If you are a pop culture freak, you might have come across the groundbreaking fantasy title ‘The Witcher’ or the utterly terrifying winged demon Chernobog in the classic Disney film ‘Fantasia’.
As you might have guessed, characters like these are often somber and moody, as if they were painted in a murky coat of black. Hence, they take their inspiration from equally shadowy roots: Slavic Mythology.
Slavic Deities can often be classified according to their Greek counterparts. Still, the impact on their followers is arguably more significant. You see, Slavic gods represent balance.
While there could be a god or goddess advocating for peace and good harvest, there may also be the harbingers of disease and death. This duality had a variable impact on different Slavic regions. Most of the norms of Slavic Mythology were showcased within an ancient document called the ‘Novgorod Chronicle’ written by early Slavic scholars.
However, to really grasp the varied embodiments of Slavic gods and goddesses, we must first look at its foundations and where it all really snowballed in regards to Slavic Mythology.
The Slavic Pantheon
Unlike major religions such as Islam, Christianity, and Hinduism, the Slavic gods do not have any written records of testaments, prayers, or a supreme body of gods or goddesses. Most of the knowledge about the ancient Slavic religion comes from pieces written by various chroniclers.
One such piece of text is the ‘Primary Chronicle’, in which the topic of Slavic Mythology is subtly grazed on by Nestor the Chronicler during the reign of Vladimir the Great, where he forbade the worship of the Slavic Gods. Other texts include the ‘Chronica Slavorum’, written by Helmold of Basau.”
Here, he mentions Slavic Paganism but that followers of the ancient Slavic religion believed in the creation of all their lesser gods by a singular heavenly being.
However, one of the earliest mentions of deities and their counterparts in any Slavic chronicle was within the ‘Novgorod First Chronicle’. Here, symbolic descriptions of the creation of Man were portrayed extravagantly, giving way to the first known roots of Slavic mythology at large.
Slavic Gods and Their Naturality
The religion was composed of a polytheistic structure of belief. Slavic gods and goddesses typically have a deep connection to natural bodies such as water, fire, thunder, and celestiality.
As mentioned before, the duality also gives way to the counterparts believed to be in control of other natural factors such as droughts and disease. Their faith was not only limited to gods but also branched out to spirits. These spirits represent long-dead people now residing spiritually in forests and lakes. The followers also worshiped gods hailing from celestial bodies such as stars and the moon, emphasizing a deep calendrical belief in the universe above.
Comparison to other Pantheons
The trinity of Slavic deities: Perun, Svarog, and Veles, was believed to be at the forefront of the Slavic religion. This is similar to the Trimurti in Hinduism, composed of Vishnu, Brahma, and Shiva. Though it implies that the trinity is composed of multiple gods, it is considered that these three ‘heads’ are part of the same embodiment. Each of these ‘heads’ has a significant role in the Slavic religion.
As a result, the Slavic Pantheon can’t be compared to the Greeks or Romans. However, certain Slavic gods share the same prowess as gods in other classical Pantheons. Perun, one such god, shares a similar vigor as the Greek God of Thunder, Zeus, and the Roman god, Jupiter.
The Slavic Gods
Though it would be pretty horrifying to see a winged demon emerge from a peak summoning minions to devour the world, the Slavic gods were also associated with fortune, good harvest, light, and love. Below, you will find a list of gods and goddesses taken straight out of an entrancing Slavic Mythology.
The Three Main Slavic Gods
Perun, God of Thunder
You are at sea. A sudden clap of thunder shakes your bones, followed by the onset of billowing dark clouds above. The sky is angry, and the worst thing about it? So is the one ruling over it.
Perun is the God of Lightning and Thunder in Slavic mythology. Though you might think that his powers were limited only to raging weather, Perun’s powers and influence stretched far beyond perception. His manly embodiment was a direct counter to all demons and spirits gone astray. Hence, he was one of the most important Slavic gods.
Perun is also credited with being the Slavic supreme god of war. This title brought a powerful sense of honor to his name, as you might imagine. Due to his imposing presence, he was often portrayed as an eagle sitting atop the World Tree, a symbolic representation of Earth itself by the Slavs.
Perun and his dominions
Signifying the pinnacle of power, he ruled over the living world, impacting many of its various events. Though thunder and war were two of Perun’s most salient characterizations, he was also said to be connected to rain, law, heavens, mountains, eagles, and weapons. Hence, he possessed all the attributes of a chief god.
There is a rather exciting belief about Perun and his counterpart, Veles. Veles was the ruler of the Underworld, a direct counter to Perun. Locked in combat, Veles would often attempt to elude Perun’s thunderous advances by disguising as animals, trees, or other earthly embodiments.
