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    Boris V.
    Boris V.

    Slavic Pagan Beliefs

    The Slavic peoples are not a "race". Like the Romance and Germanic peoples, they are related by area and culture, not by blood. Today there are thirteen different Slavic groups divided into three blocs, Eastern, Southern and Western. This includes the Russians, Polish, Czechs, Ukranians, Byelorussians, Serbo-Croatians, Macedonians, Slovenians, Bulgarians, Kashubians and Slovakians. Although the Lithuanians, Estonians and Latvians are of Baltic tribes, we are including some of their customs as they are similar to those of their Slavic neighbors.

    Slavic Runes were called "Runitsa", "Cherty y Rezy" ("Strokes and Cuts") and later, "Vlesovitsa". The Cyrillic system ("Cyrillitsa") was created in the 9th century by Sts. Cyril and Methodius based on a combination of the Greek alphabet and the Slavic Runes. Vlesovitsa continued to be used by the Pagans, while Cyrillitsa was used by the Christians. During the "war" against Paganism, the Christians destroyed each document that contained Runic instead of the Cyrillic writing, usually along with its owner. This was done so effectively that according to most sources, the ancient Slavic peoples had no written language at all. Therefore the nearly all records of the rituals, temples and idols/gods of the ancient Slavs come from the very people sent to destroy them. This, along with the fact that very little information on Slavic Mythology and Magick has been translated into English, makes studying the subject extremely difficult.

    Research must then be done through the study of folklore and folk customs. Fortunately, the medieval Slavic peasant did not embraced Christianity on any more than a surface level. This gave rise to what the Russians call dvoeverie (dvoh-ev-VAIR-ryeh) or "double-faith". According to one historian, Christianity so shallowly masked the surface of the true Pagan beliefs, many a peasant did not know the name of the man on the cross to whom he prayed.

    Dualism & The Origins of Slavic Belief

    The origins of Slavic belief, like that of the rest of the world's, rest in animism and ancestral worship. The first two types of spirit were called the beregyni – female spirits that bring life and are the forerunners of the Rusalki, and Upyr – the spirits of death who eventually became our modern Vampire (Wampyr). From this original dualism sprang belief in all of the nature spirits, and eventually in the Rod and Rozhenitsa, the God and Goddess who imbue the newborn child with a soul and his/her fate. Although nearly all deities were originally ancestral, Rod and Rozhenitsa eventually pulled the Slavic mind out of that way of thinking and opened the doorway for the later "Indo-European" way of thinking, although the original "Old European" way of thinking kept a stronger hold on the average Slav.

    Dualism permeates all of Slavic Pagan spirituality and actually seems to be the basis for most of it. This should not be confused with the dualistic good against evil beliefs of the Christian religion which have unfortunately seeped into the Slavic spirituality of today. It is a system of complimenting opposites such as darkness and light, winter and summer, female and male, cold and hot more similar to the yin/yang. The God-brothers Bialybog "white-god" and Czarnebog "black-god" who rule the light half and dark half of the year respectively, are further illustrations of this polarity. Unfortunately, because of the introduction of Christianity, these two gods later became confused with "God" and Satan.

    Other examples of dualism are – the two Rozhinitsy, the mother and daughter fates, the spirits of midnight, Polunocnitsa and noon, Poludnitsa – both times seen to be equally as frightening, and the Zorya – Goddesses of dusk and dawn. The Elements

    The ancient Slavs had a deep sense of reverence for the four elements. Fire and Water were seen as sacred dualistic symbols on the horizontal or earthly plane. Earth and Sky were seen as a more vertical system of duality. High places such as mountaintops or treetops, especially birch, linden and oak, became sacred as meeting places the Sky father and the Earth mother. Where they met, they would join their procreative forces, usually in a flash of lightening and clap of thunder.

    The winds were seen as the grandchildren of the God, Stribog. Water was refered to in mythology as the water of life and death and rivers were treated with respect lest they should drown you on your next visit. There are records of human, as well as other sacrifices being made to rivers such as the Dneiper and the Volga. Although many bodies of water had their own deities, most bodies of water were ruled by spirits known as Rusalki or Vodanoi. Fire was personified by the god, Svarozhich and it was considered nearly criminal to spit into a fire. Mati Syra Zemlja or Mother Moist Earth, however, seems to have been given the greatest amount of respect.

