Paganism and/or Patriotism: Russia’s New Slavic Pride

Perun’s Day celebration (Russia Beyond the Headlines).

An article in Russia Beyond the Headline talks about the rising interest in Pagan Slavic roots in that county, exemplified by the increasing number of celebrations of Perun’s Day, which was last Monday.

As more and more Russians seek solace in patriotism, many are turning to their ancient past and reviving pagan traditions. Apart from various festivities, Slavic traditions are being revived in songs, clothing, martial arts and even psychotherapy. According to sociologists, this interest in the past is becoming a trend in Russia.
At least one sociologists suggests that aside from the small number of actual Pagans, this interest is only skin-deep:
However, [Alexei] Levinson believes the appeal to Slavic traditions in popular culture is mostly superficial, and those who treat it seriously are few. “Being patriotic is currently a very fashionable thing in Russia, and the appeal to the culture of the past gives people an opportunity to be a part of the trend,” he said. “Besides, young people simply like to put on some elements of traditional Slavic clothing – it is pretty and uncommon, after all.”
Finnish scholar Kaarina Aitamurto has a book on Russian Paganism forthcoming from Ashgate titled Paganism, Traditionalism, Nationalism: Narratives of Russian Rodnoverie. She has published on Rodnoverie in The Pomegranate and elsewhere; here are some samples:

Coming Soon to a Pagan Catalog Near You

perun's ax

Photo from

Along with medieval weapon bits, archaeologists digging in in the old center of Königsburg, now the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad, on the Baltic Sea, discovered these pendants symbolizing the god Perun, dating from the late Middle Ages.

The article ends, “What can we say, time to buy Perun’s Axe pedants!”

Next to the news article, a link to a story titled “Which Slavic God Are You?” (Veles, thanks for asking.)

Things are changing.


Links: Exorcists, Vampires, Shamans, and the New Gothic

Rutina Wesley and Kristin Bauer van Straten in “True Blood.”

So many links, so little time to comment. Pick one, two, or three of these to read. Mix and match. Fill your plate. Come back for more.

Sexy vampires threaten Catholic youth, thus encouraging — you guessed it — “dabbling.”

• Witchy craft: I am building these.

• Another interesting article on the revival of Siberian shamanism.

• “An Ordinary Girl Born into a Family of Witches” — in the famtrad sense. So of course she wants to be “normal,” because this is not Young Adult fantasy fiction. Or maybe it is.

• An interview with Victoria Nelson, author of The Secret Life of Puppets,  on Gothicka, vampire heroes, human gods, and the “new supernatural.” That happens to be the title of her new book.

Egypt Has the Pyramids; Siberia has the Shigir Idol

Photo from the Siberian Times.

Why the comparison between countless tons of quarried stone and “the oldest wooden statue in the world,” estimated at 9,500 years before present? In each case, there are those who believe that the structures (particularly the Great Pyramid) and the sculpture from the Ural Mountains contain secret codes.

The tall statue is made from larch wood and its surface is marked by a variety of lines and faces. These must mean something, researchers claim, but explanations vary  from faces of spirits to encoded navigational information to a form of ancient writing something like Ogham or runes.

An article in the Siberian Times rounds up some of the speculation:

Expert Svetlana Savchenko, chief keeper of Shigir Idol, believes that the structure’s faces carry encoded information from ancient man in the Mesolithic era of the Stone Age concerning their understanding of ‘the creation of the world’. . . .

Professor Mikhail Zhilin, leading researcher of the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Archeology, explained: ‘We study the Idol with a feeling of awe. This is a masterpiece, carrying gigantic emotional value and force. It is a unique sculpture, there is nothing else in the world like this.  It is very alive, and very complicated at the same time.

‘The ornament is covered with nothing but encrypted information. People were passing on knowledge with the help of the Idol.’

He is adamant that we can draw conclusions about the sophistication of the people who created this masterpiece, probably scraping the larch with a stone ‘spoon’, even though the detail of the code remains an utter mystery to modern man. . . .

Some have claimed the Idol includes primitive writing, which, if true, would be amongst the first on Earth, but there is no consensus among experts who have studied the Urals statue.

Read the rest here.

Help a Russian Scholar of Paganism Attend the AAR


Dmitry Galtsin

Most scholars who attend the American Academy of Religion annual meeting have their travel and hotel rooms paid for, at least partly, by their institutions.

Some, however, don’t receive such support.

