There has been a great deal of talk, argument and flat out rancor concerning the ancient meanderings of the Scythians. Certainly there is an early neolithic, indigenous European element to Slavic heritage, but there were also waves Indo-Iranian and Indo-Turkic expansion which contributed to Slavdom. We begin with some facts about our Indo-Iranian ancestors: The Scythians were the nomadic contemporaries of the ancient Greeks, Thracians, Persians and Illyrians. They were a confederation of equestrian tribes that swept across the Pontic step out of central Asia during the 7th century BC. They spoke an Indo-Iranian language. A 2009 Study of 26 ancient human specimens from the Krasnoyarsk area in Siberia, dated from between the middle of the 2nd millennium BC and the 4th century AD, showed that the Scythians were by on large “blue (or green) eyed, fair-skinned and light-haired people who were genetically most closely related to modern populations of eastern Europe”. Nearly all subjects belong to haplogroup R-M17. I mention this because it is our sacred duty as Heathens to defend and honor our ancestors. Furthermore, we must leverage Scythian culture to inform our spiritual development and religious practice. I should make clear however, I do NOT endorse racial-separatist theories. I recount these facts in large part to put to bed the wild claims made by Neo-Fascists who falsely associate these Indo-Iranian tribes with an Indo-Aryan “master race”. DNA has now given us a clear picture- these people are the principle ancestors of the Slavs.
DNA is not the only evidence brought to bare here. Herodotus wrote extensively on the Scythians. He mentions that this was the name they called themselves. The name ‘Scythia’ is linked to Slavic skitati meaning “to wander” or “to roam”, as well as the plural pronoun skiti meaning “wanderers”. This is the word for ‘vagabond’ in the modern Russo-Ukrainian and Serbo-Croatian languages.
Herodotus tells us the Scythians were direct descendants of Heracles from his affair with the snakelike nymph Echidna. The Scythians themselves knew Herodotus’ Heracles to be their thunder god Papaios, believed by them to be an ancient ancestor. It’s no accident then that Herodotus chose the name “Papaios” which means father in ancient Greek. He was married to the Goddess Api, who was depicted similarly to Echidna as a mistress of serpents. Her likeness can be found on various gold coins, figurines and other objects recovered by archaeologists from Scythian lands. From this union came three sons: Agathyrsos (Scythian Agatirz), Gelonos (Scythian Gelon) and the youngest, Scythes (Scythian Skit). Agatirz may originate from the Scythian war god Agni, whose cult Herodotus describes in great detail in History Book IV. Agni means ‘fire’. The proto-Slavic word for fire is ‘ognji’ and Slavic Ognjen, a first name meaning ‘fiery one’, is still common among Balkan Slavs. It may also relate to Angantyr, the Berserker of the Gothic Sagas. The Goths ruled Scythia in the 3rd Century AD and this brought them into contact with the first Slavs. The Goths may have had Scythian roots of their own however, perhaps via Ongentheow which is the surname of a legendary Swedish king of the house Scylfing.
Gelon, or Helon is a Scythian surname derived from the ancient Greek word for swamp. The name remains present throughout Eastern Europe in various incarnations: Gelen in Russian; Gelon in Ukrainian and Greek; Helan in Czech; Helon Latin; and Helon or Chelon in Polish. Herodotus says the Gelenii were a tribe comprised of equal parts Greeks and Scythians. This makes perfect sense given that the surname’s disbursement spans across the oldest known contiguous Slavic and Mediterranean populations. Their ancient walled city in the Dneiper marshlands was the center of a Dionysian cult. That said, Scythes was the chosen son of Heracles according to Herodotus. He inherited his father’s belt and bow then went on to lead the Scythians as their unified king. We already discussed the etymological implications of his name so we will move on. That said, the legend of a dragon-slayer and his three sons, and the enmity between them, is depicted on ritual chalices cast in gold by Scythian craftsmen. It goes without saying that this motif has been a cornerstone of the Indo-European mythological aesthetic from late antiquity well into mid-evil folklore.
