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Svetovid – The Slavic God that Can See the Whole World to Keep it Safe

No one can escape his vision, he is the all seeing one

Photo © Slavorum / source: slavorum.org

This is the story about Svetovid, one of the greatest gods on Slavic area, the one that all people respected. Svetovid is the supreme deity in Slavic mythology and he deserved his throne. His name has some varieties (Svetovid, Swiatowit, Vid, Zvantevith), but all people knew him as a four-headed frightening figure, eight meters high.

Etymology and origin of name “Svetovid”

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Svetovid sun circle

In most myths Svetovid is a tricky God to understand, he in same time is a God itself, a world seer and guardian of the world that can see the whole world with it’s four heads. Also he is a conjoined holy avatar god that is made out of Perun, Svarog, Lada and Mokosh, or at least these other Gods can see through each of his separate heads, as proposed by Russian historian Boris Rybakov.

Svet – is a word that can mean two things in Slavic languages:

  1.  “world”,
  2.  “holy”.

Vid – is a word that means “sight” or “seeing” in Slavic languages.

Conjoined Svet (world) and Vid form the name Svetovid which would mean “world-seer” or “the one who can see the world”.

Conjoined Svet (holy) and Vid form the name Svetovid which would mean “holy-seer” or the “one with holy vision”.

If we understand how he is a God that can give sight to other gods through his 4 heads or in fact that he himself is an avatar god made of several merged gods probably both meanings for Svetovid are correct as he is both the “world-seer” and “the one with holy vision”.

It should be noted that South Slavs later with time also developed additional version of this god and called him “Triglav” meaning “Tree – Headed”. Reason for one head lost could be connected to their own separate time-line of Slavic mythology and story developing meaning one of the Gods disappeared or died in their version of mythology.

The Lord of the Arkona

Bishop_Absalon_topples_the_god_Svantevit_at_Arkona
Christianization of Arkona temple / source: wikimedia cc

Some say he didn’t have the beard, while the others claim differently. Svetovid held a bow, while next to him was a typical warrior equipment: bridle, saddle, and sword. Svetovid also had the white horse that was owned by the temple. His four heads, two on the front, and two on the back served him so he could see the all four sides of the world, and he was “the one who sees the world”, the God who knew everything.

This god was namely linked to the Rügen island and the fortress on it called Arkona. People from Rügen believed that Svetovid rides his horse during the night and that horse served to the priest for divination. In the center of Arkona there was a wooden temple, and inside of it people built an enormous statue of the God with four heads.

Once a year, during the harvest, people offered sacrifice to Svetovid, where the priest played the main role. There was a ritual that included a honey cake and that priest foreshadowed the fate. It was noted that Svetovid received human sacrifices, which are usually made of Christians, and Christian priests. The other Slavic tribes worshiped Svetovid too, and they often came to the Rügen island, which made the natives so proud.

The Arkona fortress was destroyed in 1168, and it was excavated in 1921.

Zbruch Idol

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Excavated Zbruch Idol / source: wikimedia cc

Kumir (Idol) is a statue with the face of Slavic gods. Zbruch idol has four sides and because of that, it is identified with Svetovid. The most famous Slavic polytheistic kumir is found in Ukraine in the river, back in 1848, and today you can see it in the museum of Krakow.

All Svetovid’s Names

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Pagan Svetovid shrine / wikimedia cc

Name Svetovid has not yet been researched a lot, but experts are agreed that this name should be divided into two parts Svet (World) and Vid (eyesight).

There are other interpretations of Svetovid’s name, but this one is the most common. If you see one of the following names, be sure you are hearing about one and only god, Svetovid. Here are just some variations: Svetovid, Swiatowit, Sutvid, Vid, Suvid, Suvid, Svantevid, Svantovid, Sventovid, Zvantevith

Svetovid and Saint Vitus

Svetovid_(Montfaucon_1722)

With the Christianity, Svetovid cult was replaced with Saint Vitus. However, the name of Christian saint was Saint Vitus, and in the name of its day- Vidovdan, the root of the Svetovid’s name remained (Vid). That means that Christian people didn’t accept saint Vitus completely.

In the end, there is even a theory that Svetovid is made out of four gods – Perun, Svarog, Lada, and Mokoša. If that is true, did Svetovid even exited?

Slavic mythology is very rich and interesting, and Svetovid takes one of the main roles in it. Even though this deity is shrouded in mystery, people found him very interesting. Maybe that mystery is a reason why a lot of people are fascinated with him. What do you think?

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