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Subscribe to this list via RSS Blog posts tagged in Latvia



In the Halls of Heaven, the gods are meeting in council to discuss a problem of utmost urgency.

Perkons, god of thunder, tells the gods the ill tidings. Evil, power-hungry men, called “Christians,” have enslaved all the world; now they are coming to enslave Latvia as well.

As the gods weigh what actions to take to protect their people from this terrible threat, the goddess of the Daugava River arrives. She tells them of a handsome youth with the ears of a bear whom she wishes to take into her crystal palace at the bottom of the river.

“This is the youth himself!” cries Thunder. “He is the very hero who will protect our people from the slavers!”


So begins the tale of Láchplesis, the Bearslayer, Latvia's national epic. Folklorist Andrejs Pumpurs (1841-1902) wove together—à la Kalevala—old Latvian folk tales that tell of the time, 800 years ago, that the Teutonic Knights, in a crusade against Europe's last pagans, conquered the Baltic states with fire and sword.

The Bearslayer is a fine, romping tale of love, friendship, and treachery, filled with monsters, evil enchantresses, and magicians. Characters include the Bearslayer's true love, daughter of Fate the beautiful Laimdota, his best friend the hero Koknesis, and Kangars, the traitorous pagan priest who seeks to betray his people to the Christians.

The Bearslayer rallies the people and fights the good fight, protecting Latvia from enslavement for many years, but in the end he himself is betrayed.

Through the treachery of Kangars, the renegade pagan priest, the Black Knight learns the secret of the Bearslayer's strength: his furry bear's ears.

In a sword fight, he lops off both ears. As they grapple, locked together, they topple from a cliff into the waters of the mighty Daugava, and are never seen again.

So begins Latvia's 700 years of enslavement to a foreign people and a foreign creed.

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Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch says #
    Well, I was wrong: there is an English translation:
  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch says #
    I wish that my Latvian were up to the task, alas. Let me consult with a Dievturiba (= Latvian pagan) friend of mine. Stay tuned.
  • Anthony Gresham
    Anthony Gresham says #
    If that story Lachpleshis gets translated please let us know. I for one would like to read it.

Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Rhymes with Blithe

Midwinter is to Midsummer as Yule is to —?

If you answered Litha,'re mostly right.

Midwinter and Midsummer are ancient. Cognate names survive in every living Germanic language, so they must have been known back in Common Germanic times, more than 2500 years ago.

Both holidays have by-names as well. The Hwicce—the Anglo-Saxon tribe ancestral (some say) to today's witches—also knew Midwinter as Géol and Midsummer as Líða.

Down the centuries Géol morphed into Yule. Líða didn't survive the passage of time, but during the 80s pagans rediscovered the word and gave it a new lease on life.

It's unclear what either word originally meant. Some have suggested that “Yule” may be kin either to gel—because it marks the coming of winter—or to yell, because “crying Yule” is a fine old midwinter's custom. In northern England, after Christmas services, people used to join hands and dance through the church shouting “Yule! Yule! Yule!”

I'll bet the vicar just loved that.

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Thinking in Pagan

 “Think what god it may be."

(Ezra Pound, Religio)


In the Baltics, conversion came late and memory of the Old Gods lingered long. Some of Europe's first New Pagan Movements got their start there during the period of national and cultural efflorescence between the First and Second World Wars known as the Baltic Renaissance. Like ourselves, the pagans of Latvia and Lithuania are new pagans, but they have been so for a generation longer than we have, and their experience has much to teach us.


The small (11½ x 8 x 3½ inches) inlaid wooden box shown above, from Latvia, dates to the 1920s. It is a cash box, with interior compartments for coins, banknotes, and bills. The inlaid pattern on the outside lid represents the phases of the Moon.


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 Who's a Mother, Who's a Maid? 

 Who's a mother, who's a maid?

 No way to tell, Midsummer's Eve, 

when maid and mother alike

wear crowns of green oak leaves.

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Oak Leaves and Bonfires

 Midsummer dark, Midsummer bright:

 the longest day, the shortest night.

A friend of mine is flying out today to spend Midsummer's in Latvia. I'm so jealous.

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