Gods of Rod: Devotional Polytheism in the Slavic Tradtiion

We honor our gods because they speak to us like they spoke to our ancestors. In many cases, they are the only thing holding the bonds of kinship together, and they do this despite years of neglect and persecution. Before they were betrayed by greedy noblemen for Byzantium and Roman silver, forcibly converted to foreign faiths, and then hunted down and burned alive as witches and heretics, our ancestors fought bitter wars, on the battle field and in the home, to preserve their native faith. Don’t forget this. It is the only thing that kept the gods of Rod alive for the last thousand years. Now that we are stuck between monotheistic hysteria and the nihilism of post-modernism, the gods may be our only respite. If Jesus doesn’t save your soul from fine liquor and a good orgasm, then science will surely finish it off with high fructose corn syrup and a prescription for Paxil. Our gods sustain us, and the following includes some of the ways we honor and pay tribute to them.

The Slavs had a very practical attitude toward their gods – they had to. How else would they survive a typical Russian winter? Rodnovery isn’t about flights of fancy, new-age spiritual trends or comfort gnosis. It is pragmatic, in the trenches and often very uncomfortable. The religion comes from a time and place where subsistence farming and animal husbandry were the currency of the day. The gods were the bank. They ruled the powers of nature that could give just as easily as they took away. Our ancestors approached the gods with pious reverence yes, but the relationship’s understanding didn’t depart vastly from the principles of those they maintained with other humans. The three realms of gods, spirits and men were sustained via a symbiotic system of reciprocity and that his how our ancestors understood it. They didn’t need a ‘burning bush moment’ to reify their faith. Nor did they have time to sit in on a three week ‘shamanic intensive’ to become spiritual, they just were because they never spent a day outside the bosom of Mat Zemlja. What’s more, they didn’t meet their gods and familiars in a well lit yoga studio lounging on oriental throw pillows. They met them while on their knees in the muddy thicket of a forest floor, prostrated before a stone alter in a sacred grove with the bugs biting and the beasts lurking. They fasted, they went sleep deprived, they sweat in baths and lodges, sacrificed livestock and cut themselves open in blood rituals. Certainly this isn’t for all of us as it should seem foreign to most given our modern way of living, but back then this was their idea of comfort. Having a well working relationship with one’s gods meant abundance and long life.

Now that we are separated from nature in this consumer culture powered by cheap credit and digital entertainment, it will take each of us some discernment as to how best recover our native faith. This isn’t to say we need to find new ways to approach our gods. The gods are there waiting to be called. They crave nourishment now more than ever after so many years of isolation and abandonment. All you have to do is make that first prayer, pour out that first offering, or build a small alter. Here is a place to start:

 

imagesJ255MACHSvarog

Offeringsbeef, dark ale, living water, water used in smith-work, pine, dogwood, oak, linden (living fire), vodka, rakija

Alter-Work: iron tools/weapons, kolovrat, hammer, metallurgy, magnetite, lead, wooden icon

Spaceshilltops, vistas of the night sky, bonfires, blacksmith’s forge, oak grove

Day: Saturday

RitesSvarog controls the celestial forces of light and fire that brought consciousness to the world. His realm is in the starry heavens called Svarga, the place from where his name is derived. Ancient Scythians purified themselves in sweat lodges with stones heated from the fire of the Smith’s forge. Ritual offerings were placed before Svarog’s icon during clear skies at night. Divination by extinguishing molten lead may have been dedicated to him as well. Honor your craftsmen!

Animals: ox, eagle, falcon

 

0_2c88f_d6200d3a_XLPerun

Offerings: Animal protein, amber ale, mead, golden apples, red/gold candle

Alter-Workaxes, arrows, hawthorn, juniper, sage, nettle, apple, houseleek, thunder water, amber, thunder-stones, wooden icon

Spaceshilltops, mountains, oak or yew groves, home

Day: Thursday

Rites: Perun controls the atmospheric forces of the sky that determine weather. He is a protector. Carve thunder marks on the threshold of your home or on a nearby oak tree as a dedication to Perun. Wear Perun’s Ax around your neck. Perun was honored in oak groves, and oak trees that have been struck by lightening were especially sacred to him. Honor your community leaders!

