Slavic Mythology

Slavic Mythology.

This term may cover the religions of the early Poles, Russians, Wends, Bohemians, Moravians, Servians, Masuri, and Silesians. The teaching of these systems is based on the idea of dual principles, a race of good and another of evil deities, with whom are associated numerous inferior gods. The principal divinities may be connected with a tree whose root is God — called Bog or Swantewit. All the subordinate gods are in pairs, as Belbog and Czernebog, good and evil, and Razi and Zirnitra, counsellors and magicians, as follows:

This plan assumes that the principal seat of the Slavonic religions was at Arcona, since Swantewit was there only venerated as the supreme divinity; at Kief and Romowa the lightning darting Perun, or Perkun, stood first, and at Rhetra Radegast; but Swantewit was at all events the chief deity worshipped among all the Western Slavs, and was esteemed as one of the chief gods among the Eastern Slavs as well. The Russians and the Poles residing nearest. to Kief or Novogorod distinguished the gods into four classes, which contrasted with each other, and whose respective members were similarly various in their natures. There were, for instance, gods of men and of beasts. In the former class, were found gods of love and of pain; in the latter, gods of growth. and of destruction. The other classes were that of the. nation and that of inanimate nature — the one including gods of war and of peace; the other, gods of the land and of the water, of the house and of the field. To these deities of the general populace must be added innumerable private and local gods, especially among the Poles, each tribe, town, or institution having its own patron divinity, and each one regarding its own god as superior to. others of his class. The most insignificant duties, such as the lighting of lamps, the cutting of bread, the. tapping of a fresh barrel, etc., were under the guidance of the gods. A numerous priesthood conducted the religious rites, which generally took; place in front of the temples, and sometimes involved bloody sacrifices. of human beings. Princes were accustomed to devote prisoners of war in this way, though the interested priests would sometimes spare the latter for a life of servitude; and the people were in the habit of contributing material of every kind and in lavish quantity to the support of their religion. Such contributions afforded the support by which the priestly class was sustained. The temples were rude structures of logs and were surrounded by hanging cloths. The devastating campaigns of Henry the Lion destroyed the temples of the western Slavonian tribes and brought the prevalent paganism to an end, though certain superstitious customs have been preserved in the regions of their former occupancy to this day.

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