There are many different versions of the saga of Heracles and readers should note the opinion of many scholars who assert that his cult predated the ascendancy of the Olympian pantheon. This is at odds with classical texts that identify Heracles as the son of Zeus and Alcmene. The reason for the confusion is one of timeline. The Eleventh Labor, where Heracles frees Prometheus, is understood to have taken place during primordial times. This and other evidence from the Twelve Labors myth places it firmly in the Mycenaean/Minoan period, well before the Olympian ascendancy. Here Heracles slays the dragon Ladon. Given the alternative timeline, this may have inspired the better known lore of Zeus and Python. In fact, the author Diodorus Siculus never specifies Heracles as a son of Zeus here. In this version Heracles obtains the coveted Golden Apples by slaying Ladon following the tricking of Atlas. Pausanias supports the antiquity of this version by noting that, of the treasuries at Olympus, there was an archaic cult image cast in cedar-wood depicting Heracles and the apple tree of Hesperides with the serpent coiled around it.
So why is Heracles’ seniority so important? Because it gives us a glimpse inside the shamanic gnosis of Neolithic Indo-European culture. If we strip away the Bronze-Age imperial lens, it appears the Scythians worshiped Heracles (Papaios) as part of an great ancestor cult, what the Greeks called ‘demigods’. Herodotus remarks how the Scythians were loathe to worship their deity in temples or upon idols (This would later evolve of course). The proto-Slavs were of the same conscious, choosing to worship in sacred groves, making offerings upon alter stones and other natural objects. It wasn’t until much later that they were introduced to the temple practices of the Greeks, Romans and later the Norse. Furthermore, the Heracles imagery is very familiar to pagan Slavs because it was how they understood the changing seasons. The growing season was seen as Veles ascending the World Tree in the form of a serpent. During harvest, Perun arrived to repel Veles’ advance; beating him back down the tree, into a river and back to the Underworld. Recall too that Perun, like Heracles, possesses golden apples and they both take up with beautiful serpentine nymphs in Scythia. So here we find two currents; a Greek one, in which the demigod son of Zeus marries a Scythian nymph, and a Slavic one, where the Scythian thunderer Perun woos a Greek nymph (See Menu: Slavic Rodnovery). It seems both parties are intent to claim kinship with the God. What’s more, the Scythians and the Slavs both had the three worlds cosmology as well as a pantheon of seven primary deity; Agni (Svarog), Tabiti (Mokoš), Papaios (Perun), Api (Mat Zemlja), Oitosyros (Hors-Dajbog), Argimpasa (Ziva/Dodola), Thagimasidas (Veles). The number seven was sacred to pagan Slavs similar to way that the Norsemen revered the number nine. The Primary Chronicle says King Vladimir, prior to converting to Christianity, honored a pantheon of seven gods Perun, Hors, Dažbog, Stribog, Simargl, Mokoš and Veles. The preeminence of this particular number may be connected to the “land of seven rivers beyond the sea” described in the Book of Veles, a place believed to be the ancestral motherland of the ancient Slavs.
Lets return to Heracles. When we take a closer look at what the ancient Greeks had to say about Ladon, we see clearly the Slavic deity Veles. Diodorus Siculus gives an alternative interpretation of Ladon as a human shepherd guarding a flock of golden-fleeced sheep. When he isn’t busy assuming serpentine form, Veles is the bearded shepherd that, according to the book bearing his name, “leads the herds across the golden wheat fields” (D-26B). Moreover, Herodotus wrote that the most powerful and numerous of Scythian tribes, whom he called “Imperial Scythians”, worshiped Poseidon. This is in actuality the Scythian cattle god Thagimasidas, the lord of the underworld and bringer of wealth and prosperity. Since he had associations with water and trade we can deduce that Herodotus felt Poseodon best fit the profile. Thagimasidas is also Veles and his linage connects to even older currents in Indo-European mythology; namely the Avestan myth of Mitra and Vala and the Hindu myth of Indra and Varuna. That said, the Hittite saga of the gods Illuyanka and Tarhunt tells the oldest known story of a thunderer and his serpentine rival. Cuneiform tablets found at Çorum-Boğazköy, Turkey tell two narratives, both of which exhibit pieces of the same seasonal dualism present in Slavic motifs. The second narrative is of particular interest to us because it includes a dying fertility God who, like Jarovit, is tragically bound by conflicting allegiances to his father and step-father (or father-in-law). His demise immediately follows his marriage to the fertility goddess who is also daughter of the Thunderer.