It was said that every time lightning struck a particular place, Perun had found a trace of Veles hiding within it and hence dished out a burst of lightning to weed him out. After finally banishing Veles back to the Underworld, Perun emerged victoriously and once again reestablished order within the living world, crowning himself as the supreme god of all.
As you might have guessed, this belief significantly impacted the Slavs. The idea of ancient Slavic gods fighting and one emerging victorious to rule over the Slavic pantheon as a supreme god struck reverie and a sense of respect within all the believers.
Fun fact: The North Star (otherwise known as the Pole Star) was once called Perun’s Eye by various astronomers, the most popular being Nicolaus Copernicus.
Veles, God of Trickery and Deception
You are walking through a thick forest at night; it’s pitch black. Something on the ground reflects the moon above. It’s the first sign of water, and where there is water, there is life. You hurry towards it, hoping to find something that at least breathes in this damned forest. You look down, but you see a faint shadow with red eyes looking right back at you through the water, its pupils dripping with sanguine moisture.
While Perun ruled the living world with thunder and might, Veles lurked underneath and ruled the Underworld. He was often depicted as a shapeshifting serpent or dragon creeping its way up the World Tree to the lands of Perun to carry out his dexterous plans against him. He was a direct opponent to everything Perun stood for and hence remained an outcast within the beliefs of Slavic religions.
As the Slavic god of the Underworld, the Slavs believed that his theft of Perun’s family members contributed directly to his constant elusion from the God of Thunder.
When Veles was finally killed and banished to the Underworld, everything he stole from the living world fell from the heavens like rain. Veles’ death was never permanent, and his yearly slither to Perun’s heavens remained cyclical, and it repeated itself every year. For various Slavic tribes, this explained seasons and general weather within the living world.
Veles was often connected with sorcery and mischief, reflecting the attributes of the Norse god, Loki. He can be described as a rather apocalyptic Slavic deity as the ruler of the Underworld due to the belief of him being a direct counter to Perun himself. He might have had specific impacts on an ancient Indo-European myth, which later developed into religions of its own.
His attributes being moisture and wetness, he remains as the Slavic god of the Underworld, ready to drag whatever he can find from the living world into the watery depths of his own down below.
Svarog, God of Fire and Blacksmithing
The occasional clang of hammers and splintering timbers would have been the first sounds of life you would hear when approaching a Slavic village. This meant shelter, comfort, and, most importantly, vitality for many travelers.
Svarog, the god of fire and blacksmithing, was one of the more important Slavic gods. He was the Slavic version of the Greek god Hephaestus, and his name was directly connected to fire and warmth.
For various Slavic tribes, he was accredited with the title of the ‘Sun God’ as well as the ‘fire god’. Equipped with a celestial hammer, he forged the sun, which helped create the living world.
Once this process was done, Svarog entered a deep slumber. In this rather deep state of sleep, all his dreams directly characterized whatever went on in the living world. It is believed that if he awakes from his slumber, the world of men would immediately crumble and experience an imminent apocalypse.
However, Svarog’s importance as the god of creation is symbolized as smithcraft. He is tied directly to vitality due to the significance of fire and the Sun. Besides being a solar deity in sensational slumber, Slavic countries believe him to be the father of Dazbog, a god still due to make his entry in this list.
His symbol stands as one of the most important and sacred in Slavic culture. Armed with a white-hot hammer and a searing beard of fire flowing from his chin, Svarog’s fiery impact on the Slavic creation myth cannot be overseen.
Other Gods of Slavic Mythology
Though not as venerated as the three main gods, the other gods in Slavic Mythology were much revered and respected. Down below, you will find the list of gods that instilled wonder and fascination within the daily lives of all the Slavs that followed them
Dazbog, the God of Prosperity
You go back to your little cottage after a long day of chopping lumber. Your head is riddled with the thoughts of midlife crisis and failing finances. As you sit down on your bed, you see a small chest in the corner of your room. You open it; your face is immediately lit by the glimmer of Light. The chest is filled with enough gold to sustain you for the winter.
Confused, you look around. You catch a momentary glimpse of an old man in wolf fur looking at you through the window. He smiles and then disappears amidst the bushes.
Connected to riches and bounties, Dazbog, the god of prosperity, was deemed a hero among the Slavic peoples. Being the son of Svarog, he was also a solar deity who stood as a cultural icon in Slavic beliefs. He was associated with fortune and was often said to visit homes and distribute gifts among its inhabitants to people of good hearts.
His great characterization also had its connections to prosperity. To ancient Slavs, he was the savior in winter. Hence, any bountiful events such as a good harvest for the winter would directly be accredited to Dazbog. He was also connected to wolves. As such, wolves were considered sacred by many Slavic nations and were forbidden to be slain.
