Modern Pagan and Native Faith Movements in Central and Eastern Europe (Studies in Contemporary and Historical Paganism) [Kindle ed.] 9781844656622

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Modern Pagan and Native Faith Movements in Central and Eastern Europe (Studies in Contemporary and Historical Paganism) [Kindle ed.]

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Table of Contents
1. Introduction: Modern Pagan and Native Faith Movements in Central and Eastern Europe
2. A Postcolonial Key to Understanding Central and Eastern European Neopaganisms
3. Selected Words for Modern Pagan and Native Faith Movements in Central and Eastern Europe
4. Romanticism and the Rise of Neopaganism in Nineteenth-Century Central and Eastern Europe: The Polish Case
5. Russian Neopaganism: From Ethnic Religion to Racial Violence
6. Contemporary Paganism in Lithuanian Context: Principal Beliefs and Practices of Romuva
7. The Dievturi Movement in Latvia as Invention of Tradition
8. Polish Rodzimowierstwo: Strategies for (Re)Constructing a Movement
9. Ukrainian Paganism and Syncretism: “This is Indeed Ours!”
10. Russian Rodnoverie: Six Portraits of a Movement
11. Czech Neopagan Movements and Leaders
12. Neopaganism in Slovenia
13. Bulgarian Society and the Diversity of Pagan and Neopagan Themes
14. Romanian Ethno-Paganism: Discourses of Nationalistic Religion in Virtual Space
15. Neopaganism in Hungary: Under the Spell of Roots
16. Neopaganism in the Mari El Republic
17. A Neopagan Movement in Armenia: The Children of Ara
18. The Ideology of Jan Stachniuk and the Power of Creation
19. “Imported” Paganisms in Poland in the Twenty-First Century: A Sketch of the Developing Landscape
20. The Russian-Language Internet and Rodnoverie

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STUDIES IN CONTEMPORARY AND HISTORICAL PAGANISM Series Editors: Chas S. Clifton and Nikki Bado This series examines all aspects of Paganism, from historical case studies to burgeoning contemporary practices. Pop Pagans: Paganism and Popular Music Edited by Donna Weston and Andy Bennett Modern Pagan and Native Faith Movements in Central and Eastern Europe Edited by Kaarina Aitamurto and Scott Simpson


First published 2013 by Acumen Published 2014 by Routledge 2 Park Square, Milton Park, Abingdon, Oxon OX14 4RN 711 Third Avenue, New York, NY 10017, USA Routledge is an imprint of the Taylor & Francis Group, an informa business © Editorial matter and selection, Kaarina Aitamurto and Scott Simpson, 2013. Individual contributions, the contributors This book is copyright under the Berne Convention. No reproduction without permission. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reprinted or reproduced or utilised in any form or by any electronic, mechanical, or other means, now known or hereafter invented, including photocopying and recording, or in any information storage or retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publishers. Notices Practitioners and researchers must always rely on their own experience and knowledge in evaluating and using any information, methods, compounds, or experiments described herein. In using such information or methods they should be mindful of their own safety and the safety of others, including parties for whom they have a professional responsibility. To the fullest extent of the law, neither the Publisher nor the authors, contributors, or editors, assume any liability for any injury and/or damage to persons or property as a matter of products liability, negligence or otherwise, or from any use or operation of any methods, products, instructions, or ideas contained in the material herein. ISBN: 978-1-84465-662-2 (hardcover)

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Contributors 1. Introduction: Modern Pagan and Native Faith Movements in Central and Eastern Europe Kaarina Aitamurto and Scott Simpson Part I: Overviews 2. A Postcolonial Key to Understanding Central and Eastern European Neopaganisms Piotr Wiench 3. Selected Words for Modern Pagan and Native Faith Movements in Central and Eastern Europe Scott Simpson and Mariusz Filip 4. Romanticism and the Rise of Neopaganism in Nineteenth-Century Central and Eastern Europe: The Polish Case Agnieszka Gajda 5. Russian Neopaganism: From Ethnic Religion to Racial Violence Victor A. Shnirelman Part II: Country Studies 6. Contemporary Paganism in Lithuanian Context: Principal Beliefs and Practices of Romuva Rasa Pranskevičiūtė 7. The Dievturi Movement in Latvia as Invention of Tradition

Gatis Ozoliņš 8. Polish Rodzimowierstwo: Strategies for (Re)constructing a Movement Scott Simpson 9. Ukrainian Paganism and Syncretism: “This is Indeed Ours!” Mariya Lesiv 10. Russian Rodnoverie: Six Portraits of a Movement Kaarina Aitamurto and Alexey Gaidukov 11. Czech Neopagan Movements and Leaders Anna-Marie Dostálová 12. Neopaganism in Slovenia Aleš Črnič 13. Bulgarian Society and the Diversity of Pagan and Neopagan Themes Vladimir Dulov 14. Romanian Ethno-Paganism: Discourses of Nationalistic Religion in Virtual Space László-Attila Hubbes 15. Neopaganism in Hungary: Under the Spell of Roots Réka Szilárdi 16. Neopaganism in the Mari El Republic Boris Knorre 17. A Neopagan Movement in Armenia: The Children of Ara Yulia Antonyan and Konrad Siekierski Part III: Thematic Studies 18. The Ideology of Jan Stachniuk and the Power of Creation Maciej Strutyński

19. “Imported” Paganisms in Poland in the Twenty-First Century: A Sketch of the Developing Landscape Maciej Witulski 20. The Russian-Language Internet and Rodnoverie Alexey Gaidukov Bibliography Index


Kaarina Aitamurto is a postdoctoral scholar at the Finnish Center for Russian and Eastern European Studies at the Aleksanteri Institute, University of Helsinki. Her doctoral dissertation analyzed Russian contemporary Paganism and she has done extensive fieldwork within Pagan groups in Saint Petersburg. Aitamurto has published several articles on Russian Paganism and nationalism in Finnish, Russian, and international publications. Yulia Antonyan is assistant professor at the Department of Cultural Studies of Yerevan State University. She teaches Cultural Anthropology and Anthropology of Religion. Antonyan’s academic interests are in contemporary religious processes in Armenia and the Armenian diaspora. Since 2007 she has conducted extensive research on the Armenian Neopagan movement. She has published several articles on the religious processes and Neopaganism in Armenia in Armenian, Russian, and international publications. Aleš Črnič is associate professor at the Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Ljubljana. His scientific interest focuses mainly on new religious movements, religious pluralism, religious freedom, oriental religions, and relations between religion and popular culture. He is vicepresident of the International Study of Religion in Central and Eastern Europe Association (ISORECEA) and the president of the section for Sociology of Religion of Slovene Sociological Association. Anna-Marie Dostálová is an independent researcher focusing on Neopaganism, subcultures, and alternative therapies based in Prague, Czech Republic. She has been a participant observer in the local

community for nearly 10 years. She has written and presented on local and international conferences about the Neopagan movement in Czech Republic. Vladimir Dulov is an associate professor at the South-West University Neofit Rilsky, Blagoevgrad, Bulgaria. He lectures in sociology of culture, sociology of art, sociology of information society, and sociology of popular music. Vladimir Dulov has published monographs, studies, and papers in Bulgarian, English, and Russian in the fields of sociology of culture, virtual reality, religion, and lifestyle of postmodern society. Mariusz Filip is an assistant professor at the Institute of Ethnology and Cultural Anthropology at Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznań. His research interests in Neopaganism focus on the heterogeneity of the Native Faith movement in Poland. He carried out ethnographic fieldwork with extreme right-wing Order of Zadruga “North Wolf” (2004–8) and also conducted participant observation in cyberspace on the Native Faith Informational Bulletin (2004–9). Alexey Gaidukov, PhD, is associate professor in the Religious Studies Department of Herzen State Pedagogical University of Russia in Saint Petersburg, and has been president of the Religious Studies Research Center “Ethan” (Saint Petersburg) since 2012. He has studied Slavic Neopaganism (Rodnoverie) since 1996. He was one of the first to identify Slavic Neopaganism as a youth subculture (1999). He defended his PhD thesis on the ideology and practice of Slavic Paganism in 2001. He has several publications on this topic. Agnieszka Gajda completed her PhD at the Institute of Political Sciences and International Relations of the Jagiellonian University in Krakow. Her academic research covers Polish Neopagan movements in modern history. She is the founder and co-organizer of a series of academic conferences in Krakow dedicated to Neopagan movements in Poland and in Central and Eastern Europe (2008, 2009, 2011), as well as co-editing the conference volumes.

László-Attila Hubbes is a lecturer in semiotics, rhetoric, and other communication disciplines at the Sapientia Hungarian University of Transylvania, at the Faculty of Technical and Social Sciences in Miercurea Ciuc, Romania. His main field of research is apocalyptic studies, in which he wrote his doctoral dissertation. Presently he is involved in the research of online rituals and discourses of various religious communities, particularly Neopagans with an ethnic orientation. Boris Knorre is an associate professor at the Faculty of Philosophy at the University-Higher School of Economics in Moscow, Russia. In 1998, he participated in the Keston Institute’s groundbreaking research project The Encyclopedia of Religious Life in Russia Today. He is the author of In Search of Immortality Fedorov’s Religious-Philosophic Movement (2008) and more than 100 articles on Orthodox, Pagan, and other religious groups in Mari-El and in adjacent regions of Russia. Mariya Lesiv is assistant professor of folklore at Memorial University of Newfoundland, Canada. Her doctoral dissertation is devoted to modern Ukrainian Paganism and is based on extensive fieldwork among Pagans across Ukraine and in the North American diaspora. She is currently working on a book based on this research. Gatis Ozoliņš is the docent at the Latvian Literature and Culture Department, University of Daugavpils, Latvia. His doctoral dissertation analyzed social and religious rituals of Latvian traditional culture and he has done extensive fieldwork within Pagan groups in Latvia. Ozoliņ š has published several articles on Latvian Paganism and traditional culture in Latvian, German, and international publications. Rasa Pranskevičiūtė is a researcher at Vytautas Magnus University. Her research has focused on contemporary religiosity, eco-spirituality, contemporary Paganism, post-Soviet cultural heritage, subcultures and alternative social projects. In 2011, she defended her doctoral dissertation on “Tendencies in Alternative Spiritual Movements in a Post-Soviet Society: Vissarions and Anastasians,” which has been based on eight years (2004–11) of fieldwork with the Anastasia and Vissarion religious

movements in Lithuania and Russia. Pranskevičiūtė has published several articles on post-Soviet religiosity and alternative religious movements in Lithuanian and international publications. Victor A. Shnirelman is chief scientific researcher at the Institute of Ethnology and Anthropology, Russian Academy of Sciences, in Moscow. He is the author of more than thirty books and numerous articles on nationalist ideologies, the politics of the past, social memory, modern ethnic politics, Neopaganism, and racism in the Soviet and post-Soviet world. Among his books are Who Gets the Past? Competition for Ancestors among Non-Russian Intellectuals in Russia (1996), Russian Neo-Pagan Myths and Anti-Semitism (1998), The Value of the Past: Myths, Identity and Politics in Transcaucasia (2001), The Myth of the Khazars and Intellectual Antisemitism in Russia, 1970s–1990s (2002), and Russian Rodnoverie: Neopaganism and Nationalism in Contemporary Russia (2012). Konrad Siekierski is a doctoral candidate at the Institute of Archeology and Ethnography, National Academy of Sciences of Armenia, and at the Institute of Eastern Studies, Adam Mickiewicz University, Poland. His current research interests concentrate on the religious situation in postSoviet Republic of Armenia, as well as in the Armenian diaspora. He authored a number of papers, published in English, Polish, and Russian, in collective volumes and academic journals. Scott Simpson is a senior lecturer at the Institute of European Studies at the Jagiellonian University in Krakow, Poland. He is the author of Native Faith: Neo-Paganism in Poland at the Brink of the 21st Century (2000). He was one of the co-organizers of the series of academic conferences in Krakow dedicated to Neopagan movements in Poland (2008, 2009), and in Central and Eastern Europe (2011). Maciej Strutyński is a lecturer in the Institute of Religious Studies at the Jagiellonian University. His research interests focus on the history of Neopaganism and the relationship between religion and political doctrines and ideas. Strutyński has published several articles on Polish

Neopaganism, relations between Poland and Ukraine, and Polish contemporary right-wing movements. Réka Szilárdi is a doctoral student at the Freie Universitat in Berlin (“Religionswissenschaft”) and at the University of Pécs (“Psychology”). She is working as a junior research fellow at the Department for Scientific Study of Religion at the University of Szeged. Her research field is Hungarian contemporary Paganism and social representations of the national identity. Szilárdi has published several articles on Central and Eastern European Paganism in Hungarian and in international publications. Piotr Wiench is an assistant professor in the Department of Social Sciences, Warsaw University of Life Sciences (SGGW). Since 1994, he has conducted research on Neopagan groups in Central and Eastern Europe, initially in the framework of an Open Society grant, and then as part of the 6th Framework Programme “Society and Lifestyles”. Maciej Witulski is a PhD student at the Institute of Religious Studies of the Jagiellonian University in Krakow, Poland. His interests are connected with Neopaganism, especially Wicca, Slavic Native Faith, and other Slavic Neopagan movements in Poland. He has also been a member of the organizing committees for the Pagan studies conferences at the Jagiellonian University.



History is omnipresent in this anthology on many levels. There are historical reasons why, for example, Czechs are more secularized than some other nations in the region, or why Bulgarians are more oriented toward Russia. Furthermore, because the Pagan movements being studied often make reference to the pre-Christian past, there are many references to the historical figures, tribal kingdoms, and ancient mythologies of the nations featured in this volume. The modern Pagan discussion about how that past should be understood often becomes entangled in the discipline of history itself, as individual communities either attempt to mold their practice to match a mainstream academic understanding of history or critique that mainstream view and offer alternative interpretations. All of the countries represented here share a common historical experience of some form of twentieth-century communism. But even their experiences of communism were not the same, with some becoming part of the new communist reality during the First World War, while others were brought into the Soviet sphere only after the Second World War. Different nations suffered different hardships and traumas, such as the Holodomor (forced starvation) of Ukrainians 1932–3 or the mass deportations of ethnic Balts from their homelands in 1944–55. All of the countries experienced forms of dissent and revolt against the system, but their most intense expressions happened at different times and in different manners (the Hungarian Uprising of 1956, the Prague Spring of 1968, the Solidarity movement in Poland in the 1980s, and the Singing Revolution in the Baltic states in 1987–91). Policies toward religion varied greatly across the Communist Bloc as well. In some states and at some times, almost every expression of

religiosity was harshly punished, especially in Czechoslovakia and the USSR. In other countries, Church structures were left relatively intact as long as they did not interfere directly with the state. In some cases, such as Poland in the late 1970s and 1980s, new religious movements were permitted to function (often unofficially) because they competed against the largest and better-established Churches that posed a greater threat to the system. In many cases, especially Lithuania and Ukraine, the modern Pagan communities flourished abroad in the national diasporas, especially in North America. Recent studies of Cold War history prove that the Iron Curtain was not as impenetrable as is sometimes assumed.1 For example, the text of the Book of Vles was sent to Russia by Russian emigrants, and it was studied by the Soviet experts of the time. In most of the cases, the connections were, however, much more informal or secret. The truth is that it was only after the collapse of the Communist Bloc and the opening of the borders that these diaspora modern Paganisms could have a more significant influence on the religiosity of the “motherlands.” In the past two decades, there have been ambitious attempts to study modern Paganism on a global scale. By definition, this would embrace the Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) region; it is not always easy to situate the CEE movements in notions of Paganism developed elsewhere. Michael York, in discussing “Paganism as a world religion” (explicitly including a broad geographic, cultural and linguistic range of religious traditions such as Wicca, Ancient Greek religion, Yoruba Orisha-worship, Hinduism, Shinto, etc.), repeats the etymology of the English word, and makes a brief detour into Hindu terminology before simply continuing to apply “Paganism” globally without much further consideration of local concepts.2 While this is a quick solution, it runs the risk of taking one culture’s concept as the most central version, reducing the others to peripheral status from the start. Michael Strmiska’s review of Paganism cannily limits the range of examples to Europe and North America, and he is sensitive to the local, overlapping notions that compete with “Paganism,” making it one of the most useful with reference to the CEE region.3 In recent years, as the various modern Pagan movements across the globe have come to learn more about each other, we find observations on

both sides that the Western forms (especially North America and the British Isles) are left-wing and that the Eastern forms (especially the exSoviet Union) are right-wing. There is some truth to this, if we bear in mind that this is a highly simplified model. However, even when divided into two camps, they still share many features. Genealogically, they have common ancestors, especially in the Romantic visions of Paganism, nature, and the noble savage. In the present, they see themselves as continuing ancient religions, but act in the modern world as new religious movements in terms of their demographics and reception by society at large. They reject the Abrahamic traditions (Christianity, Islam, Judaism) that have dominated the recent history of Western civilization, and, along with it, they have rejected the world-denying streams of thought that have been found in that tradition. In seeking an immanent sacred, they show deep concern for nature and the physical world, which often manifests itself in activism in politics and environmentalism. The list of substantive features that separate Western and central or Eastern European Paganisms is more fraught with caveats. On the whole, the stereotypical Western European type is more concerned with magick and with liberation from traditional gender and sex roles, and many participants lean politically to the left. On the whole, the stereotypical Eastern European type is more concerned with the nation and with local ethnic traditions, and many participants tend to lean politically to the right. Rather than seeking to develop clear-cut types, it would be more accurate to see modern Paganism as a broad spectrum of overlapping sets of ideologies, practices, and communities that share a family resemblance. The geographical segments of this spectrum fall under different historical and social influences, leading to a spectrum that is not equally “populated” across its length but produces—if we may be forgiven a mathematical analogy in a qualitative analysis—a polymodal continuum (that is, a range of possibilities in which there is more than one point at which we find peaks of frequency) without producing discontinuous phenomena. If we look for the sorts of historical experiences that shaped the leftleaning peak, they would be rooted in nineteenth-century individualisticByronic Romantic models—the free individual is natural, the state is unnatural— and more recent development in 1960s counterculture. If we look for the sorts of historical experiences that shaped the right-leaning

peak, they would be rooted in national-martyr Romantic models—the tribe is natural, bond-breaking is unnatural—which developed in an environment of 1930s nationalisms, communist suppression, and the subsequent chaos of postcommunist transformation. It would be inaccurate to imply that any one point on the spectrum represents the real, original, or ideal modern Paganism and that the others are some kind of perversion of the original. Even taking into account the serious ethical and lifestyle difference between these groups, they are rather like siblings who have taken different paths in life but still retain many visible similarities. And like such siblings, they have a great deal to discuss, negotiate, argue, and “agree to disagree” about when sitting at the same table. The similarities often only make the differences more painful. For those readers who are most familiar with the left-leaning peak, one of the more obvious differences is the centrality of the nation, the ethnic group, or the tribe in CEE Paganism. This nationalism or ethnocentrism can be expressed in many ways, from an exuberant passion for one’s language, folklore, ancestral lands, and homespun virtues, to a staunch defense of an embattled position in the face of pop culture, massmarketing, consumerism, and an erasing of identity—or (least attractively) as an aggressive xenophobia and belittling of the achievements of other peoples. We hope that this anthology illustrates the various tones and shades of such nationcenteredness and that the historical backgrounds provide some insight as to why they are adopted by whom. In Chapter 7, Gatis Ozoliņš calls attention to the concept of cultural selfsufficiency. With this simple phrase, he suggests that there is no need to accept an unmanaged deluge of foreign culture and ways of thought because nearly all of the needed solutions are already waiting in the home country’s own traditional cultural toolkit. The same way of thinking is apparent throughout the whole of CEE modern Paganism. And not just in Central and Eastern Europe, because in many ways the position of the Latvian Dievturi expresses a perennial response to globalization which is shared by many quite diverse people around the globe. It is a great privilege to edit a book that genuinely contributes to a field. In CEE countries, Pagan studies is a relatively new academic field that is only slowly coalescing from a scattered range of separate studies. Before this volume was conceived, there were already some conferences and

seminars, such as the Re-Dial conference in Szeged in 2008, and conferences in Krakow in 2008, 2009, and 2011, which had provided an opportunity for scholars who are studying the topic to network and which highlighted the need for such projects. Many scholars have felt relatively alone in their own countries, a feeling conveyed well by Anna-Marie Dostálová in Chapter 11. In consequence, it has often seemed that the individual scholars have had to reinvent the wheel on a regular basis. The divisions have been twofold. As in the English-speaking world, internally, the scholarship has been strongly divided by traditional academic divisions, so that political scientists, sociologists, anthropologists, and scholars of religion have done their separate studies which could profit from a greater degree of interdisciplinary synthesis. Central and Eastern Europe is also linguistically fragmented. Ironically, it has often been easier for CEE scholars to compare their observations to those AngloAmerican movements described in the published English-language scholarly discourse than it has been to compare them with neighbors a few hundred kilometers away. In addition, even when scholarly publications exist, many of those studies have been published in small university presses with very limited distribution, and that has further limited their accessibility for those abroad. This publication is not going to solve those problems, but we trust that the collection of viewpoints represented herein will lay some grounds for increased discussion and comparison. At the very least, it can serve as a reminder that these movements exist across the region and as an invitation for future scholars to undertake more studies. We are also hopeful that it will contribute toward the construction of theories and paradigms that are appropriate for the CEE region, perhaps even participate in the global discussion of what contemporary Paganism as a whole might be. Here we would like to express our deepest gratitude to James R. Lewis, who recognized that such a volume was needed, who encouraged us to undertake the project, and who helped it along the publishing process significantly. We would also like to thank Chas Clifton and Nikki BadoFralick for their help in editing the volume for publication. The book begins with some overview articles to orient the reader to the phenomena discussed, and which present some of the central themes in Pagan and Native Faith movements in CEE countries. Chapter 2 is written

by Piotr Wiench, who is one of the pioneers in the study of contemporary Paganism in Central Europe, conducting field research for almost twenty years. Wiench not only describes common characteristics of these movements in different countries but also addresses the approaches applied in the study of the phenomenon. In examining discussions about postcolonialism in the context of ex-socialist countries, he suggests that the concept of postcolonialism has significant explanatory power in the study of CEE Paganism as well. However, as Wiench points out, in many countries of Central Europe, the colonial experience goes back much earlier than twentieth- century communist rule, a theme taken up later by Agnieszka Gajda. The discussion about the specific features of the religiosity or worldview at hand is continued by Mariusz Filip and Scott Simpson’s chapter on terminology. At this point it is perhaps appropriate to explain that the lengthy title of this book was in a way unavoidable; there is no single agreed-upon word for our topic that can be used without excluding or insulting some of the believers. This is not made any easier by the knowledge that many Englishlanguage readers of this book from outside of CEE will also have their established positions on the most accurate, or most polite, label. In almost all of the languages in CEE, a cognate of “Neopagan” has been an established term for some time now, but at the same time many followers of the local ethnic traditions reject any form of the word “Pagan.” Our use of “Modern Pagan” in the title is largely a bow to English-language sensibilities. The terminology used by the believers in different countries not only varies but is subject to constant re-negotiation. In Slavic-language countries, “Native Faith” (the second part of our title) has come to be the dominant term among adherents at the start of the twenty-first century. At the same time, the scholars studying the topic apply numerous terminologies, including importing nonlocal labels as well as inventing completely new terms that they can define for themselves. We have not enforced any particular nomenclature or definition on the individual contributors. Some readers may find this variety awkward, but we believe that it is the only honest representation of the variety of views expressed by those words. Although contemporary Pagan movements emerged in most of these countries only after the fall of the communism, some having links to

similar activity at the beginning of the twentieth century, the phenomenon cannot be understood without discussing its roots in the Romanticism and nationalism of the nineteenth century. This intellectual heritage is examined in Agnieszka Gajda’s case study on the Pagan ideas that developed in Polish Romanticism. However, the relevance of the chapter extends far beyond Poland. First, the processes Gajda describes took place in virtually all of the areas discussed in this book, even though in their own historically situated ways and in somewhat different periods. Second, she gives an overview of the rise of Slavic ideology or nationalism that influenced in all Slavic countries and is still shared by Slavic Pagans in different countries. For instance, recently a Russian Pagan journal featured an article by a well-known Pagan leader, Vadim Kazakov, about the hymn “Hej, slováci,” written by a Slovak, Samuel Tomášik, in 1834 in Prague to the tune of a Polish mazurka, and which is discussed by Gajda in her chapter.4 The last overview chapter addresses the topics of nationalism and racism that as a rule first arise in the discussions about modern Pagans in Eastern Europe. Here (Chapter 5) Victor Shnirelman, a scholar of Paganism and racism in Russia, provides extensive, up-to-date information about violent and racist acts committed by some Russian Pagans as well as analysis of the ideological substrate that feeds such activity. Although the chapter focuses on the most radical segments and on only one country, it demonstrates well the most aggressive manifestations (and outcomes) of the nationalist ideology and rhetoric that is so common in many CEE countries. Part II of the book is dedicated to articles focusing on individual CEE countries. Lithuania stands out as a country where an “ethnic religion” has managed to attain a relatively established position and widespread support. In Chapter 6, the main tenets of Lithuanian Romuva are outlined with rich material from interviews with members by Rasa Pranskevičiūtė. The chapter introduces the following case studies as well, because many of the viewpoints, arguments, and features of Romuva can also be found in the indigenous movements of other countries. An interesting partner for comparison to Romuva is the neighboring Latvian Dievturi, who have not been as successful as Lithuanian Pagans and who have had greater

difficulty in attracting young people to their movement. Dievturi and the construction of the native tradition in Latvia are analyzed in Chapter 7 by Gatis Ozoliņš, who discusses not only the beliefs of the contemporary followers of Dievturi, but also its roots in early twentieth-century history. The Polish perspective is well represented in this volume, with six authors based in Poland who represent only a fragment of the lively scholarly discourse, especially about the local forms of Rodzimowierstwo (Native Faith), which so far has not been widely available to observers from outside of Poland. In Chapter 8 Scott Simpson surveys the various strategies Rodzimowierstwo communities use to build their organizational structures, their religious practice and belief, and their place in the broader Polish society. Issues of continuation and the authenticity of tradition are incessantly debated within Native Faith followers from different countries. The syncretism of the revived and reinterpreted pre-Christian tradition in Ukrainian Native Faith is examined in Chapter 9 by Mariya Lesiv, who reflects the concepts of syncretism and tradition on a theoretical level as well. The chapter also neatly illustrates the impact of the émigré Native Faith communities on the reawakening of motherland communities in many CEE countries. Of the countries discussed in this anthology, Russian Rodnoverie (Slavic Native Faith) is perhaps already the best known to an English-speaking audience, with previous publications featuring the movement and its history.5 Given that there are already many survey articles on the various organizations and leaders of the movement, the chapter discussing Russian Rodnoverie takes a somewhat different approach by portraying the various motives, backgrounds, and beliefs of adherents through six individual case studies of people who are drawn to participate in this varied movement. Alexey Gaidukov and Kaarina Aitamurto (Chapter 10) chose this approach also because they felt that summaries of the official programs of Rodnoverie organizations (often ideological manifestos which are rather nationalistic or even racist in tone) do not often transmit much of the lived experience of the average believers. In Chapter 11 Anna-Marie Dostálová examines the Pagan scene in Czech Republic similarly through telling the individual histories of the

individuals who have shaped their communities. Dostálová’s account is a unique contribution in this anthology because she is not only a scholar but also an active shaper of the community herself, and that perspective allows her to share intimate insight into its dynamics. The Czech case also stands out because the small but vibrant Czech Pagan movement has constructed itself as a crossroads of many traditions and influences, and within CEE it is probably the most open to Western European and North American forms as a result. The example of Czech Paganism help to undermine and subvert the temptation to treat all the CEE geographical region as homogenous in this matter, and demonstrates that all the borderlines between Eastern, Central, and Western Europe are potentially mobile and open to negotiation. The mixing of local and exotic influences is also evident in Chapter 12, as Aleš Črnič examines modern Paganism in Slovenia at the southwestern border of the region. He shows how even very small countries can have surprising internal diversity in their religious practice. Črnič also draws attention to how the self-conscious modern Paganism is paralleled by a not completely conscious use of ancient Pagan themes in the popular culture of the country, a phenomenon that is found in other countries as well. An example of a wider understanding of “Paganism” that is sometimes applied in the study of alternative religiosity in post-communist countries can be found in Chapter 13, by Vladimir Dulov, on Neopaganism in Bulgaria. With this term Dulov refers to not only to the miscellaneous forms of spirituality that incorporate some pre-Christian elements, but also to the currents in society that diverge or challenge the dominant Christian values. Though Dulov’s conceptualization blends many different religions, practices, and even ideologies together, it does set the rise of the contemporary Paganism into larger social context, both of the social turmoil in the postcommunist countries and the pluralism of reflexive modernity. Interpretations of history and national identity come into the fore again in László-Attila Hubbes’s chapter on the Internet rhetoric of the Romanian Zalmoxian tradition. After discussing its background, Hubbes analyses the ways in which national identity is constructed and presented in the blogs and websites of what he terms “Ethno-Paganism” in Romania. He notes the central importance of mythic narratives of an ancestral prehistoric

Pelasgian culture but he also draws attention to the diversity in the interpretation of that narrative and to the varying levels of religiosity evident in the modern uses of mythological material. However, what all these individual cyberpractitioners and networks share is a skepticism toward the official, mainstream vision of local history and a desire to connect with a greater and more glorious vision of their national role in Eurasian civilization. In a region dominated by Slavic cultures, and on a continent dominated by the broader Indo-European family, Hungary stands out as one of the Finno-Ugric exceptions. In Hungary, the nineteenth-century discussion about their own origins and genetic heritage remains important today. In Chapter 15, Réka Szilárdi summarizes such discussions and the attempts to find a glorious past for the nation. At the same time, her analysis demonstrates how the search for a national Hungarian-ness often overlaps with religious modern Pagan or shamanic practice, thereby making it difficult sometimes for scholars to demarcate their boundaries. Within the Russian Federation, there are several non-Slavic cultures who preserved their pre-Christian tradition longer and to a greater degree than elsewhere in Europe. This anthology features the indigenous religion of the Mari people (Finno-Ugric cultural cousins of the Hungarians and Estonians) who live in their own republic in the European part of the Russian Federation. In Chapter 16, Boris Knorre explains how their traditional way of living and viewing the world has gradually transformed into a modern religion and how this process is significantly informed by the ways in which religion is seen and defined by the neighboring traditions. The topic of these insular religions is also acute in political terms because of the indigenous peoples’ struggles to avoid complete cultural assimilation into Russia, while protecting and profiting from the natural resources of their homelands. Chapter 17 is another that takes us to the outer boundaries of Europe, as Yulia Antonyan and Konrad Siekierski consider Armenia, a former Soviet state that has a longer history of official Christianity than any of the Western European counties. However, even in Armenia, where the local Armenian Apostolic Church has played a crucial role in defining national identity, there exist Arordiner groups that attempt to return to the preChristian religiosity.

Part III of this volume returns to the general themes of the CEE Paganisms, approaching some larger themes by case studies of individuals or countries. An example of the intellectual drawn to the pre-Christian tradition, informed by the revolutionary changes of the twentieth century, is presented by Maciej Strutyński in Chapter 18, about Jan Stachniuk, a Polish intellectual accommodating Pagan ideas with the ideological turmoil of the first half of the twentieth century. Stachniuk stands as an illustrative example (if not necessarily typical) of the local movements that could be found all across continental Europe after the First World War in response to the loss of confidence in the established Christian order and the search for new (and old) alternatives, many of which have contributed to the movements that we see today in the region. In Chapter 19, in contrast, Maciej Witulski looks at the imported Paganisms and witnesses the post-communist arrival of Western, and in particular Anglophone, influences which have entered Poland by way of the Internet, television, movies, books, and sometimes through direct outreach by a few international organizations. This phenomenon may also be found across the whole of CEE and almost every country has noted their small but growing presence as a new shared regional experience. Another feature that is shared by all Pagan movements is the use of the Internet to form networks and to disseminate their ideas. In this book the topic is approached by analyzing Rodnoverie activities in the Russianlanguage Internet (or “Runet,” as it is often called) in Chapter 20, written by Alexey Gaidukov. We wish our readers a pleasant journey through the pages of this book, representing a large and varied section of the European continent. We hope that they encounter intellectual adventures at every turn of the page and that they uncover new wonders to take home.

NOTES 1. Sari Autio-Sarasmo & Katalin Miklóssy (eds), Reassessing Cold War Europe (London: Routledge, 2010). 2. Michael York, Pagan Theology: Paganism as a World Religion (New York: New York University Press, 2003). 3. Michael Strmiska, Modern Paganism in World Cultures: Comparative Perspectives (Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, 2005), 4–16. 4. Vadim Kazakov, “Gei, slavane,” Rodnoverie 2 (2011), 4–5. 5. See, for example, Victor Shnirelman’s publications in the bibliography.



This chapter attempts to provide a theoretical framework for the analysis of those Neopagan groups which emerged in the wake of the turbulent political changes in the late 1980s in Central and Eastern Europe (CEE). It explores to what extent the centuries-long experience of foreign domination in the countries of CEE is an important factor shaping the dynamic of native religions. At the same time, the article suggests that the post-Enlightenment invention of Eastern Europe, and the subsequent split between the western and the Eastern part of the continent, have also contributed to the differences between the native religions and esoteric Paganism in Western Europe. Finally, the article tries to clarify to what extent the postcolonial theory provides a useful theoretical framework to grasp the nature of native religion and whether the interest of Hindu groups from India in native religions can be considered as a proof in support of this hypothesis. The chapter focuses on the autochthonic groups that call themselves “native religion” and claim to represent local spiritual traditions. Those groups and movements that are clearly cultural importations and are based on traditions or concepts originated elsewhere than in CEE are left beyond the scope of this chapter.1 To clarify the scope of the chapter and to specify which groups fall into the category of ethnic religions, the following characteristic features of such groups can be discerned. First, they represent polytheism (or henotheism) and the plurality of spiritual forces or deities are their distinct difference from the established religions. Second, they simultaneously emerged in several countries right after the collapse of communism. Third, they strive to reconstruct (or construct) rituals, practices, and ways

of life considered to be ancient. Fourth, they mostly remain at the level of a looser network structure, without fixed shrines, temples, or churches. The last feature may resemble the concept of the cultic milieu, typical for some new religious movements, with its weak commitment and fuzzy structure. Yet another feature is the lack of conspicuous religious zeal, present in the mainstream religious groups as well as in small, sectarian communities. Among the above features, the simultaneous and independent occurrence of similar patterns of social behavior is particularly challenging and needs closer scrutiny. To explain the nature of these phenomena, one might refer to the idea of quantum entanglement. This highly paradoxical concept of quantum mechanics claims that a pair of entangled photons, observed separately, seem to behave totally randomly and independently of each other, while when observed simultaneously they display amazing coordination of their behavior. While a direct transfer of this concept drawn from physics into the humanities might be misleading, this metaphor is highly useful to describe the entanglement of Neopagan groups across CEE, which emerged separately, but represented a relatively analogous set of beliefs and practices. Trying to explain the reason for this entanglement in the social sphere and attempting to elucidate this phenomenon, it seems legitimate to apply the concept of Zeitgeist or “the spirit of the age.” The term, coined initially as Genius seculi by Christian Adolph Klotz, has served to describe the climate of a certain time period with its dominant tendencies in intellectual and cultural life, fashion, politics, and so on. This term is a particularly useful metaphor as it accounts for the hidden or unclear reasons for social and cultural phenomena. Some processes occur when the time is ripe, like in the history of inventions, where in many cases two or more researchers arrived at the same conclusion at the same time. The simultaneous and independent occurrence of certain social phenomena may indicate the common cause underlying them, or a commonly occurring set of conditions triggering them or making them possible. To explain the simultaneous and independent emergence of the various Neopagan groups, one should consider what common historical conditions and what cross-country similarities might underlie this process.

The first and apparently convincing explanation is the similarity of conditions and processes in the aftermath of the fall of communism, but it does not explain the phenomenon of simultaneous occurrence of the Neopagan groups in the aftermath of the First World War. The analysis of the post-Soviet developments may be obscured by the fact that CEE has witnessed the simultaneous rejection of foreign hegemony and of the legacy of the communist system. The collapse of communism and the subsequent liberation from the Soviet sphere of power is very much analogous to the liberation from colonialism imposed by empires upon their colonies. Yet the rejection of the communist system has overshadowed the parallel regaining of real independence and sovereignty. Thus, the dominant interpretation framework for transition in CEE has been one of a fall of the old totalitarian social order. In consequence, the native religion movements are sometimes put into the collective category of post-communist phenomena in Russia and Eastern (or Central and Eastern) Europe, disregarding the profound differences between individual countries. The perception of native religion movements as purely politically motivated is too far-reaching a simplification for CEE. However, this might hold truer for Russia, where the tradition of the imperial metropolis and a variety of ideological concepts in support of Russian hegemony provides a fertile ground for right wing Neopagan groups. Unlike the relatively ethnically homogeneous countries of CEE, Russia, with its high rate of immigration from the Caucasus and central Asian republics with significant percentages of Muslims, faces much stronger inter-ethnic tensions which fan nationalistic feeling and infuse the Neopagan groups with political overtones. Generally, one might posit that the other CEE groups are more oriented on preservation and reconstruction of the Pagan past of their peoples, which contrasts with the more political, radical leaning of the counterpart movements in Russia. But in practice, this distinction is neither sharp nor mutually exclusive, as there are Neopagan groups in Russia which are focused purely on spirituality and not involved in any sort of radical activism. It may be tempting to reach for an overly simplified approach and imply that all of the CEE Neopagan movements are, at their heart, politically oriented, racist, nationalist, and perhaps even Neo-Nazi. These features

have been thoroughly discussed, for example, by Victor Shnirelman.2 However, such an approach de-emphasizes, and perhaps even overlooks, the fact that many movements adopt a largely non-political stance, and are mostly active in the cultural realm. Their primary preoccupation is usually the reconstruction of what is perceived as original or primordial for their ethnic group or nation. Whether their activity is reconstruction or construction is another story, the main motivation is to act in favor of their own traditions. From this point of view, one of the strongest stimuli motivating Neopagan activity is the reaction against foreign cultural hegemony and against the invasion of foreign patterns of culture at the cost of local or native tradition. However, in order to explain the emergence (or in many cases reemergence after the period of communism) of the Neopagan groups, we have to take a closer look at the recent evolution of these groups. Over more than twenty years, the native religion groups have evolved from a scattering of spontaneously emerging movements into more stable, fullfledged, and institutionalized organizations, which have elaborated their collective identities and core sets of beliefs. However, despite a potentially subversive message which strikes at the core of the claim of Christianity to represent the essence of national identity, the Neopagans have remarkably failed to stir loud religious controversy. They have also failed to significantly influence the direction of development of local society or culture, or in any other way leave outstanding signs of their presence on the religious landscape of the post-communist countries. They have not posed a serious challenge to the mainstream religious narratives nor have they achieved a special role in society. Most of the Neopagan groups are entrenched in small niches, built around close-knit circles of followers. They have also remained marginal and nonexistent in mainstream public discourse. While occasionally they enjoy some brief interest from the media, this interest is mostly limited to the sensationalist media coverage, whenever journalists venture to explore fringe phenomena to arouse the curiosity of the general public. This marginal role is rather a rule, perhaps with the exception of Lithuania, where the Neopagans have succeeded to reach a high profile on the social scene, due to their relative strength. A notable mark of their

status is their participation in official ceremonies like the presidential inauguration of Algirdas Brazauskas in 1993, when Romuva was responsible for evoking the traditional Lithuanian customs and folklore. Thus the legitimacy of Neopagans as faithful wardens of the primordial Lithuanian traditions was confirmed at the highest level, despite being contested by the Catholic clergy.

THE POST-SOVIET NATIVE FAITHS AND NEW RELIGIOUS MOVEMENTS One of the popular interpretative frameworks is to put Neopagan groups into the collective category of new religious movements. But the autochthonic religions in CEE do not fit easily into many aspects of the paradigm of new religious movements and there is good reason to look for alternative explanations for their emergence and development. Concerning this issue, my own research, and the research projects I was involved in, witnessed a radical change between the two research periods of 1997–8 and 2006–8. While the Native Faith groups had been considered to be one instance of a new religious movement, later it became clearer that while these groups mostly address a supra-natural realm and claim to represent recognizably religious motivations, the native religion groups in many respects do not fit the typical characteristics of a religious movement. One such complication is their less clearly articulated spiritual message. In some cases the groups inspired by Neopagan ideas might display a neartotal lack of truly religious characteristics. This is clearly a point where they differ from other new religious movements which fit these characteristics more closely. While there are examples of relatively developed theological concepts and ideas, as in the case of Lithuania, or of highly elaborated religious practices such as animal sacrifice in Slovakia, a very large number of the Neopagan groups in question have not developed any elaborate system of religious and moral thought, mature set of doctrines, refined theology, or institutional support for individual members. Despite possessing some of the features of religious movement, they frequently are more focused on the discourse of identity, and in some cases, even on an overtly political message. Notably those groups which represent overtly political leaning, like the Polish association Niklot, concurrently lack in clearly religious messages. Moreover, the mainstream religions offer ready-to-use behavioral scripts that are gradually psychologically habituated and which provide answers to spiritual dilemmas. When combined with support from the

religious community of the mainstream religion, they become a powerful instrument for social control, regulating most of the practical dilemmas of everyday life. This is mostly not the case among adherents of Neopagan groups. They are usually less focused on morality and the meaning of life, and more on promoting a particular lifestyle. The religious layer is rather thin and their activities have less in common with matters traditionally considered to be within the boundaries of religious experience. While most of the other religious movements and communities build formal structures, Neopagans tend to remain at the level of looser network structures, without fixed shrines, temples, or churches. Though the social ties within the network may remain intense, the lack of formal structure of the group makes it more vulnerable to the depletion of resources like time or energy spent on benevolent activities. This may result in gradually decreasing activity and make these movements strongly dependent on the resources of their founders or leaders. The followers of the native religion also rarely follow particular, strict laws or rules, which would prove their strong commitment to the represented values. A notable feature of the Neopagan groups is the absence of any proselytism strategy which could win them new adherents. In part, this is related to the lack of an elaborated spiritual message, like a promise of salvation in the afterlife, or averting ill fate in everyday life, or providing a comprehensive explanation for the moral or existential issues of our times. For this reason, the Neopagans may seem like they are making a less-attractive offer than the established mainstream religions. Without a broader outreach, the movements in question run the risk of developing a sectarian mentality. Yet the unrealized, potential impact of the Neopagan groups could be assessed as quite strong, because they undermine some very fundamental mainstream narratives in the region. The spiritual sphere can be replaced by the secular myths, devoid of religious content in the sense that they do not address the sphere of the sacred, but address the realm which Jung termed “collective unconscious.” Consequently, the reference to the Pagan past becomes an expression of the latent collective myths of the ethnic group and creates or restores the sense of belonging to a particular imagined community.

The concepts of the Neopagan movements frequently address the founding myths of European societies, the myths of origin. Given that national identity has such a central role in CEE countries, the significance of the Neopagan groups in public discussions of these countries could be assumed to be more significant than it is currently. Unlike the societies of the industrialized countries of the West where religiosity evolved without major disruptions, the post-communist societies are still experiencing the echoing consequences of the imposed secularism of the Soviet era. The Neopagan rivalry with the established mainstream religions is much less spectacular when viewed against this background. Despite some signs of a revival of Christianity in the postcommunist countries (or even, in the case of Poland, a strongly manifested Christian identity), religion has lost much of its character of “mysterium tremendum.” The old communist enforced secularism has subsided in CEE, but it has been replaced by new secular tendencies which are spreading throughout Europe. One of the most characteristic features of these autochthonic Neopagan movements is their simultaneous emergence in several countries right after the collapse of communism. The most straightforward explanation is that these groups came into being simply because the communist system had loosened its totalitarian grip on all spheres of public or social activity, and thus the latent groups from all the sectors of the political or religious spectrum seized the opportunity and started to act freely. According to this viewpoint, the transition to a democratic form of government led to the rapid emergence of numerous forms of expression of views, among which Neopagans were one of many marginal phenomena, and they reflected little more than the transition toward a free, pluralistic society. Yet this explanation is profoundly simplistic, laden with the principal offence against the rules of scientific explanation of social phenomena, namely the monocausal explanation, trying to explain this deus ex machina (or rather plural, dei ex machina) emergence of religious movements from only one cause. One of the most tempting explanations reviewed in this chapter is the hypothesis that Neopaganism in CEE, rather than being narrowly a religious movement, is a manifestation of a general cultural resistance against modernity, combined with the construction of alternative

identities. Furthermore, I suggest that this interpretation, when combined together with some ideas drawn from postcolonial critique, could be a fertile approach in explaining the phenomena of the native religions. The significance of culture, tradition, identity, and myths in laying the foundation for the development of so-called “ethnic religion” is best illustrated by the fact that at the dawn of the existence of contemporary Pagan groups, there were numerous examples of artistic explorations of Pagan beliefs. This burgeoning creativity, which manifested itself throughout all forms of art, was a typical trait of the newly reborn states of CEE after the First World War. There are striking parallels between the vibrant artistic activities of Stanisław Szukalski in Poland,3 Ernests Brastins in Latvia, Marda Lepp in Estonia, or Volodymyr Shaian in Ukraine. While all these individuals most probably did not have the chance to know each other and they differed in the forms of their creative professions, they shared the compelling need to express their ideas in the form of artistic utterance. These forms of artistic expression should be viewed against the wider background of the creative activity of artists that touched upon Pagan myths without, however, adopting Neopagan ideas themselves, like Zofia Stryjeńska in Poland or Albín Polášek in the USA. Nowadays the artists among the Neopagans are less prominent in local culture, partially due to the fact that the mainstream of art has largely diverted its interests away from grand narratives, instead exploring the limits of artistic experiment. Therefore there are no recent cases of wellreceived expression of Neopagan ideas or concepts through art, with the exception of music, and that mostly inspired by the folklore which plays an important part in rituals. In this respect, it even seems that the contemporary Neopagan groups are less innovative than their pre-war predecessors. This may be also one of the consequences of the discontinuity of the Neopagan movements, which lost their vigor as the newly established totalitarian order left no space for any religious and ethnically related activity that was not harnessed to Socialist-Realist worker-peasant idylls. Many of the outstanding representatives of the pre-war Neopaganisms fell victim to Soviet repressions or were otherwise affected by

consequences of totalitarian invasions in CEE, either by execution (e.g. Ernests Brastins in Latvia), death in prison (e.g. Kustus Utuste in Estonia), lengthy and brutal imprisonment (e.g. Jan Stachniuk in Poland), or exile (e.g. Volodymyr Shaian from Ukraine). Although the artistic personalities of the pre-war era were perhaps usually less interested in preparing organizational structures, they were still efficient in attracting influential personalities to the burgeoning movement, creating original philosophies, and formulating programs for their newly created movements. In comparison, the contemporary Neopaganism in CEE is less visibly original. Despite the eradication of the Neopagan movements in the Soviet bloc, in some cases, like in Estonia, there has been some element of continuity in terms of presence of members who were links between the pre-war movement and its contemporary followers. These may be either members who were initiated into the movement before the war (Estonia) or those who embraced Neopaganism while in the exile (Latvia). In spite of the importance of liberation from an oppressive political order, it seems that there were more substantial factors which led to the emergence of very similar patterns in relatively distant and dissimilar countries. One of the most useful ideas facilitating the interpretation of the Neopagan movements is social constructionism (or social constructivism), a concept that maintains that social phenomena which are perceived as real are merely a subjective construct of certain groups. The interest in the process of social construction of reality is also present in sociology since its foundation and Durkheim’s explanation of the nature of the social fact reflects this interest. The social construction of reality has changed a lot in contemporary society, where most of the communication is mediated by the mass media, but it retains many of the original characteristics. The perception of the social world is based on belief, and the legitimacy of the dominant discourse is taken for granted. The key role in this non-reflexive perception is played by tradition, sometimes built entirely on invented elements. For a social researcher it is particularly interesting how traditions are consciously invented and made into seemingly invariable, authoritative and unquestionable source of practices to be followed.

This approach has been initiated by the British historian Eric Hobsbawm in the book The Invention of Tradition. Hobsbawm argues that many traditions which are considered to be invariable, unaltered, and deeply rooted in the past are, in fact, invented and subject to arbitrary changes. Once conceived, the invented tradition often displays great resilience and a tendency to remain a stable and unquestionable source of authority, as shown in the seminal work by Hobsbawm.4 The work originated by Hobsbawm finds its followers among the researchers dealing with religious movements. An excellent example of this approach can be found in the book The Invention of Sacred Tradition, edited by James R. Lewis and Olav Hammer. The authors deal with diverse examples of the construction of religion, from Carlos Castaneda to Urantia Books to Scientology to many others. In the context of invention (or discovery) of Pagan tradition, the article “Inventing Paganisms: Making Nature” by Graham Harvey is one of the most interesting examples of the application of Hobsbawm’s concepts to religious spheres. The author focuses on the invention of Druidry and points out that it was an attempt to counter the hegemony of English language and culture.5 Similarly, in CEE and Russia there are many cases where the invention and construction of (ancient) Paganisms give rise to concepts reverberating widely in the Neopagan milieu. To name just one illustrative example from this region, one might mention the Book of Vles, probably the most prominent case of identity construction serving the long-term goals of Russian nationalism. Other examples of works of this kind are The Songs of the Bird Gamayun, Koliada’s Book of Stars, The Song of the Victory on the Jewish Khazaria of Sviatoslav the Brave, or The Rigveda of Kiev.6 In spite of criticism and accusations of forgery, the Book of Vles has been recognized by the Ministry of Education of Ukraine as a part of its Ancient Ukrainian literature curriculum, thus granting this book nationwide official teaching aid status and inclusion in the mandatory canon for teaching. This example shows a significant success in the construction of the past and invention of tradition. To explain the nature of this process of invention, it is necessary to trace back to find the reasons which might have contributed to this search for

alternative identities. The key explanation offered in this chapter is based in postcolonial theory, drawing inspiration from the seminal book by Edward Saïd, Orientalism.7 One of the most plausible interpretations of the driving force making people act in this manner is as a response to the perceived deficiency of well-articulated identity. This issue has been present for many decades in the self-perception of the nations in the region. A notable example of interest in this phenomenon is Witold Gombrowicz (1904–69), who as an essayist has emphasized the inferiority, juniority, and peripheral status of Poland, but his remarks can be easily extrapolated to the whole Eastern part of Europe. This area is traditionally characterized by its peripherality, as opposed to the central, core status of the Western part of Europe, with its strong and wellarticulated identity. This difference predates the political division of the continent after the Second World War, which artificially deepened the fracture in Europe, subordinating its Eastern part to a totalitarian system. The nature of the post-war split has been aptly characterized by Winston Churchill with his metaphor of the division of Europe, which is best known from only one sentence from his Fulton speech: “From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic an ‘iron curtain’ has descended across the Continent.” Churchill continued: all these famous cities and the populations around them lie in what I must call the Soviet sphere, and all are subject, in one form or another, not only to Soviet influence but to a very high and in some cases increasing measure of control from Moscow.8 External control has been present not only in the ideological sphere, in the form of the imposition of the communist system, but also—in certain aspects—in a colonial dimension, because the new system imposed the patterns of colonial dependence. The consequences of lifting the Iron Curtain have not put a decisive end to the division of the continent, and although European integration has progressed impressively over the last couple of decades (especially the European Union enlargement in 2004), the roots of the split are much deeper than Cold War history. It is true that the sharpest divisions have

subsided in terms of differences in political, legal, and economic systems, and in terms of the softening of state borders. But the division is still very much present in the mentality of the people and it is based in the feeling of material inferiority combined with the perception of cultural prejudice from the abundant and rich parts of Europe. It would still be a fundamental misconception if this split would be considered to be solely the result of early twentieth-century or even nineteenthcentury history. As Larry Wolff convincingly exemplifies, Eastern Europe had been invented long before the notion of the Iron Curtain was first used by Winston Churchill. According to Wolff, the origins of the division of the continent reach back to the Enlightenment era, when the differences between the Western and Eastern part of Europe were conceptualized for the first time. Wolff argues that the Enlightenment had invented Eastern and Western Europe at the same time, as complementary concepts.9 As Larry Wolff notes, French scholars used to apply the terms Europe Orientale and Orient Européen interchangeably for as long as until the outbreak of the First World War. While this is mostly a linguistic curiosity, it indirectly corresponds with Saïd’s Orientalism, compellingly evoking associations with the construction of the stereotype of the Orient—rightly so, as both sides of the division of the continent are laden with mutual stereotypes of a postcolonial nature. A glance at the map of the Eastern part of Europe in the nineteenth century shows a picture of an area entirely divided between great powers, such as the German, Russian, Austro-Hungarian, and Ottoman Empires. The motley patchwork of smaller states which was to emerge on the map of Europe in the aftermath of the First World War could not emerge until the conflict between the colonial powers broke out. Before their modern identities had the chance to be formed, these countries were conquered by the colonial empires, where the identity was not any less constructed but which were powerful enough to crush any resistance and impose subaltern status on the peoples inhabiting a vast expanse of the continent. The long history of oppression has triggered reactions similar to those resulting from the oppressive policy of the colonial powers. This reaction can be analyzed in terms of resentment.

The feeling of resentment tends to develop in the semi-periphery (in terms of Immanuel Wallerstein’s theory of world-systems) in the countries where the ruling elites are following the patterns of the western core and pledge their loyalty and conformity to the values of those core countries. These values are not always shared by the general public, which results in the popularity of alternative discourses. On an individual level, resentment is a reaction to humiliation, injustice, and discrimination. It is also a propensity of the individual to reduce the cognitive dissonance between the ideal self and the perception of self imposed by the significant others. Likewise, the above phenomena occur at a collective level, where the perception of the imagined community to which one belongs as unimportant, marginal, backward, and inferior undermines self-esteem, triggering negative emotional reactions, like revenge, anger, or even hatred. On both levels there is a need to achieve a satisfactory level of selfesteem necessary for the well-being of both the individual and of the collective. This self-esteem is built on two basic pillars: self-acceptance and self-concept, the latter one being a set of beliefs or convictions about oneself which are usually a result of feedback from the external world, particularly the significant others in the symbolic interactionist wording. The above topics are central to nationalist discourse, where the nation serves as the reference group, and maintaining the positive image of the national or ethnic group is crucial to retaining the self-esteem of the individual. The nationalist ideologies tend to instigate the perception of the individual primarily as a member of a broader community which strives to achieve hegemony and prevalence over the discourses created by rival groups. The absorption of the individual into a national identity which is imposed by the group is the collectivist side of national ideology. Moreover, nationalistic discourse and ethnic religion both strive to construct stable, invariable form of identity. From this point of view, the Neopagan narratives serve as a shield protecting them from the ills of modernity, and they serve to establish a counter-hegemony to protect themselves from external domination. Thus the construction or rediscovery of the forgotten or eradicated past becomes a rejection of the domination of foreign, non-native, expansive cultural patterns which are perceived as a major threat to the ethnic or national identity.

The focus on the past may also help to explain why some features of Neopaganism seem to be quite close to conservative thought. Tradition, even an invented one, anchors individuals and groups in the everlasting, unchanging, stable, and safe environment, which offers an illusion of protection from the risks created by the modern world. For the followers of native religions, the Pagan era was a Golden Age, a period free from any external influences that might threaten identity. This approach leads to a questioning of the idea of progress, at least in its linear variety and brings native religion followers close to anti-modern, conservative thought. This seems to run counter to the concept of liquid modernity coined by Zygmunt Bauman.10 However, the growing need for stability is by no means incompatible with the concept of liquidity. On the contrary, the more unstable the world and the more rapid the pace of change, the more important are traditions and identities which can provide shelter from the perils of the changing and unpredictable surroundings. Thus a clear understanding of identity discourse is crucial to grasp not only the native religion groups, but also a broader spectrum of phenomena. Postcolonial theory, also called “subaltern studies,” tries to explain the long-term cultural effects of colonialism. Its concern is all those who are silenced by the dominant discourse, who are called subalterns; the study of strategies and reasons for this silencing is the most remarkable feature of this concept. Its most prominent thinkers, like Edward Saïd, Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, or Frantz Fanon have made it into a full-fledged theory which strives to analyze and explore the disparity of power and authority in the contemporary era. While postcolonial theory deals with relations between the developed (First) and developing (Third) World, It did not address the “Second World” (the Communist Bloc) and it is seldom applied to the post-communist countries. However, in recent years there has been a growing surge of interest in developments in the post-communist countries as they are interpreted from a postcolonial perspective, which has contributed to several important studies. Despite criticism, which emphasizes the relative prosperity, wealth, and comfort of countries of the former Soviet bloc in comparison with what is traditionally considered a postcolonial country,

the resemblance in the patterns of domination justifies extension of postcolonial analysis to the countries of CEE. One may notice the growing intensity of the rivalry between the postcommunist and postcolonial narratives, where the latter is becoming more and more prominent. This paradigm shift started with a short remark by Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, who was one of the first scholars to notice the parallels between post-Soviet studies and postcolonial studies.11 Similarly, Edward Saïd also made reference to the Russian imperial politics and its similarity to colonial domination.12 Since then, a growing number of studies have attempted to reinterpret post-Soviet or post-communist societies in terms of postcolonial theory, seeing the legacy of Soviet domination—with Moscow as the metropolis which imposes its harsh rules on all countries within its sphere of influence— as a typical pattern of colonial dependence. To name only a few, one should mention a collection of essays, Baltic Postcolonialism, edited by Violeta Kelertas, interesting studies of postcolonial phenomena in postcommunist countries provided by Ewa Thompson in the Sarmatian Review, or some links between the emergence of Neopagan ideas and postcolonial theory which have been discussed in the book Niesamowita Słowianszczyzna (Uncanny Slavdom), written by the leading Polish literary critic Maria Janion.13 Among more recent studies one should mention Urban Cultures in (Post)Colonial Central Europe by Agata Anna Lisiak.14 It is symptomatic of deeper issues that the postcolonial theory is more eagerly adopted by literary criticism, but less visible in the political or sociological analyses of contemporary post-communist societies. An interesting example of this approach can be found in the article by David Chioni Moore: “Is the Post- in Postcolonial the Post- in PostSoviet?” In this chapter, Moore argues: it should be clear that the term ‘post-colonial,’ and everything that goes with it—language, economy, politics, resistance, liberation and its hangover—might reasonably be applied to the formerly Russo- and Soviet-controlled regions post-1989 and -91, just as it has been applied to South Asia post-1947 or Africa post-1958.15

To paraphrase Rudyard Kipling, “East is South.” Moore continues: In view of these postcolonial-post-Soviet parallels, two silences are striking. The first is the silence of postcolonial studies today on the subject of the former Soviet sphere. And the second, mirrored silence is the failure of scholars & specializing in the formerly Soviet-controlled lands to think of their regions in the useful if by no means perfect postcolonial terms developed by scholars of, say, Indonesia and Gabon. South does not speak East, and East not South.16 The weakness of postcolonial analyses in post-Soviet countries might be attributed to the fact that the postcolonial elites themselves are not interested in exposing the origins of their privileged status and its colonial roots. They are effectively silencing criticism—even within academia—in order to maintain hegemony. This vision of periphery, subordinated to the colonial metropolis, may be elaborated into a more complex concept of in-between peripherality, used by Steven Tötösy de Zepetnek. This perspective regards CEE as being simultaneously a periphery of the West and a periphery of post-Soviet Russia.17 This status follows the previous status of a periphery in-between German and Russian imperial metropolises and the whole region oscillates between the two powerful imperial centers. The above concept is sometimes reflected in political discourse, for example, visible in references to Poland as a German-Russian condominium, but generally not yet widespread. Moreover, the description of CEE from a postcolonial perspective is incompatible with the high level of aspirations and the feeling of pride, which is based on the deeply rooted self-perception of the region as being a part of the West or at least its strongest ally, (for example, Poland and Hungary traditionally invoke the concept of their role as a sturdy “antemurale,” a bulwark of Western civilization which has faithfully protected Europe from the barbaric influences of the East). This perception is in most cases unilateral and not shared by the inhabitants of the core Western countries themselves. In this context any reference to the postcoloniality of CEE might be considered derogatory, as it calls into

question the proud certainty of belonging to the core Western civilization, which is considered to be superior and attractive. A symptomatic case is the establishment of the “Post-Dependence Studies Centre” in May 2009, an inter-university research network in Poland. The name omits the ominous word “postcolonial,” thus avoiding the unpleasant association with subaltern status. Signs of interest in application of the postcolonial theory to the analysis of developments in the former Soviet bloc are increasing. There is also a radical interpretation of this theory which embeds it in a broader framework of nationalist discourse. According to this approach, the apparent liberation from direct colonial dependence remains purely formal, as the patterns of colonial subordination remain deeply ingrained in the mentality of the former subalterns. This approach indicates that the colonial dimension of the foreign domination in CEE strikingly resembles the practices of the British colonial administration in India. This policy, originated by Thomas Babington Macaulay, appointed as a member of a governing Supreme Council of India in 1830, has been labeled Macaulayism. Its essence was the practice of suppressing indigenous cultures by imposing the colonial system of education. The deeper meaning of Macaulayism and its longlasting effect are much typical for the postcolonial traumatic experience of foreign domination. In a sense, postcolonial elites in CEE are “Macaulay’s Children”—a term widely adopted in India, addressing the phenomenon of the destructive impact of Macaulayism on self-esteem and dignity, and its initiation of typical colonial policy, which strives to obtain and maintain domination and hegemony by manipulating the sense of guilt, inducing a feeling of unworthiness and inferiority and strengthening of the propensity to self-deny oneself and be overtly critical toward one’s own ethnic group. The auto-aggression resulting from the feeling of being unworthy can easily be used to exert control over the subjugated people. More important than the direct influence of this doctrine in colonial times is the long-term legacy of Macaulayism, with the (in)famous phrase of its originator: It is impossible for us, with our limited means, to attempt to educate the body of the people. We must at present do our best to

form a class who may be interpreters between us and the millions whom we govern, a class of persons, Indian in blood and color, but English in tastes, opinions, morals and in intellect.18 In this sense Russian colonialism has been a failure, because in many of the Central European societies, Russia is frequently perceived as culturally inferior, and its political prevalence and power status are often portrayed as based on sheer violence. The end of direct Russian (or Soviet) control meant the liberation from an enforced, backward, and oppressive political and economic system. It did not mean, however, a break with the colonial mentality and the deeply ingrained patterns of subservience and obedience which were imposed by external rule. Much different is the situation in the more Eastern countries of Belarus and Ukraine, where matters are even more complicated because of the weighty influence of Russia which is peripheral to the West but still a core country for its neighbors. Another factor was their historical subjugation to the Polish-Lithuanian commonwealth, which although it lost power in the eighteenth century, had formerly been a core country in the region which had dominated Belarus and Ukraine from the West. Looking at the native religion groups through the prism of the postcolonial theory might help to grasp the difference between Russian native religion groups, which are frequently radical, politically oriented, and the Central and Eastern European groups, which usually tend to be more focused on culture, tradition, and identity discourse. The problem of identity seems to be Central for the nations or ethnic groups which were subject to extreme pressures from external powers which were capable of imposing their political system, values, and beliefs onto them. This triggers resentment, which is a natural reaction to the imposition of the subaltern status. One of the characteristic features of the native faith movements is the fact that they are fundamentally opposed to Christianity. It can be perceived as the opposition to a religious mcdonaldization of the world, which began as early as the Middle Ages in Europe, which eradicated native cultures and replaced them with the universalistic claim of the Christian religion.

However, not only Christianity is subject to resentment from the emerging native faith groups. Similar cases can be identified in other parts of the world where the current mainstream religion does not create a sufficiently repressive system for destroying its predecessors. An interesting case is the revival of pre-Muslim beliefs in Kyrgyzstan, one of the former republics of the Soviet Union inhabited by a predominantly Muslim population, but subject to secular pressure throughout the whole communist period. They also show up in the relative absence of pressure from any religious orthodoxy, which is less present in the countries of central Asia where Soviet-enforced state atheism has wrecked the religious zeal of Islam and created room for alternative beliefs.19 Paradoxically, there is a parallel revival of Tengrism in Hungary, which causes modern Tengrist revivals to have a remarkably wide geographic range across central Asia and Europe. There do not seem to be any direct links or sharing of ideas between these two cases, in spite of their similarity. A similar revival of Tengrism has emerged in Bulgaria as well.20 What deserves attention is not only the geographic range of parallel processes in central Asia and CEE, but also the way in which the Neopagan revival strikes a resonant chord elsewhere. This emergence (in “Christian” countries) of movements which undermine the very foundations of Christianity and its claim to universality, is warmly welcomed by radical Hindus who consider Christianity and Islam to be the major threats to Hinduism and Indian identity. The Neopagan movements, which reject Christianity and blame it for the eradication of the original religions, traditions, folkways, and customs of their lands, are potential allies in the conflict with the monotheistic religions and share the feeling of resentment against them. These new allies may seem attractive for Indians who are grappling with the colonial legacy and the phenomenon of conversions to other religions, which in the eyes of Hindu radicals is a betrayal of Indian identity. This factor is crucial for the understanding of the relevance of Neopaganism for the radical Hindu activists. It provides a convincing example of the decline of the threatening religions.

At the same time, the followers of the CEE native religions share with Hindus many of the same fears and the same enemies. A common denominator between radical, anticolonial Hindus and the followers of native faith in CEE is a mixture of anti-colonial resentment and cultural resistance against the modernity which is disrupting traditional society. A notable case is the parallel, but independent, occurrence of anti-Valentine campaigns of the Indian Shiv Sena and Polish Neopagans, which indicate similar cultural resistance to the globally circulating patterns of mass culture. It is clear what values the native religions stand for—they promote one’s own traditions and ethnicity—and it is equally clear what they oppose—they stand against modernity, foreign domination, mass culture, and established religions. This attitude, which is very much similar to the concepts driving the diverse anti-colonial resistance movements around the globe and is a shared feature for the otherwise different groups, coming from different parts of the world and having different backgrounds. When brought together, they discover that they share many of the same interests or attitudes, expressed in similar terms. At this writing, the proposed explanation of the activities of native religion groups in terms of postcolonial theory, cultural resistance against modernity, the concept of resentment and social constructionism is still in the initial stage of development. It has made an initial application of concepts and theories that were not previously applied in this context. Although some of the ideas presented above may require additional clarification and further exploration, it can be suggested that this approach has the potential to throw revealing light on the phenomena from a different angle.

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS The chapter is based on extensive field research that started with field trips in 1994 (then focused on Romuva in Lithuania). Overall, the research embraced most of the CEE countries covered in two fieldwork projects, running between 1997 and 1998 (Research Support Scheme/Open Society Institute grant) and in 2006–8 (Society and Lifestyles project, funded by European Commission 6th Framework Programme). Moreover, the research included two field trips to Gatherings of the Elders in India: in Jaipur (2006) and Nagpur (2009).

NOTES 1. See Chapter 19 in this volume. 2. See, for example, Victor A. Shnirelman, Russian Neo-pagan Myths and Antisemitism, Analysis of Current Trends in Antisemitism, 13 (Jerusalem: Hebrew University of Jerusalem, 1998). 3. On Szukalski, see Lechosław Lamenski, Stach z Warty Szukalski i Szczep Rogate Serce (Lublin: Wydawnictwo KUL, 2007). 4. Eric Hobsbawm & Terence Ranger (eds), The Invention of Tradition (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1983). 5. Graham Harvey, “Inventing Paganisms: Making Nature,” in The Invention of Sacred Tradition, James R. Lewis & Olav Hammer (eds) (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007). 6. Marlene Laruelle, “Alternative Identity, Alternative Religion? Neo-paganism and the Aryan Myth in Contemporary Russia,” Nations and Nationalism 14(2) (2008), 291. 7. Edward W. Saïd, Orientalism (New York: Vintage Books, 1979). 8. See 9. Larry Wolff, Inventing Eastern Europe: The Map of Civilization on the Mind of the Enlightenment (Palo Alto, CA: Stanford University Press, 1996), 5. 10. Zygmunt Bauman, Liquid Modernity (Cambridge: Polity Press, 2000). 11. Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, A Critique of Postcolonial Reason: Toward a History of the Vanishing Present (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1999). 12. Edward W. Saïd, Culture and Imperialism (New York: Knopf, 1993), xxv. 13. Violeta Kelertas (ed.), Baltic Postcolonialism (Amsterdam: Rodopi, 2006); Maria Janion, Niesamowita Słowiańszczyzna: fantazmaty literatury [Uncanny Slavdom] (Krakow: Wydawnictwo Literackie, 2006). 14. Agata Anna Lisiak, Urban Cultures in (Post)Colonial Central Europe (West Lafayette, IN: Purdue University Press, 2010). 15. David Chioni Moore, “Is the Post- in Postcolonial the Post- in Post-Soviet? Toward a Global Postcolonial Critique,” in Baltic Postcolonialism, Violeta Kelertas (ed.) (Amsterdam: Rodopi, 2006). Also available in: Atlas of Transformation, 16. Ibid., 20. 17. Steven Tötösy de Zepetnek, “Configurations of Postcoloniality and National Identity: Inbetween Peripherality and Narratives of Change,” The

Comparatist: Journal of the Southern Comparative Literature Association 23 (1999), 89–110. 18. Thomas Babington Macaulay, “Minute on Education,” 1835, quoted in Mia Carter & Barbara Harlow, Imperialism and Orientalism: A Documentary Sourcebook (Oxford: Blackwell, 1999), 61. 19. Marlene Laruelle, “Religious Revival, Nationalism and the ‘Invention of Tradition’: Political Tengrism in Central Asia and Tatarstan,” Central Asian Survey 26(2) (2007), 203–16. 20. Nina Dimitrova, “Bulgarian Neo-Paganism and the Problem of National/European Identity,” in Philosophy Bridging Civilizations and Cultures: Universal, Regional, National Values in United Europe: Proceedings of the XXIV Varna International Philosophical School (Sofia: IPhR-BAS, 2007), 169–73.



Readers of this volume encounter a colorful spectrum of vocabulary used to identify religious practices from a number of Central and Eastern European (CEE) languages. Some will look like pure jabberwocky to English-speaking readers: Újpogányság, Neoyazychnytstvo, Rodzimowierstwo. Yet such terms cannot be simply and completely replaced by English translations. For example, the majority of the adherents of contemporary Slavic spirituality currently call their religion “Native Faith” (Ukr: Ridnovirstvo, Rus: Rodnoverie, Pol: Rodzimowierstwo, Cz: Rodnověří), and this term has its own separate history and associations in local languages. This chapter provides definitions and etymologies of selected words in various linguistic forms that allow us to unpack some of their anthropological and sociological issues.1 Stakeholders in these words have different sets of issues. Etic scholars need precise and practical definitions, clear-cut taxonomies, and opportunities to make connections and comparisons with regional or theoretical issues. Emic practitioners are concerned about issues that are ultimately private, such as self-identity, ambition, or feeling that one’s choice of names properly honors ancestors and gods. But in the public sphere, the choices of words and labels are akin to “brand management” for religions. An important theme in this chapter involves changing exonyms into endonyms and reclaiming pejoratives as positive identities. But even terms developed by the groups themselves, such as Ridna Vira, can undergo strong influences from many stakeholders and be applied differently than their inventors intended.

PAGAN When writing in English, it is natural to use English terms like “Pagan.” English-language scholarship has extensively covered the etymology and social history of that word, at least as far as the broader Anglosphere is concerned. Today, we can find cognates of the Latin paganus in nearly every European language, for instance French païen, German Paganist, Hungarian pogány, Estonian pagan, Lithuanian pagonys, Czech pohan, and Russian pogan. While they share the same origin, some of them have picked up different baggage than the English word. Some understanding of the similarities and differences is useful to understanding why and how choices of self-identification are made. The notion of the Pagan arose when Christianity came to prominence in the Roman Empire. The label paganus, like christianus, was the product of exonymy and had a pejorative sense to its first users. At its root, the Latin paganus meant a “province-dweller,” with implications of being provincial, out of touch and generally unfashionable.2 Christians in the Middle Ages used the word “pagan” to describe many newly encountered non-Christian practices. In the Old Church Slavonic Primary Chronicle, Olga of Kiev is made to say that before her conversion to Christianity “az pogana esem” (“I am a Pagan woman”).3 Likewise, when the indigenous temples of Slavic, Baltic, or the Magyar religion were destroyed by Christians, it was described by Latin chroniclers as destroying “paganismus.”4 In CEE, Islam was often the most prominent non-Christian religion on the horizon. For example, in Bogumił Linde’s 1811 Polish dictionary, discussion of the word poganin/pohanin begins with its use for Muslim Tatars, before more briefly discussing its use for more distant nonChristians, such as Muslim Turks, and only then to religions of antiquity.5 Similar examples are easy to find up to the First World War, and then fade from use. “Pagan” may also apply to those who have no deity at all. From the beginning of the nineteenth century onwards, Roman Catholic conservatives have frequently used the notions of paganism and idolatry to

define modernity, a worldview that deified humanity and human achievement and lead people away from transcendental religion. Especially in the era of Romanticism, Paganism acquired a number of new connotations across Europe, some clearly positive, others more ambivalent. Ronald Hutton’s review of four narratives associated with the word in a British context is partially applicable further east.6 Although not absent, the weakest narrative of the four in the CEE region was Paganism as intellectual Classicism. Countries in the east or north of Europe had little direct contact with classical Greek and Roman civilizations, and subsequently less of a cult of imitation. In much of the East, the Byzantine civilization filled that role, and Christianity, not Paganism, was associated with its zenith. The narrative of Paganism as a theosophical and occult search for universal religious wisdom is more applicable to a discussion of the CEE view of Pagan-ness. Several important early forerunners of Neopagan movements, such as the Visuomybė (“Universal Faith”) of Domas Šidlauskas-Visuomis (1878–1944) in Lithuania or the Bogoznawstwo (“God-Knowing”) of Jan Sas-Zubrzycki (1860–1935) in Poland, were clearly at home in this milieu. Another important strain was the narrative of Paganism as gloom, blood, and gore. This “dark Romanticism” often emphasized the uncanny ghosts and malevolent spirits of Pagan religion. The traumatic loss of the old religion could be linked with more recent losses of statehood and dignity. The narrative of Paganism as hedonistic, life-affirming, and natureloving is also attested throughout CEE. However, in the British context that Hutton wrote about, nature and individual freedom are often set in opposition to society and collective norms. In CEE, this opposition is not as sharp: the individual is downplayed in favor of the community, and the tribe is more frequently seen as part of nature itself.7 But the two narratives most important to constructing the Romantic contents of Paganism in CEE are not featured in Hutton’s “language of Paganism” as used in British society. The first is the narrative of the Pagan as a peasant—a suppressed Paganism of a rural underclass clinging to ancient traditions.8 The countries of CEE have a special place for such

images of the marginalized because of oppression by foreign empires or domination by the brutal demands of their own ruling elites. The peasant is an incarnation of the “noble savage” who is “simple” in the very best of senses: self-sufficient, unpretentious, trustworthy, guileless, and above all, completely authentic. The second CEE narrative is the Pagan as the ancient possessor of the true and unadulterated character or spirit of the nation—Herder’s Volksgeist. For many Romantic thinkers in CEE, recent changes in their nations were the unwelcome result of foreign pollution or internal putrefaction. Research into pre-Christian traditions was a patriotic act that allowed a return to the wellspring of the Nation when its spirit was still pure and wholesome.

HEATHEN/HEIDEN One well-known alternative to “Pagan” are cognates of the German Heide/Heidentum and English Heathen/Heathenry. The most common reconstruction of the etymology of “heathen” is “one who dwells in the heath.”9 As with “Pagan,” “Heathen” was earlier used as a pejorative exonym, and has only recently been rehabilitated as some groups’ selfidentification. Slovenian, a South Slavic language, has a loanword related to “heathen” in ajd. The word has drifted into the realm of fairy tales, and the ancient Ajdov have become magical Pagan giants who inhabit the scarcely populated hills and remote caves.10 There was a group in Slovenia in the mid-2000s that called itself Ajdi, and its successor, the Staroverska župa Svetovid, has continued to make use of this term. At least one of the archeological sites selected for modern religious practice also has an old folk association with heathens, carrying the name Ajdovska Jama (“heathen cave”).11 However, the majority of CEE languages, which typically belong to the Baltic, Slavic, and Finno-Ugric families, have no such cognates. In sharp contrast to “Pagan,” “heathen” carries little or no connotative baggage in most CEE languages. Even if its potentially pejorative aura in English or German is intellectually known, non-native speakers will not feel it so viscerally. Furthermore, its use in the lingua franca of English is familiar from personal or Internet international contacts with Norse, Germanic, and Anglo-Saxon groups that have a similar look and feel to some of the Slavic and Baltic groups, as opposed to “Paganism,” which is associated with Wicca and witchcraft, whose kinship with autochthonic CEE forms is less obvious. Therefore, while “heathen” does not operate in most local languages, it is frequently selected as an English translation of other terms, such as the Russian Rodnoverie or Ukrainian Ridna Vira, which reject the term “Pagan” and its cognates.

YAZYCHNIK Another family of words for Pagan does not appear in English or other Western European languages, but is the dominant word for this notion in modern Eastern Slavic languages: yazychnyk (Ukr) or yazychnik (Rus, Bel). It is also found in some modern South Slavic languages (Bul: ezychek), as well as in obscure archaic forms like the old Serbian jeziček. All these words come from a Proto-Slavic root meaning “tongue” in both senses: the body part and language. In Old Church Slavonic, the word came to have an additional sense of the tribe or nation that speaks a particular language, and then “Gentile” in translations of the Bible.12 Especially in Eastern Slavic languages, existing cognates of “pagan” such as pohan (Ukr) and poganin (Rus) came to signify a generic uncleanliness and inedibility in modern use—in Ukrainian, simply “bad”—making any religious sense of that word archaic or obsolete.13 Therefore, the most accepted translation of “a Pagan” into Russian would be Yazychnik, and the adjective would be yazycheskii. On the whole, forms of Yazychnik suffer from the same problems that both “Pagan” and “heathen” face in terms of being a fundamentally negative category of not-Christian, not-us. However, parallel to the way that “Pagan” can be rehabilitated by attending to its sense of countrysidedweller who is close to Nature, so also Yazychnik can be rehabilitated by understanding it as a faithful keeper of the original language-tribe. In Eastern Orthodox Churches, Yazychnik also takes on many of the same negative connotations associated with the Roman Catholic use of “pagan,” such as when figures like Patriarch Kirill of Moscow speak of the conflicts and suffering inflicted upon Russian families caused by the “godless paganism” of modern urban life.14 Across all the Slavic languages, the root retains its meaning of “language,” the notion of “those who speak an intelligible language”—that is, us—being a powerful one for self-definition. The ethnonym Slavs (Mac: Sloveni, Rus: Slavyane, Pol: Słowianie) is itself most likely derived from “those who have words,” related to the Proto-Slavic root *slovo meaning “that which is heard.”15 Foreigners—that is them—are “those who cannot speak,” and this is expressed in the exonym for Germans in

many Slavic languages (Rus: Nemtsi, Pol: Niemcy), which is quite close to corresponding words for “mute” (Rus: nemoi, Pol: niemy). The common term for Eastern Orthodox Christianity (Bul, Rus: Pravoslavie, Ser: Pravoslavlje, Ukr: Pravoslav’ya) means “correct praise,” a rough translation of Greek: orthodoxos “correct belief”, which some groups interpret as an ancient Pagan word for their own religion, meaning either “right worship” or “praising the truth” that was appropriated by Christianity.16 Forms of yazychnytstvo (Ukr) have been borrowed into Western Slavic languages from Eastern models as alternatives for more common cognates of “Pagan.” For example, some Czech and Slovak groups use Jazyčnictví/Jazyčníctvo to describe their modern practices, although they do not use it to describe ancient religions.17 While not a common strategy in Western Slavic languages, this is similar to some CEE groups borrowing words like heathen in order to use a word with no local connotations at all. To contemporary ears accustomed to Eastern European use, Yazychnik and, to a lesser extent, “Pagan” cognates in Central European languages still seem to be making much rawer and more radical-sounding statements than “Pagan” does in twenty-first-century English. While mainstream adherents have increasingly sought to avoid such words in their search for legitimacy, some of the more alienated participants at the fringe intentionally select a shocking language of rebellion. On Russian-language Internet chats the term Yazychnik is now sometimes espoused by far-right skinheads and black metal fans.18

NEUHEIDENTUM/NEOPAGANISM/NEOYAZYCHESTVO In CEE languages the term “Neopaganism” is neither primarily an English borrowing, nor an especially recent coining. By the mid-1930s, the terms “Neopagan” and Neuheidentum had been applied to groups like Jakob Wilhelm Hauer’s Deutsche Glaubensbewegung (the German faith movement) in Germany and Jan Stachniuk’s Zadruga in Poland, usually by outsiders.19 Some individuals enthusiastically embraced Neuheiden for themselves before the war, but on the whole, most of the communities neither actively supported the term, nor did they protest that the name itself was inappropriate. The German Neopagans were discussed worldwide, and while the Polish groups were considerably less visible, they were discussed as Neopaganism in French, Czech, and Latvian newspapers of the time. However, the term had a variety of definitions and continued to be sometimes pejoratively applied to a very broad range of phenomena. As one Polish observer wrote about German Neopaganism in 1936: Under the umbrella term Neopaganism (neopoganizm), and here one does not need to think exclusively or even primarily about the worship of Wotan, we should understand those numerous and diverse splinters … [including] ancient Atlantic-Nordic faith, cosmic Christianity, and so forth.20 For modern believers, the prefix “neo-” can be a divisive issue.21 It can mean any of three things: (1) something completely new (neologism, neonatal, neophyte); (2) the most recent period of a continuum (neolithic, neontology, neoliberal); or (3) a return to something older after some sort of pause or decline (Neo-Platonism, Neo-Gothic, Neo-Classicism). The prefix “neo-” is not especially common when describing religions, but examples such as Neo-Charismatic Christian Churches and Neo-Orthodox Judaism can be found. When applied to philosophy and religion it usually refers to the sense of return rather than the invention of something entirely new.

