic ethne. Therein the real consternation.
 
Well. Varangians that you mean here were Scandinavians that worshipped Nordic Gods. The gods that I referred to, without any doubt where indigenous local Slavic gods, and, definitely, not Scandinavian. Perun, thunder god, does have some simiarity to Scandinavian Thor, but I didn't discuss him above. Also, the passage that talks about those gods from the Primary Chronicle is about the reign of prince Vladimir when Riurikids were already assimilated into the mainstream Slavic culture and which is witnessed by prince Vladimir's Slavic name.
 
Originally posted by drgonzaga drgonzaga wrote:

We do know more about the West Slavs and often what is known of them has to be extrapolated as surmises for the East Slavs. Nevertheless, we could have a good discussion in assessing Perun and the associated Veles and take it from there.
 
By the same taken something that is known about the Eastern Slavs (Ancient Rus) can be extrapolated for the Western Slavs.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Carcharodon Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 06 Jan 2010 at 16:48
Then we of course have the interesting site of Jaromarsburg at Arkona on the island of Rugia (Rugen) where there according to the sources once stood a temple with the famous statue of the god Svantevit with his four faces. The temple was destroyed by the Danish king Valdemar the Great in the year 1168.



The site of Jaromarsburg at cape Arkona, Rugen


Edited by Carcharodon - 06 Jan 2010 at 16:54
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Al Jassas Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 06 Jan 2010 at 19:09
Hello Sarmat
 
Didn't shamanism in Russia survive untill the 19th century because I remember scaning through a book (looking for Norse mythology) I saw photos of pagan ceremonies (oddly enough presided by bearded Orthodox priests) in what is now Karelia, Arkhangelsk and Komi. So aren't those ceremonies connected in someway with Slavic paganism?
 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Anton Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 06 Jan 2010 at 20:08
There are several nonrussian ethnoses in those districts, Al Jassas. They kept and still keep shamanism.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Al Jassas Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 06 Jan 2010 at 23:46
I know that. But since they share the much of the genetics as the Russians as well as the same geography shouldn't they share the same mythology?
 
For example Semetic mythology is no more different than other none semitic ones of the middle east (except in names and some details) so why shouldn't they have the same mythology?
 
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Edited by Al Jassas - 06 Jan 2010 at 23:49
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Styrbiorn Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 07 Jan 2010 at 01:00
The Finnic peoples didn't have similar mythology as the Scandinavians neighbouring them in the west, even though many of them ended up having similar genetics, so that is no reason that they should have similar mythology as their eastern neighbours the Slavs. I'm not too familiar with the topic though.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Sarmat Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 07 Jan 2010 at 01:57
Originally posted by Al Jassas Al Jassas wrote:

Hello Sarmat
 
Didn't shamanism in Russia survive untill the 19th century because I remember scaning through a book (looking for Norse mythology) I saw photos of pagan ceremonies (oddly enough presided by bearded Orthodox priests) in what is now Karelia, Arkhangelsk and Komi. So aren't those ceremonies connected in someway with Slavic paganism?
 
Al-Jassas
Shamanism, still exists in Russia, of course. But it's not Slavic. Indigenous mythological elements of different ethnic groups which inhabited Russia influenced somehow local Slavic paganism and were influenced by it as well. But that influence wasn't overwhelming and decisive, and we can't restore Slavic mythology based on shamanistic rites of Komi, it's a complitely another world !
 
Paganism is alive even in central Russia among Volga Finns, like Mordvinians, for example. Mordvinian appearance is very similar to Russian and their Orthodox Christianity was blended with their local shamanism and paganism. So, perhaps you saw pictures of those Volga Finns pagan rituals. But those aren't Slavic !
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Majkes Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 07 Jan 2010 at 05:16

I've met below division of Slavs main Gods:

Triglav - lord of Heaven and Earth. He had 7 children:
Weles - God of magic, curses etc
Swarog - God of Sun who had 3 sons - Swarozyc ( holy fire), Dadzbog (giving wealth), Radogost
Chors - God of Moon
Strzybog - God of weather
Lada - Godless of war
Perun - the mightiest of Gods, God of Thunder. His wife was Perperuna. Their sons:
Swietowit - (war and harvests), Jarowit (war and victory) Rugiewit (war again)
Mokosz - Godless of Nature
 
p.s. the holiest sign of Slavs was swastika
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Sarmat Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 07 Jan 2010 at 05:56
That's very nice. But what is the source of this information. Looks like neopaganists' creation.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Majkes Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 07 Jan 2010 at 06:43
Originally posted by Sarmat Sarmat wrote:

That's very nice. But what is the source of this information. Looks like neopaganists' creation.
 
