Introduction to paganism – part V – baltic tradition

Introduction
This article contains only basic information about Balts’ pagan traditions. If you want to learn more – read some of books or visit websites that I recommend you at the end of this text.
 
Sources and historical background
Today exist only three baltic nations – Lithuanians, Latvians and Samogitians (living in Lithuania). But back in the Middle Ages they were much more numerous – there existed many bigger and lesser tribes, inter alia the nation of Old Prussians, the biggest and the most advanced from all of baltic people. All of those tribes had their own original culture and beliefs, closely related with slavic ones. Unfortunetely, they high skill of warfare was a big problem for christianized slavic and nordic rulers. There were organized many crusades against them, along with even more numerous peaceful missions, but most of them was a complete disaster. The Baltic people stood bravely against christians for many ages, but they were gradually forced to convert into new faith. Here you can read a bit about this topic; it’s a link to blog of Peter of Skyforger: http://history.skyforger.lv/2011/crusades-against-pagan-northern-europe/
Since Baltic people were a last christianized Europeans, we have quite many information about their believes. The main source are of course christian chronicles (“history is written by victors”) like e.g. Chronicon Prussiae by Peter Dusburg. Many information is also hidden in the folklore, and auxiliary sciences like comparative mythology and linguistics. 

 

Main Deities
A baltic pantheon is really big, so here I will present only the most important gods and goddesses:
 
Dievas, Dievs – he is the supreme god of baltic pantheon, a ruler of the sky and shine, and also a king of all gods. His name means literally “God”. Worshipped as a god-creator, he’s a patron of sowing and a storm. Presenting with seed basket and a lightning in each hand. He’s bounded with beneficial, positive powers of the universe. In myths bounded with a storms he’s almost always relieved from the duties by Perkunas. Unlike other gods-creators, he have never became deus otiosus.
 
Perkunas, Perkuno – is a baltic god of thunder, lightning and rain. Closely related to slavic Perun, as well as nordic Thor. He is presented with many different weapons, mainly with axe. He is a creator of his weapons, sometimes with a helo of a god-blacksmith Televalis Representing positvive, active forces of the universe, Perkunas is a defender of the humanity. He’s sacred tree is oak.
 
Velnias, Velinas, Vels, Vielona – the opponent of Perkunas. God of the underworld, death and dead people. In some way he is bounded with destructive magic.
 
Saule – is a goddess of the sun, a wife of Menu and a lover of Perkunas. He is presented as a women with a ewer, pouring out the light and warm after a long, cold winter. She represents a positive solar force.
 
Menu, Menulis – a god of the moon, and a husband of Saule. A tale says that his chlidren are stars. 
 
Zemyna, Zeme Mate – is a Mother-Earth, responsible for the fertility and life of all beings. She is said to be a wife of Dievas (or sometimes Perkunas), with whom on spring solstice she inosculate again, and thanks to that gives another life to the earth (after a winter).
 
Laima – “a fate”, or “a luck”. She is the goddess of the human’s destiny, appearing in most important moments of life. A patron of births and childhood. Sometimes she is also presented as a goddess of love (instead of nowadays goddess of love Milda).
 
Gabija, Gabia, Gabeta – “a candle”, or “a light”. She’s a patron of the fire, linked with a sacred fire Aukuras. She’s also a patron of household and a family.
 
Regular Festivals
Prusiauzemis – celebrated in January, is a festival of change of cosmos in winter. 
 
On Ferburary there are celebrated several days: a day of Gabija, a day of Perkunas and the most important Uzgavenes. On this day is burnt down an effigy symbolising a bad, winter spirits.
 
Spring equinox – xelebrated on march.
Jore – a day of spring, devoted to Perkunas. On this day a thunder god awakes all nature to live.
The day of Milda – a day of lovers.
Rasos – a celebration of summer solstice in June.
Zoline – celebrated in August, is a festival of grass, cereal and a Mother-Earth Zemyna.
The day of Perkunas – celebrated on September, together with autumn equinox.
The day of all souls – festival lf the dead, celebrated in November.
Kucios, Kaledos and the day of Praamzius – the festivals bounded with winter and winter solstice.
 
