Much like with Norse Paganism (Asatru), Slavic Paganism often in modern times gets a negative reputation by some mainstream sources and organizations as a result of a minority demographic that utilizes such spiritual beliefs for their own malicious intentions. However the more ancient native beliefs throughout the Slavic countries which can be in general described as Slavic Paganism has a rich history of traditions, ritual holidays and their Gods and Goddesses. Being that I myself have Slavic blood running through my veins I have been fascinated and studied this subject for years and even in my own crafts pay homage to Slavic Paganism and their Pantheon of Gods and Goddesses. In fact eventually on this Blog I plan to feature each Slavic God and Goddess in their own post.
I also with my personal practice of Galdur and Seiðr (Nordic Magic) have studied in some extent the practices of Slavic Witchcraft. Two books I have in my library were written by Author Natasha Helvin and her books I highly recommend. The two books I have she wrote are Russian Black Magic: The Beliefs and Practices of Heretics and Blasphemers and Slavic Witchcraft: Old World Conjuring Spells &Folklore. So with that said let us now dive into the amazing world of Slavic Paganism.
Yes, Slavic paganism is a reconstruction of the pre-Christian and pre-Islamic religion of Slavic peoples. Reconstructionism “…is a methodology used to build a cohesive belief system revolving around certain/specific ethno-cultural peoples, located in a specific era of time…” This methodology includes close study of primary sources about Slavic paganism: medieval chronicles, epic poetry, etc. But it also emphasizes Christian folklore (often a thinly veiled retelling of pagan oral tradition), linguistic analysis and comparison to other mythologies. Altogether, these different approaches compose a reconstructionist method which we employ to revive the Slavic pagan religion.
The use of this methodology in contemporary paganism is not new. It has proven its worth through the compelling reconstructions of the paganisms of other ethno-cultural groups, such as the Gauls, Anglo-Saxons, Greco-Egyptians and Norse, among others.
Slavic reconstructionist paganism includes three main objects of worship: the gods (Russian: Bogi), the spirits (Russian: Dushi), and the ancestors (Russian: Predki). We believe in multiple, distinct gods who are both immanent (appearing in the world) and transcendent (not limited to the material world). We believe that every building, every forest, every river or lake, the landscape itself is populated by countless spirits. We believe that our ancestors watch over and protect us throughout our life. SOURCE
The following list gives some of the more important Slavic deities known from older sources. Almost all of these are easily identifiable as Slavic cognates of other Proto-Indo-European Goddesses and Gods. The names used here are just some of the forms of the names which vary widely because of dialect differences in the Slavic languages as well as differences in the alphabets and the manner of their transcription from the Cyrillic alphabet. The element -bog seen in several of these names means ‘a god’ in various Slavic languages. The earliest references to specific deities are to Vladimir’s pantheon, the Gods and one Goddess worshiped by Prince Vladimir in about 980 CE before his conversion to Christianity. Most of the earliest references are from Christian sources and do not give much information, and even that is suspect. However many of these deities continue to be worshiped in the dual religion of the country people, and so they are well known from folk traditions.
Belbog, with the element bel- meaning ‘bright, white.’ This deity is known from early Christian sources.
Bereginya, mentioned in old sources, the bereginyi (plural) receive offerings among the folk, and there are folk stories told about them. Bereginya dolls are still made by Russians.
Dazhbog, a ‘Day God’ known from Vladimir’s pantheon and other early sources. In myths, he is the father of the morning and evening stars and of the Zoryi.
Khors, known from Vladimir’s pantheon, but little else is known about this God.
Koliada, the Goddess associated with the winter solstice and possibly a personification of it. There are many songs and dances known for her.
Kupalo/Kupala, a deity associated with the summer solstice. Kupalo, a masculine form, appears in early Christian references, while Kupala, a feminine form, appears in more recent folklore sources.
