November 6, 2010

Jarilo

Jarilo was a major male Proto-Slavic deity of vegetation, fertility and spring, also associated with war and harvest.
He was a fairly typical life-death-rebirth deity, believed to be (re)born and killed every year. His mythical life cycle followed the yearly life of various wheat plants, from seeding through vegetation to harvest.
Jarilo was a son of the supreme Slavic god of thunder, Perun, his lost, missing, tenth son, born on the last night of February, the festival of Velja Noć (Great Night), the pagan Slavic celebration of the New Year. On the same night, however, Jarilo was stolen from his father and taken to the world of dead, where he was adopted and raised by Veles, Perun's enemy, Slavic god of the underworld and cattle.
The Slavs believed the underworld to be an ever-green world of eternal spring and wet, grassy plains, where Jarilo grew up guarding the cattle of his stepfather. In the mythical geography of ancient Slavs, the land of dead was assumed to lie across the sea, where migrating birds would fly every winter.
With the advent of spring, Jarilo returned from the otherworld, that is, from across the sea, into the living world, bringing spring and fertility to the land. Spring festivals of Jurjevo/Jarilo that survived in later folklore celebrated his return. Katičić identified a key phrase of ancient mythical texts which described this sacred return of vegetation and fertility as a rhyme hoditi/roditi (to walk/to give birth to), which survived in folk songs:
...Gdje Jarilo hodi, tu vam polje rodi...
"...Where Jarilo walks, there your field gives birth..."


The first of gods to notice Jarilo's return to the living world was Morana, a goddess of death and nature, and also a daughter of Perun and Jarilo's twin-sister. The two of them would fall in love and court each other through a series of traditional, established rituals, imitated in various Slavic courting or wedding customs. The divine wedding between the brother and the sister, two children of the supreme god, was celebrated in a festival of summer solstice, today variously known as Ivanje or Ivan Kupala in the various Slavic countries. This sacred union of Jarilo and Morana, deities of vegetation and of nature, assured abundance, fertility and blessing to the earth, and also brought temporary peace between two major Slavic gods, Perun and Veles, signifying heaven and underworld. Thus, all mythical prerequisites were met for a bountiful and blessed harvest that would come in late summer.

However, since Jarilo's life was ultimately tied to the vegetative cycle of the cereals, after the harvest (which was ritually seen as a murder of crops), Jarilo also met his death. The myth explained this by the fact that he was unfaithful to his wife, and so she (or her father Perun, or his other nine sons, her brothers) kills him in retribution. This rather gruesome death is in fact a ritual sacrifice, and Morana uses parts of Jarilo's body to build herself a new house. This is a mythical metaphor which alludes to rejuvenation of the entire cosmos, a concept fairly similar to that of Scandinavian myth of Ymir, a giant from whose body the gods created the world.
Without her husband, however, Morana turns into a frustrated old hag, a terrible and dangerous goddess of death, frost and upcoming winter, and eventually dies by the end of the year. At the beginning of the next year, both she and Jarilo are born again, and the entire myth starts new.

43 comments:

  1. very awesome i love reading stuff like this

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  2. Well, that's quite the multi-purpose deity.

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  3. whoo hoo thank god it went that way

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  4. i see parallels to other group's gods.
    pictures are as always awesome.

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  5. I like the way you describe it. Keep it up

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  6. Thank man, I love to read about Gods I've never knew existed! xD

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  7. cool tale, these old stories about gods are always interesting

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  8. Very cool informational post as usual!

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  9. I love the amount of effort you put into all these deities' descriptions :) Keep them coming!

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  10. Kewl story, bra! waiting for updates from you

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  11. Man, that art is so awesome.
    Also, I would hate being killed and reborn every year.

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  12. Great info on other Gods besides mine lol

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  13. Science ruins these great stories with earth rotation and climate changes blah blah blah. I would much rather hear a story like the one you told. Way more fun and interesting.

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  14. you know so much about slavic paganism, im slavic and have no clue as to most of this stuf.. im glad im getting to know more of this stuff. thanks.

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  15. this is one of your better posts imo!

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  16. wow thats really interesting

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