You can be right though this Gods existed on Polish lands. The hierarchy is very debatable. Perun was present almost everywhere on Slavs lands.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Sarmat Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 07 Jan 2010 at 07:30
Most of these names do appear in the Russian sources as well as in Danish and German accounts about Western Slavs (Vends). But the exact hierarchy of those is unknown.
 
"Chors" from your list is the same with Russian "Hors" that I talked above. But it's interesting that he was the Sun god for the Eastern Slavs and the Moon god for the Western Slavs.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote whalebreath Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 07 Jan 2010 at 14:43
My Mother came from Ukraine and I remember as a child her teaching me to revere Birch trees which grew in groves near where we lived in Northern Canada.

It was decades before I connected her love of Birch with The White Lady of the Forest although all my research leads to other darker areas-Rusalka for instance.

According to her there were still people practicing Shamanism in her village when she left in the late 30's fleeing the communist induced famine/genocide.

Being a devout Catholic she spoke very little of anything un-Catholic except to say that it did exist.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Choranzanus Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 06 Apr 2010 at 03:07
I fancy myself knowing a lot about this topic, considering of what can be known and what kind of nonsense one can find on internet, althought I have never studied it systematically, and it will come to a test in this thread.

Any discussion about Slavic paganism must start at the beginning, that is with Procopius (History of the Gothic wars, about 550):
They believe in only one god, creator of lightning and lord of all, they sacrifice cattle to him and do other sacred rites. Fate they do not know or do not believe it has any power over men. But when they are in danger of death or illness or they come to danger in war, they promise to bring sacrifice to (the?) god in exchange for their life. When they survive, they sacrifice what was promised believing that life was bought by this sacrifice. They also worship rivers and nymphs and other deities, they sacrifice to them and during sacrifice make prophecies.

I find this short passage to be an excellent summary of general features of Slavic paganism and Procopius is very accurate and early source.

To continue previous post by whalebreath, it is by no means a random occurence that Procopius mentions nymphs. Nymphs or faeries (under various names) are a constant in slavic folklore, and reports about them outnumber other things literally by orders of magnitude and this is true in all parts of Slavic settlement area. Most sources on Slavic folklore ignore them or give a very skewed picture because otherwise these sources would be very repetitive. But they are very important especially for understanding of Slavic peasant worship. The logic is something like this: greater gods are busy running the world and are not responsive to the pleas of common man (woman) at best they could be interested in affairs of kings or nobility, so it makes sense to turn to more local spirits.

more later
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Sarmat Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 06 Apr 2010 at 07:16
Welcome to AE, Choranzanus!
 
Thanks for your valuable contribution to this thread, and we are waiting for more of interesting stuff from you. Smile
 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Guests Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 10 Jul 2010 at 11:03
I just discovered this forum, and while there hasn't been much activity lately, I find it very interesting.

I am revising a novel I have written that is set in 6th-century CE Ukraine. Any tips on the culture of that area and time would be welcome.

I have found a lot of resources on names of ancient pagan Slavic gods, rituals and beliefs. I would be interested in any more information about how ordinary people of the period lived, what they thought, and especially how much they knew about the larger world around them. For instance, what was their relationship to the Eastern Roman Empire (often called the "Byzantine Empire")?
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Sarmat Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 10 Jul 2010 at 11:20

Welcome to AE, Big Wolf!

Hmmm... we know very few about this period in that area. Most of the information is based on limited archeological findings and circumstantial narrative from limited historical sources.
 
Nevertheless, Ukraine is a big country, where exactly the events in your novel are taking place?
 
