Slavic mythology and religion portray the beliefs and world interpretations of the ancient Slavs whose paganism and religious elements can be traced back to the period between the 8th and 13th centuries when Christianization was introduced among South, East, and West Slavs.
Before this crucial historical period that would change the Slavic social and cultural structure, there was a strong influence and practice of ancient pagan religion which was mainly polytheistic, i.e. Slavs praised and worshiped many gods and goddesses.
The myths and ritual practices before Christianization still live in the survived relics of ancient pagan religion, present in the tales, legends, and customs of the Slavic folklore tradition.
Although there is a small number of testimonials or archeological findings that can reveal more details about the sacred life of ancient Slavs, there are historical records that have compounded and preserved a generous amount of information with impressive findings.
Most of the historians of Slavic religions have relied on sources from various disciplines such as ethnology, linguistics, comparative religion, and Indo- European studies while searching for more material related to this subject.
Their findings have archived stories about human sacrifices, multi-headed idols, horse divination, and tales about Slavic cosmogony and deities that reflect a shared Indo- European past with Romans, Greeks, and Scandinavians.
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Gods of the Slavic Pantheon
Slavic religion had major gods accompanied by a number of lesser deities personified in demons, spirits, and gods.
The ancient Slavic folk beliefs were based on the idea that the world was a symbiosis of oppositional and complementary dualities that were expressed by the supreme God.
The story which exemplified this duality was one of the so-called White God (“Belobog”) and Black God (“Chernobog”) that represented a masculine deity (also referred to as earthy) and a feminine deity (or heavenly).
Here is a list of the main gods in the Slavic Pantheon:
The most important deity was Rod, which was the beginning of everything and the personification of fate.
Rod was accompanied by invisible female prophets called Rozhanitsy who after a child was born would decide for its destiny. Both words “rod” and “rozhanitsy” mean “birth” according to the Slavic languages.
Although there are no verified historical records about whether the Slavic religion had an organized pantheon of gods like the god pantheons of the Romans, Greeks, or Scandinavians, the Slavs from various Slavic regions in Europe worshiped the same gods that remained in the mythological accounts from the Baltic up to the Black Sea.
In addition, we present you a list of 8 old Slavic gods from the Slavic Pantheon:
Perun is considered to be the supreme god of the many Slavic gods in the Pantheon. This god was considered to be the ruler of gods in heaven and mythology scriptures also describe him as the god of lightning and thunder.
As the god of thunder, he has been often compared to the supreme god Zeus in Greek mythology or Thor in Nordic mythology. It is also said that Perun has his cognate in Baltic mythology called Perkunas.
Etymologically, the name “Perun” stems from the Proto- European “per” or “perk” which means “to hit” or “to strike”. Therefore, it can be assumed that Perun was considered a mighty god that strikes with his thunder and lightning.
In the Polish language, the word for “thunder” is “piorun” which has derived from the name of this ancient god.
Reportedly, Perun was worshiped across the entire Slavic European territory but he is mainly related to the Eastern Slavic tribes. The early Ruthenian chronicles contain a written account that tells the story of the time when Prince Vladimir the Great erected a cult statue of Perun along with other Slavic pagan gods at the beginning of his rule in Kyiv in 980. This statue was made of wood, silver, and gold that was used to define facial features.
In general, Perun was considered the ultimate god among Slavic mythology gods and even after Christianization took over, the Slavs considered his power to be equal to the so-called new god of the Christian faith. However, in 1988 after Christianity was finally adopted in the Duchy of Kievan Rus, pagan gods and idols were destroyed by Vladimir the Great.
The statue of god Perun was tied to a horse, then dragged down a hill and beaten with sticks until it was severely damaged and finally thrown into Dnieper River.
Prince Vladimir ordered to have the statue floated downstream to the very end of the rapids of the river. According to history chronicles, the location where the idol was washed ashore came to be known as the “Shallows of Perun” (Perunija Ren).
Veles is another extremely important god worshiped in Slavic religion, standing shoulder to shoulder with the god Perun.
Veles is also known as Volos and in the Ruthenian chronicle he is described as the “god of cattle” or “skotiv bog”. This etiquette also refers to Veles being the “god of wealth” considering that the cattle symbolized wealth in a certain family.
Moreover, Veles was also associated with poetry, oaths, magic, the underworld, and the dead.
In some historical scriptures, Veles is seen as the mythical counterpart of the god Perun, suggesting rivalry between the two gods.
According to historians, this version of Veles’ representation reflects an ancient Indo- European myth that presents the two gods as primordial opposing rivals,, similar to the goddesses Varuna and itra in Hindu mythology.
In addition, ethnographers and historians mention ancient relics that survived the post- Christianization period and are present in today’s Slavic Cosmogonic myth, i.e. Slavic Creation Myth, which also tells the story of the rivalry between God and the Devil.
The closest reference to this identification of Veles as the Devil is reflected in 16th-century Czech folklore where the phrase translated from Czech as “Go across the sea to Veles!” means “Go to the devil!”
