Rodnovery 101: A Brief Intro to Slavonic Heathenry

Similar to the rivalry between the Vana and Asa Gods and the Olympian and Titan races in Norse and Hellenic systems, Rodnovery sees a similar convergence of high and low deity. However, unlike the eventual ‘supremacy’ achieved the Asgardians and Olympians, the Slavic system is one of homeostatic dualism, with high and low deity locked in a self regulating cycle articulated best by our devotional symbol, the Kolovrat. The chief gods Veles and Perun work in divine opposition to each other as masters of the earth and sky respectively. Unique to all other European polytheism however, is the concept of the Velika and Mali Triglav. Triglav means ‘three headed’ and there is a ‘great’ and ‘small’ version of each.

Alter to Mokoš, the Earth Mother

Alter to Mokoša. Zdravo bogove!

The Velika Triglav includes the celestial triad of Svarog, Perun and Svantevid. Svarog is the son of Rod, father of divine substance and Rožanica, the mistress of fate. He is the original Slavic Sky God and master of the starry kingdom of Svarga. Often synchronized with Hephaestus, he has many Promethean qualities as well. He created sun in his forge and conjured Mat Zemjla (Mother Earth, sometimes identified as Mokoš) from the depths of the ocean with a handful of red ochre. Together they created and ordered the laws of physics. Later he gifted the Slavs with fire and the technology to create the first iron tools and weapons.

Perun is Svarog’s first born son with Mat Zemlja. He commands the power of water in Svarga and uses it to protect our fields from the forces of drought. Perun married the sylph goddess Dodola (also called Perunica). Initially frightened by the thunderer, she was then wooed by Veles (called the Beast of the Black Sea in one tale). She could have remained a water nymph with him but chose to dwell in the sky with Perun instead. She is identified as the daughter of Zeus in the Book of Koleda. This marks the first cross pollination of proto-Slavic and Hellenic traditions and the name Dodola may be etymologically linked the Dodonides nymphs, a class of Hyades (‘rainy ones’) that raised Dionysus. This is highly likely given that Dodola is the ancient inspiration behind the South Slavic folk song and ritual rain dance that bares her name. Perun and Dodola are the parents of Svantevid and Dejana. Although the former deity is unique to Slavdom, he shares many characteristics with Apollo. That said, Dejana (Roman Diana) was certainly worshiped by the Thracian and Illyrian tribes prior to the south Slavic migration. She was likely subsumed into the Slavic pantheon much later. Here she is a rebellious daughter who, in one telling, plotted and failed to wrest control of Svarga from her father.

Svantevid Effigy

Effigy of Perun. Slava Perun!

Svantevid is a god of war, divination and mystical apotheosis. He was given the gift of white light, or etheric energy. He rides the white steed that straddles the crossing rivers of the four directions. There he prescribes war and fertility oracles to the faithful in ecstatic rituals accompanied by song and dance. He carries a drinking horn and a sword in either hand. The Book of Veles says, ”he is the light with which we see the world”, thus sharing many characteristics with Apollo. His power fuels his father’s ‘Golden Apple’ weapons, which are sometimes depicted as golden arrows. This may account for the natural phenomena of ‘ball lightening’ that inspired an ancient Montenegrin folk song about Perun. Svantevid’s light is the power that leaves us in awe of all the highborn Gods so that we have no choice but to bow our heads humbly and acknowledge that which is eternal.

Below them is the Mali Triglav comprised of Hors-Dajbog, Veles and Stribog. Hors (more often called Dajbog) is linked to the sun, with Hors being the daytime, or ”young” sun, and Dajbog being associated with the sun during its nightly passage through the underworld. He is said to be the son of Svarog in some accounts, but others view Hors-Dajbog as the personification of Svarog’s forge and thus the sun itself. Others see Svarog and Dajbog as one in the same, or perhaps as Svarog’s mutable as opposed to fixed aspect. That said, the pantheon of Vladdimir I indicates they were separate entities. As the day ends, Dajbog, seen as a lame smith in Serbian folk tales, descends to the underworld to bring daylight to our ancestors. The Slav’s called themselves “Dajbog’s grandchildren”, and many believe him to be the first human ancestor to have gone to the underworld. In this way Dajbog can be seen as the person, or force behind the smith’s fire, or sun, personified by Hors, who remains ever youthful. Hors seems to be a word foreign to the Slavic languages but is etymologically linked to the Scythian word khors, meaning “son/sun”, and the Greek khouros, meaning “young”, thus making it likely that it was a later syncretic addition to the Slavic Pantheon, possibly derived from the incursion of Alanic tribes from the southeast. All that aside, every day around sunrise Dajbog and the sun are heralded by the emergence of the morning star, Zorya (also known as Danica, meaning “lady day”), a bright shield maiden once prayed to by warriors for protection in battle.

Veles Idol

Alter to Veles. Slava Veles!