The function of “neo-” that is so attractive to etic scholars is that it allows us to distinguish between one set of phenomena—the unselfconscious, indigenous, pre-modern worldview of an ancient or early medieval tribe that was inexorably built into its status quo and received as tradition by its practitioners—and another set of phenomena—a selfconscious new religious movement of people who find themselves challenging the status quo. The use of two descriptive sets does not require that there be no continuity between them. Many Neopagan practitioners, however, wish to minimize or eliminate the division between “what was then” and “what is now”. A small number of authors in CEE have made a point of endorsing the neo- prefix as an essential part of their identity. Maciej Czarnowski, who participated in pre-war Zadruga and who was a key figure in the postcommunist rebirth of the Polish milieu, felt that it expressed the reformed nature of his religion—for example, freedom from superstition and the lack of animal sacrifices—and the embrace of a scientific worldview unknown to the ancient Pagans.22 This line of thought was followed closely by the younger generation of followers, so that Igor Górewicz could write (in praise of the word neopogaństwo) that while his religion has ancient roots, it has also been changed by new scientific knowledge and new social circumstances.23 Throughout the 1990s, across the CEE region, the term Neopaganism (including forms like Russian “Neoyazychestvo”) was the most frequently observed endonym until it was partially eclipsed by others in the 2000s. In the English-speaking world, words such as “contemporary” or “modern” have been proposed to avoid the possible offense that some have found with “neo-.” CEE scholars who read and participate in these discourses have slowly started to introduce translations of these terms into CEE scholarship. In late 2011, this has not yet become either widespread or met with a receptive audience among CEE religious communities. These words do not remove the most locally unwanted associations of other parts of the term and solve only lesser problems.24 However, at the level of adherents, increasing contact with Englishlanguage media, the availability of international communication technology, and the efforts of organizations like the Pagan Federation

International to encourage their preferred terms in CEE could cause the neo- prefix to fade from use over time, while retaining Pagan. In sharp contrast to the debate around the prefix “neo-,” Englishspeaking authors rarely question the suffix “-ism.” When looking at CEE languages we see immediately that the “-ism” is not especially common. Many words for religions can be found with this suffix (Pol: Judaizm, Protestantyzm, Szamanizm, Bahaizm), but other religions traditionally take other endings (Pol: Chrześcijaństwo, Prawoslawie, Islam). The Latin for this suffix, borrowed from ancient Greek, was -ismus, and meant simply the practice of something. Thus, Judaism meant that which is practiced by the Jewish people and the paganismus of Slavs or Magyars the Pagan practices that those peoples performed. As an increasing number of new religious and philosophical movements popped up, such as Lutheranism and Calvinism, the suffix came to be associated with new doctrines rather than established practices. From there, it was a small step to the new ideologies of the nineteenth century: individualism, nationalism, socialism, liberalism, capitalism, and so on. In consequence, “‘-Ism’ (as a noun), ‘-ismatic’ and ‘-ismatize’ (as adjective and verb respectively) were devised to reprehend the phenomenon.”25 The traumatic experience that the peoples of CEE have suffered at the hands of such isms as Stalinism and Nazism no doubt have helped to give such words a rather cold ring in local ears. Recent neologisms such as Hungarian Orbánizmus and Polish Kaczoryzm (coined from the names of prominent populist politicians) follow this model as a kind of scare tactic employed by their enemies. Furthermore, many of the modern Pagan movements in CEE would not see themselves as primarily ideological. There is not much debate on the correct doctrines per se that one should hold. When they are discussed, they are frequently framed in terms of maintaining a truly Pagan worldview. Therefore, it is entirely logical that many in CEE consciously or unconsciously reject the “-ism” suffix in favor of local forms that suggest practice and not ideology. In Slavic languages these take forms like the Russian -stvo in Neoyazychestvo (Pol: Neopogaństwo); in Baltic languages, forms like the Lithuanian -ybė in neopagonybė (Lat: pagānība);

and in Hungarian forms like -ság in Újpogányság.26 All these suffixes emphasize praxis, and can be used for secular crafts as well as magical and religious practices. For example, in Ukrainian we find the -svto suffix in crafts like black-smithing (kovalstvo) or archery (luchnitstvo), as well as religious labels like Christianity (Khristiyanstvo) and Paganism (Yazychnytstvo).27 We may also note that there are few, if any, valid forms in CEE use that attempt to mate obviously contemporary ideologies like postmodernism with a -stvo ending. Another factor weighing in here is that in many CEE languages the praxis suffixes were well-established on the “pagan” root long before the rise of modern movements, which makes them the euphonic choice when adding prefixes. The sound of the more native suffixes (even if attached to Latinate stems) is also an attractive feature for groups that value their native roots. Some Polish authors have even treated neopogaństwo and neopoganizm as two overlapping but distinct phenomena. In this scheme, the -stwo suffix is attached to the practice of a religion, whereas the -izm suffix is associated with a much broader ideological rebellion against Christianity.28

ETHNIC RELIGION Although the original meaning of the Greek term ethnos was simply a “bunch” (a flock of animals, a crowd of people) without special reference to descent or political cohesion,29 in modern use we ascribe “ethnic” to culturally and linguistically (and often genetically or politically) distinct groups. Close examination of ethnic groups reveals that ethnicity in the modern world is always something of an invented identity based on evolving sets of ideas, images, and symbols. Ethnic culture is a broader term than local culture and has political features.30 In nineteenth- and early twentieth-century use, the phrases “ethnic religion” or “ethnic faith” seem to have been, very much like “Pagan,” defined largely in terms of what they were not: ethnic beliefs were those that could not be qualified as world religions—that is, Christianity, Judaism, Islam, and (perhaps grudgingly) Buddhism and Confucianism. Here, as with “Pagan,” what was once an exonym has been reclaimed and rehabilitated by certain modern individuals and groups in Europe. In their view, the term ethnicity captures morally positive qualities such as antiquity, naturalness, traditionality, authenticity, and uniqueness. The choice of the term “ethnic religion” situates this sort of practice firmly in the context of the national spirit (Herder’s Volksgeist). One of the most visible banner-carriers for the term “ethnic religion” is the European Congress of Ethnic Religions, which had been briefly titled the World Pagan Congress, and was known for many years as the World Congress of Ethnic Religions (WCER). As Michael Strmiska, an eyewitness observer, described their selection of the WCER name in 1998, they rejected “Pagan” and “Heathen” as pejorative. “Native” and “Indigenous” were already associated with other specific peoples engaged in struggles with invading cultures. “Traditional” was judged imprecise. The Congress finally settled on “Ethnic Religions.” The term “ethnic” was viewed with alarm by some of those attending for its possible associations with such disreputable concepts as “ethnic purity” and “ethnic cleansing,” but it was appealing to the majority for its roots in the Greek term ethnos and its associations with the European academic discipline of ethnology, the study of peoples and cultures.31

When adherents talk about ethnic religion, they are not only talking about the religion having an ethnic style or flavor, they are also affirming that religion’s primacy for their ethnicity, nationality, or identity. There is also a strong sense of the special mission of the ethnic religions to be true guardians of the ethnicity’s richness, even on behalf of fellows who do not fully understand or appreciate their efforts. The term “ethnic religion” also suggests that it is a religion more or less exclusive to a particular ethnicity. As Europe becomes increasingly diverse and mobile, a question familiar to Neopagans in melting-pot societies like North America increasingly arises: how exclusive should they be about ethnicity? Many different communities across Europe, not just those associated with ECER, have adopted the label “ethnic religion” as an auxiliary term for explaining what they do, although few outside of the Baltics use it as their primary identification for their more general category of religion. There have also been attempts to combine this notion with other terms, such as speaking of “Ethno-Paganism” or etnorodzimowiercy (adherents of ethnonative faith).32 Some authors have treated “ethnic” and “native” as essentially synonymous, such as when an anonymous author translated WCER into Polish as Kongres Rodzimej Wiary (“the Congress of Native Faith”).33 However, it is clear that they not completely synonymous in the eyes of all stakeholders. There is also a broad range of descriptions that follow the format of “ethnic religion” (Slavic religion, Baltic religion, Magyar religion, etc.) or simply the practice of the Slavs (Slvk: Slovianstvo, Pol: Słowiaństwo).

NATIVE FAITH: RIDNOVIRSTVO, RODNOVERIE, RODZIMOWIERSTWO Since the early 2000s, the concept of “native faith,” closely parallel to “ethnic religion,” has become one of the most important and widespread formulations of a category of related movements, especially in Slavicspeaking countries. Loosely speaking, this term most commonly refers to groups and individuals who practice a Slavic spirituality that acknowledges some form of polytheism or many forms of deity based in a continuation of Slavic traditions of the pre-Christian past, with emphasis on the use of historically and ethnographically reliable sources. The term has a variety of cognates in various Slavic languages (Ukr: Ridnovirstvo, Rus: Rodnoverie, Pol: Rodzimowierstwo, Cz: Rodnověří). On the whole, the two base denotations remain the same across languages: the first is Native (Ridna, Rodnaya, Rodzima, etc.) and the second is Faith (Vira, Vera, Wiara, etc.). The root word selected for the native/indigenous stem is extremely rich in very powerful, related terms. Its Proto-Slavic form would be *rod, and in Slavic languages it is related to terms meaning family (Pol: rodzina), ancestral lineage/kindred (Pol: ród), fellow-national (Pol: rodak), and nation (Pol: naród) among others.34 In some cognate forms (Rus: Rodnoverie, Cz: Rodnověří) it may be possible to parse the name as the faith of the kindred as easily as the native faith. Among eastern tribes of the Slavs, the existence of a deity or spirit called Rod is well attested in the source material, and many modern practitioners of Slavic Native Faith in Russia and Ukraine have interpreted this figure as the patron, ancestor, or hypostasis of the nation or kindred and made him one of the most important figures in their pantheon. Thus, in some cases it may also be possible to read Rodnoverie as the faith of the god named Rod. The overt sense of the second root of the term (vira/vera/wiara, from a Proto-Slavic root *věra) is faith in the popular meaning of “a religion”. It has advantages of euphony and unmistakable Slavic-ness. Its associations with the virtue of faithfulness/loyalty (Ukr: virnist, Rus: vernost, Pol: wierność) are important to those who see themselves as ones who are loyal to the native religion. At the same time, faith in the sense of belief

(associated with “leaps of faith,” fideism, or the requirement to have the “correct belief” in some religions’ soteriology)35 is not an especially central concern of those communities that call themselves Native Faith.36 In many languages cognates may exist on more than one taxonomic level; for example, the Czech Republic may have both a specific organization Rodná Víra (“Native Faith”) and a more general term for a movement called Rodnověří (“Native Faith Movement”). Poland likewise has both a registered religious organization called Rodzima Wiara and a general term Rodzimowierstwo. There do not appear to be any CEE groups calling themselves Native Faith before the Ukrainian Lev Sylenko (1921–2008) started a small publication by the name of Ridna Vira (“Native Faith”) in Canada in 1964. According to Lysenko, Sylenko explained this: “There is a native language, a native hut, and a native school, but so far nobody has ever said, nor written, that there is a Ukrainian Native Faith. This is because there is in Ukraine a foreign faith, brought by the Roman Empire from Asia.”37 After the encouraging reception of his mimeograph periodical, Sylenko founded a religious organization under the name Ridna Ukrayins’ka Natsionaľna Vira (“Native Ukrainian National Faith”) or simply RUNVira with its first official branch in Chicago in 1966.38 Following this foundation, we find other Ukrainian groups naming themselves cognates of Native Faith. After the fall of communism, information about émigré Ukrainian Native Faiths was available to an eager audience in CEE, and not just in motherland Ukraine. New Ukrainian groups in the 1990s, such as those who made up the Ob’ednannya Ridnoviriv Ukrayiny—the Union of Ridnovirs of Ukraine, and who were ideologically further and further from Sylenko’s teachings began to use Ridna Vira. The new portmanteau word Ridnovir (“a follower of Ridna Vira”) had clearly come to represent a broader range of people than Sylenko’s followers, and arose before 1995, probably as an endonym. The next step in creating a name that was applicable to a broader movement seems to have originally been an example of unwelcome academic exonymy. A June 1995 academic conference on the growing movement, sponsored by the Institute of Philosophy of the National

Academy of Sciences of Ukraine, unexpectedly backed out of previously discussed cooperation with Hromada Ukrayins’kykh Yazychnykiv— Pravoslav’ya (“the Gathering of Ukrainian Pagans—Pravoslavia”). The institute also changed the name of the conference to Ridnovirstvo: Vytoky, Techii, Tendentsii (“the Native Faith Movement/practice: Origins, Currents, Tendencies”) in place of the earlier Ridna Vira: Istoriya i Suchasnist’ (“Native Faith: history and Modernity”). In changing the title, the academics had added the small but significant -stvo suffix to the word for the first recorded time, and coined a word which could be applied to a way of life or religion rather than a particular organization.39 At the same time, the term Native Faith was slowly spreading elsewhere among Slavic groups. In the spring of 1996, a Polish religious group registered itself as Zrzeszenie Rodzimej Wiary (“The Association of Native Faith”). A Russian group registered itself in 1997 as Soyuz Slavyanskikh Obshchin Slavyanskoi Rodnoi Very (“The Union of Slavic Communities of Slavic Native Faiths”). The leader of the group, Vadim Kazakov, advocated the use of cognates of Native Faith as a general term in meetings between Slavic groups from different countries at the end of the 1990s.40 Participants at such events returned to their home countries with a new sense of a broader international movement, rather than a scattering of local communities. At the beginning of the twenty-first century, we start to hear the word Rodzimowierstwo in Polish used as a self-description (note the -stwo suffix, making it a closer cognate of Ukrainian ridnovirstvo).41 In 2002, the Bittsevskoe Obrashchenie (“the Bittsa Appeal”) was jointly issued by representatives of six Russian communities making a normative statement for the use of Rodnoverie as the first and foremost name for their movement, while still embracing forms of yazychestvo as a broad umbrella term.42 From that point onwards, across Slavic countries in CEE the Native Faith movement very quickly became the dominant, if not universal, paradigm. Mainstream academic authors such as Ivakhiv (writing in English) and Pełka (writing in Polish) also adopted the Ridnovirstvo/Rodzimowierstwo term in articles published in 2005 as a useful descriptor of a local type which was distinct from those found elsewhere.43

Therefore, between roughly 1993 and 2005, four important processes occurred: (1) the name became available for many communities or organizations to use, (2) it became internationalized across borders and languages,44 (3) it acquired morphological forms that suggested a broader movement, and finally (4) it became legitimized as a frequently preferred form of self-identification for participants in that movement across several countries. Although the ultimate origin of the term lies in the North American diaspora, it is at its base a Slavic endonym that was not borrowed from the West. It also demonstrates that the Russian Native Faith communities, which had been relatively slow starters in the early 1990s, very quickly rose to a respected forefront position among the other Slavic movements by the early 2000s. The spread of the term also demonstrates some very interesting aspects of cross-border communication between groups in CEE. Most obviously, both the freedom to travel across international borders and new technological innovations like the Internet allowed ideas to move rapidly across receptive audiences in the region. More subtly, in spite of many serious disagreements and internal power struggles, there is a degree of solidarity and cooperation across countries in working toward establishing and maintaining a kind of brand for their religious tradition. Although cognates of Native Faith are primarily found in Slaviccentered movements, we note the presence of a Baltic Prussian form: prusiskas seimiskas druwis (“Prussian Native Faith”). Others may follow in the future. As the term Native Faith has come into common use in Slavic languages, there have also been questions about its borders. When speaking a language like Polish, is it appropriate to refer to Romuva in Lithuania as Rodzimowierstwo litewskie (Lithuanian Native Faith)? The authors have heard such usage applied without protest. Furthermore, what is to be made of movements such as Druidry, which have also been described as Rodzimowierstwo celtyckie (Celtic Native Faith) by Polish informants in fieldwork, when modern Druidry arrives in areas where Celtic settlement is not known to have occurred in significant numbers? Wicca and witchcraft pose another interesting test case. Some Wiccans may make claims of fidelity to ancient lineages, but the concepts of native-ness and ethnicity are clearly not central to that religion. Many

followers of Native Faith in CEE countries find it expedient to retain a category of Neopogaństwo (“Neopagan movements,” a broader umbrella category) that is not Rodzimowierstwo (Native Faith), a more restricted category. On the whole, this seems to be the dominant paradigm in the Slavic countries as we write.

RECONSTRUCTIONIST Finally, we would like to briefly consider terminology applied to CEE movements from outside, but which has notably not yet made much impact internally. Various forms of “Reconstructionist” (Reconstructionist Neopaganism, Reconstructionism, Recopaganism) have been applied to groups found in CEE. It has been a convenient term for authors such as Piotr Wiench and Michael Strmiska to use to describe the CEE milieu to outsiders. It is often set in contrast to the eclectic members of the broader family. The word Reconstructionism implies a known template in the past which fell into ruin or abeyance and which can now be reconstructed. The notion that modern groups should maintain a recognizable tie with known ancient religions is a very strong one in CEE. Authentic sources are a major concern. However, some of the groups in CEE, such as Romuva or Dievturi, are inclined to see their project as a kind of repair and revival, rather than a complete reconstruction. In their opinion, quite a large percentage of the old religion has been continued in the living folk tradition and is available to be practiced again. Many in CEE are equally concerned with legitimately continuing forwards, rather than risking being a simulacrum or simulation of a moment in the past. In addition, the word “reconstruction” itself is deeply problematic for many CEE communities because it is already taken by a somewhat related phenomenon that most feel a need to keep scrupulously separated. The hobby that is usually called “historical re-enactment” in English, is often called some cognate of “reconstruction” in CEE languages (Rus: Istoricheskaya rekonstruktsiya, Cz: Historická rekonstrukce, Pol: Rekonstrukcja historyczna, Lit: Istorinė rekonstrukcija). This hobby consists in acting out faithful copies of specific historical periods or historical events, especially battles, most often in front of an audience. Therefore it is a kind of spectacle where an ancient rite might be acted out for the purpose of educating an audience of schoolchildren about history, rather than praising and supplicating a receptive audience of the gods and spirits of the tribe. All across CEE there is a lot of overlap between the reenactment hobby and the modern Pagan movements, and some of the same

people may at times be performing for the gods and at other times for the tourists, but that merely makes the subtle differences between those activities loom all the larger in their eyes. To apply the name reconstruction to a sincere religious act would seem impious to many. Therefore, forms of that word are simply not available for use in those languages.

CONCLUSION We have seen how words like Pagan can be intertwined with complex but important narratives in different cultures. Even the questions of appropriate prefixes and suffixes applied to such a word can be caught up in bigger issues of real concern to the communities in question. We have also seen that sometimes words that are accepted by one set of communities may be set aside by another in their search for the most adequate self-description. Among the Slavic countries of CEE, one of the most powerful has been the concept of Native Faith. It is already showing some signs of being applicable beyond its original Slavic context, and we may find it spreading further abroad. One of the bigger issues illustrated in these sets of words is one of CEE’s place in the global modern Pagan movement. The remarkable increase in international contacts in the twenty-first century is clearly something of a quantum leap for the movement. Will the ethnic religions and native faiths of CEE find themselves accepting more words, concepts, and paradigms from the large and well-established networks that thrive in the Anglosphere? Will the modern Pagans of Western Europe, North America, and Australasia be receptive to borrowing words, concepts, and paradigms from CEE? What kinds of compromise or cooperation are available? These changes to vocabulary will never be the most important issue for the movement, but they are a kind of window into bigger issues of shared identity and community solidarity.

NOTES 1. We focus in this chapter on the most salient terms that have crossed national boundaries, meaning that the Slavic linguistic group dominates smaller ones such as Finno-Ugrians and Balts. This is not a normative acceptance of Slavic terminology, but recognition that an exhaustive survey of every term in the region would be impossible in the space available. 2. For more details, see Robin Lane Fox, Pagans and Christians: In the Mediterranean World from the Second Century ad to the Conversion of Constantine (London: Viking, 1986), 30–33. 3. The Primary Chronicle version, of course, is not a literal quotation from the tenthcentury queen, but reflects the use of a twelfth-century OCS chronicler. In this context “pogana” is a reference to her religion. In early Eastern Slavic use the term “poganyi” was often used for an ethnic or cultural outsider (a usage similar to that of the word “paganos” in Byzantine Greek from whence it was presumably borrowed). Simon Franklin, Writing, Society and Culture in Early Rus, c. 950–1300 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002), 259–60. 4. For example, “et paganismus Sclavorum ibi destrueretur”; Adalbert, “Vita Henrici II Imperatoris” in Georg Heinrich Pertz, Monumenta Germaniae Historica, vol. IV (Hanover: Hahn, 1841), 796. 5. Samuel Bogumił Linde, Słownik języka polskiego [Dictionary of the Polish Language], (Warsaw: Drukarnia XX. Pijarów, 1811), 839. 6. Hutton’s account also makes reference to some German authors who influenced the British conception. On the four narratives, see Ronald Hutton, The Triumph of the Moon: A History of Modern Pagan Witchcraft (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999), 5–11, 11–17, 17–20, and 20–30, respectively. 7. Adrian Ivakhiv, “Nature and Ethnicity in East European Paganism: An Environmental Ethic of the Religious Right?” Pomegranate 7(2) (2005), 195– 8, 204–16. 8. Hutton discusses the British case of the search for pagan survivals in folklore in a separate chapter. Hutton, The Triumph, 112–13ff. 9. See Sara Pons-Sanz, “Anglo-Scandinavian Trade or Paganism? OE ‘Hæðen’ in the First Cleopatra Glossary,” Modern Language Review 101(3) (2006), 625–6. 10. The archeologist Andrej Pleterski has shown that this mythicization is most likely due to waves of migration of different peoples, the Ajdov representing the newcomer Slavs’ perception of the indigenous Vlachs. Andrej Pleterski,

11. 12.

13. 14.


16. 17. 18.


20. 21.

22. 23.

“De Sclavis Autem Unde Dicitis: Slovani in Vlahi na ‘nikogaršnjem’ ozemlju Istrskega zaledja,” Acta Histriae 13(1) (2005), 114, 136–7. See Chapter 12 of this volume. Pavel Yakovlevich Chernykh, Istoriko-Etimologicheskii Slovar Sovremennogo Russkogo Yazika [Historical-Etymological Dictionary of the Modern Russian Language], vol. I (Moscow: Izdatelstvo Russkii Yazik, 1999), 468. Ibid., 47. “Sermon for 17 December 2010,” Interestingly, this sermon was delivered largely in response to the murder of a Russian, Egor Sviridov, at the hands of ethnic Muslims from the Caucasus region. Some have preferred to derive the ethnonym most directly through a different development from exactly the same root meaning “those who are well spoken of”; that is, the Slavs are those who are “praiseworthy” or “glorious.” See Wiesław Boryś, Słownik etymologiczny języka polskiego (Krakow: Wydawnictwo Literacki, 2005), 557–9. Less popular theories include the related meaning of “those who praise” (i.e. those who share the same gods). Adrian Ivakhiv, “In Search of Deeper Identities: Neopaganism and ‘Native Faith’ in Contemporary Ukraine,” Nova Religio: The Journal of Alternative and Emergent Religions 8(3) (2005), 21. See Interestingly, this is a reversal of the situation up to the end of the 1990s in Russia, when forms of yazychestvo were more frequently accepted by the more mainstream groups like the Circle of Pagan Tradition, while the more radical and nationalist Union of Slavic Communities generally opposed it. See Wilhelm Jakob Hauer, Karl Heim, & Karl Adam, Germany’s New Religion (New York: Abingdon Press, 1937), and also the press release from Katolicka Agencja Prasowa, 1939, as quoted and commented on in Zadruga 3(2) (1939), 26–7. Leon Halban, Religia w trzeciej rzeszy [Religion in the Third Reich] (Lviv: Towarzystwo Naukowe, 1936), 18. In Hungarian the prefix can also appear as “Uj-” (újpogány) and in Estonian as “Uus-” (Uuspagan). In the Baltic and Slavic languages the prefix remains “Neo-” even when applied to other roots (Ukr: neoyazichnitstvo; Pol: neopogaństwo; Lit: neopagonybė). Maciej Czarnowski, “Terminologia zadrużna” [“Zadrugan Terminology”], Odala (1997), 28. Igor Górewicz “Odpowiednie dać rzeczy słowo: w sprawie nazewnictwa i kilka wokół niego dygresji” [“To Appropriately Give Things a Word—On the


25. 26. 27.


29. 30. 31. 32.

33. 34. 35.

Subject of Nomenclature and Several Digressions around It”], Odala (1999), 14. In CEE countries, we can find scholarly papers that distinguish postcommunist Neopaganisms from pre-Second World War Neopaganisms with simple phrases such as współczesne neopogaństwo (“contemporary Neopagan practice”). Harro Hopfl, “Isms,” British Journal of Political Science 13(1) (1983), 1, 6– 7. The standard version of the word “Shamanism” in Hungarian is Sámánizmus, but those who prefer the neologism “Sámánság” emphasize the lack of ideology in the praxis. The closest English equivalent would be the suffix “-ry” found in some parallels (“archery,” “Druidry”), but unfortunately although there are obsolete and obscure English forms like “paynimry” and “paganry,” they come across as too bizarre to use as a regular English translation in this case. Polish-language Wikipedia offers popular definitions of each term in separate articles. “Neopoganizm” references the Roman Catholic view that it is a “turning away from the benefits of Christian thought.” “Neopogaństwo” is judged to be a “not very precise collective term for a modern system of beliefs” that included Slavic Native Faith and Wicca, among others. Eric R. Wolf, “Perilous Ideas: Race, Culture, People,” Current Anthropology 35(1) (1994), 1. See, for example Siniša Maleševic, The Sociology of Ethnicity (London: Sage, 2004). Michael Strmiska, Modern Paganism in World Cultures: Comparative Perspectives (Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, 2005), 14. See Chapter 14 in this volume. The term etnorodzimowiercy appeared in tandem with ekorodzimowiercy (adherents of eco-native faith) c2006–07. For an example, see f=34&t=281. “Oświadczenie światowego Kongresu Rodzimych Wiar” [“Declaration of the World Congress of Ethnic Religions”], Odala 4 (1999), 41. Interestingly, the form selected for Polish, “rodzima” (native), is a relatively late linguistic development of the early nineteenth century. Its more archaic form “rodna” was closer to Ukrainian and Russian. In English, to some extent we may be looking at something similar when “spirituality” (often internal and non-institutional) is a preferred category for Neopagans in place of “religion” (often external and institutionalized). Words roughly equivalent to “spirituality” (Pol: duchowość, Rus: dukhovnost) have not been as prominent in the self-definitions of CEE Neopagans.

36. There are a number of less common forms which use the root for “faith” together with other elements: Old Faith (Pol: Starowierstwo), Slavic Faith (Pol: Słowianowierstwo), National Faith (Pol: Narodowierstwo), Gottgläubigkeit (Pol: Bogowierstwo), and even a term for individuals with very strong original views: Own Faith (Pol: Własnowierstwo). Narodowierstwo and Rasowierstwo (Race Faith) can be pejorative for those who dwell too exclusively on those topics. 37. Svitoslava Lysenko, Uchytel Sylenko: Yoho rodowid, zhyttya, i vira v Dazhboha [Teacher Sylenko: His Genealogy, Biography, Belief in Dazhboh], (Kyiv: RUNVira, 1996), 6. It is possible that the term Ridna Vira might have been at least partially influenced by the Native American Church (founded in 1918), which emphasized Native American tradition in the face of oppression from colonizers. Stefański claimed to have selected the name Rodzimy Kościół Polski (Native Polish Church, registered in 1995) on the model of the Native American Church without conscious borrowing from Sylenko. Lech Emfazy Stefański, Rodzimy Kościół Polski (Warsaw: RKP, 1995), 3. 38. Ivakhiv, “In Search of,” 12. 39. The subsequent article in the Svaroh magazine (published by the slighted Pravoslav’ya group) about these events does not seem to take the neologism seriously at all. Ridnovirstvo remains in ironic quotation marks and is clearly rejected, but they do not devote any space to an explanation. The article addresses the general affront of being disregarded as stakeholders in the academic study of themselves. Anatoliy Pochinok, “Ridna Vira chy ‘Ridnovirstvo’?” Svaroh 2 (1995), 3–5. 40. The importance of the broad international scope of Kazakov’s vision of Native Faith was later expressed by Polish participants at those meetings (personal communication, Wszebąd, 2011). 41. Recent discussions (2011) with the younger range of participants (18–24 years old) in Polish Rodzimowierstwo show that at least some of those are not aware of the still-recent origin of the term, although older participants easily remember when it was not yet in use. 42. See 43. For example, Adrian Ivakhiv, “The Revival of Ukrainian Native Faith,” in Modern Paganism in World Cultures: Comparative Perspectives, Michael Strmiska (ed.) (Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, 2005), 223–4; Ivakhiv, “In Search of,” 16; and Leonard Pełka, “Rodzimowierstwo słowiańskie: Materiały do bibliografii” [“The Slavic Native Faith Movement: Material for a Bibliography”], Nomos: Kwartalnik Religioznawczy 51–2 (2005), 137. 44. When writing about a single country in English, it is easy to use a local term, such as “Ukrainian ridnovirs.” However, it is obviously problematic to write of “Polish, Ukrainian, and Russian rodnovers” (that is, the Russian term

applied to all three nationalities), and translations into English can be wordy and awkward: “Polish, Ukrainian, and Russian adherents of Slavic Native Faith.”



The overtly Neopagan movements that proliferated across the region of Central Europe in the first four decades of the twentieth century did so in a way that must have seemed surprising to many observers, like the sudden appearance of mushrooms after the rain. They appear in Germany by 1907, in Lithuania by 1911, in Poland by 1925, in Latvia by 1926, and so on. In historical perspective, however, we can see that the spores of these movements had been sown long before and that their ideas and ambitions had been developing in fertile soil for over a century. We can roughly divide the stages of development as follows: (1) a stage of “rediscovery” in which Central European nations sought out their nearly forgotten ancient histories and folkways; (2) a stage of “revaluing” in which the ancient became valued alongside the modern, and the “folk” became valued alongside the cosmopolitan; and only then (3) a stage of “re-Paganizing” in which some individuals began to value native Pagan religious practices and ideas more highly than imported Christian ones, and thereby embarked on a journey toward the Neopaganisms found in Europe today. Most of the chapters in this volume are focused exclusively on the third stage of development and what came after. This chapter, however, seeks to trace the development of the first two stages, leading up to the moment when the first Neopagan groups broke ground. While similar processes occurred across the region, this article will focus primarily on the example of the Polish movements. Interest in “Slavic” culture among Poles intensified at the turn of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, at a time when many European nations began to look for their identities and the origins of their existence as a nation. This phenomenon was particularly strong in those states which

had once been significant but were now broken apart or enslaved (such as Germany, Scotland, or Poland). The situation of Poles was particularly difficult in this period. By 1795, the partitions had left all of the Polish territories under Russian, German, or Austrian rule. Whatever might have been termed Polish “national culture” at the turn of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries was fundamentally weak, either dominated by influences from Western Europe or beholden to the outdated and discredited fashion for “Sarmatism.”1 On the whole, it led to an uncomfortable sense of Poles being a lesser nation. Patriotic intellectuals faced a series of difficult questions: Around what should Poles construct their nation? What would a distinctly Polish culture contain? Where did the people known as Poles come from? One of the most influential answers to these Polish questions came from abroad, from the Slavic Arcadia posited by the German philosopher, Johann Gottfried Herder (1744–1803). Herder significantly influenced the development of the idea of Nation (Volk) and the history of culture. He captured the history of mankind as stages in the evolution of nature, each being characterized by the progress of reason and justice in some way. He advanced the hypothesis that every nation brings its own contribution to the development of “human nature” and the time of the Slavic nations, in his opinion, was just coming. The so-called “Slavic chapter”2 from Ideas for the Philosophy of History of Humanity (1784–91) had a massive impact on Slavophiles from Central and Eastern Europe. It contained a seminal Arcadian vision of a Slavic land and culture inhabited by an archetypical Slav, a hospitable, gentle, and submissive peasant.3 It also declared Herder’s conviction that this Arcadia would soon return and set the example for the whole of Europe: The wheel of changing Time, however, revolves without ceasing; … these nations… will at length awake from their long and heavy slumber, shake off the chains of slavery, enjoy the possession of their delightful lands from the Adriatic sea to the Carpathian mountains, from the Don to the Muldaw, and celebrate on them their ancient festivals of peaceful trade and industry.4

Herder also called for further investigation into the ancient history of the Slavic nations and urged ethnographers to make an effort to collect “the continually decaying remains of their [Slavic tribal] customs, songs, and traditions.” 5 With this statement, Herder started in motion the first stone of what would become an avalanche of interest in Slavic culture that rolled unchecked through the whole length of the nineteenth century. This torrent of interest in Slavic affairs can be loosely subdivided into two overlapping and non-exclusive streams of thought: “Slavophilia” which was primarily a cultural movement, and “Pan-Slavism” which was an ideology with overtly political ramifications. Both looked backwards in time to a dimly remembered moment of unity before the scattering of Slavic tribes took place, and they desired to see the old unity returned. If such a historical moment was to be found, it was clearly before the various forms of Christianity had been adopted by the Slavic nations. Slavophilia is a movement emphasizing the Slavic portions of national heritages.6 Bernard Piotrowski noted Slavophilia’s passion for “dissemination of the knowledge, often in an imaginative, magnified, and exaggerated form, of everything that is of Slavic origin.”7 Slavophilia is often narrowly treated as an “alternative culture relative to the West, based on proven, indigenous patterns, and which valued that which is local and grown from centuries of experience above that which was brought from outside and received by imitation.”8 Slavophilia has often embraced visions of the re-connection of the scattered Slavic tribes into a single shared culture. Pan-Slavism is a closely related ideology which calls for closer political cooperation, either in the form of semi-formal patronage and protection of smaller and weaker Slavic peoples by those who are larger and stronger, or by formal unions in federations or unified states. At times, however, PanSlavism could be a vehicle for imperialistic territorial expansion. Such maneuvers could also have a religious component, such as the famous Russian declaration at the 1867 Moscow Conference that any Slavic unity must be based on conversion to Russian Orthodox Christianity. Slavophilia and Pan-Slavism were not developed in any single country. Ideas that were developed in one place were quickly distributed to likeminded intellectuals elsewhere, cementing the perception that the

Slavs represented a single people who were only temporarily kept apart. It began to develop in the southern reaches of Central Europe first, in Slavic territories under Hapsburg and Ottoman control. Early Slavophiles like the Slovaks Ján Kollár (1793–1852) and Pavel Jozef šafárik (1795–1861), and the Czech František Palacký (1798–1876) were highly influential on their successors in Poland.9 Of special importance for the Polish Slavic movement was the work of Towarzystwo Przyjaciół Nauk (“the Society of Friends of Science”),10 whose members undertook investigations of ancient Slavic history, mythology, and religion. Stanisław Staszic (1755–1826) was the main ideologue of the society and the most active propagator of the Slavic movement.11 In his 1815 work Myśli o równowadze politycznej Europy (Thoughts on Political Equilibrium in Europe) he went so far as to advance the hypothesis that the ancient tribes of Europe—the Greeks, Romans, Teutons, and Slavs—had been superior to the modern Christian nations which arose from them. The society also studied previously neglected folklore. According to the axiom of Wawrzyniec Surowiecki (1769–1827) “in the customs and the oral works of the nation, the relics of pre-Christian times have been preserved.”12 The Society of Friends of Science laid the foundations for the broader Polish Slavic movement and the study of Ethnography in Poland. It also prepared the ground for the striking “wild man” figure of Adam Czarnocki (1784–1825), better known by his nom de plume Zorian DołęgaChodakowski,13 whose controversial manifesto did not find support among the Polish academic elites, but inspired novelists, artists, and Neopagans for the next two centuries. In his 1818 pamphlet O SławiańszczyŻnie przed chrześcijaństwem (About the Slavs before Christianity) Chodakowski concentrated on the ancient religious feelings of the Slavs, seeking in them the soul of the nation. In the opinion of the historian of Polish literature Maria Janion, he introduced into Polish culture many of its “important hallmarks of Romantic otherness: Slavic-ness, Paganism, anti-latinization, northernness.”14 He also introduced the conviction of a duality of culture in Poland, a native Slavic culture and an imported Latin culture, which would later become an important trope in Polish literature and art as the notion of “Two Civilizations.”15

He advanced the hypothesis that the original homeland of the Slavs was near “Indego Stan/Indostan,”16 which the Slavs left in the sixth century in order to occupy almost half of Europe. The Slavs, according to Chodakowski, had always been a single nation speaking a single language.17 Their inborn virtues, such as simplicity, politeness, cheerfulness, hospitality, and sincerity gained them the admiration of neighbors, but “war for the assurance and continuation of existence”18 was not unknown to them. The indigenous Polish culture which had survived in folk culture was not going to be found in cities or libraries. Its uniqueness required different methods of investigation: One must go and crouch under the thatched roof of a villager in some faraway spot, rush to his feast, his games, his various adventures. There, in the smoke that rises over your heads, the old rites still coil, the old songs play on, and in the simple steps of a dance you can hear the names of old, forgotten gods.19 In spite of his aristocratic birth and literary connections, for much of his adulthood Chodakowski wandered homeless and often penniless throughout the countryside as a “wild man” undertaking archeological and ethnographic field research marked by great enthusiasm but sloppy methodology. The first publication from his large collection of folk songs was not printed until several years after his death. Chodakowski himself not only studied pre-Christian history but even described himself as a Pagan in his letters.20 He was perhaps the first person in Central Europe since the fifteenth century to dare to publicly declare that the medieval Christianization of the Slavic tribes had been a mistake, bringing only division and strife: Woe to us! We have suffered too long in these errors! …the future will show that from that early pouring of water upon us, all of our characteristic features began to wash off, it weakened our spirit of independence on many fronts, and trained us to follow a foreign model, and in the end we became alien unto ourselves.21

Chodakowski believed that the only remedy for the current state of the Slavs was to rescue, collect, and disseminate the ancient Slavic material from folk songs and customs and to make a conscious attempt to base future development of national culture on those.22 Chodakowski’s ideas fell on particularly fertile ground in the person of Joachim Lelewel (1786–1861), who was both an influential historian of early Polish history and a leader of the left wing of the sejm of the “Congress Kingdom,” a Polish puppet state of the Russian Empire.23 Lelewel saw ancient Slavic society as an early democracy (gminowładztwo) and the ancient Slavic religion as a model of progressive nineteenth-century thinking. Following the sixth-century authority Procopius closely, Lelewel declared that the Slavic religion was a philosophical monotheism and that all of the later “superstitions and strange stories” were largely the fault of Christianity. Slavic polytheism was “discovered” by narrow-minded chroniclers and scholars who were searching for analogues to familiar classical Greek and Roman mythology.24 The idols that they assigned to separate gods were simply multiple portraits of the one Creator. “There are idols; there are images of deity which reveal different aspects, imagined in various forms: but there is no polytheism.”25 The search for authentic folklore and authentic antiquities became increasingly “professional” over the course of the nineteenth century. Oskar Kolberg (1814–90) began his meticulous and exhaustive collection of Polish folklore in 1839.26 In 1841, Jędrzej Moraczewski and Emil Kierski founded Towarzystwo Zbieraczy Starożytności Krajowych (The National Society for the Collection of Antiquities), which aimed to “establish a cabinet of ancient artifacts of the nation and to gather information about ancient mounds and earthworks”27 and also to edit “scattered local tales and folk legends.”28 This enthusiasm for “Slavic antiquities” was not an elitist academic phenomenon. Crowds flocked to see the “find” of the Prillwitz Idols29 and the Mikorzyn Stones.30 The discovery (1848) and transport of the so-called “światowid” from Zbrucz to Krakow (May 1851) also aroused public attention. According to sensationalist newspaper accounts of the day, the Zbrucz idol was interpreted in all three annexations as a symbol of the

former greatness and freedom of Slavs and as a prophecy of forthcoming independence. Tadeusz Reyman wrote: A reborn Pagan deity emerges from the waves of a borderland river … he proceeds to the old royal town in order to find protection in the temple of Polish science and to remind [the people] of the fame and greatness of the Slavs of the NorthWest, as if it were a sign that he had chosen this nation, the heirs to the tribes on which, thousands of years before, at last the wave of militant Germanism was broken. This symbol … truly brings hope for the future.31 These exciting discoveries appeared against a turbulent landscape: Europe was swept by the Springtime Of Nations (1848), when bloody riots and brutal police suppressions erupted across the continent. In this restless atmosphere, the first Slavic Congress took place from 2 to 12 June 1848 in Prague (then still inside the Austrian Empire) with the participation of Czechs, Slovaks, Poles, Ukrainians, Croats, Serbians, Slovenes, Dalmatians, and Russians. The Congress was dedicated to methods for fighting Germanization and Hungarization, and yet it was dominated by pro-Austrian platforms. It was marred by internal conflicts and animosities between individual Slavic nations (such as between Poles and Ukrainians) and between the significant differences in approach to the role of Russia. The proceedings, however, were cut short by the outbreak of the uprising in Prague. The Slavic Congress gave rise to several symbols of Pan-Slavic and Slavophile unity. The Pan-Slavic colors (white, red, blue) symbolizing shared roots, and the official Slavic anthem, “Hey! Slované,”32 were agreed on. The ancient greeting of “Slava!” became popular again between the delegates at the 1864 Congress, and it would live on as a hallmark of the international Slavic movement, and later as part of the early Slavic Neopaganisms of the 1930s.33 But in spite of moments of unity, after the defeat of the ill-fated 1830– 31 November uprising against the Russian Empire, Polish participants in the Slavic movement had already been forced to choose from either a Polishpatriotic faction or a pro-Russian faction.34 In Russia where the

Slavic movement had different connotations,35 the government increasingly used Pan-Slavism for its own imperial aims. Imperial support for Pan-Slavism became official policy during the Crimean war 1853–6. Bronisław Trentowski (1808–69), one of the most prominent philosophers and educators of the nineteenth century, approached the Slavic movement and Paganism differently. He was the main representative of the Polish “national philosophy” and the creator of a system of the “national pedagogy.”36 He united Hegelianism with Polish Messianism in his view of Poland’s future role in Europe. He distinguished three principal periods in European history: the Angelic Kingdom (the leadership of Mediterranean nations), the Satanic Kingdom (the leadership of the Germanic nations, characterized by excessive expansionism and materialism) and a coming “Kingdom of God on Earth” in which the Slavs will create an ethically, socially, and politically balanced new world order.37 Trentowski viewed the Slavic character in utopian categories: great morality, humanitarianism, religiosity, justice, emotional sincerity, and “a belief in continuous progress and, in particular, a great desire for education.”38 Trentowski’s vision of the Slavic religion was densely populated with gods and spirits placed in a philosophical hierarchy of symbolic meanings and correspondences that at times almost approached the mythopoeia of Blake. For example, in Trentowski’s pantheon, we find well-documented deities such as Perun, Radogost, and Dadźbog ranked alongside obscure figures like Harwit, Chason, Baj, Radamas, Lubicz, Godun, Poroniec, Pust, and Dobrogost as the twelve heavenly “foremost gods,” each representing an important virtue. These were attended by a similar list of twelve “foremost” goddesses. Above the “foremost” gods and goddesses were the seven “white” gods, nine “black” gods, and seven “red” gods, who are in turn under the authority of individual aspects of the trinity of gods making up the Trygław, which was a hypostasis of Jesse, the Creator God.39 Trentowski had a more than antiquarian interest in this system, seeing the Slavic “spiritual work” as one of the true paths (along with Freemasonry, but excluding mainstream Christian Churches) to understanding the Creator:

Greetings Wiednostki, Marliwki and Piewki,40 you fine Slavic muses! Lend me for a while your lyre41 and song! You have been affronted and insulted most harshly … Make your spokesman a Pagan for a couple of days, thus to give him life with your own untainted breath! I will give you worship without a shame, because worship of you is also worship toward my beloved nation and tribe! … Old, righteous Perun,42 I feel anger stir within me when I think of the end of your reign in the Slavic sky! … I must fling your thunder onto those infidels and barbarians who brought Christianity upon us. … In the holy name of Christ, whose teaching they did not understand, they … destroyed the spiritual work of millennia and centuries. And for this the Church called them saints of the Lord! … [T]he bequest that Christianity brought to us Poles … enthroned Mysticism in place of Ethics. Miracles and a clutch of mysteries frightened away common sense and clear religious thought. Lenten laments were intoned there where not long before beloved songs and dances rang out. General cheerfulness was transformed into in general sadness… [Already] possessing a faith capable of the highest and most infinite development [at the moment of conversion], two or three centuries later we could have become a historic nation even without Christianity. As it is today, love of the Fatherland and independence would have been the heavenly ideas around which we would gather. Such thought is for us more powerful than notions of borrowed mysticism.43 In his harsh assessment of the negative influence of Christianization on the Polish nation, Trentowski echoes Chodakowski’s Romantic lament for the destruction of native culture. Furthermore, Trentowski’s fear that Roman Catholic mysticism had drawn his nation away from “common sense” seems to presage Max Weber’s Spirit of Capitalism, and Stachniuk’s complaints about wspakultura.44 Trentowski’s declaration that the restoration of the ancient Slavic religion was necessary for the rebirth

of Poland marks him as one of the important forefathers of modern Polish Neopaganism. The Austrian province of Galicia (covering the territory of southern Poland and western Ukraine) became the center of “Slavic aesthetical extremism.” In 1832, it was the birthplace of the literary group “Ziewonia.”45 They took their name from the ancient Slavic goddess Żywia whose patronage implied springtime, awakening, youth, freedom, and liberation.46 And so in his poem “Ziewonija” August Bielowski supplicated the goddess for vital powers for the young poets, powers which might bring them their longedfor freedom: Deity of life! Wake my brothers up, Let the Slavic song be heard in the world And deities of old, and ancestral deeds.47 In turn, Dominik Magnuszewski in his poem “The Introduction” (which, next to a description of “Master Chodakowski,” opens the group’s selftitled almanac Ziewonia) calls: Youth! Raise up the faith of Gods of old; Where the hidden tale still sleeps in stones and ruins, It is our task to dig them out, and return to our Slavic roots.48 The “Ziewończycy,” under the influence of Zorian Dołęga-Chodakowski, embraced his ideas and expanded them in new directions in their own works.49 They returned to the ancient Slavic utopia in order to recover new values for the future. The Ziewończycy were democrats and supporters of peasant enfranchisement, identifying themselves with the ideas of gminowładztwo.50 One of their characteristic features was a love of nature and of the strong, primitive power within it. They often presented journeys into areas of Galicia that were not well known at that point, especially the mountains of the western Carpathians, the Tatras, the eastern Carpathians, and the Chornohora range. For the members of Ziewonia, this last region was of special importance as the home of the Hutsul people, the Slavic tribe which most perfectly embodied Herder’s conception of Naturvolk. 51

However, the Ziewończycy made a break with the stereotypical presentation of the Slav as a peaceable peasant who could be easily enslaved. They wanted strong heroes who knew how to fight and win. They opposed “the ideology of defeat” and looked for a Paganism which would be a tool for winning back their culture and freedom. It was Ryszard Berwiński (1817–79) who in his 1840 work Bogunka na Gople (The Goddess of the Gopla Lake) fully articulated the return to “the Slavic course” and the re-creation of pre-Christian times. He did not belong to the Ziewonia group, although he praised their work. According to him, the Polish fight with the East (Russia) is physical, while that with the West (Germany and Rome) is moral.52 Berwiński lamented that despite successes in fighting off military attacks of the East, Poland accepted baptism and was culturally defeated by the West.53 Berwiński conceded that attempts to restore the old pagan gods are regrettably doomed to frustration: “Żywia, the mother of life, lost her power; the last Marzanna closed her eyes and died alone. So neither life, nor death among you!”54 But on another level, Berwiński could still advocate another, more abstract form of Paganism in his Slavic pantheism—a form that crosses the boundary between ancient and modern: In our land animals, even trees themselves, speak with one another, birds debate and give advice, stork live as families and love their patrimony. Therefore love of the country is as much worship as is here.55 In contrast to Herder, Berwiński saw bravery and wildness as inseparable features of the Polish character, which he symbolized in the figure of Wetza-wet,56 a Pagan god of vengeance who is also the symbol of the future fight for freedom: Thy day of worship is near: the numerous, powerful nation will gather again, in front of your altars, as long ago in better times it used to be. Festive games on your behalf will be organized there! … Seven mouths for drinking the blood which will be there will not be enough. There will not be enough strength in the crowd for screaming thy name—Wet-za-wet!57

The essence of Paganism in Bogunka is the song of Bojan, a work of moving power which is often quoted by contemporary Neopagans (Rodzimowierców):58 Since then when so many beautiful, powerful gods At the will of one to eternal banishment had to go, Woe is us! Woe, my listeners! So many defeated by one—and one will defeat us all! And soon this land will not be our common motherland, It will be seized by one hand, and he who will be lord, As that God who is not with us, but in the heavens high, And thus higher than his people, he shall in his capital stay, Woe to Slavic freedom!59 And he curses: Hunger, wind, fire and flood And all evil weather Shall be unto him who would Disdain his father’s faith! … Die miserably! … The wind take His dust over the world— Die miserably, him who would Disdain his father’s faith!60 But Berwiński himself would later re-evaluate his opinions. After a traumatic two-year stint in jail, a nervous breakdown, and the disenchanting spectacle of inter-Slavic bickering following the Prague Slavic Congress, Berwiński shocked his colleagues with his 1854 work Studia o literaturze ludowej (Researches on Folk Literature), in which he formulated a new thesis about the non-creative character of folk culture and its dependence on ideas drawn from the Church and the aristocracy. Shortly thereafter, he emigrated to Istanbul, where he died in obscurity in 1879. The defection of this fanatic eulogist of the Slavic religion was perhaps the most stark example in the nineteenth century of the disappointment and discouragement that such visionaries felt in the face of society’s seeming lack of response to their Pagan call.

This did not concern Roman Zmorski (1822–67). Pursued by the Tsarist police (with a warrant on his head for his revolutionary political conspiracies), he turned necessity into a virtue and disappeared into longterm folk expeditions. He was particularly fascinated with the Lusatian Sorbs (an island of Slavic culture in Germanic Brandenburg and Saxony), which he thought had retained the themes of ancient Slavic mythology intact because of their isolation from the other Slavic lands. Like Chodakowski in the generation before him, Zmorski embraced his Paganism with unbridled Romantic enthusiasm. Lenartowicz’s report from their expedition to the reputed site of a mountaintop altar to the Black God in Upper Lusatia described Zmorski’s behavior as follows: he lived, he breathed, he felt only in his world; His wooden deities with their tongues hanging out to their belts, his bardic prophecy, and his chivalrous inspirations all came to us not as if by force of poetic imagination, but as billows pouring in from the world of the dead.61 When he reached the sacrificial altar, Zmorski exclaimed: “And what? Wasn’t it worth the climb? It seems to me that I see a golden-haired German being tied to this rock here … Brothers, let us sing the Druid hymn and roll the wheel!” Here [Zmorski] clutched his head, “What an exquisite idea, we will light the sabbat fire to the worship of the old Gods and the old faith!”62 The Tower of Seven Commanders (as well as his May Holiday) was received enthusiastically as “brilliant work,” blending together Slavic Paganism and folklore.63 Here Zmorski employed simple language to reproduce the tone of epic poetry: And in the Bright God’s name,64 under his solar sign, We shall walk again on Earth To raise up His holy worship: To overthrow the bad altars,

to eliminate the bad worshipers— We will go into new wars, new victories and glory.65 Józef Ignacy Kraszewski (1812–87), a prominent and prolific novelist,66 was the author of some of the best-known and most influential works in the Slavic movement. In 1876, already a successful writer, he undertook a program of popularization of Polish history in the form of fiction for a mass audience. His great cycle of twenty-nine historical novels described the whole length of Polish history from the ninth to the eighteenth century. Written largely in exile in Dresden, he drew attention to the external dangers of Germanization, and the internal dangers of class conflict, historically presented as the conflict between strong feudal power and gminowładstwo.67 Kraszewski’s 1876 novel Stara Baśn: powiesc z IX wieku (An Old Tale, A Story From the Ninth Century) was the first link in the cycle. The plot covered the story of the death of greedy Prince Popiel and the unexpected selection of the new Piast dynasty at the postrzyŻenie (ritual haircut) of young Ziemowit. Kraszewski was able to blend village folklore with scraps of historical knowledge and his own imagination to produce convincing images, such as that of Pagan hospitality for a wandering musician and his blessing before the meal: and they gave the first mug into [the old musician’s] hands. “In the old way,” he cried “the first belongs to the Gods. łado! …” And he poured the drink upon the floor. And again he poured more as an offering for the spirits of the haunt, both good and bad, both black and white, that they should not meddle; and the third he poured out for the ghosts of the forefathers that stood invisible at that assembly … On small shells he laid out for them offerings of white bread, and only then, in silence, did he himself start to eat and drink.68 Throughout the book, the author also underlined the contrasts between indigenous Slavic culture and the new customs imported from the West.

Franciszek Ziejka calls Kraszewski one of the greatest pupils of Chodakowski.69 However, although he shows considerable sympathy for the naive charms of the old religion, it is clear that Kraszewski considered Slavic Paganism to be only an early stage in the spiritual development of the nation, with the inevitable and indispensable baptism of Poland soon to rise on the horizon. This situation is portrayed with even greater contrast in his 1877 novel Masław (the fourth in the historical cycle), which retells the story of the historical “Pagan reaction” in 1034–7, when the peasantry rose and burnt the new churches and killed the Christian priests. Although raised at the Christian court, Prince Masław was able to use the revolt to briefly retake the ancestral territory of his Mazovian tribe and rule a Pagan kingdom before the Christian forces rallied and destroyed him. As Janion wrote, the ideological trunk of the work revolves around Kraszewski’s “stark contrast”: Christian knights on one side, and on the other, repulsive Pagan wild-men, demanding plunder and blood … The religious struggle is between the rarefied symbol of the cross and the roughhewn, multiple-headed Pagan idols surrounded by drunken blackness. All sacredness was refused to the Pagan gods, and the cult surrounding them is presented as impoverished and primitive.70 For Kraszewski, the Pagan revolt was not a joyful return to the old, as Chodakowski might have presented it, but a vengeful destruction of the new order. Here Mszczuj, the speaker, arrives on the scene to bring news of the start of the revolt: “Our own people are knocking down the churches, Paganry is returning, and our life hangs on a thread! They’re buying spears and shouting out the old ‘łado!’ and if they catch any of the lordlings, they jeeringly nail him to a cross.”71 But the Latinists who were glorified by Kraszewski for bringing civilized Christianity to Poland were mostly Germans whom the author identified as the main threat to Polish independence. Kraszewski makes the title character expressly link these themes: “We don’t need foreign gods, nor foreign overlords. The Piasts have sold us to emperors and

popes.”72 But in spite of such moments of moral complexity, there is never any real doubt that the “good guys” are the Christians.73 Nonetheless, Kraszewski’s vivid portrait of the doomed anti-hero Masław cemented his reputation as a kind of patron martyr for later Neopagans who wished to overthrow Christianity and return to the old ways. This tension was familiar to many Slavophile and Pan-Slavic authors of the nineteenth century. The unity of the Slavic peoples and the source of their distinctive and ancient Slavic culture lay deep in the Pagan past, a fact which could seem to cast Christianity in the role of the “bad guy” of the story, as a source of fragmentation and foreign domination74. And yet, not many dared to diminish the benefits that Christianization brought to their culture, and even fewer were willing to make an unambiguous declaration for the superiority of Slavic Paganism, and still fewer called for its return. However, few authors could remain indifferent to the problem.

THE IMPORTANCE OF SLAVIC PAGANISM TO ROMANTICISM In the history of Polish literature, the Romantics’ accomplishments loom large—it is usually said that in the nineteenth century “art in Poland” became “Polish art.”75 Poets had such immense influence on the society of the nineteenth century that the greatest were known in Poland by the semireligious title of Wieszcz (Bard). After the printing press, but before the existence of modern mass media, the belles-lettres functioned as the primary vehicle for propaganda, and a talented writer could spread ideas across the whole of society with a single book. In Poland, this was only heightened by the fact that in the nineteenth century, Polish society had no state, no monarchy, no unified school system, no national press, or any of the other things that might hold the nation together. The Slavic movement, including both Slavophilia and Pan-Slavism, took up a large portion of Polish Romanticism. Slavic topics in general met the predilections of Romanticism: historicism, naïve folklore, the fascination with untamed nature, the national character, the instincts of the blood, and the love of freedom. Therefore, we can summarize below some of the cumulative themes which caused the ancient Slavic Paganism to loom so large in the Romantic imagination: 1.


The revaluation of barbarity, the “noble savage,” the Slavic Arcadia: The Romantics distanced themselves from the accomplishments of rigid civilization in favor of simplicity, sincerity, and youth. This freed the Slavs from any inferiority complexes relative to Western Europe and gave them instead a mission to heal the tired and spiritually stunted West.76 Even the rough-hewn wooden idols described in the chronicles matched the current taste better than polished marble. Indeed, a song or story that is found “under thatched roofs” as Chodakowski first put it, is more likely to be true and good than one found in a library. The Slavic catastrophe and Gothic horror: The Romantics often dwelt on the trauma in the Slavic psyche, resulting in images of horror and destruction. For many Romantic writers, the



Christianization of the Slavs was one of the great catastrophes of their history—the loss of their own gods at the hands of an alien religion. Janion claimed that trauma has been with the Slavs since the moment of their baptism, a baptism which was badly accomplished, and which became the source of “a fracture, a humiliation, an infirmity felt for ages.”77 But the surviving Pagan folkways could also be portrayed as mysterious and uncanny. Romanticism is permeated with ruins and wrecks, revenants and undead, incursions which destroy the frames of history. The most prominently “Slavic” Polish poets—Berwiński, Słowacki and Zmorski—revealed a world which was unnerving and a Slavic people who could never really ever escape their bond with their darkest spirits.78 Native Pagan models for social order: The re-discovered (and reimagined) ancient tribal social order allowed Slavs to lay claim to an ancient and legitimate tradition. Slavic Romanticism emphasized the clash between local social equality and strong princes who were often portrayed as brutal foreigners. The wholesome Slav model of community authority (gminowładstwo) was often symbolized by the figure of the poor but generous farmer-king Piast, chosen by the voice of the gods and acclaimed by the people. Prince Popiel—his antithesis—represented the Western European tradition (under Germanic influence) which was bloody and cruel. Even from the lips of a Byronic wild-man like Chodakowski, the message of Polish Romanticism was addressed to the community, the tribe, the nation. The Polish Romantics had little interest in the individual or individualism (so iconic to Western Romanticism), and this included individual paths to the Divine. Polish reconstructions of ancient religion were deeply tied to models for social organization. The sanctification of national character: For many Romantics, the pre-Christian religion represented the wellspring of national character before it was tainted by foreign influence. Knowledge of the Pagan religion was therefore knowledge of the purely Slavic psyche. Conservatives like Kraszewski could accept Paganism as




an important but child-like stage in development, one from which the nation must someday move on. But the radicals, such as Chodakowski and Zmorski, went further and demanded a return to that state. Polish return to Pagan myths and heroes: Old tribal heroes of the Pagan past such as Piast, Popiel, Lech, and Wanda were rehabilitated as national heroes for struggles in the present and future. The ancient Cracovian myth of Princess Wanda, to pick an example, inspired new Romantic poetry of the highest class. The plurality of interpretations is just one of the measures of its value:79 in Norwid’s play Wanda suffered and meekly bore a martyr’s death for Poland, but in Lenartowicz’s poem Wanda was a Slavic Valkyrie who fought with sword in hand to defeat a Germanic invasion. Even historical figures of Pagan revolt such as Masław could return, clothed in new meanings for their nineteenthcentury audiences in the fictions of Krasiński and Kraszewski. Slavic Paganism as a source for philosophy: The interest in Slavic spirituality and the debates on the fundamental character of the Pagan religion often led into philosophical debate. Topics which were discussed included Slavic dualism, monotheism, belief in the immortality of the soul, and the ancient truths which had been with the “Slavic tribe from the cradle.”80 Trentowski’s complex system, with its correspondences of virtues grouped in ranks and hosts, stands out as a spectacular example, but subtler versions can be found, such as Berwiński’s Pantheism. Slavic Paganism as a nature religion: Romanticism reveled in images of wild nature, and Slavic Paganism could offer ready symbols of personified nature: Perun as Lightning, Marzanna as Winter, and Ziewonia as Life herself. In the form of dangerous and unpredictable spirits of nature like topielce and południce, nature could also be linked to Gothic horror. The Romantics incorporated Polish Slavic culture into the circle of Northern cultures, pointing out the gloominess and horror of a land of “rough Pagan Gods and strong people.”81

CONCLUSION The nineteenth century brought Poland painful historical experiences, but at the same time it was the period in which a strong national culture was recreated, preparing Poles for independence in the next century. The Romantic rediscovery and revaluing of the ancient Slavic religion also prepared the way for what would become an organized movement of Neopagans in the twentieth century. The stages that Romanticism went through, the unique personalities of its leading thinkers, and the themes that their works explored, all left their mark on later Neopaganism. Although demand for knowledge about ancient Paganism was high in the nineteenth century, the destruction of the Slavic religion had been unusually thorough, leaving many scraps, but few continuous narratives to tell the Slavic Pagan story. Sciences such as archeology or comparative religion were still in their infancy. In the face of a general paucity of knowledge, the activity of the Romantic writers was essential to present some sort of reconstructed picture of the religion and everyday life of the Pagan Slavs. Poetic sensibility and imagination— sometimes misleading, but sometimes brilliantly insightful—were the tools for the job. In this, the poet was more fit for the task than the historian, because “there, where his field of investigations ends, the philosophy of history worthy of religion begins.”82

NOTES 1. A popular hypothesis declared that the Polish nobility were descended from the ancient Sarmatians from the eastern shores of the Black Sea. The Polish lifestyle that was based on this belief intentionally emphasized exotic Eastern connections. Encyklopedia Popularna PWN (Warsaw: Wydawn. Nauk. PWN, 1996), 759. 2. Johann Gottfried Herder, Outlines of the Philosophy of History of Man (New York: Bergman Publishers, 1966), especially “The Slavian Nations,” book XVI, chapter VI, in 482–4. 3. “For, as they … had among them no hereditary princes addicted to war … many nations, chiefly of German origin, injuriously oppressed them.” Herder, Outlines of the Philosophy of History, 483. 4. Ibid., 483–4. 5. Ibid., 484. 6. See Encyklopedia Popularna PWN, 786. 7. Bernard Piotrowski. “Tradycje słowiańskie Poznania i Wielkopolski w XIX i XX wieku,” in Idee wspólnotowe Słowiańszczyzny, Aleksander Mikołajczak, Witold Szulc, & Bogusław Zieliński (eds) (Poznań: Wydawn. Naukowe UAM, 2004), 33–4. 8. Justyna Kurczak, Historiozofia nadziei: Romantyczne słowianofilstwo polskie (łódź: Wydawn. Uniwersytetu łódzkiego, 2000), 17. 9. Antoni Marszałek. Suwerenność i integracja europejska w polskiej myśli naukowej i politycznej do końca XIX wieku, (łódź: Wyd-wo Uniwersytetu łódzkiego, 2005), 153–5; W. Nawrocki, “Wprowadzenie,” in Romantyzm: Historia literatury światowej w dziesięciu tomach, vol. 6, T. Skoczek (ed.) (Bochnia: Wydawnictwo SMS, 2006), 16–17. 10. Active 1800–32. Czesław Hernas & Julian KrzyŻanowski (eds), Literatura Polska: Przewodnik Encyklopedyczny, vol. 2 (Warsaw: PWN, 1985), 486–7. 11. Staszic was a Roman Catholic priest and scholar. Although never formally defrocked, he ceased fulfilling clerical functions and openly expressed antiChurch opinions. Hernas & KrzyŻanowski, Literatura Polska, vol. 2, 397–9. 12. Ibid., 487. 13. Chodakowski began his rambling folklore expeditions in 1813/14. He was soon surrounded by legend and often appeared in literary works as a character himself—for example, Mistrz [The Master] by Magnuszewski, Przygoda podróŻnika [The Adventure of a Traveler] by Siemieński, or the figure of the ancient bard Zorian in Król-Duch [The Spirit King] by Słowacki. Czesław Hernas & Julian KrzyŻanowski (eds), Literatura Polska: Przewodnik Encyklopedyczny, vol. 1 (Warsaw: PWN, 1984), 138.

Maria Janion, Niesamowita Słowiańszczyzna: fantazmaty literatury (Krakow: 14. Wydawnictwo Literackie, 2006), 49. 15. Franciszek Ziejka, Nasza rodzina w Europie: studia i szkice (Krakow: Universitas, 1995), 109–11. 16. Chodakowski even gave the derivation of word “Inąd” (“elsewhere”) as linguistic evidence of Slavs coming from India. 17. Zorian Dołęga-Chodakowski, O SławiańszczyŻnie przed chrześcijaństwem oraz inne pisma i listy (Warsaw: Państwowe Wydawn. Naukowe, 1967), 20. 18. Ibid. 19. Ibid., 7–78. 20. Janion, Niesamowita Słowiańszczyzna, 55; Chodakowski, O SławiańszczyŻnie przed chrześcijaństwem, 133, 174. 21. Chodakowski, O SławiańszczyŻnie przed chrześcijaństwem, 19. 22. Hernas & KrzyŻanowski, Literatura Polska, vol. 2, 138. 23. Ibid., 555–6. 24. Joachim Lelewel, Cześć Bałwochwalcza Sławian i Polski (Poznań: Nakładem ksiegarni J. K. Żupańskiego, 1857), 9–15. 25. Ibid., 68. 26. Hernas & KrzyŻanowski, Literatura Polska, vol. 1, 456; Stanisław Dziedzic, “Oskar Henryk Kolberg,” in Romantyzm. Historia literatury polskiej w dziesięciu tomach, vol. V, Anna Skoczek (ed.) (Bochnia: SMS, 2006), 307– 13. 27. Franciszek Midura & Andrzej Danowski, “W sukurs zabytkom,” Polskie Towarzystwo Turystyczno-Krajoznawcze, 28. Piotrowski, “Tradycje słowiańskie Poznania i Wielkopolski,” 48. 29. A group of over one hundred figurines supposedly discovered in the eighteenth century (first reported in 1768) in Prillwitz in Mecklenburg, Germany. 30. Mikorzyn Stones—two stones supposedly discovered in 1855–6 in Mikorzyn with the images of Slavic gods and runic inscriptions. 31. Quoted in Artur Cecuła, “światowid ze Zbrucza,” Fakty i Mity 28(540) (15 July 2010), 20. 32. Song written in 1835 by Slovakian poet Samuel Tomašik to the melody of “Mazurek Dąbrowskiego” (the Polish national anthem). It was an anthem of Slovakia (1939–45), Federal People’s Republic of Yugoslavia, Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, Serbia, and Montenegro. 33. See Scott Simpson, “Treść, struktura, i funkcjonowanie polskiego rytuału picia,” in Oblicza religii i religijności, Irena Borowik, Maria LibiszowskaŻółtkowska, & Jan Doktór (eds) (Krakow: Nomos, 2008), 391; Václav Žáček, Slovanský sjezd v Praze roku 1848 (Prague: Nakladatelstvi CAV, 1958), in numerous places, including, 238.

34. Marszałek, “Polskie koncepcje integracji słowiańskiej,” 162. 35. When Slavophilism appeared in Russia after the 1840s it had a conservativeRomantic Russian Orthodox predisposition and was not warmly disposed toward Roman Catholic Slavic countries like Poland. 36. Encyklopedia Popularna PWN, 880. 37. See Piotrowski, “Tradycje słowiańskie Poznania i Wielkopolski,” 38–9. 38. Ibid., 39. 39. Tadeusz Linkner, Słowiańskie bogi i demony (Gdańsk: Marpress, 2007), 20. 40. In Trentowski’s rich mythology, Wiednostki are spirits of knowledge, Marliwki are spirits of storytelling, and Piewki are spirits of song. Linkner, Słowiańskie bogi, 51. 41. Gęśli—an archaic Slavic instrument. 42. God of thunder, in Trentowski a figure of authority and order. 43. Cited in Leonard Pełka, “Idee neopogańskie w filozofii narodowej Bronisława Ferdynanda Trentowskiego,” in Państwo i Społeczeństwo: Neopogaństwo w Polsce VIII(4), Agnieszka Gajda & Jacek Majchrowski (eds) (Krakow: Księgarnia Akademicka, 2008), 25–34. 44. See Chapter 18 in this volume. 45. The members were: August Bielowski, Seweryn Goszczyński, Aleksander (Leszek) i Józef Dunin-Borkowski, Ludwik Jabłonowski, Dominik Magnuszewski, and Ludwik Siemieński i Kazimierz Władysław Wójcickie. 46. Marta Ruszczyńska, Ziewonia: romantyczna grupa literacka (Zielona Góra: Uniwersytet Zielonogórski, 2002), 15. 47. August Bielowski, “Ziewonija,” Haliczanin II (1830), 301. 48. Dominik Magnuszewski, “Wstęp,” Ziewonia II (1839), 8. 49. K. W. Wójcicki even hiked over the country from 1827 onwards. Hernas & KrzyŻanowski, Literatura Polska vol. 2, 627. 50. Anna Witkowska, Ja, głupi Słowianin (Krakow: Wydawnictwo Literackie, 1980), 364–5. 51. Ibid., 49–53. 52. Ryszard Wincenty Berwiński, “Bogunka na Gople,” in Utwory wybrane, Paweł Bukowiec (ed.) (Krakow: Universitas, 2003), 91–3, 96–8. 53. Ibid., 91. 54. Berwiński considered Marzanna to be the deity of death, murrain. Berwiński, “Bogunka na Gople,” 11. 55. Ibid., 19. 56. “Wet-za-wet,” meaning roughly “tit-for-tat”; Berwiński identified him with Rugowit (Rugiewit, Radegast), depicted with seven heads and seven swords. Ibid., 11. 57. Ibid.

58. Stanisław Potrzebowski, Rodzima Wiara [Photocopied Brochure] (Wrocław: Rodzima Wiara, 2006), 8–9. 59. Ibid., 57. 60. Ibid., 71–2. 61. T. Lenartowicz. “Wycieczka do Kletki Czernego Boga,” in Upominek: KsiąŻka zbiorowa na cześć Elizy Orzeszkowej (1866–1891), Eliza Orzeszkowa (ed.) (Krakow: Gebethner, 1893), 358. 62. Ibid., 361. 63. Witkowska, Ja, głupi Słowianin, 406. 64. By which he means the hypothetical deity, Białobóg. 65. R. Zmorski, WieŻa siedmiu wodzów, Warsaw 1860 quoted in Witkowska, Ja, głupi Słowianin, 219–20. 66. Kraszewski also led archeological excavations—see his archeological register Sztuka u Słowian, szczególnie w Polsce i Litwie [Slavic Art., especially in Poland and Lithuania] from 1860. Janion, Niesamowita Słowiańszczyzna, 78. 67. See Hernas & KrzyŻanowski, Literatura Polska, vol. 1, 504–6. 68. Józef Ignacy Kraszewski, Stara Baśn. (Warsaw: Czytelnik 1951), 145. 69. Ziejka, Nasza rodzina w Europie, 110. 70. Janion, Niesamowita Słowiańszczyzna, 106–7. 71. Józef Ignacy Kraszewski, Masław: Powieść z XL wieku (Krakow: Spółka Wydaw, 1877), 23. 72. Ibid., 103. 73. Janion, Niesamowita Słowiańszczyzna, 107. 74. Linkner, Słowiańskie bogi, 43. 75. Bogusław Dopart, “Wprowadzenie,” in Romantyzm. Historia literatury polskiej w dziesięciu tomach, vol. V/1, Anna Skoczek (ed.) (Bochnia: Prowincjonalna Oficyna Wydawnicza, 2006), 32. 76. Witkowska, Ja, głupi Słowianin, 19–20. 77. Janion, Niesamowita Słowiańszczyzna, 15. 78. Witkowska, Ja, Głupi Słowianin, 38. 79. Ibid., 45. 80. See Linkner, Słowiańskie bogi, 19. 81. Ibid., 35. 82. Tadeusz Linkner, Mitologia słowiańska w literaturze Młodej Polski (Gdańsk: Uniwersytet Gdański, 1991), 20.



The scholarly examination of new Russian Paganism tends to follow one of two lines. Some researchers discover Paganism while studying rightwing movements in general. Therefore, they focus on the Russian Neopagans’ political and xenophobic views by analyzing their leaders’ writings. In addition, they study their political activity, including their enrollment in radical political parties and their violent activities toward “others.” Such researchers are naturally uninterested in those groups that do not fit the wider frame of “the right wing.” Others regard Russian Neopagans as a new religious movement from a religious-studies perspective, or perhaps as a youth subculture from a sociological perspective. Therefore, they aspire to cover religious issues: beliefs, rituals, and practices. They are less interested in groups whose activities seem to stray too often into politics or radical ideology, and they may try to define away such groups from the family of religious Neopagans. In this article I focus on the political attitudes and social aspects of the Russian Neopagans’ activity. I also cover the Neopagans’ participation in the political movements and radical violent activity, such as those of violent skinheads and terrorists. The Neopagans themselves usually deny—or at least, downplay— chauvinist, racist, and Nazi attitudes among themselves.1 Nonetheless, in his most recent book, the well-known Neopagan leader Velimir (Nikolai Speranskii) recognized the existence of the right wing, where he includes Valerii Yemelyanov, volkhv (wizard) Dobroslav (Aleksei Dobrovolskii), Vladimir Istarkhov, and Igor Sinyavin, as well as the Union of the Slavic Communities of Vadim Kazakov and the Church of Nav’ and Neopagan skinheads. Yet for him they are not “true Pagans,” because they downplay

religious themes. In addition, he mentions some ȁCleftist Pagans,” such as Anton Platov, Aleksandr Asov, and Aleksandr Khinevich, though noticing that the activities of these Pagans fall mostly outside politics. He also criticizes them by arguing that their interest in the Pagan faith was “distant from the life of their own people.” In his view, the “true Russian Paganism” was centered in the Circle of the Pagan Tradition (CPT) established by himself and his friends in 2002.2 Following Alexey Gaidukov, more nuanced approaches distinguish between national–patriotic, environmental–ecological, and ethnographic– performing groups.3Vladimir Pribylovsky also notices two wings in Russian Neopaganism: a less politicized folklorist wing and a highly politicized national–patriotic wing.4 Yet both researchers point to the loose boundaries between such groups, which are easily and frequently crossed by individual Pagans. Another scholar, Oleg Kavykin, distinguishes between “tolerant” and “less tolerant” Russian Neopagans. At the same time, he emphasizes that both groups are very sensitive about racial issues and the “principle of blood.”5 To put it briefly, the popularity of racialist or racist views does not necessarily encourage an open racial aggression. At the same time, the balance between those Neopagans who are obsessed with racial issues and those who are not is clearly different in Russia than in Western Europe or North America. In the West, the majority of Pagans focus on spirituality and on restoring their lost connections with nature and the cosmos through the application of techniques that affect human psychological states. They typically support democracy, minorities’ and women’s rights, and fight for the maintenance of natural ecosystems. In the West, the right-wing Neopaganisms are the much smaller segment, frequently represented by forms of Nordic Paganism associated with Neo-Nazism and racist attitudes closely connected with the “Aryan idea.” Russian Neopagans vary widely in their political and social attitudes as well. Nevertheless, the politicized and radical views (at both extremes, right wing and left wing) enjoy greater popularity among them than moderate stances. Indeed, though the Russian Neopagans worry about the social and political problems of contemporary Russia, they are more obsessed with collective rather than individual human rights. To be sure, at

the current time the radical groups that participate in politics account for a small slice of the Neopagan movement. They were very active in the stormy 1990s, but the balance between politicized and non-politicized groups changed quickly from the late 1990s onwards, when the number of Neopagan communities grew rapidly. The percentage of politicized groups has sharply decreased as a result of the introduction and the implementation of anti-extremist state legislation as well as the general insignificance of oppositional political parties under the government of President (and Prime Minister) Putin. As a result, during the last ten to fifteen years some political radicals involved in Paganism have left politics per se and began to present themselves and their followers as religious groups. Furthermore, some formerly active Neopagan leaders have changed their strategy. Nowadays, in order to present their views on how to transform Russia, they publish political pamphlets and novels in a fashionable fantasy style. To avoid arrest for an “attempt to stir up national discord” these leaders do not participate in any violent activity themselves. Instead, they informally teach and instruct youngsters, in particular skinheads, and encourage their violent activity. As we will see, a number of young Pagans have been recently detained for terrorist activity. To summarize, first, the politicized Neopagan groups or individual activists occupy themselves with an intensive ideological propaganda, especially on the Internet. Second, ethnic nationalism and racism are subscribed to even by those who avoid political activity. Indeed, from the outset, Russian Neopaganism has been inspired by the search for the Russian identity obsessed with the idea of origin, both in a cultural and in an ethnic–racial framework. This trend was rooted in the final decades of the Soviet system in the broader context of a growth in ethnic selfawareness, an official struggle against “international Zionism,” and a search of a new Russian ideology—initially in a secular form. At that time, while focusing on Russian folklore, the Russian nationalists were more interested in genuine Slavic culture and the glorious feats of the preChristian Slavic ancestors than in any restoration of the Pagan religion.6 The founders of Russian Neopaganism viewed the pre-Christian period as a romantic time when Rus’7 was still unspoiled by the “alien ideology” of Christianity. The new religion was identified as “other,” responsible for all

the misfortunes of Russia. Therefore, a return back to the roots was perceived as liberation from the corruptive influence of the “aliens” and as a way to establish true independence, expressed as “pure culture” and “pure blood.” In this context a struggle for a “clean environment” could contain a racial message as well. Some Neopagan thinkers argue that racism is a “natural, inborn characteristic of any social body,” that it is “unavoidable,” and that it helps to “secure the future of one’s children and one’s people.”8 However, within Russian political discourse, these ideas sometimes have a democratic component and are aimed against the authoritarian state, although they are expressed in xenophobic terms. That is why the primordial ancestors and the glory of the “prehistoric Rus’” are much more important for the Russian Neopagans than for their Western counterparts. And that is why many Russian Neopagan leaders are so obsessed with the restoration of “genuine” Slavic rituals rather than a search for empowering individual psychological practices. This context also explains why one can discover racist overtones even in those Pagan teachings that present themselves as tolerant.

POLITICAL MOVEMENTS OF THE RADICAL NEOPAGANS It is important to distinguish the variety of views and political engagements among the bearers of racist and anti-Semitic attitudes. Firstly, there is a difference between, on the one hand, Neopagan religious communities with Pagan beliefs and rituals and, on the other hand, political movements that refer to Pagan values and use Pagan symbols. For the latter, ethnic Russian nationalism is the actual creed and for them Pagan beliefs and symbols legitimate the implementation of ethnic Russian rule and discrimination against non-Russians. In contrast, other Pagan communities focus on seeking meaningful spiritual experiences, well-being, health, and family happiness. Yet for the more overtly religious communities as well, collective values are much more important than individual ones. They too worry about Russian identity and the fate of ethnic Russians, and they have made a conscious commitment to native Russian or Slavic Paganism rather than any de-ethnicized spirituality. Hence, the Russian term “Rodnovery” (Adherents of the Native Faith) that was coined in the late 1990s has become popular subsequently as a term of self-identification. Political movements based in Neopagan ideology came into being after a split at the Slavonic Sobor held in January 1991, where Neo-Slavophiles and Neopagans failed to find common grounds. In the early 1990s, Neopagan ideology was found among numerous Russian nationalist movements. Some of them have since left the political arena; others have changed their face— by either changing their name, establishing new alliances, or correcting their ideology, including their attitude to Russian Orthodoxy. By the mid-1990s, the adherents of the “Russian Idea” moved in two opposite directions: some movements began to associate themselves with national capitalism, others with national socialism. Thereafter, one can distinguish between a right wing (national democratic) and a left wing (national socialist) among the Russian Neopagans.9 The former stands for capitalism and private property, and the latter aims for communism, although they do not justify its historical excesses. Yet both camps share

blatant anti-Semitism, even though their rhetoric differs somewhat. The right wing emphasizes the role of the Jews in the Russian Communist movement and blames the Jews for the Bolshevik upheaval in 1917. At the same time, they identify the Jews with the mighty “oligarchs” who hamper the development of small and middle-size businesses. The left wing, in turn, identifies the Jews with large-scale property owners, who got rich at the expense of the Russian people’s impoverishment. For the national democrats, the main goal is to “shape the Russian nation.” They wish to build up the Russian national state and to stop an “encroachment of the Southerners into all spheres of the social life.” They identify the Russians with the Nordic people, claiming that they are close to the Protestant peoples of Northern Europe “biologically,” and call for a struggle against the “obsolete Russian Orthodox and Slavophile dogmas.” While predicting imminent changes in civilization, they view the Russians as the “most healthy part of the white race genetically.” At the same time, in their commitment to nation-building they appeal to “archetypes” and the “Great Tradition.”10 They associate this tradition with the “Slavofied Veneti”11 people as the purest bearers of the “Nordic tradition.” In their social programs, the historical Novgorod volkhvs have the role of being the prototype of the future national elite.12 Religion is by no means the greatest concern of the national democrats. According to their most influential member, Aleksandr Sevast’yanov, religion is determined by social–ethnic identity. He views human development as an eternal struggle between two principles—national (ethnic) and social. For him, national consolidation is possible only through uncompromised struggle against other nations. He applauded the Chechen war as a driving force for the consolidation of the Russian people. Basing his views in Social Darwinism, he maintains that any friendship between peoples is impossible in Russia because “national unity was growing up in a struggle between nations.”13 Volkhv Dobroslav is the most important leader of the national socialist current. In 1997, at the meeting of several political organizations sympathetic to Russian Neopaganism, he founded the Russian Liberation Movement. His book The Natural Roots of the Russian National Socialism, which revives many Nazi ideas, became a manifesto of the movement.