These Hittite tablets constitute the oldest known Indo-European sacred texts, pre-dating the Vedas by 500 years. It is my opinion that the Indo-Aryans, by virtue of their early migration to the Indian subcontinent (1200 BC), had far less of an impact on Slavic culture than that of the Hittites and Mitanni, who made up the genetic stock of the Median and Scythian tribes that later moved west during the early classical period. The consensus among archaeologists is that the Hittites were Indo-European speakers who invaded Anatolia from either the Balkans or Pontic Steppe during the 18th century BC. They subjugated and later blended with the ingenious Semitic tribes. This might explain why there are two versions of Hittite cosmology in the Çorum-Boğazköy tablets. First perhaps is the Hurrian myth that predated the invasion, one probably informed by the Semetic cult of Marduk. The second has all the hallmarks of Indo-European cosmology as we see the concept of the dying god introduced.
Hittite religion is strikingly similar to Scytho-Slavic practice. The Hittites performed divination by observing the flight patterns of birds, something expressly mentioned in the Book of Veles as the voice of the goddess “Bird Mother Sva”. Hittite healing rituals were conducted by transferring sickness from the querent to a ritually adorned animal which was then sent forth to carry the disease away. This practice remains a staple among eastern European folk magicians and one that clearly has ancient shamanic roots. What’s more, the Hittites, like the Scythians and Slavs, understood their gods to be great ancestors and, unlike in Egypt, Hittite kings were not viewed as god incarnate, rather they ascended to such status only after death. Cremations took place on a raised scaffolding and libations were poured out before it, another signature of Indo-European origin. Also, the Hittites possessed the myth of the Thunder God who marries the Sun Goddess, which is unique only to pre-Kurgan, indigenous European cultures of the Mesolithic era. We find remains of this mythos only in the northern Slavic and Finno-Ugric cultures of the Baltic coast. Lastly, the Hittites called their great capital city Hattusha “the land of seven streams”. The Book of Veles tells us the proto-Slavs came from a land of “seven rivers beyond the sea”. Perhaps this is a reference to Anatolia, which borders Ukraine (the land of Slavic ethno-genesis) located just beyond the Black Sea?
So How can we trace the Hittites out of Anatolia back to eastern Europe? Lets return to the Near East then. There is reason to believe that the Kurds are the decedents of the eastward diaspora of the Hatti ruling class that founded the Hittite Empire. The Hatti may have mixed with other Indo-European tribes on its eastern and western flanks, namely the Mitanni class that ruled the Hurians and the Luwians who arrived in Cappadocia from the Balkans and who some believed peopled the Trojans. All were subjects of the Hittite Empire at various times and intermixing seems likely because they would have recognized one another’s shared ways. The Luwians also had a dying god via the cult of Cybele and Attis. The Mittani worshiped an early Vedic pantheon that would later evolve into the Avestan one, Mithra being their chief deity, also a dying god. During the rise of Assyria, the small ‘Neo-Hittite’ Empire emerged east of Anatolia between the 12th and 10th centuries BC. As the digression of the Luwian language indicates, eastward expansion out of Anatolia by Indo-Europeans continued into western Iran. It appears elements of Hittite, Mitanni and other Indo-European tribes converged to form the modern Kurdish ethnic group before the bulk of these people rode out of Iran as Scythians. By the 10th century BC, the Medians arrive on the scene in Western Iran. They founded an empire from 678-549 BC that stretched as far east as Arya before being conquered by Cyrus the Great. Various historical, linguistic, and philological evidence suggests the Kurds are the descendants of the Medians.
