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Subscribe to this list via RSS Blog posts tagged in Baltic paganism

Posted by on in Culture Blogs

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The highest figure of the Baltic pantheon is Dievas (Deywis/Deyws/Dievs) and is twenty ninth deity from the graveyard list.  He name is of Indo-European origin and is related to Dios/Zeus.  The name means both sky and god, also viewed as the shining dome of the sky or heaven shine.  In Lithuanian dialects, he is called Pondzejis, Avestian, Daeva, Tiwat and Tiwaz. 

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  • Erin Lale
    Erin Lale says #
    Tiwaz! That is so cool! That is also the name of the rune that represents Tyr in Asatru.

Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Tree of Dawn

In Latvian lore, not much is remembered of Austra—the goddess whose sister-selves include the other Dawn goddesses of the Indo-European diaspora: Ushas, Eos, Aurora, Ostara, Easter, among others—except for her name and her symbol.

Each of the Old Gods of the Baltic pantheon is associated with a particular sigil that has been faithfully transmitted through folk-art—in particular weaving and embroidery—down to our own day. Saule (Sun) has a sun-wheel, Mēness (Moon) a crescent, Pērkons (Thunder) the thunder-cross (fylfot), and the like (Dzērvītis112ff.).

Since Austra, by her very nature, does not readily lend herself to depiction—how does one draw a picture of light, of color?—her symbol is Austras koks, “Austra's tree.” This makes eminent sense, since trees capture both the first and last light of the day, even when the Sun is not yet (or is no longer) above the horizon. In Latvian lore Austra's tree is said to have copper roots, silver leaves, and golden branches (Dzērvītis 115).

Read figuratively, this describes the colors of the great Tree of the East as it shines with the new light of dawn. Read literally, the image may sound to the modern ear both artificial and unnatural. But to the ancestors, for whom the natural was commonplace and artifice precious, the image would have expressed the transformation of the everyday into the extraordinary.

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  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch says #
    "Dawn, shining raccoon...."
  • Anthony Gresham
    Anthony Gresham says #
    I remember seeing some mornings back in high school when the early light shown down through the trees. I never met a pretty girl

Posted by on in Culture Blogs
The Golden God

I hear that if you go into a supermarket in Latvia and take a box of cereal off the shelf, you'll find that it's marked with the sign of the Grain God: Jumis.

I say God of Grain, but Jumis (you-miss) is much more than that. His name means “double” or “twin” (it's the same as Sanskrit jama, “twin,” or Latin Gemini, for that matter), and doubled things are his: twins, double fruits and nuts, eggs with two yolks. Abundance, fertility, marriage, all the good things: these are his gifts. His sign, shown above, represents two crossed grain stalks, heavy heads hanging: it is, one might say, shorthand for “sheaf.” (The motif has been used continuously in Latvian art since the Bronze Age.) He is the Baltic John Barleycorn, the Latvian Frey, the merry big-dicked god of bread and beer and other good things.

The harvest is, of course, his special feast, and lots of hymns to him survive. Many of them, like harvest songs everywhere, tend towards the bawdy. A stanza from one of my favorites:

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs
You'll Never Outrun Wyrd

In the corpus of Latvian dainas—folksongs—no goddess is mentioned more often than Laima: Fate, Moira, Wyrd. Everyone acknowledges that she's the most powerful of them all. In some dainas she's said to be more powerful even than Dievs (Heaven/God) himself, but in the poems nonetheless she's generally addressed in the most intimate and personal terms: “my Laima,” “my dear Laima,” “dearest Laima,” the folksongs say. Euphemism perhaps, but what is closer than one's own wyrd?

Robert Cochrane once wrote that the true Goddess of Witches is Fate. In the raksti, the traditional symbol-motifs of Latvian folk art, Laima's symbol is the broom. In the end, she sweeps everything before her.

When translating dainas, I always aim for a poem that sounds as if it could have been written originally in English; hence my choice of “Wyrd” over “Laima” or “Fate”: translating one heathenry with another.

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