Dobroslav still enjoys high respect among Russian Neopagans, especially among those who share his idea of “Pagan socialism.” It is worth noting that several of Dobroslav’s books, including the aforementioned one, are recognized as “extremist literature” by the Russian courts.14 Most Neopagan political parties and movements were numerically small and did not play any important role in Russian politics. They primarily occupied themselves with publication of numerous newspapers and books, which disseminated their chauvinist and racist views, although the press runs were small. Some of those movements had already left the political scene by the late 1990s, while others declined after 2007 due to the new strict Russian law on political parties. Nevertheless, their ideas persist in the national-patriotic media. Moreover, these ideas have successfully infiltrated the national media and appear also in speculative fiction. The xenophobic, racist, and chauvinistic claims that reiterate the idea of ethnic confrontation pervade Russian media and affect the general public, especially urbanized youth.15 Moreover, as in the West, some former political movements and groups have turned into right-wing religious organizations, including Neopagan communities. The radical political movements that employ Pagan symbols and share racist and xenophobic attitudes have diverging programs for the future of the Russian state. Some of them dream of a Russian national (ethnic “russkoe”) state, others envision an alliance of the Slavic states under the Russian. Some authors have developed a plan for a confederation that might include a Russian (or Siberian) republic that would be homogenous in ethnic (Russian or Slavic) terms. In order to secure the purity of race, some radicals would break the Russian Federation into smaller states, many of which would then include only “Russians by blood.” There is also a project for a Slavic–Turkic state. Occasionally, these programs presuppose the existence of a global conspiracy, and call for the protection of the state against this invisible mighty enemy that is associated with Judaism and Christianity. Finally, some Neopagans predict the coming end of “Russianness” and suggest that the Pagans should “part with the Russian people” to form a separate, exclusive community. These Pagans describe their political ideal as a “Pagan democratic state.”

Overall, all these projects are characterized by a suspicious attitude toward “aliens” and an aspiration either to arrange an ethnic cleansing for the sake of a “pure Russian state” or to provide the ethnic Russians (or Slavs) political privileges while discriminating against others. In this context, Paganism functions as an important symbol of spiritual authenticity rooted in the heritage of the ancestors and unspoiled by any alien admixtures. Spiritual purity is seen as a way to rescue Russians from their misfortunes. Evidently, this sort of ethnic nationalism understands the nation largely in biological terms.

FROM IDEOLOGY TO STREET VIOLENCE The aggressive radical ideology developed by Russian Neopaganism finds its audience among some segments of Russian youth, who implement it in physical aggression against the “others.” This occurs, in particular, at the “Russian rallies” held annually by the radicals on 4 November since 2005. The Supreme Priest of the Slavs, Bogumil the Second (Vladimir Golyakov), the head of Skhoron ezh Sloven community, took an active part in these actions in Saint Petersburg in 2007 and 2008. In 2007, he headed a column that was marching with slogans “Slava rodu, smert’ urodu” (“Glory to the Clan, death to freaks”) and “Vsya vlast’ slavyanam!” (“All power to the Slavs!”).16 After that, he gave a talk unmasking “JudeoChristianity” and predicting a Russian victory over all the rest of the peoples of Russia.17 National Socialism and Pagan themes, including Pagan and Nazi symbols (swastika, runic signs), became popular among the Russian skinheads, who regularly participate in the “Russian rallies.” According to one expert, Neopaganism both in its Celtic-German and Slavic versions meets the demands of the more intellectual skinheads.18 In due course, the skinheads more and more often join small right-wing political parties. For example, the Union of Veneds in Saint Petersburg fostered the skinhead group of Voloty in the mid-1990s. Later on, the Solntsevorot, a skinhead group run by Artem Talankin (Lyutii) was its youth wing. A radical politician, Yurii Belyaev, who has manifested his Neopagan sympathies, also collaborates with skinheads.19 The Union of the Slavic Communities of the Slavic Native Faith (USCSNF), led by Vadim Kazakov (city of Kaluga), welcomes skinheads to its activity as well. Neopagan skinhead communities were known in Nizhnii Novgorod (Wolves of Khors), Volgograd (Don Wolves), and Izhevsk (Tur). Russian skinhead activities have included covering of churches’ walls with inscriptions like “Down with Christianity!” accompanied by swastikas. At the onset of the twenty-first century, the activity of the young radical right from the People’s National Party, the Clan of Nav’, the National Liberation Movement of Russia, and the Russian National Socialist Party grew. Even though these activists avoid public politics, they do not

hesitate to use force against their enemies. They effectively combine Russian Orthodoxy with Neopaganism, although referring more often to the German than to the Slavic Pagan tradition. They admire pseudoscientific books that present the “new chronology” of Anatolii Fomenko, the “Aryan–Vedic” fantasies of Aleksandr Asov, and introductions into “the history of the Rus’” of Yurii Petukhov. They identify themselves as the “warrior caste” and are eager to cruelly punish the “traders’ caste.”20 Various authors sympathetic to skinheads confirmed the latter’s attraction with Neopaganism.21 To give but one case, a former leader of the Russian Target skinhead group, Semen Tokmakov, once said to a journalist that his skinhead career began in his discussions about the Book of Vles and other Pagan issues with his friends.22 The skinheads are fascinated with the “Aryan idea” that was promoted in Russia by numerous Neopagan and anti-Semitic publications since the 1990s onwards. These books and articles present a Slavic version of the Nazi myth of the eternal struggle between the Aryans and the Semites. The Internet contains a telling story of a young man, who became a Pagan and shifted to the Russian radical nationalism after reading Asov’s books. In his view, the Pagan faith “pushes one to nationalism” and he mentions that he became familiar with skinheads at a Rodnovery ritual.23 In the early 2000s, a new center of gravity for skinheads emerged: the magazine Ateney, founded by radical politicians and racialist Pagans Vladimir Avdeev, Anatolii Ivanov, and Pavel Tulaev. A member of the Neopagan Moscow Slavic Community, Avdeev calls himself the “father of the Russian raciology” and publishes books promoting racialist ideas.24 His publications are positively reviewed by Neopagan websites. Recently, his book Raciology was condemned by the Ekaterinburg court as racist and was added to the federal list of extremist literature.25 The magazine Atene y is also under investigation. Another popular Neopagan writer from Krasnodar, Aleksei Trekhlebov, was accused by the prosecuting magistracy of stirring up hatred in December 2007.26 Later on, a Neopagan from the city of Omsk, a retired colonel named Valerii Demin, was condemned for his racist books.27 Two more well-known Saint Petersburg Neopagan journalists, Oleg Gusev and Roman Perin, were recently taken to court for stirring up hatred and hostility.28 Over the past few years,

several Neopagan newspapers and journals (including Khors, Perun’s Anger, Beloved Novosibirsk, Arkaim, Aryan, and Vedic Culture ) were accused of this sort of misdeed.29 Nevertheless, all this literature is freely available on the Internet. Nowadays, the skinheads’ demands are met by more than two dozen ultra-radical newspapers and more than ten magazines, many of them of Neopagan nature.30 For example, when the Shultz-88 skinhead organization was on trial in late 2005, Dobroslav’s book Paganism as a Spiritual–Moral Basis of the Russian National Socialism and the magazine Perun’s Anger were displayed as examples of extremist literature affecting these youngsters. In addition, there are many Neopagan websites that inform skinheads of racist and Nazi ideas. The writer Dmitrii Nesterov, who knew this milieu well, identified the hero of his book on skinheads as being a Pagan, an adherent of the god Perun, and an admirer of both Nazi literature and Slavic fantasy.31 The investigation of the racist attack in the Moscow Synagogue on 11 January 2006 revealed that the accused Aleksandr Koptsev (then 21 years old) was encouraged by the Neopagan anti-Semitic book A Blow of the Russian Gods by Istarkhov, which he had found on a right-wing website.32 In the 1990s Aleksandr Belov founded a federation of the so-called “Slavic-Goritsa wrestling” to restore the “Russian Military Estate,” which encompassed more than fifty branches in many Russian cities. A member of this movement confirmed that the spread of these clubs throughout the country was associated with an expansion of the Pagan faith. As a result, Belov became one of the most influential Neopagan leaders in that period. Being attracted by the cult of violence, many radicals joined the clubs. They established their own communities aimed at the persecution of the “aliens.”33 Similar groups are still active today. For example, a new radical rightwing movement, Resistance, was established in several Russian cities in the fall of 2009. It uses racist slogans in its propaganda.34 Its leader, the physician Roman Zentsov, is a frequent participant in a certain sort of wrestling tournaments (“fight without rules”) and has a champion title in the heavyweight category. He represents himself as a patriot who takes care of ethnic Russians’ interests. He associates himself with “Pagan

roots” and believes that “every nation has to respect her own gods, her own ancestors.” His attitude toward Russian Orthodoxy is sympathetic and he believes that it has inherited “a lot from the native faith.” At the same time, Zentsov teaches fighting skills to Neo-Nazis.35 Several other well-known participants in “fight without rules” are also associated with the right-wing movement. One of them, Vyacheslav Datsik (“Red Tarzan”), a member of the Neo-Nazi Slavic Union, was arrested in Saint Petersburg in February 2007 for robbing cellphone stores and setting fire to a church. At the investigation he admitted that when selecting his targets for robbery he was guided by racist motives. He called himself Perun or the Great White Warrior, which became grounds for sending him to a psychiatric hospital. In August 2010, he escaped from the hospital and immediately robbed another cellphone store. After that he fled to Norway as a “Viking country” and asked for political asylum. Instead, he was taken into custody. He appeared in court in a T-shirt emblazoned with a swastika and stated that he wanted to “cleanse all the Slavic countries from the nonRussians.” In March 2011 he was deported back to Russia.36 In recent years, when skinhead criminal activity has been thoroughly investigated, the participation of Neopagans in this movement has been confirmed. For example, a dozen youngsters who attacked foreigners and organized explosions in Saint Petersburg in 2008–10, including one in a Christian church, were detained in 2010. These young men who wanted to cleanse the city of non-Russians and homeless people were affiliated with the Slavic Union—Varyag and National-Socialism—White Power Nevograd extremist organizations. Some of them were adherents of the Pagan faith. A right-wing website informed its audience that the most recent explosion was timed to celebrate a Pagan festival.37 The Neo-Nazi Combat Terrorist Organization of Nevograd, which was destroyed in 2006, also included Neopagans and issued a magazine, Perun’s Anger, which called for an uprising of the “new Nordic race.” Investigations into several grave crimes were successfully concluded in Moscow on 19 January 2009. The list of the misdeeds included attempts to set bombs in a McDonald’s in south-east Moscow and in a Russian Orthodox church in the western Biriulevo region of Moscow, as well as to derail trains. Twelve murders between November 2008 and January 2009

were also mentioned, including the beheading of a Tajik man in the outskirts of Moscow. The criminals were planning to explode a bomb at a mosque on Poklonnaya Gora, an important cultural–ritual center in Moscow that serves as a tourist site as well. All this criminal activity was arranged by a skinhead group that called itself the Slavic Separatists and declared itself part of the Pagan Rodnovery movement.38 Simultaneously another Neopagan (Rodnovery) gang, Autonomous Slavic Resistance, attacked foreigners and non-Russians in Moscow in late 2008 and early 2009. Its four members set off explosions and fires in the markets, attacked a synagogue, and once covered the wall of a Russian Orthodox church with swastikas, runes, and a star of David.39 In recent years, radical Pagans attacked Orthodox churches several times. For example, in February 2004, Pagans twice arranged attacks on the church of the famous Smolensk Icon of the Mother of God in the city of Orel. They left an inscription on the wall—“The Jewish God will depart, praise to the Gods”—accompanied by a swastika. In May of that year there were two incidents of attempted arson against the church.40 In December 2009, a 28-year-old member of a White Storm gang set off an explosion in a church in the city of Vladimir.41 In the Sverdlovsk region, police detained two young men who set fires in two Orthodox churches in December 2008 and February 2009 as revenge for the arrest of members of the gang Volksturm. They left messages saying, “The Clan’s warriors [Voinstvo Roda],” “[Prince] Svyatoslav’s army [Druzhina Svyatoslava],” and “Glory to Russian Gods.”42 In August 2009, a 16-year-old student of the Humanitarian Technical College of Economics and Law was arrested in Moscow. He was a Neo-Nazi Pagan who was responsible for an explosion in April and wanted to repeat the act.43 In 2009, several members of the extremist organization OB-88 were detained in Nizhnii Novgorod. They were students of local colleges, and they had attacked people from the Caucasus and central Asia between 2008 and spring 2009. The detained were accused of five murders and nine attempted murders. They attacked not only “aliens,” but also ethnic Russians when they were in need of money. Moreover, one of them shot his professor to death because he was afraid he would fail to pass an exam. The criminals were taken to court in February 2010. At that time, one of

them wrote a letter that was published at the right-wing website revealing that the members of the gang identified themselves as “Aryans” and adherents of the Pagan faith.44 Finally, in the course of the investigation of the murder of the lawyer Stanislav Markelov and the journalist Anastasia Baburova in January 2009, the culprits Nikolai Tikhonov and Yevgenia Khasis have admitted both their membership in the OB-88 skinhead gang and their Rodnovery outlook. Their friend Alexei Korshunov who died on 4 October 2011 in Ukraine because a grenade had blown up in his pocket, was also a Neopagan and a member of OB-88. He was suspected of taking part in the murders of well-known antifascist activists in Russia.45 The aforementioned criminal groups were recruited from young people who shared racist ideas which they usually learned from the websites. Therefore, it is important to know who runs these websites and who puts racist and Neo-Nazi texts and declarations there. One of those groups was the Northern Brotherhood, a small ultra-radical political organization, which emerged in late 2006 and was mostly known for its promotion of extremist ideas on the Internet. It associated itself with Rodnovery, yet it focused mostly on the propaganda of “national revolution” rather than on Pagan faith and rituals. The ideology was developed by the well-known Russian radical nationalist Petr Khomyakov, who shifted to Russian Paganism in the early 2000s. He is an ardent advocate of racism, antiSemitism, and anti-immigrant attitudes. It was Khomyakov who favored breaking up the Russian Federation and its replacement with a new federation of “purely Russian” lands. In 2008, he addressed skinheads with an appeal to struggle against both the Russian state and “racial enemies.”46 In August 2009, the Northern Brotherhood was broken up by the Russian police, and Khomyakov had to flee to Kiev (Ukraine) and then to Georgia. Yet he returned to Russia in September 2011 and was soon arrested by police in the Yaroslavl region and jailed for two months.

DISCUSSION AND CONCLUSIONS Russian Paganism was the offspring of patriotic ideology, and it emerged in a period when even the struggle for a clean natural environment looked patriotic. Many Russian Pagans remain sensitive toward social and political issues. They stand for social justice, yet for the ethnic Russian people only. They advocate political privileges for the “[ethnic] Russians” or openly endorse “Russian power.” Such goals raise the question about the expected fate of ethnically non-Russian people, who account to no less than 20 percent of the population, as well as for migrants who arrive en masse seeking work in the Russian Federation. The Pagans have no good answer to these questions, but their political projects for the future cannot be fulfilled without some ethnic cleansing. In addition, while sharing an essentialist view of ethnicity, the Russian Pagans imagine the ethnic Russians as a wellintegrated cohesive organism, and to prevent its corruption many of them demand a prohibition on mixed marriages. In this way a cultural–linguistic entity becomes a biological one. That is why many Russian Pagans endorse racial doctrines. And that is why they are not attracted to any universal Paganism but only to a specifically Russian (Slavic) one that helps them to establish a link between ideology, culture, and biology. Being concerned with contemporary social problems, the Russian Pagans interpret these as deriving from ethnic development. The left-wing Pagans blame the collapse of the Communist regime and the disintegration of the Soviet Union and the arrival of capitalism on the undermining activity of ethnic minorities. They claim that these activities deprived ethnic Russians of vital economic resources and doomed them to impoverishment. The right-wing Pagans blame the minorities for being the beneficiaries of the market economy and for preventing the ethnic Russian businessmen from being successful as well. Thus minorities are viewed as the major agent of social injustice. In addition, the contemporary mass migration also contributes to the growth of xenophobia among the ethnic Russian Pagans. As patriots, the Russian Pagans view patriotism in cultural–historical rather than in political terms. They focus not so much on the defense of

the motherland from occupants (the radical Pagans use this rhetoric though) as on the maintenance of a traditional cultural situation as well as a historical continuity linked with prehistory (from the “Slavic–Aryan ancestors”). Many Russian Pagans believe that the Russian territory should belong to ethnic Russians alone, and that the “Russian order” and “Russian power” must be established there. Their arguments emphasize historical continuity, which is embodied by Russian Rodnovery’s uniting the present with the remote past. The slogan “Russia for the Russians” is enthusiastically supported by many Russian Pagans. At the same time, various Russian Pagan groups employ different strategies of enacting this ideal. Some focus their activities on a consolidation of the Russian ethnic consciousness through conversion to Russian Paganism and regular participation in ritual life. This is often combined with a careful control over enrollment into Pagan communities that (with only a few exceptions) admit only Slavs. More often than not, they prohibit mixed for the sake of racial purity. In addition, the “Aryan myth” aims at racial solidarity, and the slogan of the “rescue of the White Race” meets sympathy among the Pagans. Hence, racial views are popular in a milieu that reminds us of Germany and Austria in the early twentieth century. But while some Pagans focus on ritual activity and “Russian identity,” others take part in political movements aimed at fighting a perceived Russophobia, demand the establishment of “Russian power” and even sometimes call for a “racial revolution.” Yet these movements prove to be weak, and their activity is less successful. Therefore, some radical Pagan leaders emphasize illegal violent actions and do their best to involve inexperienced youngsters in them. Neopaganism is one of the new religious movements. As Eileen Barker notes, these movements involve many youngsters whose social and political inexperience combines with high enthusiasm and a thirst for real deeds. They are more straightforward and less ready for compromise than adherents of traditional religions, and, therefore, this milieu provides a favorable environment for extremism.47 Indeed, Christian humility is rejected by the Pagans. They stand for decisive actions, and their values include fighting spirit, courage, commitment to defend their motherland,

intolerance toward the “enemies of the nation,” and an aspiration to repulse those enemies immediately. Therefore, Pagans occupy themselves with sports, especially martial arts. It is not just health care that is on their agenda, but a readiness for violent action here and now. It is worth noting that according to my observations, there are many former policemen, military, and security personnel among the Russian Neopagans. These features explain why Russian Neopaganism as both an ideology (ethnic nationalism and racism) and as a fighting practice (“Slavic-Goritsa wrestling”) is so attractive for radically oriented youth and why Pagan attitudes are popular among skinheads who actively collaborate with certain radical Pagan organizations. Nowadays, one can find adherents of Russian Paganism among those who attack the “aliens,” as well as among terrorists and “Slavic separatists.” Yet, as Western Paganism demonstrates, and from what we know about the tolerant Pagan communities in Russia, Neopaganism is by no means doomed to fascism and chauvinism. The negative trends that have been discussed above are not inborn traits of Paganism itself; they are characteristic of contemporary Russian society in general, namely, a prevalence of xenophobic attitudes. That is why xenophobia and racial attitudes are popular among the Russian Pagans as well. Unfortunately, because of the lack of any quantitative sociological data, one cannot judge the numerical balance between “tolerant” and “intolerant” Neopagans. Yet it is evident that the bearers of racial attitudes, including chauvinism and xenophobia, are predominant among those who manifest their views in print and on the Internet.

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS This chapter was supported by the Russian Humanitarian Scientific Foundation (grant no. 12-01-00312 “Contemporary Religiousness: Tolerance Or Radicalism?”).

NOTES 1. For definitions of racism and Nazism, see Robert Miles, Racism (London: Routledge, 1989) and Racism After “Race Relations” (London: Routledge, 1993); Roger Griffin, Fascism (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1995). 2. Velimir, Volkhvy protiv globalizma (Troitsk, 2005–7). 3. Alexey Gaidukov, Ideologiya i praktika slavyanskogo neoyazychestva, (Avtoreferat dissertatsii na soiskanie uchenoi stepeni kandidata filosofskikh nauk), candidacy dissertation, Herzen State Pedagogical University of Russia, Saint Petersburg (2000). 4. Vladimir Pribylovsky, “Ideinye tsentry russkikh neoyazychnikov,” Antikompromat (2004), 5. Oleg Kavykin, “Rodnovery”: Samoidentifikatsiya neoyazychnikov v sovremennoi Rossii (Moscow: Institut Afriki, 2007), 102ff. See also Kaarina Aitamurto, “Russian Paganism and the Issue of Nationalism: A Case Study of the Circle of Pagan Tradition,” Pomegranate 8(2) (2006), 184–210. 6. Victor Shnirelman, “Russkoe neoyazychestvo (istoki mirovozzreniya),” Stranitsy 6(3) (2001). 7. Regardless of what scholars think, Russian Neopagans identify the Rus’ as an early Eastern Slavic tribe. The baptism of the Rus’ is dated to 988ce. 8. Aleksei Shcheglov, Yazycheskaya zarya: perspektivy yazycheskogo dvizheniya (Moscow: Probel-2000, 2002). 9. Self-names are somewhat tricky, and one has to acknowledge that “national” often means “ethnic” in Russian discourse. 10. In this context they usually refer to esoteric ideas of Rene Guenon. 11. The radical myth identifies “Veneti/Venedy” with the Slavic ancestors as though they were the first settlers in Europe (i.e. lived there before the Celts and Germans). 12. “Natsional’naya demokratiya—ideologiya budushchego Rossii,” Natsional’naya demokratiya 1 (1995). 13. Aleksandr Sevast’yanov, Natsional-kapitalizm, (Moscow: A. Sevast’yanov, 1995). 14. For Dobroslav’s racist views, see Victor Shnirelman, “Porog tolerantnosti”: ideologiya i praktika novogo rasizma, vol. 2 (Moscow: NLO, 2011), 209–12. 15. Aleksandr Shevchenko, “Molodye ul’trapravye,” Politicheskii zhurnal 36 (5 October 2004), action=Articles&dirid=67&tek=2370&issue=70. 16. Yevgenii Zubarev, “Prizrak fashizma proshel po Peterburgu,” (4 November 2007),

Aleksandr Frolov & Aleksei Yakushev, “U kazhdogo natsionalista svoi 17. marsh,” Fontanka. ru (4 November 2007),; “Yazychniki porugalis’s pravoslavnymi,” APN Severo-Zapad (5 November 2007), 18. Vyacheslav Likhachev, Natsizm v Rossii (Moscow: Panorama, 2002), 111–15. 19. Ibid., 118–19, 143–4. See also Shnirelman, “Porog tolerantnosti”, vol. 2, 343–9. 20. Shevchenko, “Molodye ul’trapravye.” 21. For example, see Suncharion, “Skinhedy,” 2005, Oleg Golovin, “Skinhedy stoyat za Rossiyu,” Zavtra 3 (2002); Roman Volkov, Kleimo Chernoboga (Arkhangel’sk: Ragnerek, 2007), 158, 186–8. 22. Fotina Morozova, “Britaya golova pokoya ne daet,” Literaturnaya gazeta (26 June–2 July 2002). For popularity of the Neopaganism among the Russian Neo-Nazis and the reasons for that, see Shnirelman, Intellektual’nye labirinty, 123–311. 23. “Ya—russkii natsionalist,” (19 March 2009), 24. For criticism, see Victor Shnirelman, “‘Tsepnoi pes rasy’: divannaya rasologiya kak zashchitnotsa belogo cheloveka,” in Verkhi i nizy russkogo natsionalizma, Aleksandr Verkhovsky (ed.) (Moscow: Tsentr SOVA, 2007). 25. Nadezhda Gavrilova, “V Ekaterinburge nalozhili veto na knigu naslednika Tret’ego Reikha,” Rossiiskaya gazeta (27 April 2011). 26. “Protiv pisatelya-neoyazychnika vozbuzhdeno ugolovnoe delo po motivu natsional’noi nenavisti,” Tsentr SOVA (22 January 2008), 27. “V Altaiskom krae po isku prokurora priznana ekstremistskoi literaturnaya kniga V. M. Demina ‘Voina i vooruzhennaya bor’ba’,” Prokuratura Altaiskogo kraya (10 March 2010), 28. “V Sankt-Peterburge vozbuzhdeno ugolovnoe delo v otnoshenii glavnogo redaktora gazety i ego zamestitelya, podozrevaemykh v vozbuzhdenii nenavisti i vrazhdy,” Glavnoe sledstvennoe upravlenie (25 April 2011), 29. Yelena Lubinets, “Korichnevye runy: Tselaya seriya del ob ekstremizme zastavlyaet zadumat’sya o kornyakh etogo yavleniya,” Rossiiskaya gazeta (Kuban’), (7 December 2007),; K. Enotov, “Zhurnal ‘Khors’ priznan ekstremistskoi literaturoi,” Novosti (18 March 2008),; “Statii zhurnala ‘Vedicheskaya kul’tura’ priznany ekstremistskimi,” (25 November 2009),; “Pozayavleniyu prokurora goroda

30. 31.


33. 34. 35. 36.



sud priznal prilozhenie k gazete ‘Znanie-vlast’ ekstremistskim materialom,” Prokuratura St.-Peterburga (8 April 2010), For the list see, for example: V. A. Mamedov, Yu. V. Kochkin, & A. Yu. Erykalina, Natsiskinhedy, (Chelyabinsk: Chelyabinskii yuridicheskii institute MVD RF, 2006), 52–3. Dmitrii Nesterov, Skiny: Rus’ probuzhdaetsya (Moscow: Ul’tra-kul’tura, 2003). This pseudonym was used by Roman Nifontov, an activist of the right-wing “Russkaya Volya,” who committed suicide in March 2009 after the Russian police began an investigation of this organization’s activity. Vladislav Trifonov, “Naletchik khochet skorogo suda,” Kommersant (15 February 2006); Irina Vlasova, “On sam shel umirat”, Novye Izvestiya (28 March 2006). The book in question was accused of extremism by the Russian court and was included in the federal list of extremist literature. Dmitrii Pankratov, “Rodnoverie v Rossii: Kratkaya istoriya” (2006), See In March 2010 some members of “Resistance” were arrested and accused of producing explosives. Natal’ya Tanygina, “Roman Zentsov: ‘Ya za russkikh’,” Molodaya gvardiya (13 October 2009). “Chempion mira po boyam bez pravil grabil salony sotovoi svyazi Peterburga,” (12 February 2007),; Rakhel’ Levina, “‘Belogo voina’ otpravili na lechenie,” Agentstvo evreiskikh novostei (14 September 2009), page=brief&article_id=54952&phpsessid=pbns1hl00jg9vai mefqupa2b04; “V Peterburge neonatsist po klichke Tarzan sbezhal iz psikhbol’nitsy i zanyalsya grabezhami,” (24 August 2010), “Vzryv na zheleznoi doroge v Peterburge: postradal mashinist,” (2 February 2010),; Nina Petlyanova, “Natsipartizany: Natsionalisty ugrozhayut militsii prodolzheniem terrora,” Novaya gazeta (Saint Petersburg) (11–14 February 2010); Vladimir Shishlin, “Podozrevayutsiya v zverskikh ubiistvakh,” Interfax (17 June 2010),; Irina Tumakova, “Avtonomnye natsionalisty,” Izvestiya (18 November 2010), The very name of Nevograd is telling because it has been coined by the Neopagans for Saint Petersburg. Aleksandr Zheglov, Vladislav Trifonov, & Svetlana Bobrova, “Yazycheskoe vzryvoispovedanie,” Kommersant (21 January 2009); Vladislav Trifonov, “V yazychnikakh usmotreli priznaki terrorizma,” Kommersant (14 July 2009).

39. Aleksandr Zheglov, “‘Soprotivlentsam’ pridetsya soprotivlyat’sya v sude,” Kommersant (26 June 2010),; “V Moskve osuzhdeny neonatsisty iz ‘Slavyanskogo soprotivleniya’: oni ustraivali vzryvy na rynkakh, podzhigali inostranokh i kidali bomby v patrul’nye mashiny,” (3 March 2011), 40. “Khram Smolenskoi ikony Bozhiei Materi v Orle za korotkii srok dvazhdy podvergsya napadeniyu vandalov,” Tsentr SOVA (18 May 2004), 41. “Zaderzhan podozrevaemyi v organizatsii vzryva v khrame goroda Vladimira,” MVD RF (11 December 2009),; “Vo Vladimirskoi oblasti pered sudom predstanet mestnyi zhitel’, obvinyaemyi v sovershenii prestuplenii ekstremistskoi napravlennosti,” Sledstvennyi komitet pri prokurature RF (1 April 2010), 42. “V Sverdlovskoi oblasti po podozreniiu v podzhoge khrama zaderzhany dvoe ekstremistov, takim sposobom mstivshikh za arrest svoikh soratnikov,” Interfax (6 March 2009), 43. Darya Andrianova, “Psikh na vole khuzhe dinamita,” Moskovskii komsomolets (26 August 2009). 44. “Novosti,” Sledstvennoe upravlenie cledstvennogo komiteta pri prokurature Rossiiskoi Federatsii po Nizhegorodskoi oblasti (18 January 2010),; “Delo Nizhegorodskoi OB-88,” Pravye novosti (3 February 2010), p=28498; Polina Kiseleva, “Neonatsisty priznalis’ v ubiistvakh,” Izvestiya (9 February 2010). 45. “V Zaporozhie podorvalsya Alexei Korshunov, obvinyaemyi v ubiistve sudii Eduarda Chuvashova i antifashista Ivana Khutorskogo,” Novaya gazeta (7 October 2011). 46. Galina Kozhevnikova & Anton Shekhovtsov, Radikal’nyi russkii natsionalizm: struktury, idei, litsa (Moscow: Tsentr SOVA, 2009), 231–40. 47. Eileen Barker, Novye religioznye dvizheniya (Saint Petersburg: Izdatel’stvo Russkogo Khristianskogo Gumanitarnogo Instituta, 1997), 5–6.



INTRODUCTION Scholars trying to describe the contemporary reappearance of the pervasiveness of religiosity across the globe have used terms such as religious “resurgence” (Robertson and Chirico), “desecularization” (Berger), or “deprivatization” (Casanova).1 In order to characterize this religious situation, such terms as the religious individualization2 process have been used for when a “personal belief” replaces the “official religious models” that have predominated before.3 Many new religious movements can be examined as offering an alternative to the mainstream forms of religion. In the West, a disappointment with the progress of civilization revealed itself in the second half of the twentieth century. It induced a fragmentation of the cultural, ethnic, and religious center which was manifested in ethnic and belief-related conflicts, and it did not increase the integration of the world and humanity contrary to many predictions. Such sociocultural processes strengthened the formation of alternative movements which were oriented to variously understood searches for spirituality and the establishment of new communities. Some manifestations of an orientation toward localness in these movements have also been visible: the revival of traditionalistic and nationalistic ideas, the (re)construction of local ethnicities and naturebased spiritualities, and attempts to reconstruct traditional pre-Christian religions. Alternative religious movements (new religious movements and the New Age milieu) mostly emerged in post-Soviet societies after the collapse of the Soviet Union, when a strong demand for spirituality and spiritualityoriented communities in its former territories had arisen. A major part of the ideas and movements related to alternative religiosity had reached the post-Soviet Eastern Europe region from North America and Western Europe, while the formation of others is rooted in the cultural specifics of particular Eastern European localities.4 The majority of contemporary pagan movements in Central and Eastern Europe are based on local ethnicity and folklore, and they are typically focused on the ideal of the reconstruction of a specific pre-Christian religion.5 One of such

movements is the Old Baltic6 Faith Romuva7 movement, which is one of the main contemporary Pagan manifestations in Lithuania.

ROMUVA: THE PAST AND TODAY Christianity became the official religion in Lithuania in 1387. During the period between the fifteenth century and the eighteenth century, the independent existence of pre-Christian religious processes came to an end —any surviving religious elements became customs compliant or absorbed into the new faith.8 Visible attempts to reconstruct the traditional religion of pre-Christian Lithuania began in the twentieth century. The first Romuva communities (a larger one in Lithuania and a smaller one in the USA) had been formed in the 1930s by Domas šidlauskas-Visuomis (1878–1944), who sought to establish a new religion which he called Visuomybė (universal faith).9 During the 1970s, under the Soviet regime, the first alternative cultural movements began to appear. Such movements, in their self-presentation and self-understanding, relied upon the perceived failure of the cultural mainstream in Lithuania and the turn to the variously understood individual self as critics of the Soviet ideology-based society. One of them was Ramuva10—an ethno-cultural organization established in 1967 by Jonas Trinkūnas (b. 1939) and aimed at preserving ethnic culture.11 Ramuva had no institutional ties with the Visuomybė that had existed in the 1940s. The ethno-cultural activities of Ramuva served as a basis for developing an ethnic religion movement, leading to the registration of the first religious community Romuva in the Ministry of Justice of the Republic of Lithuania on 20 May 1992.12 Trinkūnas was ordained as the krivis —the supreme priest of the old Baltic faith community—in Vilnius in 2002. In this way the old tradition of the institution of the krivis was restored.13 Today, according to Trinkūnas, Romuva consists of around 30 officially registered or informally existing communities-centers (also called Romuvas) situated in various towns and peripheries in Lithuania and abroad.14 The communities in other countries are established by Lithuanians in Great Britain, Norway, and the USA. Communities are represented by elders—vaidilas who belong to Vaidilas Circle. Members of the movement claim that vaidilas are experts in the old beliefs and

rites. They lead rituals and perform family rites dedicated to wedding, name-giving, and funeral ceremonies. Although Romuva unites people of various ages, young adults are most visible in the movement and most actively attend the events and rituals of the group. There is no mandatory membership in Romuva, and for this reason the precise number of its members (as well as for all Lithuanian adherents of Paganism in general) is not clear. For example, according to data from the Lithuanian population census for 2001, 1,270 from 3,483,972 citizens considered themselves to be believers in the old Lithuanian religion.15 According to various non-formal sources, in 2007, there were between 2,000 and 20,000 individuals practicing Pagan beliefs in Lithuania.16 Moreover, recently Romuvans have considered that every Lithuanian is at least an unconscious Pagan: Our whole cultural tradition—folk songs, traditions, worldview, and art—even in its modern form—is full of remnants of our old cultural heritage. This is why every Lithuanian consciously and sub-consciously has preserved our ancestral religion. This is why a Lithuanian does not see a reason to actually be baptized as a practitioner of Baltic religion; we keep it within ourselves as a given heritage.17 Romuva is also involved in a wide range of cultural activities. It is a prominent member of the European Congress of Ethnic Religions (ECER; formerly the World Congress of Ethnic Religions, WCER).18 Individual Romuva communities focus on celebration of calendar and national holidays, building altars and temples, organizing summer camps which are usually held in Romuva’s alkas (the old Lithuanian sacred place) in the homestead of family of Trinkūnas, in the village of Dvarciškės, of the švenčionys region, as well as hosting scientific conferences. The Romuvan ritual folk group Kūlgrinda reconstructs and performs the old folk songs. Romuvan magazines (Druvis, Ramuva, and Romuva ) are also published irregularly. There are also other Pagan groups in Lithuania that do not belong to Romuva. Some are esoteric in focus—with a strong orientation toward New Age spirituality such as Ožnugario Romuva, Kuronas, and Druids. In close proximity, we can find brotherhoods dedicated to Baltic

martial arts and historical re-enactment such as Vilkatlakai, Kovarnis, Varingis, and Karionys. There are also post-folk music groups based in Baltic culture (folk metal groups žalvarinis, Obtest, and Poccolus, a folk rock group Atalyja, men’s folk groups Ugniavijas, Karužė, etc.), as well as ethnic craft groups and others whose activities can easily blend into Paganism. Previous research on Romuva has focused on various aspects of its origin, worldview, and lifestyle. Michael Strmiska, has emphasized the origin of modern Baltic Paganism as based on nineteenth- and twentiethcentury research into the folk music, folklore, and traditional ethnic culture by spiritually inclined folklorists. According to him, folk music, especially songs (dainos ), is crucial in the transmission of folk traditions and their influence on modern Baltic Paganism in the past, present, and the future.19 Kristina šerkšnaitė has researched community rituals performed by Romuva and the political aspects of the rituals of ordaining to krivis and of consolidating the symbolic power of the krivis. šerkšnaitė has investigated how Romuva seeks to gain the status of a traditional religion by using the symbolical resources of the power of the krivis and the continuity of the Pagan past of Lithuania.20 Artistic creativity of Romuvans and their aspiration to experience an ethno-cultural identity by individual interpretation in late modernity is addressed by Egidija Ramanauskaitė, who considers Romuva as a practice of mythical artistry.21 Jurgita Saltanavičiūtė sees Paganism as an “oral culture” and relates contemporary Lithuanian Paganism to continuity, revitalization, change, and revival rather than disappearance and interruption. However, according to her, contemporary revitalization efforts of Lithuanian Paganism are directed at rebuilding paganism as an institutional religion.22 Renatas Delis suggests that Pagan and other alternative religious movements “point out the flourishing of an alternative religiosity, which is probably evoked by the secularization of contemporary Lithuanian culture.”23 This chapter focuses on the attempts of the Romuva movement to reconstruct the sacredness of the surrounding environment, using their interpretation of the sources of the old Baltic culture as a foundation. The author analyzes the principal beliefs (such as the sacredness of nature and

the orientation toward ecology, the ethic of humaneness, the principle of harmony, pantheistic beliefs, and respect for the ancestors) and principal practices (such as rituals related to the cycle of solstices and equinoxes; festivals and events based on the cycle of nature and human life; as well as the worship of deities) of the Romuva movement. The material in this chapter has been gathered by the author, who has been communicating with various Romuva communities, individual Pagans, and groups since 1998. The data was also obtained from individual research carried out in 2010–11, including participant observation, the analysis of documents produced by Romuva groups, visual ethnography (photographs and video material covering the daily life of members), and semi-structured (in-depth) interviews. Four semi-structured interviews conducted by an anthropologist Eglė Aleknaitė in 2008–9 and used in the project “Neopagan Magic in Lithuania: Concepts, Interactions, Change” during 2010–11 were also used when writing this work.24

THE SOURCES FOR THE RECONSTRUCTION OF ROMUVA BELIEFS AND PRACTICES The worldview and lifestyle of the members of the Romuva community are based on elements which are considered to be the sources of Baltic culture and a “living tradition.” “Living tradition” (or more precisely—the tradition that has been reconstructed by Romuvans on the basis of preChristian Lithuanian or Baltic tradition) is believed to be the source of sacredness which induces a restoration of the true identity of the (old) Baltic faith believer. A “native” faith (religiosity) is considered by Romuvans to be characteristic of all people’s heart and consciousness. If someone experiences a strong bond with their native land, nature, and ancestors and sees this linkage to be sacred, he can be declared a native faith believer. Vaidila Jonas Vaiškūnas states, that “we can consider every man by nature as a pagan, and paganism—as the natural state of man’s religiosity or native religiosity.”25 In reconstruction of the old Baltic culture Romuvans use written studies of the old Baltic religion and mythology, ethnic material, and spiritual culture where the latter is the most important. There are written sources on the old Baltic religion and mythology from the thirteenth and the fourteenth centuries (such as the Manuscript of Ipatij, the Livonian Chronicle, the Chronicles of Malala, Peter of Dusburg, Latvian Henrik, etc.),26 and also reports from shortly after the official conversion (descriptions from the fifteenth to seventeenth centuries),27 historical interpretations of those early written sources from the eighteenth century onwards,28 Romantic historians such as Teodoras Narbutas (1784–1864),29 and early folklore collections such as those gathered by Jonas Basanavičius (1851–1927).30 However, these sources are not considered to be the most important for the Romuva movement: “Various references in annals are only fragments and very surface things. The essence and wisdom is accumulated in folklore, because of this we are interested in it. Everything is visible in tales very well.”31 Scientific studies on the old Baltic religion and mythology from the second half of the twentieth century are also respected by Romuvans. The

works of mythologist Norbertas Vėlius, the religious studies scholar Gintaras Beresnevičius, the archeologist Marija Gimbutienė (Marija Gimbutas), the linguist Vladimir Toporov, and the semiotician Algirdas J. Greimas are used as references in the reconstructive process. Sources for the material culture include archeological finds which Romuvans associate with the ethnic spiritual culture. Among Romuvans, they serve as signs of recognition about the influence of beliefs in daily life in the past (rituals that were performed, deities that were worshiped, etc.). Knowledge about archeological finds is put into practice. For example, models of weapons, jewelry, clothing, and so on found in cemeteries are used for contemporary reconstructions. The primary source used for Romuva’s religious reconstruction is the spiritual Baltic ethnic culture, and mainly folklore—songs, myths, tales, and even the Lithuanian language itself which is considered to be one of the most archaic. As krivis Trinkūnas remembers the beginning of the Romuva movement: “The ethnography movement had the greatest influence for the movement. I was going through villages and I saw the peoples’ spirit.”32 The most valuable are songs (dainos ), which are believed to be representatives of the old Baltic belief and worldview.33 According to Trinkūnas, “daina was always the main means of spiritual expression to the Baltic nations,” and “folk songs ought to be sung as sacral chants.”34 However, contemporary restoration (reconstruction) of traditional religion depends on Romuvans’ individual and subcultural interpretations of ethnic culture: Everything is told in a very concentrated way in legends—after you unfold it for yourself in consciousness and interpret.35 Trying to live with Nature, in this way we discover our Gods again, learn to recognize Them. For this there is no necessity to refer to reliable archaic sources here, it suffices to know that Gods exist and to look for them in your own heart.36 In CDs, you will see series of authentic folk songs with added drums sometimes in order to have more fun. Then there are few

created in order to make this more serious and pagan. There is Our Greatest, our Perkūnas (Didysie mūsu, Perkūne mūsu)…37 It is recorded somewhere, too, but nobody knows the melody. So they have taken that melody from somewhere or from some song… There is a partial argument to explain such situation: many songs and different words often are with the same melodies in folklore. So we will take some melody and will adapt other different words—this is not a misdemeanor from the tradition.38 In this way, the reconstruction of the ancient beliefs and rituals varies from individually reinterpreted folklore material to newly constructed traditions that are more appropriate for the present times.39 The use of multiple sources and their various reinterpretations leads to a plurality of perspectives toward the old Baltic faith within the movement.

PRINCIPAL BELIEFS The world (nature) is sacred Sacredness is an essential feature of the surrounding environment, which refers more to nature, but not the civilization, as nature is considered to be the source of divinity in the movement. Yes, the world is sacred. Sacredness reveals itself in every day— sometimes in big things, and sometimes in small ones. You just have to notice them. For example, the cycle of nature—by analyzing how everything changes, we will notice that nature is a wonderful thing, a perfect system, and we, people, thinking that we are above everything, do not value the greatness of nature. By noticing how much this nature has created and how much it gives, the sacredness of the world becomes apparent.40 According to Trinkūnas, “Nature is sacred, and sacredness is the most perfect characteristic of the world’s life—it unites, reconciles, and revives everything.”41 This sacredness has an immanent mystic character. According to Trinkūnas, divinity lies and manifests itself in the world and people, but not beyond the world’s limits.42 The official Romuvan chant (initially a rye-harvest song) reveals the perceived world’s structure, which—because of its ability to grow by acquiring new shapes that do not lose the link with the beginning—is compared to a tree:43 “A sycamore44 stood by the side of the road … From below the roots, sounds of kanklės45 … In the center buzzing bees … Falcon’s children at the summit …” In this chant, the roots refer to the underworld, death, the past, but also the beginning and the spring of life. The buzzing bees refer to the world of people. The top of the tree refers to the light of heaven and the future of existence. The tenets of Romuva interpret death and life as continuous participants in the world’s development: “A tree, even though it drops its leaves in the autumn, dies in winter, but its life goes on and its soul remains alive. Such is also the path of man—through birth, death and rebirth.”46

Therefore, the world is understood by Romuvans as being alive (“the Sun is alive, as are trees, rocks, water”), harmonious and eternal (“is continuously created by the eternal godly powers”).47 The sacredness of Nature is also often connected with the idea of homeland and with the nationalistic ideas and values in the movement: “Our people grow and cultivate their land. Lithuanians consider their home sacred. Without its land, a nation cannot survive and remain itself.”48 The sacredness of the world (Nature) influences the orientation toward ecology in the movement. Romuvans believe that humankind should live without harming the Earth, and should love and respect it:49 Romuva’s values are related to ecology through respect for the nature and the elements (fire, water, air, and earth). This means you cannot litter because otherwise you will respect neither the earth, nor the nature itself. You cannot pollute it in any other way—for example, by pouring chemicals—because then you would not respect the earth, water, and air. Fire also has its share of respect. You will not burn garbage in a fire, you will not cook meat in an altar, you will not light a cigarette in an altar if you smoke.50

The world (nature) is inhabited by deities One of the elements of the Baltic worldview is closeness of gods to the world and people. “People and gods are very close—or, at least, not so much remote.”51 Trinkūnas writes that in the Romuvan worldview every locality, river, hill, and tree has a soul or a deity within.52 Romuvans also state the mystic origin, essence, and existence of deities: “What does a deity mean? … A general great power. You can only feel that power by your subconsciousness, pull out all that from yourself. You are a part of that power, a part of the nature, but not a sovereign of the nature, as a man tends to do.”53 Deities are comprehended as individual manifestations of the whole divine will—which is also the power creating the world—as well as the expressions of the sacredness that permeates all living and non-living

things. Sacredness or divinity in the old Baltic faith manifested itself in the form of both male and female deities that at different times outweighed each other. Trinkūnas claims that the balance between male and female divine manifestations is a characteristic feature of the native faith tradition.54 Lithuanian etiological tales tell that the world was created by God (Dievas), also called “God the Old Man” (Dievas senelis) or the “God of Heaven” (Dangaus Dievas) and his brother, the Devil (Velnias), who in Christian Lithuanian folklore can be seen as based on the prototype of the old god Velnias or Vėlinas.55 Romuvans believe that Dievas and Velnias continuously recreate the world. They are “light and darkness, creation and destruction. Their relationship created harmony and vitality.”56 The third god, Perkūnas, is the god of thunder, lightning, and justice who lives on a high hill and manages all matters of the world (these powers are given to him by Dievas); he is the central figure and the most important Lithuanian god.57 In addition, Romuvans worship other male and female deities with diverse functions: Žemyna, the goddess of the earth and fertility, Mother Earth and Mother of the Dead; Laima, the goddess of fate; Gabija, the goddess of fire and the hearth, and the protectress of the family; and Medeina, the goddess of forests.58 Other deities are worshiped by Romuvans as well: the Sun, the Moon, the Dawn (Aušrinė), and others.59 Everyone can choose gods to worship individually: the world is varied, and many powers and deities work within it, so people hold on to tradition or choose what is nearest and dearest to them personally. The deities are associated with nature, but they are invisible, supernatural. The gods and goddesses can be associated with a particular place, with the traditions of that place, and even with historical events.60 Romuvans believe that the perception of deities is achieved through experience, and also through the performance of rituals. The closeness of female and male gods intensifies the sense of “life in the presence of

gods.” Anyone anytime can meet them in the space inhabited by humans. Gods also monitor that human beings observe moral laws.61

The world (nature) is inhabited by people Romuvans stress the importance of harmony (darna)—that is, loving and respecting personal relations with people and ancestors, the world (nature) and deities.62 The concept of darna “ties the mystical connection with the nature, ancestors, and divinity together with a concern for ethical, harmonious living.”63 According to Rasa,64 “And if you live in harmony with all that being, with the whole—with fire, with water—[and if] you will respect the one who gives to you, [then] you will receive back a lot.” Members of the Romuva movement state that “the world is harmonious, but this harmony is not regular, it sometimes weakens and disappears,”65 and therefore a believer should reach out and grasp a hold of it, to create, protect, maintain, and expand it, which is possible to achieve by acting according to the humaneness code: The most important aspect of morality (the golden rule) teaches that one must do unto all other living things what they would want to be done unto them, and never do anything that you would not want done to you. The Balts call this type of morality humaneness. This is the avoidance of forcefulness and revenge, this is selfless love and pity for all living things.66 Conservative, traditional values are respected here: kindness; respect for the institution of the family, which “is made up of the living and the dead,” where respect for parents, as well as for elders is stressed; veneration of ancestral virtues and general humane values; and respect toward nature.67 There is no dualism in the Romuva view of the world: no opposition between the divine and the human, the spiritual and the physical, between the living and the dead. In this nondualistic framework, the highest value is placed on “harmony” or “unison” with the different levels and inhabitants of the cosmos.68

The universal moral problem of Good and Evil is also explained by Trinkūnas as a lack of harmony: “Man is born good and evil appears only when harmony falls apart. A person evolves spiritually if he lives right and selflessly.”69 Such principle of darna and the traditional moral code implies a person’s relationship with nature and deities, with the community of the living and the dead, and also prepares for the trip to the other world.

The world (nature) is inhabited by ancestors In the Romuva worldview, the ancestors also stay close to people: The Baltic faith unites all those who believe—the living and the deceased. Death is a part of nature.70 That world [i.e. the world of the dead] is very near rather than somewhere far away in the sky or in the underworld.71 For me, the most acceptable symbol of the afterlife world is water. For me, everything there is the same as here, but different. Like you can see yourself when looking into a mirror, so looking into water you can also see yourself—and not only yourself alone (because other things are visible through the transparent water as well). Looking from the other side (more because of the knowledge of other philosophies), I think there is a reincarnation, when souls come to us to the physical world from this or that “the other one” again and again. I think the ancestors do the same.72 Romuvans believe that only the body dies, while the soul transfers into another form of life.73 After death, the deceased—as a “guest of the spirits”— travels the road of the ancestors and reaches the realm of the dead, which in Lithuanian is called Dausos.74 According to Romuva, this is

the home of the ancestors, a place where the souls of the dead dwell and birds go for winter. This world is the home of the sky god Dievas. Dausos is on the top of the world mountain, and it is connected to the world of the living by the Milky Way [known in Lithuanian as Paukščių takas—“path of the birds”].75 Romuvans also state that the spirit joins the rest of its deceased family, and during rituals the dead and the living meet. Ancestors are remembered and honored especially during the Day of the Ancestors (called Ilgės or Vėlinės in Lithuanian) and Kūčios (the night of 24 December before the solstice holiday of Kalėdos). “During these holidays, people exchange presents. By the altar’s fire, prayers are directed toward Perkūnas and Žemyna, and wheat and salt is offered.”76 Songs are an important part of rituals: “One of the biggest things, connecting us with the ancestors, is songs.”77 According to Romuvans, the ancestors are sometimes visible in their daily life; they may help to solve problems, or to spiritually protect and support their living descendants: We can still feel their support and help during hard times, and health, prosperity, and other good things at other times. Our deceased family is always near us, they matter to us and we will always be important to them. We can communicate with them, and the spirits can see us, answering our questions via dreams, for example. They long for us, as do we, in turn inspiring us with their spiritual powers. We have someone we can rely on during hard times and the most important parts of our lives, when no one else on earth can help us. Life becomes easier then.78 Romuvans express their gratitude to their ancestors for their existence, language, and homeland during rituals “when the dead and the living meet,” and simply living before joining “the rest of their deceased family” when the time comes.79

PRACTICES OF THE ROMUVA Rites and individual rituals in general can be understood as “symbolic performances which unite the members of a category of people in a shared pursuit that speaks of, and to, their basic values or that creates or confirms a world of meanings shared by all of them alike.”80 According to Romuvans, a person’s “attitude towards life is reflected in the rites.”81 Also, they emphasize that the rites they perform maintain the order of life. Romuvans perform the main rites and rituals related to the cycle of astronomic solstices and equinoxes, as well as festivals and events based on the cycle of nature and human life (name-giving ceremonies, weddings, and funerals):82 Romuva has its own calendar of holidays. They celebrate Jorė instead of Jurginės [Saint George’s Day], Rasos [other names: Kupolinės, Day of Perkūnas, Summer Solstice] instead of Joninės [Saint John’s Eve] on the 23rd of June, the Saulėgriža [Return of the Sun] during Christmas time, they celebrate autumn and spring equinoxes, and they have the festival of the goddess Milda. They also give names to children and organize marriages.83

The places of the rites performed Rituals are usually performed in nature, in the old Lithuanian sacred places called alkai, which exist in hills, springs, rivers, lakes, trees, rocks, stones, and so on. In Lithuania, according to Trinkūnas, “there are a lot of these places, so Lithuania itself is considered a sacred land.”84 Romuvans see “alkai” as mediators that help to communicate with the gods. As Š erkšnaitė notes, “The sacredness of the place can be created through the particular objects (for example, the altar) and by specific narratives (legends, stories, etc.) connected with the place.”85

The sequence of the rites performed

The beginning of the ritual is a spiritual and physical purifying. It is preferable to visit a sauna before the ritual starts. The following sequence of individual rites in each ritual can be identified: casting a circle, the offerings to the fire, the earth, the žemynėliavimas, the palabinimas, the honoring, and the offerings to the gods by praying and singing songs/chants. First, the circle is cast. The krivis or vaidilos usually begins and leads the ritual performance. Second, the fire in the altar (generally made from stone) is set. This fire is “sweetened, fed” by salt, grains, and so on.86 After the elders finish the offerings, every participant can also throw some grains into the fire. The offering is one of the main parts of all pagan rituals because every new period of life, every ritual marks something ‘new’ in people’s lives, and then the offers are needed.87 Third, the žemynėliavimas (libation to the earth) starts, when some beer or mead, which are perceived as “sacred drinks,” is poured on the ground. This action is considered by Romuvans to be an offering to the goddess Žemyna who is worshiped first in all celebrations. The following words are uttered when pouring the drink on the ground: “Žemynėle [tender appeal to the goddess Žemyna], the blossom raiser, let you bloom in the rye, wheat, barley and all the grains, and be merry. Direct an angry man away.”88 After that libation, the palabinimas (welcoming) is said. The leader of the ritual drinks one gulp from the dipper he is holding, and after the drink is blessed by such words: “We thank God that he was keeping us healthy and condescended to award us with good presents. We also thank the host, the hostess and others, for they have earned and arranged all this.”89 When the drink has been blessed, it is followed by the pagerbimas (honoring): “When you are honoring someone, you bow and touch the ground with fingers, saying ‘Laba, laba, laba,’ and after standing up you hold your palms together.”90 The dipper with the drink is then passed around all participants in the circle, and everybody welcomes each other at the same time. Then, bread

is offered, and everybody breaks and eats a small piece from the loaf, which is also passed around the circle. Afterwards, prayers are uttered, and folk songs which are considered to be sacred chants are sung. “The prayers and chants for the Gods and Goddesses are generally sent through the fire of the altar.” The participants walk in a circle clockwise—in the same direction as the Sun.91

CONCLUSION Romuva believers attempt to reconstruct the sacredness of the surrounding environment and to maintain it, using their interpretation of the sources of the old Baltic culture. Romuvans consider the world to be immanently sacred. Divinity is situated in, and manifests itself in the world (Nature) and people, but not beyond its limits. Sacredness is considered to be the source, the origin that unites Nature, deities, the dead, and the living. In the contemporary Lithuanian Pagan worldview, such sacredness has an immanent mystic character. In order to restore and reveal, and to increase and maintain sacredness in the surrounding world, Romuvans perform festivals and rituals that are related to the cycle of astronomic solstices and equinoxes, or are based on the cycle of nature and human life. Romuvans also aim to reconnect with their Lithuanian ethnic past as a source of spiritual strength. In the Romuva movement, the notion of the sacredness of nature is often closely connected with the homeland and nation. Their awareness of this world and the cosmos should be carried out through their ethnic homeland—Lithuania. Referring to the past and using the attested old Baltic culture as their starting point, the community claims to continue the traditions of that old Baltic faith. They see themselves as acting according to a traditional moral code and as maintaining a particular traditional approach toward divinity which has been cultivated and developed over centuries. At the same time, the use of multiple sources, and the individual reinterpretations of those sources, has led to a degree of plurality of perspectives toward the old Baltic faith. Yet despite the variety, Romuvans sincerely perceive the past and the present of Baltic culture as participating in a single, dynamic creative process that ensures the vitality of the tradition.

NOTES 1. These theoretical concepts (and their relevance concerning Romuva) are discussed in more detailed in Rasa Pranskevičiūtė, “Alternatyvių dvasingumo judėjimų tendencijos posovietinėje visuomenėje: visarionininkai ir anastasininkai” [“Tendencies in Alternative Spiritual Movements in a PostSoviet Society: Vissarions and Anastasians”], PhD dissertation, Vytautas Magnus University, 2011. 2. Individual religiosity—a model of personal religiosity constructed freely by an individual. Individualization—“narrative that interprets social changes in the place of religion in society as a shift from conformity with group-defined ‘packages’ of religious beliefs and practices to individual autonomy and flexibility in assembling personal ‘packages’ of religious beliefs and practices.” Meredith McGuire, Religion: The Social Context (Belmont, CA: Wadsworth/Thomson Learning, 2002), 336. 3. Official religion is “a set of beliefs and practices prescribed, regulated, and socialized by organized, specifically religious groups.” McGuire, Religion, 337. 4. Pranskevičiūtė, “Alternatyvių dvasingumo”, 31–41. 5. For example, see Piotr Wiench, “Neo-Pagan Groups in Central-Eastern Europe,” in Groups and Environments: Interdisciplinary Research Studies, vol. 2, E. Ramanauskaitė (ed.) (Kaunas: Vytautas Magnus University, 2011), 105. 6. The Balts are Indo-European nations and tribes (Lithuanians, Latvians, Prussians, Yotvingians, Curonians, Semigallians, and Selonians), which lived in Eastern Europe by the Baltic Sea from 2000BCE and spoke related languages or dialects. Recently the term “old (native) Baltic faith” has often been used to describe Lithuanian, Latvian, and Belarusian pre-Christian religion. 7. In the movement, the name “Romuva” is generally referred to the main old Baltic sanctuary Romovė or Rikojotas, situated in Prussia, which was active in the sixth century. Gintaras Beresnevičius, “Rickoyotto šventykla: Simono Grunau aprašymas ir kultinis Šiaurės Europos kontekstas ankstyvaisiais Viduramžiais” [“The Sanctuary of Rickoyotto: the Description of Simon Grunau and the Cultic Context of Northern Europe in the Early Middle Ages”], Naujasis židinys—Aidai 10(70) (1996); Norbertas Vėlius (ed.), Baltų religijos ir mitologijos šaltiniai [The Sources of Baltic Religion and Mythology], vol. III (Vilnius: Mokslo ir enciklopedijos leidybos institutas, 2003), 230. Therefore, contemporary “Romuva” is referred to the Romuvans as a “sacred place, sanctuary,” or “light and peace.” Jonas Trinkūnas, Baltų

8. 9.


11. 12. 13.

tikėjimas: Lietuvių pasaulėjauta, papročiai, apeigos, ženklai [Baltic Faith. Lithuanian Worldview, Customs: Rites Signs] (Vilnius: “Diemedžio” leidykla, 2000), 8. The word “Romuva” does not refer to the native Lithuanian religion in general, but only to the particular Pagan organization, which is the most widespread one in Lithuania today. Gintaras Beresnevičius, Lietuvių religija ir mitologija [Lithuanian Religion and Mythology] (Vilnius: Tyto Alba, 2004), 22–36. He also established Romuva sanctuary for his religion in 1929 in Dusetos, northwest Lithuania, which existed for ten years. According to V. Dundzila, Visuomybė “combines and reinterprets a few mythic notions from Zoroastrianism, Hinduism, and paganism in an overly complicated personal mythology.” Rudra Vilius Dundzila, “The ‘Universalism?’ of Domas Šidlauskas-Visuomis,” paper presented at the Collegium Association of Liberal Religious Studies annual meeting, Centerville, MD (1–4 November 2007), 10. Contemporary Romuvans consider Visuomybė as a precursor to a Pagan revival. Jonas Trinkūnas, “Domo Šidlausko Visuomybė ir Romuva” [“Visuomybė of Domas Šidlauskas and Romuva”], Druvis (1996), 8–9. However, Visuomis borrowed only few elements from pre-Christian religion for building his religious system and did not explicitly discuss the reconstruction of the old Lithuanian faith in his works. Dundzila, “The ‘Universalism?’ of Domas Šidlauskas-Visuomis,” 9. The first Romuva organization existed until the Soviet occupation, when many members were executed or deported to Siberia. An underground Romuva group existed in a “corrective” labor camp in Inta, Russia. Jonas Trinkūnas, “Romuvos kelias” [“The Way of Romuva”], Many Romuvans consider the name “Ramuva” as synonymic to “Romuva” (Vytautas Mažiulis, “Romuva, Ramuva,” Vilniaus Ramuvos kraštotyrininkų informacinis naujienlaiškis “Ramuva” [The Vilnius Ethnographic Ramuva’s Informational Newsletter “Ramuva”], 1969, January 31, 3), which, because of the Soviet regime, was used for hiding its initial religious meaning: “we created Ramuva club (we did not dare to call ourselves Romuva, so changed one letter in the title).” Interview with J. Trinkūnas: “‘Romuvos’ kelias: nuo kraštotyros klubo iki senovės baltų religinės bendrijos” [“The Way of ‘Romuva’: from the Club of Ethnography to Old Baltic Religious Community”], Jonas Trinkūnas, Baltų religija šiandien [Baltic Religion Today] (Vilnius: Senovės baltų religinė bendrija, 2011), 11. Ibid. Jurgita Saltanavičiūtė, “Lithuanian Paganism: a ‘Native’ Critique,” Acta Historica Universitatis Klaipedensis 13 (2006); Kristina Šerkšnaitė, “The

14. 15. 16.

17. 18.

19. 20. 21.

22. 23.

Role of Rituals in Neopagan Religious Community of Romuva,” master’s thesis, Vytautas Magnus University, 2006. Trinkūnas, Baltų religija, 32. “2001 m. gyventojų ir būstų surašymas” [“Population and Housing Census in Lithuania, 2001”], Rasa Pranskevičiūtė, “Pagonys” [“Pagans”], Religinių bendruomenių ir dvasinių grupių Lietuvoje žinynas [The Handbook of Religious Communities and Spiritual Groups in Lithuania] (2007), Trinkūnas, Baltų religija, 11. With the initiative of Romuva, the gathering of the representatives of old European religions was organized and the World Congress of Ethnic Religions (WCER) was established in June 1998 in Vilnius. Trinkūnas was elected at the meeting and had been the chairman of the oganization ever since. The primary goal of the organization was to strengthen indigenous ethnic religions and to foster religious tolerance. In the Bologna meeting in 2010, the title of the organization was changed to the European Congress of Ethnic Religions (ECER). It is officially claimed that the purpose of the ECER is “to serve as an international body that will assist ethnic religious groups in various countries and will oppose discrimination against such groups.” Its members understand ethnic religion as the “religion, spirituality, and cosmology that is firmly grounded in a particular people’s traditions.” According to the members of the organization, such understanding “does not include modern occult or ariosophic theories/ideologies, nor syncretic neoreligions” (see, 23 May 2011), where the latter are understood as eclectic New Age type nature-based spiritualities (e.g. Wicca, the Pagan Federation, and other similar non-ethnic religions). Michael Strmiska, “The Music of the Past in Modern Baltic Paganism,” Nova Religio: The Journal of Alternative and Emergent Religions 8(3) (2005). Šerkšnaitė, “The Role of Rituals.” Egidija Ramanauskaitė, “Sugrįžtant į alkus: Lietuvos Romuva” [“Back to the Sacred Shrines: The Lithuanian Romuva”], Darbai ir Dienos 31 (2002); Egidija Ramanauskaitė, Subkultūra: Fenomenas ir modernumas [Subculture: Phenomenon and Modernity] (Kaunas: VDU, 2004), 116–50. Saltanavičiūtė, “Lithuanian Paganism,” 48. Renatas Delis, “Neopagonybės judėjimas posovietinėje Lietuvoje: alternatyvus lietuviškumas kaip atsakas modernybei?” [“The Neo-Pagan Movement in Post-Soviet Lithuania: Constructing an Alternative Lithuanian Identity as a Response to the Conditions of Modernity?”], Lietuvos Etnologija 6(15) (2006), 226.

24. The website of the Centre for Research on Contemporary Spirituality and Culture, 25. Jonas Vaiškūnas, “Baltų religinės tradicijos tęstinumas” [“The Continuance of Baltic Religious Tradition”], Romuva 4 (2006), 13. 26. Norbertas Vėlius (ed.), Baltų religijos ir mitologojos šaltiniai [The Sources of Baltic Religion and Mythology], vol. I (Vilnius: Mokslo ir enciklopedijos leidybos institutas, 1996). 27. Janas Dlugošas, “Lenkijos istorija,” in Baltų religijos ir mitologijos šaltiniai [History of Poland: The Sources of Baltic Religion and Mythology], vol. I, Norbertas Vėlius (ed.) (Vilnius: Mokslo ir enciklopedijos leidybos institutas, 1996). 28. Simonas Daukantas, Būdas senovės lietuvių, kalnėnų ir žemaičių [The Character of the Ancient Lithuanians, Highlanders and Samogitians] (Vilnius: Ethnos, 1993). 29. Teodoras Narbutas, Lietuvių tautos istorija [A History of Lithuanian Nation], vols I–V (Vilnius: Mintis, 19918 ). 30. Jono Basanavičius, Jono Basanavičiaus tautosakos biblioteka [The Folklore Library of Jonas Basanavičius], vols 1–15, compiled by L. Sauka & K. Aleksynas (Vilnius: Vaga, 1993–2004). Works of J. Basanavičius are also available at 31. Interview with Aistis, male, born in 1982. 32. Interview with Jonas Trinkūnas 33. Strmiska, “The Music of the Past in Modern Baltic Paganism”; Trinkūnas, Baltų religija, 28. 34. Trinkūnas, Baltų tikėjimas, 119. 35. Interview with Ugnė, female, born in 1982. 36. Miglė, “Devyniaragio Romuva” [“Romuva of Devyniaragis”], Romuva 5 (2009), 13–14. 37. The chant “Didysie mūsų” can be found on Perkūno giesmės [Hymns for Perkūnas], a CD by the ritual folk group Kūlgrinda from 2003. 38. Interview with Mantas, male, born in 1983. 39. One of such reconstruction examples would be establishing of the image of the love goddess Milda. H. Vilkė, “Mildos šventė” [“The Festival of Milda”] Romuva 5 (2009); Jonas Trinkūnas, Žodžiai mūsų Dievams ir Deivėms [Words to Our Gods and Godesses] (Vilnius: Senovės baltų religinė bendrija, 2010), 32–3. Milda, as the love and matchmaking goddess, was first mentioned by T. Narbutas in Lietuvių tautos istorija, originally published in 1935 without a reference on critical sources. This uncritical approach toward the symbolical meanings of Milda was continued by mythologist-romanticists of the late nineteenth century and the early twentieth century. Recently Milda has become popular among some folklorists, rural tourism homesteads, and

40. 41. 42. 43. 44. 45. 46. 47. 48. 49. 50. 51. 52. 53. 54. 55.

56. 57. 58. 59. 60. 61. 62. 63.

various Pagan-oriented communities. Rimantas Balsys, “Meilės deivės Mildos autentiškumo klausimu” [“On the Authenticity of the Love Goddess Milda”], Logos 60 (2009). A holiday for Milda (also named as Aušrinė) is celebrated by the Romuvans on 13 May. Interview with Rima, female, born in 1982. Trinkūnas, Baltų religija, 13. Jonas Trinkūnas, “Lietuvių senojo tikėjimo pradmenys” [“The Principals of Old Lithuanian Belief”], Druvis (1996), 4. Trinkūnas, žodžiai, 5. A sycamore is interpreted by many as the symbolic “tree of life” or “tree of the world”. Kanklės—a Baltic and Northern European stringed instrument. Trinkūnas, Baltų tikėjimas, 11. Ibid., 12. Ibid., 13. Ibid. Interview with Rima, female, born in 1982. Beresnevičius, Religijų istorijos metmenys, 289. Ibid., 11. Interview with Rasa, female, born in 1980. Trinkūnas, Baltų tikėjimas, 11. Beresnevičius, Religijų istorijos metmenys, 282. God is correspondingly associated with the sky (heaven) and Vėlinas with the earth, the underworld, and water. The Romuvans also consider God as “the god of light and life” and Vėlinas as “the protector of ancestors.” According to them, “the collation between the work of Dievas and Vėlinas expresses the essence of world creation and human existence.” Trinkūnas, Baltų religija, 15. Ibid., 12–13. Beresnevičius, Religijų istorijos metmenys, 280. Trinkūnas, Žodžiai, 43; Trinkūnas, Baltų religija, 16–17. “Deivės ir Dievai” [“Goddesses and Gods”], page=deives-ir-dievai. Trinkūnas, Baltų religija, 12. Beresnevičius, Religijų istorijos metmenys, 289. Trinkūnas, Baltų religija, 12. Lithuanian darna is related to the Indian dharma—“a key religious term laden with multiple meanings in both Hinduism and Buddhism, ranging from ‘order’ to ‘law’ to ‘teaching’ to ‘duty.’ The diversity of meanings in the Indian cognate again opens the door to a certain ambiguity and multiplicity of meaning for darna, grounded in the core sense of an underlying sustaining principle in the universe, somewhat akin to the Chinese Tao.” Michael

64. 65. 66. 67.

68. 69. 70. 71. 72. 73. 74. 75. 76. 77. 78. 79. 80. 81. 82. 83. 84. 85. 86. 87. 88. 89. 90. 91.

Strmiska and Rudra Vilius Dundzila, “Romuva: Lithuanian Paganism in Lithuania and America,” in Modern Paganism in World Cultures: Comparative Perspectives, Michael Strmiska (ed.) (Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO 2005), 253. Interview with Rasa, female, born in 1980. Trinkūnas, Baltų religija, 12. Ibid., 13. It is told, that “the most important requirement for morality is respect for all life, its protection, from here comes the commandment to not kill. Since the world surrounding us is alive, we must respect its every manifestation.” Ibid., 23–4. Strmiska & Dundzila, “Romuva,” 252. Trinkūnas, Baltų religija, 13. Ibid. Interview with Rasa, female, born in 1980. Interview with Rima, female, born in 1982. Jonas Trinkūnas, “Lietuvių senojo tikėjimo pradmenys” [“The Principals of Old Lithuanian Belief”], Druvis (1996), 4; Trinkūnas, Baltų religija, 13. Trinkūnas, Baltų religija, 20. Ibid., 21. “Possibly the Milky Way was seen as the mythical cosmic mountain or its slope, which had to be conquered by the humans, and the birds could fly to it.” Beresnevičius, Lithuanian Religion. Trinkūnas, Baltų religija, 13, 22. Interview with Giedrius, male, born in 1978. Trinkūnas, Baltų religija, 20–21. Ibid., 13. Gerd Baumann. “Ritual Implicates ‘Others’: Rereading Durkheim in a Plural Society,” in Understanding Rituals, D. de Coppet (ed.) (London: Routledge, 1992), 98. Interview with Andrius, male, born in 1988. You can find all the holidays Romuva celebrate in Trinkūnas, Baltų religija, 39. Interview with Rima, female, born in 1982. Trinkūnas, Baltų religija, 25. Šerkšnaitė, “The Role of Rituals,” 60. Trinkūnas, Žodžiai, 10. Šerkšnaitė, “The Role of Rituals,” 37–8. Trinkūnas, Žodžiai, 10. Ibid., 11. Ibid. Trinkūnas, Žodžiai, 10–11.



INTRODUCTION In recent years, nearly every European society, including Latvia, has been faced with the emergence and growth of a variety of new religious movements (NRMs). Some NRMs are centered around the “re-invention” of pre- or non-Christian belief systems, such as Wicca, Asatru, the Goddess Movement, or Neo-Druids in France or Great Britain; Roman Gentilitas in Italy; and the various autochthonic movements of Neopaganism in Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, and Ukraine. These NRMs oppose Christianity and reclaim a primordial European or national spirituality for themselves.1 The forms of such Neopagan belief systems and religious practices are mostly very heterogeneous across different groups and countries. Dievturība stands apart from the mainstream of the global contemporary Neopagan movements like Wicca, the Goddess Movement, or the broad milieu of Pagan-influenced New Age, or even such wellknown transnational movements such as Druidry or Asatru. For instance, Dievturība is usually not characterized as pantheistic, polytheistic, shamanistic, or magical religion oriented toward spirituality of nature. Individuals in Dievturi groups are searching for an “individual path to God.” Dievturība belongs to the branch of Neopaganism that, ignoring the long presence of Christianity in Latvia, strives to reconstruct the cultural legacy of those ancient Baltic peoples (including tribes such as Latgalians, Selonians, Zemgaļi, and Kurši) whose merger in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries formed the Latvian people, language, and common culture. The reconstruction of this legacy does not have a global outreach; it is meant only for Latvians. However, Dievturība’s does not emphasize any kind of predestination of Latvians. According to Dievturi, “we cultivate our own culture and let other nations cultivate theirs,” thus stressing the idea of tolerance and peaceful co-existence of all nations and cultures.

THE HISTORY AND GENERAL CHARACTERISTICS OF THE “DIEVTURĪBA” The movement of Dievturība began in the mid 1920s as an alternative combination of religion and Latvia’s “New Nationalism,” related to the neo- Romantic nationalist movements widespread in Europe at that time. The participants’ aim was to provide an ideological basis for the newly independent Latvian state and nation, which had spent the majority of its history since the thirteenth century under a succession of foreign dominations (including German, Swedish, Polish-Lithuanian, and Russian). The Dievturi Church proclaimed a specifically Latvian way of life in areas such as religion, politics, economics, art, and philosophy. During that period of its development, Dievturība only partially participated in the nascent European Neopagan tradition; it remained more of a national ideology. Ernests Brastinš (1892–1941) formulated the movement’s main values, placing the “folk” in a central position. Brastiņš stated: What is the highest value, the greatest benefit in this new morality? The human, Humanity, or God? Neither the first, nor the second or the third, but folk! Folk is the highest value, benefit, and sanctity. Folk is in the centre of the world! Folk is above everything else! Folk in the first place.2 The Dievturība see Latvian rural folk religion as the basis of Latvian ethnic culture which, in a purified form, can act as an alternative to Christianity. Dievturi regard Christianity as a foreign religion which was imposed on Latvians. Although inspired by rural culture, Dievturība was spread by urban creative people and intellectuals (artists, musicians, literati, philosophers, theologians, etc.). Dievturi believe that Latvian folk songs preserve the whole of the ancient Latvian religion, faith, morality, aesthetics, and social views. Dievturi argue that the authentic traditional culture is still alive in Latvia, whereas elsewhere in Europe it has long been forgotten. Therefore, Dievturi groups have a specific mission to sustain and cultivate the ancient European culture heritage.

The major argument for these claims is that, according to some scholars, Latvian folk songs date back to Vedic times.3 Several Dievturi have attempted to reconstruct the mythic and ritual connections between Latvian folk songs and Vedic hymns. For example, Paliepa argues that “the matriarchal elements in the Latvian Dainas [folk songs], and to a certain extent in the Latvian social structure of today, were inherited from the culture of Old Europe as it existed before the arrival of the IndoEuropeans.”4 Dievturi group participants also claim Latvia to be located at the crossroads of European religious experience. They believe that several cult places and spiritual centers with Europe-wide significance are situated in Latvia, such as the Pokaiņi forest with its mysterious piles of stones.5 They organize rituals with the purpose of regenerating and purifying the spiritual power of those ancient European cult places. Sometimes respondents report experiencing visions in important cult places, or report a sense of the presence of deities and special spiritual experiences during rituals of regenerating sacred places. This is often an individual spiritual experience, whereas others perceive a more general spiritual atmosphere of the sacred place. Contemporary Dievturi acknowledge the efforts of such predecessor movements as the Young Latvians, who fought for national independence during the First Word War, in emphasizing the continuity of the ethnic/ national idea in Latvia. During the first national reawakening, the Young Latvians initiated the systematic collection of Latvian folklore. The leading light of the first century of renewal was Krišjānis Barons (1835– 1923), a folklorist, publicist, and writer who arranged and published the first collection of Latvian folk songs, Latvju Dainas6 (1894–1915; a total of 217,996 folk songs collected in six volumes). The importance of the Latvian Dainas is best described by folklorist Albert Lord: Barons, contribution to Latvian cultural development by recording its distinctive past cannot be overestimated. … he also made possible, through his collecting and publishing of Latvian oral traditional song, the study of that immense and often very beautiful, poetic corpus so that it might add the Latvian evidence

to the problems of oral traditional poetry in general. It is one of the largest, perhaps indeed the largest, body of oral traditional lyric poetry songs in existence.7 Modern Dievturi acknowledge that Young Latvian ideas in the 1920s and 1930s initiated the Dievturi movement in Latvia, and that both Young Latvians and Dievturi share common sources—folklore, language, and culture—in their search for ethnic identity and national heritage. However, Dievturi disagree with some of the religious conclusions of the Young Latvians because they were based on unwarranted borrowings from other Baltic peoples. And Dievturi extend certain aspects of the work initiated by the Young Latvians further—finding religious and ethical messages in Latvian folklore even outside of the family and seasonal festivity rites. The term they chose for their movement, “Dievturība,” was derived from the Latvian dievs (“god”) and turēt (“hold”), and is generally translated as “the people who hold or live according to God’s laws.” The followers of the Dievturība religion are known as Dievturi. A strategic goal of the Dievturi in the 1920s to 1930s was to achieve for Dievturība recognition as the religion of the Latvian state. The first Latvian Dievturi parish was granted the status of a religious organization in 1926. In 1929 they registered a Latvian Dievturi community that united the parishes of Riga, Valmiera, Jelgava, and Liepāja, but after the authoritarian coup détat of 1936, the Dievturi were forced to re-register as a secular organization.8 In the 1920s and 1930s, Dievturi activists organized various events, and published polemic articles and literary works in Dievturi journals Dievturu Vēstnesis (“The Dievturi Messenger”) (1928–9) and Labietis (“The Good Man”) (1931–40). The activities of the Latvian Dievturi community were interrupted by the Soviet invasion of Latvia in the middle of 1940. After the Second World War, with the homeland now part of the Soviet Union, Latvian émigré Dievturi resumed some of their activities abroad: the Viestura parish started activities in 1949 in England headed by Jānis Kūlis and the Burtnieku parish was founded in 1965 in Toronto Canada. The journal Labietis was restarted in 1955 in Lincoln, Nebraska. An émigré Dievturi community was incorporated in Illinois in 1971 as the “Latvian Church Dievturi” headed by Arvīds Brastiņš (brother of Ernests

Brastiņš). The creation of the “Dievsēta” (“God’s Homestead”) site in Wisconsin was begun in 1977. The Dievturi groups abroad have not been exclusively religious in nature, but are often more focused on sustaining and cultivating Latvian culture.9 In the Latvian Soviet Socialist Republic, against the broader background of Soviet perestroika and glasnost, interest in Latvian ethnic culture grew in the 1980s in the Latvian “Third National Awakening.” The Dievturi movement was officially re-registered on 18 April 1990, less than a month before the Latvian declaration of independence from the USSR. The restored Latvian Dievturi community was headed by the renowned ceramic artist Eduards Detlavs (1919–92). In contemporary Latvia (as of 2010), there are 16 functioning groups associated with the Dievturi concept (Auseklis, Rāmava, Burtnieks, Dainu Līga, Daugava, Tālava, Beverīna, Namejs, Madaras, Rūsiņš, Dižozols, Bramaņi, Viesturs, Sidrabene, Austra, and Māras Loks). The approximate total number of registered members of these Dievturi religious organizations has fluctuated between 600 and 800, however, the number of their supporters and those who attend public events is certainly larger.10 The approximate number of members in the most active Latvian Dievturi groups is about thirty. The age of the participants is mostly middle-aged and older. Dievturi events are also attended by young people, yet their influence in the group is insignificant. The groups in Latvia are characterized by a high proportion of females (about 70 percent).11 For some Latvian Dievturi, belonging to this group does not require any major change in their lifestyle. Practicing this religion for them is both a way of understanding (ancient Latvian history, Latvians as bearers of IndoEuropean heritage, etc.) and a totality of moral principles by which one may lead an honorable life. Participants in the Dievturi milieu can be hard to count because they “blend into” other adjacent spheres, such as other registered Churches or secular folklore groups.

ERNESTS BRASTIŅŠ (1892–1942) AND HIS INFLUENCE Ernests Brastiņš was the undisputed leader of the Dievturi in the 1920s and 1930s, and is recognized in the post-war Dievturība as its father, founder, and leading ideologue. He was a charismatic and authoritarian leader who energetically spread his ideas in books and journal articles as well as in speeches at various public and Dievturi events. He enjoyed taking part in debates in which he could express and explain his views. His style was marked by enthusiasm and conviction about the truth of his arguments. He emphasized principles central to Dievturi doctrine: the negation of any ideas created outside of “Latvian-ness;” the opposition between those values which are one’s own, positive, and autochthonic and those values which are alien, negative, or borrowed; and the vision of the modern (Latvian) culture and national state as an extension of the ancient and original (Latvian) religion, traditional culture, lifestyle, and folklore. Misāne concludes that: The analysis of Dievturība is basically that of Brastiņš’ ideas and activities. In terms of its doctrine, Dievturība is entirely the creation of Brastiņš, and as the supreme leader of the organization, he took decisions on all practical issues. Other visible representatives of the movement—the artist Jēkabs Bīne, the publicist and author Alfreds Goba, engineer Kārlis Bregžis, the writers Voldemārs Dambergs and Jānis Veselis, and others— published in ‘Dievturība’ publications and elsewhere, but they did so much less than Brastiņš did. In terms of content, the articles of the other authors were not innovative—they simply served to expand upon what the supreme leader had said and to convince others of the truth of his words. These articles focused mostly on religious issues and hardly ever touched upon politics.12 Brastiņš studied at the Stieglitz Art Academy in Saint Petersburg (1911– 16) and participated in the First World War and the battles for the independence of Latvia. In 1921, at the age of 29 he became the director of the Latvian War Museum. While working there, Brastiņš conducted

exhaustive field research into early Latvian history: investigating, measuring, and describing around 300 hill-fort sites in Latvia as well as the folklore related to them. Brastiņš also studied Latvian ethnography, folk ornamentation, and symbolism. It was during his tenure at the Museum that he officially founded the first Dievturi organization in 1926. His research was terminated by the Soviet occupation of Latvia in 1940. On 6 July 1940, he was arrested by the security services and executed on 28 January 1942.13 The present day Latvian Dievturi group members characterize Brastiņš as a person with extensive knowledge of the history of art and religions, an innovative painter14 and poet, Nationalist ideologue and the re-constructor of the national religion. Dievturi doctrine remains to this day grounded in the ideas presented by Brastiņš’. Some individual attempts at introducing changes to Brastiņš’ teachings have been suggested in the 1990s and 2000s, but they have not gained significant ground yet. Brastiņš compiled and published three works on Latvian folk songs— Latvju Dievadziesmas (“Latvian God-songs”; 1928), Latvju tikumu dziesmas (“Latvian ethical songs”; 1929) and Latvju gadskārtu dziesmas (“Latvian Anniversary Songs”; 1929). According to Brastiņš, these Latvian folk songs conveyed the nature and principles of the ancient or national religion of the Latvians—“Dievturība.” He stated that “the only corpus of religious materials belonging to our nation are folk songs. Less important in this case is folktales, superstitions, and proverbs. Those every nation borrowed from each other.”15 This attitude differentiates Brastiņš’ view from research into national culture and religion conducted in the second half of the nineteenth century. The basic principles of Dievturība are outlined in Brastiņš’ 1932 book Dievturu Cerokslis (“The Intentions of the Dievturi”). In this monograph or “initial compendium of Dievturība in question-and-answer form,” Brastiņš provided his opinion on the issues of the identities of the Latvian deities and on the nature of Dievturība, its goals and functions. Brastiņš did not conceive of the Dievturi faith as his own religious revelation or prophecy. He portrayed it as a rescue of religious notions that had almost disappeared among Latvians at the beginning of the nineteenth century under the impact of Christianity.

