More on the old Croatian Gods

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More on the old Croatian Gods

  • access_time17 April 2020
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More on the old Croatian Gods

The afterlife

We know very little about the Slavic concepts of life after death. However, the diverse array of blood-thirsty demons, such as upiers, vampires, and strigoi, which survived through folklore, suggest a rather grim notion of the Slavic afterlife. Yikes!

The Slavic cult and… human sacrifice?

Little is known of rituals and cult venues in Slavic religion. It seems likely that many ceremonies were performed in the open air, around natural venues, like holy trees (oaks, in particular, as linked to Perun), groves, river sources, hills, and stones. This would make sense as the religion was very much nature-centered.

However, according to some Christian scribes and the historians of today, Slavic gods liked the taste of human and animal blood. While the available testimonies were recorded at a later point in time, many scholars consider human sacrifice as not an altogether improbable element of the Slavic religion. As analogies with other cultures show, human sacrifice could have been a functional element of early Indo-European religion, even in as late and as ‘civilized’ cultures as the Roman Republic. 

A more typical feature of Slavic religious ritual was horse divination. Horses (often white) appear in many records of Slavic ritual war divination. The horse’s behavior was crucial in the community’s decision-making process regarding such decisions as going to war, waging a battle, etc.    

Creation of the universe, according to the tales of old

While there was no one single consensus of the creation of the universe and Earth between the Croatian tribes, there are actually clues we can use to get an idea of how they imagined the beginnings of the world. This actually comes from Poland, told by a peasant in the late 19th century. His story comes from ancient pagan tales, originating centuries after Christianity came, but holds many elements considered to be rudimental Slavic myth conceptions:

In the beginning there was nothing other than heaven and ocean, God in his boat, and a devil emerging from the sea foam. He sat next to the God. It was the Devil who suggested to God the idea of creating the world, as he couldn’t accomplish it himself. The Devil dived in and came back with a handful of sand taken from the bottom. God scattered it on water and created the beginnings of the Earth, which however was so small that they both hardly fit. God and Devil inhabited the Earth, when the Devil decided he would push the sleeping God off into the water. But all he did was to make the Earth grow from the God’s side, from the East, and from his side from the West. The two creators started an argument which ended with God withdrawing to the Heavens, and the Devil being precipitated into the abyss by God’s thunderbolts.

So there you have it, a belief system more complicated than it seems at first glance, molded through century of stories told around the fire and used to explain many different natural phenomenons. Embedded deep into the DNA of today’s traditions, such as Croatia’s version of Halloween celebrated in February to scare Winter away, or through names of mountains and rivers, our ancient mythology serves at least as a set of beautiful stories and a way to imagine how our ancestors viewed the world around them.