A few months ago I was challenged to look at a European pantheon outside of my comfort-zone of the Mediterranean cultures of Greece and Rome. I finally settled on the Slavic God’s, simply because it was a group of deities I knew nothing about. In the process, I learnt about the modern reconstructionist movement Rodnovery.
Now, a quick disclaimer. The intention was never to adapt my practice or take anything from this modern expression of pan-Slavic tradition, and not being part of this tradition means that what I have to say is (at best) superficial. However, it never hurts to learn something new and get outside your comfort zone when you do it.
Introduction To Rodnovery
Rodnovery is an anglicised compound word made of the Slavic words rodnaI (native) and vjera (faith). This broad term is used to describe the contemporary revival of the polytheistic and pantheistic religion and practices indigenous to the 13 Slavic states which include;
- The Czech Republic
Like other modern reconstructions of ancient practices, Rodnovery is informed by surviving writings, archaeology, folk traditions and the work of contemporary Slavic pagans. The practice centres upon the worship of Slavic deities however in addition to indigenous Slavs people identifying as Rodnovers include the Slavic diaspora (Slavic peoples living in other countries) and non-Slavs with close ties to Slavic culture also.
Rodnovers follow a calendar not dissimilar from the modern pagan wheel of the year, with season rites and observation of the Solstices and Equinoxes forming the eight spokes of the Kolovrat, the Slavic variation of the Swastika or “Wheel”. In addition to these are rites venerating Nature Spirits, Gods, Ancestors and other dates of significance historically or to folk tradition are also observed. The Rodnovery Calendar may include upwards of 20 significate days depending on the group or individual.
Like other modern Heathen practices, Rodnovery involves a very visceral connection with the Gods of the Pantheon. Celebrations take place in nature, occasionally within the precincts of wooden temples were the icon of the God is housed. Whilst this is not always practical in the case of the Slavic diaspora an emphasis is upon connecting with the Gods through a connection with the Land. Rodnovers also connect with their Gods through methods identifiable to their ancestors. Alcohol, sleep deprivation and sweat lodges are just a few ways that modern practitioners seek communion with their Gods.
As with many Indo-European cultures, the Slavic Cosmology is a linear structure involving a World Tree. More simplistic than is Norse counterparts the Slavic World Tree connects three realms of existence;
- Prav – the realm of divine order where the Gods reside,
- Jav – the material realm where humans reside,
- Nav – the Underworld where the dead and other chthonic forces reside, the realm of Nav is also described as the formless abyss from which creation emerged.
The formation of the Slavic Cosmos is described in two stages, the first being the emergency of the God Rod from a golden Cosmic Egg. The shell of this egg provides the crown and roots, which will become the realms of Prav and Nav respectively, and as Rod disperses his being across creation the realm of Jav is formed. As Svarog begins to define and refine the material world and its laws the 12 Pillars become part of the World Tree, further separating the realms of Jav and Nav.
As with other examples of the Axis Mundi, or cosmic axis, in the form of the World Tree, it is possible for the magical practitioner, be they shamanic in origin or otherwise, to travel the length of the World Tree in order to communicate with the beings and entities which dwell within them.
Given that Rod, the primary God of Rodnovery and the root of the word itself, is responsible to the foundation of creation it only makes sense that we start with this deity.
Rod is the ultimate creator God of the Slavic pantheon. It is from his very being that all of creation is established and it was through his thoughts that the Universe was ordered into the three realms of Jav, Prav and Nav.
It is the name of this God that word Rodnovery takes part of its meaning and many words relating to blood relationships, nationality and family contain this common root. Rod is recognised as the God of Universal Law and Order as well as hospitality and oath taking. Any oath that was taken in the name of, or sight of, Rod was a sacred oath particularly when it related to the treatment of others.
As his body dissolved into the fabric of creation; his eyes became the Sun, Moon and Stars, his breath the wind etc, Rod left his son Svarog to complete creation and formalise not only the boundaries of the three realms but also the land itself.
Offerings – mead, plum brandy, walnut nuts, porridge, bread, plums, honey.
Altar – Family heirlooms, photos, keepsakes, bloodstone.
Spaces – home, burial grounds, woodland groves
Day – none
Animals – raven
Over the course of the next few weeks and months, I will supplement my normal musings and ramblings with posts from my research. Watch this space.