7 Slavic Gods of Kievan Rus
10 July, 2018
Before Vladimir of Kiev accepted Christianity and baptized all of Kievan Rus, he was a pagan. When he came to power in 978, he built a temple dedicated to 6 of his favorite Slavic gods in order to connect himself and the gods in the minds of his people. We only know about 7 of the gods worshiped in pagan Russia because they were recorded in the Primary Chronicle, the first newspaper of Russia in 1113.
Who Were the Slavic Gods of Kievan Rus?
The god of the sky, thunder and war. Perun looks like a warrior with muscles and an impressive, copper beard. He may also be carrying a sledgehammer or a bow and arrow. He was Vladimir’s favorite and considered to be the most powerful and the highest god in the temple.
Most of the statues were made of oak or stone and, in Perun’s case, oak was the most common material used to create his statues. Many villages would carve his statue on the most note-worthy oak tree in the area.
The name Dazhbog literally translates as the giver god. He won the people’s choice award since he was the one in charge of dishing out the wealth and providing the sun. He’s often depicted with a sun halo around his head and a sun orb in his hand.
Every day he was born and grew older as the day went. He died with the sunset only to be reborn the next morning with the sunrise.
Stribog is the son of Perun and god of winds, air and sky. Created from the wind of a swinging hammer, he is a god who is always on the move. He roams in open spaces and can squeeze into the tiniest of openings.
He looks like an old man, often holding a golden bow or hunting horn which he uses to call the wind. This god is slightly antisocial and doesn’t usually hang out with the other gods, but he comes quickly when needed (despite his age).
While he had many great qualities, the people adored him simply because after each hard winter he helped bring the spring with a gust of air.
God of fire and fertility, he is considered to be Perun’s right-hand man. Simargl was a shape-shifter who either looked like a young warrior with flames surrounding him or a large, winged dog or lion. Most often, he preferred to take the shape of the dog. With his wings, he was able to fly and the people thought him to be quite intelligent and fast.
The only female in Vladimir’s pantheon of gods. Mokosh is the goddess of fate and the protector of women in childbirth. She also watched over the weaving and spinning. Mokosh enjoyed spending her time dressed as an old woman, wandering around and visiting people in their homes during Lent.
Hors is one of the more mysterious gods of pagan Russia. Not much seems to have been written about him, but what we do know is that he was the god of the solar disk. During the day, Hors moved across the sky and hid underground at night. He is also associated with healing and sickness.
Despite the lack of information on this god, we know that he must have been important to the people of Rus because his statue was in the pantheon with the other gods deemed of great importance by Prince Vladimir.
King of the underworld, harvests and cattle, Veles could be found in the wet, lowlands. He was described to be wooly, wet, hairy and dark with an interest in wealth, music, magic and treachery. This god was Perun’s enemy and they were often at war because Veles was a sneaky, mischievous god often stealing Perun’s son, wife, cattle, whatever he could get ahold of. This thievery resulted in attacks from Perun who threw down lightning bolts to the valley where Veles lived. Luckily for Veles, he could transform himself into a tree, animal or even person for self-protection…at least for a little while.
The people believed that these wars explained the changing of seasons. The dry period was when Veles was stealing again, while the storms meant that Perun was defending his possessions and putting Veles back in his place. Perun was successful and Veles was conquered and banished, an act that released all which he had stolen. This was never permanent and he returned every year only to continue the cycle.
In Kievan Rus, Veles statue was not housed in the pantheon, but was located at the bottom of the hill near the marketplace, far from Perun.
Not one of the gods in Vladimir’s temple, probably because he no longer existed at that time, but one of my personal favorites and worth honorable mention just because of how cool he was. Rod was the creator of all things that exist, including the other gods, which makes him technically the supreme Slavic god.
He came to earth in a golden egg and hatched himself like a baby chick. After he created everything, he realized he was missing something. So, he breathed on the ground and the goddess of love (Lada) was born. She also appeared as an egg on earth and when her egg hatched, love spilled out.
When Rod finished his work, he just disappeared which probably explains why he isn’t in Vladimir’s temple.
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