Learn more:
 
Books:
M. Gambitas – “Balts. Ancient people and places”
V.R. Dzundzilla – “Balitc Lithuanian Religion and Romuva”
H. Biezais – “Baltic Religion”
 
For polish-speaking people:
J. Suchocki – “Mitologia Bałtyjska”
A. Zubiński – “Mitologia Bałtyjska”
J. Kierszka “Mity i Legendy Prusów”
O. Miłosz – “Legendy i podania litewskie”
 
Vladyka 2013

Introduction to paganism – part IV – celtic tradition

Introduction

This article contains only basic information about celtic pagan traditions. If you want to learn more – read some books, or visit websites that I recommend you at the end of this text.

This topic is really long and hard to present. So if you have good knowledge about it, and you will see some mistakes – simply write to me.

 

Sources and historical background

The ancient Celts settled vast lands from Ireland and Britain on the north, to northern Italy, Spain and Balcans on the south. They were living in what is now called France on the west, and in part of Czech Republic on the east, and even in Minor Asia (being known there as “Galats”). They were great warriors and craftsman. But that was in VII-III B.C. In following years, they were slowly conquered by Romans, Germanic and Daco-Thracian tribes. The only free celtic lands were still lying in modern Scotland (settled by Picts), Wales and Ireland.

Celtic pagans haven’t written themselves about their beliefs. The tradition existed in word of mouth, being guarded and cultivated by druids – a rank of priests, medicals, historians, astronomers, philosophers and scientists. I will write about them in other article.

Our main sources are texts of celtic neighbors – Romans and Greeks. The second part of texts are manuscripts of Christian monks, who were recording old celtic tales. They were using a names of celtic deities and heroes, and were writing about old festivals, but in Christian vain.

Also our sources are archeology (especially useful for Gallia’s territory), linguistic, folklore and comparative mythology.

First of difficulties is that under roman occupation invaders tried to Romanize specific gods and goddesses. Also, when they were writing about celtic pantheon they were using Roman names (as an equivalent). Very often ancient classics weren’t writing about gods, that were popular on many monuments and in inscriptions.

In different part of Gallia, in Ireland and Britain names of deities were generally different. Also many deities don’t have their equivalent in other regions. Because of that, I will write only about most popular gods and goddesses. I will not write about fomoraig generation of Ireland – that is a topic for other text.

 

Main deities

First name is always gaulish:


Teutates (bryt. Totatis, Tutatis) – is a central character in celtic pantheon. His name means all people. He’s a patron and a guardian of a tribe. He is also a god of war. Romans were comparing him to Mercury and Mars.


Lugus (irl. Lugh, bryt. Llud Llaw Ereint or Llew, Lleu) – is a god-king, and his name means flashing light. Was worshipped in every region of celtic world. He is associated with sun and warm light.

A Lugnasad festival is especially bounded with this god.

His attribute is spear.

 

Taranis (bryt. Taran) – or Sucellos, a god of thunder and sky, worshipped in Gallia, Britain and Ireland. His attributes are hammer, an oak and a wheel, and his name means basically Thunder or Lord of Thunder.He is similar to other thunder gods of Europe – germanic Donar/Thor, roman Jupiter, greek Zeus, slavic Perun and Baltic Perkunas.

 

Belenos (bryt. Beli) –  a solar god, by Romans identified with Apollo. He is bounded with healing forces and life-giving power of sun.

Bounded with Beltaine and Lugnasad festivals.

 

Goibniu (irl. Goibniu, bryt. Govannon) – is a god-blacksmith, patron of crafts and work.

 

Ogmios (irl. Ogma) – is a god of eloquence and science. He was identified with Hercules, but his strength is a power of speech, not a muscle.

He is also bounded with underworld.

Cernunnos – a god with a horns of a deer, bounded with wild nature and magic.

 

Mothers – three goddesses, patron of wealth, fertility and maternity. Their attributes are basket of apples, baby and/or horn of plenty.

 

Epona – a goddess with features of mothers. She is also a goddess of death, fallen in battle and underworld.

Their attributes, beside Mothers’ ones, is also a horse.

She was known in ancient world under many names (e.g. Rosmerta).

She is quite similar to irish goddess Danu and british Riannon.

