Some mythologies are well-known all around the world—let’s be honest, Zeus and Hades surely hold the honorary title of the rock stars of mythology. People from all over the world know at least a few facts about the vicissitudes of Greek or Roman mythology.
Today we will talk about a lesser-known world, but one with just as many interesting stories to tell—Slavic mythology.
So, buckle up all you fans of American Gods and The Witcher!
Prepare to meet the Slavic gods and goddesses of Slavic mythology.
A Brief History of Slavic Mythology
It is usually declared that Slavic mythology and Slavic gods originate from Proto-Indo-European mythology and it emerged during the 2nd to 1st millennium BCE. For that reason, Slavic mythology bears some similarities to the Norse, Celtic, and Scythian mythologies and beliefs.
Slavic mythology was most widespread just before the adoption of Christianity in the year 988 CE. Still, even after that, it took many years for a change to settle in, and there were many people who refused the transition to Christianity and stuck to their beliefs. These stalwarts became known as the pagans.
The common group of the early Slavs was divided into East Slavs residing in and around Kievan Rus, South Slavs on the territory of the Bulgarian Empire, Croatian Kingdom, and Bosnian Banate, and West Slavs in the Kingdom of Poland, the Czech Duchy, and the Principality of Nitra. Even though many Slavic deities and beliefs are mutually shared among these three groups, there are also some noticeable differences from the influences of the neighboring cultures.
Fun Fact: In the middle of the 20th century, a book emerged called The Book of Veles with detailed descriptions of Slavic history and mythology. However, it was immediately proven to be a forgery. Nevertheless, even today, some Slavic neopagans decline all the accusations and use it as a genuine source of knowledge about Slavic mythology.
The Essence of Slavic Beliefs
One of the interesting characteristics of Slavic mythology is the attitude of believers to their deities. Instead of building massive temples, churches, and monuments and worshipping gods with elaborate prayers, the religion was deeply incorporated into everyday life. Of highest importance were to cherish and respect nature, family, and ancestors. Slavs believed that the divine presence could be found anywhere, such as in nature and within people. That could also result in a developed belief in various spirits that inhabited the environment.
Another important concept that can be traced to Slavic paganism is the cosmic dualism with the deities that oppose and complement each other at the same time. Kind of like an Eastern European version of yin and yang.
And now, knowing the main idea behind the religion of the old Slavic peoples, it is time to meet the pantheon of Slavic gods and goddesses:
20 Most Important Slavic Gods & Goddesses
It is hard to identify one supreme god in the Slavic pantheon.
Not only are references scattered amongst dozens of manuscripts and documents from different places and times, but the divisions amongst the Slavs also brought about some ambiguity on the topic.
There are four main candidates for this position, though, which might have replaced each other over time. You’ll meet these and the other important Slavic deities now.
Some scientists claim that Rod was considered to be the creator of the universe and everything that it embraces as well as the father of all other Slavic gods and deities for East Slavs. However, he lost his importance in the tenth century and was usually replaced by Perun or Svarog.
The female form of Rod – Rozanica. They are usually mentioned in the plural form as it is considered that there are three of them. In many Slavic religions, they are the goddesses of fertility and destiny and the mothers of the world. The term rozanica comes from “woman who gives birth”.
The supreme god in the South Slavic mythology, Sud, literally “judge,” was the god of fate and had the same resume as Rod for the East Slavs.
Same as with Rozanicy, there were three goddesses associated with Sud and were considered to be his daughters. They determined the fate for each newborn.
Belobog – Chernobog
Remember the dualism I mentioned before? Belobog and Chernobog might be the best example of it.
Belobog, which literally means white god, was believed to be the god of the day, summer, light, and goodness. Chernobog, au contraire, being a black god, was accountable for the night, dark, and winter. They are in a constant battle, which results in a shift from day to night and in the change of seasons. They are inseparable, and together they create life itself and maintain harmony in the universe.
Fun fact: While the presence of Chernobog was documented in the medieval chronicle Chronica Slavorum, the appearance of Belobog is only assumed by researchers.
It is believed that Perun was the supreme god during the existence of Kievan Rus, though he was also known and honored amongst West and South Slavs under variations of his name. Perun was the god of lightning and thunder and a patron of the Kievan Rus prince (knyaz) and his army (druzhina). Perun is also associated with an oak tree.
Like Perun, Veles was well-known for all Slavic groups and these two have a tumultuous history. Veles rules over cattle, but he is also the god of commerce, poetry, art, magic, and the underworld. As opposed to Perun, who was a patron of nobility, Veles looks over the common people.
Some experts state that he was considered the main nemesis of Perun, and they had an ongoing fight, but Veles is not contemplated as an evil god (remember dualism? Also reminds one of the kerfuffle between two fabled Norse gods, doesn’t it?).
Another contestant for the title of chief god, Svarog is the god of heaven and fire and the creator of the world. East and West Slavs believed that he was a blacksmith and taught humanity how to use a plow.
The son of Svarog, Dazhbog was believed to be a deity of the sun, wealth, and prosperity. He was mentioned in many manuscripts and legends of the East Slavs.
Yet another god whose story gets a little complicated. Hors, or Jutrobog, was believed to be a deity of the heavenly body. Which one? That’s the question researchers are still not sure about. Some believe that he was a patron of the sun. Others specifically state that he was a god of the winter sun, but most agree that he was a lunar god and acted as a match to the sun deity Dazhbog.
Pictured with four faces, overlooking four sides of the world, Svetovid was a god of war, sun, fire, and fertility for West Slavs. Some researchers reckon that he could be a counterpart of Perun, Dazhbog, or Svarog.
Devana was the Slavic goddess associated with forests and hunting. Comparable with the Greek goddess Artemis and the Roman goddess Diana, she is presumably one of the West Slav goddesses. However, the existence of Devana in the Slavic pantheon is controversial, as many researchers declare that there is not enough evidence to acknowledge the fact of it.
Marena, or Mara, was a Slavic goddess of death and the rebirth of nature in spring, sometimes her persona was associated with rain and water.
For Slavs, Mokosh was the most important Slavic goddess and had many functions. She was a patron of needlework, women, the fate of women, childbirth, earth, water, and fertility. Experts claim that she was either a wife of Perun or Veles or maybe associated with them both.
Lada – Lado
Another example of dualism, Lada was a Slavic goddess of love, marriage, beauty, and fertility. In many songs and manuscripts, she is accompanied by Lado, who is either her twin brother, husband, or son. Sometimes only the masculine version, her counterpart, was mentioned.
The Slavic deity of fire and of the sun for South Slavs, he was considered to be a son of Svarog. Many think that he is a Slovenian equivalent for either Perun or Yarilo.
Radegast was the Slavic god of hospitality and strength for West Slavs.
For East Slavs, Stribog was a grandfather and the Slavic god of wind, storm, and air. He was worshipped by sailors and asked to provide good weather for safe passage, similar to other travel gods and goddesses in other pantheons.
Yarilo was the East Slav god of fertility, the spring sun, and the awakening of nature in springtime. Usually, people would seek Yarilo’s patronage to have a bountiful harvest and a warm summer.
It is still not certain if Koliada was included in the Slavic pantheon, as she was included in traditional celebrations of the New Year and was a personification of a New Year’s cycle. Still, many researchers suggest that she was not considered a Slavic goddess, only one of the Slavic mythological characters.
Well, that’s our quick overview of Slavic mythology and some of the deities associated with the Slavic mythological pantheon. We hope you enjoyed it and found it useful and easy to understand! Got any feedback, questions, or comments? Leave a comment below, and we’ll get right back to you. Thanks for reading!