One of the highest honours in the Slavic tradition, and most respected things is to be someone’s Godfather or as the Slavic people say KUM. The first thing that you should realise apart from above mentioned, is that Godfather or Kum in Slavic tradition is not the same thing like in the Western countries. We have two types of this relationship.One considers the situation when KUM is a person who is giving the name to the young child and where he is considered his protector in the future life.
The other one is when KUM takes part in a wedding and then he represents a witness in front of God, that two people entered marriage. In both cases, he is the most respected person during these ceremonies.The Kum is a person that earned a lot of respect and trust, and has a special relationship with the individual who wants to make a bond with him that has no family or blood elements. It is often among the Slavic people that we want somebody to be our KUM when that significant person gained our sympathy and it is someone that we feel owing a lot in a non-material way.
The term KUMSTVO symbols the whole relationship between KUM and the rest involved, and this relationship goes in two ways, because two persons are equal here. The one who chose and the chosen one. But the chosen one is considered as someone that has a little bit more authority over another one. He has to obey his advice and he has a special credits in some citations.
To make it simple let us explain in common words. If you choose someone to be your KUM, you automatically became his KUM too. This is why this situation is hard to explain to the other cultures and people who are not very well into the Slavic culture.
KUMSTVO takes a special place among the Slavic people. Slavs have the saying: “God in heaven, KUM on Earth”, which defines in a lot with how big amount of respect KUM has. What KUM says or tells, represents almost a binding commitment. That is why KUM has the honour of giving the name to children. It is one of the most preserved customs in the Slavic tradition. The KUM becomes a figure that takes the child under his protection and he has mystical powers and obligation to chose the name suitable for the child.
Even in Christianity this ceremony still stands in Slavic countries, and when the child is baptised KUM gives the name. In some regions, until that event occurs, KUM gives some other, false name to the child in order to deceive evil spirits and to protect his KUMCE, as the child is referred, from being harmed. It is believed that relationships between KUM and the child that he takes under his protection, or between him and the person who chose him, are blessed by the Gods.
In past times, when two families or tribes had some sort of clash, and they got into the fight which turned out to have some victims, old people usually the leaders of the tribes, in order to prevent vengeance, they would ask someone from the opposite side to become KUM to someone of their newborn children. That act would bond and forbid any other fights between two sides.
The word KUM is the same in almost every Slavic language, and that proves that this term has a long history among Slavs. Slavs had the custom that when bridegroom and the bride, head to their wedding, the first person they see before the ceremony, they invite him to be their KUM. Slavs believed that this is an act of God and they would choose that person.
The KUMSTVO is also a tradition between two families, and when that starts it is unbreakable, and it is passed to the next generations. The Slavs were much afraid that KUM doesn’t curse them. They believe that God hears their KUM better than their own mother and father. In some situations, KUM has special honours and credits. He is the first one that tears up the shirt of the father when the baby is born. When there is a gathering KUM takes the main place and he sits at the top of the table, and he always takes a toast.
We hope that we managed to explain you at least some part of the complexity that the term KUM represents in the Slavic culture and tradition.
If you, by any chance became one to some of your Slavic friends, be sure that you will get unimaginable honour, and that you will experience something wonderful.