Copyright

Slavic Mythology: Gods, Stories & Symbols

Instructor: Joshua Sipper

Dr. Sipper holds a PhD in Education, a Master's of Education, and a Bachelor's in English. Most of his experience is in adult and post secondary education.

Slavic mythology tales and fables have been passed down orally and preserved by other means. In this lesson, learn about the rivalry between gods Perun and Veles, and how night and day came to be. You'll also learn about major symbols and rituals.

Slavic Mythology: In the Beginning

Have you ever heard of Veles? How about Chernobog? No? These are both Slavic gods. They're similar to other gods of other cultures like Zeus, Thor, and Ra, but they aren't well-known in popular culture. You see, the Slavic people passed on their stories about the gods orally; therefore, the information we do have today is a bit thinner.

The first recordings of the legends and myths began around the time German and other missionaries entered and wrote about the Slavic culture in the 12th century CE. Since this time, more information has been added and gleaned from archaeological evidence.

The Slavic Gods

There are a number of deities in Slavic mythology, including Perun, Veles, Svantevit, Chernobog, and Svarog. While only Perun and Svarog are widely known throughout the greater Slavic region, these are all are powerful figures, associated with different attributes of human existence and nature.

Perun

In Slavic mythology, Perun is the top god. He's often compared to Zeus from Greek mythology since he reigns the heavens as the god of thunder and lightning. Perun was represented as a god with many faces, usually in the form of a wooden idol, sometimes covered in precious metals. The most famous of these idols was erected by Vlad the Great of Poland in 980 CE, but only eight years later, the statue was torn down after Christianity was adopted as the official religion.

A traditional idol of Perun
Perun idol

Veles

Veles can be considered as an opposing force to Perun. They are often pitted against each other in stories and later are seen as opponents as God and Satan are in Christianity. Veles is considered the god of wealth since his place as the god of cattle is synonymous with wealth in Slavic society and culture.

Svantevit

Multi-headed gods are common in Slavic mythology, and Svantevit sports four heads complete with four necks. He is also represented as holding a drinking horn, which possibly suggests his connection with mead or wine. The Swedish historian Saxo Grammaticus notes that Svantevit was honored with a large idol as the central figure in a temple complex on the island of Rugia.

A representation of the four-headed god Svantevit.
Svantevit

Chernobog

Considered the most evil of the Slavic gods, Chernobog (the god of death or the underworld) is a fearsome figure with a hammer and anvil he used to forge his evil minions. He is represented in myths as a dark figure who deceives and brings war and death to the world of men.

Stories of the Gods

There are many stories of the Slavic gods from creation to nature to death. As with other ancient gods, Slavic gods often impose their will in human affairs, usually causing chaos and suffering. Here are a couple of stories that give a flavor of how the Slavic gods operated.

Veles and the Lily

As mentioned previously, Veles and Perun were often at odds. This seems to have begun when Perun was to be married to Dodola and Veles became envious. During the wedding feast, Dodola went for a walk in the woods and Veles followed her, eventually tricking her into inhaling the sleep vapors of a forest lily. While she slept, she gave birth to a child. Veles took the baby and intended to raise him, until Perun discovered Veles' treachery and started a war. Eventually, Perun overcame Veles and banished him to the underworld.

Chernobog Attempts World Domination

Chernobog, the god of death, often made trouble in the living world as well. Viewing the world and men as unjust, he decided to overthrow the world. He began with his forge where he created his minions Stribog, Dazhbog, and Simargl. He then left the underworld with his minions and set upon the world. Svarog, god of the Sun, took notice and began to make an army from his own forge, but eventually had to call on the other gods to help defeat Chernobog, who had fought his way to the heavens. Once defeated, Chernobog struck a deal with Svarog to keep half the world in darkness while the other half remains in the light, thus creating day and night.

Symbols in Slavic Mythology

Symbolism runs deeply through Slavic mythology. Most of the symbolism revolves around the gods themselves, celestial and natural forms, and rituals or feasts.

To unlock this lesson you must be a Study.com Member.
Create your account

Register to view this lesson

Are you a student or a teacher?

Unlock Your Education

See for yourself why 30 million people use Study.com

Become a Study.com member and start learning now.
Become a Member  Back
What teachers are saying about Study.com
Try it risk-free for 30 days

Earning College Credit

Did you know… We have over 160 college courses that prepare you to earn credit by exam that is accepted by over 1,500 colleges and universities. You can test out of the first two years of college and save thousands off your degree. Anyone can earn credit-by-exam regardless of age or education level.

To learn more, visit our Earning Credit Page

Transferring credit to the school of your choice

Not sure what college you want to attend yet? Study.com has thousands of articles about every imaginable degree, area of study and career path that can help you find the school that's right for you.

Create an account to start this course today
Try it risk-free for 30 days!
Create An Account
Support