    No one was allowed to strike Mati Syra Zemlja with a hoe, until the Spring Equinox, Maslenica, as she was considered pregnant until then. Earth was considered so sacred that oaths were sworn while holding a piece of her, sometimes in the mouth and ancient wedding vows were taken while swallowing a small clump of Earth or holding it on the head. The custom of asking the Earth's forgiveness before death was still being observed far into the 20th century and when a priest could not be found it was considered appropriate to confess sins to the Earth.


    Like the native Americans, each Slavic tribe had a totem animal that the clan was usually named after. It was considered taboo to kill or eat this animal except for specific religious rituals. Each member of the tribe was thought to have an animal twin, and the death of that twin could cause the death of the tribe member. The World Tree

    The Slavs believed that the world tree was divided into three parts; The roots existed in the realm of the underworld, "Nav", and were where the zaltys lived. The main section existed in the mundane world and the uppermost branches reached into the land of the sky Gods. A magical bird was said to live in the branches. Although the Slavs did have Viking influence, the world tree beliefs seem to come more from the native Siberians. These Asian peoples each keep a tree, usually a linden, near their home and see it as a sort of "telephone" to the other realms. Creation Myths

    (Russian 1071 CE – the transcript of Lavrentij) – A Slavic magi was recorded as saying:
    "We know how man was created: God was washing in the bathhouse and, after sweating,
    he wiped himself with a towel that he threw onto the ground; then Satan entered into dispute with God as to who should make man out of this towel; and God breathed a soul into him, therefore after death man's body returns to the soil and his spirit to God."

    A Christmas Carol from Galica explains:

    When there was in the beginning no world,
    Then there was neither heaven nor earth.
    Everywhere was a blue sea,
    And on the midst of the sea, a green plane-trees
    On the plane tree three doves,
    Three doves take counsel,
    Take counsel as how to create the world.
    "Let us plunge to the bottom of the sea.
    Let us gather fine sand;
    Let us scatter fine sand,
    That it may become for us black earth.
    Let us get golden rocks;
    Let us scatter golden rocks.
    Let there be for us a bright sky,
    A bright sky, a shining sun,
    A shining sun and bright moon,
    A bright moon, a bright morning star,
    A bright morning star and little starlets.

    -Drahomaniv p.10

    In other recorded versions of this song, there are two doves not three, two oaks instead of a plane tree or blue stones instead of golden ones. Much later versions have God, St. Peter and St. Paul riding the doves as the actual creators.

    In the beginning, there were no earth and no people, only the primordial sea. Bielobog flew over the face of the waters in the shape of a swan and was lonely. Longing for someone to keep him company, he noticed his shadow, Chernobog and rejoiced.

    "Let us make land" said Bielobog.

    "Let us," said Chernobog, but where will we get the dirt?"

    "There is dirt under the water, go down and get some," answered Bielobog, but before you can reach it, you must say 'With Bielobog's power and mine'."

    The devil dived into the water, but said "With My Power", instead of what he was instructed to say. Twice he dived down and neither time did he reach the bottom. Finally, the third time he said "With Bielobog's Power and Mine" and he reached the dirt. Scraping some up with his nails, he brought it to the surface but hid a grain of dirt in his mouth in order to have his own land.

    God then took the dirt from him and scattered it upon the water. The dirt became dry land and began to grow. Of course, the land in Chernobog's mouth also began to grow and his mouth began to swell. Chernobog was forced to spit and spit to rid himself of all the earth and where he spit, mountains were formed.

    Angered that he was cheated out of his own land, he waited for Bielobog to fall asleep. As soon as the god was sleeping peacefully, Czernobog lifted him up to throw him in the water. In each direction he went, but the land had grown so much, he could not reach the ocean. When Bielobog awoke, Czernobog said "Look how much the land has grown, we should bless it."

    ..And Bielobog said slyly, "I blessed it last night, in all four directions, when you tried to throw me in the water."