 

Brigantia (bryt. Brigantia, irl. Brigid) – is a goddess of poetry, healing, smith’s work. She is patron of higher dimension – as high hills, so as also high intelligence, perfection etc. By Romans she was described as Minerva.

 

Bodua/Catabodua (irl. Badb, also known as Morrigan) – goddess of war. She is taking fallen warriors souls to the Underworld. Her attribute is a crow.

The Irish goddess Morrigan is sometimes a name for a trio of other goddess (bounded with war) – Badb, Macha and Nemain).

 

Regular Festivals

31st October / 1st November – Samhain – the first day of celtic calendar. It is starting “darker” part of a year, ending a time of harvest and being a festival of spirits, forefathers and unborn children.

1st February – Imbolc – bounded mainly with goddess Brigid, it is a holyday of purification by fire and water.

30th April / 1st May – Beltaine – a holyday starting a part of “light”year. Devoted mainly to the god Belenos, and bounded with fire.

1st August – Lugnasad – a day of devoted mainly to god Lugh, and also Belenos. Bounded with a beginning of harvest, it is also a day of love and happiness.

 

Learn more:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Celtic_polytheism

http://indigocrescent.com/id17.html

http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/101803/Celtic-religion

http://www.sacred-texts.com/neu/celt/rac/

http://www.ardue.org.uk/library/book5/religion.html

http://arthsoc.drruss.net/Cauldron/celtic.html

http://www.green-man-of-cercles.org/articles/celtic_religion.pdf

Also, worth to check:

http://draeconin.com/database/notcelt.htm

 

Books:
J. de Vries – Celtic Religion
p. MacCana – Celtic Mythology
Th. F. O’Rahilly – Early Irish History and Mythology
M.L. Sjeostedt – Gods and Heroes of the Celts
J. Wood – The Celts: Life, Myth and Art
And lots of more – english literature about Celts is huge.
Also try to read source text and legends – e.g. Mabinogion or De Bello Gallico by Ceaser.

Books for polish-speaking people:
J. Gąssowski – Mitologia Celtów
A. Bartnik – Zarys Wierzeń Plemion Celtyckich
Celtowie (z serii Mitologie Świata)
+ tłumaczenia zagranicznych książek (a sporo ich jest).

Vladyka 2013

Introduction to paganism – part III – germanic tradition

https://i2.wp.com/norse-mythology.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/11/LingsbergRunestone-225x300.jpg

Introduction
This text contains only basic information about germanic native traditions. If you want to learn more – read some books, or go to links that I recommend you at the end of this article.
Sources and historical background
Christianization of germanic tribes was a very long proces. First baptized gemans are those who were living near Roman Empire, circa about IV A.D. The last christianized were swedish tribes (XII A.D.). Very often christian germanic kings were trying to send missions to other pagan germans, to take new worshippers of Christ under their reign.
The problem with germanic paganism is that we don’t have many written texts about continental germanic tribes. Even if we have, these are things like Volsunga Saga, not saying much about Gods worshipped in the pagan era. We can get information from people who neighboured with germanic tribes (Germania by Tacitus) Our main sources are also scandinavian (nordic) sagas and Eddas – Poetic Edda and Prose Edda. Also we can learn much from archeology, linguistic, comparative mythology and folklore.
Remember also that what you find in Eddas and sagas are very often just a literature, written for fun of nobleman and other people.
In this article I will focus on scandinavian beliefs, which you can find in modern Asatru’s beliefs.
 
Main Deities
Gods and Godess are divided into two kins, Aesirs and Vanirs. In the beggining there was a conflict between those kins, but it ended peacefully.
Gods of germanic people are not immortal and not perfect – they have to eat apples of Idunn to stay young. Aesirs and Frey will also die in Ragnarok – a Dawn of Gods. From the ashes of old world will arise another, better, ruled by offspring of fallen gods.
 
Aesirs
Odin (germ. Wotan, eng. Woden) – he is a main God of the whole germanic pantheon (although at the beginning the main God was Tyr), being a patron of warfare, wisdom, poetry and magic. In the past he was favourite God of nobleman and chiefs (kings). He created the world, together with His brothers Vili and Ve. He hung him up on the tree of the World, Ygddrasil, to get knowledge about secrets of the world. Hero of many myths, Odin represents a perfect, noble man. He will die during the Ragnarok, defeated by a great wolf Fenrir.
His is the ruler of Asgaard, the world of Aesirs.
His atributes are:
  • Two ravens, Hugin and Mugin, who brings him news from all the worlds.
  • Wolfes Geri and Freki.
  • Gungnir, his spear
  • a horse Sleipnir
  • Hlidskjalf, jis throne.
 
