Polish PaganismThis page from now defunct okana.net. The information is too important to simply allow it to disappear. How I was able to capture Okana's long expired webpages is a mystery and a bit of Polish magic.
"The Slav rose to face his God/dess filled not so much with compunction, as with childish love ..."
As with most agricultural societies, Slavs for many years worshipped the Great Goddess, represented in earliest times by the Bird/ Bee/ Snake Goddess, and then with the influence of Indo - European peoples, by Mother Earth, Matka Syra Ziemia (MAHT-kah SEAR-ah zhem-EE-ah) (all references unless otherwise noted are Polish terms). Their year was separated into two main divisions, Yule to Summer, ruled by the White God, Bialobóg (byah-WOE-boog); and Summer to Yule, ruled by the Black Goddess, Czarnobóg (char-NO-boog). They celebrated in the open air around trees that were particularly old or had peculiar and special significance; prayers were offered in wooded groves at the base of giant boulders. Public ritual and celebration, feasts, prophecies and offerings accompanied all rites. In Poland they were accustomed to raising their hand towards the sun when they swore an oath; peasants greeted the rise of the solar star with a deep bow and a special prayer.
It would appear that they were more willing to renounce gods who were personified as idols than the worship of trees, sacred woods, springs, stones, and hills.
The Polish term for god is bóg,m. (boog )/ bogini,f. (boh-GEE-nee) / bostwo, n. (BOH-stvoh); loosely it translates out to "noble", and is Iranian in derivation, according to linguistic sources. Slavs were panentheistic and animistic, believing that everything was alive and was imbued with a distinct and separate spirit. Since trees, rocks, and animals were far older than humanity, their spirits were considered wiser, and were consulted for aid and advice. These separate spirits seem to have convinced Christians that there was indeed a pantheon extant, similar to Greece and Rome, when in fact the beliefs were more nature-based and intimate. Slavs worshipped in groves and circles, rather than temples; prayers were offered in wooded groves, or at the feet of great boulders, and were accompanied by public offerings, feasting, and prophecy. They held firm beliefs in fairies and changelings, vampires and shape-shifters. They believed in reincarnation,stating that no new souls were ever born, and they honored ancestors; every home had a shrine to their own ancestors - and twice yearly, at Spring and Samhain (Zaduszki, zah-DOO-shkee) celebrated festivals honoring the dead. The soul, they believed, existed separately from the body, and they accepted astral projection and dream travel as fact.
Nobility, however, in the years following the C.E., came more into contact with outside peoples, and began to worship in the manner of these civilizations. It seems that the spirits that the peasants honored were anthropomorphized and given temples and statues in their honor. This type of worship, however, was short-lived, having only just started a short time before Christianity swept through in the ninth and tenth centuries CE. In the fifteenth century, the great Polish writer Jan Dlugosz applied a great deal of zeal to rebuilding the Polish pantheon in the likeness of Greek and Roman Gods with the aid of a series of archaic expressions and old patronyms. Unfortunately, he drew more readily from his own imagination than from mythological data. It is this attempt among others that clouds any data claiming to prove that Polish Slavs had a pantheon of gods and goddesses; since Slavic belief is nature oriented, this may indeed be a good thing. Even modern day folklorists admit that only in Russia, and the Baltic island state of Rugen, is there found even the remotest trace of hierarchical superior divinities, with few crude idols, mention of priests, and structured rites; this may be due to their more frequent exposure to the Norse and Germanic tribes and their beliefs.
The embracing of Christianity by Polish nobility came in 966, when Poland "officially" became a state in the eyes of the West, and Mieszko ascended the throne. Their sister territory, Lithuania, was the last pagan state in Europe, not becoming officially a Christian state until Duke Jagiello married into the Polish dynasty in 1374. Even then, the Lithuanians have held onto their pagan beliefs to this day; the fact that the Polish priests assigned to convert the newly allied Lithuanians to the Roman Catholic faith could not speak the native language went a long way to preserving the traditions of the people.
Slavs celebrated overlapping seasons marked by the Sabbats. Throughout the ages, and even until this century, Slavs have expressed a curious religious concept known as "double faith" (in Polish, dwojwierny dvoi-VYAIR-nee, in Russian, dvoeverie). It is the concurrent existence of Christian and Pagan beliefs ... anyone finding this hard to believe need only spend a holy-day with a Slavic family as they knock thrice on trees at Yule to awaken the slumbering spirits .... or think of the gypsies, who are experts at double faith ....