Animals: goat, rooster

 

untitled (5)Svantevid (Swietovit)

Offerings: Animal protein (preferably from a white cow or hen), pale ale, mead, , honey cakes, pimpernel, eye-bright, ash leaves 

Alter-Work: spear, equine motifs, white horse hair, war shield, morning dew, rock crystal, wooden icon, 

Spaceshilltops, ash groves, small islets, equine stables

Day: Tuesday

RitesSvantevid controls the transcendent forces that permeate all things. Rituals for psychic sight, prophesy and health were dedicated to Svantevid in Serbia during Vidovdan, a summer solstice celebration. Healing magic in his honor should be performed at dawn. This holiday later became St Vitus’ Day in the Orthodox church, but we can see that Vid represents the maturation of the spring fertility god Jarilo (Jarovit), or Gerovit. His cult at Cape Arkona was decidedly more warlike though. Battle decisions were decided in a divinatory rite that involved walking a sacred horse over seven spears laid out before the ground. Svantevid’s temple was the last to fall and held out for over 100 years against christian invasion. Take heart in his loyalty and honor your servicemen!

Animals: white horse

 

imagesQA29CM1MVeles (Volos)

Offerings: chicken hearts, cooked corn, basil, barely, wheat, dogwood, mistletoe, bread, mead, plum brandy, desert wine, music

Alter-Work: black animal motifs, ram horns, black wool/fur, cow bell, herb bundle, muskwooden icon 

Spacesforest crossroads, river banks, rowan or dogwood groves, commerce centers, home

Day: Wednesday

RitesVeles controls the material forces that abound amid all human interaction. He should receive a libation before playing musical instruments. The Vucari/Zvoncari dress up like the Horned God following the new year to both scare off and invoke the powers of the fearsome spirits of the ancestral dead. Very similar to Pan, he is both a psychopomp and a rustic god of the forest. Prosperity magic is done by summoning Veles near a riverbank. Honor your merchants, musicians and artists!

Animals: black bear, black ram, black dog, black sheep, snakes

 

untitled (6)Dazhbog (Hors)

Offeringsbeer, bonfires, coal, gold or silver coins

Alter-Work: solar motifs, iron scythe, kolovrat, metallurgy, holly, yew, sage, ivy, evergreen, mistletoe, coals

Spaces: caves, tunnels, mine shafts, crossroads

Day: Sunday

Rites: Though not quite a personification of the sun itself, Dazhbog is more like the personification of the movement of the Sun. Therefore he commands the chariot that carries the sun. The dawning sun may have been known as Hors, a Scythian word meaning, ‘young’, but as dusk approached our ancestors saw the sun-god grow old and feeble as it made its descent through the underworld. This ‘black sun’ was known as Dabog among the Serbs, meaning ‘gift god’. Here Dabog curated the coal for the hearth-fire. As such, divination using hot coals was dedicated to him. Furthermore, a ”living water” was created by mixing hot coals from three separate trees (Oak, Linden, & Dogwood) with the water of three separate springs. This was used in traditional healing. The Slavs viewed the sun god (Hors-Dazhbog) as the first son of Svarog. As such, Serbian blacksmith’s were known to work skyclad at midnight during the ritual creation of a ‘kostura’ magical knife. Prosperity magic by Slavic witches was done by calling on Dabog’s “dwarfs” near caves and tunnels using silver coins as offerings. He is the patron of miners and all those whose work beneath the earth. The Badnjak or Bozich (Yule Log) should be dedicated in his honor as symbol of the sun’s rebirth following winter solstice. Honor your grandfathers!

Animals: wolf, frog, salamander

 

untitled (9)Stribog

Offerings: blackthorn, vodka, living water, wood ash

Alter-Work: raptor motifs, kerchiefs or flags, bells, wind chimes, wooden icon

Spacessea side mohrs, gorges, hilltops, other windy places

Day: Monday

RitesA god of the wind, Stribog controls the natural forces that bring on destruction, victory or finality. Thus is he has been interpreted by some as the negative aspect of Perun. It is said that the “Holy Spirit” is carried by Stribog to the Rodnover whenever magic is performed. He was often the patron of military commanders, and was evoked as a witness to pledges and contracts for he would carry oaths to Svarga on his back. He was celebrated or placated depending on the seasons, especially during winter storms and, like Perun, he was said to have nine sons. This leads many to the conclusion that Stribog was simply a kenning for the great thunder god. Honor your lawgivers!