Belobog, the God of Light
It is said that Light keeps all dangers at bay. Such is the importance of a torch in the middle of a dark forest. Whatever hounds in the darkness are halted in their approach by the halo of a merrily crackling torch. You are safe for the moment because the Light is protecting you. You smile and continue to walk as the torch lights your way.
Belobog, the Slavic god of Light, otherwise known as the ‘White God,’ has been mostly reconstructed from telltale. Though there are no historical records, duality in Slavic mythology reaffirms his foothold within it. Chernobog, the Slavic black god of darkness, was often spoken alongside Belobog to neutralize Chernobog’s wicked ways.
It can be easily imagined that Slavic groups connected Belobog with healing and discovery due to his luminary nature. He could’ve been the thin line that differentiated darkness from the safe haven of Light.
Chernobog, the God of Darkness
Often described as the ‘Black God,’ Chernobog is one of the most popular Slavic gods in the world. Due to his terrifying on-screen characterization in the 1940 Disney film Fantasia,’ he became widely known and recognized in pop culture.
Myths and common sense suggest that darkness can never be your ally. Well, they might be right. As the harbinger of death, he was connected with famines and cannibalism. He was considered a polar opposite to Belobog and, as such, a personification of pure evil.
Darkness was never taken well by any culture in the world. In fact, the very purpose of the invention of fire was to keep the darkness of deep nights at bay. The Pomeranian Chronicler, Thomas Kantzow, wrote in the ‘Chronicle of Pomerania’ that Slavic prayers honored Chernobog out of fear through human sacrifices so he would not harm them. He notes that the evil god wanted nothing but the destruction of the bodies and souls of all mankind.
The existence of Belobog and Chernobog is attributed to the symbolism of peace and chaos, evil and good, day and night, and Light and darkness. They were locked in an eternal fight that could have kindled individualistic morality and a sense of righteousness within the Slavic people.
Mokosh, the Goddess of Fertility
Without reproduction, no culture can flourish.
Mokosh, otherwise known as ‘The Mother Goddess,’ was the Slavic goddess of fertility and potency. As a female deity, she held a particular cultural significance to women due to her giving powers. Birth, like every other culture, was crucial to Slavic concepts. She was said to be closely connected to Perun, and some authors believe that the theft of Mokosh by Veles led Perun to call an eternal battle against him in the first place.
This Slavic goddess was also closely connected to weaving, shearing of sheep, and the welfare of women in general. In the modern-day, Mokosh is still prevalent in the beliefs of many countries in Eastern Europe as the harbinger of fertility and an impactful force granting vitality.
Stribog, the God of Winds
Without wind, no ship would have marched forward. The wind is a vital driving force due to its constant and rhythmic existence. It stood as a symbolic embodiment of liberty and tranquility.
Stribog, the god of winds, was associated with the sea and voyage. It was considered that all winds, no matter the size, were his children. It may also be imagined that travels deemed bountiful were blessed by Stribog so the ships could march on without any obstructions.
His connection to Dazbog was also touched on by the Russian-American linguist Roman Jakobson. He mentioned that Stribog could be mentioned as a ‘complementary god’ to Dazbog as a disperser of his good fortune.
He is represented as an old man with a white beard carrying a horn to signal the onset of incoming winds. Stribog has a counterpart in the Hindu Mythology, namely Vayu, who is the Lord of Winds and a deity of breath.
Lada, the Goddess of Love
Love does make the world go round. Without love, there can be no progress among human beings.
According to some scholars, Lada was worshiped highly in Baltic mythology. Though there is no definite proof, Lada stands as a significant deity in Slavic folklore. Alongside her twin brother Lado, she blessed matrimony and was a substantial driver of love and beauty within their believers.
Lada also has her counterparts within other pantheons, such as Hera in Greek mythology and Freya in Norse.
Understanding Slavic Gods
Having touched the most important Slavic gods and Slavic idols, it is now time to turn to the analysis of it all. Though the Slavic languages through which lifelong devotion and faith for these gods were expressed are now long lost, the impact of it can still be felt,
The beliefs of different tribes such as West Slavs, East Slavs, South Slavs, North Slavs, and pagan Slavs are part of a massive umbrella in Slavic mythology. The belief was a driving force in the everyday lives of these believers.
Long before Christian chroniclers tried to bottle up generations of faith into a few pages of text, a whole world of Slavic belief existed with their own gods. As their religions descended into silence and were replaced by Christianity, so did their Gods.
However, even today, you will find believers of this faith. Perhaps in some distant Slavic settlement, you will see figures of these major gods entrapped within idols. It is a humbling experience to know that there was a god and a spirit for every little thing that the Slavs believed held great importance in their lives.
There was a rather beautiful sense of the Slavic cosmogony that has been lost to time. However, it is still etched in the heavens above through the beliefs of those who refuse to let it slowly die out.