Slavic Mythology – Today you will find out about Jarilo, the Slavic god of war, who is also the god of fertility and spring. He is also called Rudjevid, Gerovit, and Jarevid. Jarilo is the son of Perun, the god of thunder, but he was stolen from his father and then taken to the underworld where he was raised by Veles. Some people imagined Jarilo like a very handsome young man in white clothes who rides on a white horse. He was ornamented with flowers and ears of wheat.
Because of that in many different spring rituals, the girls were dressed in white with flowers and used to ride horses in honor of Jarilo. There is also another belief that Jarilo was a seven-headed knight with warrior equipment.
The etymology of the name “Yarilo”
Proto-Slavic adjective “jarъ” (jâr= rage, jarko = bright, žar = fire, passion) expresses something that is characterized as a young life force, a fierce force in growth. This force is not taken abstractly, but concretely archaic. This force manifests itself at certain times of the year, in the spring. It is a spring force that opens the summer, marks the beginning of the year and life for nature.
By name, the adjective in all three of his versions: jarъ, jara and jaro means ‘spring’, ‘warmth’, ‘ferocity’, ‘young year’ and so on.
In Croatian and Serbian jar (m.) Means ‘anger’, ‘ferocity’ while in Polish jar and Ukrainian йар it means the ‘spring’. In Russia яр (žar) means ‘fire’, ‘grill’.
There is clearly an outline that the original meaning of proto-Slavic jar can apply equally to animal and plant young force growth.
Jarilo, The Warrior
So, Jarilo was presented with seven separated statues, or even like one statue with seven heads. There are many theories why Jarilo had seven heads. Some experts claim he is actually seven gods in one, while the others think that seven heads represent seven months in one year which is Jarilo responsible for. One side of this god was linked to war and his warrior nature. When it comes to this side, Jarilo was not bloodthirsty at all. He protected weak and helpless, but also Slavic people from attacks. He wanted peace and harmony, so because of that, Jarilo is presented with an olive branch in one hand, while in the other he held a sword.
If there was no other way to solve a problem, Jarilo used his sword. He carried eight swords and large shield paved with gold. While seven of swords represented seven months of the year, which are under Jarilo’s jurisdiction, the eighth sword was his own. Jarilo’s largest temple was located on the island of Rügen in Germany. In the root of its name lies the word “jar”, which means fire, fury, rage, and thus reveals his fiery temperament. But, as said before, Jarilo was not a furious god, he was righteous.
Jarilo is actually a combination of incompatible. The perfect balance between two completely different worlds. On one hand, there are ferocity, strength, courage and skills as qualities of the war, and on the other, that in heat, beauty, fertility and tenderness as qualities of spring.
The God of Spring Fertility
He stands opposite to Porevit, who ruled over the remaining five months of winter (while Jarilo ruled the other seven months), and who was also Gerovitov brother, whose temple was also located on the island of Rügen. Understood as a deity of fertility, Jarilo represented only the sun that allows the corn to bore well, while a god-protector part was protecting crops from devastating storms.
St. George and Jarilo
St. George replaced Jarilo in Christianity. This saint fought the Dragon who represented darkness. One of the reasons why Jarilo was linked to the St. George is because of the similarity in their names. There are even names among Slavic people today based on the Jarilo’s name (Jaroslava, Jaromir, Jaroslav).
Jarilo even had his days during which people celebrated and worshiped him. Slavic people sacrificed cattle to Jarilo (ram or a goat) and people used flowers and leaves to decorate their homes. His name stuck around years after the arrival of Christianity.