TRINITARIAN MONOTHEISM AND THE LATVIAN DEITIES Dievturi doctrine is centered on a kind of trinitarian monotheism. The theological triad of Dievs-Māra-Laima is recognized as a united totality, thus denying the existence of polytheism in the ancient Latvian religion. Dievs (God) is considered as the one and only supreme being. Dievs is described as an eternal master of the cosmic order, laws, and destinies who helps people, gives them wise advice, and teaches them good living. In Dievturi doctrine, the deities Māra and Laima appear as subordinates to Dievs, symbolizing or manifesting some of His energy aspects. The deity Māra, according to the orthodox version of the doctrine, is considered the manifestation of God in the material world and in visible nature. The deity Laima functions as the one who decides human fate and determines the length of human life, and who rules the order established by God in the universe. The participation of Laima in childbirth and her power over human fate is a widespread motif of Latvian folk songs: For my bride, for my bride, I made a bride of linden leaves. Hopefully her foot will not slip, Walking along Laima’s path. I opened the bath-house door, I crawled with Laima into the bath-house. God only knows if I am meant To ever come out in the sunlight again.16 Laima presides at childbirth, which used to take place in the clean, sterile setting of the bath-house. Laima, accompanies a woman at this important moment in her life. “Either she will come out into the sunlight with a new baby, or she will die in childbirth and never see the sun again.”17 At the time that Dievturība resumed open activities in Latvia in the 1990s, alternative opinions about these theological questions had emerged

which contradicted the doctrine founded by Brastiņš in the 1930s. The leaders of Dievturība in the 1990s believed that any changes should be enacted very conservatively and carefully. Therefore, some adherents who disagreed with orthodox Dievturi doctrine developed their own changes and broke away from the existing group to form new ones. According to the Dievturi anthropological views, the human being consists of another trinity: a physical body, a dvēsele (soul), and a velis (ghost or spirit). After a human’s death, the physical body goes to the earth and falls under the rule of Māra, while the dvēsele reunites with the Cosmic mind (Dievs), and the velis goes to the land of the dead. The velis, the portion between body and soul, might be called today the “high-energy body”—the ultimate matter and energy interface.18 The velis aspect secures the individual’s bond with their ancestors and with the wisdom of life and traditions which are inherited from them. This bond is cyclically renewed during the “Dievaines,” or the time of the dead spirits.

DIEVTURI RITUAL PRACTICES Exaltations The Dievturi faith does not recognize any notion akin to Christian prayers of petition or reparation directed at deities. Instead, they practice exaltations (daudzinājumi) and strive to experience the presence of God individually, usually in the form of impressions from nature or visions of the proximity of God. Exaltation is the major Dievturi group event which consolidates the unity and shared values of the group. Through exaltation, participants in the rite contribute to the existence of the good in the world thus multiplying the positive. The religious significance is exalted by saying “lai top!” (“let it become!”). The most active Latvian Dievturi groups organize exaltations once a month. In some cases, they are part of wider events related to family celebrations or anniversaries. Participants in exaltations often include people who are not committed Dievturi but who are interested in Latvian ethnic culture. Participants may also be relatives, friends, or neighbors who have been invited to a name-giving, wedding, or funeral ceremony. Hence, exaltations may be part of both closed events where only group members are informed about the time and place, and also open events embracing a wider community of individuals. Participation in the rite of exaltation is a demonstration of the religious conviction of the group as well as the ethnic cultural heritage. The Dievturi calendar juxtaposes cyclic, Pagan time onto the linear Christian time. Exaltations are associated with days dedicated to “mythological images” (Ūsiņday, Mārtiņday, Māra day, etc.) and annual festivities and solstices, as well as aspects of the agrarian year—haymaking, rye harvest, and so on. They hold their exaltations at significant sites of ethnic culture —ancient Baltic hillforts, cult hills, groves, trees, springs, heaps of stones, megaliths, among others. Specific deities can also be associated with a specific location, for example, the Laima spring near Gaiziņš, the highest hill in Latvia. Usually the location is associated with a story of the apparition of the deity, and with a sense of presence and sacredness experienced by the believers. Ritual space must also include some

elements of ethnic culture. Indoors, these are typically the Latvian Dievturi cross, candles, flowers, twigs, a linen tablecloth, a stained glass window, and other decorative elements that are the sacred property of a Latvian Dievturi group. Outdoors, the ethnic culture elements are springs, large stones, trees (especially oak), and a fireplace, which is sometimes especially resplendent and of a complex design including solar symbolism. The ritual location of an exaltation is not extensively remodeled, but it is decorated by, for example, tying yarn in the tree branches and shrubs. Participants place special emphasis on ethnic elements in their ritual apparel and ornaments. It is not compulsory to be dressed in national costumes in Latvian Dievturi exaltations, yet people who have cultivated national traditions for a long time usually wear folk costumes. In some cases it may be an almost complete set of reconstructed Baltic folk costume (usually Latgalian or Zemgalian costumes). However, the majority of participants usually wear only some items of the national costume: sagsha or woolen wrap, waistband, hat, linen shirt, trousers and waistcoat, brooches, rings, pendants, amber beads, wreaths, and so on. Folk songs, ritual dances, and games are important accompanying activities at exaltations. Certain musical instruments (kokle, drums) and bourdon singing also have important national associations. At the ritual feasts at exaltations, the table setting and cuisine conform to the traditional ways in ancient times. The table is decorated with ferns, daisies, corn flowers, and oak twigs. The most popular dishes are rye bread, honey, cheese, cottage cheese, meat pies, spring water, milk, and beer. Words with archaic or folk connotations are used; there are also specifically religious terms used by Dievturi (daudzinājums, “exaltation”;19 vērtums, “shift”;20 vīkšejs, “organizer”21). These words are borrowed from early Latvian records of folklore and ethnographic descriptions of the second half of the nineteenth century. One of the tasks to resume the hypothetical ancient Latvian religion is to “get back” archaic words and use them in an active way. The three major family life-cycle celebrations in Dievturi faith are: krustabas (christening or name-giving ceremonies), vedības (weddings)

and bedības (funerals). There is no institution which issues permission to perform a Dievturi rite. Rites are performed by the leaders of congregations (vīkšejs, “organizer”) or by individual Dievturi who are able and qualified to lead ceremonies, that is, they are active, charismatic, and respectable people who have a good knowledge of the ancient heritage and of Latvian traditions. The name-giving ceremony, krustabas, protects the person with his or her name. The godparents have the right to choose the name for the child. The name must suit the child, and it must not spoil the child’s life as the name carries energy. Each name carries certain duties and it is advisable to periodically change an individual’s name, thus having a childhood name, an adolescent name, and an adult name. Each of these changes not only marks the passage of age but also gives the individual new direction and course of action. The name for a child is sought in a tree; it is sensed and appears in dreams. The name must be significant without needing to translate it or it is associated with a historic person, such as ancient Baltic kings (for example, Tālivaldis, Visvaldis, Viesturs). There is no precise time for performing the krustabas, but it is done shortly after birth. The time of the krustabas is determined by economic and social concerns and the date is justified by saying that such is life, that one must take into consideration the situation, including the season (for example, summer is a more pleasant time for outdoor rituals in Latvia). It is emphasized that spiritual preparation for the rite is more important than its formal performance. The krustabas may take place at home or in an outdoor location—in a garden, under an oak tree, or at a family sanctuary. The ceremony requires specific components: above all, pure spring water (the major sacred substance of the rite), a twig or a flower, candles, and a representation of the Māra Cross (or “golden cross,” the main symbol of Dievturi), a Latvian form of “crossed cross.” The twig or flower is immersed in spring water and used to draw the Māra Cross across the named child by the priest/performer of the krustabas. In a different version, the priest/performer’s fingers are dipped into spring water and dripped over the named child’s head, to secure the blessing of God, Laima, and Māra. Simultaneously, participants in the ritual sing a song of praise to life, the kin, and the folk of the named child. The most significant folk song

usually performed during the krustabas ritual is “Towards the Sun, Against the Sun,” wishing the godchild (pāde) a good character, a happy life, success at work, and good health: Towards the sun, against the sun, I bounced the godchild, So that my godchild May grow like the sun. I will give my godchild One half ruble, So that my godchild Will walk in one half year.22 The child is raised toward and facing the sun, while wishing that the child shall hold light in his or her heart. If the child is quiet, the ritual and invocation may be longer, if the child is restless and crying, it is made shorter. This is a rite of passage in which the social and religious elements are closely intertwined; the newly born is incorporated into cosmic and social processes. If the child is too small to wear a folk costume, their clothes may be decorated with folk elements such as a silver brooch or rings. Godparents and other rite participants may present the child with silver brooches, spoons, or money. During the krustabas ceremony, the future life of the child is foretold by observing the phenomena taking place in nature around them.23 The canonical Dievturi rite of vedības (literally meaning “equalization,” the wedding rite) emphasizes the idea that from that moment onwards husband and wife are equal in their duties and rights, and that neither of them has a higher position in their family. Dievturi groups unanimously accept the equal value of both sexes, grounding it in the ideas expressed in Latvian folk songs and traditional folkways. However, they also claim that both genders have particular functions, rights, and duties in the family and community, and thus social gender roles are determined by sex. This form of gender equality (equal but different) is regarded as axiomatic and an enduring tradition in Latvian culture. Any attempt at altering traditional

gender roles in the context of global processes, therefore, is considered by Dievturi to be a threat to their culture and nation. Among some groups of the contemporary Dievturi, the classic interpretation of the ritual of “equalization” is supplemented with a more rarefied and spiritual “equalization.” In this, the priest equalizes the disparities between the auras of the husband and wife so that in everyday life they will have compatible characters, mutual harmony, and respect. In the same way, the priest may prepare the newlyweds’ souls in order to prepare the way for their future child’s soul to find its parents. Such new additions, even though practiced only in some Dievturi groups, indicate that some innovation and variance may remain unnoticed. The marriage rite of vedības is symbolic and it does not have legal force under Latvian law. Therefore, before the religious Dievturi wedding ceremony, couples usually register their marriage with the civil authorities. In Dievturi funerals, bedības, special emphasis is placed on the “lightness” of the ritual. Interviews conducted during field research stress a “double surprise” in this matter that affects both organizing the ritual and the participants. The group members are surprised by their own capability and results, by the joy they experience in performing a distinct practice from the Christian one, and by the satisfaction they feel when they are able to make the sad and painful funeral experience somewhat easier. They also point out that the participants (relatives, friends, colleagues, neighbors) are regularly surprised by the comforting and hopeful atmosphere characteristic of the Dievturi funeral rites. For many, it is a new and unexpected experience and they learn to appreciate the Dievturi funerals as a self-sufficient and saturated (religious) experience. The existing monopoly of the Christian Churches in conducting funeral rites in contemporary Latvia is thus challenged by the alternative by Dievturība. Funeral rituals can also be of “mixed” nature, containing both a speech by a Christian priest and folk songs performed by a Dievturi group and the attendant folk tradition elements (such as the deceased being provided with a pot of honey covered with a linen cloth). It should be noted that not all Dievturi are categorically against Christianity, and in the rituals of individual groups one may find syncretism of diverse traditions, including Christian, Soviet, and even Asian ones.

Group members have great respect for Latvian symbolism, including original ornamental signs found in folk art, as well as adaptations and combinations that have been created by Latvian artists (Ernests Brastiņš,24 Jēkabs Bīne, Valdis Celms,25 etc.). Many Dievturis study archeological materials and historical data on clothes, jewelry, and ornaments of the preChristian peoples living on the territory of Latvia. The present symbols of the Republic of Latvia—national anthem, colors, coat of arms—are also among the sacred signs and symbols of Dievturi. Wearing folk costume or symbols at Dievturi events marks the person’s orientation toward a particular way of thinking, creates the feeling of mutual relatedness and belonging, and consolidates the group and the participants of the event. The ornamental symbolism also has an informing and reminding character (we are Latvians, etc.). Dievturi believe that each individual can find his or her own special symbol from among the shared “Dievturi sacred ornament legacy” that reveals their personality as well as demonstrating their belonging to the Dievturi tradition.

POLITICAL AND NATIONAL IDEAS OF CONTEMPORARY LATVIAN DIEVTURI GROUPS The most significant idea that unites the Dievturi “movement” as a whole is the notion of their faith as a Latvian religion. It is characterized as a native way of knowing God that is equal to that of other recognized world religions. The Dievturi faith, as a Latvian religion, envisages a specifically Latvian way of religious experience which is rooted in Latvian folk songs, their Latvian tradition of performance, their Latvian cultural environment, Latvian national self-awareness, and a strong association with a unified Latvian national identity. This ideology mandates the creative participation of groups and their members in the practical fulfillment of the theoretical concepts of the Dievturi faith. Alfreds Goba, one of the major ideologists of Dievturi doctrine of the 1920s to 1930s, wrote: Without the enthusiasm and revelations of Latvian religion, a poet faces exhaustion, destitution of the soul, insignificance. Without the light of Latvian religion, he cannot strike upon a matter, plots, and images worthy of poetry; he does not hear any more noble rhythms, only the prosaic noise of everyday. Without Latvian spirit, a poet wanders around like a lunatic and gropes after alien trifles. He tries to rock himself into alien rhythms and does not realize that this is an unnecessary and harmful labor.26 Members of Dievturi groups are often outspoken about belonging to the movement and that they have joined their group in order to work for the good of the Latvian people. Participation in Dievturi group activities is considered by them to be the most significant Latvian value, because any and all of their activities are treated as working for the present and future of the Latvian people. Among the most significant values expressed by Dievturi are kindness, honesty, harmony, knowledge of the world, joy, and respect toward the values of other people. Other core concerns include the family, healthy lifestyles, respect toward nature, and the need to pass on the legacy of Latvian virtues and the traditional culture to the future generations.

All ritual actions, narratives, exalted values, and paraphernalia are aimed at gaining the sensation of religious experience. It is important that the religious experience be aroused by the good and the beautiful. National elements guarantee adherence to the right lifestyle as well as aesthetic pleasure and religious experience. Everything that is alien, such as the food and drinks of other nations or inappropriate ways of celebration, are unacceptable. Latvian Dievturi consider that the Latvian people have everything they need without foreign ways and borrowings both in their everyday life and in their festivities. According to them, it is unfortunate that many people think that what has been borrowed is better, more beautiful, more appropriate. Latvian Dievturi insist on cultural selfsufficiency. Hence, Latvian Dievturi groups are expressly anti-globalist. Many Dievturi rank-and-file members emphasize the importance of individual religious exploration, in opposition to the conservative elite of the administrating circles of Dievturi who do not venture beyond minor modifications of the ceremonial order created in the 1930s. These members stress that all Dievturi rituals—the classic iterations from the 1930s and among Latvian émigrés after the Second World War, as well as newer developments in post-Soviet Latvia—can be considered a new tradition, hence it must continue to be developed and improved in accordance with the age in which it exists. Thus, along with Latvian folk songs, “exaltations” are sometimes replenished with other Latvian cultural texts, for example, excerpts from Latvian literature. A conservative maintenance of the practices established in the 1930s drives some Dievturi group members to search for their own individual path toward religious experience, and this becomes one of the major obstacles to group cooperation. It may incite the most active members to seek dialogue with groups propagating completely different worldviews (such as Asian religious teachings) or to practice their Dievturi faith independently rather than as part of a group. In addition, there are individuals who adhere to the Dievturi faith and who take an active part in religious events but who do not register officially, in part because they see membership as a potential impediment to their freedom of self-expression. Strain between Dievturi groups or individuals is not widely publicized, yet it exists due to the diversity of opinions as concerns the manner of practicing the Dievturi faith. The rankand- file members’ evaluation of the

Dievturi official leadership is rather clear—incompetent, passive, conservative, with an outdated style of administration, lots of talking and debating, but little work done. Non-democratic leadership styles and the ways which leaders use the group’s finances can also be causes of strain within groups. There are other Latvian groups which are close to Dievturība. Folklore groups and public organizations also strive to sustain and cultivate Latvian traditional cultural values. Yet the relationship between the folklore movement and competing Neopagan groups in Latvia and Dievturība is rather complicated. Their main flashpoint is related to their pretension of propagating the one and only correct attitude toward folklore. Apart from that, there are also national conservative parties, associations for the politically repressed, and social clubs for the retired which can overlap with Dievturi functions and ideology. There are also Dievturi attempts at finding wider international contacts, yet for the time being they are more like episodic beginnings. Practically no regular cooperation exists with similar groups outside Latvia except with the “Romuva” group in Lithuania (a geographic neighbor and the only other surviving Baltic linguistic community). Dievturi groups portray the rest of Latvian society as divided, preoccupied with material concerns, spiritually passive, indifferent, and philistine. Dievturi believe that their activities have a positive impact on Latvian society even though this impact is not very large. In their eyes, their greatest contribution is in explaining and promoting Latvian traditions, folk songs, and rituals, and urging their fellow Latvians to respect and honor universal human values—honesty, kindness, love, wisdom, decency, and education. Dievturi see themselves as reducing social apathy in Latvia by creating an opposition to the inert and philistine society, and by showing that there is an alternative to the Christian understanding of God, that there is a Latvian way of religious epiphany. Some individual Dievturi members are active in politics and try to influence legislation in Latvia by engaging in public debates on bills and their implementation, yet their activities have only a small effect. The State, in turn, does not interfere in Dievturi group activities, as they do not pose any threat to the existence of the Republic of Latvia or its people. Dievturi wish that their religion would be recognized as belonging

on the government’s short list of “traditional religions” beside the mainstream Christian denominations, rather than on the longer list of “new religions.” This is especially painful for Dievturi because they consider their faith to represent the authentic traditional Latvian way of knowing God, and they emphasize that it has much more ancient roots than Christianity does. However, taking into account the influence of the larger Christian Churches in Latvia and their negative attitude toward the Dievturi faith, for the time being it is rather improbable that Dievturi will manage to gain the same rights as the large Christian churches enjoy (such as marriages which are legally binding under Latvian law). It should be noted that among Dievturi groups there is still no general agreement concerning what their relationship with the Christian Churches in Latvia should be. A conservative segment of Dievturi recognize only those group members who have broken all ties with the Christian Churches. Yet the majority of the movement’s members do not think that participation in Dievturi events requires them to give up the practice of other religions. Today, the Dievturi movement does not have widespread impact on society. Most of the Latvian population’s image of Dievturība is based on stereotypes, rather than experience of their practices and beliefs. Dievturi members are often characterized as national freaks, heathens, or infidels. The Dievturi organization does not have its own newspaper or any other regular print publication that might inform the general public of Dievturi activities or views.27 Dievturi do not show much interest in contacting the mass media, because they perceive it as Christian biased and do not see adequate opportunities to express their position in such fora. The mutual lack of interest may also be explained by the fact that the Dievturi at present do not have a charismatic spokesperson or leader who could consolidate the movement and attract media attention.

CONCLUSION On the one hand, the Dievturi movement claims to possess deeper knowledge about the ancient origins of the Latvians and to have proof of the special position of the Latvians among the other Indo-European peoples.28 They believe that the Latvian language and folk songs preserve very archaic knowledge. They believe that what they practice are authentic and ancient Latvian traditions of religion and lifestyle. Latvian folklore, especially folk songs and testimonies of the traditional lifestyle, are considered to be the major sources of the theoretical and practical interpretations of Dievturi doctrine. A tradition-based “Latvian-ness” is the most important concept of cultural policy that determines all of the activities of Dievturi. On the other hand, Dievturība may also be regarded as a new religion: the origin of its doctrine, practice and promises, the conditions in which it was developed, the people who developed it and their histories are all rather well known to the public.29 Dievturi group members also emphasize their faith as a conscious choice which was made when searching for a substitute for Christianity. It is easy to see the applicability of Hobsbawm and Ranger’s notion of “the invention of tradition” to Dievturība. As Misāne argues: when we talking about Dievturība, we are dealing with a socalled invented tradition—one which may seem ancient, but in fact is quite new and was created purposefully and in a short period of time … Claims by the Dievturi that theirs was an ancient religion, thus, were not justified. Dievturība was created in the 20th century, and everything about it serves to confirm this. In essence this was a new religious movement which was part of a global movement of pre-Christian restoration.30 Yet, one of the major challenges that contemporary Dievturi face is finding avenues for new intellectual reflection in the context of their conservative doctrine. This is something of an irony, as the nucleus of Dievturi groups is formed by active, creative, and educated people.

However, their involvement in the development of the teaching is insignificant, and their attention is primarily focused on ritual practice. The old and unchanging Dievturi teaching has difficulties with new competition and it does not attract as many young people or intellectuals, nor does it arouse as much media interest as it once did. Counter-intuitively, the Dievturi to a certain extent try to distance themselves from those who are the addressees of their message, that is, the wider Latvian community. This tendency springs from the fact that Dievturi today, in contrast to their beginnings in the 1920s, do not have a sought-after solution to offer for the manifest needs of Latvian society, nor can they find a modern mode of address/communication that would arouse deeper interest. The ritual practice of the Dievturi is popularly identified with a specific segment of the folklore movement. Furthermore, the values and ideas offered by Dievturi are conservative, rather than innovative or creative, leaving little that would differentiate them from the other socalled “traditional religions” in the eyes of Latvian society. At the same time, the current research has also uncovered signs of change, that is, many contemporary Dievturi groups are searching for new paths for the development and promotion of their ideas. However, the main problems of contemporary Dievturi groups—conservatism of doctrine, conflicts between groups and relations with folklore groups, the lack of interest from the mass media, difficulties in developing new ideas, unclear relations with Christianity—still remain. The “portrait” of a Dievturi group member emphasizes a creative, goaloriented, and joyful lifestyle, positive radiance of personality and kind-heartedness, a desire to take part in Latvian activities, and a demonstration and study of one’s Latvian identity. Participation in a Dievturi group is mostly related to self-understanding, extending world vision, getting new positive and creative impulses, filling the religious void promoting the value of personal self-awareness and spiritual development. Contemporary Latvian Dievturi group members also acknowledge that their involvement in the group is a positive way to spend their leisure time, while professing and developing the Latvian worldview and identity.

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS This study is based on fieldwork carried out as part of an EU Sixth Framework Programme research project entitled “Society and Lifestyles (hereafter SAL): Towards Enhancing Social Harmonisation through Knowledge of Subcultural Communities” (2006–8). This article reflects only the author’s views and the Community is not liable for any use that may be made of the information contained therein.

NOTES 1. René Gründer, Michael Schetsche, & Ina Schmied-Knitte, Der andere Glaube: Europäische Alternativreligionen zwischen heidnischer Spiritualität und christlicher Leitkultur (Würzburg: Ergon Verlag, 2009). 2. Ernests Brastiņš, Tautai, Dievam, Tēvzemei [To Folk, God, Fatherland] (Riga: Zvaigzne, 1993), 54. 3. Suniti K. Čaterdži, Balti un ārieši [Balts and Aryans in their Indo-European Background] (Riga: Zinātne, 1990), 55–68. 4. Jānis Paliepa, Latvju dainas un vedu himnas [The Latvian Dainas and the Vedic Hymns] (Riga: Jānis Paliepa, 2004), 111. 5. However, these stones date from the time before the arrival of the Baltic people, who thus “inherited” them from the earlier population. Endre Bojtar, Foreword to the Past: A Cultural History of the Baltic People (Budapest: CEE, 1999), 319. 6. The term dainas was invented by the German philosopher J. G. Herder. 7. Paliepa, Latvju dainas un vedu himnas, 109. 8. Agita Misāne, “The Traditional Religion of Dievturība in the Discourse of Nationalism,” Humanities and Social Sciences: Latvia 4(29; Religious Minorities in Latvia) (2000), 48. 9. Amanda Z. Jātniece, “Dievtuŗu iespaids latvietības uzturēšanā trimdā” [“The Impact of Dievturi In Supporting Latvianness into Exile”], in Trimda, kultūra un nacionālā identitāte [Exile, Culture, and National Identity], Daina Kļaviņa & Māris Brancis (eds) (Riga: Nordik, 2004), 345–53. 10. For example, the exaltation on summer solstice in 2007, held in Jāņi Hill of Turaida, gathered about 600 people. The exaltation in Turaida was a part of a wider World Ethnic Religions congress program and it was open to a wider public. 11. The numbers in this paragraph are based on the author’s observations in various Dievturi events. 12. Misāne, “The Traditional Religion,” 49–50. 13. Romāns Pussars, “Par Ernestu Brastiņu (About Ernests Brastiņš),” in Brastiņš, E., Tautai, Dievam, Tēvzemei [To Folk, God, Fatherland], E. Brastiņš (ed.) (Riga: Zvaigzne, 1993), 10. 14. “As a painter Brastiņš attempted to create in a primitive way the images of the Dievturi ideas and beliefs. The images he produced were not on the level with the proclaimed ideas of mythology based very much on the Latvian folk songs. He is important as an explorer and ideologist, not so much as an artist.” Jānis Siliņš, Latvijas māksla 1915–1940 [Art of Latvia 1915–1940], vol. I (Stockholm: Daugava, 1988), 471.

Brastiņš, Tautai, Dievam, Tēvzemei, 125. See also Ernests Brastiņš, Latvija, 15. viņas dzīve un kultūra [Latvia, Its Life and Culture] (Riga: Antēra, 2007). 16. Emilis Melngailis, (ed.) Saules balsi: No Emīļa Melngaiļa pierakstiem Vairas Vīkes-Freibergas kārtojum [Latvian Sun Song Melodies: Selected and commented by Vaira Vīke-Freiberga] (Riga: Karogs, 2005), 141. 17. Ibid. 18. Jānis Tupešu, “The Ancient Latvian Religion,” LITUANUS: Lithuanian Quarterly Journal of Arts and Sciences 33(3) (1987). 19. Daudzinājums—exaltation, a kind of Dievturi rite, dedicated to exalt some deities or significant field of Latvian culture (for example, exaltation dedicated to Latvian language). 20. Vērtums—folklore, folk work experience, practical witness. The word was coined by Jānis Krūmiņš (1900–84), apiarist and folklorist. 21. Vīkšējs—organizer, priest who prepares the place for rite and performs it. 22. Melngailis, Saules balsi, 55. 23. Gatis Ozoliņš, “Dievturu krustabu rituāls” [“Dievturi baptism ritual”], Letonica 16 (2007), 121–30. 24. Brastiņš was first to take up the investigation of the symbolism of Latvian ornaments. At the beginning of the 1920s, he published two research works with analysis of Latvian ornaments: Latviešu ornamentika [Latvian Ornaments] in 1923 and Latvju rakstu kompozīcija [Composition of Latvian Ornaments] in 1925. 25. Valdis Celms, Latvju raksts un zīmes: Baltu pasaules modelis, uzbūve, tēli, simbolika [Latvian Ornaments and Signs: Baltic World Model, Composition, Images, Symbolism] (Riga: Folkloras informacijas centrs, 2008), 272. 26. Alfreds Goba, “Latviešu dievestība pacels mākslu” [“The Latvian Religion Will Elevate Art”] Labietis 4 (1934), 56. 27. However, in recent years, the Dievturi have come to use the resources of the Internet for communication with people interested in their activities (see, for example, www.,, There is also an Internet radio station that covers the Dievturi from time to time ( and there are some online publications which can be read worldwide. 28. Paliepa, Latvju dainas un vedu himnas, 107–12. 29. Aldis Pūtelis, “Zīmes: Ernesta Brastiņa idejas un raksti” [“Signs: The Ideas and Articles of Ernests Brastiņš”], Varavīksne (1992), 16–27; Dagmāra Beitnere, “Lettische heidnische Religion als Vertreterin des Religiosen Synkretismus,” Annals of the European Academy of Sciences and Arts 15 (1995), 42–50; Svetlana I. Ryzhakova, Latyshskoe neoyazychestvo i istoki natsionalizma [Latvian Neopaganism and the Roots of Nationalism], Rossiiskaya Akademiya Nauk. Institut Etnologii i Antropologii. (Moscow:

RAN, 1995), 1–31; Juris Saivars, “Kā atbildēt dievturiem.” [“How to Give a Reply to Dievturi”] Mantojums 1 (1997), 49–91; Agita Misāne, “Dievturība Latvijas religisko un politisko ideju vēsturē.” [“Dievturība in the History of Latvian Religious and Political Ideas”] Reliģiski-filozofiski raksti 10 (2005), 101–18. 30. Misāne, “The Traditional Religion,” 43–4.



The most numerous and most publicly visible type of Neopagan community active in the Republic of Poland today is a range of autochthonic Slavic Native Faith communities of the sort called Rodzimowierstwo in Polish.1 There is considerable variation in the application of this term; therefore, for the purposes of this chapter it will be used descriptively to cover those communities in Poland that (1) show a tendency for their members to use the term for themselves, (2) are characterized by attention to multiple aspects of deity (“hard” or “soft” polytheism) which are based in historical Slavic precedents, and (3) attend to well-documented historical and folk sources with a strong commitment to continuity of ethnic and regional tradition.2 The individuals who make up these communities are constantly faced with decisions about which strategies they wish to pursue in order to maintain and develop their religious worldview and way of life. This chapter will provide a brief overview of some of the strategies which are available to them in overlapping fields which include the organizational issues of the communities, the development of belief and practice, and their search for a place in society at large.

CONSTRUCTION OF ORGANIZATIONS AND COMMUNITIES In the pre-Christian past of the various Slavic tribes who would later fall under the Kingdom of Poland, the “Pagan religion” was a received set of beliefs and practices which constituted an integral component of the larger life of their families and tribes. Although eyewitness accounts describe priests and individual sanctuaries of great importance, there is no sign of any notion of a separate institution which could be called a “Church” or “Denomination” such as we are used to seeing among the other institutions of twenty-first-century Europe. Therefore, if a modern community of people gathers in order to form any kind of legitimate continuation of the pre-Christian (and pre-modern) practices of Slavic tribes, they need to construct an entirely new organization model. On the one hand, they cannot expect to find their religious practices integrated into all of the realities of everyday life by the whole of their society. Those practices will now be noticeably something ‘apart’ from the rest of society. On the other hand, participants face social and bureaucratic pressure to name and describe what they do. If they wish to act as a legal entity in commerce (such as to print religious books, or to purchase and own shared property) they must often register themselves as some kind of formal organization or enterprise.3 None of the Polish groups which worked with Pagan themes before the Second World War attempted to found a formally registered “Church.”4 “Zadruga” was the name of a magazine and of the social-philosophical model it proposed, but those individuals who followed Jan Stachniuk’s (1905–63) Zadruga model never formed a religious organization or even a formal political party.5 Although Władysław Kołodziej claimed to have founded a prewar Holy Circle of Worshipers of Światowid who bestowed upon each other religious titles appropriate to clergy, we do not find any evidence of regular meetings (ritual or organizational) until much later.6 Their pre-war efforts show every sign of being the product of a very loose and diverse intellectual clique spread across several cities of Poland. Perhaps the only attempt to recreate an integrated “Pagan” world was a short-lived and quickly forgotten war-time experiment within “Wkra” one

of the underground resistance units of the Soviet-backed Peasant Battalion which operated in Nazi-occupied Poland. Under the leadership of Stefan “Bolek” Potrzuski (died 1944), the unit was reported to have had a shrine to Światowid in their secret forest lair and conducted group rites with toasts of mead around a wooden figure.7 They also briefly introduced a kind of communist Slavic gminowładstwo economy (reminiscent of the nineteenthcentury left-wing Romantic ideas of Lelewel) in the nearby rural farming community. The experiment failed when the group was betrayed to the Gestapo and Potrzuski killed.8 After the war, both Stachniuk and Kołodziej attempted to rebuild and redefine their intellectual circles, but as the cold winter of Stalinism took hold of Poland, both Stachniuk (1947) and Kołodziej (1950) were arrested. Many of their followers (such as the pre-war editor of the Zadruga magazine, Józef Grzanka9) had died during the war and others were still in exile abroad. Some attempted to downplay their pre-war involvement. While individuals like the respected botanist and ecologist Dr Maciej Czarnowski (1910–97) continued to privately cling to their beliefs, there were no attempts to recreate the pre-war groups until the “Thaw” of the mid-1950s brought a small measure of freedom of religion to the People’s Republic of Poland.10 In 1954, an Indo-European group “Klan Ausran” was founded as a “linguistic-cultural-social” student club (Niezależne Stowarzyszenie Uniwersyteckie) at the University of Łódź. Although by 1957 many of their activities included religious Neopagan celebrations, hymns, and prayers, and their officers were given clerical titles, they have never sought registration as a religious organization per se. It is arguably the only communist-era Polish organization that continued to practice some form of Neopaganism in the post-communist era.11 In 1965, Kołodziej’s followers made an unsuccessful attempt to register themselves as Lechickie Stowarzyszenie Czcicieli Światowida (“The Lechite Association of Worshipers of Światowid”) with the People’s Republic of Poland’s Office for Faith Affairs.12 In spite of that bureaucratic failure, they met as a small, informal community of mostly young people in the 1960s and 70s in Warsaw. They were even the subject of a favorable press article in 1970. In 1978, their leader Kołodziej died,

leaving the leadership to “Brother Masław” Jerzy Gawrych, but within two years the group had ceased to meet. Over the course of a half-century, however, Kołodziej’s ‘circle’ had developed a Slavic calendar and ritual practice that would influence later Rodzimowiercy.13 While Czarnowski did not submit any applications to formally register a religious organization in the communist era, from at least 1978 onwards he was active in samizdat, writing and self-publishing short carbon-copy documents, on his vision of a modern Slavic religion based on the ideas of Stachniuk. These included both basic overviews like Sedno naszej sprawy (The Essence of Our Case) and practical documents like a Pagan-oriented Kalendarz Polski 1980 (“1980 Polish Calendar”) that continued Kołodziej’s 1940s project.14 His texts from the end of the communist period show an increasing interest in developing some sort of religious community. And then, not without great effort on the part of the opposition, the communist system in Poland crumbled unexpectedly rapidly and by the start of 1990 the People’s Republic had passed into history. On the one hand, the triumphant opposition was closely allied with the Roman Catholic Church, which left many religious minorities uneasy. On the other hand, whole new panoramas of social and religious opportunities suddenly opened in front of communities that had been marginalized by the communist system. In building new, persistent communities, the post-communist Rodzimowiercy of the 1990s and 2000s faced a number of organizational options, many of which had already been attempted or achieved in the communist period but were now easier or more likely to succeed. They included registration as one of the following: a Church/religious organization, as a “secular” cultural association, as a religious publisher, or as a political party. And, of course, they could choose to have absolutely no registered association at all and act “off the books.” In many ways, the most obvious of these choices is to sign up as a religious organization in the same way that many modern representatives of Protestant Churches, Islamic associations, and Buddhist communities in Poland do. From 1989 to 1997, registration as a Church or religious organization required a membership of at least fifteen adult Polish citizens

and some simple information about the clerical hierarchy and doctrines of the organization. During this period, the formalities with the “Office for Faith Affairs” were relatively easy and many of the smaller religious communities which were already present in Poland in the 1980s took the opportunity to register themselves formally in the 1990s. Three organizations which were primarily focused on Slavic beliefs were founded and registered in the 1990s: In 1995, both Rodzimy Kościół Polski (RKP; “the Native Polish Church”) and Polski Kościół Słowiański (PKS; “the Polish Slavic Church”) were registered within a few months of each other. They were shortly followed by Zrzeszenie Rodzimej Wiary (ZRW; “the Association of Native Faith”), which later changed its official name to simply Rodzima Wiara (RW; “Native Faith”). Of these, PKS remained confined to a small pre-existing group of friends and never expanded significantly. RKP was largely a new start, but it carried over some of the ideas of Kołodziej’s circle and was recognized as its successor by Gawrych. Czarnowski was the first naczelnik (Head) of the ZRW, providing that organization with a personal link to the pre-war Zadruga clique. In 1997 a more demanding set of requirements for registration was enacted. Among other things, new registrations needed to have a documented membership of at least 100 adult Polish citizens.15 In 2009, Zachodniosłowiański Związek Wyznaniowy “Słowiańska Wiara” (“The Western Slavic Religious Association ‘Slavic Faith’”) became the fourth and most recent Rodzimowierstwo organization to be registered. All Polish citizens have their freedom of conscience and religion protected by the 1997 Polish Constitution, regardless of whether that religion is registered or not. This is further bolstered by the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union of 2000. However, in order for the organization to act as a legal entity in Poland, it must be registered. Registering as a religious organization does not automatically confer such rights as being able to perform legally binding weddings or to have military chaplains. Those additional rights must be established in special agreements between the religious organization and the Republic of Poland. In 2011, only fifteen religions have been able to sign such agreements and 158 other registered organizations have not.

It is likely that all four registered Slavic religious organizations together have a regularly active membership of less than 900 individuals at the start of 2012.16 The numbers of members of these organizations have been known to rise and fall over time, with individuals moving from organization to organization, as well as moving in both directions between the independent communities and the registered organizations. The registered organizations have different regional strengths, with RKP strongest in the central Warsaw region, RW strongest in Szczecin in the northwest, and SW strongest in Poznań in the west. Although the registered religious organizations may not represent the majority of the active participants in the broader Rodzimowierstwo movement in Poland, they have the largest share in public discourse. Their legal registration with the government helps to lend them some degree of legitimacy in the eyes of the media. Three of the four registered religious organizations have managed to grow to a size in which they can hope to broadcast their message to Polish society at large, albeit, most often presented as a “human interest” story at best or, at worst, as “the fringe.” The fact that these organizations have an official head of some sort gives curious journalists a named authority figure that they can seek to contact. RKP in particular has diligently pursued positive PR opportunities in the twenty-first century. Given that registration as a religious organization is now relatively difficult and does not necessarily bring many tangible results for the Rodzimowierstwo movement, many communities forego attempts at that particular kind of registration. Secular associations or clubs have the right to act as legal entities and they still only require fifteen adult citizens in order to register. The best-known example of this would be Stowarzyszenie na rzecz Tradycji i Kultury “Niklot” (“the Association on Behalf of Tradition and ‘Culture Niklot’”) which grew out of a slightly earlier publication Trygław, and which registered itself in 1998, shortly after the new law on religious organizations.17 A recent example (2011) would be the officially registered Stowarzyszenie Żertwa (“The Offering Association”), which “supports the cultural and religious activities” of local Rodzimowiercy in Bydgoszcz as a secular association.18

There are also privately owned religious publishing companies which specialize in encouraging a specific range of religious perspectives. Wydawnictwo Toporzeł (Axeagle Publishers) appeared quite early on the post-communist scene in 1990, with new editions of Stachniuk’s Dzieje bez dziejów and Zagadnienie totalizmu.19 From 1992 onwards, in contrast to the typically self-published and informal nature of other early 1990s Polish Neopagan publications, their books were issued with ISBNs and sold in mainstream bookstores. In addition to a full catalogue of Stachniuk’s works, this company also published a 1997 Polish translation of Halyna Lozko’s Rodzima wiara ukrainska (a Polish title meaning “Ukrainian Native Faith,” although the 1994 Ukrainian title had been Ukrayins’ke Yazychnytstvo, “Ukrainian Paganism”) and a new edition of the script of a play and illustrations by Stanisław Szukalski called Krak syn Ludoli (“Krak, the son of Ludol”).20 Since 2007, Wydawnictwo Triglav (Triglav Publishers) have been active producing Rodzimowierstwothemed fairy tales and comics, in addition to more scholarly studies on Slavic iconography and religion. In these cases, only one of many possible religious activities is represented by a legal entity. At least one political party with strong elements of Neopagan religious thought was founded in the early 1990s. Unia Społeczno-Narodowya (the “Social-National Union”) was based in the Zadruga ideas of Jan Stachniuk, openly anti-Catholic, but with a new element of commitment to freemarket capitalism. It was founded in 1992 by a small group which included the businessman Antoni Feldon and the editor of the Neopagan Żywioł review, Andrzej Wylotek. In 1993, a 5 percent election threshold was introduced for the Polish parliament, which drastically reduced USN’s chances of ever getting a candidate into office. The short-lived experiment was officially retired in 1997 and no other political parties with any kind of Neopagan platform have been started since then.21 In spite of having more than one option for organization, many Polish Rodzimowiercy do not choose to have formal membership in any registered Rodzimowierstwo organization, “secular” or religious. These individuals typically gather in communities which are small and may effectively be a loose clique of friends. However, they sometimes have relatively high levels of specialization of roles within the community,

well-established ritual systems, and even the ability to gather short-term community funds to cover immediate costs such as hiring indoor space for winter meetings. In other words, they may be perfectly capable of doing many of the things that registered organizations do. While they are not legal entities, there is nothing under current Polish law that makes their activities illegal, either. An example of an informal community would be those who call themselves simply Krakowscy Rodzimowiercy (“Native Faith adherents of Krakow”). As informal gatherings go, this community is relatively large (as many 47 participants at some rites) and can trace the kernel of their current form (but not size) to roughly 1998.22 Although many of the members have had some association with at least one of the registered religious organizations in the past (especially RW), this community currently emphasizes its independence. The only real measure of “membership” is that the organizers send invitations to a relatively select list of known individuals (roughly 50). New invitees are added by current participants, and well-behaved newcomers who give their contact information and make a request usually find themselves invited again. Disruptive visitors are removed from the mailing list by an individual who acts as the de facto secretary. Time and manpower resources are donated on a volunteer basis, with a wide variation in commitment between individuals. Monetary funds are gathered ad hoc as needed. These informal communities are, by their nature, difficult to study systematically on a countrywide scale and still more difficult to count as a whole. Another, even larger community known as Watra (“The Bonfire”) is active in the Wrocław area with as many as seventy participants at major festivals. But, as might be expected, groups made up of three to nine individuals seem to be far more common than larger groups. Such smaller groups are much less likely to come under any scholarly study and less likely to be known to other, similar communities.23 Some may be seen to be active on Internet portals, social networks, and at events (concerts, public festivals) that draw a more than denominational range of Rodzimowiercy. Some such communities may maintain their own website or blog.24 In general, the impression that the gamut of small communities gives is that they probably represent at least as many adherents as the

officially registered religious groups do.25 Some of these smaller communities may be viewed by the registered religious organizations as being “non-member adherents” of their own faith. Remembering that the ancient religious practices of the Slavs were situated in the family or tribe, the conscious choice to not join any of the registered national religious organizations may be interpreted as a kind of neo-tribalism in which large organizations are shunned in favor of intimate bonds. The current requirements make the registration of even a seventyperson group an impossibility. By not joining a larger group, they maintain independence, minimize the hierarchy and internal politics that larger groups create, and gain greater face-to-face contact. At the same time, they risk leaving their movement Balkanized into tiny units which separately have less social power to achieve their goals. They must also accept that the registered religious organizations will often speak on behalf of the broader movement, whether they agree with what is said or not. There also are cases of “solitary” practitioners of Rodzimowierstwo, although this is clearly not a very common pattern in Poland.26 Even when individuals do not feel a pressing religious need for formally registered organizations, Rodzimowierstwo is fundamentally concerned with questions of community and ethnic identity. Few of the established Rodzimowierstwo religious practices would be easily performable in a solitary fashion, which would require solitary practitioners to create new forms further away from the movement’s center. Sometimes the informal religious communities are related to more formally registered organizations whose primary purpose is not religious. A frequent example of this would be the hobby historical re-enactors who form troupes that recreate scenes from the life of ninth- and tenth-century Slavic tribes. These troupes often maintain some sort of associated private company which can issue invoices for paid performances of battles or other large events. The individuals who are involved in these troupes are usually keenly interested in the culture of the pre-Christian Slavs. A significant portion (perhaps close to 20 percent) of the participants in the historical reenactment of the ancient Slavs would also consider themselves to belong to Rodzimowierstwo.27 Therefore, it is not unusual for a

particular local informal religious community to have significant overlap with a particular local re-enactment troupe. The relationship between re-enactment troupes and Rodzimowierstwo communities can take more than one form. Often, the relationship is not explicit enough to warrant the use of the same troupe name for both activities, but in some cases the religious community is also known by some form of the same name. An example of this would be the Poznańbased group Jantar, which began to publish a short-lived Slavic religion and ecologically oriented photocopied ’zine Jantar in 1992, followed by “military” re-enactment activity as Drużyna Wojów Piastowskich—Jantar (“the Piast Band of Warriors—Amber”) from roughly 1996 onwards. They have never formed an official religious organization, but from the start a portion of the members have also worshiped religiously together and this is often informally referred to as Jantar as well. As early post-communist participants, they have been seminally involved in the development of the Polish movement as a whole, in spite of their “lack” of status as a religious organization.28 Some unregistered communities may still be significant participants in the broader discourse of the movement. Informal, self-published photocopied periodicals (’zines) were an important point of contact for Rodzimowierstwo in the early 1990s, a continuation of communist-era samizdat but without the danger of imprisonment. The most influential of these was Żywioł (“Element”), which first appeared in 1991 and carried mostly reprinted articles about ancient Slavic religion, the pre-war movements (especially Zadruga), as well as contemporary neighboring movements in the Baltics and Ukraine. Inclusion of certain topics in its pages often set them in the “canon” of discourse for the first decade of post-communist Rodzimowierstwo. The editor, Andrzej Wylotek, disappeared in 2001 in unknown circumstances, and his publication was not continued. A variety of Internet websites, portals, blogs, and social media have gradually taken over the earlier role of zines. The larger sites are frequently run by the registered religious organizations, but even informal communities can afford to maintain an attractive blog. Since 2006, a new phenomenon has been the Internet-based RadioWid, which offers

streaming Rodzimowierstwo-friendly music, news, and interviews.29 All of these communication channels can help individuals to establish virtual communities, or quickly find like-minded associates for “real life” activities of any sort. This may serve to both extend the sense of religious community to include a much wider group of people, but also it may sometimes substitute for (and possibly discourage) more permanent forms of community or organization. The current forms of Rodzimowierstwo organization are adequate to the current needs of the movement. These have changed over time and they are likely to keep changing. At the moment, the majority of adherents are still relatively young. In 2004, Sołtysiak found an average birth year of 1963 for RKP and 1975 for Niklot and, in 2009, Barcikowska found that 45 percent of her respondents were in the 19–25 year age range, and 29 percent were in the 26–35 range.30 As the population in higher age cohorts rises, we can assume that demand for such things as Rodzimowierstwo weddings, cemeteries, and summer camps for children are likely to increase. These issues are already under discussion on online bulletin boards like the Rodzimowierczy / Biuletyn Informacijny (“Informational Bulletin of Rodzimowiercy”). The organizational demands of such activities may create pressure for a greater degree of institutionalization of the informal communities into organizations and for greater professionalization of the clergy. Outside bureaucratic forces may also have their effects if, for example, Poland were to adopt the German practice of allowing taxpayers to select a registered religious organization which will receive a small portion of their income tax.31

CONSTRUCTION OF PLACE IN SOCIETY Some of the most important challenges facing Rodzimowierstwo today are connected with finding its place in the broader scheme of things. As a very small religion in a Polish society that is dominated by the monolithic presence of Roman Catholicism, does it have any hope to make its voice heard? As a small and somewhat isolated tradition in a global “Neopagan explosion,” as James R. Lewis has called it, do they have any hope of contributing meaningfully to transcultural understandings of what it is to live in a Pagan way? Few Rodzimowiercy have ever entertained pipedreams of their movement becoming more numerous than Roman Catholicism in any foreseeable future, but many hold out the hope that they can become a significant voice of expertise on certain topics. Rodzimowiercy see themselves as the guardians of the wellspring of Polishness and experts on how to adapt ancient traditions to the modern world. Activities such as the poster campaign against Valentine’s Day are directed not only at other Rodzimowiercy but at all ethnic Poles regardless of religion to encourage them to resist such invasions. Likewise, many Rodzimowiercy are producers of folk arts and crafts, and in particular music, which they hope will reach and entertain a broader audience than just their co-religionists.32 However, at times when society and the media turn their eyes to Rodzimowierstwo, it is often with a rather ambivalent museum-effect: they are tolerated because they provide an exhibit to show the curious punters a bit of quaint devotion to the stuff you would normally only read about in a dry history book. Even then, other stakeholders in the presentation of Poland’s past, such as professional historians and archeologists, have called for caution in accepting the Rodzimowierstwo contribution to their field.33 It has been noted by a diverse range of observers (internal and external) that there is potential for Rodzimowierstwo to play an increasing role in the broader range of environmentalism and ecology in Poland.34 Respect for nature (broadly understood) is one of the movement’s most salient topics. Ecological ethical principles are officially declared in the statutes of all of the registered “religious organizations.” These and closely related

sub-themes, ranging from interest in naturally produced local foods to respect for the spirits of trees and animals, are also frequently found in the majority of print and online publications. It would seem natural for Rodzimowierstwo to take a central role as the vanguard of the ecological movement in Poland. Some “mainstream” ecological publications (that is, aimed at a general audience, regardless of religious affiliation) have picked up on Rodzimowierstwo writings and themes from time to time.35 Individual Rodzimowiercy may also be active in “secular” ecological initiatives. However, as the philosopher Zbigniew Drozdowicz has observed, in spite of their willingness to take a more leading role in such matters, Rodzimowierstwo remains a “difficult ally” for the rest of the environmentalism movement because of their “declared anti-Christianity” (in the face of the strong role of Roman Catholicism in Polish society), as well as other adjacent concerns (such as the tendency for some Rodzimowierstwo groups to collocate notions like “nation” or “race” with the themes of nature).36 As Grzegorz Antosik has noted in his analysis of press coverage of Rodzimowierstwo, the most common themes in such coverage are the political aspects (especially right-wing politics), and articles quite commonly focus on which politicians have (or once had) links to such groups.37 There are also many groups who lie at the fuzzy border between religious Rodzimowierstwo and right-wing fringe politics which have caught the attention of anti-fascist crusaders.38 As Tadeusz Doktór has noted “national themes characterize in [Poland] … both the dominant and the alternative religious currents.”39 While this means that the national themes within Rodzimowierstwo do not seem unusual in the Polish religious environment, it also means that Rodzimowierstwo has a lot of competing (religious) visions of the Polish nation to contend with, especially the dominant Roman Catholic Church whose near-monopolistic relationship with the Polish nation has been summed up in the pithy catchphrase: “Polak to Katolik” (“a Pole is a Catholic”). A number of factors have contributed to Rodzimowierstwo’s growing self-awareness as a part of a larger spectrum of similar movements elsewhere in the world. From the early 1990s onwards, participants in the

Polish scene have generally been aware of and interested in what is going on in close neighbors like Lithuania and Ukraine. With the development of the European Congress of Ethnic Religions (founded in 1998 in Vilnius) and the international Kindred Assembly of Slavs (founded in 2003), the network of contacts was extended to include relatively similar movements mostly in the same geographical area. Both of those sets of contacts are through the registered RW organization, but in effect the personal contacts which are thus formed travel across the movement easily due to the movement of individuals. The appearance of the Pagan Federation International in Poland in 2007 offered Rodzimowierstwo a federated model for interaction with such new arrivals as Wicca, Asatru, or modern Druidry. It is clear that PFI has made overtures to accommodate potential Rodzimowierstwo members. As of 2011 RKP organization has cooperated with the PFI on selected projects. The other communities have kept their distance. Yet another point of contact is the many Poles, including some Rodzimowiercy, who have settled temporarily or permanently abroad and who have come into contact with the local forms of Neopaganism found there. In spite of such contacts, it remains to be seen if Rodzimowierstwo will be able to find some starting point that is more effective than those already available for building real dialogue with the broader Neopagan world.

CONCLUSIONS It is clear that Polish Rodzimowierstwo is an evolving religion in a social environment that is still changing relatively rapidly. A decade ago most communities in Poland would not have even endorsed that name. It is hard to predict what may develop a decade from now. There may be room for more registered Rodzimowierstwo religious organizations in Poland in the future, but the lack of a rush to join those that already exist make it clear that such institutionalization is not a goal in and of itself for most Rodzimowiercy. If the organizations thrive it will be because they are meeting a need for structures that can interact with the other institutions of modern life (schools, marriage registries, taxation) and for the most part those capabilities are not yet implemented. The development of religious belief and practice is also ongoing, although logically we can expect that future developments will not need to address such basic issues quite as often. Rather, new developments are likely to be responses to new challenges of twenty-first-century life and new ways of dealing with an increasingly interconnected world. If such changes are successful, Polish Rodzimowierstwo may find itself slowly earning a more respected voice in the discourses of Poland, Europe, and the world.

NOTES 1. Rodzimowierstwo is the practice of rodzima wiara—native faith. An individual follower is a rodzimowierca and a plurality is rodzimowiercy. It is a relatively young neologism in Polish, not having reached its current form until the 2000s, but it is applied here retroactively to the period of 1989 onwards to describe the communities and individuals who would later prefer to be called by that name. “Neopagan” is here used as a broader umbrella term for all such modern (post-First World War) groups as are also sometimes called “Contemporary Paganism” or simply “Paganism” in English. In addition to Rodzimowierstwo, the types that are visible in the Republic of Poland in the 2010s include “imported” types of Asatru, Druidry, Shamanism, and Wicca (see Chapter 19 in this volume) as well as smaller autochthonic forms of Indo-European Neopaganism. There are also a number of New Age and syncretic movements which incorporate Pagan elements or which otherwise stand just beyond the edges of what is usually included in Neopaganism. 2. This is merely an operational definition. Not all communities and organizations referred to here as Rodzimowierstwo would necessarily recognize all other groups as also being Rodzimowierstwo. In particular, some adherents have posited that a strong and exclusive commitment to “hard” polytheism (deities are completely independent beings) is a necessary condition of Rodzimowierstwo, as opposed to “soft” polytheistic monism (all deities are hypostases of one ultimate deity). This could potentially exclude one of the registered religious organizations, Rodzimy Kościół Polski (RKP, the Native Polish Church), from the category, although they strongly advocate using the term for themselves. In contrast, Piotr Wojnar, the leader of Zachodniosłowiański Związek Wyznaniowy “Słowiańska Wiara” (The Western Slavic Religious Association: Slavic Faith) has expressed reservations about the word “Rodzimowierstwo” but the term is frequently used both by outsiders and by some of their own members about them, and they otherwise meet the criteria. 3. The author is not aware of any cases where a Polish Rodzimowierstwo group claims a secret line of transmission of an ancient tradition, such as has been claimed by Lev Sylenko, Gerald Gardner, or Alex Sanders. 4. We have the best documentary evidence for those pre-war communities that formed relatively coherent groups and published something of their doctrines. There are signs that other small communities may have existed with similar ideas, but did not leave behind enough written evidence to analyze with confidence. An interesting case of an apparently independent Neopagan

5. 6.


8. 9. 10.

thinker was Zdzisław Harlender (1898–1939). In a religious meditationmanifesto, Czciciele Dadźbóg Swarożyca [Worshipers of Dadźbóg Swarożyc] (Warsaw: Biblioteka Polska, 1937), 11, he wrote “Paganism [is] a strong and young religion, not afraid of life, knowing how to draw from it joy and splendor, and therefore looking death in the eyes boldly…” Harlender died in a volunteer infantry unit in the initial defense of Warsaw against the invading Nazis in 1939. Tomasz Szczepański, “Zdzisław Lubomir Harlender—Soldier, Publicist, Neopagan,” Państwo i Społeczeństwo: Neopogaństwo w Polsce (forthcoming). See Chapter 18 in this volume. Kołodziej (1897–1978) later claimed to have founded his Circle in 1921, although there is no documentation of its activities as a single coherent organization at that time. However, it is well documented that the members of this “circle” were active together in a number of overlapping organizations from the mid-1920s onwards, including the occult magazine Odrodzenie and the folklore-oriented “Towarzystwo Literatów Ludowych.” In 1941 he called his group Wielka Rada Drzewidów Lechii Polski (“the Great Council of Druids of Lechite Poland”) and started work his Slavic Calendar, which was not published until 1946. For more discussion of this group in English, see Scott Simpson, Native Faith: Polish Neo-Paganism at the Brink of the 21st Century (Krakow: NOMOS, 2000), 68–74. The eyewitness Kazimierowicz states unequivocally that the religious and ideological elements were the brainchild of Potrzuski, with few if any of the rank-and-file members fully subscribing to Neopagan beliefs, although apparently largely accepting the eccentricity of their commanding officers, participating in their rites, and enjoying the benefits of the new local economy. Mieczysław Kazimierowicz, “Przysięga” [“The Oath”], in Spotkanie z wojna [Meeting with War], Izydor Zaczykiewicz (Warsaw: Wydawnictwo Ministerstwa Obrony Narodowej, 1966), 154–69. It is strongly implied that the jealousy of the local Roman Catholic parish priest was directly or indirectly involved in revealing their presence to the Nazis. Grzanka was executed with a pistol shot to the back of the head by the Soviet NKVD in the Katyń forest in the spring of 1940 and buried in a mass grave with more than 20,000 other officers and civilians. Best known internationally as the “Khrushchev Thaw” and often in the Polish context as the “Gomułka Thaw.” After the death of Stalin in 1953, the new Soviet leader Khrushchev initiated a move away from the worst excesses of Stalinism and toward a greater degree of cultural and intellectual freedom. Stachniuk was among those released from prison in 1955.

11. For more discussion of this group in English, see Simpson, Native Faith, 126–31. 12. There were few “new” registrations (10 in total between 1950 and 1979), the majority of which were re-registrations of small Protestant religious organizations that had been active in Poland before the war. Larger numbers of new religious movements succeeded in registering in the 1980s (23 registrations between 1980 and 1989). Mariusz Chmielewski, Grzegorz Gudaszewski, & Andrzej Jakubowski, Wyznania religijne, stowarzyszenia narodowościowe i etniczne 2006–2008 (Warsaw: Zakład Wydawnictw Statystycznych, 2010), 12. Kołodziej’s attempts at official registration in the 1960s and 1970s fell in a period in which he was unlikely to find a receptive audience. Portions of the application may be found in Michał Łapiński & Tomasz Szczepański, “Czciciele Polski pogańskiej,” Karta 19 (1996), 111–14. 13. See Tomasz Szczepański, “Ruch zadrużny i rodzimowierczy w PRL w latach 1956–1989,” Państwo i Społeczeństwo: Neopogaństwo w Polsce, vol. II (2009), 63–7 for an assessment of Kołodziej’s activities that takes advantage of newly available material from communist-era security service observation of the group. They also operated under the unofficial name of Lechicki Krąg Czcicieli Światowida (The Lechite Circle of Worshipers of Światowid) and during student demonstrations in the late 1960s they marched under the name of Ruch Świętej Czwórki Światowida o Wolnośc, Równość, Braterstwo i Miłość (The Movement of Holy Fours of Światowid for Freedom, Equality, Brotherhood, and Love). The classic three values of the French Revolution are extended with hippie Love to make four values for the four faces of Światowid. The continuity of membership in this group seems to have been low. The artists and writers associated with the 1920s clique or the publishers of the 1946 and 1947 calendars would hardly have qualified as the young people and “hippie” scene described in the 1970s. However, that low continuity may have helped to spread some of its ideas in ways that are difficult to trace in the documentary evidence. Certainly Bolesław Tejkowski met with them and had access to their papers and he helped to spread ideas from them across a wide variety of other communities in the 1990s. 14. Czarnowski regularly updated his texts. A copy of “Sedno naszej sprawy” dated both 1978 and 1982 (an original and an edit) is in the Jagiellonian Library manuscript collection Przyb. 5/89. My access to the 1980 calendar comes from a private collection thanks to the assistance of Agnieszka Gajda. Tomasz Szczepański reports what is almost certainly the same document in a later edition for 1984 and still other electronic versions appeared in the 1990s, sometimes without an attributed author.

15. Law published in Dz. U. 1998 nr 59 poz. 375. 16. The three active organizations have both officially registered members who are not active, and active participants who are not registered. There may also be cases of people who privately feel themselves to belong to the organization (and may be reading their websites or print literature), but they have neither officially joined nor participate regularly. And finally, there may be individuals who choose not to be affiliated with such an organization, and yet because they espouse similar beliefs, from the point of view of the registered religious organizations, they may be seen as “theirs” who have not (yet) registered their membership. Official membership numbers are higher than the numbers of regularly active participants. Ratomir Wilkowski estimates that his organization (RKP) alone has a total of 2,500 “adherents” (but see above), of which less than 500 have officially signed their declaration of membership, and roughly 150 would meet his criteria for active participation (personal communication, January 2012). One of the four registered churches, PKS, has not been active publically for many years, but it may still have a few privately active members. 17. Prince Niklot (?–1160) was the last Pagan chieftain of the Slavic Obodrite Tribe who attempted, through a mixture of diplomacy and warfare, to maintain his tribe’s independence and ancestral religion in the face of multiple enemies and increasing Christian pressure. He was the only local Pagan ruler who successfully resisted a Crusade called by Pope Eugene III, but he died defending his principality in a later Danish attack. Trygław is a deity name attested from the same general region as Niklot’s tribal principality. 18. See 19. The name “Toporzeł” (axe + eagle) is a portmanteau coined by Stanisław Szukalski (1893–1987) for a symbol he designed, which also depicts the combination of axe and eagle. It is used by some Rodzimowiercy as a modern religious symbol with no direct ancient antecedent. 20. Halyna Lozko, Rodzima wiara ukraińska (Wrocław: Wydawnictwo Toporzeł, 1997) and Stanisław Szukalski, Krak syn Ludoli: dziejawa w dziesięciu odmroczach (Wrocław: Wydawnictwo Toporzeł, 2007). 21. At least two other political parties have had openly rodzimowierca candidates on their tickets, but none were elected. 22. After its initial independent meetings, the community chose to associate itself with RW in 1999 but terminated that association c.2002. Since that time it has also attracted both other smaller groups and its own new participants with no prior involvement (personal communication, Duszan, 2011, and the author’s first-hand observation in fieldwork since 1999).

23. Alina Szamruchiewicz has published a field study of a smaller (“several regular members”) Rodzimowierstwo informal community in the Warsaw area, which calls itself Wizja i Dzieło (“Vision and Deed”). Alina Szamruchiewicz, “Niezrzeszeni rodzimowiercy,” [“Unaffiliated Native Faith Adherents”]. Societas/Communitas 4–5 (2007–8): 279–85. Mariusz Filip observed “Północny Wilk” (“Northern Wolf”), a community that at its peak in 2004 had 20 participants. Mariusz Filip, “Neopogański nacjonalizm jako praktyka: Tożsamość Zakonu Zadrugi ‘Północny Wilk’” [“Neopagan Nationalism as a Practice: The Identity of the Order of Zadruga ‘Northern Wolf’”], Państwo i Społeczeństwo: Neopogaństwo w Polsce, vol. II (2009), 45–57. 24. See, for example, Kołomir at; Nadwarciański Krąg Rodzimowierczy at; and Watra at 25. Extrapolating from the known cases, the number of active Rodzimowiercy who are not currently active official members of a registered religious organization fall anywhere between a minimum of 500 and a maximum of 2000. 26. A recent online survey in Poland showed 13 percent of all Neopagan respondents reported no face-to-face contacts with co-religionists. Alicja Barcikowska, “Autoportret polskich (neo)pogan: prezentacja wyników badań ankietowych,” Państwo i Społeczeństwo: Neopogaństwo w Polsce II (2009), 35. In addition to the published results, Barcikowska was kind enough to review her data and report that out of the 71 respondents who identified “Rodzimowierstwo” as a good or very good description of their religion, 12 Rodzimowiercy reported that they never meet face-to-face with their coreligionists. The online nature of her survey allowed her to “capture” responses that might have been missed in studies done with registered religious organizations or distributed at “real life” events. It is more difficult to say whether this percentage holds true across individuals who are not regular users of online portals. Some of these individuals may be those who are formally members of registered religious organizations, but do not participate. 27. In a small pilot study (120 respondents, taking into account only Polish citizens “in costume”) conducted at a large (roughly 2,000 participants) historical re-enactment event portraying the ninth and tenth centuries at Wolin in 2010, the author found 19.2 percent of respondents claimed Slavic Neopagan or Rodzimowierstwo for their religion. Less-formal straw polls at a variety of Rodzimowierstwo events suggest a higher overlap on the other side, perhaps as high as 30 percent overall.

28. The Jantar ’zine itself grew out of the activities of ecologically oriented members of the Polish “Indianist” hobby turning to interest in the Slavs. See Simpson, Native Faith, 117–18. 29. See This is an activity largely produced by the WiD informal community listed above. 30. Arkadiusz Sołtysiak, “Polskie i litewskie neopogaństwo: Kilka różnic i podobieństw w świetle badań ankietowych.” [“Polish and Lithuanian Neopaganism: A Few Differences and Similarities in the Light of a Questionnaire Study”] Przegląd Religioznawczy Nr.1/211 (2004), 113–22 and Barcikowska, “Autoportret polskich (neo)pogan,” 26. Based on observation in 2011, it is likely that the average birth year in RKP is now somewhat more recent due to the influx of new members. 31. A cut of 1 percent of income tax was proposed in October 2011 by the Conference of Bishops of the Roman Catholic Church in Poland who, of course, expect the largest percent of that money to go to the Roman Catholic Church. Such a change would dramatically increase the desire to register religious organizations, and probably also increase inter-organizational competition. 32. For example, in recognition of Rodzimowierstwo’s participation in Poland’s folk music scene, Gadki z Chatki [Chatter from the Huts], a folk music magazine, dedicated several articles and a large portion of one issue to Pagan-related themes. Agnieszka Kościuk (ed.), Gadki z Chatki 63/64(2–3) (2006). 33. Although Anna Zalewska ultimately argued for professional openness to the interests of “the audience,” she asked “First, do we as archaeologists really want to set our idealistic or pragmatic goals in opposition to external expectations …? Second, should the scientific representations of the past be opened for prompts … by Neopagans?” Anna Zalewska, “Knowledge as a Socially Active Substance: Our Interpretations versus Others SelfInterpretations,” Archaeologia Polona 44 (2006), 203–4. 34. Zbigniew Drozdowicz, “Pogaństwo restituta czyli ekologia sakralizowana” [“Paganism Restituta, that is, Sacralized Ecology”] Przegląd Religionzawczy 1(219) (2006), 125–33. 35. One of the most consistent examples of this was the monthly Zielone Brygady (“the Green Brigades”), which, from the mid-1990s up to 2007, when it ceased print publication, frequently found reason to allude to Slavic Pagan ideas alongside other forms of Deep Ecology and reverence for nature. 36. Drozdowicz, “Pogaństwo restituta,” 132. 37. Grzegorz Antosik, “Obraz neopogaństwa Słowiańskiego na łamach Polskiej prasy na początku XXI w” [“The Image of Slavic Neopaganism in the Pages

of the Polish Press at the Start of the 21st Century”], Państwo i Społeczeństwo: Neopogaństwo w Polsce I (2008), 140. 38. Marcin Kornak, “Słowiańskie nadużycie” [“Slavic Overuse”], Nigdy Więcej 17 (2009), 16–29. Kornak is careful to qualify the right-wing political groups that he wishes to expose as “manipulating” and “profaning” the Slavic religion tradition, therefore implying that other forms of Rodzimowierstwo are not. In practice, it can be hard to find the exact border between religion and politics in Rodzimowierstwo. Many communities treat any overly political messages as inappropriate for occasions of primarily religious intent, but there are also some where politics are regularly understood as an integral part of the sacred. For academic studies of communities where right-wing politics are very central to their religiosity, see Filip, “Neopogański nacjonalizm jako praktyka,” 45–57, and Agnieszka Gajda, “Co zostało po Stachniuka? Przykład Nacjonalistycznego Stowarzyszenie Zadruga” [“What Remains of Stachniuk? The Example of the Nationalist Association Zadruga”], Państwo i Społeczeństwo: Neopogaństwo w Polsce II (2009), 79– 92. 39. Tadeusz Doktór, “Wątki narodowe w ruchach innowacji religijnej w Polsce” [“National Themes in Religious Innovation Movements in Poland”], in Filozofia i religia w kulturze narodów słowiańskich, Tadeusz Chrobak and Zbigniew Stachowski (eds) (Rzeszów: Wydawnictwo Wyższej Szkoły Pedagogicznej, 1995), 219.



In 2007, while conducting fieldwork in Ľviv, western Ukraine, I met a young male Pagan,1 a representative of the Rodove Vohnyshche Ridnoi Pravoslavnoi Viry (“Ancestral Fire of the Native Orthodox Faith”), who was especially enthusiastic about his group’s calendar and life-cycle rituals. Having listened to his description of Pagan marriages, I said that they seemed similar to weddings currently celebrated in many Ukrainian villages by people who identify themselves as Christians. His response was, “Exactly. When you accept Native Faith you don’t really feel like you’ve changed religions. You just begin to look at certain things from a different angle and perceive them on a different level.” Somewhat similarly, in 2008, I attended services of the Ridna Ukrains’ka Natsionaľna Vira RUNVira (Native Ukrainian National Faith RUNVira, or simply RUNVira).2 My brother accompanied me to take photographs while I videotaped the weekly Sviashchenna Hodyna Samopiznannia (“Holy Hour of Self-Reflection”) of a Ľviv-based RUNVira community. After the service, my brother, himself a Christian, confessed that he almost made the sign of the cross several times during the Holy Hour because to him it greatly resembled an Eastern Rite service. My impression was similar. This seemed intriguing and somewhat paradoxical, considering that Ukrainian Pagans, and especially followers of RUNVira, perceive Christianity as one of their major ideological enemies. Such complex syncretism in modern Ukrainian Paganism embraces many traditions and belief systems, including old Slavic paganism (as presented in primary sources and which many believe is still reflected in rural folklore), Christianity (both official and popular beliefs and practices) and non-Ukrainian elements (both spiritual and secular). While

embracing two or even all three systems simultaneously, contemporary Paganism often results in intriguing new cultural and religious forms.

UKRAINIAN PAGANISM: ORIGINS AND DEVELOPMENT Twenty-first-century Ukrainian Paganism began with two twentiethcentury founders. Volodymyr Shaian (1908–75) made the first step toward reviving old Slavic paganism in Ukraine in the mid-1930s, drawing on “Aryan” ideas popular at that time.3 Shaian was especially fascinated by village folklore that, in his opinion, maintained remnants of an indigenous ancestral faith.4 His successor Halyna Lozko commented on one of Shaian’s early encounters:5 Shaian visited a common Hutsul family’s household and observed the ritual of the blessing of the seeds before sowing. He saw that this ritual was not Christian but had just a few Christian elements added on. Although the ritual appeared to be conducted for the glory of Jesus Christ, it was indeed devoted to the Mother Earth and sun that were sanctified by our ancestors. Within the ritual, the seeds were imparted with the strength of strong muscular men in order to fertilize Mother Earth. This symbolism was very clear. A woman would put these seeds into her apron. She symbolized Mother Earth, while men represented the forefather in Heaven, namely, our god Svaroh. Undoubtedly, all this symbolism deeply touched young Shaian and became the primary reason for him to take the first step toward the revival of Native Faith, not just as some kind of an academic work in the form of a book. He began to revive Native Faith as a living and active religion. Shaian escaped from Ukraine during the Second World War. Prior to his departure for Western Europe in 1943, he established the Orden Lytsariv Boha Sontsia (“Order of the Knights of the Solar God”) as a semi-religious and semi-political organization. His intention was to make it part of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA) in order to help the latter in its struggle against the Soviet Red Army. (In the context of post-war Soviet Ukraine this group presumably ceased to exist.) Having left Ukraine, Shaian lived in a European refugee camp where he formed a second contingent of the

Order of the Knights. However, the majority of his followers eventually moved overseas, and this group became inactive.6 According to some sources, one of the individuals initiated into the order was Lev Sylenko (1921–2008), who later separated from his teacher, establishing Ridna Ukrains’ka Natsionaľna Vira (“Native Ukrainian National Faith”) RUNVira. However, Anatolii Kolodnyi, a Ukrainian researcher on RUNVira, found this biographical episode contradictory since RUNVira sources stress that Sylenko never studied with Shaian. In an effort to assert Sylenko’s superiority, they even boldly point out that Sylenko never needed such teachers.7 Both Shaian and Sylenko shared a vision of the autochthonic origin of Ukraine. They also rejected Christianity and displayed some racist and anti-Semitic sentiments. Sylenko, in particular, perceived Ukrainians as superior Europeans, descendants of ancient Oriians (Aryans), and considered Kyiv the most ancient city of the “white race.” However, despite shared convictions, the two leaders approached the idea of the preChristian past and that of a present-day spirituality in different ways. The main difference was connected with the notions of polytheism versus monotheism as the basis for a true Ukrainian spirituality. According to Shaian, God is a manifold essence that is manifested through the images of various Slavic mythological deities: Svaroh, “the God of the Gods and Universe”; Veles, “the God of Light … who brings Svaroh’s light onto earth”; and Dazhboh, “the God of Eternal Fire,” are but a few.8 Shaian’s understanding of old Slavic mythology is based in The Book of Vles, which is perceived as a forgery by many academics but is treated as a sacred text by Pagans.9 In contrast to Shaian’s faith, Sylenko’s religion is monotheistic. He proclaimed belief in one god, Dazhboh, the Sun god in old Slavic mythology, as the basis for what he considered the truly Ukrainian religion, and announced himself the teacher and prophet of this faith. In line with evolutionist ideas, RUNVira is viewed by its adherents as an advanced version of ancient polytheism:10 “Polytheism is a lower form of religion, which existed 5–7 thousand years ago, and which still exists among tribes … in [some] backward parts of our planet.”11

Ukrainian Pagans have two understandings of God. First, a thousand years ago Dazhboh was one of the numerous gods in the polytheistic faith of Ukraine–Rus. This was a religion of a lower form, like any polytheistic religion. Second, however, prophet Lev Sylenko is the first person to introduce the Ukrainian understanding of one god named Dazhboh. Dazhboh is almighty and eternal. He has no need of any ambassadors in the forms of higher or lower gods. RUNVira is the faith of higher spiritual perfection. It represents absolute monotheism.12 Although Shaian is credited with starting the revival of old Slavic religion before and during the Second World War, Ukrainian Paganism developed in the Ukrainian diaspora after the war due to Sylenko’s efforts. Having emigrated to Canada, Sylenko organized the RUNVira movement, which grew among the Ukrainian urban intelligentsia in the Western diaspora. During this period, congregations of RUNVira were registered in several cities of the United States and Canada, as well as in Australia, England, Germany, and New Zealand.13 Shaian’s followers established small religious communities in Toronto and Hamilton, Ontario. Reportedly, these people had originally belonged to RUNVira but eventually separated from Sylenko. In 1981, the group in Hamilton was re-registered as Ob’iednannia Ukraintsiv Ridnoi Viry (“Association of Ukrainians of the Native Faith”) by Myroslav Sytnyk, the dostoinyi starshyi providnyk (“honorable elder”) of Native Faith.14 One cannot overestimate the role of the Western diaspora in the development of Paganism in Ukraine. Although Pagan ideas began to reach Ukraine from the diaspora in the early 1980s, the movement did not grow until after the collapse of the Soviet Union.15 The first RUNVira organization was registered in Kyiv in 1991, shortly after Ukraine’s independence from the Soviet Union.16 As for Shaian’s ideas, they form the basis for the Ob’iednannia Ridnoviriv Ukrainy (“Native Faith Association of Ukraine,” further referred to as Native Faith) led by Kyivbased Halyna Lozko. In Canada, the few remaining followers of Shaian are elderly people who granted authority of leadership to Lozko. She was

officially initiated into Native Faith by Hamilton-based Myroslav Sytnyk in Kyiv in 1994.17 Today, the Ukrainian Pagan movement in the diaspora continues to be represented predominantly by RUNVira; however, its membership is gradually declining. In contrast, Paganism continues to grow in Ukraine itself, represented by numerous separate groups. In addition to organized groups, Ukrainian Paganism is also represented by individuals who do not officially belong to any particular organization but are attracted by Pagan ideas. Some groups and individuals rely on the teachings of either Volodymyr Shaian or Lev Sylenko, although to varying degrees. Others incorporate the ideas of both leaders while building their contemporary doctrines and spiritualities. In addition, many other influential ideologists have enriched Ukrainian Pagan discourse.18 Ukrainian Pagans interact with other Slavic Pagans and with their Western counterparts. For example, Ukraine was represented by Halyna Lozko at the Tenth World Congress of Ethnic Religions that took place in 2007, in Jurmala, Latvia, which also attracted Pagans from Lithuania, Poland, Russia, Italy, Germany, England, and the United States. Ukrainian Paganism is largely an ethno-nationalist movement. In the diaspora, representatives of the politically conscious Ukrainian intelligentsia felt compelled to construct and emphasize their national identity, considering that Ukraine was occupied by foreign forces (both German and Soviet) during and after the Second World War. Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, the myth of the “Soviet people” was shattered, increasing the need for individuals to seek out a new sense of self. The majority of Ukrainian Pagans view Christianity as a foreign force that attempts to destroy indigenous Ukrainian culture.

THE CONCEPT OF SYNCRETISM The concept of religious syncretism was recently revisited by anthropologists Charles Stewart and Rosalind Shaw, the editors of Syncretism/Antisyncretism: The Politics of Religious Synthesis. They deny the existence of cultural purity, suggesting that culture is a process that most often results in “invented” traditions.19 They define syncretism simply as “synthesis of different religious forms.” From an ethnocentric perspective the term “syncretism” may carry a negative connotation of “impure” and “inauthentic.” In other contexts, “syncretism” may have positive implications such as a mode of resistance to oppression, as a form of connection with a forgotten history, or as a way to construct a national identity.20 Importantly, the contributors to Syncretism/Anti-syncretism challenge the idea of cultural influence as a one-way process that implies the existence of a dominant and subordinate culture, when people accept the dominant culture progressively, gradually reaching “some ultimate completion.” In contrast, Stewart and Shaw insist that syncretism be understood as a two-way process.21

SYNCRETISM IN UKRAINIAN CHRISTIANITY Eastern Rite Christianity has been traditionally considered Ukraine’s official religion since it was established in Kyivan Rus’ by Prince Volodymyr in 988.22 Contemporary Ukrainian Pagans, either consciously or unconsciously, embrace Christian elements that, in turn, are also syncretic. Both ethnographers and Pagans have attempted to identify and isolate those elements and substrata that are of indigenous pre-Christian origins, with varying levels of success. Ukrainian Eastern Rite Christian traditions often possess characteristics that have little if anything to do with the Bible or official Christian doctrine. Some elements of Ukrainian Christian beliefs and practices suggest pagan origins while others may be more recent creations. Some have entered formal church rituals while others, although rejected or ignored by the official Church, still function on the popular level. Many Eastern European ethnographers argued that with the establishment of Christianity on Slavic territories, a great number of pagan motifs were adapted and modified by the Church. For example, Volodymyr Hnatiuk (1871–1926), while investigating rural folk beliefs of his time, identified attributes of pagan gods and goddesses that had become incorporated into Christian saints. Hnatiuk recorded that the characteristics of Perun, god of thunder and lightning, had been applied to Saint Illia (Elijah) while the functions of Veles, god of cattle and prosperity, had become associated with Saint Iurii (George) in some areas of Ukraine or Saint Nykolai (Nicholas) in other regions.23 Several pagan holidays were also interpreted as having passed into the Christian calendar. Early Ukrainian and Russian ethnographers proposed that substantial parts of Christian Easter (Velykden’) celebrations were originally part of the pre-Christian celebration of spring. For example, Hnatiuk believed that a hypothetical pagan practice of the blessing of pysanky (decorated eggs) and various foods—Easter bread (paska), cheese, eggs, meat, butter, and others—had become a constituent component of the official celebration of Easter (after the liturgy on Easter Sunday) for Ukrainian Christians.24 These syncretic elements were also often associated with local beliefs and practices that were not necessarily

recognized by the official Church. For instance, Chubinskii observed that in some rural areas of late-nineteenth-century western Ukraine, the bones of meat blessed on Easter were buried in a field in order to protect the crop from hail.25 While some willingly converted to the new religion, Christianity was forcefully imposed upon many people of Kyivan Rus’. As old church records demonstrate, the clergy sharply criticized the peasants of Kyivan Rus’ for their “ungodly” beliefs in natural forces.26 This information indicates that the peasants maintained their pre-Christian beliefs and rituals for some period of time. Over time, certain pagan elements became included in Christian rituals, as is theorized in the case of pysanky. While discussing relatively recent Christian missionary activities in Africa, Steven Kaplan identified a number of types of interaction between local religious traditions and Christianity. We can recognize similar processes as having taken place in an early stage of Christianity in Ukraine. Kaplan described “Christianization” as the process of creating “Christian versions of traditional … rites and practices” in which local religious elements are viewed as potentially meaningful and valuable “for the development of a Christian life in a Christian community.” 27 This is, in essence, a vector of syncretism that achieves a useful function or goal for one of the two religions in contact. The Ukrainian Eastern Rite Churches helped form a distinct national identity in both the post-Second World War Ukrainian diaspora and in post-Soviet Ukraine.28 Folk elements, especially those that are widely believed to have pre-Christian origins, are important to the construction of a national identity through the Church, not only in peasant contexts but also in cities. For example, blessing pysanky in church on Easter Sunday is now at least as much about being Ukrainian as it is about a certain form of spirituality. However, as Volodymyr Hnatiuk points out, those elements now recognized as remnants of the old pagan worldviews do not exist in their original forms or even in the shape that they acquired at the early stages of Christianity. On the contrary, they have been changed under various influences over time.29

THE CONCEPT OF DVOIEVIR’IA: A MODEL OF SYNCRETISM IN UKRAINE Ukrainian Christianity’s synthesis of Christian elements with those that are believed to have pagan origins has been labeled by Eastern European scholars since the nineteenth century as dvoievir’ia (Russian: dvoyeveriye), or “dual belief system.” The term’s roots lie in the ninth century but with an obscure original meaning, which was then enthusiastically adopted and reinterpreted by later writers. This interpretation was especially popular among nineteenth-century ethnographers, who were influenced by Romanticism, ethnic nationalism, and the mythological school of folklore. Early ethnographers tried to trace what they called the survivals of pagan elements in the folk practices of their time in order to claim antiquity for their nations. Despite recent criticisms from Western scholars, the concept of dvoievir’ia still circulates in Eastern Europe in both academic circles and, more importantly, at the popular level.30 Contemporary Pagans employ this concept in the building of their spiritualities and identities. They are convinced that contemporary folklore contains many remnants of ancient Slavic paganism. To them, the concept of dvoievir’ia is an academic confirmation of their idea that the views and practices of their ancestors have been “contaminated” and “polluted” over time by a different belief system, namely Christianity. Furthermore, Pagans are convinced that (Ukrainian) Christianity has hardly introduced anything new. While appropriating perceived pagan motifs into their contemporary practices, Ukrainian Pagans strive to “cleanse” these practices of any “foreign” Christian layers.