Animal: hawk

 

w-korolkow-jarylo-27-6Jarilo (Lado)

Offeringslamb, wine, wheat, basil, willow, hazel, nettle, spring flowers

Alter-Work: spring animal motifs, effigies made of plant matter, hazel crosses, basil-infused water, spring flowers, unikite, wooden idol

Spacesspring meadows, botanical gardens, river banks, town squares

Day: Friday

Rites: Jarilo is a seasonal Slavic fertility god who’s cult may stem from Thracian Dionysian rites. Ritual procession, chanting, crafting crosses of hazel, bathing skyclad in rivers and lavish feasting are all a part of his Spring festival. I like to do spring planting and craft flower essences in his honor for, as an old saying goes, “wherever Jarilo walks, plants bloom”. Worshipers of the cult of Gerovit (a cognate of Jarovit/Jarilo) in Slavic Rugen observed divination rites using bones and dice. Honor your young men!

Animals: lamb, colt

 

Rod

Offeringsmead, plum brandy, moonshine, walnut leaves and nuts, porridge, bread, cottage cheese, plums, honey, traditional Slavic food

Alter-Workfamily heirlooms, photos, keepsakes, blood stone, traditional Slavic crafts

Spaceshome, burial grounds, walnut groves

Day: none

Rites: Rod is the original source of all things. According to Rybakov he is the all-purveying, animating force beyond human consciousness. He is what connects us to our ancestral line, the metaphysical force present in our DNA. Maintaining hospitality etiquette is the sacred duty of every heathen and was especially important in the rites of Rod. Remember to honor your word, because your word is Rod. Honor your relations and ancestors!

Animals: raven

 

untitled (8)Mat Siri Zemjla

Offerings: hemp oil, dwarf elder, harvested grains, fruits and vegetables, recycling

Alter-Work: offering were placed on naturally occurring boulders resembling female anatomy, others were left near yew trees 

Spaceswilderness, other places of nature

Day: none

Rites: Mat Syri Zemjla was is the personification of the damp Earth. She was communicated to directly by Slavs. They would confess their failings to her and make pleas to her that she might settle an injustice. Oaths and other contracts were bound in her name. The custom of asking her forgiveness before death was still being observed well into the 20th century. The final consecrating act of old Slavic marriage ceremonies involved couples placing a bit of earth on each others’ forehead. She was invoked with an incantation of the four quarters where a jar of hemp oil was buried in the center as an offering. She was called upon by Slavic women during emergency plowing rituals. By “stirring up” her powers, the Great Mother might awaken and take pity on the befallen people and cast out the misfortune. Then the women, dressed in ghastly masks, animal fetishes and farming tools, clamored about the village to drive away the illness and misfortune. Honor your land!

Animalsall creatures

 

Mokoš (Živa)

Offerings: mead, porridge, cottage cheese, bread, lime, hemp seeds/oil, flax seed, golden apples, grapes, wool, hair

Alter-Work: Mokoš stones, spindle, distaff, shearers, scissors, sheep’s wool, yarn, wooden idol

Spacehome, hearth fire, pastures, barns

Day: Friday

RitesMokoš has been called the handmaiden of Mat Zemlja, a weaver of the fate of humanity. Like Mat Syri Zemlja, her name is derived from the Slavic word “mokri” meaning “wet, damp”. Thus she may have been a later pagan development of the mother earth goddess. Her holy day corresponds to Celtic Samhain. Fate magic is done by invoking her, often via the weaving of wool. Friday is her holy day where she receives offerings and no magic must be done during this time. No yarn should be left out lest Mokoš find it and reweave that which you have already sewn. Worshipers prayed to Mokosh-stones or breast-shaped boulders that held power over the land and its people. The west Slavs of the medieval era knew her as Ziva, meaning ‘life’ and cult images depicted her on an island surrounded by water holding a golden apple in one hand and grapes in the other. These are symbols of life and death of which she held the power of fate. Therefore like Rožanice, she is evoked by midwifes during childbirth. Honor your mothers!