Herodotus tells that the Median Magi tribe included among their ranks a hereditary caste of priests who spread the worship of Mitra, a solar deity, throught the empire. This cult was the progenitor of Perisian Zoroastrianism. Mitra is invoked by the Mitanni Hurrians in a treaty with the Hittites as early as 1400 BC. So it appears the Mitanni ruling class just gradually (over 600 years) transferred their system further east to more friendly territory. Or perhaps they themselves are this mysterious Magi tribe? Excavations in western Iran from the Median period uncovered various “stepped fire altars” believed by archaeologists to be part of a common Iranian “cult of fire”. This seems to support Herodotus’ account of the Scythian’s worship of Agni and what we later find among the Kurds and other pagans of the Pontic Steppe. Certainly the Scythian cult of Agni had close ties to Mitanni Mitra. Agni and Mitra both feature prominently in the Rig Veda. Agni is the two headed ‘liminal’ god that links heaven and earth and deity and human. He has purview over the fire of the earth while Mitra embodies the fire of the Sun. The Mitanni-Median pantheon is the only link the Scythians had to an Indo-Aryan system given that they themselves came from the later Indo-Iranian substratum. Along with Indra and Vala, we have a sizable portion of the Slavic pantheon: Svarog or Dazhbog (Agni), Jarovit (Mitra), Perun (Indra) and Veles (Vala). While the Medians extolled Mitra throughout the land, their Scythian allies appeared to worship the more chthonic solar deity, Agni (although originally the two deities may not have been separated in this way). There is even evidence that the Scythians ruled the Median Empire for a short time. Per the Iran Chamber Society
“Beginning as early as the 9th century, and with increasing impact in the late 8th and early 7th centuries, groups of nomadic warriors entered western Iran, probably from across the Caucasus. Dominant among these groups were the Scythians, and their entrance into the affairs of the western plateau during the 7th century may perhaps mark one of the important turning points in Iron Age history. Herodotus speaks in some detail of a period of Scythian domination, the so-called Scythian interregnum in Median dynasty history. His dating of this event remains uncertain, but traditionally it is seen as falling between the reigns of Phraortes and Cyaxares and as covering the years 653 to 625 BC. Whether such an interregnum ever actually occurred and, if it did, whether it should not be dated later than this are open questions. What is clear is that, by the mid-7th century BC, there were a great many Scythians in western Iran, that they, along with the Medes and other groups, posed a serious threat to Assyria, and that their appearance threw previous power alignments quite out of balance. Herodotus reports how, under Cyaxares of Media (625-585 BCE), the Scythians were overthrown when their kings were induced at a supper party to get so drunk that they were then easily slain. It is more likely that about this time either the Scythians withdrew voluntarily from western Iran and went off to plunder elsewhere or they were simply absorbed into a rapidly developing confederation under Median hegemony.”
Indo-European migration out of Anatolia into Iran is backed by ancient Greek and Persian legend alike. Of note is Herodotus’ report of Medea, the Colchian witch-priestess of Jason and the Argonauts fame. Here Medea and her son Medus are purported to have fled from Athens to the Iranian plateau to live among the Aryans, who then changed their name to the Medes. This implicates the southern Caucus/northern Zargos region a possible nexus point of westward Hittite-Mitanni cultural diffusion following Assyrian dominance. The timeline of the Colchian Culture (15th-8th century BC) seems to correspond with the rise of the Median period in the 7th century. The Median Empire was a prelude to the Achaemenid Dynasty. The Shahnameh considered the national epic of the First Persian Empire but is believed by many to date back to the Median period, as is thought to be the story behind Kurdish ethno-genesis. The Shahnameh begins with a tale of national migration that mirrors the seasonal dualism present in later Slavic lore.
The Kurds begin fleeing their lowland villages in search of refuge from a mythological Assyrian tyrant. They find respite in the north Zagros mountains, which is where they remain today. Their enemy is the mythic king ‘Zahhak’, often depicted as a dragon who was said to have ruled for 2000 years. Zahhak personifies multiple Assyrian rulers who crushed the final remnants of the Hittites starting in 1160 BC. ‘Kaveh the Blacksmith’ is the Kurdish hero who leads the ‘Fereydun’ race in a successful rebellion against the Assyrian Empire. Fires were set all along the mountain tops to send a smoke signal that Zahhak was dead. Having grown old, Kaveh divided his new Median Empire between his three sons, The younger son, Iraj inherited the throne while the older sons Salm and Tur were given smaller claims in the outer reaches of the empire. Envious of their brother, the older two plotted and killed Iraj. Sound familiar? This takes us right back to Scythia and the sons of Heracles, and if the Medians mingled with Scythians from Colchis in the same region that today houses the last surviving Indo-Europeans of the Middle East, we must conclude that the Kurds are (distantly) related to the Scythians too. Following, Cyrus’ conquest of Media, the Kaveh legend was co-opted by the Persian nobility to lend credibility to the newly chartered Zoroastrian religion. It later became an epic poem written by the Persian poet Ferdowsi in the tenth century. However this myth may have even older roots. The Luwian Hittites knew Hasameli, the Hittite god of metalworkers and craftsmen. Associated with smoke, he is invoked by Mursili II in his annals to conceale himself from his enemy in advance of a covert assault. Here we have anthropological evidence linking both the ancient and modern Indo-Europeans of the Middle East to the ritual use of fire and smokescreen as a tactic of war.
