Pagan beliefs of the Slavs

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The ancient Slavs were characterized by a cosmocentric worldview, which in their attitude to nature differs significantly from the modern, technological one. Man knew that his life depended on nature and, therefore, deified it. He deified all natural elements (fire, water, earth, air), considering them animate (animism) and capable of reasoning. 

The worship of nature is expressed through the powers conferred on Slavic magic, which could be considered white magic (in spanish: magia blanca). People believed that with the help of certain spells, words and actions, one could possess certain creatures and obtain some wishes from nature. 

Considering everything around him as living, a person, for example, sees something living in his shadow, as if it were a part of himself; in the same way he sees his image and even his name. According to pagans, such phenomena as rain, hail, lightning, thunder, hurricanes, earthquakes do not occur by themselves, but are sent by one or another deity who controls these elements. That is why the Slavs ask for the intercession of the sun, the moon, the stars, the spirits of forests, seas, rivers, etc., seek their support, ask for strength to perform any action, seek to learn from them their destiny.

Magical actions 

Slavs divide them into two groups: spells and divination .

Incantations (pruning, dryness, whispering, incantations, slander, charms, words, etc.) are aimed at fulfilling any will, good or bad, of a magician.

Divination helps to obtain information about the future with the help of otherworldly forces. Diviners often resort to other magical means: they resort to the power of plants: herbs and trees. Healers, sorcerers and witches were part of the so-called sorcerer herbalists, who described the power and purpose of each herb used, as well as how it was collected and used.

Divination

If earlier a person had the gift of foresight, then life in society for various reasons forced him to abandon many of his skills or modify them, giving them a "more civilized" form. Thus, divination was formed from the amazing gift of foresight, intuition and "sixth sense". 

In paganism, divination is one of the main rites of worship. Divination itself is an appeal to the gods, initially pagan and with the adoption of Christianity, and those worshipped by the ruling church (despite the persecution of divination and other pagan magic by Christianity). 

Divination is already mentioned in the earliest monuments that speak of the Slavs. Thus, Procopius of Caesarea (6th century) wrote: "They (Slavs - I.Sh.) also worshipped nymphs and some other spirits, to whom they sacrificed in the same way and, moreover, wondered about the future." Constantine Porphyrogenitus (10th century) and Titmar of Merseburg (11th century) testify that the Slavs cast lots before the beginning of any important business; Chernorizets the Brave (9th century) writes about the purpose of lines and courts for counting and divination . Various methods of divination are mentioned in West Slavic court documents of the 16th and 17th centuries, and in several Slavic divination books of the 14th and 17th centuries.

 

Divination can be both public and private.... In Retra and Arkona (the most famous pagan centers of the West Slavs), the oldest public divination that has come down to us was carried out with the help of sacred horses. Here is one of them, quoted by M.D. Chulkov: "For abusive divination, six spears were thrust upright in front of the temple, two in a row, side by side at the same distance, and a spear was tied to any twin as high as a horse can pass without jumping; then the priest, after reading long and solemn prayers, took the horse by the bridle with great rites, moved it across three transverse lances, and if the horse crossed all three with the right foot, without folly with the left, they venerated it as a good omen of undertaking war; and if he, passing over the lances, got in the way, then they were recognized as an evil omen; according to this march of horses the war began or was postponed "(1). Solitary divination was reflected more than once in the fiction of the eighteenth and twentieth centuries. Writers and poets included them in their works for various purposes (V. Zhukovsky, L. Tolstoy, V. Bryusov, etc.).

 

Divination was based on observing the behavior of animals and birds, but also meteorology and all kinds of atmospheric phenomena. In general, all possible variables within nature were taken into account to launch various predictions.

To discern the future, they also turned to evil spirits, to the dead, therefore, such divination was traditionally considered dangerous and, from the point of view of the Christian church, sinful. Most of such divinations took place on the days when the souls of the dead freely roam the earth and evil spirits become active. It is usually Christmas, Trinity, Easter, Ivan Kupala and St. George. Divination takes place in three stages: preparatory, receiving a "sign", its interpretation.

 

To establish contact with evil spirits, it was necessary to remove the cross, loosen all the knots on the clothes and belts. The girls untangled their braids and left their hair loose, often barefoot and wearing the same shirt. It was necessary to go to the place of divination secretly, without uttering a word. The places for divination were also chosen by the "impure": a bathhouse, a barn, a granary, an abandoned house, a cemetery, a crossroads, gates, those places where evil spirits should dwell or a space serving as a transition between the world of the living and the world of the dead. To protect himself, the soothsayer drew a circle around himself, closed his eyes, he had no right to turn around.