It's interesting that you found so many resources about the ancient Slavic pagan gods. Cause, in fact, we know very few things about them. I hope those resources are not "Neo-Paganism" fairytales...
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Guests Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 11 Jul 2010 at 14:58
Here are some of the sources that I have used:

Orest Subtelny, Ukraine: A History. Toronto: University of Toronto Press in assiciation with the Canadian Institute of Ukrainian Studies, 1988.

Volodymyr Kubijovyc, Ukraine: A Concise Encyclopedia. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1963.

I have some others that I found on the net, but I need to find the URLs again. I hope those two are useful to you as well.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote fantasus Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 11 Jul 2010 at 19:01
 At least we may question wether the ancient "pagan" religions of Europe, evolved in relative isolation or "purity", or if there were impulses from outside, change, heterogenity and perhaps even early christian and other "foreign" influences from an early date in various "barbaric" regions of Europe, including the slavic speaking?
 The very idea that Europe was an entirely mature "christian" continent during most of the "Middle Ages" seems to be incorrect, since christianisation most of the time proceeded slowly, and probably in many different ways, buth peacefull mission of different kind, and by violent means. Some of the hardest fights for "faith" - or crusades they may be called, took place far from Jerusalem in the Baltic areas, and was in no way an exclussively german phenomenon.
In the Baltic Crusades in the 12.th, 13.th, 14.th century, there was participants from many parts of Europe, including England, but besides the german especially Danes and Swedes, but of course to non-slavic as well as slavic speaking areas. The slavic speaking pagan people in question were for instance the wendian peoples on the southern shores of the Baltic, roughly contemporary coast of eastern part of Germany, and Poland, including the coastal islands. Much of this area were from early age, and even some later part of history as much related to Scandinavia as to Continental Germany and perhaps Poland. Even Berlin itselt should have started as a slavic settlement (though probably never part of the scandinavian influenced coastal culture.)
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Carcharodon Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 11 Jul 2010 at 20:07
Originally posted by drgonzaga drgonzaga wrote:

Why not start with the Lithuanians? They resisted Christianity for far longer than other Slavic groups. I've always liked them for their "sexual" inversion: The Moon (male, Menulis), the Sun (female, Saule). or the best of all Dimstipati/Dimstipatis tranformed from female to male!

Some of these sexual inversions were also present in prechristian Scandinvaian religion. Thus we have the female Sun (Sunna) and the male Moon (Nokve). But do also notice that Day was male and Night was female. Different kinds of opposites were quite common in the old Scandinavian religion.
 



Edited by Carcharodon - 12 Jul 2010 at 02:19
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote fantasus Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 11 Jul 2010 at 20:55
Originally posted by Sarmat Sarmat wrote:

Most of these names do appear in the Russian sources as well as in Danish and German accounts about Western Slavs (Vends). But the exact hierarchy of those is unknown.
 
"Chors" from your list is the same with Russian "Hors" that I talked above. But it's interesting that he was the Sun god for the Eastern Slavs and the Moon god for the Western Slavs.
You and dr.G. seems not to be aware that lithuanian language are not slavic at all, but baltic, like latvian and ancient prussian. On the other hand a lot of what is now Germany (Austria perhaps too?)
have been settled by slavic peoples, and probably contributed considerably to present german population.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote drgonzaga Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 12 Jul 2010 at 00:18
Fantasus, follow the thread correctly. At no time did Sarmat call Lietuvu kalba a Slavic tongue, nor did I make such an assertion beyond the opting of a poor choice of sentence structure. The reference surged forth with respect to ancient belief constructs and their evolution vis a vis contact as a function of migration, intrusion and/or conquest. In fact, the Lithuanians were put forth as a result of the fact that in terms of Eastern Europe they were among the last to accept Christianity, hence more can be asserted with certainty for them in terms of backwards projection. Now, if we are going to enter the realm of Indo-European languages and the retention of onomastic traits within smaller groupings then juxtaposition is not only valid but most informative when thrust up as contradictory nomenclature.
 
By the way, do not forget that the Rus themselves were a "Baltic" entity hence the juxtaposition is more than relevant.


Edited by drgonzaga - 12 Jul 2010 at 00:21
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