Mythology

Rodnovery: Slavic Native Faith

Slavic religion

The Slavic Native Faith, also known as Slavic Neopaganism or Rodnovery is described by historians as a modern Pagan religion.

This so-called new religious movement is founded on the historical belief systems of the Slavic people in Central and Eastern Europe.

The communities of its practitioners describe it simply as Rodnovery although there are certain organizations that label this religion as Vedism, Old Belief, or Orthodoxy.

Rodnovery

The term “Rodnovery” also known as “Ridnoviry” is in fact a compound word of the word “rodna”/ “ridna” which may be translated as “native” and “vera”/ “vira” which translates to “faith”. Alternatively, some Slavic languages call this movement “Slavianism” (or Slaviantvo, Slovianstvo), however, with a single aum of defining a polytheistic (or pantheistic), contemporary philosophy and religion systems that are focused on the Slavic folklore and culture with divination of Slavic deities.

The practitioners of the Rodnovery revive the ethnic religion of the Slavs and they often call themselves “rodnovers”. According to some historians and folklorists, sometimes the movement is intertwined even with elements of Hinduism.

Etymology

“Rodnovery” comes from a compound from some of the Slavic languages, adapted to English but in general constructed from the words “rodna” which means “native” and “vera” meaning “truth” or “faith”.

Therefore, it can be said that “Native faith” is closest to a complete interpretation of Rodnovery in context, referring to the “Slavic Nativefaith”.

Reportedly, the Rodnovers are often categorized as “pagans” although the prefix “neo” is not accepted as people claim that “rodnovery” is the most appropritate term for the denomination of this religious movement.

Apart from the immediate meaning that is revealed through the etymology, the term also defines the ethnic religion of the Slavs and it is more profoundly related to the Slavic etymology.

“Rodnovery” actually describes the focal concept of the Slavic Native Faith- some of the groups of practitioners of this religion, the god Rod is presented as a supreme and only god or the spring/ or fountain that is the source of all the things, all the other gods and the kin (the root).

The kin refers to the blood lineage or the bond of all the ancestors who derive from the One (the ultimate creator). Therefore, in some versions “Rodnovery” is also translated as “Religion of Lineage” or “Religion of Kin”.

This interpretation actually represents a concept that refers to the “dearest” or the tight bonds in the community in one’s (home) land.

However, there is a number of Slavic pagan groups who do not accept this interpretation of the god Rod in the pantheon.

Other Popular Names of Rodnovery

In Russia for example, the Rodnovery religion is also called “Slavism”, “Vedism” or “Slavanism” though these are used only by certain minority groups in Russia.

“Slavism” is used by a community in the Russian capital, Moscow, because, as it has been said, the term “Slav” holds the original meaning of “worshiper of the gods” or “pious”.

The “Vedism”, on the other hand, was firstly introduced by the editor of the Moscow daily newspaper “Russkaia Pravda”, Alexander Aratov, who equated traditional knowledge with scientific claims and stated that the Slavs “know”, “view”, “understand” (vedali) instead of just “believe”(verali).

In some other countries, like Poland or Ukraine, people also used the terms “rodzimowiercy” (Polish) “ridnoviry” (Ukrainian).

Historical Reflections

When discussing the historical timeline related to the development of the Rodnovery, one may begin to research from the period of the 19th century when many Slavic nations had a Romantic fascination with the Slavic Arcadia which was believed to have existed before the Christianization.

This romanticized visual was created upon a combination of the concept of a noble savage and the notion of national spirit by Johann Gottfried Herder.

These visions were quite significant in the process of rebuilding the interest in the lost cultural, religious and historic heritage of the Slavs since there was no extensive archeological or written evidence after the condemnation by the Christian writers during the Middle Ages.

In 1818, Zorian Dolega Chodakowski wrote and published a pamphlet called “About the Slavs before Christianity: (original title: “O Sławiańszczyżnie przed chrześcijaństwem”) and in it, he depicted “two cultures” in the lands of the Slavs.

One of these cultures was so-called the original, pure Slavic culture of the common people, i.e. the peasants, while the other one was the culture which held characteristics of an imposed foreign cultural influence of the nobility.”

In contrast to his fellow colleague writers, Dolega- Chodakowski considered Christianity as a movement and religious system with a negative influence on the national character.

The 19th century released many new artistic works and acts but it also rediscovered authentic elements of Slavic religion, such as the publication of the anonymous epic poem written in the Old East Slavic “Tale of Igor’s Campaign”, in 1800 and the excavation of the 9th-century sculpture and one of the monuments of pre- Christian Slavic beliefs “Zbruch Idol” in 1848.

However, literary hoaxes were also present in this period, such as the “Kraledvorsky Manuscript” in 1795 which was initially presented as an epic Slavic manuscript and claimed to have been discovered in Bohemia at the beginning of the 19th century.

In the first half of the 20th century, Slavic nations developed their own belief system just like the rest of the countries in Europe.

Prior the World War II, the Polish and the German groups were referred to as “neopagan” in the press articles at the time.

Common Themes

The dominant themes in Rodnovery are ecology and respect for nature and its power.

Reportedly, nationalism was quite less relevant than ecology to most of the community whose members were driven by the ideology of nature-based spirituality.

Many of the community groups were inspired by the elements of Nature- sun, moon, light, water, trees etc., thus their symbolism is evidently referential to the natural world.

Many of the rituals and ceremonies were performed outdoors in remote areas, such as scarcely populated villages or forests.

The scholar Tanja Aitamurto has explored the common themes, such as nationalism, eco-consciousness, and concern, warrior themes, and indigenous values. Her findings are focused on several Slavic countries.

