EAST SLAVIC PAGANISM

1. Indo-European heritage.

The Slavs inherited from the Indo-Europeans a threefold functional division of society (called tripartition) into priest-rulers, warriors, and peasant-producers. The Slavic peoples held the Indo-European concept of a universe divided into the three realms of heaven, earth, and an underworld. This tripartite division of the worldly universe was sometimes called by the deity name Triglav, which means "three-head". In what we can piece together of the ancient Slavic pantheon, each realm had its own set of divinities, and each class seems to have worshipped its own favorite gods.

2. Gods of sun, sky or atmosphere (worshipped mainly by the priestly or warrior class).

Belbog (BELL-bog), also called Div, the god of life. The general, distant god of good, law and order opposed to Chernobog, the god of evil. (Slavs worshipped him too as a sort of insurance.) These were gods of the priestly class. The following more defined atmospheric gods seem to have been important to both the priestly and the warrior classes: Svarog (SVAR-ug) God of the sky (cf. Sanskrit svarga, sky. These gods were considered the mythic progenitors of various peoples. Forfathers of various clans were sometimes called Svarozhiches (svar-OZH-ich-ez), or sons of the sky; Dazhbog (DAZH-bog) God of white light, day, sun; Stribog (STREE-bog) God of the winds; Hors God of the sun, (the root "horo, kolo" = round, circle, whole); and finally, Perun, one of the most important gods, the main god of the warrior class. He was the Slavic equivalent of Thor and Jupiter, god of thunder and lightning and of the atmosphere in general (overlap with the older gods Belbog, Svarog, Stribog, Xors). Warriors claimed descent from him and called themselves his grandsons; him they called Ded or Dido, grandfather. His day was the 20th of July.

3. Gods of earth or underworld (mainly worshipped by the producing class)

Makosh (MA-kush), or Mokosh, Mother Moist Earth, goddess of the female beginning, the dark female earthy and watery counterpart of the airy male beginning, protectress of the producing class of people (sometimes also called Didilia, Lada, etc.) Protectress of marriage and patron of household chores, symbol of the female beginning and of the productive earth; Lada (Lado) God of Love, Slavic Venus, and her first child (son or daughter) Lela/Leli, the child-god of spring; and her second son Polelia the god of marriage (Cupid), who was depicted wearing a white peasant shirt and a crown of thorns (to emphasize everyday life and the difficulties of marriage); Srecha--goddess of fate and also of spinning and household chores. She spun and cut the thread of life (like the three Greek fates). People tried to guess the future by various methods. Makosh was also considered to be involved with fate; Siva, or Diva, female goddess of life; the masculine Yarilo (also called Yarovit, Porevit, Radegast), an important peasant deity considered to be the god of the sowing of seed and of the male incarnation, reincarnation, connected with the cult of Rod and Rozhanitsa. Holiday celebrated in spring with great rowdyness. Female personage Morena (ma-REN-uh), or Martsana, the goddess of growing things (she was like the Greek Persephone; "mor" = death). Effigies of Yarilo and Martsana were burned at midsummer, when they were no longer needed.

In opposition to gods of life and fertility were gods of death and the underworld: Vii (VEE) and Kashei, or Koshei, were the gods of the underworld who incarcerated Yarilo and Morena during the cold months; Simargl (SEE-mar-gul), or Pereplut (pi-ri-PLUT), was the winged dog who guarded the harvest and the underworld. He was a sort of Slavic Cerberus. There was also an underwater king, a sort of Slavic Neptune, who held power over storms and sea creatures; he was accompanied by various serpents, spirits monsters. We do not know his original name.

Finally, there was Volos, or Veles, the livestock god, patron of shepherds (originally the patron of hunters). Later he came to be considered a patron of the mounted horsemen of the warrior class as well. His holiday was Dec. 25-Jan 6 and also March 20-25. Jan 6 was Veles' Day. Also considered the God of riches, hence such words as vladet' to possess, vlast' power. In Christian times Volos was confused with the Devil.

4. Lesser gods and spirits mainly known from peasant superstition.

Many of these spirits were once thought to be good but Christianized peasants came to consider them mischevious and demonic. Bereginya ancient guardian spirits, originally beneficial, female spirits. Upyr (bes, chort) troublesome spirits, mischievous beings who brought evil. Chur the god or spirit of boundaries, originally depicted as a four-sided stone; later given a head. The marking of ancestral lands and graves was of prime importance to the Slavic tribes and bands (chort, a violator of boundaries, later the Slavic word for the Christian devil). The Slavs believed that those who moved boundary stones were doomed to wander the earth after death with no homeland--the spirits of these people were thought to be seen as will o' the wisp lights in fields; Domovoi (duh-ma-VOI) house spirit; Ovinnik (a-VEE-neek) threshing barn spirit; Polevik (pa-li-VEEK) field spirit; Leshy (LE-shee) (like the Greek Satyrs) mischievous forest spirits. These were thought to have the power of becoming as small as blades of grass in a field, but when walking in the woods they would grow to the size of trees. They were said to call people into the forest and cause them to get lost there. Sometimes they would lure travelers into their lair and tickle them to death; Rusalka (roo-SAL-ka), also called Vila (VEE-la) or Sirin (SEE-rin) were water spirits like the Greek nymphs, sirens, and naiads. Originally they were good spirits who helped bring rain and watched over the growing crops. Later they became evil. Had blond hair and lured young men into the water and drowned them. Often portrayed as the spirits of drowned maidens, sometimes with pale skin and greenish hair; Nav was a bird with the soul of the dead who came from the other world, somewhere in the east, from a place called vyrei (VI-ray), or rai (pronounced like "rye"). People warmed up the bathouse and set out food to placate these birds; Kikimora (kee-KEE-ma-ra) was the female evil spirit of nightmares; one legend has it that the Kikimora was a baby stolen from its mother's womb by the devil. Dryoma was the spirit of sound sleep, and Bayunok (ba-YOON-uk) was the spirit of good dreams (sometimes thought of as a cat); Polkan (pal-KAN) Centaur, part human and part horse; originally a guardian spirit.