    This greatly angered Czernobog who stormed off to get away from Bielobog once and for all. In the meantime, the earth would not stop growing. This made Bielobog very nervous as the Heavens could no longer cover it all, so he sent an expedition to ask Czernobog how to make it stop.

    Czernobog had since created a goat. When the expedition saw the great god Czernobog riding astride a goat, they couldn't stop laughing. This angered the god and he refused to speak to them. Bielobog then created a bee, and sent the bee to spy on Czernobog.

    The bee quietly alit upon Czernobog's shoulder and waited. Soon, she heard him say to the goat "What a stupid god! He doesn't even know that all he has to do is take a stick, make a cross to the four directions and say 'That is enough earth'. Instead he wonders what to do."

    Hearing this, the bee buzzed off in excitement. Knowing that he'd been heard, Czernobog yelled after the bee, "Whoever sent you, Let him eat your excrement!".

    The bee went directly to Bielobog and said "He said All you need to do is make a cross to the four directions and say 'That is enough earth.' And to me he said 'let whomever sent you eat your excrement'.

    So god stopped the earth from growing and than said to the bee "Then forever after, let there be no excrement sweeter than yours."

    This myth is a combination of myths from Bulgarian and Ukranian sources. Although the
    versions of these myths use God and Satanail as the dual creators, Slavic scholars agree that the myth is a later form of the original dualism of Czernobog and Bielobog. Because of this I have replaced the names.

    The World Tree.

    Some Slavs believed that the Earth was an Island floating in water that the sun was immersed in every evening. At the center of this Island stood the world tree or mountain. The roots of this tree extended deep into the underworld and the branches reached high up into the realm of the sky gods, Irij.

    Nav was the underworld, realm of the dead from whence it gets its name. Weles/Wolos, the God of cattle and wealth and Lada, Goddess of springtime were also said to reside here. This is not really surprising, considering that most cthonic deities, such as Pluto, Saturn and Ops were also associated with wealth and that the crops are pushed upward from inside the Earth. Also, Lada would return from the underworld in the spring, much like Kore, Persephone and Ostara of the Teutons did.

    Origin of Witchcraft – a story

    Long ago, when the world was still fairly new, a young woman ventured into the woods to pick mushrooms. In no time at all, the skies opened up upon her and narrowly escaping the rain, she ran beneath a tree, removed all of her clothing, and bundled them up in her bag so they would not get wet. After some time, the rain stopped and the woman resumed her mushroom picking. Weles, Horned God of the forest happened upon her, and asked her what great magick she knew in order to have kept dry during the storm.

    "If you show me the secret to your magick, I will show you how I kept dry." she said. Being somewhat easily tempted by a pretty face, Weles proceeded to teach her all of his magickal secrets. After he was done, she told him how she had removed her clothing and hid under a tree.

    Knowing that he had been tricked, but had no one but himself to blame, Weles ran off in a rage, and thus, the first Witch came into being.



    Rod doesn’t have anthropomorphic shape like rest of the gods, he is Cosmos itself. He is personification of the primal nothingness which gave birth to everything. He is primal element – Air, and from that became all other -Water, Earth, Fire; of course, he remained air. Svarog and Lada are male and female personifications of Rod, they are examples that every contrast become from the same origin. Svarog is father of the gods, and Lada is mother of the gods. They are the symbols of the male and female principle, which can be recognized in everything (they are rather mixed than separated).They also can be called the Pre-fire and Pre-water, they continue the myth which begins with Rod and ends with Veles (Volos), Perun, Dažbog (Dabog), Svetovid.

    Many people describe Veles as God-protector of the shepherds, cattle and flock; that is in fact, only one of his numerous functions. He is also God of wisdom and magic and he  taught people in agriculture.

    Perun is God of thunder, he is son of Svarog and Lada, and brother of Veles, Dažbog and Svetovid. Perun is generally symbol of militancy, he is protector of warriors, symbol of freedom and justice.

    Dažbog is God of rain (ancient Slavic word dažd, means rain). He is friend and protector of people. Like other gods, he also has numerous functions, but if we try to determinate most dominated of them, that will be rain.