Thor (germ. Donar, eng. Thunor) – a son of Odin, god of thunder, storm, vitality, harvest and simple warriors, very similar to slavic god Perun and celtic Taranis. Thor’s the strongest of all Aesirs, and is known for being a protector of Asgaard (the home of gods). Due to this fact, many people wear an amulet (Thor’s hammer) to protect them from evil. Thor’s hammer is also the most popular symbol of Asatru.
He is a hero of many myths, in which he mostly gives a proof of his strenght and honor. He is also much more “human” god than his father. Thor will die during the Ragnarok, after the killing of the Serpent of the World – Jormugand.
He’s atributes are:
  • Thunder hammer Mjollnir
  • a charriot with two goats
  • a belt of strenght Megingiard
  • iron gloves of power
 
Tyr (germ. Tiu / Ziu, eng. Tiw) – at the begginig he was a god of sky, main deity of the pantheon of germanic tribes. But later his atributes were “stolen” by Odin. So Tyr is know mainly as a god of war, justice and oath. He lost his hand, which was warmed by the great wolf Fenrir. Known of his great courage, he will die during the Ragnarok in the fight with the dog called Garm.
His atributes are:
  • Tiwaz rune
  • only one hand (left)
  • often presented with a sword.
 
Baldr (germ. ?, eng. Bældæg) – a son of Odin, killed by his brother Hod after a trick of Loki. Known as a most beautiful and good of all gods. He is now in the kingdom of goddess Hel, but he will return after a Ragnarok, to rule new, better world.
He is a god of shinig and goodness, the most perfect creature of all beings.
 
Heimdallr – is a god of righteousness and light, defender of the rainbow bridge leading to Asgaard – Bifrost. He will play on his horn, Gjallarhorn, when the Ragnarok starts. And he will die in the duel with Loki.
 
Loki – is a giant of fire, adopted to Aesir’s kin by Odin. An Allfather is also his bloodbound brother.
Known as a very chaotic god of cheat. He can take a form of any kind he’d like, and also change his sex. He is a hero of many myths, in which he once help Aesirs, and once do everything against them.
He tricked Hod to kill the most beloved of all gods – Baldr. As a punishment he was chainted onto a rock, whan a giant serpent spits on him a poison from time to time. His wife, Sigyn, holds a boal under Loki, so her husband didn’t get injured by it.
He will break his change in a day of Ragnarok, and lead an army of giants and beasts against gods.
 
Bragi – a skaldic god, patron of poetry and singing (without magical approach).
 
Frigg (germ. Frijo, eng. Frige) – she’s a wife of the highest god Odin, a patron of marriage, home, family, married women and births.
Very often she is identify with a Vanir Freya. It might be that in the beginning they were a one godess.
 
Idunn – a wife of Bragi, a keeper of apples giving gods their eternal youthfulness.
 
Ostara (eng. Ēostre)a goddes of spring, light, life fertility and a first sunrise (on the spring).
 
Vanirs
Njordr – is a god of seas and oceans, helpful to people. He lives in Asgaard, but after the Ragnarok he will return to his home-world (Vanaheim).
A father of Freyr and Freya.
 
Freyr – a god of fertility, vegetation, land, prosperity, and peace. He is one of the most important germanic gods, together with Odin and Thor. Even he’s a Vanir, his fate is bounded with Aesirs and he will die during the Ragnarok.
His atributes:
  • a boar Gullinbursti
  • flying ship Skidbladnir
  • a ring Draupnir, given him after a Baldr’s death
  • deer’s horn.
 
Freya – a sister of Freyr, sometimes identified with Frigg. She is a goddess of fertility, love,sex and female magic – seidhr. Mostly worshipped by a women, she’s most important goddess, together with Odin’s wife. She is also the most beautiful of all women.
Her atributes are:
  • golden necklace Brisingamen
  • a robe, made from hawks’ feathers
 
Other gods
Hel – she is a daughter of Loki. Odin has given her a kingdom of the dead – Helheim. It is a place where souls of those who has not fallen in battle will exist, until the day of Ragnarok.
 
