Polish Culture: Ancient Slavic Myths


The Slavs built wooden temples to worship their deities

We do not possess adequate sources of information as to the primitive religion of the Polish Slavs. Like, all primitive peoples they deified the forces and phenomena of nature. The surrounding world was filled with supernatural beings: gods, goddesses and spirits. It seems that none of the Slavic peoples had any idea of a god as a supreme being ruling the whole world. In some places certain deities were worshiped more than others, but there was no gradation or hierarchy of gods One feature of the Slavic religion, that distinguishes it from that of the Teutons was the calmness and serenity of the Slavic gods, a difference which emphasizes the peaceful character of the Slavs.

The most generally recognized deity was Swiatowit (Indra), the Slavic, Zeus. He was pictured with four faces, hence seeing everything; with a cornucopia in his right hand a sword in his left hand. He was worshiped particularly in Pomorze (Pomerania) and on the Island of Rugia (Rugen).


Swiatowit as represented by the artist Alphonse Mucha

The other well known deities were Perun, the god of storms; Welles, the god of cattle; Lada, the goddess of order and beauty; Marzanna, the goddess of death; Dziewanna, the goddess of spring; Radegast, the protector of merchants and guests. In addition, the woods and waters were filled with nymphs, sirens and fauns. The Slavs believed in the immortality of soul and in an after world, with punishment and reward. The dead were the objects of particular care, and funerals were very elaborate and carried on with great pomp. Certain days of the year were set aside for offerings and prayers to the dead.

Some people, particularly women, had special powers of communication with the spirits of the dead, and their services as intermediaries were often sought. Generally speaking, however, this class of sorcerers and magicians did not develop into a permanent priestly class. The only exception to this rule were the Slavs on the Elbe and in Rugia among whom a class of professional priests is known to have existed.


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