Animals: bird, sheep, bee

 

Rožanice (Suđaje)

Offerings: honey, bread, farmer’s cheese, wool

Alter-Workwool yarn, thread, woven tapestries, knitted items, woodstove

Spaces: home

Day: none

RitesThe Suđaje are viewed in some accounts as women spinners who approach the cradles of every newborn child and foretold their fate. These ‘fates’, or Rožanice, come from the goddess Rožanica mentioned in the ancient annals of Gregory the Theologian. Her name means ”a woman about to give birth” which suggests by virtue of the “breaking of water” at pregnancy, she is simply another name for Mokoš. We are unsure if the Slavs had a group of three separate fates in the Hellenic or Norse sense, but if we look to our pantheon we do find goddesses who cover all their aspects. Our ancestors understood the twin aspects of the Zarja (as morning and evening stars) to symbolize the future and past. Mokoš, (as mistress of the loom and hearth) represents that which is being woven, i.e. the present. Furthermore, there is evidence that a traveling midwifery Priestess class existed in late Slavic antiquity. These women, also called Rožanice, roamed the land in groups of three assisting in child labor and prophesying the fate of newborns. These priestesses were so important to Slavic society they were received with the utmost respect and hospitality, sometimes sharing in carnal pleasures with their hosts. In a surprising discovery, DNA tests from the remains of the Viking era Osberg Ship burial revealed the honored women to be of Slavic heritage. These Suđaje could also be tutelary female spirits of fate like the Norse filgjur. Honor your young children!

Animals: spider 

 

Zorje (Danica & Devana) 

Offerings: mead, living water

Alter-Workshield, sword, carnelian

Spacesoutdoors at sunrise or sunset

Day: Tuesday

Rites: The Zorje are represented as identical twin sisters, one each connected to the Morning and Evening Star, or the planet Venus. During these transitions, Danica opens the heavenly gates for Dajbog’s chariot so that he may ride across the sky to bring forth the day, while Zorica opens the gates in the evening to bring forth the night. Protection and exorcism rituals were conducted in conjunction with their appearance in the skies. If the healer wanted to take something away (i.e. disease), the ritual was timed to coincided with Danica’s arrival at sunrise. Many prayers were made to her during this time. The south Slavs new her primarily as the morning star Danica, the “Dawning Maiden”, from Slavic “Dan” meaning day. She is the daughter of Dazhbog and was viewed much like a Valkerie, a fully armed shield maiden who protects warriors. She was invoked to prevent death in battle with the following prayer ”Defend me, O maiden, with your veil from the enemy, from the arquebus and arrow…” Honor your women warriors!

Animals: race horses

 

b21d97b2a201cbb54f9f010fd1ac372dPerunica (Dodola)

Offerings: milk, dew, round cakes, flowers, ribbons, fresh fruits and vegetables

Alter-Work: evergreen, willow branches, iris flower, flower crown, rain water, chimes

Spaces: outdoors, hilltops, evergreen, pine groves, mountain meadows

Day: Thursday

Rites: Dodola is the seasonal fertility goddess of the harvest and wife of Perun. She is the queen of the cloud nymphs (Vilas), and as such, is responsible for making rain.. Ritual rain dances were organized in her honor to end droughts. Hymns to Dodola were sung by women clad in leaves and branches as they danced the Kolo together. Dodola was also celebrated as part of the spring welcoming of Jarilo. Maiden girls were selected as ‘Daughters of Dodola’ and sang together to close the festivities. Fairy rings were places where Dodola and her Vila were believed to have danced. These should never be trodden upon lest you incur their wrath. Honor your wives!

Animal: Cow

 

imagesBXDSN4QZ  Jarila (Lada)

Offerings: mead, red eggs, apple, sweets, birch, linden, lemon balm, purple loosestrife, cherry, dandelion, peony, chestnuts

Alter-Work: flower wreaths, gold, river stones, birch, herbs 

Spaceshome, lakes, ponds, the “may pole”

Day: Friday

Rites: Jarila is a seasonal goddess and wife of Svarog in the Russian cosmology. She was said to have been unfaithful to him. She embodies the summer flowering season of Earth’s growth cycle. Summer rituals connected to courtship and marriage are done in Jarila’s (sometimes called Lada) honor as she was the goddess of beauty and longevity. Jarila was worshiped near lakes and her celebration coincides with Rusalnaja Week. We can deduce then that she is queen of the water nymphs and crosses drawn on the ground within a magical circle would protect against rusalje. The south Slavs adorned their windows with wreaths and left offerings of walnuts upon the tombstones to protect the living from her more malevolent counterparts. During this time our ancestors knew that life’s longevity was threatened by chthonic forces. The Russians observed the summer fertility rite Semik, in which a birch pole was erected and women danced around it as a symbol of the consummated union between her and her lover Jarilo. This pole was later drowned in a river which symbolized the mythic act of betrayal inherent in the fall of the summer sun. This however was not a malevolent act but one done to stave off drought thereby ensuring the health of the future harvest. Jarila is also called ‘Lada’ meaning ‘harmony’ or ‘Zlata Baba’ meaning ‘Golden Lady’. She is both mother and lover to her son. The priests of her cult in Slovenia once performed oracles by observing molten gold in water. Honor your heart!