Polish Pagan Pantheon
Deities of pre-Christian Poland
Bailobog - The white God of the waxing year; Guardian of the summer. Bailobog would defeat his brother in battle every Koliada to take his rightful place as the ruler of the waxing year. At Kupalo, Czarnobog would defeat Bailobog in battle to assume his position of ruler of the waning half of the year. Bailobog is said only to appear by day to assist travelers to find their way out of dark forests or reapers in the fields.
Czarnobog - The black god of the waning year. This particular god is one source of inspiration for the music of Moussorsky's "Night on Bald Mountain" as he is portrayed as the Black God of evil, woe, and grief>. He is also known as the God of Chaos and Night; and as the black God of the Dead.
Dazbog - The Sun God who lives in the Palace of the East; the land of eternal summer and plenty. Each morning he emerged from the arms of the Zorya to ride his chariot drawn by three horses: one is gold, one is silver, and one is diamond. In Russian lore he is said to begin the day as an infant and died an old man at the end of the daylight.
Dziewona - The Slavic Diana, whose name is said to appear very late in Slavic history. However, all names that are derivative of Slavic language translate to "The Maiden." She equates to the goddess Diana in name and function. She is more widespread in Slavic countries, where in other cultures she is a minor deity. She is the Polish virginal Goddess who is the huntress of the forest, and is associated with the Moon, spring, agriculture and weather.
Dzydzilelya - Polish Goddess of love and marriage and of sexuality and fertility. She is similar to Venus, Aphrodite, and other goddesses of this nature.
Jarilo - God of spring fertility, represented as a young man dressed in white with a wheat wreath on his head, wheat ears in his right hand and a human head in his left hand. Christianity associates him with Saint George.
Jezda or Jezi Baba - Wild woman goddess, the dark lady and mistress of magic. She is also seen as a forest spirit that leads hosts of spirits. Jezi Baba is portrayed as a witch who flies through the air in a mortar using the pestle as a rudder sweeping away the tracks behind her with a broom made out of human hair. She lives in a house that revolves around by means of three pairs of chicken legs that dance. Her fence outside was made with human bones that had skulls atop of them. The keyhole to her front door was a mouth filled with sharp teeth. She aids those who are pure of heart; and eat the souls of those that were not visiting her prepared and clean of spirit. She is said to be the Guardian Spirit of the fountain of the water of life. If she doesn't kill you, she can help you with advice and magical gifts.
Kupala - Goddess of herbs, sorcery, sex, and midsummer. She is also the Water Mother, associated with trees, herbs, and flowers. Her celebration falls upon the Summer solstice. It was a sacred holy day honoring the two most important elements of Fire and Water. Kupalo is a male form of Kupala, and recognized in other Slavic regions. Kupalo is associated with Saint John, June 24th being his feast day.
Lada - Goddess of harmony, merriment, youth, love and beauty. Her time is in the year of May; and is known as the Lady of the Flowers. Sacred to her is the linden and purple loosestrife. She is also the Goddess of order and manifested beauty. She is represented as a girl with a flower wreath on her head, dressed in white carrying flowers. She and her brother Lado are credited with creating the fertility of the greening world as they join May festivals in spirit with the people. They dance in each other's embrace, and each place their feet touch springs forth new flowers in full bloom. They are also lovers.
Lado - The God of marriage, mirth, pleasure and general happiness. The divine husband of Lada whom together they represent marriage, pleasures and happiness. He seems synonymous with the Spring fertility god Jarilo as Lada is with Jarila. Those soon to be married make sacrifices to him to ensure a satisfactory union.
Marzanna - Polish goddess of death and winter. Her name comes from Slavic words meaning to "freeze" or "frozen," and is the meaning of the month of March. She was ritually burned and drowned yearly; effigies made with the last straw of last years' harvest, dressed in white with a broom and cycle. She is decorated with ribbons, myrtle, or woodruff and was carried in a procession of the people to a river. They burned and drowned her to rid themselves of the cold, dark season of death to welcome the spring. Both were necessary as Sun (fire) and Rainfall (water) were necessary for the fertility of the year's crops. In Christian times she is equated with Saint Maria, and is the consort of Dazbog, who is associated with Saint Ivan. On Saint Ivan's day(summer solstice again); Mary is said to bathe with together with Ivan in a ritual purification. Mary sits on a stone or a golden throne and sews, suggesting that she might be associated with fate and death. Mary is also associated with swans.