Modern Zoroastrians and Pagan Kurds continue to honor Kaveh’s victory during the Jashn-e mehregan celebration, which may date back to an even older Mithraic rite. It is organized following the first autumn rain, which was said to be the harbinger of Zahhak’s death. This coincides with the Slavic harvest days (between August 5 and September 22) which hails the victory of Perun over Veles. The first autumn rain was said to be the blood of the Cosmic Serpent (Veles) spilled by a Divine Warrior (Perun) marking the end of the growing season. Whats more, pagan Slavs also built ritual bonfires on top of mountains and hills, though this occurred mostly during the summer solstice. However the epic climb and triumphant decent of the Zagros by Kaveh mirrors, in heroic rather than cosmologic terms, the same cyclical dualism present in Slavic religion. We know from toponyms and various chronicles that the Slavs built alters to their highborn deity atop mountains and hills, and built those to their chthonic diety near caves, rivers and town squares. The Slavic Croats, or Hrvati, are decedents of the Arachosian (Persian Harahvaiti) Scythians. Thousands of years of westward migration later, they settled on the Panonian plain below the Medvednica Mountains where they founded their capital city, Zagreb. This name cannot be etymologically linked to any Slavic word so many scholars have suggested that it is derived from Zagros. Recent DNA testing has shown that the Croats, as well as other Slavic populations have considerable Indo-Iranian ancestry.
The west-to-east then east-to-west circular trajectory of the Hittite-Mitanni-Median-Scythian-Slavic continuum emerginh out of Anatolia in an unbroken line is highly unlikely. Although archaeological evidence suggests the exiled Hatti and Mitanni ruling classes formed the foundation of the proto Indo-Iranian language family, some may have merged with the Armenians and Georgians to the north who occupied the Caucus region since the 12th century BC. Perhaps it was they who gave birth to the Scythains? The scholarly consensus seems to suggest that the Ossetians have the closest modern language to ancient Scythian. Whatever the case, the Scythians arose out of some amalgamation of this Indo-Iranian stock- This we know. However, if this theory has any legs in terms of comparative mythology we need to resolve one more pressing riddle: The absence of a venerated blacksmith god in the Scythian pantheon. If not from the Scythians, where did the Slavs conceive Svarog, celestial god of fire and metallurgy? After all, Herodotus identifies Agni with Ares not Hephaestus. Certainly he was associated with the sky, war and fire. The elevation of the alter indicates his celestial nature, the blood-fed sword tells us he was the patron of warriors, and the periodic burning of his alter indicates the primacy of fire in his cult. But what links Agni to the smithy?
Perhaps we need to move away from the Hellenic archetype of the ‘lame smith’ to understand the lineage of Scythian Agni and Slavic Svarog. Herodotus notes that Agni was thought by the Scythians to be “incarnated” in a sacred sword that “lives in water”. All new swords, while still molten at least, are christened in water in order to harden- by a blacksmith. Furthermore the Book of Veles tells us Svarog is the master of “living water”. Living water in the Slavic context comes from flowing rivers and streams only. The Kolovrat is a symbol of the changing seasons but was first imagined as the water wheel used by old smiths to hammer wrought iron. Therefore most Slavic metal workers were stationed near sources of flowing water. With this subtle detail linking Agni to water, his connection to metallurgy becomes unmistakable. We can now more accurately see him as he was and is- a warrior smith. The Slavs worshiped poly-cephalic gods, who bore two, three- sometimes seven aspects. Svarog was therefore looked upon by the faithful as both a fit warrior (by day) and a lame smith (by night). Here we see the two heads of Vedic Agni. Remember too that Hittite Hasameli and Kurdish Kaveh were both associated with war as much as they were with the forge. Given that the Pontic Steppe was a vast expanse of grassland with very few hills, my guess is the Scythians constructed tumumli to honor Agni as a nostalgic attempt to preserve the integrity of their rituals, which were steeped in the mountenous landscape of the Zagros and Caucus regions. This is reflected in their burial practices as well. Confirming Herodotus’ account, archaeological digs of Scythian remains show their honored dead were housed in kurgan mounds. This further supports my hypothesis that, ontologically speaking, the Slavs viewed their gods as great ancestors.