Animals: deer

 

Jelena (Lejla)

Offeringshoney cakes, goat’s milk, spring flowers, crocus, apple, nuts, pastries and sweets

Alter-Workrook or lark motifs, beech, maple, spring flowers, wooden bird statuettes, window quartz

Spacesyards, gardens, meadows, beech, maple groves, wetlands

Day: Sunday

Rites: Jelena is a seasonal fertility goddess who embodies the spring growth stage. Therefore she is the goddess at her most youthful. Her arrival comes with the return of migratory birds in spring, and with her came the vesne and vila (Slavic faeries and sylphs). She is the the adolescent aspect and/or “daughter” of Jarila. She woos many suitors but is destined to marry the male fertility god Jarovit. In Slovenia and Croatia she is known as Vesna and her male consort is Vesnik. They are a fairy couple and cult celebrations heralding their arrival took place on the first day of March. Honey cakes shaped like birds are adorned with ribbons then hung up around the yard as offerings to her. Ancient Slavs performed divination by observing birds’ flight patterns. Today, children are honored during this time and weather magic is performed to ensure a balanced growing season. Honor your young women!

Animals: larks, cranes, rooks, other migratory birds

 

untitled (11)Devana (Šumska Majka)

Offerings: venison (anything hunted), mugwort, mullen, toothwort, wolfsbane, wormwood, dragons wort, davana, basil, elm (living fire) silver, loch of hair

Alter-Work: forest animal motifs, bear, fox or marten skin, silver, moonstone, stone icons

Spaces: forests, elm groves, wooded mountains

Day: Monday

Rites: Devana is an ancient Slavic deity dating back to the cult of Artemis. She embodies the powers of wildlife in all its forms. Slavic witches in the Balkans regularly call on Devana (better known as Forest Mother) in all manner of spell work. She is a very powerful Goddess and may be temperamental when approached with unclear intent. Be certain in your approach and carry basil and garlic for protection. Honor your pets and wildlife!

Animals: mare, bear, marten, fox

 

imagesX29TINMHMorena (Marzanna)

Offerings: raw meat, elder, henbane, mandrake, dark rose, birch, lily of the valley, woodruff, myrtle, other nightshades, blood

Alter-Work: death motifs, skulls, bones, besom, scythe, straw effigy, epidote

Spaces: forest ponds, elder groves, dark power spots

Day: Saturday

RitesMorena is a seasonal fertility goddess who embodies the forces of winter’s decay. She is seen as a beautiful, yet cold hearted, malicious woman - the antithesis of Vesna. The ‘Drowning of Morena’ occurs about a week before Easter. An effigy of her is made out of straw and old clothing. She is ritually burned and drowned symbolizing the power of the new sun and its melting of her ice. Although she was not worshiped in the traditional sense, all Slavs had sincere reverence for her power, especially for those in the North. Honor your women!

Animals: fly, cat, swan

 

imagesXMUPOFD6Baba Jaga

Offerings: chicken feet, freshly ground coffee, hemp, sweets, rich chocolate, tobacco, black wool, blood, hair, nails

Alter-Workdeath motifs, black wool, kerchiefs, bones, mortar & pestle, besom, fountain

Spaces: forests, elder tree

Day: none

Rites: Protection rituals during the new year were dedicated to Baba in Serbian folk tradition, especially those for young children and pregnant women. Certainly she is the folkish incarnation of the much older deity like Morena or Mokos, but I believe she has a place in our pantheon. Mothers in Serbia continue to consult old wise women with offerings of food and sweets. In return they administer hemp concoctions and place grey wool atop a child’s head to ensure long life. Try crafting herbal remedies and honor your grandmothers!

Animals: boar, hen