Dmitry Galtsin, a researcher in the Rare Books Department of the Library of the Russian Academy of Sciences. Galtsin has had a paper on “The Divine Feminine in the Silver Age of Russian Culture and Beyond” accepted by the the AAR’s Contemporary Pagan Studies Group, of which I have the honor to be co-chair, with Jone Salomonsen of the University of Oslo.

But he needs help with the travel expense of flying all the way from St. Petersburg to San Diego. To quote my blogging colleague Ethan Doyle White,

Although scholars of Pagan studies on the whole don’t seem to be a particularly wealthy bunch, they should nevertheless recognise the importance of building a dialogue between scholars operating in the Western world and their counterparts in Eastern Europe and the Russian Federation, in order to better understand and appreciate the growing multiplicity that exists within the phenomenon of contemporary Paganism. Arguably this is even more important in the current climate of growing political tensions between NATO and Russia.

He has an IndieGoGo campaign going. Please toss a few dollars in the can, and you can receive a copy of his presentation.

Around the Pagan Blogosphere, 25 August 2013

Some bookmarked links are piling up, so let’s clear them away.

¶ Lee Morgan: What happens when a writing project turns mysteriously magical:

It wasn’t long before the story, its characters and underlying mythic themes came to life in very tangible ways for me. Not only did I start to dream about the characters who would inform me of what their ‘future’ should hold, but other friends dreamed about them and sometimes it wasn’t easy to tell if they were the character from the book or being ‘gloved’ by a spirit or god they were aligned to mythically in the book. The characters have become what is known in the western Occult tradition as “egregores’” or thought-forms.

¶ Via Forging the Sampoa link to a post on “The Survival of Animism in Russia — and its Destruction in the West,” which, given the source, you know will focus on Finnic peoples,

¶ But never underestimate Russian xenophobia, now aligned with resurgent Orthodoxy, which has led, among other things, to the closing of the only Mari-language primary school that served this partly-Pagan nation.

¶ The list of polytheistic devotional books (and some Pagan SF) published by the Biblioteca Alexandrina  continues to grow. I have one and should get a couple of others.

Critiquing “Double Belief” in Russian Paganism

Consider this a follow-up to yesterday’s post on Russian dream rituals, which linked to an article whose author totally accepted the idea of spiritual practices with  “very deep roots in pre-Christian culture.”

I had not realized this, but Routledge published a book critiquing the idea of “double belief”  (dvoeverie) three years ago: Stella Rock’s Popular Religion in Russia: ‘Double Belief’ and the Making of an Academic Myth.

From the catalog:

This book dispels the widely-held view that paganism [sic] survived in Russia alongside Orthodox Christianity, demonstrating that ‘double belief’, dvoeverie, is in fact an academic myth.

Scholars, citing the medieval origins of the term, have often portrayed Russian Christianity as uniquely muddied by paganism, with ‘double-believing’ Christians consciously or unconsciously preserving pagan traditions even into the twentieth century. This volume shows how the concept of dvoeverie arose with nineteenth-century scholars obsessed with the Russian ‘folk’ and was perpetuated as a propaganda tool in the Soviet period, colouring our perception of both popular faith in Russian and medieval Russian culture for over a century. It surveys the wide variety of uses of the term from the eleventh to the seventeenth century, and contrasts them to its use in modern historiography, concluding that our modern interpretation of dvoeverie would not have been recognized by medieval clerics, and that ‘double-belief’ is a modern academic construct. Furthermore, it offers a brief foray into medieval Orthodoxy via the mind of the believer, through the language and literature of the period.

From what I have seen in current Pagan studies, the concept is indeed widely accepted by today’s Russian Pagans and by some scholars as well. I may need to read this book.

UPDATE: From a review in Alternative Spirituality and Religion Review by Kaarina Aitamurto:

The validity of the myth has been increasingly called into question in recent decades. Rock’s contribution, however, is ground-breaking in its extensive and methodologically solid approach.

Russian Seasonal Dream Rituals

I missed Orthodox Christmas by  a day, but here is an article on Russian Pagan dream practice.

 Here I’ll try to give the “taste” of the authentic Russian tradition of dream work that has very deep roots in pre-Christian culture.  Mainly the Russian tradition tells about highly practical dream incubation and tuning.  The tuning rituals are connected to certain calendar dates and periods all over the year, days of the week, and time of the day.  There is also very rich practice of using ‘magic’ objects and creating special situations for powerful dream incubation. My experience in teaching dream work shows that three days intensive in the nature is not enough to try at least either summer, or winter rituals.