Triglav is the Slavic god of divination and oath- making. Some versions refer to Triglav as a local version and form of the god Veles, especially in the Pomerania region by the Baltic Coast.
The name “Triglav” actually means “the one with three heads”. In Slavic mythology, he is sometimes presented as a complex of gods, and as a reference closest to the Trinity in Christianity or the Trimurti in Hinduism.
In some versions, Triglav is depicted as a man with three heads who is wearing a veil or golden blindfolds.
Reportedly, Triglav was very fond of humans so by wearing the golden blindfold he suggested his lack of seeing evil caused by human beings. In some versions, he is presented as a creature with three goat heads. The heads are symbols of the sky, earth, and the underworld.
In fact, this is one of the most mysterious gods in the Slavic pantheon as the triad in its entity represents different elements according to different versions.
An early version of this myth includes the three gods Svarog or Heaven, Perun or Earth, and Daibog or Underworld. In a later version, the god Veles or Svetovid replaces Daibog. Therefore, Triglav always represents a fusion of the three gods.
In some mythology variants, Triglav is the son of this god- triad or unity of other lesser Slavic deities.
In the book of Veles, there is a sentence that proves Triglav’s relation to this triad, with the sentence “We pray and bow to the first Triglav” after which is mentioned Svarog as the father- god and then Perun and Svetovid.
Triglav almost never appeared around the mortals but only observed them from above. Today, there are few temples dedicated to Triglav near the town of Szczecin, Poland.
Svetovid, also known as Sventovit, Svantovit, and Sventovit is one of the best known Slavic gods with many heads besides Triglav, Svetovid was mainly worshiped by the Slavic people who lived in Arcona, on the island of Rugia where a temple was built for him with his statue in the middle.
According to historians, the statue of Svetovid had four heads and a drinking horn held in one hand. Moreover, the representation of Svetovid had hair and mustache that were stylized according to the local fashion at the time.
History often compares this deity to the gods’ Veles and Triglav as there were many forms of war divination that took place around its temple and these included white horses which were considered holy animals of Sventovit.
Another possible incarnation of Perun and Sventovit was Jarovit, also known as Gerovit. Jarovit was regarded with great respect in the area of Wolgast in the Pomeraian region and in Havelberg where the Polabian tribe of Brezani lived at the time.
Medieval Christians compared Svetovid to Mars, the Roman god of war.
In Slavic mythology, Svarog is presented as the god of the sun and the god of fire, i.e. celestial fire. In some versions, he is also the god of blacksmithing whose cognate is the Greek Hephaistos.
Svarog was especially popular in the Western Slavic lands where he was also referred to as “Swarzedz” in the region of Wielkopolska or “Schwerin” in the region of Mecklenburg0 Vorpommenrn.
Dazhbog is the son of the god Svarog and thus also known in his diminutive name- form as Svarozhich. He is a solar deity, a god of the sacred son of the hearth, and the patron of the house.
In Slavic mythology, Dazhbog was related to the essential element for survival- the fire which made humanity progress but also is doomed by its cruelty and ability to destroy.
Many of the rituals performed in honor of Dazhbog were, understandably, made with the lightning of fire. Nevertheless, some Slavic tribes considered Dazhbog as the god of rains as well.
In some Slavic languages, like Slovakian, Russian, Czech, and Polish, the name “Dazhbog” refers to “dazhd” which means rain. In this context, Dazhbog was nonetheless significant as he represented the essential element for harvest, so people performed rituals that called for the rain to ensure fertile land and crops.
Hors was the god of winter sun or sun god. It was said that he represented the old sun which dies at the time of winter sun and solstice, defeated by the Black god, Chernobog, and it is then resurrected as a new sun on December 23rd.
Ancient Slavic people believed that Hors could move across the sky at the daytime and travel under the ground at night. Also, he was considered a healer of illnesses and a god that can help recovery.
Hors was a deity that was mainly worshiped prior to the rule of Prince Vladimir in Kyiv and Christianization.
Hors comes from Iranian mythology and its name stems from the Scythian and Sarmatian languages In Avestan he is called hvarə хšаētəm while in Middle Persian and Persian he is called xvaršêt or xoršid, meaning “sun.”
Semargl was the god of vegetation that was connected to harvest, fertility, and earth’s bounty. It is believed that he derived from Iranian mythology where in some versions he is called Simurgh.
Semargl was considered the god of destruction among ancient Slavic gods and had the power to achieve human transformation. He was most worshiped among East Slavs who presented him as a mythical creature in the form of a winged hound.
In the pantheon built by Prince Vladimir of Kievan Rus, there was an idol of Semargl and its images can also be found on bracelets from the 12th and 13th centuries.
It was said that he was the husband of the Slavic goddess Kupalnica who was the goddess of the night with whom he had two children, Kupalo and Kostroma.
In the myth, Semargl has the ability to fly as he is presented as a strong and agile deity. Moreover, he can control fire in heaven and on earth.
The solar Slavic goddesses named Zorya who were daughters of the god Dazhbog kept Semargl in chains next to the Star Polaris in the constellation Ursa Minor in order to prevent the end of the world caused by him breaking free and destroying the constellation.