Finally we return to the chthonic nymph goddess that ties Slavic, Kurdish, Greek, Scythian, Median and Hittite lore together. Separate from Illuyanka, the Hittites worshiped the androgynous underworld God/Goddess Lelwanni, or the pourer. The Medians and Persians honored Aredvi Sura Anahita (meaning “moist”, “mighty” and “pure” respectively) who was also known in Armenia as the “Virgin-Mother of Mithra”. The Scythian cult of Argimpasa was presided over by a female oracle-priestess and coins bearing her likeness exhibit the same zoomorphic appearance as the Greek nymph Echidna and the Kurdish goddess Shamaran. Shamaran’s name translates literally to ”king of the snakes”. It would seem strange for a Goddess to be deliberately called a king, but her virginal nature as a self-seeding force of creation shows that her gender ambiguity is far from an accident. The Slavic Goddess Mat Siri Zemlja, or Moist Mother Earth, like Cybele or Isis, has been depicted with a phallus. It should come as no surprise then that snakes are sacred to her. Snake-like depictions of Shamaran (see below) hang on the bedroom walls of Kurdish girls to this day and Balkan Slavs believe their spirits serve as protectors of the home and hearth. In ancient times they drew their likeness on the thresholds above doors. Whats more, dragons are the bringers of storm clouds in Slavic religion. In this aspect she is the goddess is Dodola of South Slavs, the pourer who ends drought. The continuity of this goddess’ gender fluid nature now spans over 4,000 thousands years and counting and can be traced all over the world; to as far as Africa under the folk name Mami Wata to as far back in time as Mycenaean Greece and Vedic India where she was known as Manasa. It comes as no surprise then that Hesiod has this to say about her: “beneath the earth, grim Echidna, a nymph who dies not nor grows old all her days.”
So now that we have established the lineage of the Scythian tribes as being the ancestor of the Proto-Slavic milieu. Lets see how their rites can inform our religion’s reconstruction. We can begin by reclaiming the sweat lodge as a purification rite indigenous to all Slavs. Per Herodotus (The History IV, 8)…
“After the burial, those engaged in it have to purify themselves, which they do in the following way. First they well soap and wash their heads; then, in order to cleanse their bodies, they act as follows: they make a booth by fixing in the ground three sticks inclined towards one another, and stretching around them woolen felts: inside the booth a dish is placed upon the ground, into which they put a number of red-hot stones, and then add some hemp-seed. They take some of this hemp-seed, and, creeping under the felt coverings, throw it upon the red-hot stones; immediately it smokes, and gives out such a vapour as no Grecian vapour-bath can exceed; the Scyths, delighted, shout for joy.”
We can also begin to think about confronting the illusions of Rod-nazi-ry in Eastern Europe of an all white, homo-free Aryan paradise by honoring the lineage of the Enarei priest-class. Per Wikipedia…
“The Enarei were a privileged caste of hereditary priests which played an important political role in Scythian society as they were believed to have received the gift of prophesy directly from the goddess Argimpasa. The method employed by the Enarei differed from that practised by traditional Scythian diviners: whereas the latter used a bundle of willow rods, the Enarei used strips cut from the bark of the linden tree (genus tilia) to tell the future. The Enarei were also noted for dressing themselves in the clothes of women, a custom which Herodotus understands as being reflected in the title ena-rei, glossing this as ἀνδρό-γυνοι or “man-women”, from Turkic Anair or Enar (women-like man/to castrate/to lose his manhood).”