Other creatures
Disir – a spirits bounded with a human kin, being defenders of specific family. They are identify as a forefathers, bounded with a goddess Freya. They help humans in everyday life.

Fylgia – a personal helping spirit of each man, often presented as a women or an animal. Similar to slavic Dola or christian guardian angel.
 
Valkyries – a women-spirit, servant of Odin. They are collecting a souls of fallen in battle, and guide them to Vallhala – a home of the Highest. They are sometimes associated with Fylgias.
 
Alfs (Elves) – they are living in a world of Alfheim, ruled by Freyr. They are a spirits of wild nature, sometims associated with a dead persons.
There are also Dark Alfs, living in the world of underground, called Dwarves.
 
Giants (Thurs’) – a creatures fighting with a gods, incarnation of chaos and wild forces of the universe.
Worlds of Ygdrassil
Ygdrassil, A tree of The World, is a place where lies all of the know worlds:
Asgaard – a world of Aesirs.
Alfheim – world of alfs, ruled by Freyr.
Muspelheim – southern world of fire, a home of fire giants.
Vanaheim – home of Vanirs.
Midgard – a wolrd of living humans.
Jotunheim – a world of mountain giants.
Nilfheim – a frosty home of ice giants.
Svartalfheimunderground world of dark alfs (dwarves).
Hel – underground world of dead.
 
Main festivals
1st week of Ferbuary – Disablot a festival dedicated to Freyr, Freya and disirs.
20th / 21st of March – Ostara – a festival of spring and fertility, rebirthing of the world.
30th of April – Walpurgia’s night – festival of goddesses bounded with magic and death (Frigg, Freya, Hel).
1st of May – day of Freyr and Freya, festival of fertility.
21st of June – Midsummer – a festival of summer. In this time ritual of Sunna’s (Sun) blot must be performed.
1st of August – Lammas – a festival of harvest, bounded with Freyr and Freya,
1st of September – Day of Odin – a blot being perform to hail Odin
21st of September – Autumn Equinox – a festival ending a harvest, bounded with Freyr and Freya, but also with all gods being associated with fertility and vegetation.
12th of October – Alfarblotfestival of fylgias, disirs and alfs.
20th / 21st of December – Yule – festival of passing winter. Blot is being performed mainly for Freyr, Freya and Thor.
 
Learn more:
 
And books:
John Lindow – Norse Mythology: A Guide to the Gods, Heroes, Rituals, and Beliefs.
Gabriel Turville-Petre – Myth and Religion of the North: The Religion of Ancient Scandinavia.
Kevin Crossley-HollandThe Norse Myths
H.R. Ellis Davidson –Gods and Myths of Northern Europe
And of course every source-text that you will find – Germania, Sagas and Eddas.
 
For polish-speaking people:
G. Dumezil – Bogowie germanów. Szkice o kształtowaniu się religii skandynawskiej (it can be difficult if you know nothing about a topic).
J. Ros – Heroje Północy (best translation of main scandinavian myths)
L.P. Słupecki – Mitologia Skandynawska w epoce Wikingów
L. Auerbach – Wikingowie i Germanie. Sagi ludów północy
 
Vladyka, June 2013

Introduction to paganism – part II – slavic tradition

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Introduction
This text contains only basic information about slavic native traditions. If you want to learn more – read some books, or go to links that I recommend you (look at the end of this article).

Historical Background
First of all, it must be written that slavic religion is not so well known as e.g. german (id est scandinavian) or celtic. It’s because of poor sources. There is no written texts like scandinavians sagas or celtic legends and poems – slavic christian elites had no interest in survival of their native traditions. They were going to erase it from history’s charts instead. I suppose it is bounded with resistance, which gave lower classes. In many slavonic countries (e.g. Poland in 1034, Czech Kingdom in the beggining of Xth century) there occured something called “the pagan reaction”. It was a revolt of lower, still pagan classes, against the oppresion of Church and nobleman. During this events, the paganism was again main religion for a short period of time. It must be obvious than victorious christian people wanted to erase momories about paganism – because it was a root of resistance against tyranny and feudalism (which was half-slavery system in reality).
Our sources than are: archeology, folklore, some fragments from foreigner’s texts, linguistics and of course comparitive mythology. By it, we can rebuilt slavic’s ancient traditions.