SYNCRETISM IN UKRAINIAN PAGANISM: CONSTRUCTING CHARISMA Christian motifs, both official and popular, used by Ukrainian Pagans include not only material objects and visual images but also certain Christian ideas and patterns of behavior. The founder of RUNVira, Lev Sylenko, proclaimed himself a prophet sent to his fellow Ukrainians by God. However, in this case the concept of “God” is presented as Sylenko believed it was understood by the ancestors of contemporary Ukrainians. “God’s grace came upon me, and following the will of God I have proclaimed a new understanding of God.”31 According to his followers, he could feel the dykhannia Predkiv (“breath of his ancestors”) in his soul and was united with them bozhestvennoiu sviatistiu (“through divine holiness”).32 Sylenko identified his relationship with his ancestors in the following way: “I was born out of their love. And this is why I love everything that is my own so devotedly and tenderly as they loved it. Their blood flows in my blood. Their souls live in my soul. They are my love. They are my Saints.”33 Sylenko strove to legitimize his role as RUNVira prophet via the ideas of vision and spirit possession. Specifically, he claimed possession by the spirits of his ancestors and their God. These syncretic ideas help Sylenko to consolidate his authority: I have come, my dear native tribes, From your truths, sources and sufferings … Slaves with evil tongues will go against me. They will destroy the free orchard of my thoughts. “A false prophet is coming!”—the faceless children of slavery will be saying, laughing at me … I say: “The lost, come back, I am bringing you the Native Faith from Heaven, Open your hearts, do not hold aloof, I have risen for the joy of [my] people [Ia na radisť Narodu voskres].”34

In terms of its style, metaphors, and linguistic turns, this poem resonates with many biblical verses, especially those devoted to Jesus’ arrival in Jerusalem, where he is rejected by the Jews as a false messiah. Moreover, Sylenko metaphorically uses the biblical concept of voskresinnia (resurrection) associated with Jesus to describe his own mission. Such symbolic associations with the dominant religion and its main spiritual figure significantly contribute to the construction of Sylenko’s own charisma. Max Weber first introduced the concept of charisma into academic discourse as “exceptional powers or qualities … not accessible to the ordinary person, but … regarded as of divine origin or as exemplary, and on the basis of them the individual is … treated as a leader.”35 Clifford Geertz showed how certain symbolic elements contribute to the formation and reinforcement of the leaders’ charisma. The symbolic elements involved in this process are often rooted in the religious ideologies and traditions of particular societies and thus have to be studied in their contexts.36 Sylenko’s authority and charisma become reinforced with the help of symbolic associations with Christian concepts that are familiar to the majority of Ukrainians. In other words, Sylenko’s authority becomes constructed on the basis of a well-known pre-existing model, with its wellestablished definition of (spiritual) power. However, Sylenko’s charisma, as understood in Weber’s terms, cannot be underestimated either. In fact, he is remembered by many as a dynamic and talented individual with great oratorical skills. “Everything became quiet, and the ground shook when he spoke,” said one Ukrainian Canadian, who remembered when Sylenko came to Edmonton, Alberta, in the 1970s. It is rather both kinds of Sylenko’s charisma—“natural” and socially/culturally reinforced—that exist in dialogue with each other.37

THE EXAMPLE OF PYSANKY Contemporary Ukrainian Pagans, especially adherents of RUNVira, criticize Christianity for taking “a Ukrainian form” and imparting it with “foreign content.” Lev Sylenko wrote: “The pysanka is yours, but it glorifies the event in Bethlehem rather than that in Kyiv. Children are yours but their souls have to be excited about and inspired by nonUkrainian holy things and celebrations of Greek Orthodoxy.”38 In response, contemporary Pagans incorporate perceived “Ukrainian forms” into their own activities, considering these as originally belonging to them. Interestingly, however, Pagans adapt them in the forms that these elements have acquired within Christianity. The first Ukrainian ethnographic accounts of the pysanka practice are dated only as far back as the late nineteenth century. Ukrainian Pagans appropriate pysanky in those forms that are available today and adapt them. This form of syncretism fits Eric J. Hobsbawm and Terence O. Ranger’s concept of “invented tradition,” where “adaptation takes place for old uses in new conditions and by using old models for new purposes” when new needs appear.39 In line with Kaplan’s theoretical framework, this situation can be defined as Paganization, where Pagan versions of traditional practices are introduced. These practices, to paraphrase Kaplan, “become of value to the development of a Pagan life in a Pagan community.” The two processes differ in that Paganization only selects those elements that are perceived as pagan but embedded in Christianity. Therefore, Paganization is a vector of anti-syncretism. A RUNVira article entitled “Velykden’ [Great Day] of Dazhboh Light” published in the periodical Samobutnia Ukraina-Rus’ (“Unique UkraineRus”) discussed old pagan rituals performed on the territory of Ukraine in the context of the celebration of solstice and the resurrection of spring. The author treated pysanky as a significant attribute of this ancient holiday. Among the examples of the pysanky illustrations in the article, there is a stylized image of a Christian church.

INDIGENIZATION OF FOREIGN ELEMENTS Natalia Swyrydenko, an American citizen of Ukrainian descent, wanted her father (RUNtato Boholiub) to perform a RUNVira ceremony for her wedding. However, she also wanted it to be understood by their American guests, many of whom did not have any Ukrainian/RUNVira background. That is why Natalia consciously combined RUNVira elements with those of American popular culture. A large “unity candle,” a twentieth-century, nondenominational addition to the American wedding tradition, was placed on the RUNVira zhertovnyk (altar) along with sacred RUNVira items. It is supposed to be lit each year on the day of the wedding until the fiftieth anniversary of marriage. Although Ukrainian Pagans, especially the followers of RUNVira, are strongly oriented toward things Ukrainian, such a combination of Ukrainian and non-Ukrainian elements in their rituals helps Ukrainian–American representatives of this faith to reach out to the larger society. Many Ukrainian Pagans, especially in Ukraine, do not officially admit the “foreign” origins of some of their beliefs and practices. On the contrary, they Ukrainianize these elements, adapting them to Pagan needs. During my conversation with a representative of Ancestral Fire in Ukraine, he mentioned that yoga (although it could have had a different name) was invented by the ancestors of present-day Ukrainians. This encounter exemplifies how some Ukrainian Pagans seek to legitimize their tradition by highlighting (or even magnifying) their ancestors by imagining their great cultural achievements. And Ukrainian Pagans empower themselves as the descendants of those ancestors. This strategy is a form of religious bricolage, but a specific one. Ideas and practices are selected according to the needs of the individual or group, but they must be altered and placed into the context of the “indigenous” culture, that is, they must be indigenized. The process of indigenization contains elements of both syncretism and anti-syncretism. It is a form of what Kaplan called the “assimilation” of elements from one religion to another. Not all elements offer the same affordance for indigenization: the unity candle is not strongly linked with any one denomination nor is it an unavoidable symbol of any proprietary concept

or figure like Jesus Christ. Furthermore, the candle can be associated with existing Ukrainian networks of symbols: candle, flame, annual cycles, and so on.

TWO-DIRECTIONAL INFLUENCES: BORROWING FROM PAGANS The three paradigms introduced above deal predominantly with situations in which contemporary Pagans borrow motifs and ideas from other cultural and religious traditions. However, despite being a relatively new phenomenon, Paganism has already begun to spread its own influence on the wider Ukrainian society, resulting in even more complex forms of syncretism. During my research, I heard comments from some non-Pagans describing contemporary Pagan practices as “truly Ukrainian” and “authentic.” This is the way they are perceived by some nationally conscious Ukrainians who view Pagan rituals as having a close connection with those of the old Slavs. Thus, many nationally conscious Ukrainians see Pagan practices as valuable sources for identity formation, although they do not necessarily support the revival of old paganism as a religion. I witnessed an example at the festival Kraina Mrii (“Dreamland”) in 2008. For several years, Kraina Mrii has been organized in Kyiv by Oleh Skrypka, a famous Ukrainian musician, at the time of the “Christianized” Kupalo celebrations, around 6–7 July. The festival is “all-Ukrainian” in nature and does not reference any religion, although patriotic in spirit. By supporting and popularizing traditional genres of Ukrainian music, Kraina Mrii plays an important role in the raising of national consciousness through music. Kupalo is an old ritual,40 presented in discussions of the agrarian cycle rituals as a “pre-Christian celebration of the solstice and vegetation fertility magic.”41 At some point after the introduction of Christianity, Kupalo became associated with Ivan (John) the Baptist because the holiday of this saint (7 July in the old Julian calendar, 24 June in the Gregorian calendar) falls very close to the solstice. The academic hypothesis popular with Ukrainian Pagans is that this syncretic holiday became known as Ivan Kupalo, where “Ivan” stands for the Christian saint while “Kupalo” represents his pre-Christian counterpart. One of the most colorful elements of pre-Soviet Ivan Kupalo celebration was organized by young people in the evening. It included

constructing a figure called Kupalo or Marena. Sometimes both were created. Their “bodies” could be made out of a sapling, a broom, or an effigy made of straw. These could be decorated with wreaths, necklaces, ribbons, and flowers. Girls would dance and sing around Marena while boys would attempt to steal her. At the end of the night, Marena and/or Kupalo would be either “drowned” or dismembered, while the bits would be spread across the fields, perhaps to ensure fertility of the crops.42 Socially, this ritual permitted youths to meet potential mates. In line with the themes of marriage and fertility, there were also many fortunetelling elements and a lot of magic incorporated in this rite. The holiday culminated with a bonfire. When the flames burned low, couples would hold hands and jump over the fire. It was believed that the couple whose hands remain connected while they leapt over the fire would stay together and soon be married.43 During the Soviet period, the celebration of Kupalo was “Sovietized.” In line with Marxist ideology, both magical and religious elements of this holiday were dismissed as remnants of backward thinking. Instead, the aesthetic and playful components of Kupalo were emphasized.44 In 1959, The Day of Soviet Youth was introduced in the Soviet calendar. In the Soviet context, the Kupalo bonfire came to represent the goodness and eternal glory of Soviet heroes. Instead of Kupalo and Marena, the effigies of the enemies of Soviet ideology such as warmongers, bureaucrats, drunkards, and hooligans were burned in a bonfire.45 It would not be an exaggeration to say that Kupalo has become one of the most popular rituals among post-Soviet revivalists in various contexts of Ukrainian society. As could be expected, Kupalo has also become one of the major holidays of the Pagan calendar cycle. For example, on the first day of the 2008 Kraina Mrii festival, in the same city of Kyiv, representatives of Native Faith gathered at their shrine to conduct their weekly ritual of Glorifying Gods and Goddesses. During this ritual, they made references to Kupalo. Later that night, they were going to celebrate this holiday as one of the major spiritual experiences in the yearly cycle Kolo Svarozhe (“Svaroh Circle”).46 After the ritual they were going to join the Kraina Mrii festival procession that was taking place near their shrine.

Many Ukrainian Pagans were pleased by the way and especially by the time that the festival was organized that year. Several representatives of Native Faith and two “independent” Pagans claimed that it was their idea to convince Oleh Skrypka to stage Kraina Mrii on the day of the summer solstice—21 June. They believe that this was exactly when the ancestors of contemporary Ukrainians originally celebrated. Pagans strongly opposed the idea of having the festival around 7 July, on the Orthodox Christian feast of Ivan Kupalo, as was originally planned. Apparently, Skrypka was convinced, and Native Faith Pagans happily joined his festival procession before beginning their own Kupalo celebrations. After the procession arrived at its destination point, the effigies of Kupalo and Marena were placed near the main stage of the festival. Guests and participants took pictures in front of them throughout the entire festival. Before joining the festival procession on 21 June, one representative of Native Faith told his fellow believers that he was pleased with what Oleh Skrypka was doing. However, his concern was that for the organizers and guests of Kraina Mrii, Kupalo is predominantly a “colorful theatrical performance,” rather than a “real spiritual experience,” as it is for contemporary Pagans. But he expressed hope that maybe through “theatrical performance” many Ukrainians will come to a “real spiritual experience.” Both groups, in line with romantic nationalist ideology, use old pagan practices as instruments for the construction of a “true” national identity. Unlike the Soviets who tried to de-sacralize this ritual, Ukrainian Pagans actively strive to revive its perceived ancient sacred and magical meaning. However, Soviet and Pagan sentiments regarding specifically Christian elements of Kupalo coincided, for followers of both ideologies actively attempt to dismiss Christian elements in Kupalo. The Kupalo ritual as recreated by Bohdan Ostrovs’kyi, a Kyiv-based leader of RUNVira, is even more evocative.47 In the area where Ostrovs’kyi was born (the Ternopiľ region, western Ukraine) Kupalo was not celebrated. However, since this holiday is very well known in the rest of Ukraine and became widely recognized after the collapse of the Soviet Union, Ostrovs’kyi decided to include it into his RUNVira calendar. However, he was not fully satisfied with certain parts of Kupalo. In his

opinion, this ritual included themes such as young men and ladies swimming together “half-naked” that Ostrovs’kyi found immoral. While pondering how to organize this holiday for his community, he reviewed some literature and encountered the theme of vinchannia prabat’kiv (“marriage of the ancestors”). Since the wreath is an essential component of both Kupalo and marriage rituals as well as a symbol of female virginity in Ukrainian folklore, Ostrovs’kyi linked it to the idea of “marriage of the ancestors.” On the Kupalo day, young females in Ostrovs’kyi’s community make wreaths and have them blessed. While blessing the wreaths, Ostrovs’kyi says: “Chystotoiu i virnistiu osviachuiet’sia” (“To be blessed with purity and fidelity”), implying that the girls are obliged to take their wreaths home and keep them as reminders to preserve their purity until marriage, and then remain faithful to their husbands for the rest of their lives. Ostrovs’kyi frames this ritual as a “commandment of their ancestors.” This leader recalls how one year he was invited to conduct his Kupalo ritual for the general public in a particular area of Kyiv. Approximately three hundred people gathered to watch the ceremony. According to Ostrovs’kyi, they became especially enthusiastic when it came to the moment of blessing the wreaths. Those who did not have wreaths began to make them from plants growing in the area. In this context, Ostrovs’kyi was approached by an elderly woman who had tears in her eyes and a wreath in her hands. The woman said, “Please forgive me, I am an old and stupid woman. I never realized that we [Ukrainians] bless wreaths. I want to die knowing that I had my wreath blessed.” She put the wreath on her head for Ostrovs’kyi to bless. He understood that the woman meant that at the time she was getting married she was pure, but she did not have a blessed wreath. This example illustrates how a Pagan leader creatively reworked traditional Kupalo practices in terms of their forms and meanings, projecting his own philosophy and moral convictions onto them. His version of Kupalo is apparently well received by his followers. Moreover, it was introduced to the larger public who, in the post-Soviet context of the rise of national consciousness, took interest in it as a “purely” traditional Ukrainian cultural form.

Ukrainian Pagans do not only borrow old folkloric forms from their original peasant contexts but also recreate these forms. The recreated practices, in turn, find their way back to the people. This mode of adaptation that deals with constant mutual exchange of religious elements that, in turn, are seen as beneficial by all cultures in contact can be called reciprocity, to expand on Kaplan’s theoretical framework.

PERSPECTIVES While deconstructing Ukrainian Pagan beliefs and practices in order to better understand the complexity of these phenomena, I view them as syncretic, from an etic (academic) perspective. Ukrainian Pagans do not consider their views and practices as such. On the contrary, they adhere to the idea of “anti-syncretism” introduced and defined by Stewart and Shaw as “the antagonism to religious synthesis shown by agents concerned with the defense of religious boundaries. Anti-syncretism is frequently bound up with the construction of ‘authenticity’, which is in turn often linked to notions of ‘purity’.”48 To the adherents of the concept of anti-syncretism, “syncretism is associated with ‘inauthenticity’ or ‘contamination.’”49 In fact, “syncretism” is often defined in contrast to such terms as “purity” and “authenticity,” in line with ideas of European Romanticism and ethnic nationalism.50 My understanding of “authenticity” is different from that of contemporary Ukrainian Pagans. It coincides with that of Stewart and Shaw, who define it in the following way: “Authenticity” and “originality” do not necessarily depend on purity. They are claimable as “uniqueness”, and both pure and mixed traditions can be unique. What makes them “authentic” and valuable is a separate issue, a discursive matter involving power, rhetoric and persuasion. Thus both putatively pure and putatively syncretic traditions can be “authentic” if people claim that these traditions are unique, and uniquely their (historical) possession. It could be argued, in fact, that syncretic blends are more unique because historically unrepeatable.51

CONCLUDING REMARKS The list of paradigms identified and examples provided in this chapter is not exhaustive, focusing only on some of the major patterns in the formation of syncretic religious forms in Ukrainian Paganism. With the exception of some recent theoretical ideas, many scholars identify the present-day situation in Ukrainian popular Christianity as dvoievir’ia (dual faith) that incorporates both Christian and pre-Christian elements. Although Ukrainian Pagans strive to reverse this and return to what they believe is the original odnovir’ia (single belief system), the results are, indeed, even more complex. These results can be defined as bahatovir’ia (multiple belief system) that represents a syncretic conglomeration of old paganism, popular and official Christianity, non-Ukrainian elements, and exclusively Pagan ideas. The definition of syncretism usually implies the blending of two or more existing traditions when they come in contact with each other. In the case of Ukrainian Paganism and Native Faith, a new religion is being created on the basis of the synthesis of elements from various traditions.

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS I have been studying Ukrainian Paganism since spring 2006 through published and archival sources, as well as extensive fieldwork conducted both in Ukraine and the Ukrainian diaspora in North America. This article is based on my doctoral dissertation “Modern Paganism between East and West: Construction of an Alternative National Identity in Ukraine and the Ukrainian Diaspora,” which I defended at the University of Alberta, Canada. An earlier version of the section headed “Ukrainian Paganism: Origins And Development” was previously published as part of my article “Glory to Dazhboh or to all Native Gods? Monotheism and Polytheism in Contemporary Ukrainian Paganism,” The Pomegranate 11(2) (2009): 197– 222.

NOTES 1. In line with the Contemporary Pagan Studies Group (American Academy of Religion), I capitalize the term Paganism while referring to contemporary, self-consciously revived traditions. I use lowercase p while addressing preChristian beliefs and practices. The term iazychnytstvo is a Ukrainian equivalent to paganism. Many Pagans reject this term because of its negative connotation as imposed by the Christian church. The only term that the majority of Ukrainian Pagans accept is Ridna Vira (Native Faith), which forms part of the official names of many Pagan streams. 2. The first half of the acronym RUNVira—RUN—is meant to resonate with ancient runes, while the second part—Vira—means “faith” in Ukrainian, as described in note 1 above. 3. Adrian Ivakhiv, “In Search of Deeper Identities: Neopaganism and ‘Native Faith’ in Contemporary Ukraine,” Nova Religio: The Journal of Alternative and Emergent Religions 8(3) (2005), 11. 4. Volodymyr Shaian, Vira Predkiv Nashykh (Hamilton: Publication Committee at the Sviatynia Dazhbozha, 1987), 24. Unless otherwise indicated, all translations from both Ukrainian and Russian are by the author. 5. From Halyna Lozko’s speech delivered on 31 July 2008 in Ľviv, western Ukraine, at a Pagan gathering devoted to the 100th anniversary of Shaian’s birth. 6. Laryssa Murovych, foreword to Vira Predkiv Nashykh, by Volodymyr Shaian (Hamilton: Publication Committee at the Sviatynia Dazhbozha, 1987), 7–9. 7. Samobutnia Ukraina (1964: 209–10), quoted in Anatolii Kolodnyi, “Rozdil pershyi: Vynyknennia i poshyrennia, virovchennia ta obriady RUNViry,” RUNVira (Ridna Ukrains’ka Natsionaľna Vira), 8. Volomydyr Shaian, Vira Predkiv Nashykh (Hamilton: Publication Committee at the Sviatynia Dazhbozha, 1987) 61–3. 9. Many believe this book was originally written on wooden planks, which have now been lost. Only their transcriptions are available. They were allegedly discovered in the early twentieth century on the territory of contemporary Ukraine, near Kharkiv. For a summary of the history of the discovery of The Book of Vles and its subsequent publications in Russia, see Victor Shnirelman, “Vozvrashcheniye ariistva: Nauchnaia fantastika i rasizm,” Neprykosnovennyi zapas 6(62) 2008. For a discussion of its popular acceptance in Ukraine and specifically by Ukrainian Pagans, see Ivakhiv, “In Search of Deeper Identities.” For a detailed contextual and linguistic analyses of The Book of Vles as a forgery, see O. V. Tvorogov, “Chto takoe ‘Vlesova


11. 12. 13. 14. 15.

16. 17. 18.

19. 20. 21.


kniga’,” Russkaia literatura 2 (1988), and “Vlesova kniga,” Trudy otdela grevnerusskoi literatury 43 (1990). See also Maya Kaganskaya, “The Book of Vles: The Saga of a Forgery,” Jews and Jewish Topics in Soviet and East European Publications 4 (1986–7), 3–27. For a discussion of the debate regarding polytheism versus monotheism in Ukrainian Paganism see Mariya Lesiv, “Glory to Dazhboh or to all Native Gods? Monotheism and Polytheism in Contemporary Ukrainian Paganism,” The Pomegranate: The International Journal of Pagan Studies 11(2) (2009): 197–222. Lev Sylenko, Mudrist’ ukrains’koi pravdy: Nauka (Katekhyzm) Runviry (Kyiv: Oberehy, 1996), 18–19. Ibid. Ibid., 6. Svaroh 17–18 (2005), 46; Ivakhiv, “In Search of Deepr Identities,” 22. Victor Shnirelman, “Neoiazychestvo i natsyonalizm: Vostochnoevropeiskii areal,” Arkheologiia i etnografiia Abkhazii, path=_etnography/arts/&source=05. See also his “‘Christians! Go Home’: A Revival of Paganism between the Baltic Sea and Transcaucasia (An Overview),” Journal of Contemporary Religion 17(2) (2002), 201. Mudrisť Ukrains’koi Pravdy, 6. Svaroh 15–16 (2004), 18–19. Among these are archeologist Iurii Shylov, linguist Anatolii Kifishyn, science fiction writer Oles Berdnyk, writer Iurii Kanyhin, ethnologist Halyna Lozko, Russian philosophers and mystics Nikolai and Elena Rerikh, and others. Ivakhiv, “In Search of Deeper Identities,” 14–16. Rosalind Shaw and Charles Stewart, “Introduction: Problematizing Syncretism,” in Syncretism/Anti- syncretism Rosalind Shaw & Charles Stewart (eds) (London: Routledge, [1994] 2004), 1–25. Ibid. Ibid., 6. Although Steven Kaplan does not explicitly use the term “syncretism,” he presents a similar understanding of religious synthesis in his conceptual framework for the interaction of two religious systems in Africa. Steven Kaplan, “The Africanization of Missionary Christianity, History and Typology,” in Responses to Western Christianity, Steven Kaplan (ed.) (New York: New York University Press, 1995), 10–11. The themes discussed in this chapter are largely inspired by Kaplan’s ideas. In contemporary Ukraine, Eastern Rite Christianity embraces the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kyivan Patriarchate, the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church, and the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church.

23. Although Hnatiuk was not the first scholar to discuss this idea, he was one of the most influential Ukrainian ethnographers. Ukrainian Pagans refer to his research in both their publications and private conversations. Volodymyr Hnatiuk, “Ostanky peredkhrystiians’koho relihiinoho svitohliadu nashykh predkiv,” in Etnohrafichnyi zbirnyk: Znadoby do ukrains’koi demonoliogii, vol. II(1) (Ľviv: Drukarnia Naukovoho tovarystva im. Shevchenka, 1912), vii. 24. Ibid. 25. Pavel Chubinskii, Trudy etnografichesko-statisticheskoi ekspeditsyi v Zapadno-Russkii krai, vol. 1. (Saint Petersburg: Imperatorskoie russkoie geograficheskoie obshchestvo, 1872), 23. 26. As, for example, illustrated by a church script of the eleventh to twelfth centuries entitled Poucheniia, quoted in Dokia Humenna’s Mynule plyve v pryideshnie: Rozpovid’ pro Trypillia (New York: Ukrainian Academy of Arts and Sciences in the USA, 1978), 206. 27. Ibid., 16. 28. For post-Soviet Ukraine, see Catherine Wanner, Communities of the Converted: Ukrainians and Global Evangelism (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2007), 130–31. For the diaspora see Andrij Makuch, Hlus’ Church: A Narrative History of the Ukrainian Catholic Church at Buczacz, Alberta (Edmonton: Alberta Culture and Multiculturalism, 1989), especially 75–93, devoted to this community’s calendar cycle and life cycle celebrations and observances. 29. Volodymyr Hnatiuk, “Ostanky peredkhrystiians’koho relihiinoho svitohliadu nashykh predkiv,” Etnohrafichnyi zbirnyk: Znadoby do ukrains’koi demonoliogii 2(1) (1912), vii–viii. 30. American historian Christine Worobec argues that the weakness of the dvoievir’ia/dvoieverie model lies in its assumption that nineteenth-century folk beliefs and practices “mirrored those of the ancient past;” Christine Worobec, “Death Ritual among Russian and Ukrainian Pagans: Linkages between the Living and the Dead,” in Letters from Heaven: Popular Religion in Russia and Ukraine, John-Paul Himka & Andriy Zayarnyuk (eds) (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2006), 16. Eve Levin, an American specialist on medieval Russia, suggests that beliefs be examined from the perspective of their practitioners. She points out that many elements that are now ascribed to superstitious paganism were characteristic of medieval Christianity. Levin argues against the idea that all Christian holidays and saints have pagan roots and/or are simply replacements of pagan beliefs and practices (although she does not reject that many of them could be). On the contrary, many have direct Christian origins. Eve Levin, “Dvoeverie and Popular Culture,” in Seeking God: The Recovery

31. 32. 33. 34. 35. 36. 37. 38. 39. 40.

41. 42. 43. 44.

45. 46. 47. 48. 49. 50. 51.

of Religious Identity in Orthodox Russia, Ukraine, and Georgia, ed. Stephen K. Batalden (ed.) (DeKalb, IL: Northern Illinois University Press, 1993), 41– 6. Mudrisť Ukrains’koi Pravdy, 246. Ibid., 16–17. Ibid., 38. Lev Sylenko, Maha Vrata (Winnipeg: Oriiana, 1969), 7. Max Weber, “The Types of Authority and Imperative Co-ordination,” in The Theory of Social and Economic Organization, A. M. Henderson & Talcott Parsons (trans.) (Glencoe, IL: Free Press, 1947), 358–9. Ibid., 136–7. The idea of a dialogue between two types of charisma is inspired by anthropologist Jean DeBernardi; (2008). Lev Sylenko, Maha Vira (Ľviv: Hromada “Skytiia,” [1998] 2005), 798. Eric Hobsbawm, “Introduction: ‘Inventing Traditions’,” in The Invention of Tradition, E. Hobsbawm & T. Ranger (eds) (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, [1983] 2000), 5. This chapter does not engage in an ongoing debate about the name and the origins of Kupalo. Instead, it focuses only on those aspects of the specifically Ukrainian Kupalo discourse that influence the way Ukrainian Pagans perceive this holiday. Natalie Kononenko, “Karaoke Ivan Kupalo: Ritual in Post-Soviet Ukraine,” Slavic and East European Journal 48(2) (2004), 179. Ibid.; Pavel Chubinskii, Narodnyi dnevnik: Trudy etnograficheskostatisticheskoi ekspeditsyi v Zapadno-Russkii krai, vol. 3. (Saint Petersburg: Imperatorskoie russkoie geograficheskoie obshchestvo, 1872), 193–5. Chubinskii, Narodnyi dnevnik, 196; Kononenko, “Karaoke Ivan Kupalo,” 180. O. F. Kureniova, O. M. Kravets’, T. D. Hirnyk, & B. T. Zinych, Sviata ta Obriady Radians’koi Ukrainy (Kyiv: Naukova dumka, 1971), 182–9; Iu. Klymets, Kupaľs’ka obriadovisť na Ukraini (Kyiv: Naukova dumka, 1990), 106–16. Kureniova et al., Sviata ta Obriady Radians’koi Ukrainy, 185–6. Svaroh is considered the father of the old Slavic pantheon by the followers of Native Faith. The following description is based on my recorded interview with Bohdan Ostrovs’kyi on 29 June 2008. Stewart & Shaw, “Problematizing Syncretism,” 7. Ibid., 1. Ibid., 2. Ibid.

10. RUSSIAN RODNOVERIE: SIX PORTRAITS OF A MOVEMENT Kaarina Aitamurto and Alexey Gaidukov

Among Western Pagans, there is a joke: if you ask ten Pagans you will get eleven answers. This also aptly portrays Rodnoverie,1 the Russian movement of the followers of the pre-Christian Slavic spirituality. Therefore, even though some ritual and doctrinal uniformization has taken place within Rodnovers during the last decade, it is difficult to draw any general picture of what Rodnoverie beliefs are, what kind of background Rodnovers usually have or what kind of social views they attach to their religiosity. Such differences have been addressed in earlier studies, but they usually focus on the ideological differences between publications. What seems to be missing is a grassroots perspective of the Rodnoverie believers which could make sense of the contradictory features. As with some studies of similar Pagan movements,2 we felt that general surveys of the Russian organizations do not fully capture the richness of the religion as it is lived by its adherents. Thus the aim of this article is to provide a contextual view by presenting six case studies. The narratives presented in this chapter are based on people whom we have met in the course of our fieldwork, but the cases that are presented are composites of two to four individuals. The stories illustrate some of the backgrounds of Rodnovers, the paths by which they arrived at Rodnoverie, and some of the changes that have taken place in the movement over the past twenty years. These examples introduce different ways of understanding Rodnoverie and some of the common viewpoints within the movement.

THE EARLY PHASES OF RODNOVERIE In the Soviet period, Pagan groups functioned in secret. There is information about small groups in Moscow and Leningrad. Most belonged to the nationalistic circles of the 1980s and from the outset, Paganism in Russia was linked to political nationalism.3 The social instability of the 1990s intensified the re-imagining of Russian society. Many Rodnoverie communities and thinkers were as much political as they were religious. Their political programs were conservative and nationalistic. They were disappointed with the longawaited liberation from the Soviet system and the arrival of capitalism, which not only failed to improve the living standards of the majority but coincided with a dramatic economic downturn. The experience of democracy was disappointing: the “new” elite, who were for the most part the same elite that had ruled in Soviet times, implemented their politics regardless of the will of the ordinary people. Many Rodnovers, and especially Rodnoverie leaders, have university degrees in natural sciences.4 However, another notable group, especially within nationalistically oriented Rodnovers, is formed by people with a background in the Soviet or Russian army.

VLADIMIR Vladimir was born in 1945 shortly after the Great Patriotic War (i.e. the Second World War), in a small village in Ryazan Oblast. His father died at the front, and Vladimir was brought up by his mother and grandmother. Love for the Soviet Union was deeply implanted in him as well as veneration for the fallen heroes of the patria. When Stalin died, Vladimir cried with his mother and grandmother, but when Khrushchev broke the Stalinist “cult of the individual,” he realized that his leaders might not always be right. Vladimir wished to know more about his country and studied history at university, but he was dismissed because he associated with dissidents in his class. After his dismissal, Vladimir enlisted in the Soviet Navy and, due to his perseverance, was advanced to officer. He graduated from the naval academy and joined the Communist Party. While at sea, he read a lot about history, philology, psychology, and philosophy. However, Vladimir’s promising career came to an abrupt end when he came into conflict with a commanding officer of Georgian origin. Although blocked from active service, Vladimir got a position at the naval academy, where he defended his dissertation in philosophy. Vladimir acknowledged many shortcomings of Soviet life. Although he was critical of the system itself, he became convinced that the main reason for the troubles was the presence of non-Russian people in the Soviet Union, especially those from central Asia and the North Caucasus. More dangerously for Russia, Jews were, in his opinion, controlling the Western world and seeking to control the Soviet Union as well. During Perestroika, Vladimir discovered Yemelyanov’s Desionizatsiya,5 Chivilikhin’s Pamyať, and writings by Anatolii Ivanov. Vladmir agreed that Soviet internationalism made Russians unable to defend themselves from foreigners and hid the root cause of social problems. Vladimir got a hold of a copy of the Book of Veles. For him, it stood as evidence that the Slavs had once possessed a glorious civilization of their own. At the end of the 1980s, Vladimir left the military and formed a cooperative that sold handicrafts and food products from the countryside. A group of disillusioned officers gathered around Vladimir, who formed

the rightwing “Order of Russian Officers.” After his mother’s death, Vladimir moved to his childhood home in the countryside. He farmed on a small scale while continuing to study books about the Slavic worldview. Vladimir was glad to see the collapse of the Soviet Union and the system that he had despised. At the same time, he hated to see his country voluntarily give up its position as a superpower and kneel before its former enemy. It made him sick to see how foreign aid was brought to Russia, which used to be the provider of help to so many developing countries. Vladimir had wished for the right to speak freely, but the new freedom of speech seemed to him to only result in a triumph of bad taste and ignorance. Vladimir was able to escape hunger in the Russian depression of the early 1990s thanks to his gardens. He blames the Jews and the United States for the depression. When Russia opened its borders to international finance and adopted Western models, it suddenly sank to the level of a developing country. He became convinced that Western civilization is trying to destroy the Vedic, Slavic world. In the Middle Ages this was done with Christianity, but now it was being done by implementing Western values, an action that Vladimir compares to the occupation by Nazi Germany during the War. He recommends that the Slavic people join together to combat the demoralizing influence of the West and the Jews. In Vladimir’s opinion, Christianity was created by Jews to conquer all other peoples, including the Slavs. Some of his favorite slogans are: “Jesus is not a god but a Jewish king,” “A human being is not a slave of god, but his offspring,” and “My God did not call me a slave.” Vladimir presented his ideas at meetings organized by Pagans or patriotic groups. At these meetings he sold a small newspaper that he published in the 1990s two or three times a year. Vladimir founded a Slavic Vedic Party that gathered his old friends, mainly officers. The party cooperated both with right-wing and left-wing parties. Vladimir supported the head of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation, Gennady Zyuganov, who proposed a common Slavic state formed by Russians, Ukrainians, and Belarusians. In the twenty-first century, Vladimir’s public activity has diminished. The Slavic Vedic Party could not attract enough people and was dissolved. Vladimir stopped publishing his own newspaper, but now sends his

writings to other Rodnoverie publications. However, he has not been forgotten and even in the countryside Vladimir is visited by people who wish to consult with him, especially young Rodnovers, including some skinheads. With his guests, Vladimir sings and conducts rituals to the gods while raising their right hands in a “Roman salute” pronouncing “Glory to Russia,” and they have parties with lots of drinking.

THE NON-NATIONALISTIC ROOTS OF RODNOVERIE Although such Rodnoverie groups like the Moscow Slavic Pagan Community and individuals like Valerii Yemelyanov or Aleksei Dobrovolskii (Dobroslav) were active in the 1980s, these were so marginal that it is more accurate to place the real beginning of the Rodnoverie movement at the end of that decade.6 At that time, the new policy of openness and freedom of speech (glasnostť) had already begun to change Soviet society. Many Rodnovers reached forms of Paganism through alternative spiritualities, and Eastern influences were prominent in the initial stage. At the end of the 1990s umbrella organizations such as the Union of Slavic Communities and the Circle of Pagan Tradition were founded. Their ritual activity became more established and uniform. Practices and innovations traveled through personal contacts, but also through publications like the Slavic Vedas of the Church of Inglings. Later the Internet played a crucial role in the uniformization of ritual practices.7

VIKTOR Viktor was born in Moscow in 1963 into an academic family. In the Pioneers, the Soviet children’s organization,8 he practiced chess and played piano, and his parents regularly took him to the cinema, theatre, and museums, as was customary in the intelligentsia. Viktor spent summers in the countryside where his grandparents had a cottage, a dacha, and he enjoyed playing in nature and wandering in the forest. He loved to read, especially fairytales. Later on he felt that, in a way, Paganism offered a connection to this childhood world again. It acknowledged the possibility of parallel realities and embraced the whole world, with rocks and oceans and forests fully alive. After school, Viktor got into a prestigious university to study physics. He began to realize the immense environmental problems faced by the Soviet Union. At that time, these issues were not discussed openly. Later, he wondered whether the fact that so many of the early Rodnovers had a degree in natural sciences was due to an education which enabled them to see ecological problems better than average citizens. The student milieu at the end of the 1980s was full of small, informal communities. Viktor got involved with people who studied the works of the early Russian cosmists and esoteric literature. This group drifted apart when some participants became more occupied with family and career. Others emigrated during the economic depression at the beginning of the 1990s. Viktor continued to meet regularly with a smaller group of friends. They spent holidays camping in various parts of Russia and began to conduct rituals. Viktor had married a girl he met at the university. They both enjoyed museums and Russian history. Gradually, their interest in history and their search for spirituality came together when they heard about Rodnoverie, although it was not yet called by that name. Viktor even used the word Neoyazychestvo (“Neopaganism”), although later he became an opponent of that label. When he first found the word “Rodnoverie” (rodnaya vera, “a faith of one’s own”), it instantly seemed to be the perfect expression of what their spirituality was about.

Viktor read Aleksandr Asov’s edition of the Book of Veles. He also found other materials by nationalistic organizations, but he did not like their rigidity and judgmental tone. Viktor could relate to their concerns, but he avoided their aggressive style and considered such slogans as Bei zhida (“beat the Jew”) vulgar. He also met some nationalistic Rodnovers, who proposed cooperation, but although Viktor participated in some conferences, he politely declined any closer relationships and his small group continued their activities independently. Gradually, the activity of Viktor’s community became more established. For example, at first they conducted their small rituals in ordinary clothes until they came to the conclusion that participants should dress appropriately for a festival. Viktor’s wife sewed a white linen shirt with red embroidery for him. The community also noticed that their rituals were best led by a small number of people and, therefore, they named the ones who were in charge of the ritual volkhvy (“wizards”). It was only natural that Viktor became the wizard of the group. Soon Lena, who also contributed to rituals with new ideas, took the place of vedunya (“witch”). Over the course of twenty years, new people have joined the community with new ideas and old members have left. Even though Viktor has become the apparent head of the community, he favors discussion and collective management. He has developed good skills in listening to others, but he gently guides new adepts to fit the ideas of the community and to its behavioral codes. The community attracts many women, and in this respect it is somewhat exceptional within Rodnoverie. Most of the members have some kind of academic education and the community attracts university students. The community had a website, but it did not have as much impact as the online group they later created at the website.9 The rituals of Viktor’s community are elaborate and beautiful, sometimes gathering more than fifty people. They conduct most of their rituals in a recreational area near Moscow, but for the important summer solstice festival of Kupalo they travel to the countryside. Every year the festival is somewhat different because the community values spontaneous freedom. They make a figure of the goddess Lada out of green branches and cloth. The ritual is conducted around a huge bonfire. A wooden scoop

containing an herbal drink goes three times around the circle so that the participants may raise toasts to gods or things he or she finds important. The most common of the toasts is “Slava rodu!” (“Glory to Rod!”).10 There is also a circle dance around the bonfire (khorovod). At a particular moment, the circle is broken into a long chain of people dancing hand-inhand and Viktor’s wife leads the dancers in a loop, crossing under the line of linked arms. The community gathers a nominal payment from the participants—100 rubles (three dollars) being the usual fee. This money does not cover the real expenses of the festival, and the participants are encouraged to bring along musical instruments, food, candles, fireworks, or whatever else the event requires. In his small apartment in a Moscovian housing block, Viktor has closets full of things needed at rituals: huge kettles that can be used in the preparation of food over a campfire, axes to chop wood, water containers, the banner of the community, tambourines, and various other ornaments used in the rituals of the community. Viktor has published articles in Rodnoverie publications. Even though Viktor is well connected and has friends in publishing houses and alternative spirituality shops, getting things published is not easy. For several years, his community published a ritual calendar as a small booklet. In 2010 they released this publication on the Internet only. The sales figures were not profitable enough for the publisher. Viktor spends his holidays traveling around Russia with his family and occasionally some members of his community. In addition to historical places like Vladimir or Yaroslavl,11 they have also traveled to remote areas to enjoy wild nature and find villages where outsiders seldom stray. Though Viktor would like to have more contact with foreign Pagans, he believes that the Russian tradition has unique characteristics that cannot be fully grasped by people who have not lived there since their childhood. He believes that this spirit has remained despite the dramatic changes in Russian history. For that reason, even though he has many criticisms of Christianity, he respects many qualities of the Russian Christian traditions. In addition, though he acknowledges the shortcomings and wrongs of the Communist regime, he is not ready to denounce that part of the Russian

history. He thinks that even Soviet ideology contained some valuable Russian ideals—communality and unselfishness.

RODNOVERIE AND ALTERNATIVE SPIRITUALITY More men than women are involved in the Russian Rodnoverie movement. However, Rodnoverie also attracts people similar to those noted to predominate in Western expressions of New Age spirituality: middle-class and middle-aged women.12 Drawing boundaries between Rodnoverie and other forms of alternative spirituality, such as “traditional healing” or “magic” or even such movements as Anastasiitsi,13 can be difficult. People may combine elements from different sources and move from group to group, or participate in the activity of various traditions simultaneously. The variance in terminology further complicates the definition of religious identities. While the word “Rodnoverie” has gained popularity in recent years, many followers of the pre-Christian Slavic spirituality call themselves Vedisty, Pravoslavy, or Starovery (followers of Vedism, proper worship, and the old faith, respectively). Gender roles are generally conservative within Russian Rodnoverie. It would be difficult to imagine that any Rodnoverie community would accept members who are openly homosexual. The appreciation of the feminine aspect of divinity is an important part of Rodnoverie, and they often rhetorically juxtapose this feature with the perceived denigration of femininity in Christianity. However, there are hardly any women in Rodnoverie who would identify themselves as feminists. This is mainly due to the negative connotations of the word “feminism” in Russia, but also because Rodnovers tend to subscribe to the idea that men and women are different, and therefore their tasks differ.

ELENA Elena’s parents were not university-educated, but they were skilled professionals. They hoped that their daughter might attain a more prestigious profession, and they were disappointed when Elena decided to became an accountant. Elena always felt that she was an outsider. She was sensitive and interested in things that most people around her were indifferent to. But when she got interested in something, she was quietly tenacious. Elena met her husband at the turn of the 1980s. Her husband attended a prestigious university and later established an academic career. They married the year Elena graduated and soon had two children. After graduation, Elena worked in the state sector until the mid-1990s when she got tired of the irregular payments and meager salary. Elena concluded that she needed to move to the private sector to avoid poverty. She was privileged to have this opportunity. She had friends with educations that had been highly esteemed in Soviet times, but who now had no use in the private sector. The new job was not very interesting, but because it was only a part-time job it gave her more free time for her spiritual search. A decisive moment took place at the beginning of the 1990s when Elena had two small children and had to struggle to sustain her family with her meager earnings. She was shouting at her little son and saw the fear in his eyes. At that moment, she realized that she had to make changes in her life. She began to seriously study alternative spirituality and esotericism, focusing on self-development. Even now, she has some issues with her first-born daughter (currently in her late twenties) who still rebels against her, but all in all, Elena thinks that she has become more open and receptive. Elena had a long history of spiritual seekership and she knows many forms of alternative spirituality that have been popular in post-Soviet Russia. She has studied these through books and also with like-minded friends. For a couple of years, she watched videos published by the Ingling Church. But, from a friend whose relatives live in Omsk (where the church is located) Elena heard scandalous rumors about some Ingling leaders and

their relationships with women. These stories appalled Elena, for whom one of the greatest promises in Rodnoverie is the revival of the genuine, trusting relationship between the sexes and the restoration of the traditional meaning of marriage. Elena identifies herself as Pravoslav, a word that originally referred to the Slavic, pre-Christian tradition.14 The fact that the term was later adopted by Russian Orthodox Christians, as Asov claims, attests the unique nature of Russian Orthodoxy, its distinctiveness from Western forms of Christianity, and its roots in the pagan spirituality. Elena has participated in the activity of communities that call themselves Pagans or Rodnovers, and she does not see the differences in these labels as significant. Elena regularly reads esoteric books and periodicals and has contacts with women on different spiritual paths. With such friends she traveled to Arkaim, an archeological site which is claimed to be an ancient sanctuary. Even though Arkaim is located near the Kazakhstan border, two days’ train travel from Moscow, it had busloads of visitors from all around Russia on the days Elena stayed there. Elena played her flute and socialized with other visitors who all seemed to be interested in spirituality even though their worldviews and beliefs varied. By going to Arkaim, Elena also reclaimed a new kind of independence and self-confidence. The trip was out of character for Elena who had unselfishly dedicated herself to taking care of her family. Elena is quite happy that her marriage has lasted for so many years. At the same time, she has often been frustrated by her husband’s absorption in his work, his unwillingness to do any housework, and his rather dictatorial attitude toward his wife. Despite her frustration, Elena put up with all this in the name of domestic comfort. The trip to Arkaim was a decision she made completely on her own, and even though she had saved from the household budget for months, she only told her husband about it on the day of her departure. Contrary to her expectations, he did not become enraged and Elena saw this as a new validation of her spiritual search. She thought that some spiritual realm had helped her in making him understand the importance of the trip.

As she has grown older, Elena has become increasingly interested in healthy lifestyles and alternative healing. She has found out by trial and error which ones work for her. She tries to eat lightly, to prefer fresh food, and to drink green tea every day. She also has picked up some tips from Feng shui to give her home a more positive atmosphere. Rodnoverie rituals have become crucial to her because after these she always feels exceptionally relaxed and balanced. She enjoys being in nature and she particularly likes Rodnoverie events where the participants live in tents for a few days. Elena has belonged to a couple of Rodnoverie communities, and it took some time before she found one that gathered people she could relate to. The first group that Elena attended predominantly included academic people, and Elena felt they were looking down on her. That community seemed more interested in intellectual adventures than lived spirituality. The second one was led by a well-known charismatic wizard, and Elena spent several years in that group. When Elena joined the community, most of its activities were targeted at men and some of the rituals were even closed to women. Following the wizard’s suggestions, she launched several rituals and events for women only, such as a study group for women. Eventually, however, Elena begun to feel that the activity of the community did not addressher needs. She left the group and joined her present community which has vibrant women’s activities and is focused on exploring the mysteries of the spiritual realm and living the tradition of the ancestors. Elena values the women-only gatherings—whether with her friends, or at bigger festivals where women have their own practices. Elena is a firm supporter of gender equality, but by that she does not mean equal career opportunities, but an equal appreciation of women’s and men’s roles. Elena knows many unhappy couples who have divorced, single mothers who have difficulties raising their children, and husbands who abuse their wives. She is convinced that such problems derive from the lack of appreciation of traditional women’s tasks of raising children, maintaining the house, and nurturing the family. She believes that traditional Russian society had stable marriages, no career pressures, and women had more solidarity among themselves. She also thinks that society needs the

“womanly” contribution, which she understands as creating continuity and harmony.

RODNOVERIE AND SCIENCE In addition to middle-aged spiritual seekers, Rodnoverie groups are also joined by younger women who have other kinds of interests and backgrounds. Many Rodnovers are interested in science and intellectual curiosity is a typical feature. These are people who are suspicious of ready-made truths and reluctant to subscribe to any religion or philosophy that would limit their autonomy. There are respected employees at Russian universities and institutes who are Pagans. There are also Rodnovers who publish studies that are based more on spiritual conviction than on grounds that would be acceptable to academic peer-reviewers, but who seek a platform for their doctrines in the academic world. Such attempts do not always fail due to the complex and heterogeneous nature of Russian academia. Even if the most notable universities reject cooperation, small provincial institutions have allowed some Rodnovers to present their beliefs. While the theories created by Rodnovers in the 1980s could be wildly imaginative, a more realistic attitude is now gaining ground within Rodnoverie. The fact that Rodnovers are interested in framing their spiritual experience in scientific terms reveals their wish to present Rodnoverie as a rational philosophy.

MARYANA Maryana is in her thirties and works as a lecturer, teaching medical technology. She grew up in a middle-class family in Saint Petersburg. She met her husband at a Rodnoverie event and later they founded a community together, Maryana functioning as a priestess and her husband as a wizard. Maryana casually mentions the community to her students, and at virtually all of their festivals some of her students are in attendance. The members of the community change, but on average their rituals gather around ten people. Instead of quantity, Maryana prefers quality. The years she has spent in the Rodnoverie scene have made her impatient with the strange notions that some Rodnovers dream up. Every year their community is joined by people who have been fascinated by the Vedas produced by the Inglings and wanted to find a group that practices the “ancient religion.” Maryana does not hesitate to criticize when necessary and she openly ridicules such organizations as the Inglings. Being a scientist is an integral component of Maryana’s self-identity and she has a rather scientific approach to her spirituality as well. She has conducted experiments measuring the influence of Rodnoverie rituals and sacred sites on the energy levels of participants. Even though the equipment is still not perfected, she thinks that the results are encouraging. The data that she has gathered over the years and with numerous subjects shows unmistakable changes in people’s energy in certain places, especially after rituals. Maryana has presented her studies at scientific and Rodnoverie conferences. Maryana has also written a manuscript on the psychological effects of rituals and traditional holidays, but so far she has not yet been able to find a publisher. Maryana has practiced meditation for almost ten years. She argues that Eastern spirituality has a lot of aspects which are not yet fully understood in the West. While most of her friends like to travel to Europe for their holidays when they can afford it, Maryana and her husband saved up money for two years for a trip to Nepal that was an extremely rewarding experience.

In Maryana’s opinion, Rodnoverie is not so much a religion as a philosophy or an approach to life. She wants to discover things on her own and the idea that she should accept religious doctrines that contradict scientific evidence is abhorrent to her. On the other hand, Maryana claims that when adopting a philosophy, people should follow it consistently. One of the things that she cannot accept in Christianity is the concept of the absolution of sins, which she sees as license to do whatever one wants. In her own life, Maryana tries to follow the principles of Rodnoverie. She considered it her duty to her ancestors and to her society to have a child even when the economic situation of her family was not very secure. Luckily, with the help of relatives and friends, she has been able to continue her work while raising a small child. In general, Maryana has noticed that practicing Rodnoverie has enabled her to discover and develop her feminine side. Maryana has always been interested in technological equipment. She is an excellent driver and even rode motorcycles as a hobby. She is still proud of these “masculine” skills, but she is also happy that in Rodnoverie she prepares traditional dishes for the festivals and sews ritual clothes. At rituals Maryana enjoys the opportunity to display and experience her femininity in a traditional framework: wearing a long dress and letting men do all the physical work. She sees the Russian tradition as ideal for women. Russian women have always been strong, free. Maryana is suspicious of Western feminism, which seems to her a compulsory imitation of men and a fear of embracing one’s feminine side.

RODNOVERIE AND THE NATIONALIST YOUTH MOVEMENT Since the early 1990s, when Aleksandr Belov introduced a martial art style called Slavyano-goritskaya bor’ba (“Slavic mound fighting”), many young nationalists have discovered in Rodnoverie a spirituality which suits a nationalist “warrior.”15 In their study of nationalist youth groups in some provincial Russian cities, Pilkington and Popov also noticed the strong presence of Rodnoverie ideas within this subculture.16 For many nationalists, Rodnoverie is not so much a religion as it is a pool of ideas and symbols that can be invoked in a nationalist context. However, there are also more religiously oriented nationalists. The following two cases introduce two young men, Yaroslav, a workingclass nationalist, and Yurii, a student who represents a less political approach. Though some nationalist Rodnovers have links to such working-class subcultures as soccer hooligans or gopnik (a term for lower class youth, similar to English “chavs”), there are also bookish students who do not get involved in street fights. While the working-class youth subcultures are often known for their heavy use of alcohol, the Russian variant of the “straight edge” movement has recently spread within nationalistic Rodnovers, who consider “clean living” to be part of their ideological duty as responsible citizens of Russia.17

YAROSLAV Yaroslav was born in Moscow twenty-three years ago. His father liked to drink and was often violent. He taught his son to be prepared to fight and to never surrender. Yaroslav’s father was sentenced to prison for getting in a street fight with a migrant from the Caucasus, and at the age of ten Yaroslav was left alone with his mother. She sought relief from her difficult situation by regularly attending the local Orthodox church, taking Yaroslav along. His mother hoped that religion and the church might mitigate her son’s temper, which she feared he had inherited from his father. At first, Yaroslav enjoyed going to church but as he grew older, he began to rebel. He became displeased by the servile attitude of the believers. When he talked about injustice in the world, he was told to concentrate on remorse for his own sinfulness. At the age of fourteen he got into an argument with the priest about whether one must really turn the other cheek if offended, and whether a human being really is a slave of God.18 In spite of his mother’s pleas and threats, Yaroslav refused to go to church again. Yaroslav began to listen to heavy metal music with dark aesthetics and lyrics that shocked his mother. Initially attracted by the music’s vigorous sound and attitude, Yaroslav soon began to listen to the lyrics more carefully. They made a lot of sense to him, particularly such Pagan bands as Butterfly Temple, Kolovrat, and Severnye Vrata. The first books that Yaroslav discovered about the ancient Slavic gods and religion were novels such as Mariya Semenova’s Volkodav (1995). He moved on to non-fiction books and the Book of Veles, which he considered a masterpiece, but still somewhat inadequate for how to practice the ancient religion in today’s world. The book that finally seemed to answer all his questions was Vladimir Istarkhov’s Udar Ruskikh Bogov (“A blow from the Russian gods”). This audaciously nationalistic, anti-Semitic, and Pagan book was recommended to Yaroslav by some of his friends. Istarkhov seemed to openly say things that were apparent, but which no one before him had either noticed or been brave enough to say out loud. According to

Istarkhov, both communism and Christianity were based on the idea that the “last will come first.” Instead, Istarkhov suggested that the strongest should be rewarded. Earlier, Yaroslav had hung out with local soccer fans, most of whom shared his nationalistic convictions. However, gradually Yaroslav began to distance himself from these circles. Reading books like Udar Ruskikh Bogov he became aware of the fact that the activity of the soccer hooligans had no target and no significant impact on society. Yaroslav found like-minded friends at a martial arts club that loosely followed the Slavyano-goritskaya bor’ba. He considered it important to be able to beat the foreigners who dominate trade in the marketplaces and who hang out in the housing estates in gangs. Since completing high school, Yaroslav has not been able to find a permanent job and in the struggle for the few available temporary jobs he has often come in contact with networks of (as he calls them) khaches19—southern migrants who, in his opinion, act very much like a mafia. Yaroslav has continued his hobby of metal music, and with a few friends he even tried to establish a band playing Viking metal. Yaroslav is a great admirer of the Norwegian metal musician Varg Vikernes, who emphasizes the need for the “White people” to unite against the others. In general, Yaroslav is interested in Scandinavian culture as well, and claims that in pre-Christian times the Rus had more links with Nordic cultures than with the East or South. Yaroslav does not think that Orthodox Christianity is in any way better than other forms of Christianity and he has little sympathy for Eurasianism.20 In his opinion, the Orthodox emphasis on humility has harmed the Russian people. Varg’s statement that “the only church that can bring light is a burning church,” describes Yaroslav’s opinion of Christianity. Yaroslav prefers to use the word Paganism (yazychestvo) instead of the term Rodnoverie. He considers the latter a manifestation of a recent trend to soften Paganism. In reading various Rodnoverie websites, Yaroslav is angered by their lack of any decisive nationalistic program and their flaccid mysticism. The stance of the so-called “anti-dolboslavs” is closest to his heart.21 This term refers to writers who criticize the folk-style

Rodnovers as ridiculous, hopping over campfires in their homemade linen shirts. From an anti-dolboslav point of view, what Paganism really needs is not invented pseudo-tradition, but a well-grounded and coherent ideology. Yaroslav believes that foreign powers, especially the United States, seek to harm Russia, and that this policy is dictated by the Jews, who have always schemed to take control of Russia. Yaroslav insatiably reads about conspiracies, and the eternal battle between the white people and the “grey” people, as the Jews are called in some of them. Yaroslav is convinced that many truths can only be found in marginal publications or in literature on the federal list of banned literature, while the history taught at schools and universities is dictated by the global elites.

RODNOVERIE AND YOUTH SUBCULTURES In the twenty-first century, the significance of certain alternative youth subcultures in introducing people to Rodnoverie has increased. Heavy metal music has been important, but others which have functioned as an avenue to Rodnoverie include historical re-enactment groups (usually representing early medieval Slavic or Scandinavian tribes) and Tolkien fandom.22 However, Rodnoverie communities take pains to emphasize that Rodnoverie is not a “fashion,” but the timeless tradition of the Russians. In their invitation to the midsummer festival Kupalo, Rodolyubie announces that the event is “A Slavic festival—not a drinking party in nature, not a feast (tusovka) of ‘neformaly’ [informals—a general term for alternative youth subcultures], not a political meeting, and not a gathering of sectarians.”23 This also reveals another change that has taken place in Rodnoverie in the twenty-first century. Rodnoverie publications now discuss the doctrinal side of their religion more and political topics less. For example, the wizard Veleslav (Ilya Cherkasov), has contributed to the development of Rodnoverie rituals and philosophy, but has declined to participate in recent political activities. However, there are forms of nationalism which are strong among Rodnovers who detest chauvinist nationalism. For them, Rodnoverie represents a moral renewal that can help to elevate Russia from its current degradation. Along with the decrease in political topics, the most fantastical historical claims now have fewer supporters in the Rodnoverie community. Several of the larger Rodnoverie organizations actively combat such dubious documents as the Vseyasvetnaya gramota24 as attempts to discredit the movement. Recently, the pejorative label of “New Age” has come to be used by Rodnoverie to disassociate such forms of Paganism from themselves.25

YURII Yurii is a fourth-year student at the state university of a big city in the European part of Russia. He studies history and he plans to write his master’s thesis on the peasant uprising in Suzdal in 1024, led by pagan wizards. Since childhood Yurii has been interested in history and fantasy. At the age of fifteen he got involved in Tolkien fandom. However, Tolkien fandom began to seem childish to him and he moved to a historical reenactment (istoricheskaya rekonstruktsiya) group that involved serious study of history. Yurii has become one of the leading figures in the group. They have focused on the tenth and eleventh century and the weapons and martial arts of that period. They organize battles that are well-planned events that allow the participant to forget that they are only “playing.” Recently, Yurii has also begun studying and playing traditional folk music. Becoming a Rodnover happened gradually while Yurii participated in reenactment, and it was not a dramatic “conversion.” In his first year in university, Yurii heard of a group led by a middle-aged wizard who was known for his charisma. For a couple of months, Yurii attended the rituals of that group but then stopped. The main issue for him was the authoritarian position of the wizard. Yurii appreciated his skill in creating powerful spiritual experiences and his imagination in constructing rituals. Nevertheless, for Yurii, one of the most precious values of Rodnoverie is that it encourages independent thinking. In the Rodnoverie scene the book Udar Ruskikh Bogov was recommended to him numerous times. Yurii admits that there were some parts that were insightful. However, in general, he opposes the book. First, it represents the sort of aggressive nationalism that Yurii sees as nonproductive and damaging to Rodnoverie’s image. Second, as a student of history Yurii cannot accept Istarkhov’s simplistic and poorly grounded claims about history. In his opinion, these discredit Rodnoverie. Even though re-enactment is an important hobby to Yurii and he draws much inspiration from re-enactment for his spirituality, Yurii does not think that the ancient faith and society could be reconstructed as it once was. He is irritated by people who seem to think that in order to legitimize

Rodnoverie as a religion, the ancient paganism has to be presented as having been the most advanced culture and therefore make ridiculous claims that the ancient Slavs had flying vehicles or ruled the whole of Europe. Yurii even believes that the Book of Veles, the nearest thing to a holy scripture for many Rodnovers, is not an authentic ancient document. Yurii formed a Rodnoverie community of his own with three friends. Instead of choosing a leader, they would all act as wizards in the community, leading the rituals in turn. After a year, that community broke up. For a while, Yuri focused on practicing his religion on the Internet. He set up a blog on Livejournal, where he posts his thoughts and longer essays he has written. A couple of years later, Yurii formed a new community. In their rituals, they try to emphasize the ecological aspect of their fairth. According to Yurii, in Rodnoverie one can recover the old tradition of living in connection with nature. This connection is created both through intellectual (or spiritual) attunement with nature and through the feeling of connectedness which is attained through magic. Yurii also attends some of the bigger Rodnoverie events. He considers the midsummer festival of the community, Rodolyubie, which gathers over a hundred participants, to be the most impressive. Yurii would like to find a girlfriend at such events with whom he could practice Rodnoverie, but since boys outnumber girls, the ones attending Rodnoverie rituals are usually already taken. Yurii has had a couple of girlfriends, but it is difficult to have a relationship with someone who has a completely different worldview. Yurii has friends in various youth subcultures. Yurii is proud of the diversity of his friends and the fact that he is aware of current youth subcultures to the extent that he could give educated lectures about such minorities as vampires, Satanists, or homosexual skinheads. He considers himself to be open-minded and he believes that curiosity about alternative viewpoints is a virtue for a Pagan. At the same time, as fascinating as these other subcultures can be, he would not accept juxtaposing them with the socially responsible position of Rodnoverie. For Yurii, Rodnoverie is a worldview that is inseparable from its social outlook. The values of responsibility and agency compel Rodnovers to act when they see problems around them. Yurii considers himself a patriot and

a nationalist. For him, this means dedication and readiness to sacrifice oneself for one’s country and compatriots. He knows the negative connotations of the word nationalism, but he wishes to reclaim the concept. The way he sees it, the alternative to nationalism is either selfish individualism or empty, pretentious internationalism. But he does not want to be associated with the aggressive nationalists who, in his opinion, have nothing else to offer but hate for other people.

CONCLUSIONS The six case studies presented above also illustrate how individuals from different backgrounds and with different expectations enter Rodnoverie. The movement is also extremely dynamic. On the one hand, people continuously explore and develop their spirituality. On the other hand, as new people enter the movement, they bring with them new influences. In Russian society, Rodnovers do not represent a counterculture, nor do they wish to do so. Instead of challenging the patriarchal or conservative nature of Russian society or the Russian Orthodox Church, most of the Rodnovers try to represent themselves as a more, or more genuinely, conservative and nationalistic force. This feature becomes understandable in the light of the social upheavals and uncertainty in Russian society over the past twenty years. In this social setting, Rodnovers seek to represent themselves as a stabilizing, responsible social force. However, the “alternative” spirit of Paganism can be found in Russian Rodnoverie as well. For example, it often attracts people like Elena, who feel themselves outsiders, or people like Maryana and Yaroslav, unwilling to compromise and not afraid to seek their own path. In comparison with other ex-socialist countries in Europe, the social context of the Russian forms of modern Paganism is significantly different. Although many Rodnovers interpret the emergence of Rodnoverie as part of their liberation from a foreign power, it had a different character than in neighboring Central Europe. Russian Rodnoverie did not find significant and widespread resonance until the dark days of the middle of the nineties when there was a need to regain national pride. However, it would be wrong to reduce Russian Rodnoverie to nothing more than a nationalistic project, when examination of its diverse participants reveals such a rich and organic range of themes and perspectives.

NOTES 1. In this chapter, we will use Rodnoverie (Р о д н о в е р и е) for the movement, Rodnover for an individual participant and Rodnovers for more than one Rodnover, following English plurals rather than Russian plurals for the sake of clarity. 2. See Chapter 11 in this volume. 3. A periodization of the movement is presented in Alexey Gaidukov, “Sovremennoe slavyanskoe (russkoe) yazychestvo v Peterburge: Konfessionaľnaya dinamika za desyatileie,” in Religioznaya situatsiya na severo-zopade Rossii i v stranakh Baltii, A. Yu. Grigorenko & A. M. Prilutskii (eds) (Saint Petersburg: Svetoch, 2005). 4. For example, in the questionnaire for readers of “Mifi i magiya indoevropeitsev” (“Myths and Magick of Indo-Europeans”), more than 90 percent had a higher education and more than half of the respondents were engineers or physicists. Mifi i magiya indo-evropeitsev, 1997, 218–19. 5. Yemelyanov’s 1979 Desionizatsiya suggested that Russians should turn to their native gods to counter aggressive Zionism. See Victor Shnirelman, Russian Neo-pagan Myths and Antisemitism, Analysis of Current Trends in Antisemitism 13 (Jerusalem: Hebrew University of Jerusalem, 1998). 6. On Pagans and nationalist dissidenstvo, an extensive overview can be found in Victor Shnirelman, Neoyazychestvo i natsionalizm. Vostochno-evropeiskii areal (Moscow: RAN, Institut etnologii i antropologii, 1998). On Moscow Slavic Pagan Community’s activity in the eighties, see Rodoslav’ (Zinchenko A. A.), Izvilistye puti traditsii (Moscow: Ladoga-100, 2006), 117. 7. Oleg Igorevich Kavykin, “Rodnovery” Samoidentifikatsiya neoyazychnikov v sovremennoi Rossii (Moscow: RAN, Institut Afriki, 2007). 8. Virtually all Soviet children aged 9–14 years were members of the Pioneer organization. 9. A Russian social network similar to Facebook. See Chapter 10 in this volume. 10. The word “Rod” can refer to clan, tribe, or an ancient god. However, some Rodnovers understand it as a general life force. 11. Both of these cities are medieval capitals of Russia and belong to the “Golden Ring” cities of Russia, known of their historical and architectural significance. 12. See, for example, Steven Sutcliffe, “The Dynamics of Alternative Spirituality: Seekers, Networks, and ‘New Age’,” in The Oxford Handbook of New Religious Movements, James R. Lewis (ed.) (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008).

The Anastasia movement (first revealed to the public in 1994 by Vladimir 13. Megre in Russia) is a mystical “deep ecology” movement. 14. Alexander Asov, Mir Slavyanskikh Bogov (Moscow: Veche, 2002), 7. 15. Kaarina Aitamurto, “Modern Pagan Warriors: Violence and justice in Rodnoverie,” in Violence and New Religious Movements, J. R. Lewis (ed.) (Oxford University Press, 2011), 234–48. 16. Hilary Pilkington & Anton Popov, “Understanding Neo-paganism in Russia: Religion? Ideology? Philosophy? Fantasy?” in Subcultures and New Religious Movements in Russia and East-Central Europe, Christopher Williams et al. (ed.) (Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang, 2009), 253–304. 17. In Russia the term “straight edge” embraces racist groups who associate drugs, alcohol, and moral degeneration with the baneful influence of foreigners. 18. The same biblical phrase is more commonly translated into English as the mildersounding “servant of God.” 19. Khach-ethnophaulism, from an Armenian name, “Khachik” (“cross”)—a popular slang word for all people from the Caucasus, including the Azeri Muslims. 20. On Eurasianism, see Marlene Laruelle, Russian Eurasianism: An Ideology of Empire (Washington, DC: Woodrow Wilson Press, 2008). 21. The term refers to such “Slavic Pagan names” as Dobroslav (used by Aleksei Dobrovolskii) but with a suggestion of a rude word for an incompetent individual: loosely “screw-up-Slav.” 22. Alexey Gaidukov, “Molodezhnaya subkuľtura slavyanskogo neoyazycvestva v Peterburge,” in Molodezhnye dvizheniya i subkuľtury Sankt-Peterburga, V. V. Kostyushev (ed.) (SPb: Institut sotsiologii RAN SPb, 1999). 23. See 24. Vseyasvetnaya gramota (Planetary Alphabet) is an alleged ancient alphabet, in which every letter is claimed to contain mystical wisdom. Vseyasvetnaya gramota also has an eschatological aspect; according to its proponents the only way to save the world is to reappropriate this alphabet. 25. This term was used, for example, in the resolution of the annual international gathering of the followers of the Slavic faith Veche. See the official leaflet of the gathering in Slava 3 (2005).


PERSPECTIVE AND BACKGROUND Given that the background of the scholar significantly influences her interpretation, it is ethical to reveal this to the reader and to reflect how the position of the scholar guides her analysis. Therefore, I begin my discussion with a short outline of my professional path to the study of Neopaganism, but also as a Neopagan leader myself. I followed my father’s footsteps into the Institute of Philosophy and Religious Studies at the Charles University in Prague. Though the institute was mainly oriented toward historical topics, I was more interested in Neopaganism, New Age, and contemporary alternative movements, and specialized in the study of these phenomena. At that stage, my research was indeed quite independent or even isolated. Nevertheless, I managed to accomplish a thesis on health and healing in Neopaganism (2008),1 and some popular and academic writings about these topics. A turning point in my study was a Reuropa conference in Szeged in 2008, where I met other scholars studying similar topics in other countries. I also got an invitation to speak in Krakow at a conference dedicated to Neopaganism in Poland. For me, these two events opened a new field of possible methodologies. I was particularly impressed by some anthropological studies and started to employ a more anthropological approach, discarding the sociological framework I had applied earlier. At the same time, I postponed the processing of the questionnaire data I have collected for years and began to gather other kinds of material, such as oral histories.2 I am in contact with Neopagan seekers and practitioners not only as a scholar, but also as a spiritual counselor and a magician. At times, I have been at the very middle of the Czech Neopagan activity, as in 2008, when I was the main author of a complaint that was sent to the International headquarters of the Pagan Federation. My own spiritual path is later described in more detail. Nevertheless, I feel that my work follows a prophecy I received from a local shamanka, according to whom I will “bridge gaps and serve as a bridge between [academic] science and spiritual knowledge.”

THE STUDY OF CZECH NEOPAGANISM Czech scholars of religion have seldom addressed local new religious movements (NRMs), and the majority of scholars are focused on the better-known established world religions. Scholarly accounts of NRMs in the Czech Republic tend to come from apologetic sources or quotations of foreign scholarship which can be found in larger works on the sociology of religion or encyclopedias of contemporary religions. Serious research on Czech Neopaganism has so far been conducted only by Zdeněk Vojtíšek,3 who is the spokesperson of the Society for the Study of Cults and New Religious Movements (Společnost pro studium sekt a nových náboženských směrů), the largest institution offering education and counseling in the matters concerning NRMs. Interestingly, Wicca and Paganism per se have not yet been attacked by any Czech Christian groups. Conservative Catholic circles may warn against “dangers of the occult” in general, but the condemning, dualistic outlook which is characteristic of some of the imported Evangelical groups or Catholic exorcists is perceived as outdated or tasteless by the mainstream of Czech Christianity. In the Czech Republic, Christian groups recognize that they represent a minority in a country in which anticlerical and secular tendencies dominate. Therefore they cannot attack other religions from the position of a well-established majority as can Catholicism in, for example, neighboring Slovakia or Poland. Only two out of the first sixty respondents in my questionnaires felt that they had experienced any kind of discrimination or harassment regarding their spiritual outlook. Nevertheless, I did often hear laments that Neopaganism is not taken seriously as a spiritual path. Such an attitude can be illustrated with the following excerpt from a typical article which featured Neopaganism and which was published in a national newspaper in 2006: To me, a skeptical Protestant living on the verge of the 21st century, all this seems like a children’s game and for a long time I could not understand that people taking part in the ritual really believe in their wolf deity. … “Of course many people do not

take us seriously. We are some sort of lunatics for them, playing by the bonfires in the woods,” admits Linda [a Norse priestess].4 The Czech Republic has been noted in statistical surveys as having low levels of religious affiliation and low attendance at religious services.5 Out of the dozens of Czech Neopagans I have met, only one other shaman has received religious education, his mother being a Jehovah’s Witness. Occasionally, some Neopagans mention pious grandparents or relatives, but a systematic religious education as a child seems to be very rare in the current Czech setting.

MY RESEARCH AND ITS CHALLENGES I have employed online research, collected textual evidence, conducted indepth interviews and, above all, practiced participant observation. Judging by the number of Czech and Slovakian students who have contacted me with requests regarding their theses, Neopaganism is a topic that is continuously increasing in popularity with young scholars. Conducting fieldwork as an insider has its own risks and difficulties, such as dealing with acrimonious schismatic developments, which in the Neopagan milieu can be common—ironically, due to the non-dogmatic and anti-authoritarian nature of the religion.6 After taking a few in-depth interviews, I concluded that I have to omit certain personal details for ethical reasons. In spite of my best intentions to provide a balanced account when gathering oral histories of the Czech scene, I was turned down by several Neopagan leaders who did not wish to talk about their own pasts. In approaching former and present Neopagan leaders, the reactions varied from warm interest to the threat of a lawsuit. Some of my informants opened up or consented to talk to me only after they ensured that I am on the “right side” of old disputes or that I have the appropriate spiritual background. In reading various studies of Neopaganism (and NRMs in general), I have often felt that despite their accurate description of the phenomenon, they fail to catch the real life experience of spirituality. In other words, they seldom mediate how the adherents experience the symbols and the rituals or what role spirituality plays in their lives, in short, how it works for them. Furthermore, large-scale statistical data or general accounts of ideological and organizational struggles often overshadow the smallerscale reality of individual believers’ personal motives for participation. I have taken advantage of my insider position to share actual life trajectories of real Czech Pagans as case studies. The first part of the chapter presents the main groups within the Czech Neopagan community, the Germanic and Slavic Paganisms and Wicca. When writing about the many small, transient communities or organizations, I have emphasized the story or stories of selected

individuals, who have been central in their own communities from the outset. Through these narratives I address the personal and experiential aspect of the religion. These individuals exemplify the winding paths that the spiritual search of many contemporary Czech Pagans take.

NEOPAGAN MOVEMENTS IN THE CZECH REPUBLIC What is exceptional in Czech Neopaganism in comparison to many other Central European countries is that there are not any known Pagan groups prior to the 1990s that the contemporary movement could consider their direct predecessors. The only documented nineteenth-century Neopagan association centered on Slavic heritage is a group called Bratrstvo Věrníků Nového Náboženství Slávského, which was dissolved soon after its foundation by the authorities.7 In 1934, a Slavic group, Triglav, was founded in Prague, but very little is known of the nature of this group.8 The lack of Neopagan activity in the era before the Second World War can perhaps be explained by the spiritual and political heritage of the Hussite tradition which has been an important touchstone of Czech national identity in the modern era. Perhaps, unlike in Poland or Slovakia, Bohemians did not feel the need to invoke a legendary Pagan past because they had a long tradition of Christian statehood. In the Czech Republic today, nationalistic movements have remarkably little support and the nationalistic and ethnic forms of Paganism are marginalized in the Pagan movement as well.9 The emergence of Neopaganism in the Czech Republic is closely linked with the first translation of Western books on Paganism, such as Stewart Farrar’s What Witches Do (1996) or the beloved Buckland’s Book of Witchcraft (1998), which served as a manual for first Wiccan practitioners. The earliest organized activities of Czech Neopagans took place in 1998. This date coincides in time with when the Internet began to be increasingly available to the general public and the first Czech websites were created. By 2003, public rituals were already conducted by Wiccans, Asatruars, and Slavic Pagans, and at least three amateur magazines were published.

GERMANIC AND NORSE NEOPAGANISM During the 1990s, a number of Czech right-wing magazines10 featured articles on Germanic myths and heritage that followed the fashions of foreign rightwing-press. For many, these articles were their first contact with Norse Paganism, leading into the creation of the first organized groups in the late 1990s. Adrian Dragonari, also known as Stargard, who is the leader of the largest Norse Pagan group in Bohemia, reminisced about those times: The turning point for me was 1995, even though I had already been interested in Paganism for years. I left the anti-fascist wing of the skinhead scene, where I had been active since late 1980s, and joined the white power wing. The reason was my faith. Even though this may sound unbelievable to outsiders, of all of the radical subcultures, the Neo-Nazi scene allowed most freedom of individual expression at that time. I cannot say that to be true about the anti-fascists, for example. In that group I had been deemed unacceptable because of my faith. The white power scene was the only place where you could, at that time, find traces of a Pagan revival. Of course you could also mention the black metal community, but there Paganism has always been merely an addition, and an abused one, which the adherents of Satanism use to increase their credibility and the credibility of their distaste for Christianity. Pagan metal music plays an important role in many European Neopagan movements, especially in Northern and Eastern Europe. Although Adrian considers the metal scene “much less authentic as regards beliefs and lifestyle,” it cannot be omitted in the discussion of cultural dissemination of Neopagan motives, symbols, and values. Many Czech Neopagans embrace this music as a part of their lifestyle, and many agnostic fans enjoy the Pagan motifs even if they do not subscribe to the spirituality as such. The Czech metal scene was also influenced by the notorious Norwegian black metal musician Varg Vikerness, who was convicted for murder and

arson. In the late 1990s, one such group, called Nordic Satanic Asatru, was founded in Eastern Bohemia. According to Stargard they were “a society of black metal aficionados, historical fencers, and fond of S&M, Paganism and Satanism.” Their leader published the magazine Thorshammer, and their activities revolved around cemetery violations, harassing Christian ceremonies, and metal-themed photography. In 1996, Stargard got in touch with the (British-founded) international “Aryan” organization Blood and Honour (BH). Together with a Slovak leader, Haakon, they tried to find other Pagans within the organization. They even contacted the current spokesman of BH, the Scandinavian “Max Hammer,” only to find out that there was not much Pagan activity in the skinhead movement abroad either. On the basis of these experiences, Stargard concludes: “Paganism is merely a superficial thing for the skinhead subculture, where the visual part plays the major role, along with Third Reich ethics that have hardly any credibility.” He admits that even the ultra-Catholic skinhead groups possessed a more structured philosophy and were able to recruit more supporters than Pagan skinheads. This realization guided Stargard to begin to plan a Pagan group that would transcend the skinhead scene, and resemble such established foreign organizations as Steven McNallen’s Asatru Folk Assembly or Katja Lane’s WotansVolk11. The first result of Adrian’s endeavor was a group called Fraternitas Ulfar (Bratrstvo vlků) in 1998, which later (2000) merged into Heathen Hearts from Boiohaemum (HHB), another association founded in southern Bohemia by GreenMan, another prominent Czech Asatruar. The HHB was organized as a loose alliance of independent kindreds (clans) with each of the kindreds having a vote in the annual Althing (council). By 2001, the organization had four kindreds, each having its own focus and geographic range. The HHB profiled itself as a PanGermanic,12 Neopagan society and published Sauiló, a magazine subtitled “magazine of Indo-European tradition.” Following their interpretation of the Bohemian pagan tradition, they adopted Gothic13 as a liturgical language. In terms of membership and activities, the HHB was one of the, if not the, most successful local Pagan ventures. In its heyday, the events of some of the individual kindreds gathered dozens of people. However, in

2006, the official website of the organization,, went under construction and was never reinstated. The association was officially dissolved in early 2008. After the dissolution of the umbrella HHB, three kindreds continued their activities independently. The largest of these was Managarm, which was named after its leader. Former members and leaders of the HHB have later departed for other paths. One of the priestesses of the HHB joined a Druidic organization, another priestess moved to Iceland because of the thriving local Asatru community there. Some ex-members of the HHB tried to establish an Asatru community in Slovakia, others continued their activity in the Czech Republic and opened an Internet site that is focused on early Germanic history and comparative Indo-European studies. The Asatru community also bore several gifted artists who continue their work with Pagan symbolism. Stargard’s group—renamed Carpathian Wulfos (Klan Karpatských vlků), and led by him and his wife Linda (Illeana)—broke off from HHB in 2003. This group incorporates aspects of totemism, Shamanism, living history, and experimental archeology. All of its activities incorporate the wolf as a central symbol. The group is engaged in breeding and training Czechoslovakian wolfdogs, and these are considered to be integral members of the group, along with humans. After a while, Linda amicably parted with the religious practice of the clan. On the Internet, she had discovered a group in New Zealand which referred her to the American author Raven Kaldera. Linda still considers Loki and his three children (Jormungard the giant serpant, Hel the goddess of underworld, and Fenris the wolf) to be her spiritual patrons. “Fenris gives you the light of knowledge, Jormundgard gives you the force, and Hel issues the bills for you,” she says. In her spirituality, Linda also draws on so-called “Left-Hand Path” currents. Linda, who does not keep her initiation into a local Satanic grotto a secret, considers LaVeyan philosophy to be a more authentically Pagan philosophy than popular Wicca (as she understands it). Linda considers Wicca to be an “equivalent to a preppy school. It’s a safe form of Pagan practice for teenagers and beginners.”

The latest influence on her spiritual practices is Lucky Hoodoo.14 This peculiar form of Voodoo, which is heavily influenced by theosophy and other currents of Western occultism, was created by Michael Bertiaux, an American occultist, who also titles his tradition as Gnostic Voudon. Linda has long opposed the “reconstructionist” movement, represented by Rodná Víra (see below) and the HHB. She argues that they undervalue magic and personal gnosis and that a Pagan priest should, above all else, be a competent magician. For that, she argues, one has to draw inspiration from surviving pagan cults such as those in the Caribbean, rather than attempting to reconstruct the past. Voodoo, she says, is a great refresher for one’s daily spiritual practice, because it is alive and up to date.