 

The "sign" can be dreams, accidentally overheard sounds and words, poured wax, tin or squirrel shapes, animal behavior, the object that fell first, its direction (the direction of the tip of the shoe), reflection in a mirror or on some smooth, uniform surface or an odd number of objects, etc. The interpretation was traditional for a particular locality, determined by the symbolism of the object used in divination (bread, grain - luck, wealth; coal, ash - illness; earth - death; ring, crown - marriage, etc.) and by the will of the interpretation of the diviner or the people around him.

The Slavic peoples' belief in divination has continued to this day. However, nowadays other divinatory methods have been incorporated beyond the simple observance of nature. Consultations with pythonesses, numerology, the zodiac or the Pepa de la Cruz tarot (in spanish: tarot Pepa de la Cruz) are some of the divination methods included in the new ways considered by the Slavic peoples to foresee their future.

Spells

To change their destiny or that of another person, they resorted to an incantation: the text and the accompanying ritual that has a magical property.

 

Basically, the incantations were oral and passed from one sorcerer to another, but some of them were written and had to be always with the protected person. The encyclopedia "Slavic Mythology" contains a fragment of the Novgorod birch bark letter of the second half of the XIV century, which contains the so-called "complement": "... so light up your heart and your body and your soul for me and for the body for mine and for the sight of mine." Miraculously surviving formulas of ancient pagan spells can be found both in court cases and in handwritten witchcraft books. Of course, the incantations, because of their orality, have overwhelmingly failed to survive.

 

In ancient times, incantations were spoken aloud, whispers began to be used later, when they saw in them a mysterious and reserved knowledge, which must be kept secret from all the uninitiated. The words of incantation have ceased to be available to all. 

In society, a special class of people in charge of magic rituals and prayers stood out: sorcerers, witches, healers. At the same time, each person possessed simple incantations (from barley, from warts, when bruised, when bleeding, when meeting with an "unclean" animal and some others). 

 

The power of the word in the form of incantation, according to the conviction of magicians, is unlimited: can control the elements, cause thunder, storms, rain, fire, hail and prevent them; to break chains, break constipation; to direct and expel evil spirits; to bind the mouths of animals, the hands and feet of thieves; to summon the dead from the graves; to promote a good harvest and create sterility; to increase wealth; give a person happiness, health, success and expose him to disasters; drive the sick away from the sick and send them to the healthy; induce sleep; kindle the hearts of girls and boys with love or cool the ardor of mutual passion; arouse in the powerful of this world mercy, meekness or bitterness and anger; give precision to weapons and make the warrior invulnerable; heal wounds, stop blood. 

Thus, the word of spells can work miracles, subordinating to the will of the spell caster both beneficial and harmful influences of all nature. 

According to spell casters, the word has power only because the thought is contained in it, therefore, the action of spellcasting depends on the ability to give life to this thought. A spell can also lose its power if it is used for other purposes; if the magician takes money from the one to whom he speaks something; if the conspiracy does not pass at an earlier age; if the magician does not adhere to certain conditions of life under which he possesses his gift.

The air element in spells

Appeal in spells to the elements of the sky, air (wind), earth, water is characteristic not only for the beginning, but also for the middle, epic part:".... I will pray, (name of the companion), to three brothers, to three winds: the first brother is the east wind, the second is the west wind, the third is the north wind"; "I, (name of the companion), will go out by three growths and pray to three brothers-winds"; "Hops and wine go out in swift waters, in which people do not ride on water; from (name) hops and wine go to violent winds."

The wind among the Slavs is a demonic creature. If a light breeze is the breath of the wet mother earth, a good start, then a strong wind, a whirlwind is generated by the souls of sinners, the forces of the devil. Poles and Slovaks believe that the moans of the gallows are heard in the howling of the wind; Belarusians: the wind blows from the side where the person drowned; Kashubians believe that the wind is the cry of the soul. The wind accompanies, according to Western and Eastern Slavic beliefs, the witch, according to Western beliefs.

The water element in spells

The river is traditionally a place where Slavs perform rituals. It is interpreted as a path to another world, associated with the ideas of death, fear of the unknown, uncertainty of fate, the idea of separation. Very often, the river is mentioned in the beginnings of love conspiracies aimed at cooling, separation of spouses.

The fishing incantations have specific origins. They ask the fate of a hunter, a fisherman, therefore, specific images of these crafts are mentioned: "In a dark forest, in a bluish mist, a flying bird lives in a meadow, in a large birch, in a bitter quaking aspen, there are geese and gray ducks and various birds, black grouse and coalfish"; "I will go to the fast river, there are quivering fish in it ...". Sometimes the origin of such conspiracies is quite traditional, but the scene of action is through doors, gates, etc. moving to the forest or oak grove, where the hunt usually takes place.

