Many are those that focus on female divinities, leaving male divinities in the shadows if they get mentioned at all. This is a shame. Here I will share my thoughts, stories and prayers on male divinities.
Veles, greenman & trickster
The next deity that I’m honoring from the atheist graveyard is Veles (#12) of the Slavic Pantheon. Now I’ve written several posts about deities from this pantheon under different names and every time I write about them, I grow a little more in knowledge. There is a lot of variety in names but with similar roles. Before I’ve described this divinity as the bad guy, but he reminds me a little bit of Loki in that he isn’t necessarily the bad guy but he does take on the adversarial or trickster role. It seems Christian influence made him appear worse than he really is.
Veles is the shapeshifting Slavic god of the underworld and the dead, earth and its waters, cattle (possible all animals), sorcery, wealth, trade and fertility. He is in perpetual conflict with Perun. Veles sneaks up the world tree to steal something from Perun. Perun chases Veles, shooting lightning bolts at Veles and his hiding places causing earthquakes. In the end Veles is either chased back or vanquished with whatever stolen returned. The rainy season signaled Perun’s conquest over Veles. A delay in this season meant that Veles had not been defeated yet. Perun always wins but Veles always returns. This conflict between the god of sky and the god of the underworld is not viewed as a fight between good and evil but rather the opposition of Earth’s forces which bring about the new season each year. It is only after Christianity came to the area that Veles started being compared to the devil and Perun to God.
The underworld was viewed by the Slavs as a calm, friendly place, filled with greenery and very welcoming. Veles association with fertility comes from the idea that when you plant a seed, you are giving it to the underworld in hopes of new life springing from it. So Veles is comparable to the greenman of other cultures. He is sometimes called the Lord of the Forest. Veles name has the Proto Indo-European root of hairy, connected with cattle. The image is of a hairy anthropomorphic being. Veles is seen as bear-shaped (they saw the bear as the king of the forest that takes care of the animals and plants within it) or in human form wearing skins and horned. He is a warrior god willing to fight to defend his realm. The Slavs honored him because their well-being and food supplies depended upon his grace. Veles is also known for sending the spirits of the dead to the world above
May Veles forgive my previous missteps in describing his nature. He is due the honor that many in the past have denied him. I’m pleased to remember him and give him the honor that is his due.
Note: I did not notice the person in the picture until after I uploaded it...color me surprised.
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