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Despite many Slavic areas being heavily Christian, there is still an interest in the old Slavic folk gods. In Slavic mythology, the gods and spirits are polarized, and typically represent opposites-darkness and light, masculine and feminine, etc. Many of these old gods have been folded into Slavic Christianity.
Around the different Slavic regions, religious beliefs tend to vary. Much of what scholars know about ancient Slavic religion comes from a 12th-century document called the Novgorod Chronicle, as well as the Primary Chronicle, which details the beliefs of the Kievan Rus.
Key Takeaways: Slavic Gods
- There are no surviving writings of Slavic prayers or myths, and what is known of their gods comes from Christian chroniclers.
- No one knows if Slavic religion had a universal pantheon of gods like other Indo-European people, but we do know that the gods were honored in different ways around the Slavic world.
- Many Slavic gods had dual aspects, representing different parts of a single concept.
Perun, the God of Thunder
In Slavic mythology, Perun is the god of the sky and of thunder and lightning. He is associated with the oak tree, and is a god of war; in some respects, he's a lot like the Norse and Germanic Thor and Odin combined. Perun is heavily masculine, and is representative of the most active parts of nature. In Slavic legend, a sacred oak tree was the home of all beings; the top branches were the heavens, the trunk and lower branches the realms of men, and the roots were the underworld. Perun lived in the highest branches, so that he could see all that happened. Perun was honored with shrines and temples in high places, such as on mountain tops and groves of oak trees.Ukranian Pagans make an offering to Perun. kaetana_istock / Getty Images
Dzbog, the God of Fortune
Dzbog, or Daždbog, is associated with both fire and the rain. He gives life to the crops in the fields, and symbolizes bounty and abundance; his name translates to the giving god. Dzbog is the patron of the hearth fire, and offerings were made to him so that the fires would keep burning through the cold winter months. All of the various Slavic tribes honored Dzbog.
Veles, the Shapeshifter
Like Dzbog, Veles the shapeshifting god is found in the mythology of nearly all Slavic tribes. He is an arch enemy of Perun, and is responsible for storms. Veles often takes the form of a serpent and slithers up the sacred tree towards Perun's domain. In some legends, he is accused of stealing Perun's wife or children and taking them down into the underworld. Veles is also considered a trickster deity, like Loki in the Norse pantheon, and is connected with magic, shamanism, and sorcery.
Belobog and Czernobog
Belobog, the god of light, and Czernobog, the god of darkness, are essentially two aspects of the same being. Belobog's name means white god, and experts are divided on whether he was worshiped individually, or merely in tandem with Czernobog. Little is known about the two of them from primary sources, but it's generally agreed that Czernobog, whose name translates to black god, was a dark and possibly cursed deity who was associated with death, misfortune, and overall calamity. In some legends, he appears as a demon, and symbolizes all things evil. Because of the duality of Slavic gods, Czernobog is rarely mentioned without the inclusion of Belobog, who is associated with light and goodness.
Lada, Goddess of Love and BeautyBelarussians in traditional dresses put candles in the water while celebrating a traditional Slavic holiday. AFP / Getty Images
Lada is a spring goddess of beauty and love in Slavic mythology. She is a patron of weddings, and is often called upon to bless a newly married couple, along with her twin brother Lado. Like many other Slavic deities, the two of them are seen as the two parts of a single entity. She is believed to hold a role as a mother goddess among some Slavic groups, and in others Lada is simply referred to as great goddess. In some ways, she is similar to the Norse Freyja, because of her association with love, fertility, and death.
Marzanna, the Goddess of Winter and Death
Marzanna is the deity associated with the death and dying of the earth as winter moves in. As the soil goes cold and the crops die, Marzanna dies as well, only to be reborn in the spring as Lada. In many traditions, Marzanna is represented as an effigy, which is typically burned or drowned as part of the cycle of life, death, and eventual rebirth.
Mokosh, the Fertility Goddess
Another mother goddess figure, Mokosh is a protector of women. She watches over them in childbirth, and is associated with domestic duties such as spinning, weaving, and cooking. Popular among Eastern Slavs, she is connected to fertility; many of those who participated in the cult of Mokosh had large, breast-shaped stones that were used as altars. She is sometimes portrayed holding a penis in each hand, because as the goddess of fertility, she is the overseer of male potency - or the lack thereof.
Svarog, the Fire GodRussian neo-pagans play with a fire celebrating the summer solstice festiva. Konstantin Zavrazhin / Getty Images
The father of Dzbog, Svarog is a solar god and is often paralleled with the Greek Hephaestus. Svarog is associated with smithcraft and the forge. Perhaps most importantly, he is a powerful god who is given credit for creating the world. In some parts of the Slavic world, Svarog is blended with Perun to form an all-powerful father god. According to legend, Svarog is asleep, and it is his dreams that create the world of man; if Svarog awakens from his slumber, the realm of men will crumble.
Zorya, the Goddess of Dusk and Dawn
Representing both the Morning Star and the Evening one, Zorya is, like other Slavic gods, found with two or sometimes three different aspects. She is the one who opens the gates of heaven every morning, as Zorya Utrennjaja, so that the sun can rise. In the evening, as Zorya Vechernjaja, she closes them again so dusk will take place. At midnight, she dies with the sun, and in the morning, she is reborn and awakens once more.
- Denisevich, Kasya. “Who Invented the Ancient Slavic Gods, and Why?” Russian Life, //russianlife.com/stories/online/ancient-slavic-gods/.
- Gliński, Mikołaj. “What Is Known About Slavic Mythology.” Culture.pl, //culture.pl/en/article/what-is-known-about-slavic-mythology.
- Kak, Subhash. “Slavs Searching for Their Gods.” Medium, Medium, 25 June 2018, //medium.com/@subhashkak1/slavs-searching-for-their-gods-9529e8888a6e.
- Pankhurst, Jerry. “Religious Culture: Faith in Soviet and Post-Soviet Russia.” University of Nevada, Las Vegas, 2012, pp. 1-32., //digitalscholarship.unlv.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1006&context=russian_culture.