SLAVIC NEOPAGANISM Dervan (Giuseppe Maiello by civil name) is an Italian-born Slavic Pagan, an academic who specializes in ethnology and Slavic studies. He left the university in Prague due to disagreements on the Slavic Studies curricula and perhaps also because his open Paganism was perceived as controversial by some conservative students. He now teaches at one of the regional universities. Dervan describes how his community15 came into being: It all started in 1998, when I took a trip to Radhošť16 with a group of my students. We stayed there overnight, drank a lot and felt the power. In May, we went to Poland to a Rodzima Wiara event in a skansen [an outdoor ethnographic museum] near Poznań, that was the first actual ritual for some of us, the first experience of the sacred. On the way back home in the train the group vowed to nurture this new spiritual dimension and adopted Radhošť as their name. Their first ritual took place in October on the feast of the goddess Mokoš. In 2000, NATO began to bomb Yugoslavia. Some members of Radhošť considered the attack to be a violation of the sacred Slavic lands, and protested the bombing by printing leaflets. At that time, the group had six to eight core members, and a looser group of around twenty followers. One of the members (and later leader), Chotěbud, knew about another Slavic group, Národní fronta kastistů (NFK). NFK was on the list of extremist groups compiled by the Ministry of the Interior, and because of NFK’s fascist outlook, most members of the Radhošť rejected the idea of cooperation at first. Dervan, however, agreed to meet them. Together with members of NFK, they formed a new group called Rodná Víra (“Native Faith”) in 2000. This community experienced rapid growth and formed three “Houses” named after Slavic gods—the Houses of Jarovít, Veles, and Mokoš (the last house composed mostly of women). The group’s first crisis came in 2003, when the Rodná Víra was offered to collaborate with the Pan-Pagan magazine Pohanský Kruh (“Pagan Circle”), edited by Zahrada, a Wiccan, and the affiliated project Stará Víra

(“Old Faith”), which sought to register a Pan-Pagan religious organization. Dervan and the houses of Mokoš and Veles were in favor, whereas the male-dominated house of Jarovít, led by Vítoslav (Štefan Pilát), was against mixing with non-ethnic branches of Paganism. Rodná Víra managed to survive this crisis and nourished strong contacts with both the Pohanský kruh project (and later PFI) and with ethnic Pagans in Russia, Poland, and Slovakia.17 Chotěbud told me in 2008: “Basically we think that it is fine that other branches are here, but we find them redundant. We have, however, undergone certain development in this regard, as we used to shun all contact with other than Slavic Pagans.” Rodná Víra was severely hurt by a schism which occurred in 2005 when the house of Mokoš, lead by Dervan, split off, following an infelicitous ritual and a consequent fight with Vítoslav, an ambitious young leader of the house of Jarovít and an academic. Later that year, Dervan detached himself from Rodná Víra, and he now considers himself a devotee of the Great Goddess. For some time he was also on the board of directors of the World Congress of Ethnic Religions. Regarding this involvement he told me that he “left, because it was all about politics.” Rodná Víra is very academically oriented and—even in comparison with Slavic groups in other countries—has little place for esotericism. They consider it one of their missions to promote scholarship in Slavic circles where sources such as The Book of Veles are treated as genuine. They organize eight festivals a year; some of these events feature merely folkloric activities, others are sacrificial rites. The group has developed their own initiatory rituals for both men and women. Contemporary Rodná Víra cherishes the Slavic tradition of liberal leadership and encourages all members to participate in the planning of rituals.

WICCA AND WITCHCRAFT Jakub “Zahrada” Achrer is a civil servant and one of the most well-known Czech Pagans. He was among the first Wiccans in this country and he left a huge mark on Czech witchcraft even though he now has withdrawn from it. He had been a Zen Buddhist, but later read Buckland’s “Big Blue” and began to practice witchcraft. Zahrada served a year as editor-in-chief of the Pohanský kruh18 and founded the Bohemian and Moravian Witches Conference (BMWC),19 a regular retreat with rituals, workshops, and socializing. Zahrada was also almost certainly the first Czech to be initiated into a Wiccan lineage (in Vienna, Austria) and, in 2005 he published the first book on Neopaganism written by a Czech author. This book, Wicca: První zasvěcení (“Wicca: First Initiation”), was eagerly awaited by the Czech Wiccan community, but received an ambivalent reception. Above all, the book mainly focused on initiatory Wicca, which is unavailable to seekers who cannot or will not study abroad. Nevertheless, the book inspired other Czechs to get initiated into the same Vienna coven, but none of them has taken such a visible role as Zahrada. In 2006, Zahrada founded the local chapter of the Pagan Federations International (PFI) and served as the National Coordinator until 2008. Zahrada has given numerous public presentations about Wicca, spoken to the media, done handfastings, offered courses in Tarot and Wicca and published a popular weblog with Neopagan themes.20 He has also maintained several websites about Wicca. After his initial enthusiasm with its self-taught version, Zahrada later adopted a critical appraisal of it and took a position that many considered an outright hostile attitude toward eclecticism. Another influential figure in Czech Wicca is Eurik, the moderator of the largest Czech Neopagan forum.21 As a high school student, after reading Anton La Vey’s Satanic Bible, he remained what he calls “a Satanic theorist” until Raymond Buckland’s Guide to Wicca completely possessed him. His website was the first online Czech resource about Wicca, and it enabled him to connect with like-minded seekers. With people he found through this site he founded what was most likely the first coven in the

Czech Republic, which functioned for almost six years and introduced many people to Pagan ritual, including the author of this chapter. As a university student, Eurik was influenced by the writings of Stewart Farrar, a prominent Alexandrian, and leaned toward traditional western occultism and ceremonial magic. In 2004 he took part in public rituals organized by Zahrada and his spouse and attended the BMWC for the first time, where he discovered another like-minded community. Through his English spouse, Eurik has also come into contact with and been influenced by Ár nDraíocht Féin: A Druid Fellowship (ADF). In 2007, he began to talk openly about his sexual practice of bondage, dominance, sadism, and masochism (BDSM) on his popular website. In spite of a few enraged comments, Eurik has thrust the mainstream Czech Pagan community toward greater tolerance for alternative lifestyles and minority sexual practices. “My life stands on three pillars, I would say, one of them being experiential pedagogy in which I was trained and outdoor activities, second Paganism and magic, and third my sexuality and BDSM.” A relatively new and a distinctly Western influence is “Dianic Wicca” or “the Goddess Movement.” Its first notable public appearance in the Czech Republic was the Goddess festival (Festival Bohyně), organized by Valpurga, an admirer of Starhawk, in 2004. Elements of Goddess worship or Neopagan Goddess-centered spirituality can be found on many places. The only strictly Dianic group in the Czech Republic was formed only in 2008. It should be noted here that feminism has very little support in the Czech Republic among the general public. Even the mainstream Pagans, who would by other measures fit the profile of a feminist, tend to avoid the term itself. Many practitioners of esotericism or folk magic have also acquired characteristically post-Gardnerian Neopagan elements, such as use of Wiccan ritual structure and tools, or the Wheel of the Year, comprised of eight festivals. However, these individuals, who are predominantly older people, are more likely to consider themselves “witches” or “magicians” rather than “Neopagans.” This segment is sometimes criticized or even rejected by the mainstream of Neopaganism due to a generational gap and the relative sensitivity of Pagans to anything that appears too commercial.

Wicca (in the broadest understanding) is the most populous Neopagan tradition in the Czech Republic, and will remain so due to its inclusion of folk witchery and healing, which outnumber any strictly defined Neopagan denomination. It includes a large number of solitary practitioners, who may make use of the plentitude of sources available in Czech. Wiccans have not yet formed any large-scale organizations because the many adherents prefer private or family-centered worship. This is also the case for the Druids, who in comprise the second-largest form of Neopaganism in the Czech Republic (as they do worldwide).

DRUIDIC AND CELTIC NEOPAGANISM Czech Druids and Celtic Pagans have never formed such organizations as the HHB or the Rodná Víra. In contrast to these, Celtic spiritual elements were not the focus of any Czech subculture in the 1990s, and perhaps therefore Celtic spirituality and Druidism drew in individuals who were more inclined to solitary practice. There is now a vast Celtic fandom concentrated around cultural associations, such as Keltoi22 or Lugh23 or Bratrstvo Keltů (1994),24 which organizes the popular “Beltine” musical festival. In 2006, a Neopagan wedding that took place at this festival was featured on national television. However, none of these organizations identifies as a religious group, even though they include people who are practicing some form of Celtic spirituality. An autochthonic Czech Druidic project is Druidové Boiohema (“Druids of Bohemia”),25 an alliance of three young Druids begun in 2006. The Order of Bards, Ovates, and Druids (OBOD) is said to be the largest Druidic organization worldwide, and it also has members in the Czech Republic. There is a third degree Druid who joined the Order in England and has about a dozen students in the Bardic degree training.26 However, the OBOD is not very visible in the Czech community because its activities are for members only. Also the subscription fee may be too high for many seekers. In recent years, a somewhat eccentric married couple of OBOD Celtic Christians, Falka and Amairgil, have appeared in public fora. Amairgil is a bard, perceived as Cantorix of the Pagan scene. According to Falka, organizing a group was very difficult and even today the community does not meet the policies required by the Order, and are unable to reach an agreement about their status. Czech OBOD Druids are currently increasing their visibility because Philip Carr-Gomm’s books are being translated into Czech and published. In 2007, the author of this chapter introduced a new foreign Neopagan tradition, ADF Druidry, in the Czech Repulic.27 This American-founded organization stands somewhere between reconstructionism and Wicca, drawing heavily on Indo-European studies, but also encouraging personal devotion to patron deities. In addition to the Celtic tradition, the

organization now embraces the whole Indo-European culture and its pantheons. And here I turn again to examine myself. Born in 1987, I was introduced to occultism by my own family, which, despite its Catholic affiliation, practiced a number of spiritual paths. One summer night at the age of 13 I initiated myself into Wicca, following a popular handbook. In high school I created a website on Wicca, “Čarovné zrcadlo,”28 which later grew into the largest website about Wicca, Druidry, and other Neopagan traditions in the Czech Republic. Through this site I became acquainted with the emerging Pagan scene, and attended a ritual with Eurik’s coven and the BMWC. I went to study religious studies at university and traveled to many sacred sites around the country, and formed a group which celebrated festivals together. I found ADF online, and was immediately caught by their liturgy and the Pan-Indo-European focus. They also had a comprehensive system of training which I finished after two years. However, in the meantime the group dissolved, even though they were visited by the organization’s Archdruid in 2008. I left the university and opened an esoteric shop, importing Pagan books from the USA and selling Wiccan and New Age merchandise. At that time, I became involved with the Dávný Obyčej (see below) and with Linda, who introduced me to her syncretic Pagan practice, derived from Norse Paganism, Voodoo, and other sources. This was when a major change in my life occurred. I was uninterested in what their occult lodge was studying; I had my Druidry, and I was finally nearing the completion of the training, preparing my oath and ritual of self-dedication. Then I had the most lively and unusual dream and, unable to relate it to anything else, I concluded it had to be “something hoodoo.” Desperate, I sought consultation of an overseas Houngan, who explained to me that I was undergoing what is known as a shamanic crisis, and that it is good that I choose to cooperate with the spirits. It felt as if everything in my life had been converging to that point. I became an adept of Voodoo and followed my teacher’s advice to set up a spiritual services business in 2010. People may think that I am joking when I say that I teach Voodoo under five different names (two of them being Druidry and Wicca), but the

essence really is the same—working with the spirits. In order to become a true shaman, Druid, or magician, however, you must go insane first, so to speak. You have to give up all your understandings about yourself and the nature of the world which surrounds you. To me, this also meant a reevaluation of my academic career. For the first time in my life I realized everything is about spiritual ascension; science is one way we advance ourselves, but it is just one of many, and I may do a better job serving as a priestess, mentoring people individually, rather than writing within academia. Nevertheless, I have continued to study religious studies and have kept some of my academic ambitions.

THE PAGAN FEDERATION AND OTHER UMBRELLA PROJECTS Both German and Slavic Neopagans in the Czech Republic have created fluid forms of organization, which allow independent clans to cultivate their own interests and practices under a common banner. The “confederation” model seems to be typical for Neopagan movements in general. In the Czech Republic, Pagan organizations, if they possess a legally recognized status, usually take a form of a citizens’ association (občanské sdružení). Within a year of the change in the Church and Religious Societies Act29 in 2002, which discriminated against smaller groups, the idea emerged within the Pagan community to register a Pan-Pagan religious society that would represent all four dominant branches of Paganism in the Czech Republic—Wicca, Slavic, Germanic, and Celtic traditions.30 The project, initiated by the Dragonari couple, Stargard, and Linda, was titled Stará Víra. At that time, the Carpathian Wulfos was already experiencing tension with the HHB leadership, therefore they decided to represent the Germanic tradition in Stará Víra on their own. Expectably, HHB leaders also wished for their organization to be represented and demanded proportional division of seats in Stará Víra’s council. No consent was reached and the conflict resulted in Dragonari leaving the HHB. A fatal blow to the project was the withdrawal of Rodná Víra, a few months later. In Rodná Víra, the moderate majority was in favor of joining, but due to their policy of unanimous resolutions, they conceded to the more orthodox ethnic wing. Ironically, the proverb about strength in unity proved to be true when a few years later neither the HHB nor the Rodná Víra could assemble enough members to apply for state recognition. In 2004, the BMWC, a regular spiritual retreat focused on Wicca, Shamanism, and witchcraft, was founded.31 Initially a rather informal holiday retreat of friends who were interested in magic and Paganism, it grew into a do-it-yourself community retreat or a small festival with amateur workshops, lectures, rituals, and invited foreign speakers.32 The BMWC has been attended by approximately 200 people since its opening

to the public in 2006. After 2008 it has returned to its root and the initial, more private form. Typical attendance is twenty to forty people. In addition to the BMWC, there are numerous general occult or spiritualist retreats. Concerning Neopaganism, the most significant of these is Mezi Světy (“In between the worlds”).33 This event grew from the wish to organize something to replace the BMWC retreat, which was canceled in fall 2007. The Mezi Světy has a broader focus and offers lectures, workshops, meditations and rituals on, for example, Tibetan Buddhist, postmodern magic, the Necronomicon,34 and lucid dreaming.35 Perhaps the most well-known umbrella organization in the Czech Republic is the local chapter of Pagan Federation International36 (PFI), a development of a British organization which has been registered as nonprofit in the Netherlands. The foundation of a Czech chapter by Zahrada initially met with an ambivalent reception, and even ridicule from the existing local Pagan community. Many Czech Neopagans did not appreciate the graceless translation of the foundation documents and argued that the PFI is “too Wiccan-centric,” a critique which has been heard worldwide.37 In summer 2008, a letter of complaint that was signed by approximately twenty Czech Pagans, was sent to the Netherlands headquarters. The letter asked for the removal of the National Coordinator. In 2009, a new national coordinator was appointed and Morgana, the PFI president, visited Prague to give a lecture there. The PFI begun to sponsor monthly social gatherings, called “pubmoots,” in Prague and occasionally also in other larger cities. A few times a year a prominent foreign speaker was invited over to give a lecture. After a Pagan music gig that met great success (Damh the Bard), the local PFI activists planned to continue inviting acclaimed foreign Pagan musicians to play in the Czech Republic. The PFI reaches a wide audience in the Czech Republic through its newsletter, which is published quarterly and available online for free. The following National Coordinator of the PFI was Cody, who presides over an experimental occult lodge Blasphemion38 and enjoys a darkling reputation as a local expert on the Necronomicon. After his departure from PFI’s National Coordinator role in 2011, he now dedicates his efforts to a new website Stezky pohanství39 (“The Pagan Pathways”).

In early 2012, a new controversy emerged when the majority of members left PFI in order to form an independent local organization, Česká pohanská společnost.40 At the time of editing this essay, ČPS has submitted their request for registration to the Ministry of Interior and the future of PFI in the Czech Republic looks bleak. A new autochthonic umbrella organization Dávný Obyčej (“Ancient Ways”)41 was founded by a Pagan leader Linda Dragonari, in late 2008. The most visible project carried out by Dávný Obyčej was “Mystica,” a two-day festival of Paganism, magic, and occultism, held in November 2009 in Prague which was complicated when the original renter—an elementary school headmaster—reneged on the rental following a letter of complaint, which stated (according to Linda) that “People like us ought to be silenced, not given room for expression” and accused the Pagans of being Neo-Nazi. The leaders of the Dávný Obyčej do not wish to oppose the PFI and state that these two organizations have different goals. Nevertheless, it is obvious that the organizations compete for membership in a relatively small community. The main difference in the activity of these organizations is that while the Dávný Obyčej offers events to its paid members, the events of the PFI have free admission. However, the PFI and the Dávný Obyčej have occasionally worked together, as, for example in organizing PaganCon,42 a program division within one of Central Europe’s largest sci-fi conventions, Festival Fantazie.43 Networking and seeking support from foreign organizations can sometimes be seen as a form of competitive struggle among Czech Neopagans. Most Czech Neopagan leaders would like to have some common platform, but they are often quite judgmental about other groups, and hold grudges against one another.

OBSERVATIONS AND CONCLUSIONS ABOUT A PHENOMENON In terms of a well-known market theory popularized by Everett Rogers,44 the leaders of Czech Pagan communities at the turn of the twenty-first century could be considered “venturesome innovators,” consumers who are most likely to adopt an innovation—in this case a spiritual practice— before the larger masses do. According to Rogers,45 these people are usually low in age but high in social class, they have reliable access to financial resources, and they have extensive access to information and contacts with other innovators. It is an important part of their self-image that they are leaders in their community, but they also run the risk of being seen as “oddballs.” It is characteristic of the Czech religious innovators to have an everresourceful enterprising spirit, always on the lookout for new approaches to localizing foreign traditions and sometimes even forging completely new ones. The innovators of alternative religious practices often need substantial personal commitment in order to rearrange his or her budget and lifestyle to fit the adopted practices. When the “costs” exceed the individual’s risk “fund,” burnout ensues. Most of the respondents to my questionnaire came to Paganism through reading as young adults in the 1990s. Perhaps because of the high level of readership in the Czech Republic, books played a major part in the alternative lifestyle. Esoteric bookstores were often the first places a seeker visited and discovered innovations which were available to be adopted. The impact of the Internet on the Neopagan movements worldwide has been massive. The Internet remains the dominant medium for this movement in the Czech Republic where the easiest way to become known in the Pagan community is to publish a website. With printed sources in the Czech language still scarce, original online publications are low-cost but highly valued. With the recent (c.2009) penetration of Facebook into online Czech society we are seeing a movement toward this new model of information dissemination.

Many Pagans go through a similar development as Eurik and Linda did, first caught up by some exotic foreign innovation which later inspires them to seek (or create) “something similar” locally. The global milieu of Neopaganism has helped to incubate new, local Czech innovations that are neither wholly original nor wholly derivative of their global precedents. Even though the Neopaganisms of European countries such as Germany, the United Kingdom, Russia, or France might be expected to have significant influence on the Czech Neopagan community, this has not been the case so far. The United States plays the biggest role as a source of Czech Pagan religious inspiration. Books and other merchandise from the US are easily available by online shopping. In contrast, British Pagans have not shown great interest in founding local chapters of their organizations in the Czech Republic or in aiding local leaders. There has been an increase in travel to neighboring countries in recent years, with Czech Pagans returning home with a broader vision of their activities and the nature of their own local movement. To give a rough division of global Neopagan movements, it could be said that the former Iron Curtain draws an invisible line, which Czech Neopaganism straddles. The “Western” type of Neopaganism is often liberal, inheriting the momentum of 1960s counterculture, with environmental and feminist concerns, and promoting sexual emancipation. It blends easily into subcultures such as sci-fi conventions or fantasy “Ren Fairs.” Western Neopaganism is often normatively universalist and deeply entwined in magic and the occult. The “Eastern” type of Neopaganism is often right-wing and conservative, concerned with ethnicity and the Nation. Interest in ecology is often linked to preserving “natural” folk heritage, while local (or minority or extinct) language concerns can be prominent. (In contrast, the representatives of Western forms of Neopaganism in Central and Eastern Europe are often happy to use English even in rituals attended only by locals.) Eastern Paganism is focused on “reconstructionism” and is academically inclined, blending easily into experimental archeology or performance of local folklore. Occultism and esotericism tend to be viewed with suspicion, albeit with some specific exceptions. Sexual ethics are most frequently conservative, emphasizing family values, which in

some extreme groups and individuals can even become misogyny or homophobia. This division is more cultural than strictly geographical. There are groups that fit the conservative, ethnic model in the West, and representatives of the liberal form of Neopaganism in the East. Furthermore, despite their differences, the outlined two currents still share a lot of common topics and we can find numerous people who cannot be placed into either one of the categories unambiguously, even whole traditions that fit somewhere in the middle. For example, ADF Druidry, which was founded by a liberal and activist, has absorbed people both from Asatru and Wicca, and emphasizes the honoring of ancestral traditions, and has adopted the idea of a “hearth culture.” While it is possible to detect a “Neopagan mainstream” across various cultures or societies, there always are also divergent currents, individuals and groups who identify as Pagans, but are not accepted by the others. This is the case of Satanists, who enjoy a relatively prominent position in the occult scene in the Czech Republic, who to a large extent identify with the word “Pagan,” but are shunned by the Pagan mainstream in their quest for social recognition. In general, however, Czech Neopagan organizations are likely to allow their members to keep whatever previous affiliations they already have in so far as they do not try to convert others in the group or to overly modify the group’s practice. Another notable case is the Anastasia community, an esoteric and utopian movement which exists in several Eastern European countries. It also has its members in the Czech Republic, quite possibly even more than all of the members of formal Neopagan associations when counted together. This movement, despite its attempt to register as a religious society under the name Pohan (“Pagan”) in the 2000s, remains unfamiliar to the majority of Neopagans. Given that these communities share much in common with the Pagan mainstream, alliances could be formed if the communities got to know each other better. Future networking might even lead to a merging of those groups. Three years ago, I was very pessimistic about the future of the Neopagan movement in the Czech Republic. Today, after observing its rapid innovation, development, and growth, as well as increased use of previously unsought means of cultural dissemination, such as Facebook,

the situation has changed. Despite its small size and constant changes, Czech Neopaganism has proven its endurance and given signs of a robust future at the crossroads of East and West.

NOTES 1. “Pojetí zdraví a léčení v novopohanství, ročníková práce.” 2. I have collected about 80 questionnaires, mostly in person. 3. As my long-standing tutor and colleague, this work is deeply indebted to Professor Vojtíšek. Vojtíšek is the editor of a small peer-reviewed journal about contemporary religion, Dingir, ( and in 2002, the journal dedicated a whole issue to Neopaganism. 4. Leoš Kyša, “Uctívači pohanských bohů jsou zpátky,” Magazín Práva (15 April 2006). 5. See, for example, the Czech demographic handbook 2009:$File/4032100119.pd f. 6. For a description of group dynamics in Neopaganism, see Amy Simes, “Mercian Movements,” in Paganism Today, Charlotte Hardman & Graham Harvey (eds) (London: Thorsons, 1996), 169. 7. The Bratrstvo Věrníků Nového Náboženství Slávského was led by the medical doctor Karel Slavoj Amerling (1807–84). E. Z. Lešehradu, Po stopách tajemných společností (Prague: Nakladatelství Al. Srdce, 1935), 137–54. 8. Ibid., 213. 9. The recent (2009) upheaval surrounding the official communiqué which outlawed the controversial Workers’ Party (Dělnická strana) demonstrated the existence of rightwing extremism in the Czech Republic. 10. E.g. Árijský boj, Patriot, and Nový řád. 11. While AFA is currently a state-recognized religious group in the United States, Mrs Lane’s circles are considered a typical example of the racist Wotanist movement. (David Lane (1938–2007) was a leading American white nationalist who died in prison. See Mattias Gardell, Gods of the Blood: The Pagan Revival and White Separatism (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2003); Jeffrey Kaplan, “The Reconstruction of the Ásatru and Odinist Traditions,” in Magical Religion and Modern Witchcraft, James R. Lewis (ed.) (Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 1996). 12. They chose this adjective because some members did not identify as Asatruars or Norse. 13. An extinct but relatively well-recorded language in the East Germanic family. 14. The more commonly understood Hoodoo (folk witchery of the southern United States) is also present in Linda’s store. Nevertheless, she was not the first one to import these articles into the Czech Republic, where voodoo

15. 16.

17. 18. 19. 20. 21. 22. 23. 24. 25. 26. 27. 28. 29. 30.

31. 32. 33. 34.


redolent of New Orleans, with its shiny bottles and candle magic, is gradually putting its root. Dervan’s group has been well documented in a 2007 master’s thesis, given at the Institute of Ethnology at Masaryk University in Brno, by J. Atweri. The site of a legendary temple to Radegast the Slavic sun god, a mountain near the border between the Czech Republic and Slovakia with a modern monument to Radegast by the Czech-American sculptor Albin Polasek (1895–1965). See Archived online at See The Czech version of the name is Česko-Moravský Slet Čarodějů, but the English-language acronym is more commonly used by participants even when writing in Czech. See Pohanské otevřené fórum, See See See See See See In Czech: See Zákon o církvích a náboženských společnostech č. 3/2002 Sb. The status of religious society is granted only after 10 years of consistent public and missionary activity, and usually needs also some foreign chapters. In addition, the Ministry of Culture asks two expert opinions from some prominent religious studies scholars. See Especially Wiccans affiliated with the Pagan Federation. See The Necronomicon is generally held to be a non-existent book in the fiction of American horror author H.P. Lovecraft (1890–1937), but which has since been “borrowed” by other horror and fantasy authors as part of their fictional worlds, as well as being reproduced as a physical book (such as the handsome but indecipherable 1973 Owlswick Press edition). At least three occult books in English have since been printed claiming to represent the “real Necronomicon.” The most influential of these in the Czech Republic is the so-called “Simon Necronomicon” first published in 1974 in English and translated into Czech in 2009. The retreat is a part of a larger project, Divinorum (, named after the famous Salvia divinorum psychoactive plant. The aim of the

36. 37. 38. 39. 40. 41. 42. 43.

44. 45.

project is to “create a place for exchange of worldviews and philosophies, offering inspiration for magical practice or original theoretical work. We encourage dialogue within the magical scene and beyond its boundaries and facilitate meetings of members.” See See See See See See See FF is an event that may be unique to Czech Republic in its concept and form, not quite identical with what is understood under a sci-fi convention abroad. It includes outdoor activities, movies, games, guests, etc. The focus is broad enough to include popular TV series, Far-East culture, horror, and the paranormal, as well as the Lord of the Rings. PaganCon featured three days of lectures, presentations, and in 2010 even several live rituals. Everett M. Rogers, Diffusion of Innovations (Glencoe, IL: Free Press, 1962). Ibid., 282.


INTRODUCTION In 2004, Slovenian public television produced a documentary entitled Med hribi kačjih glav (“Among the Hills of Snake Heads”), structured around an ancient legend, which survived in a relatively remote, hilly part of western Slovenia. It tells about a huge snake-fish, which lived in a big lake long ago, but which was very gluttonous and thus drunk all the water of the lake, and consequently died on dry sand. Its dried bones formed a road, which still exists in the Čepovan valley. The television documentary ethnologically presents the local legends, but also some artifacts and rituals that are thought to have survived until very recently. It shows a series of so-called snake heads, stones of different sizes, all shaped in the form of a snake head, and accurately carved holes representing the eyes. The stones supposedly carry magical powers, and were allegedly used in ancient rituals until recently. The author of the documentary also wrote the screenplays for two other documentaries, also produced by TV Slovenia in 2008 and 2009: Jelenk— sveta gora starovercev (“Jelenk—Holy Mountain of Old Believers”) and Osvatina—poganski ogenj (“Osvatina—Pagan Fire”). Both documentaries similarly present the ancient legends of the western part of Slovenia. The first one is based on Slovenian folk tales collected and published by the ethnologist P. Medvešček (2006) and is primarily focused on the Hag Cave (Babja jama), allegedly a shrine of the old believers until the First World War. It shows some artifacts found in the cave and its near surroundings, which were supposedly used for fortune-telling, and the film even reproduces the only surviving ritual, the body-washing of believers. The second, more clearly ethnologically focused documentary presents the ancient ritual burning of an oak stump conducted at the full moon in March in order to chase away bad spirits and energies at the end of winter and the beginning of spring. But more importantly, both documentaries are clearly focused on the question of whether the old rituals and beliefs of the so-called “old believers”1 have survived until today. The same question caught the interest of the author of this article when conducting a study of new and alternative religiosity and spirituality in Slovenia.2 During this research we came across few individuals and groups

claiming to have some connection to the old, pre-Christian beliefs. In Spring 2003, I interviewed a representative of the Universal Religious Community of the Rising Sun. When explaining the nature of our research into new religious movements the leader of the community jocularly asked: “What exactly do you have in mind when you say new religious and spiritual movements? Do you study Christians, who came here many centuries after we were living in these lands?” There is of course a grain of truth in this joke. But in this paper I will not deal with the question of whether Neopaganism should be classified as a “new” religious movement or not, neither shall I test the authenticity of the supposedly pagan beliefs and rituals practiced today. Instead I try to produce a schematic overview of so called Neopagan activities in contemporary Slovenia.

NEOPAGANISM IN CONTEMPORARY SLOVENIA At the very end of October 2004, I visited a small wooden cottage in a little village near Krško (just off the road between Ljubljana and Zagreb) to attend a celebration of Samhain, the Celtic New Year. I was invited to a festival by Vrbov log (“Willow Grove”), a small group of enthusiasts for Celtic and all other kinds of pre-Christian beliefs. Besides five regular, middleaged members of the group and a handful of curious youth, there was also a group of invited guests from Vienna present, among them a Wiccan priestess named Miss Purple and a Cherokee Indian named Shadow Viper with his Austrian-Indian wife and their cute little daughter. After a short ceremony opening the two-day celebration, we listened to a presentation about historic and contemporary witchcraft, which was followed by long informal discussions. After a night spent in the hayloft, another three presentations were given: a Slovenian Celtic shaman Zlatko, allegedly one of seven of a kind operating in Europe and mutually communicating telepathically, spoke about the Celts and their heritage; Shadow Viper talked about Indian rituals; and at the end Miss Purple spoke about Wicca. All three talks were enriched with multimedia material (the cottage was excellently equipped with Internet access, a computer, and a projector) and also some practical presentations of rituals. Due to rather heavy rain, the concluding ritual was minimized, but luckily we managed to visit a nearby Neolithic cave called Ajdovska jama (“Heathen Cave”) which most probably once was an ancient shrine. After a quite pleasant celebration, I left with the impression that the activities of the Vrbov log community were rather dispersed and sometimes syncretistic. This impression could be generalized to a great deal of Neopagan activities in today’s Slovenia, which are generally quite eclectic. Among forty-three officially registered religious communities,3 four are at least partly associated with Neopagan beliefs and rituals: (1) the Liberal Catholic Church, (2) the White Gnostic Church, (3) the Universal Religious Community of the Rising Sun, and (4) the Orisha Spiritual Community (the first two are very eclectic in their beliefs and activities, while the focus of the last two is more obvious). The relatively substantial

representation of Neopagan groups among the officially recognized religions in Slovenia could be explained by a surprisingly tolerant social context which had emerged already in the last period of Socialist Yugoslavia—at least since the beginning of the 1980s, especially in Slovenia, new religious movements could operate relatively freely (whereas in almost all other socialist countries of CEE this happened only after the change of the regime). But at the same time, the larger part of Neopagan activities in Slovenia most probably still goes on within groups which are not officially registered as religious communities. Nonetheless, let us start with a description of the registered Neopagan groups first. The Liberal Catholic Church (LCC) was registered as a religious community as early as 1984, in the times of Socialist Yugoslavia. They trace their origin from the Old Catholic Church, which had separated from the mainstream Roman Catholic Church in 1873, but they also claim heritage from the Theosophical Society. The Slovenian Liberal Catholic Church (Svobodna Katoliška Cerkev), which came to Slovenia from Zagreb (the capital of Croatia), is a part of the international Liberal Catholic Church and emphasizes its apostolic succession via Arnold Harris Mathew. In 1908, Mathew (who had left the Roman Catholic and later Unitarian Church) became an Old Catholic bishop for the United Kingdom, and in 1913 he ordained James Ingall Wedgwood (who left the Anglican Church and became a theosophist in 1904) as a priest, and it was Wedgwood who later became the founding bishop of the Liberal Catholic Church. The second Presiding Bishop of the LCC was the leading theosophist Charles Leadbeater (a former Anglican priest). While they are “traditionalist”in their concern for maintaining an unbroken lineage of consecration that goes back to Jesus, the LCC has been open to elements of both the theosophist school of thought (reincarnation, future enlightened masters), and to other religious movements which have been encountered since their founding. The LCC allows its clergy to participate simultaneously in other religious traditions, including forms of Neopagan practice. From its very beginnings in the mid-1980s, the Slovenian LCC has been very eclectic and has served as one of the primary sources of the New Age movement in Slovenia. For several years they published the first Slovenian New Age publication, Vodnarjev list (“the Aquarian Paper”).

They organized a varied series of spiritual workshops and played a crucial role in developing the Slovenian New Age movement at the second half of the 1980s and throughout the 1990s. In the initial period, the Asian religious influences played a very important role. For example, they emphasized such Indian ideas as karma and reincarnation, and they also organized workshops on Tantric yoga, and so on. Today, the LCC claims to have eighteen priests in Slovenia, eleven of whom are women, although all four who have the right to lead holy masses are men. They gather once a month, and their activities are still very eclectic. They describe their Church as an “esoteric, Gnostic church of the Aquarian age” at the very introduction in their webpages.4 The leading figure of the Slovenian LCC, Aristid Havliček-Tili, was ordained as an LCC bishop with the participation of a Scottish bishop, Alistair Bate, who is also an OBOD Druid and a Pagan (and also a Mason and an ex-Shaker). Around 2007, Havliček himself became interested in Druidry and British Paganism, and that in turn begun to influence the Slovenian LCC. Havliček was personally acquainted with the British Wicca scene, the circle around the famous Atlantis Book Shop. This does not mean that the entire Slovenian LCC became Pagan. Havliček claims to be “Christian and Pagan at the same time—there’s no need or even possibility to distinguish among these categories—but the church itself is not Pagan.”5 Gradually a more noticeable group of Neopagans evolved, which clearly grew out of LCC, but already from the outset included also outsiders. They named themselves Pan Pogan and have direct connections with Pagan Federation International (PFI). In 2009, they published three issues of Pan Pogan Magazine.6 The first two editions had a print run of 3,000 copies each; the last one due to financial problems appeared only on the Internet.7 A well-designed magazine, created by a tiny group of young enthusiasts, it covered such topics as (neo)Paganism, the Goddess, Druids, horned gods, witchcraft, vampirism, festivals (Ostara/Easter, midsummer night), ancient Slavic goddesses (Vesna, Dodola, Lada, Rusalka, Devana, Živa, etc.), shrines, the Rhiannon Legend, the god Pan, symbols, interviews with Geraldine Beskin of the Atlantis Bookshop, Morgana of the PFI, Nick Farrell from the Golden Dawn, and with Aristid Havliček-Tili.

In the same year, in March 2009, Pan Pogan organized an “international conference.” Around sixty visitors (mostly youth) attended the lectures in a crowded pub in the suburbs of Ljubljana, the Slovenian capital, where Morgana—a leader of Wicca in the Netherlands and the international coordinator of the Pagan Federation International—presented the federation and its main purposes; Geraldine Beskin presented the life and work of Aleister Crowley; Jacqui Woodward-Smith, the priestess of the Glastonbury Goddess Temple, lectured about the meaning and the contemporary relevance of the Goddess; and Polona Sepe, one of the leading Slovenian New Age figures since the 1980s, talked about the connections among the ancient Indian Tantra and Paganism. The conference closed with a communal “goddess returns” dance. During the last week of July 2010, Pan Pogan organized a Pagan camp8 in a hilly area of eastern Slovenia (Pohorje). The program consisted of lectures, workshops and rituals. Fifteen people actively attended the camp for the whole week, but some activities were attended by more people. At its peak, approximately forty people were present at the camp. Pan Pogan’s notion of Paganism is broad and inclusive: for them Paganism includes everything pre-Christian.9 They do not deny their connection with the Slovenian LCC, and they emphasize their fascination with theosophy. They are purposely eclectic in their activities which are organized regularly on a weekly basis (every Tuesday) in a rented place not far from the center of Ljubljana. These events are usually lectures but they can also include rituals (Druid rituals or sometimes a ritual from the Golden Dawn tradition). In 1999, the Slovenian Government Office for Religious Communities registered the White Gnostic Church, which among other topics also deals with Neopagan polytheistic elements. It had direct connections with Ecclesia Gnostica Alba, which was started in the mid-1970s in Chicago by Michael Bertiaux (under the influences of Aleister Crowley and scientology). In 1978, Bertiaux invited to Chicago Živorad Mihajlović Slavinski, who returned to Belgrade, the capital of Serbia (at that time also the capital of Yugoslavia) as patriarch of the new White Gnostic Church. He organized the first Gnostic Intensive (also known as Enlightenment Intensive) in 1980 in Belgrade, and in 1982 the first one in Ljubljana.

In the next phase, the so-called “Association of Psychotronics” emerged in Ljubljana, which was active until the beginning of the 1990s. Their weekly gatherings attracted thirty to fifty members—mostly students— and when intensives were organized, even more people attended: according to the estimates of the former leader of the association, approximately 2,000 Slovenians came into direct contact with their method. Out of this association emerged the officially registered Bela Gnostična Cerkev, but by that time a large proportion of the initial members had already left due to disagreements with Slavinski, the patriarch in Belgrade.10 The new head of this Church in Slovenia, Robert Lavtar, combines Gnostic ideas and the methods of Slavinski with elements derived from Yoruba Ifá divination—he claims to have developed twenty to thirty additional new methods of divination, spiritual practices, and therapies, and they supposedly have approximately ten regular, full-time members who can conduct them. Among their numerous and eclectic activities advertised on the web,11 we find shamanistic workshops, Ifá initiations, Orishas, and Babalawo requisites (but also e-meter therapies, Sunyata Intensive, Excalibur Integral System, Formula of Wealth and Spiritual Prosperity, etc.). Recently another clearly recognizable group appeared, which is less eclectic and more focused on a form of nature worship that was originally developed in Africa and later gradually modified in South America. The Orisha Spiritual Community registered in 2007 just before the legislation changed and made the registration of small, alternative religious and spiritual communities practically impossible.12 They announce quite a rich activities calendar each year on their website,13 where we can also read the list of forty-eight Orishas (out of a total 401) into which Slovenians have been initiated up to now. (The Orishas are spiritual energies, which can help people to harmonize there environment and to solve practical problems in their life). There are no data about membership available, but fair estimation would not exceed twenty or thirty members at most. The last among officially registered religious communities with Neopagan elements is the Universal Religious Community of the Rising Sun, which registered in 2003. At the beginning the founder was fascinated

with Slavic mythology and tradition, but as he was not able to find legitimate literature14 he got interested in Celtic tradition, “in a not very strict, but more open way.”15 Approximately fifteen members, mostly middle-aged family people, strive for individual spiritual life and try to live in accordance to natural laws as much as possible. They gather at the owner’s cottage in a hilly part of north-eastern Slovenia (Hočko Pohorje) to celebrate the four major festivals connected with the sun (equinoxes and solstices), but also the individual turning points in lives of their members (births, marriages, etc.). It seems, as already mentioned, that a relatively larger part of Neopagan activities in Slovenia goes on within the groups which are not officially registered as religious communities. We already described the Samhain celebration organized by Vrbov log (Willow Grove), a group mostly dedicated to Celtic tradition. If Pan Pogan’s interest in Celtic tradition is to a large extent “imported” from the British Isles, Vrbov log is more interested in cultures and tribes that lived in the area of modern Slovenia and is in this respect a kind of hybrid of the autochthonic development attached to interest in local history and the British Celtic tradition. Since the end of the 1990s they have been organizing different events, workshops and small festivals, and in cooperation with a regional museum (Posavski Muzej Brežice) they have been conducting a project of reconstruction of Celtic artifacts such as knives, razors, sickles, spears, shields, and so on. They were connected with a sister group, Borov Log (“Pine Grove”), for years, but recently it seems that their paths split and both branches gave way to two new groups: Vrbov Log transformed into Svibna and out of Borov Log emerged the Serreti Tribe.16 Svibna is officially registered as a regional institute for the preservation and sustainable development of the countryside, their main activities include tourism, promotion of healthy food, and cultural heritage, where the main emphasis is put on the Celtic tradition. A considerable part of their activities is in one way or another connected to Ajdovska jama, the Neolithic cave located near the headquarters of the institute. Its enthusiastic owner Bernardka recently organized a one-day symposium entitled “The Rich Heritage of the Celts” (in May 2010), and on 18 December 2010 they organized a winter bonfire in front of the cave. Some

of the activities of the institute attract a relatively large audience, but it does not have a clearly recognizable core of permanent members who would identify themselves with the “religious” part of the activities of this Neopagan group. The Serreti Tribe differs from Svibna and the earlier-mentioned communities in that its activities are not targeted at a larger audience. The community has a tight core group of around ten enthusiasts. Revealingly, the group is called a “tribe.” These members formed a so-called reconstruction group in June 2010, and named themselves according to the ancient tribe, which allegedly lived in the eastern part of present-day Slovenia, where all members come from. In 2010 they organized the celebrations of Ostara, Beltane, Midsummer night, and Samhain, and through the whole year they were conducting a series of lectures about Celtic mythology in a trendy bar in the center of Ljubljana. At the times when Borov log was still active, they claimed to have had a Wiccan section, which consisted of a handful of young witchcraft fans. Websites and Internet forums with Wiccan focus have been appearing regularly in last decade but all of them have had a short life span. Wicca has also been relatively popular within the heavy metal music scene. Today Pan Pogan claims to include a small group of young Wiccans, which we were not able to meet and interview since the participants are not ready to publicly reveal themselves. They estimate that all together there must be approximately forty young Wiccans—mostly high school and some college students—active in present-day Slovenia (interview with Pan Pogan member Yoda, August 2010), but this seems to be an overestimate.17 As elsewhere in Central Europe, within the heavy metal music scene there seems to be some Asatru followers as well. A pair of Asatru believers is reported to have attended the Pan Pogan summer camp in 2010, but it is difficult to obtain more detailed information about their activities in Slovenia. A website existed for a while but it is not operational any more. Much more active seem to be Staroverska župa Svetovid (Old Believer Parish Svetovid), a Slavic-oriented group formed around 2005.18 The founder and the head of the community, Matjaž Vratislav Anžur, is a

military historian, employed as a manager of Grad Struga (a sixteenthcentury castle located in Dolenjska, southern region of Slovenia). Anžur published a book in 2006, entitled Vojaška zgodovina bodočih Slovanov (“Military History of the Future Slavs”), in which he argues for a direct connection between the ancient Slavs and the Vedic Aryans. The author follows an alternative path within history, opposing the prevailing modern views that the Slavs migrated into their current territories from beyond the Carpathian Mountains. He refers to Herodotus and claims that the ancient Slavs were actually Scythians who originally lived in the Pannonian Basin and after around 2000BCE started to move north toward France and the British Isles (which is, according to Anžur, why the Slavs have much in common with Celts, much more than with the Germanic tribes)19 and south toward India—which is where all the similarities of the terminology in many Slavic languages with Sanskrit words derive from.20 In the process of preparing the book he got more and more enthusiastic about the ancient Slavic mythology, and gradually came across Pagan priests from Poland, Ukraine, and Russia. He understands several Slavic languages, he is fluent in Czech (he spent some years in Prague where he was married) and Russian.21 When Anžur met with a handful of enthusiasts associated in a group, Ajdi (Heathens), who in 2006 issued two volumes of a magazine entitled Zarja (Dawn),22 they merged and formed Staroverska župa Svetovid,23 which today brings together ten to fifteen full-time members. They refuse the name (neo)Paganism and insist on the term staroverstvo (“old beliefs”). They organize regular meetings every other week where they discuss various topics, but the most important are the celebrations of the four holidays connected to the sun, the two equinoxes and two solstices: the winter holiday of Božič-Svarožič, the spring celebration of Jaril-Jurij, the midsummer night festivities of Ivana Kupala or Kresnik, and the autumn holiday of Morana. At the end of December 2010, they burned a bonfire to celebrate Svarožič and the New Year 7,519 according to the Slavic count. Staroverska župa Svetovid organized the international conference and the all-Slavic council (Vseslovansko Veče) in August 2009 in the Struga Castle. Twenty-one participants from Ukraine, Russia, Poland, Serbia,

Bulgaria, Croatia, and Slovenia discussed ancient Slavic mythologies and religions, and consequently they published a collection of papers entitled Triglav: religiozni pomen pri Slovanih (“Triglav: Religious Meaning for the Slavs”). At the end of the conference they conducted a harvest ritual, and the sixth all-Slavic council adopted a resolution in which it proclaimed itself as a spiritual center of a growing old believers’ movement. It committed itself to strengthen and propagate the links among old believers in Slavic lands and to attract new followers especially from the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Croatia, Macedonia, and Montenegro. The council also appealed to the governments of Slavic states to stop the persecution of the followers of traditional folk culture and religion.24 The new revival of old Slavic faith has an obvious ethnic dimension, which can easily be transformed into nationalism. The head of Svetovid responds to this issue in the following way: A true old believer is fond of his home, but he also respects his guest—we even have a special God for guests, Radegost. But we oppose the mixture of races. We don’t see this freemason ideology as a vision for tomorrow. We will never accept this. After all already Herodotus wrote that we are like this [laughs] … The problem is the intrusion of other, different culture, which occurs with the immigrants. It happens unconsciously, and we are losing our old identity—this is what I object to, too. Something which was left behind by our ancestors and what we were guarding for 7,000 years—it is not right to forget it now in 100 years. But there is of course also a problem of consumerism, TV, pornography, et cetera.25 It is not uncommon for nationalistic movements and groups to use (and abuse) the traditional folk mythologies and religions. A good example is the most well-known and active Slovenian patriotic association, Hervardi,26 which is openly nationalistic. They use and reinterpret any piece of historical information which can serve to prove the long and glorious history of the Slovenian people and their country. They claim to find the magnificent source of the Slovenian people in ancient Carantania, a Slavic principality from late seventh century, well known for an ancient

ritual of installing Carantanian dukes which was allegedly conducted in proto-Slovenian language. They use the symbol of the “Carantanian black panther” (which was actually reinvented in 1980s by Slovenian patriots) as a symbol of the Slovenians, and several times they have proposed to replace the national coat of arms of Slovenia with this symbol. In 2009, Hervardi published a translation of a book written by Yuriy Ivanovich Venelin in the late 1830s, entitled Starodavni in današnji Slovenci (“Ancient and Contemporary Slovenians”).27 The author, a Russian historian (Ukrainian by origin), was internationally known as a specialist in Bulgarian history and language, opposed the prevalent theory of Slavic migrations in the sixth and seventh centuries, which is generally accepted as having brought the Slovenian settlement into today’s territory. Instead, he claimed that the ancient Slovenians have been native to these lands since long before Christianity arrived. According to a theory based on names, Slovenians are the native people of the broader Central Europe and Balkans, namely between the Danube and the Adriatic Sea. It is not difficult to understand the attraction of such theories for Slovenian patriots and nationalists.28 Hervardi is not a Neopagan group, per se. They merely use preChristian mythological and religious elements to prove a famous and ancient history, and consequent superiority, of the Slovenian people. Not surprisingly most of the old Slavic believers from Staroverska župa Svetovid clearly distance themselves from Hervardi: “We think completely different than Hervardi in this respect—we are nationally conscious, and they are nationalistic.”29

CONCLUSION Pagan-related ideas and aesthetics enjoy a wide diffusion in Slovenian pop culture. It would be very difficult to find a Slovenian above the age of three who does not know Kekec. This juvenile literary hero has been an integral part of Slovenian popular culture since his story was adapted for a movie in 1951, which was awarded with a Golden Lion for the best juvenile movie at the Venice film festival, and was later successfully shown in thirty countries worldwide. Kekec is the first part of a trilogy, followed by the first Slovenian color movie titled Srečno Kekec (“Good Luck, Kekec”) in 1963, and in 1968 by Kekčeve ukane (“Kekec’s Cunning”). All three movies are based on a three-part novel written by Josip Vandot in 1918, 1920, and 1924. Kekec is a cheerful and fearless young shepherd (maybe 10 years old), who protects the weak and the animals, and with his faithful dog fearlessly confronts evil opponents. He is a rather typical hero derived from folktale models, and many of his opponents are openly constructed on the basis of old Slavic mythological beings. In the first part Kekec—in order to save timid herbalist Kosobrin—confronts the evil poacher Bedanec, who could be a literary incarnation of the old Slavic mythological figure Vedomec.30 In the second part Kekec withstands a frightful old women Pehta, who is a clear literary parallel to the South Slavic folk character of Pehtra baba (best known to English-language readers as Baba Yaga from Russian folk tales), known as Befana in Italian, and as Berchta (also Perchta) in German.31 Another miraculous figure, seen in the third movie (1968), is the wise man Vitranc (who coincidentally bears an astonishing resemblance to the figure of Gandalf in the 2001 adaptation of the Lord of the Rings). Pop-culture references like these serve to keep figures and forms from ancient Slavic religion alive in the minds of the average Slovenian citizen. However, the traces of old pre-Christian beliefs in Slovenia are not visible only in popular or folk culture, but are also live in some religious and spiritual groups. First individuals and later also first organized groups started to appear already from the beginning of the 1980s, but the more noticeable growth took place only in the late 1990s or even later. At the

end of December 2010 there were at least three winter bonfires conducted as Neopagan rituals in Slovenia. Neopagan groups are quite diverse considering their beliefs and rituals. All groups are very small. Some of them are officially registered as religious communities, while others are registered as associations, and many groups have no official, registered status. Some groups are predominantly made up of young people, while others contain mostly middle-aged participants. Many groups are very eclectic in their activities and Neopagan elements may be only one part of their broader focus—but other groups are sharply focused on certain kinds of mythologies and rituals. Some groups are completely invisible to society—but others can be quite open and well-recognizable to the general public. Many ephemeral groups exist and function only a very short period of time— while others have been active for two decades or even more. If one were to produce a schematic classification of Neopagan groups in contemporary Slovenia, five different clusters can be distinguished: 1. Eclectic and New Age (Liberal Catholic Church—Pan Pogan, White Gnostic Church) 2. Celtic tradition (Vrbov log—Svibna, Borov Log—Serreti Tribe, and to some extent also Universal Religious Community of the Rising Sun) 3. Old Slavic Beliefs (Ajdi—Staroverska župa Svetovid) 4. African shamanism (the Orisha Spiritual Community, to some extent White Gnostic Church—Altorion) 5. Wicca and witchcraft (mostly individual youths, with groups emerging and vanishing on a regular basis). Neopaganism is today a marginal, but existent part of the broader Slovenian cultural and spiritual landscape. Its presence reflects a growing religious and spiritual pluralism which can be noted not only in Slovenia, but throughout Central and Eastern Europe. It is also in line with postmodern eclecticism, which is more and more part of contemporary Western religiosity and spirituality. Slovenia is in this respect no different than most of the other European countries. Its small Neopagan milieu

stands out as an example of a crossroads of ideas, with openness to influences from both West and East, and even South (from Africa).

NOTES 1. The term refers to beliefs and practices (mostly nature-worshiping) of the pre-Christian ancestors (of Slavic or of other origins) of the contemporary Slovenians, but the term “Old Believers” is presently also used as a selfdescription by individuals and groups which actively practice these preChristian traditions today. 2. Details accessible at; see also Aleš Črnič & Gregor Lesjak, “A systematic study of new religious movements—the Slovenian case,” in Religions, Churches and Religiosity in Post-Communist Europe, Irena Borowik (ed.) (Krakow: Zakład Wydawniczy NOMOS, 2006). 3. For the details about the Slovenian religious situation see Črnič & Lesjak, “A Systematic Study”; Aleš Črnič & Gregor Lesjak, “Religious freedom and control in independent Slovenia,” Sociology of Religion 64(3) (2003). 4. See 5. Interview with Havliček, August 2010. 6. “Our main intention was to come in touch with youth, to show them that true spirituality still exists” (interview with Aristid Havliček-Tili, 17 August 2010). 7. See 8. The camp was organized under the slogan “Step Out of the Shadow into the Witchcraft in Practice.” 9. They do not limit their activities only to Druidry or British Paganism because, as they say, “you cannot simply bring the British gods here” (interview with Aristid Havliček-Tili, 17 August 2010). 10. Slavinski is still active; see 11. See 12. See Gregor Lesjak & Aleš Črnič, “O, Holy Simplicity! Registering a religion in Slovenia,” Religion, State and Society 35(1) (2007). The new Law on Religious Freedom stipulates that a religious group should prove to have a hundred adult members (Slovenian citizens) and at least ten years of active presence in the country in order to qualify for the right to apply for official status as a religion. The constitutional court declared that this stipulation is not in accordance with the Slovenian constitution in 2010, but we are still waiting for the legislation to be changed according to this decision. 13. See 14. Ljubo Levačič, the founder and the head of the community, mentions also the problem of languages since most of the literature on Slavic mythology is written in Russian or Polish, languages he does not understand (interview, 8 December 2010).

15. Interview with L. Levačič, 8 December 2010. 16. Svibna ( and Serreti Tribe ( 17. The estimate is from an interview with Pan Pogan member Yoda in August 2010. Note that the total population of the Republic of Slovenia is a little over 2 million inhabitants, less than the population of cities like Prague. At this micro-scale it is unwise to attempt to infer too much about scale or proportion of Wicca in Slovenia. 18. See 19. Interview with M. Anžur (August 2010). 20. “Vedic Pantheon is the closest to the Slavic tradition and mentality. In Rigveda you find the description of the nature worship, intercessions for the rain, wind, sun etc., and the description of the complex cosmos in which we are all interwoven. But you don’t find any personifications of Gods like with the Semites. There are no totems or idol worshiping; among the Slavs they appeared only towards the end, just before the Christianity came. … In Triglav (ancient Slavic god) I see Vedic Trimurti: In the middle there is creator Svarog, and on each side there are Rod and Mara, male and female principle. The Indian connection is obvious. Similarly with Buddha, and of course Mithraism, which began on the northern coasts of the Black sea (and not in Persia, where Zoroastrianism prevailed, but Mithraism is independent religion). We had all these in our lands before the Christianity came. We still have the traces of it in our names, surnames, stories, toponyms and hydronyms, in our thinking.” (Interview with M. Anžur, 24 August 2010). 21. In Russian Rodnoverie, with whom Anžur has direct and rather intensive contacts (his group of old believers have been actively participating in international all-Slavic councils with considerable Russian participation), the ideas of Vedic Aryans and the Scythians are also very prominent. 22. The magazine presented the old folk customs and Slavic mythologies. They initially planned to issue four volumes, but apparently only the spring and the summer issues were printed (due to lack of funds). 23. The name Svetovid derives from old Slavic tradition of the island of Rügen (geographically rather distant from today’s Slovenia) and is supposed to be a protector figure; and župa is an old word (most probably of Turkic origin) describing a spiritual or social community, which is also applied to Christian parishes. 24. In May 2010 they held the conference and the seventh All-Slavic Council in Kiev (to commemorate the 600th anniversary of the battle at Tannenberg/Grunwald, where united Balts and Slavs won over the crusaders). The council adopted a comprehensive program and strategy of development of the old Slavic faith (accessible at 25. Interview with M. Anžur, August 2010.

26. See 27. Starodavni in današnji Slovenci (Ljubljana: Amalietti & Amalietti, 2009), originally published in Moscow in 1841 (two years after author’s death) as Drevnie i nynešnie Slovene. 28. “If we take a look at the Venelin’s map of the Danube Slovenia—as he calls it—from the 4th century and compare it with today’s map of Slovenia, we can only be shocked by the situation today. The difference in the size of the territory is so huge that many among Slovenians even could not believe otherwise firm historical facts that Venelin writes about. Today’s Republic of Slovenia lies at the centre of the former Slovenian territory (ancient Slovenia)” (from 29. Interview with M. Anžur (24 August 2010). 30. Known also as Vejdamec, Vedaunc, Bedanec, Vedavec, Vedavac, etc.; a kind of dark and awful counterpart to the benevolent solar figure of Kresnik. See Damjan J. Ovsec, Slovanska mitologija in verovanje (Ljubljana: Domus, 1991), 475, and Monika Kropej, “The Horse as the Cosmological Creature in the Slovene Mythopoetic Heritage,” Studia Mythologica Slavica I (1998), 163–4. 31. Milena Blažič, “Primerjalna analiza lika čarovnice v ruskih in slovenskih pravljicah—študija primera: Jaga baba in Pehta,” in Slovanstvo v slovenskem jeziku, literaturi in kulturi: zbornik predavanj, Vera Smole (ed.) (Ljubljana: Znanstvena založba Filozofske fakultete, 2010), and Boštjan Šaver, Nazaj v planinski raj: alpska kultura slovenstva in mitologija Triglava (Ljubljana: Fakulteta za družbene vede (Knjižna zbirka Kult), 2005), 167–72.


CONTEXT OF THE PROPAGATION OF PAGANISM IN BULGARIAN SOCIETY “Pagan” (broadly understood) beliefs, habits, and practice characterize not only the activities of organized religious communities and institutions, but they also penetrate into broader spheres of social communication, everyday consciousness, and culture. This means that paganism is an important object of research which touches a great number of essential characteristics of social interaction, and influences a range of functional indicators of the social system. In this text, I define “paganism” as a combination of local customs, rituals, belief in deities, personifying the elements, or local idols; and practices based on those views, including witchcraft, sorcery, forms of extra-sensory perceptions, and experiences of transcendent realities. In turn, “Neopaganism” is defined as modern religious and gnostic movements, created on the basis of reconstructions of ancient pagan religions and combined with elements from world religions. The presence of pagan belief and practice in contemporary Bulgarian society demonstrates how traditional social structures continue in a postmodern context. The persistence of pagan views and practices in turn limit other institutional and cultural dynamics tied to official religious institutions, such as the Bulgarian Orthodox Church. The weaving of magical ideas and concepts into everyday religious practice subverts existing social order through alternative motivations that do not coincide with publicly legitimized values. Therefore, the spread and the internalization of non-institutional pagan views can appear as qualitative characteristics of distrust in social institutions in general—not only those that are religious. Unlike the paganism that has been inherited from historical roots and whose impact continues to be felt in everyday life, Neopaganism is structured as organized practice. It shapes its own doctrine and legal image, gradually enters into the frame of the official value system, and it consciously seeks social acceptance. Neopaganism has influence within the frames of official social consensus. For example, the White

Brotherhood movement does not openly contradict the dominant Orthodox Church. Pagan beliefs and cults can be practiced openly, in relative privacy, or secretly. They may emerge in the context of monotheistic beliefs—which is quite typical of Bulgarian religion. Everyday paganism is a liminal practice just outside the sphere of social regulation. If the institutional religion of Bulgaria (the Bulgarian Orthodox Church) preaches love between all people and supports a mainstream value system, the lessvisible (but just as traditional) pagan undercurrent has different values and norms and may endorse other kinds of action—such as manipulation, harm, or even murder by means of magical techniques. These beliefs and practices exist in unofficial and semiofficial cultural niches. In traditional communities they remain inaccessible to any kind of criticism or sanction. People accept them as a reality and include them in standard religious practices. Often, religious people may simultaneously hold Orthodox Christian values and condone “black” magic practices. This contemporary pagan dynamic finds itself in an inverse relationship with the level of confidence in institutions, especially those which ensure the basics of everyday life, such as the economy, social security, and health services. The conviction that legitimate social practices cannot guarantee a normal life, that human rights are not protected, and that one cannot reach one’s goals by honest means, are substantial reasons for shifting toward a pagan orientation. An eloquent example in Bulgaria is the general reaction of the population against the malfunctioning health services, turning instead to paranormal providers: magicians, healers, witches, and so on. Contemporary Bulgarian society inherits a strong memory of its pagan past. We can identify some of the causes of the quality and quantity of pagan practices in everyday life. Its historic roots lie in the contradictory way in which the Bulgarian and Slavic population accepted and institutionalized Christianity, while also keeping much of their previous pagan traditions. Thus, they now possess an eclectic form of both institutionalized and everyday religiosity, which combines canonical church traditions, folk beliefs, and magical practices. These processes reduce the monotheistic character of local religiosity, they delay its

rationalization, and they block the process that Max Weber called “disenchantment.”1 Second, the complicated period of foreign dominance also preserved many local pagan practices as an instrument for maintaining identity in the face of Greek attempts at assimilation through Orthodox Christianity. Because of that need, in that period Bulgarian culture enthusiastically accepted many non-Greek, non-Orthodox notions and practices of magic (Thracian, Slavic, Italian, and Anatolian) which could serve to distinguish Bulgarian identity. Third, Bulgarian society has had a specific experience of being officially thrust into modernity by an atheist totalitarianism in the twentieth century, leading to an unofficial reaction and return to folk mysticism. In contrast to other Eastern European countries where religious institutions had some kind of autonomy and where religious belief preserved some of their space in social life and culture, in Bulgaria all forms of religion were marginalized and outlawed. The official Orthodox Church was taken under Communist Party control, turning it into a marionette serving the atheistic ideology. An essential characteristic of this ideology was a conceptual hypermodernism, cut off from social reality and blind to the necessities of social life. Communism’s “scientific social theory” was supposedly a perfect system whose application would automatically lead to social perfection. Instead, a spiritual vacuum was created that could not be filled with state-sponsored mass-consciousness and brainwashing. In the microsocial world of direct communication, in the family or with close friends, an alternative spiritual culture was created. This unsanctioned “everyday culture” was fed from its own specific information sources: beliefs and rites received from previous generations, interpersonal dealings with other people beyond the limits of official ideological control, external cultural influences, and accidental information sources. The traditional community sustained this unofficial culture. The totalitarian regime drove society into isolation from any real political and spiritual life. Thus traditional communities, which survived as the only source of security, offered some hope for social success through

relationships, informal ties, and nepotism. They supplied all levels of the Bulgarian social system with meanings and semantic constructions to satisfy existing spiritual and existential needs. The answers to the most important questions about existence, human nature, or the soul could be found in the traditional community embedded in everyday life—local rites and customs, magical thinking, intuitive mysticisms—at the same time these were forbidden in open public communication and in the official intellectual culture. This suppression led to the spread of “household mystics,” interest in paranormal phenomena, magical practices and a gamut of noninstitutional versions of quasi-religious and semi-pagan views. Their influence went far up society, to the highest levels of the Bulgarian Communist establishment. The governing elite also held notions about spiritual life that derived from the traditional microsocial communities because even they were dissatisfied by the ideological solutions which they publicly promoted. The best-known case of the communist period was that of the clairvoyant (or prophet) Baba Vanga, who achieved prominence because of her extensive influence on the highest-ranked functionaries of the (supposedly atheist) totalitarian party, security services, and intelligentsia.

MAGIC AND PAGAN UNDERCURRENTS IN EVERYDAY LIFE Everyday “practical” paganism has a significant role in contemporary Bulgarian society. It is an authentic continuation of a heritage which unifies Thracian magical practices, Slavic sorcerer-healers, and the ethnic Bulgarian religion carried over from the valleys of the Volga river. The considerable place of these pagan beliefs and practices is a well-studied topic in Bulgarian folklore and ethnography. The compulsory nature of modernizing processes in Bulgarian society awakened new waves of irrationalism, but is not their ultimate origin. The Bulgarian people’s paganism actually expresses the innermost characteristics of the social system. It is the ordinary person’s answer to the dominating institutional system, regardless of the historical period being examined. Attitudes toward magic reflect the incapacity of social subjects to control their relationships through normal interaction and in the frames of existing moral norms. Magic becomes a mediator for social relations and also a means by which the ordinary person may accomplish his or her goals and receive justice. However, magical views also include the idea that the subject could in turn be the victim of the effects of magic from “others.” The influence of magical practices has been intensified by the ethnic and religious diversity of the Bulgarian population2 and, more recently, by parapsychological ideas and techniques coming from the Soviet Union. After 1990, the liberation of the flow of information and the sudden access to communication technologies created space for new manifestations of modern paganism: from Western medieval spiritual schools to the philosophies and notions of the New Age. Every historical stage in Bulgarian society’s development has created its own social contradictions and given rise to factors which increase the irrationality in the everyday routine and which gives space for a habitual mysticism and a pagan “philosophy of life” which are typical of the consciousness of the Bulgarian people. The post-communist stage has been no exception.

Empirical research clearly shows that the spread of pagan views has not been inhibited by the recovery of institutionalized religion in Bulgarian society. On the contrary, we are rather observing the reverse tendency—the pagan component is determining the properties of the resurgence in religious faith. For example, we can point to the research of Gallup International 2004.3 According to these data, half of Bulgarians believe in black magic, 60 percent are certain of the effectiveness of enchantment and 50 percent are positive that the future can be predicted by dreams. Similarly, 50 percent believe in telepathy and 33.3 percent accept horoscopes and card reading as instruments for predicting the future. Similar numbers of Bulgarians believe in the baneful power of the number 13, black cats, and so on. It is notable that 20 percent of the respondents claimed to be familiar with specific cases where people have suffered due to black magic, or that they themselves had been its victims, and they were confident in the authenticity of the magical explanation. From these results we could generalize that the percentage of people who believe in the serious consequences of magical practices is much higher then the percentage of those who believe in relatively lighter and more innocent forms of magical influence. This means that (leaving aside any discussion about the objective real effectiveness of magic), magical practices are strongly present in Bulgarian social reality and play a powerful role. Research indicates that belief in magic is much stronger among younger persons up to 35 years old than among older people, who have been influenced by atheist propaganda during communism. The social environment where everyday paganism is developed should be examined from the point of view of the subjects. This means to pay attention to the cultural component and the semantic space where pagan ideas are composed. Our analysis of texts published on the Internet can give us a picture of pagan culture’s functioning. For this purpose, a qualitative review of the presence of this matter on Bulgarian-language websites was conducted. From 10,700 sites, blogs, and forums where the matter of paganism was present in one form or another, 3,458 were selected which represented aspects of pagan practices.

At the same time, publications and posts on those sites were analyzed for consistence and interactive impact which they had on the Internet. We selected only those texts which had integral structure: concept, argumentation, examples, and evidence. Emotional comments, evaluations without argumentation, personal appraisements or topics not related to the matter at hand were eliminated from the studied data. The number of those publications is 52,189, at an average of 15 documents per site. The valuation which these publications make of the described supernatural phenomena was also analyzed. In total, 37.9 percent of the publications demonstrate positive attitudes toward pagan conceptions and practices. Another 40.7 percent of them express negative attitudes. Only 21.4 percent of the comments in the texts did not give grounds for clear identification of attitudes of their authors toward occult, magical, parapsychological, and supernatural phenomena. These results are close to the conclusions of empirical research. Significant for the character of these pagan interests and orientations is the subject distribution of the sites by topics. Some 34 percent of the sites (or 31.1 percent of the publications) were devoted to occult knowledge in general. These included one or more elements of occult practices, astrology, or supernatural phenomena, in other words, they represent a complete immersion in a pagan way of thinking. In the sample, 32.6 percent of sites are oriented toward parapsychology and psychotronics, with a broad interest in paranormal phenomena and related concepts. More narrowly, 5 percent of sites and 3.5 percent of publications are specifically devoted to clairvoyance and the activities of individual clairvoyants. Furthermore, a Google search produced 62,400 offers for clairvoyant services in Bulgarian—a truly impressive supply. Another 4.7 percent of sites are dedicated solely to astrology. Astrology as a topic is very well-represented across the whole of the studied materials, but it is usually combined with other, similar practices: numerology, clairvoyance, and all kinds of prediction of the future. Sites which directly represent different forms of paganism come to 3.4 percent of our sample sites and 2.7 percent of the content-rich publications. These comments reflect paganism as a phenomenon in general and treat its different manifestations in society. Some percent of the Bulgarian websites are devoted to esoteric teachings and practices, and

they consist of 2.5 percent of the publications. About 1.6 percent of sites depict Scandinavian magic and the publications about them represent 1.6 percent of the entire material. Another 2.4 percent of sites and respectively 2.9 percent of publications are devoted to demonology. A small number of sites and publications are committed entirely to voodoo. Another 1.33 percent of sites contain libraries with occult, magical or pagan literature, and they consist of 20.4 percent of publications. Content analysis of those sites, divided into topical sections and categories, reveals the following picture: one of the semantic kernels uniting pagan ideas is “tradition” or “folklore.” This is a complex of views, which is often held to be based on classical magic beliefs and practices, consisting of ancient teachings, techniques, and experience passed down from generation to generation and that contain a mystical system of explanations. Another conceptual node, which ties together a large number of publications from different areas, is the “psychotronic.” Here we find conceptual elements repurposed from contemporary scientific knowledge, the modernized explanations of the same phenomena that was treated in classical texts as supernatural now hitched to the terminology of quantum mechanics, elementary particles, energy, fields, information systems, psychology, and psychoanalysis. Of course there are not many publications where only one of these main semantic centers can be found in isolation—most of them express some kind of combination. The analyzed texts contain them in different proportions and accents depending on the chosen explanation of the supernatural phenomena and practices. Ideas derived from Carlos Castaneda’s books are often quoted and are used as a postmodern source of inspiration by the “traditional” sorcerers and pagans of Bulgaria. Everyday paganism has developed a process of informal institutionalization, in contrast to the official mechanisms for function in everyday life and the recommendations of mainstream Bulgarian Orthodoxy. There is usually a charismatic leader at the center of this cultural system—a possessor of supernatural abilities, who interacts with the public and who demonstrates the existence of another reality. We define this leader as charismatic insofar as there is no formal process to legitimize his role. Because of this, he must create his own status through

his influence on the public and demonstration of his supernatural abilities.4 As a rule, this person works alone, not sharing power with any partners. Of course, we can observe sites that present the activities of collective formations—companies, foundations or “institutes” of clairvoyants, faith healers, psychotherapists—but their coordination does not change the way in which they perform their activities, usually solo. Most leaders’ stories fall into one of several types. The archetypal type is an accidental enlightenment and realization of his mission and abilities, often through dreams or visions. Frequently those abilities appear after some unhappy physical event—an illness, a road accident, loss of vision or hearing—and as a compensation for that suffering. In some cases, the magical leader connects his abilities with personal shocks or emotional experiences. The typical element is the creation of a personal mythology that gives an element of exclusiveness to the leader’s biography. Another theme in leaders’ life stories is the narrative of the transmission of magical abilities from generation to generation through blood relatives. Often these cases are related to traditional magic and are closely connected with the pre-Christian, pagan tradition. Analysis of the sample texts showed that 10 percent of leaders claimed to inherit their abilities from family traditions and that they are the bearers of pagan culture which has survived in folk practice. Another element in leaders’ life stories is narrative of contact with a variety of beings from alternate realms of reality. At one end, we find contacts with angels, saints, spirits of the dead, etc, and at the other end, contacts with beings from distant galaxies. Some leaders claim that they have also traveled in outer space to visit the moon or far-away planets. Others claim contacts with forces or powers which the subjects refuse to identify—they are “keeping their secret.” The demographic profile of the leaders give different results depending on the study. Without a doubt, in keeping with the traditional model of pagan thinking, the majority of magical charismatic leaders are women: according to Tocheva and Makaveeva,5 85.4 percent of faith healers are women. According to Bynkova, 61.9 percent of faith healers are women.6 One reason for the difference between percentages is that Bynkova

included in her study such disciplines as radiesthesia, psychotherapy, and others which are less tradition-bound and in which a larger number of male practitioners can be found. We should note that the published results are not completely comprehensive because they are only valid for officially registered practitioners of magic, paranormal and spiritual activities, and do not cover of all magic charismatic leaders. One survey showed that at the beginning of the 1990s, 61.1 percent of registered practitioners are between 30 and 50 years old, while a second survey shows that this percentage is 66.6 percent.7 This data reveals an interesting conclusion: while the majority of believers in one form or another of paganism belong to the under-35 generation, the active leaders of pagan ideas and practices belong to an older generation between 30 and 60. The charismatic leader can realize his functions in different sociocultural contexts—the range of his influence varies from a closed circle of personally known followers, up to much wider audiences which can reach the scale of the whole society via mass media. This leader gains his audience’s trust and gains social status, sometimes very high, despite contradictions between pagan subculture and the official value-normative system. A famous example of the status-creating role of the charismatic magic leader was the phenomenon of “Baba Vanga” (Vangelia Gushterova), whose clairvoyant skills gave her authority not only within wide strata of the Bulgarian population but also within the ruling Communist establishment. An eloquent expression of this influence was her widely accepted status of “prophet,” which was a badge of the highest level of charismatic leadership. As a rule, such charismatic leaders form some kind of peculiar “ideology”—a system of views, beliefs, and attitudes, through which they convince their audience of their abilities to experience supernatural activities and to reach results which are unattainable in conventional ways. The components of this “ideology” are more or less systematic ideas about the structure of the world, which give proof of the role and function of the charismatic leader as an active agent of transformation of that world.

An integral part of such ideologies are systems of moral prescriptions. Harming other people is not accepted as a good practice, but very often the ambivalent explanations of the practice of magic silently approve it—for instance, mirror magic which can destroy any magic attacker. Many leaders frequently repeat the idea of a balance between good and evil in the world. Observance of moral prescriptions and, of course, the activities of the charismatic leader, can stabilize the forces of good and restore balance to the universe. We may note that this idea of magic maintaining the balance of good and evil is a kind of counter-narrative to the widespread belief that magic is “the devil’s work.” Another structural element of complex pagan practice in Bulgaria is a group of “witnesses”—people who have experienced the magical skills of the leader. In certain cases, they turn into sympathizers and followers of the leader and his teaching. An example of such witnesses was the circle of politicians, intellectuals, and powerful people around the prophet Vanga. Because of this circle, her messages got publicity and social recognition, and her status has been institutionalized at least on the informal level.8 As a result of her influence and its social and cultural resonance, after her death a temple devoted to her was built in “Rupite” near the city of Petrich. Although this temple is nominally Christian, its architecture and inner design (created by Svetlin Roussev—an artist close to the Communist authorities) represent a spiritual world which is significantly different from Orthodox Christianity. On the level of everyday life, witnesses are people who steer their relatives and acquaintances to a particular medicine man or woman, witch, paranormal, clairvoyant, etc. and give recommendations about his or her successful activity. “Everyday” witnesses repeat the process of macrosocial institutionalization on a microsocial level. Macrosocial institutionalization concerns commonly held cultural patterns—such as moral values and social norms. Pagan practices in everyday life are determined on the micro level, in an environment of direct communication in close social ties. The next structural component of the pagan milieu is the group of “mediators.” Contemporary paganism in Bulgaria uses mass media marketing strategies and the integration of media into the processes of

creating the new reality. In Bulgaria, the mass media are used not only for the popularization of pagan ideas, practices, and leaders, but they in turn become an instrument for the realization of these practices. Bulgaria, like most of Eastern Europe, broadcast the television séances of the Russian parapsychologist and psychotherapist Anatoli Kashpirovski in the 1990s. Afterwards, similar techniques became common fodder on all channels. Fortune-telling on the radio and television and on dedicated psychic phone lines, as well as forms of diagnosis and healing channeled via television have gained popularity. The magicians are popular on television and their séances are a saleable media product. It is common practice for magic leaders or groups of faith healers to create their own television programs, which jump from one channel to another and reach a significant television audience. Many practices of magicians and any kind of experts in the supernatural already are operating online. These virtual communications overcome spatial limitations and reach a large audience in numbers, and penetrate into more intimate layers of consciousness, which is possible through their interactive involvement of users at all levels of communication. The Bulgarian-language segment of the Internet is open to all other segments of the global network, not only because of the general freedom of Internet communications, but also because of the specific nature of Bulgarian culture which is itself a mosaic of different types of social communities. It makes the pagan-type communities more effective in building new sociocultural forms and proposing new existential horizons for the postmodern human.