Rondnovery in Slavic Countries

1. Czech Republic

The Rodnover groups in the Czech Republic are based in Prague, known as “The Association of Native Faith” ( Společenství Rodná Víra).

2. Bosnia and Herzegovina

The association “Circle of Svarog” (Svaroži Krug) is the a group of representatives of the Rodnoverje in this Balkan country.

The association was formed as a result of the panslavic Praskozorje movement whose objectives were not exclusively religious but also scientific and strived toward promotion, preservation and research of ancient Slavic traditions and rituals in the region of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

3. Russia

The movement of “Rodnoveriye” in Russia is described as quite heterogeneous. The first association of its kind was registered back in 1994 while today among the confirmed Rodnover groups is also the Slavic Communities Union from the city Kaluga.

Other centers of Rodnovery in the Russian Federation include associations from Pskov,, Dolgoprudny and several other cities while therw are also a few pagan temples in the capital, i.e. Moscow.

The predominant religion is that of Rod although the cult of other deities, such as Dazhbog and Perun, is also worshiped.

The material upon which these Rodnovers base and portray their knowledge and beliefs is mainly drawn from medieval chronicles, archeological evidence, remnants from 19th and 20th century folklore as well as artistic representations and works that create variations of the Aryan myth.

However, it is important to mention, that according to the research, the Rodnoveriye is noted to provoke high levels of antisemitism and xenophobia, In 1992, the political party “Russkaya Partiya”, which is associated with neopaganism, published a manifesto in which it called for declaration of Christianity and the ideological concept of Jewish people chosen by God.

In Russia, as well as in Ukraine, the followers of the Rodnovery often rely on the popular “Book of Veles” which they present as a sacred text although the controversy of this scripture has been long discussed among historians, scholars and folklorists who have pronounced it a 20-th century literary forgery.

In addition, Russian Rodnovers highlight their nationalistic tendencies as integral part of their ideological movement that follows an anti-Christian sentiment (Christianity is regarded as a Jewish superstition).

According to some theories, the focus of this practice is to preserve the national tradition and folklore although there is an undeniable chauvinistic line against other ethnicities.

4. Poland

Poland is a country with one of the most influential Rodnovery associations. The members of these are known as “Rodzimowierci”.

In 1937, the most widely- acclaimed Rodzimowierec Jan Stanichniuk, and his alike-minded members, founded the magazine “Zadruga”.

The magazine was focused on various topics regarding Rodnovery, ranging from religious stances to secularly humanistic themes.

The work of Stanichniuk was a critic of Catholicism in Poland and it contained elements that were inspired or borrowed from Max Weber and Georges Sorel.

During the Warsaw Uprising he fought against the Nazi occupation but after the war he was imprisoned by the Communists, thus the activities of “Zadruga” ended.

Nevertheless, his works were reissued by publishing houses and promoted by his disciples who remained faithful to his idea. Zadruga inspired the founding of religious organizations and groups such as “The Native Faith Association”, “Association for Tradition and Culture ‘Nikolt’ ” led by the far- right politician Tomasz Szczepanski who supported an ideology of ethnic nationalism inspired by Stanichniuk and Friedrich Niezsche.

Other Rodnovery groups that were registered by the Polish authorities were the “Native Polish Church” and “Polish Slavic Church”.

4. Ukraine

In the country of Ukraine is recorded one of the most influential Rodnovery ideologies led by Volodymyr Shaian.

In 1934, Shaian, who specialized in Sanskrit at the Lviv University, claimed to have acquired a religious experience during an observation of a folk ritual in the Carpathian mountains.

When he referred to the “Ridnoviry” (in Ukranian), he highlighted the mutual foreground and roots with the Indo- European culture. Shaian was a part of the Ridnovir movement that was part of the Ukranian Insurgent Army for a shor period of time before he moved to London before the WW2 had ended.

He remained a supporter of the authenticity of “The Book of Veles” and he wrote the great volume of texts called “The Faith of Our Ancestors” where he examined Slavic religion.

The loyal followers of Shaian are united is an association called “The Native Faith Association of Ukraine” which was founded in 1998 by Halyna Lozko.

This Association has its establishments in Kiev, Odessa, Lviv, Kharkiv, Boryspil, Chernihiv, Mykolaiv, Boryspil and Yuzhnoukrainsk.

5. Slovakia

The largest so-called pagan group in Slovakia is “Krug Peruna”.

The group is quite active in organizing meetings and ceremonies throughout Slovakia. Its members are mainly from Bratislava but also from the smaller cities Martin and Koshice.

The group “Paromova Dubrava” is another, yet smaller, group of this kind that promotes “rodolesie” (in Slovakian).

The newest recorded group is “Geryon” which is situated in the capital but, nevertheless, communicates actively with the rest of the Rodnovery groups and associations in the country as well as in the Czech Republic.

6. Slovenia

The Rodnovers in Slovenia are joined through the informal association “Slovenski staroverci” (or Slovenian Old- believers) who formed their establishment in 2005 and since then began to actively participate, with an aim to explore and preserve the native faith of Slavs and Slovenes.

The “Old-believers” in Slovenia gather each year to celebrate the holidays that are related to the four seasons and the equinox period called Jarilo, Mara, Kresnik and Bozhic Svarozhic, as well as to commemorate Perun’s and Veles’ Day.

The Old-believers are also organiziers of international meetings and conferences in the Struga castle in Otochec that are named “Veche Rodne Vere” (or Gathering of Native faith). I

In 2010, the participators of the conference published the journal “Triglav” which was dedicated to the Slovenian native faith.

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