From the Oak: Let’s hear it for the God!

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.

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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.

b2ap3_thumbnail_Veles.jpg

 

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.

Helpful links:

http://slavicpaganism.blogspot.com/2008/08/veles-vles-volos.html

http://russianculture.wordpress.com/2010/10/23/slavic-mythology-perun-%D0%BF%D0%B5%D1%80%D1%83%D0%BD/

http://thirdeyeforums.com/group/deities-of-the-north/forum/topics/veles-slavic-god-of-the-underworld

http://meettheslavs.com/velesvolos-lord-forest/

http://slavialand.org/slavicgods.htm

Note:  I did not notice the person in the picture until after I uploaded it...color me surprised.

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I am a Hellenic Pagan, dedicated to Zeus, living in the Colorado mountains with my husband, our son, two cats and a yellow lab.  In the little bit of free time that I have, I enjoy reading and crafting.
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Comments

  • Shirl Sazynski
    Shirl Sazynski Thursday, 10 April 2014

    Thanks for writing about one of the Slavic Gods!

    Veles has not been viewed remotely as evil by any Rodnovery I have yet encountered. He is often talked of warmly by modern Slavic pagans, but vilified, as you have mentioned, in Christian writings due to his horns, associations with magic and the underworld and trickster elements.

    Besides Loki, he has many things in common with both Odhin and Hermes, including being depicted as One-Eyed in some parts (this is often an attribute of Velnius, a closely related deity) and a God of trade. His statues were often set in the marketplaces among the people, rather than the high hills among the other Gods. He is also a God of agriculture and patron of shepherds. One Slavic tradition involves gathering the last sheaf of wheat, "Tying Veles' beard".

    Oaths were taken in both his name and Perun's in Russia, and he was popularly viewed as a God of the common people more than the nobility in some (if not all) regions. He was also euhemerized as a Christian Saint-- sometimes Nicholas, Blaise, Vlaho, Blaz, or Vlasiy.

  • Melia Brokaw
    Melia Brokaw Friday, 11 April 2014

    Thanks for commenting! I admit I've had a hard time wading through all the information I've read about the Slavic Pantheon so I appreciate the additional input!

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