Lado/Lada. Lado, a masculine form, appears in early sources and is identified with Pluto and was the God invited to any occasion of merriment including weddings. Lada, a feminine form, appears in many folklore sources and is the Goddess associated with the May Day festival. There are many songs for her which people still sing. Although the linguistic relationship is uncertain, she appears to be the Slavic version of the Proto-Indo-European Goddess *Pleto.
Leshii, a personification of the forest fires which were a big concern for people who lived and worked in the northern forests.
Marzanna, a Grain Goddess known from early references and later folklore
Mesyats, a personification of the Moon, Mesyats appears in folk tales, where he or she marries Dazhbog, and they have lots of little baby stars together.
Mokosha, a Goddess from Vladimir’s pantheon, she remained important to people and is associated with water.
Perun, known from Vladimir’s pantheon, he is the Slavic version of the Proto-Indo-European God *Perkunos, a Storm God.
Poxvizd, Pogwizd are Wind Gods.
Priye and Porevit are Slavic versions of the Proto-Indo-European Goddess *Pria, Goddess of spring flowers.
Radigast at Rethra, known originally from Christian sources, the name Radigast is not well understood, but Rethra, the site of a temple appears to be the Slavic form of a standard Proto-Indo-European Goddess or God. The site of the temple described in old records is not certain, but it is probably south of the Tollense Sea (lake), where a wooden idol with two heads was found in 1968.
Rugavit, known from a confused description by the Christian Saxo Grammaticus, Rugavit was said to be a God of War. In later Slavic folklore she appears as Baba Rugen and similar names, meaning Rye Mother among the country people.
Simargl, mentioned in connection with Vladimir’s pantheon, the Simargl was often pictured in folk art as a supernatural bird with a long or braided tail. Various etymologies have been offered, but it may be borrowed from a Zoroastrian/Persian source. The Simargl was also borrowed into Islam and can be found as far afield as Indonesia where it is known as the Simurgh.
Stribog, a Wind God in Vladimir’s pantheon, also mentioned in the Lay of Igor.
Svantovit, is mentioned by Saxo Grammaticus but may be borrowed from Zoroastrian as one of the Amesha Spentas. It’s not clear because the name has been interpreted and reinterpreted in various languages, including as St. Vitus in Latin. The archaeological site for a major temple of Svantovit has been found at Arkona on the island of Rugen along the Baltic Sea. A proper dig was done by Schuchhardt starting in 1922.
Svarog, a God of the Sun or of the Forge in early sources.
Svarozhich, a son of Svarog, another name for a forge or smithy, also known from early sources.
Volos/Veles, though not specifically mentioned in Vladimir’s pantheon, it is known that warriors at that time (10th century) swore oaths by Veles and their swords. Veles is more widely known as the protector of cattle though he seems to take the form of a wolf.
Yarovit, one of the faces of Svantovit, and a deity of summer. Yaro means ‘summer.’
Zhiva is a Grain Goddess, and the Slavic version of the Proto-Indo-European Goddess *Devi.
Zoryi/Zorya, the Zoryi (plural) were personified forms of the sun at sunrise (dawn) and sunset and their names are cognate with other Indo-European names for the Sun, such as Surya. There is a third sister called Black Zorya who represents Night in folklore, or as some say, the Northern Lights. The three are the daughters of Dazhbog. They sometimes appear as knights on horseback as in the tale of Vasilisa and the Baba Yaga. SOURCE
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3 thoughts on “Slavic Paganism: An Introduction”
Baba Rugen, rye mother – interestingly, rug is the Scandinavian word for rye. Did the Rus vikings bring the word eastward, or westward!?
That is a very good question.
Just beginning a journey of learning about different pagan religion and this was fascinating for me. I had never heard of any of these and as I am doing family history research as well, knowing what some of my ancestors may have believed in, understanding it a bit better, helps that connection. I’ll definitely be doing more reading as a couple you mentioned seemed to grab my attention. Thank you for sharing all this.