Marzyana - Polish Goddess of the grain, presiding over harvest and can be comparable to Demeter.
Matka Gabia - Polish Goddess of home, hearth, and patron of it's care.
Miesiac - The Moon Deity; seen as both male and female. In both mythology of male and female deification, the moon is revered with the power to heal. As the Sun's wife (Dazbog's wife), she grows older during the winter and moves away from her husband, but to return to him in the Summer when her youth returns. She is the mother of the stars with Dazbog as well. In the mythology of the Moon being male, he is the Dazbog's bald uncle and consort of Dennitsa (Zorya Dnieca). Associated with the waxing and waning phases of dying but then being revived. In one myth, the Moon was married to a Sun Goddess but seduced Dennitsa. As punishment, Piorun struck his face, scarring him to account for the phases of the moon. In another version, his phases are his shame as he turns away from the Sun Goddess that was unfaithful to him. His festival seems to fall on midsummer's day.
Mokosz - Goddess of home and hearth, and female occupations such as spinning, weaving and fate. She is called Mokusa also in Polish folklore, and at night, women would leave strands of fleece beside the stove in her honor. She is seen as the Goddess of fertility, bounty, as well as occult knowledge and divination. Her sacred day is Friday; and her feast day falls between October 25th and November 1st. One reference fixes this day to October 28th. She was offered vegetables, which was the focal point of the feast day. It was said that women who made satisfactory offerings would be helped with their laundry, denoting her as a Water Goddess. This is illustrated by the fact that rainfall is sometimes called "Mokosz's milk." In Christian times she became conflagrated with the Virgin Mary and Saint Paraskeva. She is sovereign over the Domowije and the patroness of midwifery. In one myth, she is the wife of Piorun, and was represented as a woman with a large head, long arms and unkept hair. In another myth she is wife of Swarog, which created a marriage of heaven and Earth.
Oynyena Maria - Slavic "Fiery Mary," a fire goddess who assists and counsels the thunder God Piorun.
Percunatel - A Polish goddess that seems to be Piorun's own mother.
Piorun - Pan-Slavic god of lightening, storm, thunder and war-like attributes, as he is the patron of nobility and armies. He is lord of the forest and mountains; and his sacred tree is the oak in Lithuania. He is also seen as a God of Justice and Law. He was represented as a man with silver hair and a golden mustache; armed with arrows and stones. Eight eternal flames, or bonfires, or torches accompanied his images. Any place where lightening struck was considered sanctified in the eyes of the Poles, as holy places of healing and power; as anything struck by lightening is said to have heavenly spark and fire still residing within. Piorun's sacrificial animals included roosters, bears, bulls, and he-goats. Consumption of these animals was believed to have the person absorb the essence of God, which parallels modern communion in Christianity. In Christianity he is also conflagrated with Saint Elya (Elias), also the prophet Elijah (Feast days July 20th and July 21st).
Porvata - A god of the woods; he has no idol or image; and is manifest throughout the primeval forest. His sacred day is Tuesday and is connected with midsummer. He is thought to be one of the four seasonal aspects of Swaitowid facing south and ruling over summer.
Rod - a god of fertility and family, concerned with the continuation of bloodlines and the extension and glorification of clans. Rodzanica were female and represented the stars; were also spirits of birth and fate. Rod were male and stood for the ancestors. Since Rodzanica were present at the birth of babies, the birth parties were called Rozing. Those that honored the Rod/zanica, it was believed that all new births were reincarnations of passed ancestors. The elements of Fire and Water represented the bathhouse where women gave birth; and the magical properties of the stove where folk tales birthing takes place. Polish traditions of the celebration of the dead is on April 30th, the second being on October 31st.
Siliniez - A wood god from Poland who moss was sacred; his altar fire was kept burning only with moss.
Sorrowful God - The Sorrowful God is depicted in pre-history sculpture sitting with his head in his hand, peaceful and contemplative. He is representative of the mature elder Year God, unmasked, with the wisdom of a sage.
Stribog - God and Spirit of the winds, sky and air; and is said to be the ancestor of the winds of the eight directions.