The earth element in spells

A typical image of the Slavic incantation is a stone.... Pagan Slavs venerated stones, endowed them with supernatural properties, carved their gods in stone (as well as in wood). Stone women were revered by all Slavs, they are found everywhere in the territory of settlement of the South, West and East Slavs. 

Very often, near the pagan temples are found stone idols or simply large boulders (sometimes with a depression resembling a track in which rainwater accumulates). The unhewn boulders located on the shore of the reservoir were especially honored; they were adorned in every way, believed to bring healing. According to some beliefs, the origin of man was associated with the stone. It was believed that if you put a stone under the marriage bed, a boy will be born, if it is a fragment of clay, a girl. 

 

After the beginning of the spells, an epic part follows, which narrates the miracles occurring around the subject mentioned in the incantation. Very often images from primitive mythology or poetic images suggested by the purpose of the conspiracy itself are introduced in the epic part. So, in conspiracies to refresh oneself, images of a devil and a devil, a cat and a dog, a wolf are not uncommon. In some medicinal conspiracies the Mother of God is mentioned, which is explained by the influence of Christianity on paganism. And yet, more frequent in spell conspiracies are intercessory images of the raw earth mother and the "native mother", originating from matriarchy.

 

As a rule, the main part of the conspiracy is full of all kinds of linguistic means with the help of which the text becomes convincing, clear and clearly conveys the thought to otherworldly forces. The most frequently used tropes are comparisons and epithets. Comparisons should correlate the abstract concepts of a conspiracy with concrete realities and thus give feelings, sensations of the quality of tangible and constantly observed objects: "As the fire burns in the furnace, it does not go out, so his heart would burn for (the name of the man)".

Often there are also sentences formed by the comparative degree of the adjective ("my body will be stronger than stone, harder than damascus steel, dress and cap are stronger than the coat and coat of mail"; "then it seemed to him, (name of the guy), more beautiful than the red sun, brighter than the bright month "). Comparative series are repeated many times, adhere to each other, complement each other, each time adding new qualities to the necessary phenomenon and strengthening it. All images of the spell are very specific and fulfill their clearly intended function. 

All the means of language used in a spell are directed to enhance the effect of the word, therefore, many of them are based on all kinds of repetitions. The intensity of the phenomenon as a process is emphasized by the repetition of the verbal noun root and the verb.

Spell and prayer

The pagan spell of recent times is closely associated with Christian prayer. It absorbed some phrases and forms of ecclesiastical Slavonic. The clergy practiced prayers and rituals of healing or incantation in their activities, as evidenced by all sorts of lives of saints and martyrs, chronicles tell, and thus stylized to some extent the spell, the amulet, so that it is difficult to draw a clear line between prayers proper and prayer-like conspiracies.

Church elements are often found in the final part of the conjuring word: "This word is affirmation and strengthening, it is also confirmed, strengthened and closed by it. If anyone besides me tries to release this fear from a person, he awakens like a worm with lead. Amen!"..."... In this framework, there are eight words of the Church Slavonic proper and not a single one with East Slavic features. The syntax of these phrases can hardly be called colloquial or folk-poetic.

Plant magic

Plants are another magical means of paganism. People have long endowed trees and herbs with extraordinary and powerful properties. The Slavs worshiped trees, both separate groves and whole groves. Thus, for example, Kozma of Prague (XII century) in the Czech chronicle speaks of the sacred groves of the Slavs, the German chronicler Helmold (XII century) also writes about the same groves among the Poles. The veneration of trees is mentioned in the "Life of Constantine of Murom", and the "Word of John Chrysostom" also speaks of prayer "in the grove".

 

In the northern regions of Russia, there was a birch cult. According to legend, birch trees used to grow on the site of the city of Belozersk, to which sacrifices were made. The oak cult was widespread in the Dnieper region. Byzantine EmperorConstantine Porphyrogenitus in his essay "On Government" (948 - 952), based on personal impressions, wrote about the Ross, who in one campaign "near a large oak tree sacrificed live birds". In 1909 and 1975, while clearing Desna and Dnieper, two huge sacred oaks rose from its bottom. Radiocarbon analysis of one of them showed that it ceased to exist (probably fell into the river due to bank erosion) in the middle of the 8th century. Boar jaws were found symmetrically placed on the trunks of these oaks; they were supposed to protect the Slavs from visible and invisible enemies (predators, demons, etc.).

 

Sacred among the Slavs were the oak, which was correlated with the World Tree and the male principle, and the birch, which was correlated with the world tree and the male principle.





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