NEOPAGAN AND NATIVE FAITH MOVEMENTS IN BULGARIA There are also groups and movements which identify their views and practices as pagans. For a variety of reasons, many of those communities and their members prefer not to publicly share their beliefs and views. This is demonstrated very clearly by the Bulgarian national census where only 9,023 persons or 0.2 percent of the inhabitants define themselves as believing in something else than the main monotheistic religions. At the same time 272,264 people (4.7 percent) claim that they do not belong to any religion, and 409,898 people or 7.1 percent do not declare themselves believers at all. This means that the people consciously confessing pagan views could be related to those communities, but at the same time they do not claim that openly. However, the Neopagan groups have few members and little influence on the culture and spiritual life in Bulgaria. This assessment is confirmed by the content analysis of the Internet resources linked to those beliefs. Many commenters associated Neopagans with criminal elements: they are accused of being satanic cults and enemies of the Orthodox religion. In many articles they are seen as part of secret power structures and conspiracies. Neopaganism movements can be divided into two main groups: 1. Followers of Western pre-Christian belief and practices, such as Druidism or Wicca. 2. Groups and communities which follow local traditions and are linked with the traditional Bulgarian beliefs, such as Community Dulo, Warriors of Tangra, Bulgarian Horde 1938, or Ongal. When we look for some signs of identification of those communities we find that officially they deny the presence of any religious belonging (for example the movement “Oak Gate” explicitly claims that it is not pagan), and usually identify themselves as organizations for studying ancient history and culture, as re-enactors, as groups living in conformity with the laws of nature, environmental societies, and so on. Meanwhile, from their websites, from the materials they spread and from the discussions between

their members, it is clear that they go deep into Neopagan beliefs, interpret them eruditely, and have perfect command of the respective rituals and practices, giving us reason to refer to them as Neopagan communities. The Bulgarian Pagan Federation is part of the Pagan Federation International and was registered in 2005 as a non-governmental organization. This organization says it follows three main principles: “Love for and Kinship with Nature. Reverence for the life force and its ever-renewing cycles … A positive morality … often expressed as ‘Do what you will, as long as it harms none’; Recognition of the Divine which transcends gender.”9 The Order of Bards, Ovates, and Druids doesn’t have practicing community in Bulgaria, but its leader, Philip Carr-Gomm, maintains constant contacts with the movement of Peter Deunov’s White Brotherhood. Some of Carr-Gomm’s books have been published in Bulgarian, such as The Return of the Druids (Bulgarian edition 2005), which he personally presented in Sofia.10 Another Western-derived Pagan movement in Bulgaria is Wicca. Although there is no exact information about the number of its members, we can observe it spreading on the Bulgarian Internet. At this moment, we can find more than 150 sites, forums, and blogs associated with Wicca. Many Wiccan books have also gained considerable popularity in Bulgaria. Books by such American and British Wiccan authors as Silver Ravenwolf, Vivianne Crowley, Leanna Greenway, and Doreen Valiente have been translated into Bulgarian. In Bulgaria, Wicca is identified as an ideological trend and lifestyle philosophy, rather than in the narrower sense of the initiatory lineages of Gardnerian or Alexandrian Wicca. Its followers claim that they perceive the central concepts for God and Goddess as abstract and compatible with any religious system. The notion of its compatibility with Christianity or any other religion is present in most of the Bulgarian materials devoted to Wicca. This could be described as an attempt to predispose potential followers of the movement who need to cope with direct conflict with the established religious and cultural identity. However, at the roots of this approach lies the comprehension of

the amorphous character of religious beliefs, which are under the strong influence of everyday paganism. A striking attribute of the Bulgarian Wicca movement is its syncretism. Although it is based on practices coming from a more experienced and developed Wicca in Western Europe and North America, local forms of Wicca are combined with spiritual ideas from other sources—for example those of North American Indians and of historical Indo-European paganism. Another typical feature of Bulgarian Wicca is its political and ideological neutrality, although it has similar views with the platforms of conservation organizations and ecologists. This movement is trying to keep aside from any forms of religious conflicts (for example, as the schism in the Bulgarian Orthodox Church or from confrontations between different collective associations of magicians). This tact does not protect them from attacks, presented both in the mass media and by some institutions, such as the Bulgarian Orthodox Church and other churches.11 Though Wicca claims to revive spiritual practices of pre-Christian beliefs, its followers deny that they practice “black” magic, but they use different ritual techniques to achieve a better understanding of the essence of the Wiccan philosophy. As a typical Pagan community in Bulgaria, we may take the example of the Celtic-themed group Oak Gate, represented by its coordinator Vencislav Tomov. Officially, this movement is presenting itself as the first organization for Celtic culture in the country. It was registered on 1 May 2003. According to its website, “this society is dealing with different issues in the scope of Celtic history, archeology, linguistics, ethnology, arts and theology of ancient Celts and their inheritors.” Oak Gate members differentiate themselves from any political or nationalist organizations that refer to ancient Celts, likewise from any historic communities with nationalistic ideas and proto-Bulgarian orientations, from re-enactors, fantasy groups, martial artists, Neopagans, or ocultists. Nevertheless, not everyone respects that distinction. For example, in her publications, Desislava Puleva qualifies Oak Gate as a typical pagan community; she stresses that it is a pagan religion and questions the assertions of the group that it is following the authentic Celtic culture.12

The main values of the community are respect for nature; freedom of choice; honor; personal responsibility; loyalty to the community and the truth. In accordance with its ideas, Oak Gate takes environmentalist positions and acts in close relation with the conservational organization For the Earth. Oak Gate’s members assume that with the adoption of Druid values and way of life it is possible to overcome the uncontrollable overconsumption and to preserve the environment. Hence, in their opinion, a process starting with the recycling and consumption of environmentally friendly products can become a method for the restoration of the disturbed balance in nature. Another Bulgarian Neopagan group is Threskeia. In contrast to Oak Gate, in its official site it openly declares that it combines the practices of worshiping God and ancient Thracian sanctuaries. Followers say the messages of that ancient culture are relevant today and can provide us a better future. Its beliefs focus on the Great Goddess and her divine son. Its adherents claim that is rituals lead to creation of a constant relationship with nature and to worshiping it as a divine force. Ancient Thracians lived in harmony with nature, they say, expressing the Orphic principle of the divinity of man.13 Studying the spiritual and material culture of ancient Thracians brings them closer to the divine manifestation. Fully authentic ancient rituals and the usage of Thracian language are not necessary for reaching unity with this spiritual tradition. The faith is beyond the limits of the linear historical time and belongs to the realm of the cyclic existence of nature, universe, and the goddess. Similar to Wicca and Celtic beliefs’ followers, the members of Thraskeia are somewhat inconsistent in their interpretations of gods. Sometimes they present defined religious pantheons, sometimes gods are seen as abstract categories, and sometimes the Thraskeians subscribe to pantheistic views. Another variety of Neopagan beliefs seek to recover the religion of proto-Bulgarians. The inner inconsistency of these groups is due to the gaps in interpretations of pre-Christian history, which often has been rewritten to match ideological changes in Bulgarian society. Therefore,

their interpretations of history are rather fantastic. Furthermore, these groups seem to be more politically motivated than religious. Unlike the other Bulgarian Neopagans, the organizations linked with pre-Christian Bulgarian cults openly stress the pagan origin of their ideas and practices. According to them, this spiritual experience can recreate the ancient Bulgarian system, producing political and cultural changes in Bulgarian society. Their ideology is extremely nationalistic, anti-Western, and anti-Semitic. One such group is Dulo Alliance (full name: Holly Alliance of Bulgarian Nationalists), which has appropriated the name of the oldest Bulgarian dynasty. The ideas propagated by this community consist of several main points: Bulgarians are part of the Aryan race, which has divine origin, and this race has two varieties—Atlanteans and IndoEuropeans.14 Dulo Alliance claims that the Aryan race derives directly from the sky god Tangra, the mother goddess Uma, and the god of thunder and war Alp Barin, who is not the supreme god in Bulgarian mythology. According to that Aryan view of life, time has a cyclic and history is divided into four epochs. During each epoch there is only one ruling race, and the ends of the epochs are marked with some epic disasters. Dulo Alliance asserts that the Aryan man is not praying to God but summons him for help in his initiatives by the appropriate rituals and sacrifices. Sacrifice expresses the affiliation of the Aryan man with higher values. The sacrifice supports the comprehension of the cycles in life.15 Another essential idea is the concept of trinity—there are three kingdoms of the universe and three classes of deities: masterful gods, gods of war, and fertility gods. Likewise, there are three social classes: the white class of priests, the red class of warriors, and the black class of workers. There is no evidence that those beliefs are used in any cult practices. The main texts of Dulo Alliance are saturated with anti-Semitic conspiracy theories and Nazi propaganda. One of the most influential authors in the movement is Anton Rachev, whose writing is concerned with anti-Semitism, racial purity, and hygiene. He deals with the vicious

role of banks and interest-credit system,16 the need for racial and national art, and so on, but not the beliefs associated with the ancient Bulgarians.17 The group Warriors of Tangra, which also works in close collaboration with Anton Rachev, has a similar nature. At the heart of their ideology is the Bulgarian god who should dominate the life of Bulgarians. The movement claims that Bulgarian people have a special mission and advocates revival of authentic Bulgarian statehood and spiritual union of the Bulgarians. A significant place in the ideology of the association is occupied by opposition to globalization. One of the aims in the movement’s agenda is also the protection and regeneration of the environment. Pre-Christian beliefs and values are used only as a background for the nationalistic ideology and propaganda of their extreme-right political views. Bulgarian Horde 1938, which exploits beliefs and symbols of Old Bulgarian culture and religion, is also politically on the far right. It was registered in 1995 as a successor of an organization with the same name that existed before 1944 and was banned by the Communist regime. According to its teaching, Bulgarians existed before the mythical deluge; they migrated from the Balkans to Asia and then returned. Followers believe that their struggle against globalization, Zionism, “Bulgarophobes,” and betrayal of national interests has an occult nature. In 2002, a significant number of small groups with similar ideas created Ongal, an umbrella organization that integrates groups such as Bulgarian Horde 1938, the Council of Patriotic Organizations, the Institute of Interdisciplinary Bulgarian Studies Preslav, the Educational Club Tsardom of Bulgaria, the Union Of Bulgarian National Legions, the National Student Association Great Bulgaria, the Bulgarian National Forum, the Truth Union, the Warriors of Tangra, the National Club Patriotism, the National Association Tradition and the Research Center for Bulgarian National Strategy. The leader of the Warriors of Tangra, Angel Grancharov-Eltimir, believes Ongal will sweep away all local and foreign “anti-Bulgarian” servants of world Zionism and globalism. “Our actions caused the blessing of the White mother and White father’s protection. We were able to set our foot on the cocoon of evil, before it becomes a butterfly. It remains to tread and smash it.”18

Another such organization is Rodna Viara (“Native Worship”). This community directly declares its Pagan orientation, defined as a more perfect form of spirituality that exceeds the monotheistic religions with their egalitarian doctrines: “Paganism is an open information system, drawing its continuous renewal from the inexhaustible wisdom of Nature.” The basic characteristic of Rodna Viara, however, is an eclectic combination of backgrounds—Old proto-Bulgarian and Slavonic. This allows a relatively wider platform for influence—among the community, which denies the Slavic origin of the Bulgarians by ideological reasons— and among the Slavophiles, thus permitting contacts with Slavic Pagan organizations in Eastern Europe.19

SYNCRETIC RELIGIOUS MOVEMENTS IN BULGARIA: DEUNOV AND TOLEV The greatest impact of paganism on the Bulgarian religious scene is to be found in groups which are fundamentally syncretic, blending elements of folk paganism with forms of esoteric Christianity. In this, they draw upon the rich resources of the traditional Bulgarian community, but bring its micro-cultural syncretism out to the visible macro-cultural levels of society. The teachings of Peter Deunov (1864–1944) and the Universal White Brotherhood he created have a special place in the Bulgarian spiritual picture. Deunov was also known by the pseudonym Master Beinsa Duno, which was claimed to be of Sanskrit origins and to mean “One who brings goodness by his sermon.” Deunov combined erudition, a deep mind, and intellectual culture with charisma, which allowed him to bring his complex teachings to a mass audience, not only in Bulgaria but across the whole world. Deunov’s ideas found response among many of the leading representatives of modern theosophical movements, including Rudolf Steiner and Jiddu Krishnamurti. In 1897, Deunov founded the ‘Society for Uplifting of the Religious Spirit of the Bulgarian People,” which in 1918 developed into the White Brotherhood. This movement presented itself primarily as a secular version of Christianity, but even in its early stages it contained many Pagan themes. One such theme was the cosmocentric vision of the structure of the universe (opposing to the theocentric doctrine of Christianity) where the central ontological category is love. We can even find syncretic pagan elements in Deunov’s views on the person of Jesus Christ, who was defined as the divine cosmic being located at the center of the galaxy, a notion clearly distinct from any canonical version of Christianity. Furthermore, Jesus was defined as a collective spirit who is a complete realization of the universal principle of love. This substance is formed in people’s souls, and the birth of Christ was not a historical event but rather a metaphor for the evolution of the human soul.20

Deunovism offered its own theory of evolution. The structure of the Universe is a “Great Universal Brotherhood” of the evolved human spirits formed by nine angelic hierarchies. His esoteric practices for selfperfection presume acceptance of reincarnation. Deunov divided history into periods corresponding to the signs of zodiac. The modern stage of evolution is the epoch of Aquarius, and the Indo-European race has the leading role. This stage will be followed by a new “Slavic” epoch, which will create a new race and a new culture of love. Deunov’s teachings completely rejected violence in any form. The development and self-perfection of the individual were the main focus of Deunov’s philosophy. This process of self-perfection consists of a series of esoteric practices, ritual gatherings, often involving observation of luminaries, a system of physical exercises (for example a dance called Paneurhythmy), breathing exercises similar to yoga, communion with nature, and creation of communes. Special attention is paid to arts and particularly to music, and Deunov himself composed many pieces of music. Today the White Brotherhood has between 1,000 and 2,000 worshipers.21 It has no organized structure, and there is no formal membership requirement. Members do not practice typical religious rituals but rather recognize freedom as a fundamental principle of communion. Characteristic of Deunovism’s practice is the obligatory vegetarianism, to avoid negative energies formed during the animals’ killing. Members practice fast one day each week and also live on wheat for ten days in the winter, in order to absorb energy from the sun. Summer gatherings in the Rila Mountains are popular as are Paneurhythmy dance movements. The White Brotherhood is most popular among educated, urban people. Close to the teachings of Deunov and White Brotherhood are the ideas of a more recent spiritual leader—Vaklush Tolev. He is an intelligent and charismatic person, whose influence is strengthened by the harmony between his ideas and his own biography. He was repressed by the Communist regime and put into a concentration camp directly from the university class. Tolev not only managed to survive physically and spiritually, but also contrived to self-develop and self-educate himself as

far as possible. After he was released, he ended his theology education and created a teaching that is very rich with ideas, philosophical depth, and spiritual insight. His movement, The Way of Wisdom, is influential especially among educated people and those in the arts. Like the White Brotherhood, this movement carries out summer gatherings in the mountains—the Rhodopes. According to some researchers, the reason for this choice (as well as also Deunov’s choice) is the presence of old pagan sanctuaries in that area.22 The proximity of Tolev’s views to Peter Deunov’s is emphasized by Petar Kanev in his article “Religion in Bulgaria after 1989: Historical and Sociocultural Aspects.”23 Tolev’s complex teaching unites the popular alternative spiritual tendencies of the present: Orphism, Pythagoreanism, hermeticism, Krishnaism, anthroposophy, theosophy, occultism, kabala, agni yoga and neoplatonism, which are the foundation for esoteric and occult practices, realizing different versions of Paganism. The goal is the “second enchantment of the world,” overcoming the monotheistic character religiosity and focusing religious practice on the charisma of the spiritual leader, the Teacher, who will transform the human into God. In this context Tolev develops a complex of ideas about “Godmanhood,” which at first has secular characteristics, because it is a non-institutional model of development, but afterwards he emphasizes the “Mangod,” where the man passed through multistage evolution at the end becomes a dynamic god and creator. Another eclectic combination of Christian elements and typical pagan ideas is the teaching of the “Thracian church.” Its branches include The City of Christ, New Jerusalem, United Church, and the organization EPOCH. It claims to be based on scientific researches proving the presence of Thracian scripts and therefore the Thracian origins of texts such as the Egyptian Book of the Dead and the New Testament. The Thracian church uses Apocryphal and Gnostic texts to mold pagan ideas into modern forms. Its beliefs are presented in scientific dress, buttressed with the results of archeological, linguistic, and anthropological researches, thus “proving” their antiquity and authenticity.24

The Thracian Church attracts artistic followers through projects that in a unostentatious way bind aesthetic values with the proclaimed teachings.

CONCLUSION The spiritual situation in Bulgarian society during the post-communist stage of development is determined by several key factors. The democratic changes began in a society with an exclusively low level of modernization. The absence of private property and the destruction of legal market mechanisms made it difficult to convert social capital into an economic one. The processes blocked by the totalitarian governing structures were regulated in informal ways. Excluded from the public discourse, unofficial and parallel, the “converting networks” are dominated by the traditional culture and the closed informal communities. The most suitable ideological material for the communication in the alternative networks is the pre-rational (or irrational), magical way of thinking, free of any kind of official limitation, sociocultural reflection, and normative regulation. Economic disappointment, a perceived decline in social values, corruption, organized criminality, and culture degradation affect Bulgarian society. The totalitarian period’s regulations (inwardly contradictory because of ideological overload) finally failed, but society is not in a condition to create alternatives. Meanwhile, the Bulgarian Orthodox Church, which is beset with in-fighting and collisions of economic interests, is unable to create a real spiritual home for the demoralized population. This environment encourages unofficial, irrational, charismatic, mystic, and paranormal ideas, imaginations, practices and techniques—alternatives to the official religion and culture. Paganism now spreads by legally recognized institutions, spiritual communities, and movements, which we name Neopaganism.

NOTES 1. Max Weber, The Vocation Lectures (Indianapolis, IN: Hackett Publishing Company. 2004), 13. 2. Dimov Ventsislav & Peicheva Lozanka, “Modernata magiya (Mezhdu ‘vsichko e Magiya’ i ‘takova neshto nyama’—opit za edin ne samo folkloristichen diskurs)” [“Modern Magic (Between ‘Everything is Magic’ and ‘There Isn’t Such a Thing’—An Attempt at Not Only Folklore Discourse)’], Bulgarski folkor 5 (1993), 3. “Vseki vtori bulgarin vyarva v cherna Magiya,” [“Every Second Bulgarian Believes in Black Magic”], 4. Subkova M. Benovska, “Yavlenieto ekstrasensi ot gledna tochka na folkloristikata” [“The Faith-Healer Phenomenon from a Folkloric Point of View”], Bulgarski folkor 5 (1993), See also Evgenia Mitseva, “Nyakogashnite maguosnitsi I dneshnite ekstrasensi,” [“Former Sorcerers and Today’s Faith-Healers”], 5. Vera Tocheva & Mariya Makaeveeva, Ekstrasensy v Bolgarii (Sofia: Voennoizdateläski kompleks, 1992), 32–6. See also Benovska, “Yavlenieto ekstrasensi.” 6. Neli Bynkova, Psychics, Where and How to Find Them (Sofia: Izdatelstvo Ivan D Danov, 1992), 84 (in Bulgarian). 7. Benovska, “Yavlenieto ekstrasensi.” 8. Petyr Marchev, “Vangelizatsiyata kato natsionalna doktrina,” [“The Evangelization as a National Doctrine”], _doktrina. 9. The federation’s website is 10. See 11. See 12. Desislava Pulieva, “Keltska religiya I novoezichestvo s keltski koreni,” [The Celtic Religion and Neo-paganism with Celtic roots] 13. Shegor Rasate, “The Basis of the Aryan View Of Life,” 14. Ibid. 15. Ibid. 16. “Business is Theft,”

“For Genuine National Art,” 17. 18. Ruslan Yordanov, “‘Ongal,’ Dreams of Bulgaria before the Flood,” 19. See 20. Georgi Radev, Uchitelyat govori [The Master Speaks] (Sofia: Byalo bratstvo, 2005); Peter Deunov, “Knigi s besedi” [“Lectures and Talks”], 21. Zhasmin Donkova, “Veroizpovedaniata v Republika Bulgaria pred praga na Evropeiskia suyuz” [“The Creeds in Bulgaria before the Threshold of the European Union”], 22. Vaklush Tolev, Ezoterichin shkoli i mistichni uchenia [Esoteric Schools and Mystical Teachings] (Sofia: Forum za duhovna kultura, 1995); Vaklush Tolev, Duhovnite darove za Bulgaria [The Spiritual Gifts of Bulgaria] (Sofia: Put mudrosta, 2010). 23. Petar Kanev, “Religion in Bulgaria after 1989: Historical and Sociocultural Aspects,” South East Europe Review 1 (2001), 24. Stoyan Chilikov, “Trakiiskata tsurkva v Bulgaria (Bogoslovski analiz)” [“The Thracian Church in Bulgaria: Theological Analysis”] (2007), option=com_content&view=article&id=77:-2&catid=36:2008-12-05-23-0002&Itemid=38.


INTRODUCTION In the void left by the dissipating materialistic ideologies in ostcommunist CEE, religious movements often mingle with nationalist ideologies. This chapter is concerned with Romanian Neopagan organizations showing an ethnocentric or “Ethno-Pagan” ideology that promotes the revival of specifically Romanian spirituality through a process of reconnection to its ancient, supposedly Dacian and Thracian roots. Pagan narratives with strong ethnic or nationalistic undertones, with confrontational rhetoric, and representing various levels of organization have an ever more prominent presence in Romanian virtual space. We focused on the similarities and the differences between these religious minorities as mirrored by the Internet and its media. This chapter is an overview which presents Romanian blogs and webpages with pronounced ethnic and Pagan connotations. We also offer a brief overview of the founding narratives and symbolism of various Romanian Ethno-Paganisms as they are displayed on the chosen websites. At first glance, Neopaganism might seem to be a minor stream even when compared with other new religious movements in Romania.1 Only a small number of authors have discussed Neopaganism in the Romanian context: as a threat to the religious status quo,2 as a threat to healthy historical consciousness, as a menace to the social-political order,3 or as a delirious phantasmagoria contaminating historical, linguistic, and ideological discourse4 —and these authors either overemphasize Neopaganism’s impact or dismiss it out of hand as ridiculous. Even including these critical authors, we have found little detailed material concerning Neopaganism in Romania. Our initial interest was focused on the online presence and rhetoric of one particular type, namely, the Zalmoxian, Dacologist Ethno-Paganism.5 In the first phase of research, we chose to gather data from publicly available sources posted on the Internet.6 Still, when exploring web-based discourses we cannot ignore the existence of the “offline” real life context of these actors, and their social realities—otherwise we would risk having only “peripheral vision” on the phenomenon.7

CONCEPTUALIZATION OF THE ETHNO-PAGAN PHENOMENON The contemporary revival of religiosity—of all types—has been aided by information technology. We started from the premise that within this context, Neopaganism is perhaps the fastest growing marginal religious trend.8 Although this “modern magical revival”9 is present both in rural areas and in urban environments,10 it is still a post-industrial social phenomenon strongly connected with information technology used most often in Romania by city-dwelling younger generations. Furthermore, Neopagan ideas are slowly filtering in from the fringes of the socioreligious landscape into the popular mainstream. Before defining Neopaganism itself, for the purposes of our investigation we have accepted Lundskow’s contrastive definitions of “religions” and “spiritualities” that characterize the double-sided, individualistic, and communitarian character of the Neopagan worldview.11 Also, we refer to the differentiation made by Szilágyi and Szilárdi concerning “New Age” and “Neopaganism.” They see the New Age as a universalist trend blending Eastern spirituality with modern Western spiritualism and theosophy, as well as elements of certain natural and human sciences. In contrast, Neopaganism is “less scientific,” and based on following the doctrines of a chosen archaic religion, rooted very strongly in ethnic traditions, updating them to meet modern needs.12 These differentiations have led us to the recognition13 that in many cases the investigated groups or websites embrace elements drawn from both streams. Based on several authors,14 we started off by defining the umbrella category of Neopaganism: in opposition to the historical Pagans of ancient cultures, [Neopgansim is] a term covering a range of syncretic thisworldly anti-authoritarian nature-oriented modern urban protest religions, originating from old European Mysticism as well as eighteenth-nineteenth Century Romanticism and reconstituted

from ancient classical cults, Pre-Christian religions and nonEuropean tribal beliefs.15 To this we may add the surviving and revived native faiths of the former Soviet Union. Neopagan movements are generally polytheistic or conditionally monotheistic, privileging the experience of personal ritual over belief, with some relevant common characteristics, such as remythologizing, ecology, or recognition of the female principle. Such Neopagan movements range from eclectic, syncretic bricolagecults (Eclectic Witchcraft, Urban Shamanism) at one end, to attempts to reconstruct and revive specific monotheistic or polytheistic ancient Pagan religions at the other end.16 We were primarily interested in the latter end of the spectrum, what is often called “Reconstructionist Paganism” or “Reconstructionism” in English,17 striving to rebuild an authentic past religious tradition through “a fairly scholarly study of ancient texts, folklore, archeology, and languages” believed to contain highly authoritative information regarding the creed to be revived,18 while strictly rejecting eclectic practices and ideas, in order to keep the purity of the ancient religion. In our understanding, Reconstructionism properly refers to the restarting of classical religions which have ceased to be practiced such as ancient Egyptian, ancient Greek, Roman, Celtic, or Norse polytheisms—in scholars’ and practitioners’ use alike. It does not entirely fit religious revivalist movements (such as those of the Siberian or Eastern European peoples), which—although also reconstructing partially lost or nonpracticed religious traditions—are rather concerned with the (preChristian, pre-Muslim) folkways of the nation’s relatively recent and local ancestors, with a strong stress on ethnicity.19 We considered that the term “ethnic religion” might have also been used for these movements, as in the use of the European Congress of Ethnic Religions,20 had it not been that the concept is already more frequently used for other types of ethnos-related religiosity. It refers to either ethnic Churches within a larger Christian denomination or to contemporary indigenous traditional ethnic religions which continue to thrive (Asian, African, Pacific, Native American, etc.). Similarly, we put aside the term

“native faith,”21 which we sensed properly referring to uninterruptedly active ethnic religions. For lack of a practical term, we coined the special category of Ethno-Paganism, labeling a particular range of Neopagan movements which is quite typical for Europe (especially the Eastern half).22 For example, Romanian forms of what some might otherwise consider Reconstructionism, although centered on reviving an ancient Pagan cult and recovering a lost spirituality, are concerned with a specific alternative view of history. As it is generally understood, Reconstructionism restricts itself to the “fairly scholarly” (that is, accepted and mainstream) recorded mythology, history, and living folklore traditions. In contrast, Romanian Zalmoxian movements also rely heavily on national mythopoeic works which tacitly co-opt even eclectic New Age ideas and participate in the phenomenon of “protochronism.” Protochronism is a term coined by Romanian historians for theories which posit a primordial and uninterrupted ethnic identity and which unnaturally exaggerate and sanctify its history, claiming that it preceded other nations in time, importance, and achievements.23 Although protochronism was originally a specifically Romanian term, the phenomenon itself is nonetheless also present in other ethnic/national variants in this quarter of Europe—therefore we see no obstacle to extending its meaning beyond the Romanian context. For example, the neighboring Hungarian iteration adopts some variant of the Turanist hypothesis, with visions of a prehistoric world-civilizing Arch-Hungarian culture.24 In some Romanian Ethno-Pagan groups, these notions about protochronic and ethnic superiority can be more prominent than any traditionally understood “religious” character. The same applies to the larger area of CEE after the fall of communism. Shnirelman observed that the rapid development of local forms of Neopaganism in the former Soviet Union was closely connected with the growth in ethnic nationalism.25 We found that radical right-wing political organizations were often interlinked with Ethno-Pagan religious movements,26 turning EthnoPaganism into a kind of political religion. While Sorin Olteanu and his scholarly forum partners stress the psychological aspects of Tracomania as

a political quasireligion,27 Alexandra Tomiţă shows how protochronist ideas which were invented by the communist ideologues and inherited by the post-communist radical right have evolved into a secular religion.28 While analyzing Romanian Ethno-Pagan groups, we have been especially concerned with their use of computer-mediated communication (CMC) and online rhetoric.29 Because younger generations are much better connected to cyberspace than their elders, they are more exposed to political radicalization on the Internet.30 The web, due to its relative lack of gatekeeping when compared to older media, gives room to unusual, fringe discourses, where the individual rhetor communicates relatively free from institutionally enforced scientific, theological or other orthodoxies.31 On the one hand, it is already crowded with a host of other, competing new religious and political ideas. On the other hand, it offers an excellent forum for Ethno-Pagan groups both to spread their ideas and to organize themselves.

SOME THEORETICAL GROUNDING We are faced with a lack of data concerning the numbers, affiliations, age, gender, or orientation of Neopagans in Romania.32 Romania only officially acknowledges eighteen religious denominations, none of which is Neopagan. In the 2002 national census, less than 3 percent declared themselves to be in the catchall “other religion”, dropping to less than 2 percent in the preliminary results of the 2011 national census.33 It is hard to make any comparison to other countries’ situations, but there are some generalities that can be applied to Ethno-Pagans in Romania. Réka Szilárdi stated that Neopagan communities tried “to develop a comprehensive … self-definition, striving to blend linguistic, ethnic, religious and even political identity” both as a reaction to secularization but also a turn away from traditional forms of religiosity.34 Sarah Pike suggested that Neopaganism was partially born from a need for community, sensed as being absent from most mainline Christian Churches, and also from a concern for our human and natural environment.35 Adrian Ivakhiv has shown that in European and especially Eastern European movements, nature and ethnicity are very strongly linked.36 Similarly, we observe that Victor Shnirelman’s emphasis on the strong connections between Neopaganism and nationalism in Russia is also germane to Romania.37 In his view, Nepaganism in Eastern Europe means a return to the pure, unspoiled morality of the ancestors, prior to the arrival of Christianity which often is identified with an oppressive majority or with evil foreign intrusion, being “deeply and insatiably in love with the pre-Christian past, as if at that time, peoples lived in virgin purity, were not corrupted by external influences, could therefore enjoy the best ideology in the world, wage successful wars, and accomplish great heroic deeds.”38 Although imported forms of Neopagan spirituality are represented by a few groups and individuals in Romania,39 autochthonic movements are more prominent. Nonetheless, the Orthodox priest and theologian Radu Mureşan, whose concern is of a missionary nature, has complained that the subject had not received proper attention after 1989.40 Interestingly, his meticulous review only mentions one autochthonous movement: the

Gebeleizis Society. Gebeleizis was also the only one mentioned in another Romanian study which was dedicated to the alternative historicity labeled “Dacomania” by Cătălin Borangic, who highlighted the strong connection between protochronism, the radical right, and ethnocentric religiosity.41 Among other independent or antagonistic sources we refer to the work of Tomiţă, Boia, Babeş, Manea, Lupu, and Olteanu.42 Nevertheless, none of these sources deal with Neopaganism proper, treating in turn various overlapping topics, like protochronism, Dacomania, Tracomania, or Pelasgianism, in which the phenomenon manifests itself.

MYTHIC NARRATIVES In their attempt to rebuild the pure ancient ethnic religion of the ancestors, Ethno-Pagans do not restrict themselves to the mainstream, accepted scholarly sources. The majority of the studied websites also make use of alternative historical theories, protochronist ideas and, even more importantly, mythopoeic works from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries—that is, myths, legends, and mythologies created by modern authors,43 blending traditional mythic stories with fantasy and poetic imagination. Such works have become holy scriptures for several Dacianist or Zalmoxian movements. In the following we will offer a brief review of such protochronist tendencies and mythopoeic sources. Several Romanian44 and international45 researchers have investigated the origins, early development, disgrace, revival, fade, and post-revolution transformations of Romanian protochronism. The controversial history of an idea of an idyllic Dacian past begins with the Romantic view of Nicolae Densuşianu (1848–1911), who advanced the idea of Pelasgianism in Prehistoric Dacia,46 published posthumously in 1913. In far-right Legionary doctrines47 and, several decades later, in the official nationalcommunist ideology of the Ceauşescu era, Dacianism played the role of the founding myth for the nation state.48 Prominent representatives range from Edgar Papu (1908–93, national-communist ideologist), or Iosif Constantin Drăgan (1917–2008, a Legionary émigré)49 to contemporary ideologists like Napoleon Săvescu or Octavian Sărbătoare. In brief, protochronism may be described as a mythic history of the Romanians descended from the pre-Indo-European Pelasgians inhabiting the Carpathian–Danubian–Pontic–Balkan area, who invented writing (evidenced by the Tărtăria tablets),50 conquered and civilized Eurasia or even the Atlantean culture, reaching as far as Mongolia or Japan. Later, as the Dacians-Getae, a tribe of Thracians, they gave the world the first monotheistic religion of the god Zalmoxis, a forerunner of Christ. The Dacians, having been partially conquered by Rome in 106CE, lived through almost two centuries of Romanization. While official classroom history teaches this process of Romanization as the basis of the mainstream Romanian Continuity Theory, Dacologists declare that Romanization is a

false doctrine. Romanians are the uninterrupted descendants of DaciansGetae, the latter being further identified also with the Goths, and thus ultimately contributing to the Fall of Rome. To explain the undeniable Latin character of the Romanian language they argue that Latin itself was a spoiled dialect of the pure Dacian/Thracian. Naturally, there are countless variations, but the main events unfold within this constellation of ideas. Traditional scholarship and print academic publications tend to downplay or ignore this phenomenon. It is predominantly taken seriously in the same medium and context in which it is propagated—the Internet. On online discussion forums, we can find short definitions and explanations of Romanian Ethno-Paganism, called somewhat pejoratively “Dacomania” or “Tracomania.” “Dacomania represents an irregular and unarticulated set of pseudo-scientific theories, convictions, and clichés of radical nationalist character, born from an exaggerated admiration and an uncritical idealization of the Dacians and their civilization, manifested in the tendency to consider the Dacians at the origin of several planetary historical realities.”51 Another commenter, under the ironic pseudonym “plinul cel tanar”52 considered that “Tracomania in itself is a religious creed, or more precisely a modern form of a cult of the ancestors” and brought consistent arguments to confirm his ascertainment, stating that (1) Tracomaniacs have their own myths, with the Dacian nation as the central collective person of this mythology; (2) Tracomaniacs have their religious elite, with Densuşianu as a kind of founding prophet and Napoleon Săvescu as a contemporary spiritual leader followed by a range of adepts on the web; and (3) Tracomaniacs produce religious art, virtual images, texts, clips, and songs, some of which can be aesthetically valuable in their own right.53 Irina Manea’s online article on the origins of Dacologist protochronism argues that it all began with Densuşianu’s vision of a glorious “Pelasgian” Empire, which extended from Dacia beginning with 6000BCE, reaching to engulf Europe, Asia and Africa … The territory of Romania becomes the nucleus of a great empire, Dacians are the ancestors of all

peoples, and from the Dacian language will develop all other languages. Dacia is the center of the world and a cosmic symbol … Densuşianu’s theory is a mythologizing and a brutal falsification of history, but of great success in the interwar period and during the Communist regime due to the image of superiority of the Carpathian population, an image with strong nationalist nuances.54 Prehistoric Dacia has become a holy scripture to later generations of Dacologists—and also for religious Zalmoxians—providing a sacred mythology with a whole pantheon of gods. In later mythopoeic or religious works, we find the hypothesis that Dacians had already been Christians even before Christ; Zalmoxis was “the” God of the first monotheistic religion and/or a predecessor of Jesus Christ.55 Thus protochronism can express Romanian religious primacy over Abrahamic monotheisms. Typical mythopoeic narratives like the (Daco-Romanian) Testament of Zalmoxis and The Code of Zalmoxis, along with other Zalmoxian teachings, work to create a real religion, or rather to “reconstruct” the “authentic Zalmoxian tradition.”56 From the scarce bits of information passed down to us from antiquity—and a lot of imagination—a brand new “modern Zalmoxianism” is proposed to be institutionalized as the official state religion of Romania and the sister Republic of Moldova.57

ROMANIAN ETHNO-PAGAN BLOGS AND WEBSITES INVESTIGATED Since the 1990s, the Internet has increasingly hosted and sustained the virtual community formation of Neopagan groups and individuals around the world: not as face-to-face contacts, but as “imagined communities.”58 These more or less cohesive clusters of individuals and groups were glued together by sharing similar values and practices, individualized by “ritualized imagination” 59 and engaging in “ritual deliberations.”60 Campbell explained that new media represented an empowering environment for religious groups’ self-expression and their identitybuilding practices. For the purposes of our analyses we have referred to Tim O’Reilly regarding Web 2.0 media and Barbara Warnick’s guide to web rhetoric analysis (WRA), and adapted them to our needs.61 As a method of visual rhetoric analysis, we repeatedly turned to the tripartite model elaborated by Hocks.62 A brief review of Romanian Ethno-Pagans or Protochronist “Dacologists” on the Internet shows that the majority define themselves as Dacians: Noi Dacii— Revista pentru Limba şi Cultura Dacilor (a journal for the language and culture of Dacians),63 Dacii.Info (a webpage dedicated to Dacians),64 Dacia Nemuritoare: Prima Revistă Dedicată Dacilor Liberi (“Immortal Dacia: The First Journal Dedicated to the Free Dacians”),65 (a webpage maintained by the circle of Napoleon Săvescu),66 Enciclopedia Dacica (an Internet encyclopedia dedicated to the Dacians), Romania-Dacia: Casa Noastra Blog al Frontului de Eliberare a Daciei (“Romania-Dacia: Our Home Blog of the Front for the Liberation of Dacia”),67 Dacologica (a blog dedicated to Dacians), Dacii lui Zamolxe (a web-forum dedicated to Dacians),68 and Spiritualitate Daco-Românească: Reabilitarea tradiţiilor şi spiritualităţii autohtone autentice (“Dacian–Romanian Spirituality: Rehabilitation of Authentic Indigenous Traditions and Spirituality”—a blog).69 Without exhausting our list of approximately thirty or more similar Romanian groups and websites, we can summarize that members and

contributors to these pages do not tend to identify themselves as practicing Neopagans or describe following any specific cultic rituals. Still the overall image conveyed by these sites, blogs, and forums is a strong commitment to revitalize the ancient Dacian-Zalmoxian spirituality and religion. There is, however one organization that asserts overtly its Neopagan Dacian identity: Gebeleizis,70 an organization named after the other (probable) name of Zalmoxis, as the Thunder-God of the Thracians. In this chapter we present some representative Romanian Ethno-Pagan websites and blogs, giving only a short description of each.71 Romania– Dacia Casa Noastră (“Romania–Dacia Our Home”) and Casa Noastra— Blog central al Frontului de Eliberare a Daciei (Dacia Libera)72 is the central blog of an entire network of blogs and websites from all over Romania. This organization (RDCN: Dacia Liberation Front, run by a young sociologist who works in the media)73 is centered on the idea that contemporary Romania is the successor to Ancient Dacia, and it needs to be freed from alien elements and influences. Focusing more on political and social issues, the Liberation Front and its afferent blogs at first glance do not look like Ethno-Pagans proper—however, throughout the main texts, as well as in the linked pages and videos, protochronist ideas are promoted and there are strong references to Zalmoxis as a religious model. Though not univocally or overtly religious, the entire network is nonetheless a clear example of Dacomania/Tracomania with explicit links to the radical right. The central blog has an austere design, with a white background; the message is carried by the posts themselves, which are usually highly multimedial, as well as in the links in the column to the right. The logo of the organization, a black-brown wolf-headed draco (the war-standard of the ancient Dacians) over the Romanian red–yellow–blue tricolor, with the inscription RDCN also appearing in the upper right corner with a call to join the organization. The Dacia Revival International Society74 is an established “real life” organization. Presided over by Napoleon Săvescu, a Romanian physician émigré to the US, this society functions as a pseudo-scientific, pseudohistorical academic organization, with regularly organized international conferences (Congrese de Dacologie—already on its eleventh meeting)

and a regularly published journal (Dacia Magazin)—all built upon the protochronist Dacian-Pelasgian ideas of Nicolae Densuşianu. The aim of this society, with a very high level of self-legitimation, is to study and promote the “real history” of the Dacians as opposed to the official academic discourse, and to offer an institutional framework for all who wish to join this cause. The society’s webpage, though very traditional and static, is nonetheless visually quite elaborate, with a grim black and gold elegance and kitschy tendencies. The logo is written in golden traditionalizing letters along with a Thracian golden helmet over a black background in flames, which frames the grayish navigation surface as well. The navigation surface is very clear from the start: the left-hand column hosting the vertical menu (articles, film, music, photos, maps, a virtual museum) has in its background the statue of a Dacian (probably king Decebal); the horizontal menu-bar leads us to Dacology Conferences, the Dacia Magazin journal, the forum and contact information, while on the left there is a poll with a question about whether visitors believe that Romania should formally change its name to Dacia,75 and under it other similar pages like Pelasgians, Dacologica, Enciclopedia Dacica, and are linked. Within this trilateral frame the greeting message appears in a striking red over a black background, telling the visitor the main objectives of the organization. Kogaionon76 (or Kogaion)—named after the sacred mountain of the Dacians—is present with two different blogs probably published by the same person or group, containing almost the same content. Their design is largely identical, with the same black logo of two white howling wolfheads “in the cross-hairs” of black Celtic crosses and symmetrically facing each other, between them the same title written in white runiclooking letters: “” One of the mottos appearing above the logo in the right corner is a quote from the nineteenth-century Romanian historian and literary critic Bogdan Petriceicu Hasdeu (1838– 1907), saying: “I am Dacian, I am not Roman. I despise the Romans.”77 The richer and more organized blog, however, is the one registered under the address. Our short description refers to this version. The site Kogaionon has a more religious character, in the sense

defined above by Olteanu.78 All of the protochronist and Zalmoxian texts, even if they quote from authentic ancient or modern scholarly sources and even if they bear a mythic connotation, serve only to sustain the cult of the ancestors. Above the headline logo, in a red band a thematic menu is filled with predominantly religious themes79 showing the orientation of the site. Several languages are listed in the left column of the blog as categories, which cover numerous entries written in or (poorly) translated into those languages, which shows an implicit intention to both promote these ideas for a larger international public and share them with similar (Neopagan) groups from other countries. The international (mostly francophone) “Folkish Pagan Pride”80 is also linked in under the blogroll in the same column. In the right column sources and downloadable books are hyperlinked concerning history, religion, and mythology—reliable scholarly works and amateur fantasies alike; while under these, together with Hi5 and Facebook social networking groups and Kogaion’s YouTube channel,81 the webpages of some Romanian Pagan underground and metal bands (Vavivov, Ashaena) are promoted. On the page of the Gebeleizis Association,82 Neopaganism, ethnocentrism, and overt radical right ideology find prominent expression, but curiously Romanian nationalism is backed by elements of Germanic Paganism along with the Dacian protochronist ideas.83 In the website’s detailed discussion of ancient Pagan symbols we find a series of war symbols related to Germanic mythology and Norse runes are used for section titles. The website bears a title alluding to far-right supremacist values: “One Family, One Nation, One Territory.”84 This web page, in spite of its oddness, is the only properly religiously Pagan site among the Romanian cases. Although the website is declared to be the intellectual propriety of a “Hank Schmidt,” who registered the domain name in the USA, the most visible member of the organization is Andrei Molnar, one of the three cofounders, known for his open confrontation with the police and the lawsuits against the Romanian authorities.85 The page displays genuine artistic values: along the very aesthetic (though grimly dark) graphic design, several recordings from live concerts of Pagan metal bands and a link to a Heathen radio station Vuiet de Sânge

(“Rush of Blood”) are inserted. The lower menu includes titles like “From the Land of Gods,” “The Pagan Community,” “Thracian-Dacian Ancestors,” or “The Odinic Pantheon.” The online presentation of a declared “Zamolxe Cult” described by its “Great Priest”86 appears on the website of a Latvian Neopagan Foundation “Māras loks.”87 According to the leader, the Zamolxe Cult practices a religion which predated Christianity or Pagan practices which survived after Christianization in the region inhabited by Thracian peoples, and they celebrate the gods Gebeleizis, Derzelas, Bendis, Sabazios, and Dionysos and other mythical figures. The presentation continues with a brief description of these Dacian/Thracian deities, but without presenting significant details about what forms their religious reverence takes today. Although contact data are shown at the end of the presentation, we could not find other evidence of its online existence at this time. In our enterprises of visual rhetoric analysis we followed the comprehensive framework for assessing rhetorical style in World Wide Web environments, proposed by Hocks:88 structured according to audience stance, transparency, and hybridity. We found that most Ethno-Pagan organizations analyzed were in the Web 1.0 stage in terms of their presentational rhetoric: having a low, or at best medium level of interactivity and multimediality, and a high level of transparency—namely a traditional, text-centric design. The only organization using properly Web 2.0 features is the Dacia Liberation Front—a Romanian Ethno-Pagan organization founded by a young sociologist who works in media. We have presumed that there might be a generational digital divide when it comes to catching up with communication technologies, and since Neopagan organizations with links to right-wing movements are increasingly involving young people, the mobilization potential of such groups may impact political systems, at least on a community level.89 As we have also performed content analysis on these sites in order to assess their legitimation strategies,90 we found that all Romanian organizations made available their ideologies, bylaws, and core values— but in some cases also their esoteric discourses as a means of persuading potential audiences—on a rather formal tone, more concerned with justifying the right to confront the mainstream ideologies and status quo.

CONCLUSIONS To what extent do these groups differ in their discourses from mainline nationalist and religious entities? Our implicit hypothesis was that Zalmoxian movements differed in their narratives from the more traditional (generally Orthodox Christian) radical Romanian nationalism, mainly as regards their alternative self-images, and use of alternative mythologies and symbolisms—which has been clearly confirmed. An important observation was the prevailing presence of certain founding myths, protochronist theories of a mysterious prehistoric Carpathian culture. The primacy and supremacy of one’s own nation, culture, and religion is an idea expressed by many nations in Eastern Europe (and elsewhere) in reaction to cultural or historical–political trauma that has negatively affected the self-image of that nation. As regards the question of how Zalmoxian groups relate to radical or other political–social movements and organizations, we have seen that in most cases there are links on their pages which point to rightist sites or even political organizations like Noua Dreaptă (“New Right”), or Iron Guardsympathizing webpages. There is a lot of variation from case to case as regards the level of institutionalization of these groups and movements, and the degree to which they act as registered organizations or as informal communities. The Dacia Revival International Society is an established real life organization which also has a website. In contrast, the RDCN: Dacia Liberation Front is a virtual online network of loose but strongly interlinking blogs and websites, while the Gebeleizis Society covers a small but very organized group of participants. Other sites are rather isolated initiatives of enthusiastic individuals, but they show a willingness to integrate into the larger virtual community through their shared beliefs. Religiosity is generally dominated by occult mysticism and/or vulgar chauvinism, and, less often, it is also focused on reconstituted rites performed on festivals, like the Festival of Dacian Castles in Cricău with traditional folk wrestling contests and armed tournaments, or solemn gatherings at archeological Dacian sites such as Sarmisegetuza. The cult of the (Dacian/Thracian) gods themselves is not very prominent nor are

mythological stories about deities; they are rather replaced by a mythic (pre-)history of the Dacians, Thracians, and Pelasgians. Proselytism is not a strong characteristic of these communities—online discourses are rather dominated by “ritual deliberations.” The ideological origins of Zalmoxian Ethno-Paganism are to be found in the Romantic idyllic ideas of Densuşianu, continued in a political context by the interwar Iron Guard, then by the state-backed official protochronism of the 1970s and 1980s, propagated by state-sponsored “folk” spectacles like the Cîntarea României (“Song to Romania”) or even the Cenaclul Flacăra (“Literary Flame”) poetry and music shows. Sometimes xenophobia, anti-Semitism, and conspiracy theories are prominent, especially when Ethno-Pagan ideas are linked with right-wing politics. When we turn to examine their manifestly religious ideas, we find some which are not so purely Reconstructionist, but rather eclectic: Zalmoxianism, Hyperboreanism, Goddess-religion, and a kind of “PreChristian Christianity” are blended together with a less overt aversion to Orthodox Christianity. Some older trends even try to integrate their beliefs into Orthodox spirituality, but also mixed with a powerful occult Orientalism. Ethno-Paganism, however diverse it may be in its expressions, still forms a single phenomenon. It questions or refuses official history, anthropology, and linguistics, with an overt aversion against current academic and political discourse, stressing protochronist ideas and mythic fantasies. The Ethno-Pagans’ relations toward the established Romanian Orthodox Church is very ambiguous. Some communities clearly oppose Christianity, as is visible in their online message (Gebeleizis), while others show an ambiguous stance (RDCN, Kogaionon). In either case, EthnoPagans describe Christianity as a perversion of the ancestral pure faith. The Judeo-Roman Church(es) are corruptions which have distorted the real personality of Jesus and his original message. These narratives seek to bring back a lost sacredness and self-esteem into the lives of many people in Romania through an exaggerated counterbalancing of the dehumanizing, humiliating ideologies of the past half century.

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS The topic of Zalmoxian “Ethno-Paganism” presented here constitutes part of an ongoing larger research project that explores the Internet rhetoric of autochthonic Neopagan movements from Romania and Hungary. This project of the “SEMEISTOS” Research Group for Web Semiotics and Online Communication is based at the Faculty of Technical and Social Sciences, Miercurea Ciuc of Sapientia Hungarian University of Transylvania, with a team consisting of the author, Dr Rozália Klára Bakó, and students, and is supported through the research grant “Web Rhetoric of Romanian and Hungarian Ethno-pagan Organizations” from the Institute for Research Programs, Cuj-Napoca, Romania. For details, see As part of the ongoing project, some portions and results from this chapter have already been published: Rozália Klára Bakó & László Attila Hubbes, “Religious Minorities’ Web Rhetoric: Romanian and Hungarian Ethno-Pagan Organizations,” Journal for the Study of Religions and Ideologies 10(30) (2011); László Attila Hubbes, “Ethnopagan Groups’ Web Rhetoric,” in Székek: Vizuális találkozások a hatalommal, [The Chair: Visual Encounters with Power], R. K. Bakó (ed.) (Kolozsvár: Erdélyi MúzeumEgyesület/ Transylvanian Museum Society, 2011); Rozália Klára Bakó, “Computer-Mediated Identities: Ethno-Pagan Organisations on the Web,” in The Role of New Media in Journalism, Drulă Georgeta, Liliana Roşca & Ruxandra Boicu (eds), (Bucharest: Editura Universităţii din Bucureşti, 2011); László Attila Hubbes, “Ancient Voices: A Contrastive Study of Romanian and Hungarian Ethno-Pagan Blogs on the Net” in The Role of New Media in Journalism, Drulă Georgeta, Liliana Roşca & Ruxandra Boicu (eds), (Bucharest: Editura Universităţii din Bucureşti, 2011.

NOTES 1. Many Romanians may not have even ever heard of it, as noted in Rozália Klára Bakó & László Attila Hubbes, “Religious Minorities’ Web Rhetoric: Romanian and Hungarian Ethno-Pagan Organizations,” Journal for the Study of Religions and Ideologies 10(30) (2011), 128. 2. Radu Petre Mureşan, “Forme ale neopăgânismului în societatea contemporană română,” doctoral dissertation, (Bucharest: Facultatea de Teologie, 2010). 3. Vilmos Ágoston, Magyar és román szélsőséges honlapok, Műhelytanulmány 35 (Budapest: Európai Összehasonlító Kisebbségkutatások Közalapítvány, 2008). 4. Mircea Babeş, “Renasterea Daciei?” Observatorul Cultural 3 (2003, September), 185. 5. The religious figure of Zalmoxis (sometimes spelled Salmoxis or Zamolxis) is attested in ancient sources such as Herodotus’ Histories. For the term “Zalmoxianism” see Bakó and Hubbes, “Religious Minorities’ Web Rhetoric,” 132. 6. Bakó & Hubbes, “Religious Minorities’ Web Rhetoric,” 128–9. 7. Norman Fairclough, “Peripheral Vision: Discourse Analysis in Organization Studies: the Case for Critical Realism,” Organization Studies 26(6) (2005). 8. Bakó & Hubbes, “Religious Minorities’ Web Rhetoric,” 128. 9. Neville Drury, “The Modern Magical Revival,” in Handbook of Contemporary Paganism, James R. Lewis & Murphy Pizza (eds) (Leiden: Koninklijke Brill NV, 2009), 13. 10. Mihaela Frunză, “Feminitate și occultism,” Journal for the Study of Religions and Ideologies 2(5) (2003), 128. 11. George Lundskow, The Sociology of Religion: A Substantive and Transdisciplinary Approach (Thousand Oaks, CA: Pine Forge Press, 2008), 4; Bakó & Hubbes, “Religious Minorities’ Web Rhetoric,” 131. 12. Tamás Szilágyi & Réka Szilárdi, Istenek ébredése: A neopogányság vallástudományi vizsgálata [Awakening of Gods: A Study of Contemporary Paganism in the Field of Religious Studies] (Szeged: Vallás a társadalomban —Religion in Society JATEPress, 2007), 27–9. 13. Hubbes, “Ancient Voices: A Contrastive Study of Romanian and Hungarian Ethno-Pagan Blogs on the Net”. In The Role of New Media in Journalism. Georgeta Drulă, Liliana Roşca & Ruxandra Boicu (eds), 181–206. Bucharest: Editura Universităţii din Bucureşti, 2011. 14. Gregory Price Grieve, “Imagining a Virtual Religious Community: NeoPagans and the Internet,” Chicago Anthropology Exchange 7 (1995); Judit

15. 16.


18. 19. 20. 21. 22. 23.

24. 25.


27. 28.

Kis-Halas, “Újboszorkánykultuszok a 20. században. A wiccától a cyberboszorkákig,” RUBICONline 14(7) (2005), 7; also Szilágyi & Szilárdi, Istenek ébredése, 17–37. Bakó & Hubbes, “Religious Minorities’ Web Rhetoric,” 129. Michael York, Pagan Theology: Paganism as a World Religion (New York: New York University Press, 2003), 187, fn. 218; Margot Adler, Drawing Down the Moon: Witches, Druids, Goddess-Worshippers, and Other Pagans in America (Boston, MA: Beacon, 1986), 233–82. Timothy Jay Alexander, Hellenismos Today (Raleigh, NC: Lulu Press, 2007), 16, cited in Piotr Wiench, “Neo-Pagan Groups in Central-Eastern Europe,” in Groups and Environments: Interdisciplinary Research Studies, vol. 2, E. Ramanauskaitė (ed.) (Kaunas: Vytautas Magnus University, 2011), 105. Michael F. Strmiska (ed.) Modern Paganism in World Cultures: Comparative Perspectives (Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, 2005), 19. Bakó & Hubbes, “Religious Minorities’ Web Rhetoric,” 131. E.g., the term “Ethnic Religion” appears in official names and self-definitions like, or Romanian Zalmoxian and Dacologist forum-users use a variety of terms referring to themselves, like autochthonic spirituality or autochthonic creed or belief, without a firm consecutiveness however. Bakó & Hubbes, “Religious Minorities’ Web Rhetoric,” 131. Edgar Papu, “Protocronismul romanesc” [“Romanian Protochronism”], Secolul XX 5–6 (1974), passim.; Cătălin Borangic, “Fenomenul dacoman: promotori şi aderenţi,” Buletinul Cercurilor Ştiinţifice Studenţeşti, Arheologie —Istorie—Muzeologie 14 (2008), 119–37. See Chapter 15 in this volume. Victor A. Shnirelman, Russian Neo-pagan Myths and Antisemitism, Analysis of Current Trends in Antisemitism 13 (Jerusalem: Hebrew University of Jerusalem, 1998); Victor A. Shnirelman, “‘Christians! Go home’: A Revival of Neo-Paganism between the Baltic Sea and Transcaucasia (An Overview),” Journal of Contemporary Religion 17(2) (2002), 198. Bakó & Hubbes, “Religious Minorities’ Web Rhetoric,” 135–6; László Attila Hubbes, “Ethno-pagan Groups’ Web Rhetoric,” in Székek: Vizuális találkozások a hatalommal [The Chair: Visual Encounters with Power], R. K. Bakó (ed.) (Kolozsvár: Erdélyi Múzeum-Egyesület/Transylvanian Museum Society, 2011); Hubbes, “Ancient Voices.” Olteanu, “Teme Tracomanice.” Alexandra Tomiţă, O istorie “glorioasă.” Dosarul protocronismului românesc (Bucharest: Cartea Românească, 2007), 31–2.

29. We have elaborated on the rhetorical aspects of CMC in Bakó & Hubbes, “Religious Minorities’ Web Rhetoric,” 131, 141–6, and annexes; Rozália Klára Bakó, “Computer-Mediated Identities: Ethno-Pagan Organisations on the Web”. In The Role of New Media in Journalism. Georgeta Drulă, Liliana Roşca & Ruxandra Boicu (eds), 171–80. Bucharest: Editura Universităţii din Bucureşti, 2011. 30. Bogdan Mihai Radu, “Young Believers or Secular Citizens? An Exploratory Study of the Influence of Religion on Political Attitudes and Participation in Romanian High-school Students,” Journal for the Study of Religions and Ideologies 9(25) (2010), 25. 31. Dino Enrico Cardone, “Programming the Apocalypse: Recombinant Narrative in Cyberspace,” doctoral dissertation, the Faculty of the Graduate School University of Southern California, 2007. 32. As an isolated statistic, Lupu reported that in 2007 there were 500 members in 15 branches of the Gebeleizis Society. Margareta Lupu, “Tineri fără Dumnezeu” [“Godless Youth”], Monitorul de Sibiu (26 June 2007). 33. Institutul Naţional de Statistică, Romania în Cifre—2010 (2010), 11; Institutul Naţional de Statistică, COMUNICAT DE PRESĂ privind rezultatele preliminare ale Recensământului Populaţiei şi al Locuinţelor—2011 (24 August 2012), 2, 12, 34. Réka Szilárdi, “A magyarországi neopogány közösségek” [“Neopagan Communities in Hungary”], Debreceni Disputa 5(5) (2007), 71. 35. Sarah M. Pike, Earthly Bodies, Magical Selves: Contemporary Pagans and the Search for Community (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2001), xiii, xx. 36. Adrian Ivakhiv, “Nature and Ethnicity in East European Paganism: An Environmental Ethic of the Religious Right?” Pomegranate 7(2) (2005), 196. 37. Shnirelman, Russian Neo-Pagan Myths; Shnirelman, “‘Christians! Go home’.” 38. Shnirelman, “‘Christians! Go home’,” 204. 39. The Pagan Federation International has a Romanian page (, but there are no actual Romanian groups listed there, and the forums are quite silent. Wiccan schools have been announced, but the last activity advertised on the main site is dated March 2011. Recently (2011) an organization of Romanian witches has formed under the name “Wicca Romania—Asociatia Vrajitoarelor din Romania” (see A relevant example of academic interest in the phenomenon is the study of Mihaela Frunză, “Feminitate și occultism,” on feminity and occultism. 40. Mureşan, “Forme ale neopăgânismului,” 5, fn. 11.

41. Borangic, “Fenomenul dacoman,” 127–8, 133–4. 42. Lucian Boia, Történelem és mítosz a román köztudatban: Történelem és mítosz a román köztudatban [History and Myth in Romanian Consciousness], Hungarian translation by András János (Bucharest: Kriterion, 1999). Original Romanian edition: Istorie şi mit în conştiinţa românească (Bucharest: Humanitas, 1997); Babeş, “Renasterea Daciei?”; Irina Manea, “Dacomania sau cum mai falsificam istoria,” (2011),; Lupu, “Tineri fără Dumnezeu.” 43. Beside the founders and developers of the Dacian-Pelasgian myth like Haşdeu and Densuşianu, there were interwar authors like Portocală, Bărbulescu-Dacu, and Brătescu-Voineşti, and more recent ideologues like Papu, Drăgan, Săvescu, and Sărbătoare. The topic has also been addressed by major poets (Eminescu), philosophers (Blaga), and scholars (Eliade). 44. Boia, Történelem és mítosz a román köztudatban, 86–90; Babeş, “Renasterea Daciei?”; Tomiţă, O istorie “glorioasă”; Manea, “Dacomania sau cum mai falsificam istoria.” 45. Katherine Verdery, Compromis şi rezistenţă: Cultura româna sub Ceauşescu (Bucharest: Editura Humanitas, 1994). 46. Nicolae Densuşianu, Dacia preistorică [Prehistoric Dacia] (Bucharest: Institutul de Arte Grafice “Carol Göbl,” 1913). Available online in English translation from 47. The “Legionary movement” was named after the right-wing Legion of Michael the Archangel founded in 1927. It evolved into the Iron Guard and dominated the so-called “National Legionary State” (1940–1). 48. Manea, “Dacomania sau cum mai falsificam istoria.” 49. Iosif Constantin Drăgan, jurist and billionaire, was a sympathizer, then member, of the Iron Guard. He emigrated to Italy only to be expelled by the Communists in 1948, but later became close friend of the Communist dictator Nicolae Ceauşescu, and after 1989 supported far-right leaders like Corneliu Vadim Tudor. He published an ultranationalist journal called Noi Dacii (“We Dacians”) promoting protochronist ideas. 50. Three small clay objects discovered in 1961 in Romanian soil. Their dating, and the significance of writing-like marks on their surface, remain controversial. 51. Olteanu, “Teme Tracomanice.” 52. “Full the Younger”—a Romanian word-play with the name of Roman historian Pliny the Younger. 53. Plinul cel tanar (pseud.), “Teme Tracomanice,”; comment on 1 September 2006

54. 55.


57. 58. 59. 60.



63. 64. 65. 66. 67. 68. 69. t=28&sid=7342c47a3771eb246b5cedce808d72f7 Manea, “Dacomania sau cum mai falsificam istoria.” Gheorghe Gavrila Copil, Testamentul Zalmosian Daco-Roman (Bucharest: Editura Dacoromānă, 2006); Octavian Sărbătoare, Pe calea lui Zalmoxe [On the Way of Zalmoxis], (Sydney: Sarbatoare Publications, 2009); Sărbătoare, Evanghelia dacilor sau viata lui Iisus Marele initiat din Dacia [Gospel of the Dacians or the Life of Jesus the Great Initiate of Dacia] (Bucharest: Editura Morosan, 2011). Copil, Testamentul Zalmosian; Gheorghe Stroe & Gheorghe Gavrila Copil, Codul lui Zalmoxis. File din Testamentul Zalmosian Dacoroman [The Zalmoxis code. Files from the Daco-Romanian testament of Zalmoxis] (Bucharest: Editura Dacoromānă, 2006); Sărbătoare, Pe calea lui; Octavian Sărbătoare, “Renaşterea Zamolxianismului, religia străbunilor românilor” [“Renascence of Zalmoxianism, the Religion of the Ancestors”] (Deva: Editura Flori Spirituale, 2009), 11–13, Sărbătoare, Pe calea lui; Sărbătoare, “Renaşterea Zamolxianismului”; Sărbătoare, Evanghelia dacilor; Copil, Testamentul Zalmosian. Grieve, “Imagining a Virtual Religious Community,” 87. Ibid., 95. Robert Glenn Howard, “An End Times Virtual ‘Ekklesia’: Ritual Deliberation in Participatory Media,” in The End is All Around Us: Apocalyptic Texts and Popular Culture, John Walliss & Kenneth G. C. Newport (eds) (London: Equinox Publishing, 2009); Heidi Campbell, When Religion Meets New Media (New York: Routledge, 2010). Tim O’Reilly, “What Is Web 2.0?: Design Patterns and Business Models for the Next Generation of Software,” Communication and Strategies 65(1) (2007), 17; Barbara Warnick, Rhetoric Online: Persuasion and Politics on the World Wide Web (New York: Peter Lang Publishing, 2007), 15. Mary E. Hocks, “Understanding Visual Rhetoric in Digital Writing Environments,” College Composition and Communication 54(4) (2003); Bakó & Hubbes, “Religious Minorities’ Web Rhetoric,” 141, 146–8; Bakó, “Computer-Mediated Identities.” See See See See See See See

70. See 71. Further information may be found in our already finished studies (Bakó & Hubbes, “Religious Minorities’ Web Rhetoric”; Hubbes, “Ethno-pagan Groups’ Web Rhetoric”; Hubbes, “Ancient Voices”; Bakó, “ComputerMediated Identities”). 72. See 73. See Bakó, “Computer-Mediated Identities.” 74. See 75. From 492 voters, 410 (83.3 percent) voted for the change, as of 16 December 2011. 76. Not to be mistaken with the underground music journal with the same name and similar web-address: 77. Bogdan Petriceicu Haşdeu was also among the first promoters of the mythologizing Dacian pride. 78. Olteanu, “Teme Tracomanice.” 79. With titles like “The Borders of the Getic Empire,” “Prehistoric Dacia,” “The Valachian Paganism in the twelfth century,” “Judaic Religion in the Time of Jesus (Yehoshua),” “The Great Goddess Bendis,” “Pagan Origins of Christmas,” etc. 80. See 81. Containing homemade video-clips and captured TV-documentaries on various religious and historical themes. 82. Bakó & Hubbes, “Religious Minorities’ Web Rhetoric”, 142–4. See also 83. Gebeleizis is not an isolated case; Hungarian Ethno-Pagan pages also link to the sites of Viking/Germanic Neopagan or even Neo-Nazi organizations. 84. Bakó & Hubbes, “Religious Minorities’ Web Rhetoric.” 85. Margareta Lupu, “Tineri fără Dumnezeu” [“Godless Youth”], Monitorul de Sibiu (26 June 2007). 86. All information on this group comes from a text in English appearing on the mentioned website, signed “Alexaner Michael,” possibly transcribed from a written letter (the online text shows a number of mistakes in copying proper names), with apologies for not participating personally. Although the group is now untraceable, the text shows that there have been initiatives to organize such groups whether informally or institutionally, and also there is a desire to contact and join international Neopagan initiatives. 87. See 88. Hocks, “Understanding Visual Rhetoric.” 89. Helen A. Berger, “Are Solitaries the Future of Paganism?” Patheos (23 August 2010),; Bakó, “Computer-Mediated Identities.”

90. Bakó, “Computer-Mediated Identities.”


INTRODUCTION Among the numerous Western and Eastern religions that have arrived in Eastern Europe after the fall of communism, we can find contemporary Pagan tendencies as well. Although Wicca, Ásatrú, and Celtic traditions have not yet struck significant roots in these societies, contemporary Pagan groups connected to local traditions have flourished. These Eastern European communities emphasize the need to return to pre-Christian national–tribal traditions, and many of their members are politically active and belong to radical right-wing parties. This chapter examines the historical roots of Hungarian contemporary Paganism, its most important organizations and main ideas. The key features of these movements are discussed. There are also contemporary Hungarian groups which use Christian terminology, and mix Pagan and Christian religious elements together.

THE ROOTS OF HUNGARIAN NEOPAGANISM If we want to understand the narratives of Hungarian contemporary Paganism, we first have to look back to eighteenth- and nineteenth-century studies that dealt with the origin of the Hungarian people and the Hungarian language. Born between the Enlightenment and Romanticism, Herder’s vision of the “death of the nation” encouraged a swift rescue effort1 and the early examinations of the Hungarian national tradition employed rather reckless methods. The Hungarian Scientific Society produced a number of Romantic theories about the affinity between Hungarian and Hebrew, Hungarian and Persian, or Hungarian and Ancient Egyptian. Connections with these ancient civilizations sounded more aristocratic than kinship with the Finno-Ugric peoples,2 and such glorious pedigrees were important to bolstering the identity of Hungarians under the rule of the Hapsburg Empire. From the second half of the seventeenth century onwards, connections were also suggested with languages like Turkish, Mongolian, Etruscan, Hittite, Basque, Greek, Sanskrit, Tibetan, and Japanese.3 In 1770, János Sajnovics published his work Demonstratio idioma Ungarorum et Lapponum idem esse, which proved the connection between Hungarian and the other Finno-Ugric languages. This led to the mainstream Hungarian historical linguistics accepted by academia today. Nonetheless, in the first half of the nineteenth century we can see a resurgence of poorly founded hypotheses about the primordial past.4 In the meantime, research into Hungarian religion also commenced. The first person to assume the task was Arnold Ipolyi, the Bishop of Oradea/Nagyvárad. His monumental work Magyar Mythológia (“Hungarian Mythology”) was finished in 1854. His aim was to compile a volume similar to Deutsche Mythologie published by Grimm in Germany. Voigt summarized the difference as follows: “Ipolyi, who was later accused of constructing a kind of mythology, realized himself that there are no Hungarian deities; there are no myths in the classical sense. His mythology is quite like Deutsche Mythologie—however … without gods.”5 Although modern scholars regard his findings as obsolete, in some

contemporary Pagan publications Ipolyi is still used as an important source. During the first half of the twentieth century, theories promoted the cultural relationship between the Hungarians and Japanese, Chinese, Greek, or English. After the Second World War, some claimed to have found connections between the Hungarians and Ancient Egyptians, Mayans, or Etruscans. Finally, in the 1980s and 1990s, individuals such as Zoltán Paál, László Pataky, and Plessa Elek espoused the theory that the ancient Hungarian culture and religion was brought here by the settlers from distant planets. One of the central reasons why this train of thought has managed to stay active was that the experience of Austrian and Soviet oppression fed nationalistic sentiments. Ida Bobula, an enthusiastic propagator of the alleged Sumer–Hungarian relationship, lamented that “[Hungarians] humbly kept on harvesting the darnel sown by malicious German and Semitic experts, throughout generations … reinforcing the belief that the conquering Hungarians were a totemic tribe with a primitive religion.”6 This sort of apprehension of a “falsified” mainstream history is typical of the alternative school of Hungarian historiography which is important to our topic.7 The reconstructed Pagan movements in Hungary participate in this tradition of a radical reinterpretation of national culture and the historical origin of the nation, emphasizing “national character,” the heroic past, and the continuity of ancient traditions.

HUNGARIAN NEOPAGAN NARRATIVES In the preface to Károly Rédei’s book The Questions of Our Ancient History, a scientific response to these alternative theories, Péter Domokos wrote: in connection with the political … changes in the last decades of the 20th century non-scientific teachings, views, “schools” arose and were established both in the field of sociology and the natural sciences. This can all be connected to insecurity: the unpredictable future, the uncertain ideologies and value system, the personal and spiritual disorder of the masses. This is also the explanation for the spread of small rather aggressive sects.8 As Rédei wrote in the same book: The activity of amateur “scientists” living in most cases abroad was hardly known (because of the publishing politics of the Kádár-era). After the fall of Socialism … along with freedom and liberalism came anarchy—not only on the fields of economy and society but also intellectually.9 This ideological uncertainty will be somewhat more understandable if we analyze the narratives of the “reconstructed Pagan orientation.”

ANCIENT MISSION OF HUNGARY The notion of a direct continuity between the Sumerian and Hungarian peoples became fairly popular during the twentieth century. The first local popularize of a hypothetical Turanian linguistic family which embraced both Sumerian and Hungarian languages was Gyula Ferenczy, working at the turn of the twentieth century.10 Shortly thereafter, other authors began to claim a direct Sumerian–Hungarian line of descent. The post-war wave of theories about Sumerian–Hungarian ties was mainly due to the work of researchers living in exile abroad. These researchers (including Ferenc Badiny Jós, Ida Bobula, Tibor Baráth, Viktor Padányi, and András Zakar) selectively use historical facts and linguistic methods to justify their unorthodox views.11 This trend became popular in Hungary after the fall of communism, when many of its proponents returned from exile and publishers like Püski disseminated their theories as a national mission. Ferenc Badiny Jós, one of the leading figures in this Hungarian Sumerology, established his own university department in Miskolc, which became the center of so-called “Hungarology” research. Badiny Jós is probably the most important figure in this trend regarding its influence on Neopagan spirituality. Badiny Jós states that Jesus Christ was not ethnically Jewish, but Parthian (which he further identifies with Scythian–Hunnish). He argues that Jesus was a royal prince of that people and the “Álmos-Árpád Hungarian royal dynasty is the direct continuation and descendants of our Lord Jesus—the dynasty of the Adiabene Parthian royal prince.”12 Jós’s theory is one attempt to sacralize the Hungarian nation. It makes Hungary stand out from other nations in origin and mission, and its fate influences the whole of human civilization. The works of the authors mentioned above have become part of the alternative Hungarological “canon” and are the sources of citation for second- and third-generation researchers. An important variation on this narrative is represented by Gábor Pap, an art historian who propagates the German writer Heribert Illig’s hypothesis of the “phantom middle ages.” This theory posits that the three centuries of the Middle-Ages did not exist in reality. The creation of these centuries

was a conspiracy by the lords of Rome, the German–Roman Empire, and Byzantium. The time between 614CE and 911CE is argued to be a mere falsification. Why is this period so important for the Hungarians? The settlement of the Hungarians in the Carpathian Basin under Grand Prince Árpád goes back to the end of the ninth century in mainstream history. But some chronicles only record five generations between Attila the Hun and Álmos the father of Árpád, which counts as 150 years in Pap’s calculations (not roughly 450 years as reported in mainstream history). By removing the “phantom” extra centuries, the Huns and Hungarians are revealed to be the same people.13 According to Pap’s theory, the true history of the Hungarian sacred kingdom is also interrupted by the fictional character and empire of Charlemagne. This sheds a rather different light on the whole of Hungarian history, giving room for further “alternative” theories.

PILIS AND THE HEART CHAKRA OF THE EARTH For the supporters of these newfound historical paradigms, the Pilis Mountains represent one proof of the ancient continuity. Many books and papers claim that the ruins in Pilis are from an ancient sacred center which was founded by Hunnish–Hungarian progenitors. The castle of Ancient Buda, which was built upon the city of Attila according to the chronicles, the coronation and burial place of the Árpád dynasty, and even the tomb of Árpád himself stood here according to this theory.14 The folklorist Lajos Szántai claims that archeological research has shown there has always been continuity in treating the “Pilis triangle” as a sacred location because the most important traces remained there of the Scythian–Hunnish–Avar–Hungarian royal line. But Pilis is not only important as a royal center. The first sanctuary of the “Pálos” order (the Pauline Fathers)15 was located there. One theory assumes that this nominally Roman Catholic order was sheltering pagan priests, hermits, and unconverted adherents of the old belief, and they were therefore persecuted.16 Szántai states that Özséb “the Faithful” (founder of the order) renewed a pre-Christian spiritual movement in Pilis. The faith of the Pálos monks and the Hungarian nation was deeply bound together as the members of the order fulfilled a national mission “which has one purpose of great importance: to make the Hungarians see their past, present, and future in time.”17 Some of the researchers of the Pilis “secret,” such as Lajos Aradi and Lajos Szántai, introduced a concept adopted from the Hindu tradition: Pilis as the “heart chakra” of the Earth. Just as in the human body, where seven main energy centers or “chakras” are distinguished in Indian medicine, so the Earth also holds these seven centers of energy. In the Hungarian interpretation, two of them—the crown and the heart chakra— can be found in the Pilis Mountains according to Lajos and Szántai. On a map, the Pilis Mountains form a shape of a heart together with the Danube. In the center lies Dobogókő which these researchers identify as the heart chakra, the most important energy center of the Earth. Lajos Aradi claimed that “Here you can find contact with God not only on a physical level but also on an energy level.”18 Aradi claims that it is now

scientifically accepted that the Orion constellation was the model for the positioning of the Egyptian pyramids. Furthermore, both the stars of this constellation and the layout of the pyramids match the layout of the Pilis Mountains. The ruins of Pálos monasteries can also be found to correlate with stars in the constellation. The Pilis Mountains grow to cosmic importance: following and protecting the traditions there influences the fate of the whole world. The ancestors of the Hungarians found their home here because they knew about the special sacred nature of the place and they were conscious of their mission to maintain the site. András Kovács, the founder of the Ancient Hungarian Táltos Church, also emphasizes the sacred role of Pilis, and the members of this Church regularly visit the “sacred places” there. Kovács writes: This is the point, the place, which bound the lord of the Earth to the lord of the sky through the ladder of wisdom, which was given to our nation by Jesus. This is the place of our king’s greatest dreams and their fulfillment, and these are the sacred places of their life in our land.19

TÁLTOS DISCOURSES Nearly all contemporary Pagan thinkers consider the Táltos to have been the basis of the ancient Hungarian religious system. The Táltos is similar to the concept of the Shaman of Eurasian and North American peoples The significance of [the Shaman and/or the Táltos] was that he could apprehend the world of spirits; he was able to travel among them with the help of entrancement, and he was able to mediate between the different levels of existence. Consequently, he contacted another world in an altered consciousness, to gain power and knowledge from there, for the sake of helping himself or others. It is important that he always traveled for the attainment of just one certain goal.20 According to Vilmos Diószegi, the task of the Shaman is the recognition and accomplishment of things required by the community, but unresolved due to the limitations of its own power.21 Mihály Hoppál claims that the tasks of the Shaman are “leading the community, guarding the ethnic consciousness, being a (sacrificial) priest, a spiritual leader, an expert on prophecies, a fortune-teller, a healer (‘javas’), a poet, a bard (‘minstrel’), and the protagonist in the drama of shamanization.”22 The chief mediators of the specifically Hungarian Táltos concept are Imre Máté, Attila Heffner, Zoltán Nagy Sólyomfi, András Kovács, Tamás Hervay, and Gábor Szemző. Although they belong to different organizations (described later in this chapter), they agree on questions such as the specific monotheism of the Táltos faith, and the mediating, teaching, and healing function of the Táltos. They all claim that the Táltos symbolizes the bridge between the celestial and the earthly worlds, between the irrational and the rational, the endless and the finite. Táltoses are able to understand and to interpret transcendent phenomena to the people. Attila Heffner claimed: “Táltoses opened up, expanded their consciousness to this world, which is not perceivable in a normal state of the mind. During the so called soul-journey, or to use a more ancient word, entrancement (révülés),23 they brought answers to questions, healing to

diseases, seeing events of past and future, with the help of a purposive, goal-oriented action in this broader horizon of the existing world.”24 The Táltos functions as “religious specialist.” During healing procedures, the treatment of spiritual causes is regarded as elementary. In several cases, they apply methods of domestic or popular medicine, often using drums to amplify the effect of the healing. Exercises to eliminate harmful spiritual thoughts—for example, by directed meditation—play an important role. The Táltos shares his worldviews and beliefs as an instructor. Ideas may be passed on in an organized framework—in schools (e.g. the School of the Ancient Source of Zoltán Nagy Sólyomfi, or the Táltos School operated by András Kovács), through lectures, or in discussion circles. The techniques of getting in touch with the transcendent (trance, “révülés”) are taught through the active participation in ceremonies and rituals. The Táltos also fulfills Hoppál’s role of “guardian of the ethnic consciousness.” The Pagan leader Attila Heffner claims that the shamanic quality is a characteristic of the system of universal human culture, while the Táltos is specifically the guardian and executive of the Hun, Székely and Hungarian human world and traditions. Whereas a shaman can be a member of any culture (African, American, Asian, Indonesian, etc.) we know a lot of examples from all over the world, a Táltos pronouncedly exists in accordance with the spirituality of our Hungarian culture saturated in the appreciation of Jesus.25 In these narratives, the Táltos is commonly represented as responsible for the entire nation. This extends the local community to the borders of the nation; the goals of prayers and individual actions are often the “reawakening” of the nation and its national consciousness. This trend may also connect the craft of the Táltos with the royal House of Árpád (the first ruling dynasty of Hungary) and link it with descent from Jesus.

SETTLERS FROM SIRIUS Another trend in Hungarian Pagan thought could be labeled as an esoteric synthesis of Pagan pluralism in which all of the theories above are mixed with popular Ufology and other New Age beliefs. The founder of the Church of the Universe, György Kisfaludy, for instance, has rather astonishing views about the Huns’ ancestors coming from Sirius, and populating the ancient island of Atais in the Pacific Ocean which was destroyed in a worldwide disaster. It is not surprising that he also claims that Hungarians are the descendants of the Sirius–Hun civilization. Furthermore, he presents his views in a semi-scientific style: Our ancestors have left us with such secrets that the greatest oceans seem to be puddles and the highest mountains seem to be mole hills compared to them … 6042 years ago, when our ancestors arrived on Earth, we already worshiped the same God that the present Hungarians (and mankind) worships today.26 The most widely known interpretation of Hungarian ancient pagan spirituality is probably that of András Kovács and his followers. Like Kisfaludy, they include notions drawn from Ufology and fringe science. They assert that Jesus came from a constellation called “Aquileia” [sic]. In some cases, in addition to more recognizably shamanic techniques, Kovács has prayed for planetary vibrations in order to heal his patients.

HUNGARIAN NEOPAGAN ORGANIZATIONS We often find appeals to “ancient religion” in the new religious boom in Hungary, even outside of those organizations which are most clearly Neopagan. In the following section I examine these ideas of “ancient religiosity” and their representations in some contemporary Pagan groups. The categorization of these groups was based on the belief systems described in the brochures provided by the leaders, and is summarized in Table 15.1. Table 15.1 The classification of contemporary Pagan groups Contemporary Pagan movements

Groups synthesizing diverse religious elements

Movements organized on the basis of national traditions Community of the Hungarian Religion Church of Esoteric Doctrines (Church of the Holy Crown) The Ancient Hungarian Church Yotengrit Church

Church of the Universe

Solar Cross Movement

Ancient Hungarian Táltos Church

Firebird Táltos Drum Circle People of Árpád Drum Circle Movements organized on the basis of other traditions The Celtic-Wicca Tradition Keepers’ Church Hungarian Fellowship of Witches Sodalitas Mithraica Confessional Church

ANKH Church of Eternal Life

NON-HUNGARIAN PAGAN TRADITIONS IN HUNGARY Among the “international” movements, Wicca has the greatest number of followers throughout Europe. The Celtic-Wicca Tradition Keepers’ Church was registered in Hungary in 1998. Nature is very central in this religious tradition. The founders are the keepers of the ancient European magical faith, Celtic druids, filis and bards whose intention is to establish a free intellectual organization that would combine the ancient traditions with the teachings of the modern Western Wicca … Wicca is a reviving nature cult that encourages contemporary people to revive and use the ancient faith and knowledge.27 According to the group leaders, the membership is around 300 and growing. The Hungarian Fellowship of Witches was founded in Zamárdi in 1990, but was officially registered only in 1992. They define their religious traditions by occultism and magic: The witches of our days awakened a number of seemingly unremembered, ancient “secret wisdoms.” Nowadays there are tens of thousands of witch organizations, but we may also find individual witches. The majority of them accept the teachings of Wicca, but often they amend it with some magical practices from some national traditions, or with rituals reconstructed upon pagan cults, or myths and occult theories and methodologies.28 The Sodalitas Mithraica Confessional Church blends a wide range of influences: the official Roman religion, Stoic philosophy, and the Mithras mystery cult, yet they are an autochthonic Hungarian organization. Its leader, Primus Magister, estimated that the group has 178 members and a further 350–400 visitors. The Church was officially registered in 1999.29 Another case of an organization that unites heterogeneous religious elements is the ANKH Church of Eternal Life which was founded in 1999 in Hungary. Even though the community emphasizes ancient Egyptian

traditions, they also incorporate heterogeneous religious elements, rather than a “purist” Khemetic reconstructionism: the ancient teachings arose when Gods came to Earth, when they handed the laws over to humans and interfered in the evolution of mankind. … The divine intervention happened in many continents and in many countries throughout many centuries. … We base our beliefs and researches on the fact that in the world of legend of ancient cultures … we may find this appearance everywhere. The myths are about a God of Creation that includes everything in itself, creation is the embodiment of both its conscious and unconscious half.30

NATIVE SYNCRETIC GROUPS There are groups that can be described as blending heterogeneous religious elements but which pay special attention to religious phenomena related to Hungary and Hungarians. The Church of Esoteric Doctrines, also known as the Church of the Holy Crown, displays this dualism in its two names. It was founded in 1996 and officially registered in 1997. Their religious symbols include the DNA double-helix, the Egyptian pyramids, and the Turul Bird (a mythical falcon-like bird, the totem animal of the Hungarian nation) with a religious tiara on its head. The Church also runs the so-called “ÓD Esoteric, Theological and Parapsychological Academy” and the “Our Mother, the Blessed Virgin National Academy.” The words “esoteric,” “theological,” “parapsychological,” and “national” suggest that the aim of the founders was to combine modernity with ancient traditions. The Church of the Universe and its president, György Péter Pál Kisfaludy, combine religious elements: they acknowledge the Bible, the Qur’an, and Hindu scriptures as well as aliens from Sirius in their doctrines. On the other hand we find references to Hungarian prehistory and holy manuscripts.31 Kisfaludy cites the Arvisura (“true words”), a book purporting to describe Hunnish history, as proof of his theories. This text was received by Zoltán Paál, a craftsman from Ózd, in a revelation. According to the story, Paál met Tura Szalavaré, the grandchild of the last Mansi shaman, during the Second World War.32 This meeting changed the course of Paál’s life and led to the writing of the book. The Arvisura was first published in 1998, and was followed by several reprints, but the text has only recently become a center of interest. The Ancient Hungarian Táltos Church was founded by András Kovács, who used to attend Kisfaludy’s lectures. According to their narratives, God the Father represented an ancient energy vibration that needed a “host,” a “Mother of God,” and thus was born the Sun God, Christ. Huns became the favorite nation of this holy trinity. The Church maintains that it was András Kovács who re-explored the ancient knowledge and who rediscovered the Shamanic intellect and cosmic vibrations. The fundamental aim of the Church is healing, and teaching how to heal by

mastering Shamanic techniques. For these aims Kovács founded the Táltos Academy. In spite of many syncretic elements, one would categorize the Ancient Hungarian Táltos Church as an organization based on national tradition. Kovács’s words on the homepage of the Ancient Hungarian Táltos Church make this clear: The Lord33 gave us this homeland! We are the folk and nation of the Lord! Has the Lord ever abandoned those who trusted him, lived according to his law, and followed his commands? Never! The Lord did not leave his Hungarians! The Hungarians left the Lord! Return to the Lord and he will protect you, lift you up, but you know this and see the beautiful happy future in front of you which was made by God, see Hungarians, for where there is no revelation, the soul decays and the whole nation decays with its souls!34

CONTEMPORARY PAGAN GROUPS BASED ON NATIONAL TRADITIONS The Ancient Hungarian Church’s residence in Hungary is in Mogyoród,35 and it was officially registered in 1998, but the community has existed since 1990 in Budapest. However, the Church’s international headquarters is located in Los Angeles, where it was established in 1972 as the Ancient Hungarian Church. The organization’s founder, László Hajdú Nimród, spends the majority of the year in the United States. Their religious traditions are drawn from ancient Hungarian religion, but also from such Eastern religions as Buddhism, Confucianism, Shintoism, and Taoism, as well as from Christianity. This multiplicity of sources might suggest syncretism, but the followers of this Church believe that all of them arose from Hungarian-Turan beliefs. This means that they are not mixing different religions, but that they are reuniting the scattered parts of the ancient Hungarian-Turan religion. They claim that only certain elements of the Hungarian Ancient Chronicles survived, but the missing fragments were preserved in Buddhism and Christianity. They have strict and specific religious regulations in terms of clothing, according to which the preachers wear white and purple clothes with folk embellishments. Among the religious celebrations are the Christian holidays, winter and summer solstices, national holidays, and the birthdays of great Hungarians. According to their self-definition, “we had not registered a new religion, but they returned to and revived the original.”36 Members may simultaneously be members of other religious organizations. The leader estimates that the Church has 150–200 members, with another 500 supporters and frequent visitors. In order to present the Community of the Hungarian Religion we have to return to the question of the Sumerian–Hungarian relationship. In the nineteenth century it was suggested that both Hungarian and Sumerian languages belonged to a hypothetical Turanian language family. In the twentieth century, this led to hypotheses that modern Hungarians are descended from an ancient Turanian culture with its own religion.