Sudz - A Polish God of destiny and glory. Those born at the time when he strews gold in his palace are destined to be wealthy. When he scatters earthen clods, those born are destined for poverty.
Swaitowid - Creator God/dess represented with 2 male faces and 2 female faces, corresponding with the seasons and directions. The white horse is his symbol, and at harvests honey bread was eaten in his honor. Literally translates to "Strong Lord."
Swarog - Polish God and Spirit of fire; meaning bright and clear. So sacred was the fire that it was forbidden to shout or swear at it while it was being lit. Folklore communicates him as a fire serpent, a winged dragon that breathes fire. Other mythos describes him as a smith God, identified the generative and sexual powers of fire. He is the father of and divine light of celestial and Earthly fires. He is associated in Christianity with Saint Damian, Saint Cosmas, and Saint Micheal the Archangel. His animals are a golden horned ox, boar, horse, and a falcon named Varagna, as well as a shape-shifter into the wind.
Syrena - A draconian snake goddess who protects the River Wisla and the Polish city of Krakow.
Tawals - A blessing bringing God of the meadows and fields.
Trishna - Goddess of corpses and the deceased. She protects graves.
Triglav - A three-headed God associated with in some mythos as being the god of night and darkness, as well as Earth and Sky. He is the highest God of all said oracles at Szczecin, Poland, were interpreted from the behavior of a black horse. He is veiled completely, so holy that he cannot see the evil deeds of men. He rarely appears around mortals, and is depicted as a three-headed man with bands of blindfolds over his eyes.
Weles - He is the God of cattle, music, poetry, and art. He was depicted with horns later, and became associated with flocks and herds as well as the underworld. He has many associations with wealth and the magical forces of the spirit world. Weles and Piorun were depicted as adversaries, and were worshipped separately from one another. He was the patron of oaths, death, divination, underworld, domestic animals and beasts and afterlife. His feast day is February 12th, but he is also associated in Christianity with Saint Blaise(March 11th) and Saint Nicholas (December 6th)
Zaria - Goddess of Beauty
Zemina - earth Goddess
Zewana - Goddess of hunting (see Dziewona)
Zizilia - Goddess of love and sexuality
Zlota Baba - Polish "Golden Woman" a Goddess who received many sacrifices and gave oracles, depicted in gold.
The Zorya - The Three guardian Goddesses, knows as the Auroras. They guard and watch over the doomsday hound that threatens to eat the constellation Ursa Minor, the little bear. If the chain breaks loose, the Universe is said to end. The Auroras of the Morning Star, Evening Star, and Midnight Star are depicted as Zwezda Dnierca - Zwezda Wieczorniaia, and Zwezda Polnoca.
Zwezda Dnieca - Aurora of the Morning Star, married to the male aspect of the Moon; the maiden/warrior opens the Gates of Heaven for the Sun every morning to emerge. She is described as a fully armed warrior Goddess, courageous in temperament. The Slavs portrayed her each morning as the Sun rose; and is the patroness of horses, protection, and exorcisms and is associated with the planet Venus. She is invoked to protect against death in battle, and her prayers were addressed as "Defend me, O maiden, with your veil from the enemy, from the arquebus and arrow"
Zwezda Wieczoniaia - Aurora of the Evening Star and mother of the Zoryas. She closes the Gates of Heaven each evening as the aged Sun God returns from across the skies. She is patron of protection and exorcisms as well.
Zwezda Polnoca - Aurora of the Midnight Star, the crone of the Zoryas. She is the Zorya of death to whom the Sun God returns to die but to be rejuvenated in her arms to live again in the morning. She is the patroness of death and rebirth, magic and wisdom.
Zywie - Polish for "Life." She is the Goddess of health and healing, and her animal is the cuckoo, Friday is her sacred day. She is associated as the Spirit of the dead by the Elbe Slavs, and she seems to be the Goddess of regeneration and rebirth.
The Dlugosz Olympus
A possibly fabricated Polish pantheon, also known as the Kiev Pantheon, however some are related to actual deities that were a part of the older pantheon:
Jesza, Iessa, Jessis - An early Slavonic God, a chief God equated to Jupiter in the Dlugosz Olympus. He is known as the "Heavenly Sky God" that is equivalent to the Celtic deity Esus.
Kiev - A God in Poland recorded in the Dlugosz Olympus as being a sun and daylight God. He was invoked for hunting and against diseases. He is depicted with a dog's head and horns, suggesting a connection with Weles and hunting goes of other cultures.