Main Gods
Perun – He was also called with other names, dependly of region, and was widely worshipped in whole slavonic land. For many, he is the most important god of the pantheon.
He is describing as a bearded, strong men with an axe or hammer in his hand.
His name means “he, who strikes”. As the god of sky and storm he represents an element of order. He is an active deity, in legends fighting with chaotic forces (e.g. he fights with a Dragon (Żmij), who represent a chaos in the universe). He is also responsible for the creation of the universe, along with Veles.
He is an incarnation of courage, honor and striving for perfection. He was worshipped especially by warriors.
He is similar with other thunder gods, like Thor and Taranis.
He’s holy tree is oak.
He’s holyday is 20 of July.
Veles – a chtonic, god of underworld (Navia), wealth, magic, poetry and knowledge.  A deity that represents a chaotic side of the universe. He’s the secend most important god in slavic pantheon, right behind Perun. He is his antagonist, (e.g. myth about creation of the universe). Together with Perun, he created a man.
Animals bounded with Veles are viper, bull and black horse.
He is similar to Hades and Pluto.
Svarog – a solar god, patron of celestial fire and of blacksmithing. He represents a more distant forces of light (deus otiosus), and by many he is called a demiurg. He is suppossed to be the main god of the pantheon, a king of all gods, not so interested in Earth’s affairs though.
Similar to Hephaestus.
Dažbog – a son of Svarog, god of fire and a cultural hero. He represents a home’s fireplace, and he gives people wealth and luck in life.
Similar to: Sol, Vesta and Hercules.
Mokosh – Mother Earth, goddes of fertility, abundance and love. Patron of women. One of the most important deities in slavic pantheon.
Similar to: Demeter, Aphrodite.
Rod –  He is a patron of all human gatherings e.g. families, kins, nations etc. He also assigns everyone’s fate with help of his three servants, Rožanicas. He is a distant god, but Rožanicas were often an object of worship, due to their power of changing people’s destiny.
Yarilo/Yarovit – a young, active god of spring, light and youth. He is incarnation of goodness, fertility and hapiness, especially worshipped at the first days of spring. He dies in the time of winter, and reborn on spring.
Described as a young, blond men dressing white drob. He rides a horse, and holds an ear of grain in his hand.
He’s main holyday is 20th of april.
Similar to: Baldur, Apollo.
Marena/Marzanna – a goddes of death and winter, connected with underworld (Navia). Her effigy is burned on the first day of spring.
Hors – a god of moon.

Other beings
Dola – personification of fate, similar to disir in scandinavian mythology or christian guardian angel. They protect people form all the evil.
Dziady (Forefathers)  – a spirit of forebears, which can help in everyday life.

Regular festivals
21st of March – Jare Gody* – a festival of spring’s equinox.
20th of April – Yarilo’s Holyday.
21st of June – Kupala’s Night – a festival of summer’s solstice.
20th of July – Perun’s Holyday.
23rd of September – Festival of yields – a festival of autamn’s equinox.
1st of November – Dziady – festival of forefathers.
21st of December – Szczodre Gody – festival of winter’s solstice.
*I’m using Polish names if there is no English one.

Learn more:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Slavic_mythology
http://www.paganspace.net/group/AncientSlavicMythology
http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/548484/Slavic-religion
http://www.academia.edu/1264171/Slavic_Religion
http://piereligion.org/slavic.html

Books:
Marija Gimbutas The Slavs
P.M. Barford – The Early Slavs: Culture & Society in Early Medieval Eastern Europe
J. Mahal – Slavic Mythology
A. Szyjewski – Slavic Religion
B. Ribakov – Ancient Slavic Paganism

Books for polish-speaking people:
A. Gieysztor – Mitologia Słowian
A. Szyjewski – Religia Słowian
S. Urbańczyk – Dawni Słowianie – wiara i kult
H. Łowmiański – Religia Słowian i Jej Upadek (very critical work, but you can find here some useful infos)

Vladyka, May 2013