    Svetovid is God who has four heads, one to watch on  every side of the world. He is much more connected with the planet Earth than with the ground (earth). Beside that, he is protector of hearth and Motherland.

    ‘In the beginning of time there was Rod, and from him seceded Svarog and Lada, who had Veles, Perun, Dažbog, Svetovid as teir sons.” Or ”In the beggining of time there were Cosmos, and then two contrasts seceded from him (warm and cold, light and dark, arid and wet), then from that two contrasts four elements were created:fire, water, earth and air.” Magic, thunder, rain and four sides of the world are representatives of four primal elements.

    World where humans lived was called ”Jav”, higher world was called ”Prav”, where gods resided and finally, ”Nav”, underground world, similar to hell.



    Where did Stribog, Czernobog, Bielobog, Hors, Svarovzich, Marzana … etc come from??

    Who are the gods of sun? water?

    Is Prav also like heaven or afterlife? I heard that Nav was just a place where the dead resided in afterlife and that Christianization turned it into hell.



    Looking for information on Jav, Nav and Prav, many point me to this article. Do you all agree with what it says?

    Jav, Prav and Nav
    *Yav* (Jav), *Prav* and *Nav* are three worlds described in the "Book of Veles". References to them became popular among Ukrainians and Russian neopagans. All three combine into Triglav that governs the Universe.

    Yav is the material world in which we are right now. Gods however are equally part of Yav. Yav is contained within Nav.

    Nav is the immaterial world, the world of the dead. Stars, which are the souls of the dead, as well as Svarga and Irij, are parts of Nav.

    Prav is the law of Svarog that governs both Yav and Nav. Modern parallels to this concept are laws of physics, but there is one big difference. The law that says that a stone falls when dropped is not only a mere observable fact: it is rightful, good and just that stones fall to the ground when dropped. A somewhat similar belief today is anthropic principle, but it only states that laws of physics are useful. This concept is similar to Dharma in Hinduism and Buddhism.

    In many Slavic languages, "pravo" or "prawo" means "law", "rule", one's right to something, and the right side. In the Russian language there are very similar words such as "[nav]ernoe" meaning probably (when something is uncertain), "[jav]lenie" or "yavlenie" meaning representation (a real depiction of something) "[prav]lenie" or "[prav]o" meaning rule or "right".



    Book of Veles is a literary forgery. A nice one to read though, but ‘Lord of the Rings’ is that too. One may build a neo-pagan religion upon Hobbits, Orcs and Wizards, but it has nothing to do with ancestral belief. The same is with the Book of Veles, just because it speaks of Slavs, doesn’t mean it has any relationship with the actual Slavic ancestral belief, other than using some known Slavic traits in a very creative manner.

    As for Slavic mythology:

    Written sources

    There are currently no known written accounts of Slavic mythology predating the fragmentation of the Proto-Slavic people into West, East, and South Slavs, with the possible exception of a short note in Herodotus’ Histories, mentioning a tribe of Neuri in the far north, whose men, Herodotus claims, transform themselves into wolves for several days each year. Some researchers have interpreted this through the Slavic folk belief in werewolves, whilst others believe that Herodotus actually referred to ancient Slavic carnival festivals, when groups of young men roamed the villages in masks, sometimes referred to as vucari (wolf-humans). The identification of “Neuri” with Proto-Slavs remains controversial, however.

    The first authoritative reference to the Slavs and their mythology in written history was made by the 6th century Byzantine historian Procopius, whose Bellum Gothicum described the beliefs of a South Slavic tribe that crossed the Danube heading south in just two days. According to Procopius, these Slavs worshipped a single deity, who crafted lightning and thunder. Though not named explicitly, it can be deduced this is a reference to the deity known as Perun in later historic sources, as in many Slavic languages today (Polish ‘piorun’ for example). Perun simply means “thunder” or “lightning bolt”. He also mentions the belief in various demons and nymphs (i.e. vilas), but does not mention any other names.