Lada - Dlugosz Olympus expresses her as the Slavic Mars.
Lele, Polele - Portrayed in the Dlugosz Olympus as the sons and daughters of Lada, and also as Divine Twins that are comparable to the Greek "Castor."
Nija - God of the Dead associated with Pluto in the Dlugosz Olympus.
Pogoda - Polish god of Fire, also mentioned in the Dlugosz Olympus as a god of weather. Also Slavic "Giver of Favorable Winds" a weather and agricultural goddess to whom sheep and cattle were sacrificed to. Comparable to the supernatural Spirit Dogoda.
Modern Paganism in Poland
For centuries Poland was notably a mono-faith Catholic nation. From the time Mieszko I was baptized in 966 through the period when Poland grew to become the largest empire in Europe the Church was a unifying power and also had an immense influence on the development of Polish culture.
Perhaps the "Golden Ages" of Catholicism occurred in three distinct eras. The first was during the partitions when for 123 years Poland was virtually wiped of the map. The second came during Nazi occupation then the ensuing period of Soviet domination. The final era happen when Cardinal Karol Wojtyla was elected Pope in 1978 and lasted until Poland became a totally free nation in 1989.
Undoubtedly, the importance Poles placed in their faith held them together through very trying times and kept their national identity alive as a proud people who would not let foreign powers dilute their distinctive collective character.
But since the fall of communism and the rapid economic and personal material growth experienced during the past two decades, there has been a noticeable decline in devotion to the Church as was tradition for more than a millennium. As the world become more homogeneous, some people are grasping for methods to preserve unique ethnic identity and native faith facilitates a feeling of tribal belonging.
Recently, Atheism and Paganism have been belief systems eroding the number of Catholic Poles.
There are several 'native faith' groups springing up in Poland and is a unambiguous sign that native faith is a growing social force in a country that once claimed more than 95 percent of its population to be members of the Universal Apostolic Church.
'Native faith' is the literal English translation of 'rodzimowierstwo' - a Polish term derived from the words 'rodzimy' (native) and 'wiara' (faith) - that refers to a belief system based on ethnic Slavic traditions. Those who practice native faith reject the labels 'paganism' and 'neo-paganism' as both pejorative and not capturing the ethnic Slavic elements of their beliefs. Some scholars refer to these as 'ethnic religions.'
Across Europe in the past two decades, particularly in Central and Eastern Europe there has been increasing interest in pre-Christian religious traditions.
According to an article from the Kraków Post: "The native faith movement as a whole is loosely organized and doesn't have a strong dogmatic component, it is actually less about faith - as in 'correct belief' - and more about being faithful, living the lifestyle," said Scott Simpson, a scholar of religious studies at the Jagiellonian University, and a co-author of a recent study of Eastern European neo-paganism.
"The differences in the ways that rites are practiced and the ways that the pantheon is interpreted make native faith believers far from uniform. This is why the attempt to meet at one point is so challenging and interesting from a researcher's perspective" said Simpson, who estimates the total number of committed Polish native faith believers at 2,000, with a much larger number of sympathizers.
Most scholars believe that the reasons Poles are turning to native faith are disillusionment with the Catholic Church and the search for a uniquely Polish or Slavic identity that does not rest on Catholicism. Professor Zbigniew Pasek of Krakow's AGH University of Science and Technology, believes that some Poles are attempting to regain a Slavic identity by overthrowing foreign gods while Dr. Marcin Piotrowski, notes that young people may feel more comfortable with less confrontational belief systems.
In Kiev, a statue of the Slavic storm god Perun was erected by a Ukrainian native faith congregation in 2009. Unknown vandals almost immediately destroyed it. The 10 foot idol attracted fierce criticism from Orthodox and Catholic clergy in the country. Just days after a replacement was installed in 2012, it too was taken away by unidentified men with heavy lifting equipment. Ukrainian and Polish native faith followers claim members of the special forces of the Ukrainian police were to blame.
Perun idol in Kiev before it was taken away
Poland's native faith believers are keeping a low profile for now, and have not yet attracted significant criticism. "The rather muted reception of native faith in Poland is due to the fact that they are not numerous, and not very visible. This can change, though. If native faith believers become a more organized and visible part of society, they might be spoken against openly," said Scott Simpson.
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