Veles is another son of Svarog who rivals his brother Perun for supremacy in Jav, or middle-earth. He appears as a horned man, clad in animal furs and may take on various serpentine qualities. Often linked to Indo-Iranian ‘Vala’, he is master of the watery underworld Virij, a quantum realm just beyond the veil where the laws of physics are turned on their head. Cunning god of the herds, he uses magic and instead of brawn to win his battles. He is fervently beloved by merchants, shepherds, musicians, sorcerers and all those who roam the roads in search of more from life. As lord of the crossroads and magic, he possesses Hermetic features as well. Every morning Veles opens the gates of Virij to send Dajbog’s chariot back to Svarga, and with it the return of the sun. Because of his theft of Jarilo, he is the mortal enemy of Perun. Many pieces of surviving lore attest to their battles which play out like a grand saga with every turn of the year. His secret consort is Perun’s daughter Dejana, the huntress, and keeper of the forests and mountains.

Stribog is another one of Svarog’s “sons”. A god of wind and intellect, it is said that the divine spirit is carried by Stribog to the Rodnover when magic is performed. He is the patron of mariners, navigators and military commanders. He was  sometimes evoked as a witness to pledges and contracts because he would bring death to liars and oath-breakers. Because of this dark aspect, he can be associated to with the folk goddess Mara, the original Slavic Hecate- mistress of poisons, winter and death. Blustery gales were said to be the angry grandchildren of Stribog. Their’s are the menacing winds that bring pestilence to the living. Plagues were thought to ride on their backs. Mara is the grim reaper that follows the disease. She was once in love with Jarilo but rejection made her turn bitter and vengeful. Her autumnal decent to the underworld brings the whole earth along with it, marking the end of the growing season. Before that however, in late summer the potency of wild animals, herbs and mushrooms reach their pinnacle. Witches called more were active during this time of year and only they could gather them up. In her name (which translates as “nightmare”) they worked magic on the crossroads, some to heal, others to harm. Stribog and Mara where respected and approached with caution because both were thought to harbingers of illness and death.

Rod- Gromoviti ZnaciEach Triglav might be referred to collectively by the euphemisms Bjelobog (White God) and Chernabog (Black God). The waxing sun during the first half of the year is ruled by Bjelobog and the second, waning half of the year is ruled by Chernabog. Though Bjelobog and Chernabog were never worshiped as gods in of themselves and were in fact not real autonomous entities, they were indeed euphemisms used to describe the two Triglavs because we know the ancient Slavs observed taboos against speaking the names of the gods in vain. The Book of Veles tells us that Svarog commands both Triglavs and we know this because of the light and dark nature of each day/year which, like eight notches of a of the Kolovrat, rotate according to his flawless design. Together the two Triglavs form the six arrowheads of the gromovit znaci or ‘thunder marks’, a Rodnovery symbol sacred to Perun. This was often etched into the doors of homes for protection. By now you may have followed that there are six primary male deities. There is however one more very important god central to our cosmology.

 

Modern Art Depiction of Jarovit. Hail Jarovit!

Modern Art Depiction of Jarilo. Zdravo Jarilo!

This is the child of promise known to most Slavs by his Russian incarnation, Jarilo. Though his spirit is eternal (perhaps embodied in the four heads of Svantevid), he is thought to evolve with the four seasons. Where Dajbog commands the daily solar cycle, Jarilo is the Svarožič, or little Svarog , who grows and dies with the annual solar cycle. The Ukrainians called him ‘Jarovit’, the Croatians ‘Juraj’, the Wends ‘Rugiewit’, The Poles ‘Gerowit’, and the Serbs ‘Vid’. The book of Veles calls him Višnij (an appellation with Vedic Vishnu) and Slovenes know him as Kršnik (note the etymological similarities with Vedic Krishna). He is the Slavic Dionysus still honored today as ‘Green George’ during the vernal equinox, he is the ‘lost tenth son of Perun’ who is abducted by Veles on his birth night during the melee of Koleda, the winter solstice celebration. He is taken to down Virij where, under Veles’ tutelage, he learns the ecstatic arts and is given the sacred mead, Surja. He contains within himself the powers of Bjelobog and Chernabog both. He emerges from the underworld during Spring, the Slavic green man whose footprints sprout with flowers bringing new life to the land. He awakens the sleeping goddess and marries her during the Kupala festival at mid-summer. She arrives with the returning migratory birds during the March celebration of Strinenija and is Jarilo’s twin sister, though he knows it not. Jarilo is intimately connected to the triad of Slavic fertility goddesses, including Vesna (the maiden), Živa the (the mother) and Morena (the hag). The remaining half of the story is part of the great Slavonic mystery which is never spoken lightly.

Also, there are many other gods, heroes and spirits in our religion. It would do a disservice to our faith were we not to mention their names here. They include but are not limited to: Baba Jaga, Banniki, Bogotiri, Danica/Zorja, Domovoj, Dvorovoj, Gorska Majka, Koshchei, Leshy, Myestyats, Ognyeny Tzvetok, Poleviki, Poludnica/Polnocnica, Porevit, Rusalki, Samovila, SImargl, Srećna/Nesrećna, Suđaje, Sumska Majka, Vampiry, Vila, Voden, and Zmaje. If the Gods and Spirits have chosen you, I offer my blessings and welcome you as my comrade and kin. May the Gods always fill your cup.

Zdravo Bogove!