    The Slavic Primary Chronicle is a major work with many valuable references to the pagan beliefs of Eastern Slavs. The chronicle treats the history of the early Eastern Slavic state. Even though the manuscript was compiled at the beginning of the 12th century, it contains references to and copies of older documents, and describes events predating the Baptism of Kiev. Two deities, Perun and Veles/Volos, are mentioned in the text of the early 10th century peace treaties between pagan rulers of East Slavs and Byzantine Emperors. Later, Nestor the Chronicler describes a state pantheon introduced by Prince Vladimir in Kiev in 980 CE. Vladimir’s pantheon included Perun, Hors, Dažbog, Stribog, Simargl, and Mokosh. The Hypatian Codex of the Primary Chronicle also mentions Svarog, compared to Greek Hephaestus. Also very interesting are the passages in the East Slavic epic The Tale of Igor’s Campaign referring to Veles, Dažbog, and Hors. The original epic has been dated to the end of the 12th century, although there are marginal disputes over the authenticity of this work.

    The most numerous and richest written records are of West Slavic paganism, particularly of Wendish and Polabian tribes, who were forcibly made Christian only at the end of the 12th century. The German missionaries and priests who criticized pagan religion left extensive records of old mythological systems they sought to overcome. However, they hardly restrained themselves from “pious lies”, claiming pagan Slavs were idolatrous, blood-thirsty barbarians. As none of those missionaries learned any Slavic language, their records are confused and exaggerated.

    Major works include a chronicle of Thietmar of Merseburg from the beginning of the 11th century, who described a temple in the city of Riedegost (Radegast) where the great deity Zuarasic (Svarožič) was worshipped. According to Thietmar, this was the most sacred place in the land of pagan Slavs, and Svarožič was their most important deity.

    Another very valuable document is the Chronica Slavorum written in the late 12th century by Helmold, a German priest. He mentions ‘the devil’ Zerneboh (Chernobog), goddess Živa, god Porenut, some unnamed gods whose statues had multiple heads and, finally, the great god Svantevit, worshiped on the island of Rügen who, according to Helmod, was the most important of all (Western) Slavic deities.

    The third, and arguably the most important record, comes from the Danish chronicler Saxo Grammaticus, who in his Gesta Danorum described the war fought in 1168 by the Danish king Valdemar I against the Wends of Rügen, the conquest of their city at cape Arkona and the destruction of the grand temple of Svantevit that stood there. Saxo meticulously described the worship of Svantevit, the customs associated with it and the tall four-headed statue of the god. He also mentioned multi-headed deities of other Slavic tribes; Rugievit, Porewit and Porentius.

    The fourth major source are three biographies of the German warrior-bishop St Otto, who in the early 12th century led several military-pastoral expeditions into the regions of Slavic tribes living near the Baltic Sea. According to the manuscript, the most important Slavic deity was Triglav, whose temples in the city of Szczecin were respected oracles. In the cities of Wolgast and Havelberg, the war god Gerovit was worshiped, a likely corruption of Jarovit, a Slavic deity possibly identical to Jarilo of the East Slavic folklore.[hr][/li]

    Everything we know about the Slavic pagan belief, we have from these sources. Everything else, is whisful thinking and fabrication. You may be also interested in this thread.



    Thank you for illustrating these sources. That is very helpful. And that thread is particularly awesome. 

    I have tried to stay away from the book of veles, because I have heard that it was a hoax. But the jav, nav and prav keep coming up. In prayers and songs and other attempts to follow ancetral beliefs.

    Was the concept of these three worlds invented in the book of veles? Or did this concept already exist in slavic folklore?

    And if they are only from a source that is a known forgery, then why do people continue to use them in their attempts to reconnect with the old beliefs?



    Slavs depicted the different planes of existence in the form of tree. Usually it was an oak. “Yav” is material world around us and located at the in the tree trunk. “Prav” is upper world situated in the branches of the tree, the realm of gods and celestial bodies. “Nav” is the underworld located in the roots of the World Tree.


    Slavic World Tree is not ‘Book of Veles’ invention. It is present in songs, embroidery, paper cuttings etc.
    Some examples of paper cuttings from Poland, Łowicz region, Masovia:




    Thank you, Prelja. This clears up a lot of confusion that I was having.



    You’re welcome

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