Based on these ideas, Zoltán Bencsi founded the Turanian Monotheist movement in the 1930s. After the Horthy government banned the organization, some of their followers went to abroad. One of these emigrants was Ottó János Homonnay who founded the Hungarian Turul Society in Canada in the 1960s and disseminated this Turanian hypothesis in the Hungarian diaspora. After Homonnay’s death in 1979, János Páll took over the leadership of the Society. The Community of the Hungarian Religion was founded in Hungary in 1992 as a continuation of the Turul Society’s work. The current leader of the church is Attila Kovács, according to whom the organization had 100 members in 1992, which by 1996 had increased to 850–1000 people. The Community of the Hungarian Religion considers itself a Pagan organization, and continuity with pre-Christian “paganism” is a central theme in their narratives. The Community of the Hungarian Religion is also anti-Christian. They consider the victory of Christianity in 1000ce under the Saint-King Stephen I of Hungary as a breaking point in the history of the Hungarian nation and the start of the repression of the Hungarian religion. They encourage Hungarian people to be proud of their origins, ancestors, history, traditions, and culture. They endorse the Sumerian–Hungarian kinship hypothesis and encourage the use of the Old Hungarian script.37 They describe the foundation of the Church as fulfilling a new need: “other religions do not have enough services and fail to give solutions for the troubles of contemporary people in the modern age.”38 Imre Máté, the leader of the Yotengrit religious group, announced his intention to found a Church on his website in 2007. Máté, whose title in the organization was bácsa, “master,” emigrated to Germany in 1956, but returned to spend his last years in Bágyogszovát, in western Hungary. He explained the Yotengrit spirituality as an ancient Hungarian religion, the so-called “Büün-religion,” which survived as an unwritten tradition in the tudó (“knower”) people living along the Rába (Raab) river in western Hungary. “Yotengrit—Church of the Ancient Spirit of the Endless Sea” (usually referred to simply as the “Yotengrit Church”) claims to convey the message of the ancestors for the sake of the survival and prosperity of the nation. The Church, according to the founder, was established to

promote the idea of solidarity in society and it condemns social conflict and parasitical exploiters. Imre Máté has published a series of nine books, entitled “Yotengrit.” Máté put great emphasis on the “theology” of the Hungarian religion and linguistic etymology. The name of the “first god” appears as “Tengrit,” “Tengri,” and “Yotengrit,” which is the name of the yet undivided protodeities. According to their theology, the Hungarian word tenger, meaning “sea,” points to this undifferentiated nature. According to Máté, the protodeity manifests in both female and male forms, creating Ukkó, the mother goddess, whose forehead is decorated with a moon, and Gönüz, the sunfaced male god. (The name Ukkó is more famously known from the Finnish Kalevala, where he appears in the role of the demiurge.) At the time of the foundation of the Church, he claimed: “in this Hungarian religion, it is very important that God is a very abstract concept; a spiritual power. He cannot be simply impersonated; whenever he was impersonated—Gönüz, Ukkó, or Boldogasszony (the Blessed Lady) —it was always the result of human imagination.” The God of Hungarians appears as “a heroic ancient spirit enlarged into a god.” This patron spirit was a hero named Má-Tun, who is the protagonist of the Hungarian tale “Fehérlófia” (“Son of the White Horse”), originally a totem animal ancestor. The character of Má is associated with the historical figure Maodu, a ruler of the Hsiung-nu Empire (based in the Mongolian steppes) who lived in the second and third centuries BCE. In Máté’s interpretation, Maodu was the founder of the first Hunnish Empire, and he is the unifier of what Máté called the Bow-Stretching Nations.39 Máté’s attitude toward politics was that “our Church is not a political organization, and it has no political background, but it can be a doctrinal source of sane, aggression-free national politics.” The same arguments can be found in the reflections on world political events that Máté published on the official website of the Church. Curiously, at the time of the registration, the chief executive of the Yotengrit Church was Zoltán Nagy Sólyomfi, who was already the charismatic leader of the Firebird Táltos Drum Circle, who left the Yotengrit Church, but—for unknown reasons—soon expressed his wish to return. This turn of events was reported on their official webpage by Máté,

who opposes his return because he is not entitled to return without a Church committee decision. The above-mentioned Firebird Táltos Drum Circle (Tűzmadár Táltos Dobkör) was founded in 2006 by Zoltán Nagy Sólyomfi. The group, according to its own account, respects all religions and spiritual paths. It does not regard itself as the only depositary of truth. The goals of the Drum Circle are: the revival of the ancient Hungarian spirituality, and mediating it to society in a modern, lively form. Helping the individual to gain understanding of him- or her-self, and to become One (Complete, Holy) and Whole and Sane. Moreover, another goal is the healing of the World Tree, which manifests itself through individuals.40 The beliefs of the Drum Circle are “based upon the ancient Hungarian conception of the world, the essence of which is the ONE (god; protodeity) which incorporates everything that exists.” In their system of thought, Sólyomfi and his followers talk about two worlds: the first, the “manifest world” is represented by the World Tree, while the second is the “un-manifested, unshaped Space,” in which “shared consciousness exists.” The emphasis of the Circle is on practices rather than dogmas. In addition to drumming, the group’s activities include the teaching of breathing and voice techniques. The praxis of the Circle “is an opportunity to understand the operation of ourselves, to put together our parts (halves) into a WHOLE, to become SANE, to become ONE.” Through these methods, the individual enters an “altered state of consciousness,” in which his or her “consciousness is widened, and becomes able to receive and recognize those manifestations which otherwise are unrecognizable in the everyday state of consciousness.” The group sets several goals for their activities, including celebrating festivals with gatherings and ceremonies (“birth, initiation, marriage, death, feasts of the Yearly Round”), “conserving and healing the living environment,” “researching the origins of the Hungarian nation,” “unearthing the spiritual history of the Hungarians,” “exploring the possibilities for the present and future of the Hungarian nation,” “finding individual purpose in life” and, in times of

crisis, “providing physical, mental and spiritual assistance.”41 Some of these goals are achieved through the Circle’s School of the Ancient Source (“Ősforrás Iskola”) which organizes camps, pilgrimages, and traditionkeeping gatherings. The People of Árpád Drumming Circle was established in 2006, led by Lehel Bakonyi. The founder first encountered Shamanism in 1996,42 and adopted his name at a ceremony in summer 2004. He claims to have learned “healing techniques,” with which he helps people who turn to him. His interest in Shamanism later turned toward Táltos (Tátos) culture and the origins of the Hungarians. The Drumming Circle operates within the larger framework of the “People of Árpád Tradition, Culture and Sport Association.” The Drumming Circle members gather on every second Wednesday to play drums, sing, enter trances, and to talk. Attila Heffner and his Solar Cross Movement is a somewhat exceptional case, because it is not an easily delineated organization, but a loose clique of people who join Heffner at events that he organizes. He maintains good relationships with a variety of Shamanic/Neopagan groups, hence he is often involved in jointly organized events. Heffner appeared on the Hungarian Pagan scene in 2005 as a musician and drum manufacturer. According to his views: the tradition, the HERITAGE spans several thousand years; it originates in timelessness. The DOCTRINE is not of earthly origin, but it is the ORIGINAL COSMIC TEACHING, which our star-ANCESTORS once brought down to the Earth. We HUNScythians have inherited it from certain ancient civilizations/LEMURIA, ATAIS, MÚ, etc. As a confirmation, Jesus absorbed it into the world of our HUN–ancestors … then came our Solar King, MASTER ATTILA bearing the talents of an AVATAR, who shocked the world with an overwhelming force … Based on the Doctrine, a real-existing empire was born, which could have been the largest empire that ever existed until today. It is remarkable that in the teaching and knowledge of the PAULINE order43 up to King Matthias44 the

secretly transferred DOCTRINE can be observed. It is interesting; however, foreign powers gained control over the keepers of our free traditions and habits, beginning at the era of Vajk-István45 … the Doctrine of the Sacred Crown46 still managed to pass on our wealth and knowledge to this day. … which brings us to the darkest and saddest difficulties, even exceeding the darkness of the Middle Ages. Over the course of twenty years of repression, they confiscated nearly all our material legacy which we had inherited from our ancestors. That knowledge has not perished, but gains new power, and rises again from our dreams. We live in a historic period, when everything changes again smoothly, quietly and peacefully. The time is coming when we will once again become a brilliant nation; we will occupy our worthy place, and we can wash clean our fabricated past. Everything will smoothly return under the authority of the CROWN, no matter whether our plunderers like it or not. Hundreds of thousands of people will finally simultaneously awaken from their Sleeping Beauty dream.47 Heffner, along with Tamás Hervay, the “soul-lifting Táltos” and János Majercsik Oguz, who do not have a community around them, appear at nearly all Neopagan events, giving lectures. They are regarded as the most charismatic figures on the Hungarian Pagan scene.

CHARACTERISTICS OF NATIONAL NEOPAGAN COMMUNITIES In their attempt to reconstruct an explicitly Hungarian religion, communities and leaders have a tendency to demonstrate a few salient characteristics. Not all communities will show all of these characteristics in the same way, nor to the same extent, but they are striking when we compare and contrast the Hungarian case with the contemporary Paganisms of the Western world.

Exclusivity and intolerance Many Hungarian National Neopagan communities adopt nationalistic attitudes, organize their community in an exclusive way, and exhibit political intolerance. Even among the members of the Celtic-Wicca Tradition Keepers’ Church, allusions to ancient Hungarian roots regularly appear. All these are contrary to the conspicuous values of most Western contemporary Pagan groups, (such as tolerance, pluralism, etc.). However, they are articulated along the same principle of re-mythologization of roots. Pluralism appears in the thinking of Hungarian contemporary Pagans as a factor that disturbs identity. The vacuum of values after the fall of the Iron Curtain, along with the “invasion” of the multi-faceted cultural market, created an identity crisis in the countries of the region, which, in the case of the reconstructed Pagan groups, resulted in a reaction against the pluralism instead of an adoption of postmodern heterogeneity.

The sacred nation Communities create the most pervasive and comprehensive self-definition possible; therefore, they take efforts to blend the linguistic–national, religious, and political forms of identity into a single unit. To achieve this goal, they have formed a view of history and historical linguistics in which the Hungarians appear as a pure and primordial people, as the continuation of great ancient civilizations.

During this process, the linguistic, national, and political categories are sacralized. Being a chosen people plays an important role in their philosophy and causes exclusiveness and intolerance of other religions and sexual orientations, as well as of different national or political affiliations.

Ethnic and minority attitudes The revival of archaic traditions is often seen as a restoration of the ethnic religion, which also means that a strong separation of “us” and “them” appears in the narratives of these communities. This aspect appears within the perception of the nation itself: committed/real Hungarians as a minority versus the majority—comprised of other Hungarians. Hence we are facing two concepts of “Hungarianness”: the minority as a symbolic core, the possessor of the (religious and national) truth; and the majority, as an objective category of identification. A further curiosity is the branch of Hungarian contemporary Paganism which treats Christianity as a continuation of an ancient Hungarian religious tradition. Here Paganism, inherently a nature religion, is integrated with doctrines which are completely atypical of Western Paganism.

Political activity These characteristics result in political commitment, which means support for the radical right in the Hungarian case. The concept of the sacred nation, the consecrated (alternative) history of the nation, and the language, the emerging xenophobia, along with the anti-pluralist and antiglobalist approaches, are strands that when brought together seem to strengthen the idea that the beliefs of Hungarian contemporary Pagan organizations and the politics articulated by the far right adjoin each other closely.

CONCLUSION The specific features of Central and Eastern European history have to be taken into account in discussing the Neopaganism of the region. Hungarians, trapped in the Hapsburg monarchy and later in the Soviet sphere of influence, inevitably created forms of group identity in which standing “against something” played a crucial role. More recently, Hungarians have also experienced the identity crisis which has affected all of the post-communist countries. Religious identities can be seen as aggregations which have the capacity to provide a unitary framework for the several parts of identity. As a consequence, forms of self-identification can become conjoined.48 Their effect is especially compelling because the religious “truth of faith” can be supported by the national identity, and national identity by religious faith. In conclusion, when examining the regional categories of contemporary Paganism, we can ascertain that the results from Western research are not fully applicable in Hungary. Hence, examining the Hungarian case in contrast, as well as in comparison, to the global phenomenon will be fruitful for the study of religion, social psychology, and political science, requiring an interdisciplinary approach.

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS The section headed “Characteristics of National Neopagan Communities” is based on my earlier article on “Hungarian Paganism: Réka Szilárdi” [“Ancient Gods—New Ages”], in Pomegranate 11(1) (2009).

NOTES 1. The German philosopher Johann Gottfried Herder emphasized the importance of searching for a nation’s specific patterns of religion and identity; otherwise that nation would “sink” in the course of history. His prophecy regarding the Hungarian nation—that the surrounding Slavic ethnic groups would assimilate it—is a concept that is widely cited up to this day. 2. Vera Békési, “Nekünk nem kell a halzsíros atyafiság! Egy tudománytörténeti mítoss nyomában” [“We Do Not Need the Relationship with the Ugrian Brotherhood”], in Tanulmányok a magyar nyelvtudomány történetének témaköréből, Kiss Jenő & Szűts László (eds) (Budapest: Akadémiai Kiadó, 1991), 89–95. 3. Géza Bárczi, Lóránd Benkő, & Jolán Berrár, A magyar nyelv története [The History of the Hungarian Language] (Budapest: Tankönyvkiadó, 1978), 582– 92. 4. István Horváth (1784–1846) and his followers believed that Hungarian was the original language of humanity based on etymology (“The holy scripture sparkles from all sorts of Hungarian languages”); Károly Rédei, Őstörténetünk kérdései: A nyelvészeti dilettantizmus kritikája [The Questions of our Ancient History: The Critics of the Linguistic Dilettantism] (Budapest: Magyar Őstörténeti Könyvtár. Balassi Kiadó, 1998), 52. 5. Vilmos Voigt, A magyar folklór (Budapest: Osiris kiadó, 1998), 378. 6. From (no longer available). When growing, the weed darnel resembles wheat, but has no food value. 7. Ida Bobula, A magyar nép eredete valamint a sumir műszaki tudományok: ősi mezopotámiai régészeti leletek vizsgálata: 2000 magyar név szumír eredete és más rövidebb tanulmányai [The Origin of the Hungarian People and the Sumerian Technical Sciences: Analyses of Ancient Mesopotamian Remains] (Budapest: Anahita-Ninti, 2000). 8. Károly Rédei, Őstörténetünk kérdései: A nyelvészeti dilettantizmus kritikája [The Questions of our Ancient History: The Critics of the Linguistic Dilettantism] (Budapest: Magyar Őstörténeti Könyvtár. Balassi Kiadó, 1998), 9. 9. Ibid,. 49. 10. The word “Turan” refers to an area in ancient Persian sources, which was the land of a nomadic people living east of the Caspian Sea. “Turanian” was the name given by some nineteenth-century linguistic theories for a hypothetical language family, but it is no longer used in mainstream linguistics. Rédei, Őstörténetünk kérdései, 80.

11. There is a special field of study called tamana founded by Bátor VámosTóth. Tamana compares toponyms, surnames, and personal names from around the world. They believe that the structure of names reveals the existence of a primordial Carpathian Basin culture of “Homo semper” that predates the known civilizations of antiquity. 12. Jós Ferenc Badiny, A táltos Isten [The Táltos God] (Budapest: Magyar Ház, 2004). 13. Attila led a short-lived empire of Huns in the fifth century CE. Álmos and Árpád led the Magyars (Hungarians) in the ninth and tenth centuries CE. Although mainstream history does not discount the possibility that there may have been some cultural ties between the two peoples, they are generally not considered today to be directly related. 14. Németh Péter Noszlopi, Az Árpád-kori Buda nyomai a Pilisben [The Remains of Buda in the Pilis Mountains] (Budapest: Püski, 2003). 15. The “Pálos” order (Ordo Fratrum Sancti Pauli Primi Eremitae) is a male monastic order in the Roman Catholic Church, which was founded by Özséb (Blessed Eusebius), a prebendary in Esztergom, in the mid-thirteenth century. They were suppressed in most of the Hapsburg realms, including Hungary, in the eighteenth century. 16. László Mireisz, A magyar vallás [The Hungarian Religion] (Budapest: Vizsom Kiadó, 2004), 127. 17. Lajos Szántai, “Veszélyben a pálos rend fennmaradása” [“The Threatened Survival of the Pauline Order”], interview on Vasárnapi újság, Kossuth Radio, 4 September 2005. 18. Lajos Aradi, “Kultikus helyek a Pilisban” [“Cultic places of the Pilis”], Interview on Vasárnapi újság, Kossuth Radio, 5 January 2004. 19. See 20. Ágnes Kertész, “A neo-samanizmus szerepértelmezései” [“The RoleInterpretations of Neo-Shamanism”], manuscript held at the University of Pécs, Department for Communication and Media Studies, 2005, 29. 21. Vilmos Diószegi, Az ősi magyar hitvilág—Válogatás a magyar mitológiával foglalkozó XVIII–XIX. századi művekből (Budapest: Gondolat Kiadó, 1978), 60. 22. Mihály Hoppál, Sámánok: lelkek és jelképek [Shamans: Souls and Symbols] (Budapest: Helikon Kiadó, 1994), 12. 23. The word révülés is etymologically related to rév a ferry, carrying a sense of “ferrying across.” 24. Interview with Attila Heffner, 2008. 25. Interview with Attila Heffner, 2008. 26. See 27. The Hungarian Wicca group’s self-definition—quotation from

28. Brochure of The Hungarian Fellowship of Witches. 29. Interview with the leader of The Community of the Hungarian Religion 2006 and interview with the leader of The Sodalitas Mithraica Confession Church, 2005. 30. See (English translation by Réka Szilárdi). 31. Material from interview with Tibor Pávay, “Szoftmodern vallási hálózatok” [“Softmodern Religious Networks”], doctoral dissertation, Debrecen University, 2005. 32. The Mansi people are a Finno-Ugric people from the north of Russia. 33. It is unclear whether they speak about “the Lord” as in Christianity, or about a distinct Pagan deity—another example of syncretism. 34. See 35. A suburban village close to the capital, Budapest. 36. See 37. The Hungarian pre-Christian runic script, which is currently regaining some popularity among right-wing extremists. 38. Interview with the group leader in 2006. 39. Imre Máté, Yotengrit (Győr: Palatia Nyomda es Kiado, 2004), 53. The term Bow-Stretching Nations means the nations who used bows in a specific way in the Hunnish Empire. The expression is an example of the terminology that the Yotengrit Church uses and has hardly any connection to the mainstream study of history. 40. The quotations are from the official website of the organization: 41. Quotations and terms are from the Hungarian language website of the church, 42. The quotations were retrieved from the official website of the group at (no longer available). 43. The Roman Catholic monastic Order of Saint Paul the First Hermit. 44. Mathias Corvinus, a King of Hungary (reigned 1458–90) who was also a noted scholar, book collector, and patron of the Pauline Fathers. 45. Vajk was the original Pagan name of István I (Saint Stephen of Hungary), the first Christian king of Hungary. 46. The crown of Stephen I plays a crucial role in both the official and the unofficial history of Hungary. It is regarded as a state symbol and, as the crown of the first Christian king of the country, it is also an important symbol in the Roman Catholic Church in Hungary. 47. See 48. Krystyna Daniel & W. Cole Durham, “The Religious Identity as a Component Of National Identity: Implications For Emerging Church–State Relations in the Former Socialist Bloc,” in The Law of Religious Identity:

Models for Post-Communism, Andras Sajo & Shlomo Avineri (ed.) (The Hague: Kluwer Law International, 1999) 117–52.


THE LAST PAGAN NATION? The Mari are a Volga Finnic people found in a small geographic area of the Russian Federation.1 Mari intellectuals often call their people the “last Pagan nation of Europe” and present this as a source of national pride. This claim, that the Mari are a pillar of Paganism, has some grounds. Well into the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the Mari preserved many of their old folk rituals, habits, myths and legends, everyday practices, and customs. At least in comparison with their neighboring ethnic groups in the European north of Russia in the Volga and Ural regions—such as the Komis, Mordvas, Chuvash, Udmurts, Besermjans, Volga Tatars, and Bashkirs—it is clear that the Mari have more archaic spiritual traditions. At the beginning of the twentieth century the Russian ethnographer Dmitri ﬞi Zelenin marveled at how Mari women worked in the fields in the July heat with tightly wrapped feet and without removing their national costume, which includes a big, heavy head-dress. In the Mari people, Zelenin found the manifestation of an exceptionally strong sense of national identity and commitment to one’s own tradition. “Fearing and detesting all that is Russian, they say, ‘to kill our faith means to kill us,’ and about their Pagan prayers in the forest [they say]: ‘if we cease to go to the forest, we will die, our whole tribe will become extinct’.”2 Nevertheless, the process of developing ethnic unity within the Mari tribes took place relatively late. The earliest “common Mari prayer” (the term “prayer” in this case refers to a celebratory sacrifice) that literary documents mention took place in Vyatsk District, next to a spring in the village of Kyupryan Sola on 3 December 1828.3 In this well-attended public display of indigenous Mari prayer, a very large number of animals (99 of each type) were sacrificed and the event was acknowledged significant by the Mari as part of their nascent self-awareness as a people.4 However, the recorded beliefs and cults of the Mari in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries showed a great deal of local variation. Even though a common pantheon was already in the process of forming, their theological conceptions remained dispersed and varied in different tribal groups. Mari popular spiritual culture was influenced by Islam, which spread to the Volga region in the tenth century,5 and from the fifteenth century

onwards, by Orthodox Christianity. At the end of the sixteenth century the Mari were conquered by the Russian Empire and, in theory, converted to Russian Orthodoxy, although in practice the Mari continued many of their old practices relatively unhindered. Nonetheless, pressure to conform to Orthodoxy and assimilate into Russian culture was strong. In the 1870s, the growing strength of Russian Orthodox Christianity instigated a reformistrevival movement that sought to establish a set of characteristics to distinguish the traditional Mari faith from that of the Russians. This movement, Kugu-sorta (“Great Candle”),6 continued to spread into the early years of the twentieth century, and in the aftermath of the Russian Revolution they even declared independence and called for the eviction of Slavs from their territories. The Bolsheviks quickly quashed the new state and imprisoned many Mari intellectuals. In addition to religious repression, colonization of the region by Russian-speakers also increased. Although a Mari cultural revival had cautiously begun in the 1960s and 1970s, it could not openly re-emerge until the 1990s. Even during the Soviet times, within the isolated rural population of the Mari, certain elements remained well preserved: local and family prayers, reverence for the sacred grove, and similar “private” practices of the tradition. In the 1990s, some urban intellectuals among the Mari initiated an active process of restoration of the native faith. The conduct of these Pagan rituals extended the boundaries of family tradition into public space, and at this time public communal sacrifices and prayers reemerged. In the Republic of Mari El, there are 600 holy groves (kusoto), of which the majority have been taken under the protection of the state.7

STATISTICS ON THE MARI FAITH At the moment, Mari Paganism is composed of three basic groups. The first of these is Chimari, non-baptized Mari Pagans who try to distance themselves from all Christian rituals (the term Chimari comes from the Russian word pure, chistie plus Mari). The second one, Marla vera, contains baptized Mari, who are called adherents of a “dual faith” because they follow Pagan traditions that are combined with attendance at Orthodox Church services and various elements of Christian rituals. In addition, there is a revivalist movement, Kugu Sorta, which also includes non-baptized, “pure” Mari. In the Mari El Republic, Mari Paganism is officially called “Mari Traditional Religion” (MTR). A central religious organization is registered in this name in the capital of the state, Yoshkar-Ola. This organization gives legal status to Mari Pagans in Russia. Today, the MTR unites five local religious organizations and more than a hundred religious groups. The members of the MTR represent not only Chimari, but also people of dual faith and adherents of the Kugu Sorta.8 Table 16.1 Religiosity of the population of the Mari El Republic in 2006 Religious category


Orthodox Christianity


Orthodox Christianity and the MTR (i.e. dual faith)


MTR (non-baptized, “pure Mari”)




Other religions


Does not believe in God or has difficulties in answering


Believes in God, but does not subscribe to any religion


Believes in a higher power that presides over the world


Table 16.1 summarizes data from a sociological survey of the population of the Mari El Republic conducted in 2006.9 Nevertheless, these data do not give a conclusive account of the actual number of Mari

Pagans. Due to the influence that the Russian Orthodox Church has gained in Russian social and political life in recent years, some people choose to identify themselves as Orthodox even though they still preserve many Mari Pagan habits and outlook. According to surveys conducted by Mari sociologists in the middle of the 1990s, of the population of Mari El, 5–7 percent are “pure Pagans,” and 60 percent dual believers. Furthermore, an even higher percentage of Pagans can be found among the Mari who have emigrated because of Christianity and who now live in Bashkiria, Tatarstan, and in the Urals.10 Immigrant Mari believers can also be found in the Perm area and in Udmurtiya, Nizhegorodsky parish.

THE MARI PANTHEON Mari Paganism is not purely polytheistic but rather henotheistic. That is, the multiple gods are seen as manifestations of the power of one supreme God. The renowned scholar Vasiľyev (1883–1961), who was a Mari himself and after whom the Mari Institute for the Study of Languages, Literature and History was named, dedicated a whole chapter on this topic in his 1927 book about Mari beliefs and rituals. The chapter is entitled: “The Unsubstantiated Idea of the Religion of Maris as a Crude Polytheism.” He wrote, “one can hardly find a Mari who would say that there exists not one, but many gods; and this concerns not only baptized Mari but also PaganMari.”11 Nevertheless, even though Mari people understand the many names of the so-called gods as just appellations of the various manifestations of one God, there are some exceptions, especially the divinities who are oppositional forces to the main God. The main god of the contemporary Mari people is Kugu Yumo (”Great Yumo”). In official Mari Pagan literature and in the prayers of the Mari priests, Kugu Yumo is called Osh Poro Kugu Yumo (”the Great White Good God”). This God has a masculine form and embraces the idea of the cosmos, the highest reason, and the protector of people. He made the heavenly laws that are revered by the Earth and the Universe. Kugu Yumo has etymological parallels referring to god in other related languages such as Finnish (Jumala), Estonian (Jumal), Zyryan (Yen), and Udmurt (Inmar). In the contemporary Mari religion, the second figure in importance is the god Keremet, who is an ambiguous and contradictious figure. On the one hand, Keremet is the opponent of Kugu Yumo, and has a negative aspect; he is dangerous and pernicious. On the other hand, the Mari acknowledge his power, and consider it necessary to maintain personal contact with him through making sacrifices and consecrating trees or even groves. Many of the eastern Mari even see Keremet as a national defender of Maris which, however, does not negate his negative, dangerous aspects. The word keremet is also used as a generic term for nasty spirits, such as the spirits of people who have not been properly buried, or dead people who had vicious disposition.

The evilness of Keremet is not absolute. While Kugu Yumo is rather distant from humanity in the sky, Keremet is the lord of the earth and especially of the waters. He also records the misdeeds of human beings. As a rule, Keremet does not punish without a reason, but in response to the bad deeds that people do or because of some violation of rituals. The demonization of Keremet’s figure was mainly due to Christian influence and therefore the way Keremet is perceived differs between dual believers and Chimari. In the religious worldview of contemporary Mari Pagans, one can find surviving echoes of the ancient myths and new interpretations of archetypical figures. The figures of Yumo and Keremet are part of an ancient myth of the earth diver (a water bird that created the world by diving down to bring up the earth from the abysses of water).12 There are also contemporary living interpretations of the myth of Yumyn-Iudyr (”Yumo’s daughter”). According to the myth, Yumyn-Iudyr regularly had to descend the silky stairs from heaven to earth in order to pasture the “heavenly herd of cattle.” In consequence, she once married a mortal. For the mortal, the marriage ended tragically: out of jealousy, Keremet mauled him and in the place of his death grew birches and oaks. Nevertheless, some Mari families trace their lineage to this marriage and consider the husband of Yumyn-Iudyr to be their totemic ancestor. The interconnectedness of the divine and the mundane worlds is also acknowledged in other myths about gods, who descend on the earth to pasture their herd due to the lack of hay in the heavens. A Mari kart (shaman), Moisei Yambulatov, for example, recounts the myth of the initial unity of gods and humans in the following way: Once upon a time humans and gods lived in a star (actually, in a planet, but we call it a star). They attended domestic animals: cows, sheep, and horses. Once, due to a natural cataclysm, the grass stopped growing there and the gods sent the people to earth so that these would feed the herd, after which the cows were lifted back to the heavens and everyone ate. But one day, when the people descended to the earth, a planetary catastrophe happened and the people and the animals could not return back to the star and remained on the earth. In order to feed the gods,

people begun to prepare the meat of animals in a fire. The souls of the animals that were burnt in the fire rise to the star to the gods, who consume this spirit and, in that way, are fed.13 People living in the rural areas often tell stories about mysterious, holy figures. These numerous helping gods personify various objects and phenomena in nature and important attributes of domestic animals. One of the most revered is Shochyn-Ava—the manifestation of the birthing forces of nature. The most popular divinities comprise those who protect agricultural work, such as the mother-goddesses of sun, water, earth, wind, thunder, lightning, fire, and forest (Keche-Ava, Vyud-Ada, Mlande-Ava, Mardezh-Ava, Kudurcho-Ava, Volgenche-Ava, Tul-Ava, and Kozhl-Ava, respectively). The word ava means “mother” and denotes feminine divinity. According to the contemporary folkloric tradition, Keche-Ava protects from illnesses, Vud-Ava gives luck in fishing, Mlande-Ava has her share of responsibility for the harvest, Mardezh-Ava is the goddess of wind that purifies and cultivates everything, and Tul-Ava protects from fires.14 Nevertheless, the same divinities can be acknowledged in a male form: in these cases, the name has a suffix -on that means a “tsar” or a “father.” Such usage is, however, rather uncommon. Some of the most important activities or festivals can also become an object of deification and personification. The Mari world of spirits consists not only of gods, but also of individual angel-servants. These include Sukso, the defender of faith, who protects people from the forces of nature and poverty; Vitn’yze, the spirit helper who helps gods; and Piyambar, a goddess prophet and protector whom the Mari link with predestination and divination.15 Virtually all contemporary Mari people who live in rural villages believe in the existence of vechory (or vesiory), a class of local family spirits on whom the material success of humans depends and whom must therefore be fed. Some Mari people believe that a vesiora can be either female or male. According to one of our informants, “it is necessary to feed the female vesiora, because she will bring everything to the house, while from male vesiory one can expect only destruction.”16 There is also a demonic spirit, obda, whom the Mari blame for social defects. If

conflicts occur in a family or someone in the family is a drunkard, the blame is put on an obda. A contemporary phenomenon in Mari Paganism is the cult of Mari “saintly heroes”—national leaders and defenders of the Mari tribes. Especially revered are Chumbylat, Akpatyr, Poltysh, and Chotkar Patyr.17 According to legend, Chumbylat is a saint to all the Mari, a prince-warrior. At the end of the eleventh century, he gathered under his protection the majority of the scattered Mari tribes and told them to build cities.18 In the 1830s, it was proposed that Chumbylat’s grave is located in the depths of a cliff in a rocky mountain by the river Nemda. Even though this cliff has been destroyed, local Mari have again revived the cult of Chumbylat and every year on 26 June they come to this place to honor their hero and to ask protection and strength from him. In the Mari worldview, the figure of Chumbylat is often mixed with the figure of the tribal god of Kuryk Kugyza, known as Kuryk Kugu (“the great mountain person”).19 Since the end of the 1990s, another hero, Akpatyr, whom the Mari consider to be one of the ancient tribal princes, has gained considerable popularity. In the time of his service of the Russian tsar in the sixteenth century, due to his diplomatic skills, he managed to secure a peaceful existence for Mari villages amidst Russian and Tatar expansions. The revival of the cult of Akpatyr, and the popularization of his holiday, were largely the initiative and achievement of a local businessman, Valerii Solovev (a director of the AkBaktyr meat-packing company). Solovev had a stone monument erected in the village of Bolľshoi Kityak at his own expense, and funded folk festivals held nearby. Various legends have been attached to Akpatyr, including tales of supplicants recovering from diseases or getting aid in business thanks to his help.20 Pilgrims bring various gifts, such as clothes, money, food, or candles, to the places where the heroes are honored. The reverence for heroes is closely related to Mari totemic consciousness. The high kart (onaeng) of Mari Paganism, Aleksandr Tanygin, maintains that the well-being of Mari villages depends on whether the inhabitants are worthy of the memory of their tribal ancestors. According to Tanygin, the Mari tradition acknowledges nine especially honored and powerful ancient heroancestors. In order to address such an ancestor, one needs special spiritual

power. Onaeng argues that “if nowadays in some village there could be found a morally pure person, who in his spiritual power could invoke one of our heroes, our great progenitors, then doubtlessly that village would revitalize and reach the greatest blossoming.”21

THE INFLUENCE OF ORTHODOX CHRISTIANITY ON THE MARI SPIRITUAL TRADITION Given that the ancient Mari faith was not particularly structured or rigidly formulated, the outside influence of monotheistic religions has been important. The Islamic influence in the early period has not yet been studied sufficiently, but the more recent impact of Orthodox Christianity can be discussed more thoroughly. Professor Smirnov, who studied the Mari in the second half of the nineteenth century, presents an example, which in his opinion consolidated a religious system called “dual faith”: “The Cheremis22 karts of Urzhumskii parish who conduct a pagan ritual cross themselves.”23 Today, a characteristic manifestation of the Christian impact on Mari religion is that some of the attributes of the Christian God the Father are sometimes applied to Kugu Yumo. Christ can also be acknowledged as Kugu Yumo’s son, “Khristos Yumo.” The Mari faith also contains an original reinterpretation of the Christian story of the sufferings of Jesus Christ. His death and resurrection are acknowledged, but they did not occur on the Orthodox Christian days of Friday and Sunday, but on Wednesday and Friday.24 In the worldview of the rural population of the Mari areas, there is a firm belief in a judgment after death followed by rewards in the afterlife. One of the most revered spirits is Kiyamatt-Töra, the ruler and judge of the Otherworld. The Mari teachings about the afterlife, of heaven and hell, can also be seen to contain elements of Christian dualism. Among the Christian figures who are especially honored by the Mari are the apostles Peter and Paul, Saint Nicholas, and Elijah the Prophet. Consequently, the spring and summer calendar festivals that are dedicated to these figures are widely celebrated in the Mari countryside. All of these are conceived as Yumos in the Mari religious system, and that word can be attached to the name of a saint, as, for example, “Nikolai-Yumo” (i.e. Nicholas plus Yumo). Saint Nicholas has almost ceased to be an alien god. Even those Mari who consciously reject elements of Christian tradition still leave Nicholas in their pantheon, explaining it in the following way: “Other saints are great phonies … but this old-timer is a bit true.”25

The Orthodox Christian tradition of Saint Nicholas as a healer has found an analogy in a “typical figure of a mythical water ‘master’ whom FinnoUgrians exorcised as the cause of illness, but who also could heal if people knew how to please him,” as Vyatkan historian and ethnographer Korshunkov notes. “Nicholas (more precisely, Nichola-Yumo) … transformed into a pagan god among the Mari … occasionally quite dangerous and malign.” This deity was associated with water springs and received “characteristics of dangerous water ‘masters’ of the Other world in their pagan religion.”26 It can even be suggested that in the Mari consciousness Saint Nicholas may have some relation with KeremetKugurak, the feared god who is associated with the “underworld.” Already in the nineteenth century, Smirnov noticed that “Nicholas the Miracle Worker, Varsonofii 27 and the Mother of God of Kazan28 have been assimilated into the Cheremish gods to the extent that like the latter ones, they have received the status of the servant of sakche-shukshy [sukso]”.29 Many Mari perceived the Mother of God of Kazan as merely an icon, not in the context beyond a sacred representation. Consequently, they did not worship the Christian figure of the Virgin Mary, but the iconic figure. The Mari theology is by no means stagnant. Leaders of the national religious reawakening have formulated numerous concepts of a Mari trinity, defining various gods into an entity resembling the Christian trinity. Sometimes they also offer theological arguments for forming interreligious relations.

RITUAL SYNCRETISM The influence of Orthodox Christianity is also evident in the sacrificial rituals during which the participants use Orthodox icons. These are placed on trees and dedicated to the god to whom the prayer is addressed. The icons are ceremonially carried to and from the holy grove and greeted again in Mari homes.30 The icons are often conceived as independent deities of secondary importance, who are subordinate to Kugu Yumo. When the icons are removed from the kyusoto (the holy grove) after the celebrations have been completed, people bow to the holy grove with the icons. In other words, they make the icons bow to Kugu Yumo too. In the Mari perception, such subordination is only natural, because icons are family deities who therefore rank in the hierarchy below the common Mari social gods. A widespread practice is that Mari believers participate in both Mari Pagan and Christian rituals. They sacrifice animals in their prayers, but also take part in Christian sacraments. Particularly important sacraments include the baptism of children and partaking in Holy Communion. Sometimes an animal might even be sacrificed to an Orthodox Christian saint. Interestingly, the sacrifice itself can be explained by referring to the Bible. “We revive the sacrificial practice of the Old Testament that was done by the people of Israel.” Such an explanation was provided to me by a kart in the republic of Tatarstan Moisei Yambulatov and an inhabitant of Kirovsky area in Mari El, Emiliya Petrova, who worships Khristos-Yumo, but regularly goes to church and occasionally partakes in Holy Communion. The priest of the neighboring Orthodox church threatens to excommunicate Emiliya, who is so active in the Pagan faith, but so far he has not taken such a decisive step. Similar practices have been witnessed earlier in Mari history as well. According to Smirnov: Cheremis make the same demands to the Christian saints as they make to keremets: not only are these obliged to save him [the Cheremis] from disease and attacks, but also to protect him from

his enemies. After a keremet or another has become deaf to the prayers of a Cheremis, and has left his enemies untouched, a Cheremis goes to church and prays for a Christian saint to punish his enemy: to please the saint, he lights a candle for him, but standing.31 Usually, the Christian ritual elements do not bring anything fundamentally new to the Pagan worldview of the people, who follow local traditions. Orthodox Christianity stratifies with the Pagan consciousness of the Mari. It does not transform their cultic system, but only contributes new material for Mari reinterpretation. Some originally Orthodox cults have even helped the Mari to strengthen their own religious conceptualizations.

RELIGIOUS FESTIVALS AND MARI CALENDAR The main themes in the Mari festivals refer to fertility. The aim is to invoke abundant harvest and luck with domestic livestock. Rituals contain agrarian symbolism and imitate the episodes of the agricultural cycle. Toidybekova suggests that these rituals can be divided into springsummertime festivals, dedicated to the beginning of the agricultural work and autumn-winter rituals of thanksgiving.32 Nevertheless, the majority of the modern Mari ritual practices cannot be reduced to events exclusively connected with the beginnings and ends of agricultural work. The structure of the “traditional” indigenous Mari calendar reveals the pervasive influence of the Russian Orthodox liturgical calendar; the majority of the Mari festivals dates are the same as the holidays of the folk Russian Orthodox yearly cycle, only with Mari names.33 The Mari festival calendar begins from the festival of Shorykiol (”sheep-leg holiday”), which has many elements that are closely analogous to the popular Russian celebration of the Christian twelve days of Christmas (Svyatki), and which contains specific games, fortune-telling, pranks, and masquerades.34 Shorykiol is also connected to the New Year and the beginning of the lengthening of the day. The “magic of the first day” introduces people to the rhythm of the incipient year; it is believed that what happens during the first days of the newly born sun will reflect what will happen during the whole solar year. The games of Shorykiol also represent the unpredictability of nature. Of course, many traditions have now disappeared, but they are actively sought to be reanimated as cultural phenomena, even in state-sponsored regional programs. A revealing example of Mari syncretism is the festival Kugeche (“Big Day”), an apparent calque from a Russian folk-name for Easter, Velikii Den’ (“Great Day”). In the thinking of many of the Mari, Kugeche is connected with Easter and is celebrated on the same day as Easter. On Kugeche, Mountain Mari often go to church and follow Christian rituals. However, a part of Meadow Mari follow separate Pagan rituals.35 Eastern Mari in Bashkiria, who wish to distance themselves from Christian tradition, do not celebrate Kugeche at the same time as Christian Easter, but few days or a week earlier. Among the adherents of “pure faith,” the

Big Day is understood as the first day of the Mari peoples’ life on earth, after Yumyn-Iudyr descended to earth with her son. Mari religious leaders, who attempt to purify the Mari calendar of Christian influences, may also seek to find a Pagan meaning in the holidays that seem to derive from Christianity. The head of MTR, Tanygin, claims that it is not Kugeche that should be compared to Easter, but Easter to Kugeche. In his opinion, the festival is connected with the creation of the world by a water bird, and not with the resurrection of Christ. According to him, the core idea of the festival is to remember the moment when the “water bird laid an egg for the Milky Way. Of that egg emanated our life, only the Orthodox have forgotten this.” But, the kart notes, “of course, the egg does appear in the Orthodox tradition … at Easter, Orthodox color eggs, but it is only a fraction of the ancient understanding of the meaning of the egg that has remained in the Orthodox tradition.”36 Another example of the mixture of Pagan and Orthodox elements is the festival Syurem37 that is usually placed on the Petrov Den (“Day of Peter”), a Russian folkloric name for the liturgical feast of the apostles Peter and Paul, celebrated by Orthodox Russians on 12 July. The Pagan meaning of the festival relates to the blossoming of vegetation in nature. On that day, people express their thanksgiving in prayers and ask for abundance on earth. Nowadays, sheep, geese, and ducks are usually sacrificed in this ceremony. In their prayers, the Mari often address PetrYumo (“Peter plus Yumo”) as one of the Mari gods. Again, the understanding of the festival is not monolithic. For example, during the communal prayers at Syurem in the grove Toshto-Yal in 2009, some of the participants reported that they were celebrating Petr-Yumo while others claimed to celebrate Syurem. One of the Mari festival organizers, Nikolai Zaitsev, observed: the true meaning of the festival does not refer to Peter or Paul because neither one of these are yumos at all. Actually, it is Syuremthat is celebrated. Nevertheless, we do not demand of people that they give up traditions that are familiar to them and therefore, we do not obstruct those who pray to Petr-Yumo. A

time will come when they will themselves reject Christian layers.38 Some Mari festivals are not connected with the Christian liturgical cycle, such as Agavairem, the “celebration of the field.” It is celebrated at the end of April and in May; the exact dates vary and depend on the climatic conditions. During the Agavairem religious rituals, karts invoke the godprotectors of agricultural work. The Mari even recognize a special “god of the festival,” Agavairem-Yumo as a “divinity of creative energy.” This interpretation has, however, a neologistic character. In order to distance themselves from Orthodox Christianity and to present their faith as archaic as possible, some MTR leaders have decided to introduce the Zoroastrian calendar as a Mari calendar.

HIERARCHICAL “UPGRADE” OF MARI PAGANISM Nowadays, many proponents of the national reawakening in the Mari intelligentsia do not like the Russian word yazychestvo (paganism), because it bears negative connotations not only among the Orthodox clergy, but for the secular authorities as well. Moreover, many Mari, due to the long Orthodox influence, conceive of the term in negative terms.39 Instead they prefer to refer to keywords like “tradition,” “ancient times,” “nationality,” etc. and describe their religion as “Mari Traditional Religion” or simply “the Mari faith.” The administrators of the Mari El Republic do not always meet the requests of religious leaders, but they avoid the word “pagan” in relation to popular Mari faith in their official documents. In an age of easy access to information and global technologies, the Mari must find meaningful responses to new influence and to construct compelling forms for their own inner stabilization. One such form is a gradual formation of hierarchic structures for the administration of local MTR groups. It seems that the democratic and non-structured nature that had earlier characterized the Mari religious tradition is now in danger. For example, nowadays an outsider cannot get an audience with Mari karts without the agreement of onaenga (the high kart). The strengthening of hierarchic principles in the communities of the Mari faith is encouraged by the Russian Orthodox influence. By defining centralized structures, Mari communities are better able to interface with their social surroundings of a centralized state and other centralized religious institutions. So far, this strengthening of administrative hierarchy has not yet decisively dictated the forms and the content of religious ceremonies. When the high kart Tanygin attends local Mari festivals, he does not prescribe strict rules, but he is valued as an acknowledged authority who may be asked to give recommendations on how the celebration should be conducted. Not all Mari religious leaders are ready to subordinate to the authority of the high kart. For example, the MTR organization has conflicting relations with a group of Pagans headed by people from Yoshkar-Ola, including Laid Shemeier (Russian name, Nikolai Kozlov), who led the

general Mari council for a couple of years, and the kart Vitaly Tanakov, an ideologist of the Mari faith who represents a more radical nationalistic form of the religion. Tanakov received a verdict of incitement to hatred on national and religious grounds for his book Zhrets govorit (“The Priest Speaks”). After the verdict Tanygin hastened to distance himself from Tanakov. In consequence, Tanakov has broken away from the MTR, and the Mari Pagans in Yoshkar-Ola are divided into MTR, headed by Tanygin, and the “party of Tanakov.” Even at the times of the common community Mari prayers which are celebrated in the vicinity of Yoshkar-Ola, these groups pray in different groves and deny each other’s right to use the word onaeng.40 The national religious revival of the Mari people also manifests in the social and political spheres. In 1996, in the political vocabulary of Mari El was introduced a new honorary title, “On’yzha.”41 This is an elected position of the chairperson of the Mari Council (Marii Mer KaNash) that was founded in 1992. The On’yzha runs the meetings of the delegates of Mari people and is in charge of the execution of their decisions.

CODIFICATION OF THE “HOLY SCRIPTURE” In the Mari Pagan community, a recent innovation is an attempt to establish a codex a commonly acknowledged holy scriptures. The ideologists of MTR have created codifications of “Mari prayers,” systematic presentations and even a kind of theological reference books for the Mari faith, such as Yumyn iula (“The basics of the traditional Mari faith”) by Popov and Tanygin, and Mari Sygun’, edited by Novikov. Thus these activists have begun to translate folkloric tradition, which has been preserved to our days in oral form, into a written form. Such a work is one of the most significant stages in the life of many religious traditions, especially because it changes their ability to extend their influence. The earlier Mari prayers which were recorded by scholars in the nineteenth or early twentieth century were mainly improvised, conversational requests to the gods to fulfill some specific need. Contemporary Mari prayers reflect the same ordinary, mundane life. Prayers deal with situations that are met on an everyday basis by the average local resident.42 They can have an economic (or agricultural) dimension, but a prominent place is held by such issues as family welfare in the context of tribal relations. A typical Mari relationship to their holy texts can be exemplified by an interview with an elderly woman, Mariya Kuznetsova from the village of Aryk Mallmyzhskii. While telling us about the various Mari gods and spirits she announced that “about all this it is written in the gospel.” She admitted that she did not possess the gospel because “how could one obtain it nowadays?” In the Mari folkloric legends, there actually is a tale, according to which initially the Mari did have a holy book, but, unhappily, a cow once ate it, and since then the Mari have been without their holy scripture.43 Apparently, already in the past the Mari had some feeling of religious inadequacy due to their “lack” of holy scripture similar to the Bible or the Qur’an.

UNDER THE INFLUENCE OF GLOBALIZATION Despite the disputes over “orthodoxy” within Mari believers, the cultic forms that have been created in the process of unification are syncretic. They incorporate not only elements from Mari religious experience, but also Christian influence and influences found on the Internet or through international contacts with other cultures that were unknown to the early Mari people who inhabited the forests of the Volga region. Many contemporary Mari religious leaders readily adopt religious themes from various foreign mystical and theosophical literatures. The authors attempt to reconcile these loaned elements with the ideals of “primordial-ness” and “local-ness” which are central in the Mari tradition. Mari karts often resort to occult-theosophical paradigms in order to elevate the position of the Mari people and to give special sacred status to Povolzhya region, the area where they live. For example, kart Tanakov argues that “in the age of Aquarius, cosmic rays have been transmitted to eastern Europe, western Siberia, and to the Urals—to the brains of the planet: to the areas of the Tatars, Maris, Chuvashs, Erzya, Moksha, Udmurts, and Bashkirs,” that is, to Povolzhya. In his opinion, this transformation is linked to the fact that the Mari are the only nation in the world who have passed through all the stages in the development of civilization, adopting everything new and best during all administrations, stages, and epochs and no matter how difficult it has been, never losing their own national originality, worldview, philosophy, religion, language, culture.44 Some priests have their own scientific or pseudo-scientific interpretations that are informed by a wish to adjust Mari “village faith” to the industrial era. For example, according to the kart of the village Pochinok-Kuchuk “the waves from the sacrificial fire and from the candles attain gods. Gods also receive signals from the earth in the form of electro-magnetic waves.” Thereby, the kart argues, “the vibration of plasma that originates from the sacrificial fire transforms through sound vibration into electro-magnetic waves.”45

In that way, the “Mari popular faith,” intentionally or unintentionally, is attached to a New Age cultural context by its leaders. Mari Paganism is also universalized: it is perceived to contain universal religious truths that are meaningful for the whole of humanity. Moreover, there are some attempts to give to Mari Paganism the highest status by emphasizing its ancient nature and ecological aspects, spirituality, and other characteristics that are appealing to contemporary people. Mari religious leaders are also motivated by a wish to become established in the international social and political sphere and to consolidate their position in the international Pagan movement. Therefore, the process of the unification and universalization of the Mari popular faith is also connected with the contemporary international cultural contacts that the Mari have. This development is also due to the exchange of experience that takes place at international social-political and scholarly conferences as well as visits from folkloric ensembles from European and Asian countries. In these and other events of cultural exchange, the Mari enrich their faith with ideas borrowed from other Pagan and syncretic traditions. As a consequence of their wide international contacts and the increased cooperation between European and Finno-Ugric countries, many Mari Pagans endorse progressive standards for human rights and freedom of conscience. In presenting Mari aspirations to religious leadership and the universal applicability of their ideology, the Mari are inevitably drawn toward liberalization, because of the increased experience of co-existence with and adjustment to other religious traditions.

CONCLUSIONS By positing a new universal harmony, Mari Paganism has also become a form of “political Paganism,” that aspires to influence a broader sphere of social thinking in the Mari El Republic and the Russian Federation. Furthermore, the role of such a religion in the contemporary national– political identity of the Mari is growing. The process of revitalizing the local Pagan beliefs and rituals of the people is predominantly happening from above, guided by the Mari intelligentsia that is often oriented toward national– political interests. Such a situation also leads to the reconsideration of their relationship with Christianity. Increasingly often, Mari Pagans see Christianity as an obstacle that hinders them in expressing their own uniqueness. While the Mari Pagans of Kirovskii region and of Tatarstan continue to have a moreor-less positive attitude toward Christianity, the urban Mari intelligentsia from Yoshkar-Ola have set for themselves the task of purifying their faith of Christian influence. At the same time, they are willing to embrace elements of various distant religious traditions as long as these are not connected to Christianity and appear to be as ancient as possible. It can be suggested that by the process of “upgrading” the Mari faith, many characteristics of “dual faith” are likely to disappear or become primarily framed instead as features of popular Mari Orthodox Christianity which continues to accept syncretic folk traditions as “their own.” We may observe that, in exchange for the old folk “dual faith,” we are now seeing a multi-religious syncretism, but unlike in the historical case of the arrival of Orthodox Christianity together with annexation into the Russian Empire, this new dynamic is not compelled from outside, but comes from the Mari themselves. And this means that this multi-religious syncretism will present a persistent phenomenon, at least for the nearest future.

NOTES 1. The Mari El Republic is an administrative unit of the Russian Federation. As such, it was created in 1990 as the successor to the Mari Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic of the USSR. In the 2002 census of the Russian Federation, 604,000 people identified themselves as Mari. 2. D. Zelenin, Kama i Vyatka: Putevoditeľ i etnograficheskoe opisanie Prikamskogo kraya (Yur’ev: Tip. Ed. Bergmana, 1904), 168. The Mari adherence to the ways of their ancestors was noted by earlier observers as well. See, for example, Captain Rychkov’s travel diaries from 1770 to 1772. N. P. Rychkov, “Dnevnye zapyski puteshestviya kapitana N. P. Rychkova po raznym provintsiyam Rossiiskogo gosudarstva,” in the State Archive of Kirov area, fund 170, opis 1, delo 383, list 7. I am grateful to ethnographer V. A. Korshunkov for pointing this source to me. 3. A. Ivanov, “Vsemariiskie yazycheskie moleniya v 20-kh godakh XIX veka,” Finnougrovedenie 2–3 (1999), 31–3. A. A. Andrievskii, “O vsemariiskom yazycheskom molenii 1828 goda v Vyatskoi gubernii,” A. G. Ivanov (ed., intro.), Mariiskii arkheoraficheskii vestnik 9 (1999), 173. 4. After the collapse of the Soviet Union the spring at Kyupryan Sola was cleaned up and a big prayer event was held at the same spot, 170 years after the earlier, famous sacrifice. N. S. Popov, “Na mariiskom yazycheskom molenii,” Etnograficheskoe obozrenie 3 (1996), 130–45. 5. V. V. Napolľskikh, “Bulgarskaya epokha v istorii finno-ugorskikh narodov Povolzh’ya I Preduraľya,” in Istoriya tatar s drevneishikh vremen v semi tomakh. Vol. 2: Volzhskaya Bulgariya i Velikaya Step, Usman Mirkasy (ed.) (Kazan’: Rukhiyat, 2006), 100–105. 6. V. M. Vasiľev, Mariiskaya religioznaya sekta “Kugu Sorta” (Krasnokokshaisk: Marobizdat, 1927). 7. E. V. Chemyshev, “Gosudarstvenno-konfessionaľnaya politika v RME [Respublika Marii El]: sostoyanie i perspektivy,” in Etnicheskaya kuľtura narodov Volgo-Kam’ya: traditsii, transformatsii i sovremennye protsessy. Sb. materialov Vserossiiskoi nauchnoprakticheskoi konferentsii (12–13 November 2009) (Yoshkar-Ola: Mari State University, 2009), 435–6. 8. N. S. Popov & A. I. Tanygin, Yumyn iula (Yoshkar-Ola: RUR, 2003), 132– 40. 9. Chemyshev, “Gosudarstvenno-konfessionaľnaya politika v RME.” See also V. Shabykov, “Sovremennaya etno-religioznaya situatsiya v Respublike Marii El,” Karadeniz Dergi, 10. Filatov S. “Yazycheskoe vozrozhdenie—povolzhskaya religioznaya initsiativa,” in Religiya i obshchestvo: Ocherki religioznoi zhizni

sovremennoi Rossii, S. B. Filatov (ed.) (Moscow: Letnii Sad, 2002), 139. 11. Vasiľev, Mariiskaya religioznaya sekta “Kugu Sorta”, 18–19. See also S. K. Kuznetsov, Kuľt umershikh i zagrobnye verovaniya lugovykh cheremis (Vyatka: Gubern. tip., 1907). 12. See also Vladimir Napoľskikh, Kaka Vukuze stal sozdatelem sushi: Udmurtskii mif o sotvorenii zemli i drevneishaya istoriya narodov Evrazii (Izhevsk: VIIJ.L, 1993). 13. Interview with Yambulatov; field material by the author, gathered in the expeditions organized by archbishop Aleksandr Kuznym from the department of religious education and catechesis of the Russian Orthodox Church in 2007. 14. G. E. Shkalina, Traditsionnaya kuľtura naroda mari (Yoshkar-Ola: Mariiskaya kn. izdateľstvo, 2003), 74. 15. Piyambar is Yumo’s younger daughter. According to the legend, Piyambar was also allowed to visit earth and to walk a little. She saw white Maripeople, who wore white clothes. On the earth Piyambar and the Great Mountain Person fell in love and got married, but the legends do not mention Piyambar as the ancestor or any tribes as her descendants. Furthermore, according to the myth, Maris already existed in the times when Piyambar visited the earth. However, Piyambar is perceived as a patron of Mari women. L. S. Toidybekova, Mariiskaya mifologiya (Yoshkar-Ola: MPIK, 2007), 190. 16. Interview with Tamara Kurochkimina, 16 July 2009. 17. Chotkar Patyr is a national Mari hero and a giant bogatyr. When it was a time for him to die, he asked to be buried on the high shore of Ileť-river and promised to be close to people to help them in troubles. He also asked not to allow his grave to be disturbed without reason, and once his request was ignored, Chotkar Patyr was offended and went deeply into the earth. After that Mari people underwent a lot of grief and misfortunes and they asked for Chotkar Patyr, but he didn’t answer any more. However, it is believed that when a giant arises again, a Mari nation will flourish. This myth is included in the national Mari ballet Zhivoy Kamen’ (“a vivid stone”). See Toidybekova, Mariiskaya mifologiya, 259. 18. According to the legend, during his time was developed the forms of worship and sacrifice that have remained throughout centuries. See Toidybekova, Mariiskaya mifologiya, 260–62. 19. Ibid. 20. For a more detailed discussion, see L. Shemier (V. N. Kozlov), “So shchitom na shchite. Slovo sostoitelya,” in Poltysh—knyaz cheremisskii. Malmyzhskii krai, Laid Sheimer (ed.) (Yoskar-Ola: Tsentr-muzei im. Valentina Kolumba, 2003); N. S. Popov, “Pamyať sokhranitsya na veki,” in Poltysh—knyaz

21. 22. 23. 24.


26. 27. 28. 29. 30. 31. 32. 33.

34. 35. 36. 37.

cheremisskii. Malmyzhskii krai, Laid Sheimer (ed.) (Yoskar-Ola: Tsentrmuzei im. Valentina Kolumba, 2003). Interview with Tanygin on 2 May 2008. Cheremisy is an older Russian term for the Mari people, sometimes used in English as well. I. N. Smirnov, Cheremisy: Istoriko-etnograficheskii ocherk (Kazan’: Tip. Unta, 1889), 214. The reverence for Friday possibly reveals an Islamic influence. However, it should be noted that some forms of Christianity have a Friday fast. Many local ethnic-Mari Christians as well as duel believers fast very strictly. They may not visit church, but they never fail to fast. M. F. Kosarev, Osnovy yazycheskogo miroponimaniya: Po sibirskim arkheologo-etnograficheskim materialam (Moscow: Ladoga-100, 2003), 21. On Saint Nicholas, see, for example, V. A. Korshunkov, “Kolya: Mariiskaya yazycheskaya fenomenologiya, mifologiya, zoologiya,” in Dukhovnaya kuľtura fino-ugorskikh narodov: Materialy Vserossiiskoi nauch. Konf. K 80letiyu Anatoliya Konstantinovicha Mikusheva (1–3 noyabrya 2006 g., g. Syktyvkar), T. S. Kanev (ed.) (Syktyvkar: Izdatelľstvo Kolva, 2007), 59–63. I. V. Zykov, Religioznye techeniya sredi mariitsev (Nizhnii Novgorod: Ogiz, 1932); Korshunkov, “Kolya,” 59–63. Saint Varsonophius, a sixteenth-century Orthodox bishop of Tver in the Volga region. An important local icon of the Virgin Mary, reputed to have been miraculously discovered in 1579. Smirnov, Cheremisy, 211. Toidybekova, Mariiskaya mifologiya, 49. Ibid., 171–2. Ibid. Ibid. The question about the origins of Mari holiday is very complex. It is well known that many Christian holy days were placed on the days of Pagan festivals. However, contemporary Mari traditions were formed later, under Muslim and Christian influence. It is clear that most of the Mari holy days are not Christian-derived and not Christian in essence. Nevertheless, the Mari calendar was incorporated in the Christian calendar or correlated formally during forced Christianization. Some Maris celebrate Shorykiol on the Christian holiday (6 January) and others celebrate it on the solstice (22 December), and others starting on the nearest Friday. The celebration is 12 days long. Toidybekova, Mariiskaya mifologiya, 124. Interview with Tanygin, 2 May 2008. The word means “to beat” or “to put out an alien.”

38. Interview with Nikolai Zaitsev, 3 July 2009. 39. In Mari language, there is no equivalent word to “paganism” that Maris would avoid. Nevertheless, there is the term “Marla vera” (Marla faith), which Maris gladly use. 40. Boris Knorre & Elena Konestantinova, “Mariiskaya narodnaya vera i bor’ba mari za natsionaľnye interesy v poslednee 10-letie,” Russian Review (Keston Institute) 2 (2010). 41. This title is mainly political by nature. Laid Shemier was the On’yzha before Tanygin. 42. S. S. Novikov, Marii sugyn: Shochmo kalyknan tynya umylymashyzhe, yumyn iulazhe, pagyt eda tolyn shogysho pairemzhe-vlak nergen (Yoshkar-Ola: GUP Gazeta Marii El, 2005), 148. 43. V. A. Aktsorin (ed.) Marii kalyk oipogo: Mariiskii foľklor: Mify, legendy, Marla calendar’ (Yoshkar-Ola: Mariiskoe kn. izdateľstvo, 1991), 146–7. 44. V. Tanakov, Zhrets govorit, cited in I. Smirnov, “Natsionalisticheskie kampaniya,” Russkaya liniya (14 December 2006), 45. Meeting with Yambulatov on 16 July 2007.

17. A NEOPAGAN MOVEMENT IN ARMENIA: THE CHILDREN OF ARA Yulia Antonyan and Konrad Siekierski

INTRODUCTION Despite growing academic interest in the new “native faiths” that have emerged in post-Socialist space, Armenian Neopaganism has remained a largely unknown phenomenon.1 There is no single English-language analysis that covers this subject extensively, and the short hints on this matter cannot present its multi-dimensional character.2 This chapter will describe the history and structure of the main Neopagan organization in Armenia—the Arordineri Ukht—and explore its interrelations with the dominant religious tradition in Armenia (Christianity, represented by the Armenian Apostolic Church), as well as analyze its nationalistic-dissident foundations and ties with nationalistic political and social movements. Finally, we will have a closer look at the Arordiner’s holy scripture—the Ukhtagirk—as well as on the most important elements of the worldview and ritual system of these Neopagans.

STRUCTURE, HISTORY, AND IDEOLOGICAL FOUNDATIONS OF THE ARORDINERI UKHT The community of Armenian Neopagans is called “Arordineri Ukht,” which means “Order of Children of Ara,” Ara being the God-Creator in their pantheon.3 It was founded in 1991, when Slak4 (Eduard) Kakosyan (1936–2005), a political dissident exiled in the 1970s from the Soviet Union, came back to the newly independent Republic of Armenia. During the years he spent in the United States, Kakosyan became familiar with the teachings of Garegin Nzhdeh (1886–1955), one of the most prominent Armenian guerilla commanders, national activists, and philosophers of the first half of the twentieth century. Kakosyan published an article in one of the diaspora newspapers, in which he praised Nzhdeh and called him the prophet of the Armenian national revival. According to current leaders of Arordineri Ukht, Kakosyan was then asked to meet with the last living fellow-soldiers of Nzhdeh. These individuals had “shaken the right hand of Nzhdeh,”5 and therefore they were thought capable of passing on the spirit of their commander and to ordain Kakosyan a pagan priest. Garegin Nzhdeh’s nationalistic philosophy was called Tseghakron (“religion of the nation”).6 According to this doctrine, the nation is the most precious value, and the individual cannot fully exist outside of his/her national group. As such, its “spirit,” unity, and strength should be praised and protected at any price. However, Nzhdeh himself indicated that Tseghakron is not a religious doctrine, but a nationalistic ideology. Nzhdeh’s metaphorical invocations of Vahagn, the ancient Armenian god of thunder, were later interpreted by Kakosyan as uncontestable evidence of Nzhdeh having a vision of the deity and receiving mystical power to fulfill the sacred mission of fighting for the Armenian nation.7 The call of Nzhdeh “We should talk to Vahagn,” has become a sacred commandment for Neopagans. Arordiner support their understanding of Tseghakron by claiming the Aryan origins of the Armenians. Armenians first promulgated this theory when dealing with Nazi Germany, as Hitler was convinced that they were Semites. Numerous publications by German scholars and activists of the Armenian nationalist movement8 were aimed at proving that Armenians

belonged to the Aryan race. A second wave of “Aryanism”—in the 1980s — was stirred up by the famous work of Ivanov and Gamkrelidze, IndoEuropeans and Indo-European language,9 which claimed the Armenian highlands were the homeland for all of the Indo-European tribes. Neopagans reformulated the academic debates into a religio-national mythology, serving as the basis for their worldview.10 The number of Neopagans in Armenia is approximately one hundred active adherents, with several hundred who have been baptized and around one thousand sympathizers. In terms of structure and hierarchy, Arordiner can be placed somewhere between the highly personalized and destructuralized New Age movements,11 and the traditionally organized, more stratified religious groups. On the one hand, Arordineri Ukht allows its followers a high degree of freedom in terms of their ways of participation as well as of their individual ideological and spiritual commitments. As is the case with many native faiths in other parts of the world, this style of spirituality appeals in Armenia mostly to the so-called intelligentsia (especially its less well-off representatives)—that is, the university and school teachers, scholars, painters, artists, or recent graduates from departments of humanities or linguistics.12 On the other hand, Arordineri Ukht has a very clear hierarchical structure. All organizational issues are handled by the Council of Priests, led by the elected head of the council. The highest (and incumbent) position in Neopagan hierarchy—that of the supreme priest—has remained vacant since Slak Kakosyan passed away.13 Recently, after years of integrated existence, two smaller groups located in villages outside the capital of Armenia were established. These groups are more cult-like: characterized by a certain distinctiveness from the local social environment, increasing internal cohesion, and a pyramid model of representation at Neopagan rituals. The tendency toward a clearcut hierarchy was also one of the reasons for a recent split among the Arordiner that has led to the establishment of a competing Neopagan organization. Such a relatively high level of structuralization seems to be more typical for native faiths with nationalistic background and goals, in contrast to the movements oriented toward such issues as ecology, magic, spiritual self-development, or healing.

THE CHILDREN OF ARA, THE ARMENIAN APOSTOLIC CHURCH, AND ARMENIAN NATIONALISM The relations between Armenian Neopagans and the dominant religious tradition in the country—Christianity, represented by the Armenian Apostolic Church (AAC),14 are speckled with peculiarities and contradictions. Unlike other religious groups that have appeared in Armenia after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Arordineri Ukht generally does not face harsh criticism from the AAC. As a high-ranking spokesman of the AAC once explained, “The Armenian Church has an unequivocal stance on sectarians, but we do not interfere into pagan affairs.”15 Likewise, the head of the Help Centre for the Victims of Destructive Cults acknowledged, “The Armenian nation must remember its pre-Christian past, and Ara’s Children help them remember. They also support the Armenian Apostolic Church in its fight against destructive sects.”16 Indeed, in certain situations Arordiner are even perceived by the Apostolic Church as allies against foreign Protestant, Jehovah’s Witness, and Mormon missionaries. For example, during a television talk show in which representatives of Neopagans, AAC, and one of the Protestant denominations took part, the Armenian Apostolic priest claimed that “he wouldn’t go for reconnaissance” with the Protestant, but he would do it with the Neopagan, because the latter is a real Armenian. However, not all representatives of the AAC are that tolerant toward Neopagans. The attitude of Arordiner toward the AAC oscillates between two positions: (1) the critique of its role in Armenian history, and (2) the conditional acceptance of it as a national institution. The first of these positions argues that Christianity destroyed a rich, highly developed ancient Armenian culture, and replaced indigenous values of courage, martial spirit, and honor with those of humility, obedience and modesty. In turn, this transformation resulted in the collapse of Armenian statehood, in centuries of subordination to foreign powers, and in great migrations, persecutions and massacres of the helpless nation. According to the strongest accusations, the Armenian Church is responsible for the “first genocide of Armenians” committed at the beginning of fourth century when Christianity was introduced by force as a state religion.17 The idea of

Christianity as an alien element that should not be a part of the Armenian spiritual heritage can also be found on the monument commemorating Kakosyan, where one can read the following words: “O Aryan! Why do you look for non-Aryan gods, if you are a God!” The second, more popular discourse is also not in favor of the role Christianity has played in Armenian history, but it accepts it as a part of the national heritage. It considers Armenian Christianity to be a fusion of Christian and local cultural elements, in which the former constitutes only a thin upper crust. Neopagans look for proofs of this thesis in the Armenian–Christian prayers devoted to praising sun and light, in church festivals overlapping with older feasts, in the tradition of matagh— Christian animal sacrifice. In their opinion, the Armenian alphabet, which according to church historiography was invented by the monk Mesrop Mahtots in the fifth century, is actually a compilation of pre-Christian motifs based on the old Aryan symbol of the swastika. Neopagans generally have no problem with visiting Armenian churches, including the central cathedral in Echmiadzin. Because many of the churches were built on the ruins of pagan temples, Arordiner treat them as being their sacred places, too. Even more interesting is that two catholicoi (chief bishops), who led the Armenian Apostolic Church in the second half of the twentieth century are sometimes presented by Arordiner as actually being “pagans in disguise.” Vazgen I (1954–94) is acknowledged by them because in their opinion before becoming a priest he was an active supporter of Nzhdeh18, and because on his tomb, instead of the cross, the Armenian letter Է (the first letter of the word Echmiadzin) is engraved. For Neopagans this letter symbolizes seven Armenian pre-Christian gods, represents one of the versions of swastika, and is considered as a symbol of perfection and the essence of things. Garegin I (1995–9) is said to have visited Garni (a sacred place for Arordiner that will be discussed later) shortly before his death and walked alone to the temple despite a terminal illness. These and other similar stories exemplify the general notion of Neopagans that Armenians, even if they consider themselves Christians, are in fact pagans.19 As one of the Arordineri Ukht priests once bluntly said:

Simply lighting a candle in a church or wearing a cross around our necks does not make us Christian. I’ve been a member of this organization [Arordineri Ukht] for ten years, but as an Armenian I’ve been pagan since the day I was born.20 Sometimes Arordiner express their concerns about the increasing influence of the Church as an institution on politics and educational processes in Armenia. Minor tension come out during national-Christian holidays when children are requested to make Christmas or Easter postcards or drawings and to participate in corresponding events in schools. Neopagan parents usually do not prevent their children from doing so, but they often express their dissatisfaction in Neopagan circles. The ties between Neopagans and nationalistic political organizations represent a topic that has significantly guided many academic interpretations of the emergence and the popularity of Neopaganism in the former Soviet Union. Both Arordineri Ukht and many Armenian nationalistic organizations share much of the legacy of Nzhdeh and a common origin in dissident movements, and they are generally considered to be closely connected. Furthermore, even though Neopagan understandings of nation and race are arguably extreme, they are not significantly at odds with the opinions shared by many Armenians who would not consider themselves to be connected with Arordineri Ukht: the set of linguistic and genetic/racist ideas on Armenian origins and its unique history, whether attributed to Nzhdeh or going beyond him, permeate large sectors of the population of Armenia.21 However, a closer look at relations between Arordiner and political parties reveals a complex and dynamic picture. Originally, Arordineri Ukht was associated with the Republican Party of Armenia (RPA).22 The founding fathers of this party—Ashot Navasardyan and Andranik Margaryan—were highly influenced by Nzhdeh’s nationalistic philosophy, took part in the very first heathen ritual in Garni, and were baptized as Pagans. Later, some Republicans sponsored the printing of Ukhtagirk and helped in promoting it. However, when these leaders passed away, the change of generations brought a gradual move from idealistic to technocratic styles of politics. Although, for example,

the collection of texts displayed on the official website of RPA still contains articles referring to Nzhdeh’s teachings, as well as to such subjects as “the traditional essence of Armenian festivals dating back to the pre-Christian times,”23 the ties between this party and Arordineri Ukht are currently very loose. The year 2009 brought a radical split between Arordineri Ukht and the other political formation that has been closely associated with them—the marginal, ultra-nationalistic Union of Armenian Aryans, headed by Armen Avetisyan. The Union became famous for its explicit anti-Semitic views, and Avetisyan received a three-year suspended sentence for hate speech. His extremism was still tolerated or even supported by some Arordiner, and the split came only when Avetisyan decided to become not only a political but also a spiritual figure. He announced an initiative to erect a central Aryan temple in Yerevan, and when he faced resistance from Arordiner leaders, he declared himself the supreme priest and launched a separate group called The Armenian Aryan Order. These developments suggest that in recent years a gradual depoliticization has been taking place in the Arordineri Ukht. Although representatives of nationalistic parties have participated in Neopagan feasts, the increaseingly apolitical character of the organization’s hierarchy is stressed by its leaders. For example, at one moment the high priest pointed out that even if the Priests’ Council does not interfere in political convictions or initiatives of the order’s adherents, “we, the priests, are not interested in politics, it’s a dirty thing.” However, recent events suggest that things may take another direction: the first congress (and the twentieth anniversary) of the Arordineri Ukht in December 2010 had a purely secular character and one of its main points was reactivation of a nationalistic political party led by one of the active members of the Ukht. Shortly thereafter, the high priest announced his resignation in order to engage in political activities.

UKHTAGIRK: THE SACRED SOURCE OF KNOWLEDGE Armenian Neopaganism follows the tradition of the “religions of the book.” Its holy scripture is called Ukhtagirk, which can be translated as the “Book of Vows.” It was the life work of Kakosyan, who finished the manuscript just before his death. However, he is generally not recognized by Arordiner as the author of Ukhtagirk, but rather as a kazmogh (compiler).24 When writing Ukhtagirk, Kakosyan drew from sources which were commonly known and highly significant in Armenian culture, such as the Bible, the History of Armenia by Movses Khorenatsi, the Armenian epos Sasnatsrer (“Daredevils of Sassoun”), and the writings of Nzhdeh. The Ukhtagirk was officially recognized as Arordineri Ukht’s holy scripture in 2000 (a couple of years before the book itself was completed), when the re-registration of religious organizations took place in Armenia. This actually contradicted the Armenian Law on Freedom of Faith and Religious Organizations, which requires that a religious group should be “based on any of historically canonized holy books.” Yet Neopagans managed to convince the responsible governmental body to make the exception.25 Ukhtagirk is divided into seven parts. Its first chapter is “Astvatsashoonch” (meaning a dictionary of symbols of the Armenian language).26 It is dedicated to explaining the Armenian language in terms of a mystical system of symbols, which originate from a sacred language conceived by Ara—the God-Creator. For example, one of the first passages in the book explains the root *Ar, to mean “origins,” “power,” “vow” and to make part of words corresponding to those meanings: aryun (blood), argand (womb), armat (root), arev (sun), arka (king), art (tillage), and aru (male), among others. The next part, which is entitled “Tsagumnaran (Genesis)” or “Araratian Mythology”, thematically resembles the biblical Genesis. It covers such themes as the origins of the world, the creation of humans, and the characteristics of the gods and goddesses of the Armenian–Aryan pantheon: Ara, Anahit, Vahagn, Astghik, Mihr, Tir, Yahvah, and Vishap.27 Myths devised by Kakosyan—for example the story of the first god-

human couple and their heirs, of rebellion of the god Vishap and the origins of evil, or of the Deluge and the cleansing of the world—are drawn mostly from famous biblical stories and based on mythological narratives preserved in Armenian medieval sources or partly reconstructed by using Armenian folk stories or epics. The next two chapters—“Avetaran” (“Book of testaments”)28 and “Dzonaran” (“Book of odes”)—formulate the main philosophical and ontological categories that are pivotal for Arordiner. The word avet (testament) is interpreted as “advice” in Ukhtagirk and the chapter presents “a system of meaningful, natural advice.” In turn, the “Dzonaran” is devoted to praise of the main values of Armenian–Aryans (faith, absolute, ararat, being, resurrection, etc.) and the personages of the Neopagan mythology (Ara, Vahagn, Anahit, Astghik, Ari, etc.). The two following chapters—“Veharan” (“Book of Grandeur”) and “Patgamaran” (“the Book of Commandments”)—present the mythologized version of Nzhdeh’s life and thoughts.29 In “Veharan” , the biography of Nzhdeh is enriched with such elements as the story about Nzhdeh being cured by Astghik, the goddess of Love and Beauty. The text of “Veharan” has become a key point for development of a cult of Nzhdeh. In consequence, his position in the Arordineri belief system is akin to that of a prophet or a god.30 The following chapter, “Patgamaran,” presents a reinterpreted and extended version of Nzhdeh’s nationalistic doctrine of Tseghakron. As the head of priests explains the character of “Patgamaran,” “Nzhdeh wrote a lot about the 1930s, but in his texts there are thoughts that are timeless. And Kakosyan cleansed Nzhdeh’s writings of that particular historical context.” The last, seventh chapter of Ukhtagirk, called “Hymnergaran” (“Book of hymns”), is a collection of poems, written by Kakosyan and his followers, as well as by Armenian romantic authors of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.31 Some of these lyrics are recited during celebrations. However, the most important “hymn” for Arordiners is an ancient Armenian epic, “The Birth of Vahagn,” contained in Araratian Mythology: Heaven and earth were in travail, And the crimson waters were in travail,

And in the water, the crimson reed Was also in travail. From the mouth of the reed issued smoke, From the mouth of the reed issued flame. And out of the flame sprang the young child. His hair was of fire, a beard had he of flame, And his eyes were suns.32 Some Arordiner apply what could be called a scriptural approach, using excerpts from the Ukhtagirk to prove their statements and drawing parallels between mythological events and the events of today. Myths described in “Tsagumnaran” provide information on alleged origins of the feasts celebrated according to the Arordineri ritual calendar, and show what symbolic action and paraphernalia should be incorporated into celebrations.33 Moreover, Arordineri priests confess that chanting ritual texts from Ukhtagirk often evokes religious feelings, even mystical experience.34 The physical book itself is also crucial for some ritual activities. For example, during the wedding ceremony, rings are passed to the bride and groom on top of a copy of Ukhtagirk. At the same time, Armenian Neopagans do not consider their holy book “untouchable,” something which should be accepted without questioning a single word. At least declaratively, it is open to such corrections as required by changing circumstances. As one of the priests explained, the process of creating sacred text is never ended. Such an approach is backed by the words of Kakosyan that “if when I will be born again and I see that Ukhtagirk hasn’t changed, I will be offended.”

THE MYTH OF ORIGIN AND ITS RELEVANCE TODAY The Children of Ara generally do not seek to develop strict doctrines in their theology, philosophy, and spirituality. As a result, the Neopagan worldview is the patchwork of diverse ideas freely composed by each adherent. Nevertheless, next we present some of the most important elements of this worldview, connected to the Arordineri myth of origin. Armenian Neopagans believe that the world was shaped by the God Ara —the Creator. According to the text of Ukhtagirk, he also conceived the other gods, although some Arordiner interpret these deities not as separate beings, but as incarnations of different aspects of Ara. Two gods included by the author of Ukhtagirk in Neopagan pantheon, Vishap (Dragon) and Yahvah, represent “the dark side of power” and thus allow a dualistic, Manichean view of the world. Accordingly, the history of humankind is seen as constant struggle between good and evil. The creative, light side is represented by Ari (Aryans)—the children of Ara, the mortal gods. The destructive, dark side is represented by Chari,35 the vile human-like creatures made from soil by Vishap. The Aryans’ homeland is Ararat, a paradise land (more or less the equivalent of what is today known as the Armenian highland) that surrounds the sacred mountains of Masis (Ararat) and Aragats. The domain of the Charis is the desert, from whence they constantly attempt to conquer Ararat and annihilate the Aryans. Arordiner understand the existence of the individual human and the world as cyclic. Thus they believe that every Aryan will actually come back to life again in the following generations of his/her own descendants. Regarding the history of the world, they claim that just as each year is similar to the previous year and to the following one, so the cosmic eras follow one after the other, repeating the whole cycle every ten thousand years. During the cosmic spring and summer, Aryans remain faithful to their deities and live as human gods in happiness and peace. Later, when they distance themselves from their roots and do not feed themselves anymore with cosmic energy, the evil Chari are able to weaken them, and to establish their domination over the world. However, at the time of the deepest decay, the last Aryans always rise with the help of their patron

God Vahagn, and the evil is destroyed, the earth purged, and a new cosmic era starts. Neopagans flesh out these mythological bones with specifically interpreted historical processes. Thus, they believe that during earlier periods of the current era, Aryans migrated to other parts of the world, giving rise to German, Iranian, Greek, Slavic, and other ethnic groups. Those who remained nearest Ararat are the Armenians, whose language and customs are said to be the closest to the shared Aryan core. In turn, Armenian Neopagan anti-Semitism is based on the above-mentioned dualistic perception of the world. Many Arordiner associate the Chari who worship Vishap and Yahvah with the Jews, who, in their opinion, “invented” Christianity in order to weaken Aryans. They do not consider it accidental that Armenia was the first country to be converted to Christianity, and some believe that the ultimate goal of the Jews is to move away from their desert (state of Israel) and establish their new statehood in Ararat.36 The above-mentioned perception of history ranges Armenian Neopagans with modern millenary spiritual movements that see our times as leading to a change of epochs. Arordiner believe that a new cosmic spring will start with tempestuous worldwide catastrophes. They also claim that this process was launched just after the Armenian genocide and during the Bolshevik aggression on Armenia, when Nzhdeh was left alone at the top of Mount Khustup and experienced his revelation. As one of the priests explained to us, “That was the moment of ultimate crisis, when the divine energy was born, and this energy transformed Nzhdeh so that he, the son of an Armenian Church priest, announced that henceforth we [Armenians] have to talk, have to live, with Vahagn.” In the eyes of Arordiner, this statement makes Nzhdeh the prophet of the new era.

SACRED LANDSCAPES Arordiner identify as their sacred places a number of natural sites and archeological monuments of pre-Christian times that presumably were once places of worship or are mentioned as such in the Ukhtagirk.37 The central shrine for Neopagans is a pagan temple in Garni (first century CE), reconstructed from ruins at the end of the 1970s and considered to be originally dedicated to Mihr—the solar god in the ancient Armenian pantheon. Other archeological monuments are less attended but can be considered important for some holidays. For example, Zatik (Easter), which for Neopagans is a feast devoted to Anahit, the mother goddess, is traditionally celebrated at the Metsamor archeological site (third millennium BCE), the name of which is interpreted by Neopagans as meaning “the Great Mother.” Some places, like Erebuni (an Urartian fortress at the premises of Yerevan, dated to the eighth century BCE) or Shengavit (a settlement dated from the fourth to second millennium BCE, also located within the administrative boarders of Armenian capital) can serve as suitable substitutes for the Garni temple if it is not accessible for some reason (mainly weather or transportation related). They carry significant meaning as the oldest parts of Yerevan, which is considered by Arordiners as an “eternal city,” erected by the first god-man Ari and located in the special spot from where both sacred mountains—Ararat and Aragats—can be seen.38 In addition to these relatively easily accessible places, Neopagans undertake pilgrimages to remote locations such as Mount Aragats, Mount Khustup, and Zorats Karer. Mount Aragats is the highest peak in Armenia, described in the Ukhtagirk as the place where the throne of god Ara was located, and where the mythical hero Ariman talked to the god Vahagn at the end of the first cosmic era. In turn, Mount Khustup is where Nzhdeh talked to Vahagn marking the coming end of our era. Finally, Zorac Karer is the megalithic monument dated to the third millennium BCE, which contains both elements of necropolis and of archaic astronomical observatory, and is often compared to Stonehenge. Neopagans have also been able to re-shape some sacred landscapes. Free entrance to the Garni temple during the celebration of Neopagan

rituals has been successfully negotiated with the authorities. Furthermore, they are allowed to adapt the territory to their religious needs on both occasional (setting up accoutrements for ritual activities) and perpetual levels (e.g. planting sacred trees). After the death of Kakosyan, a water source was established to commemorate him. This source has become an important ritual constituent during most Neopagan feasts. Almost every year a new set of apricot trees39 is planted in the environs of the temple. Those at the top of the hill play a role similar to that of traditional “sacred” trees common in Armenian folk Christianity—they are adorned with ribbons and handkerchiefs that symbolize one’s requests. Downhill, the newly established local communities of Arordner have planted trees, which signify the unity and well-being of those groups. However, the Garni temple is also a museum and one of the “must see” tourist spots in Armenia. For these reasons its utilization for religious purposes is limited. The ritual fire is never placed inside the rectangular hole originally established with this aim in the center of the temple, and no paraphernalia remains in the temple after the celebration is over. Discussion about the need to build a new temple also arises among Armenian Neopagans. Even the head of the Priests’ Council, who opposed the Aryan Union’s recent initiative, says that he dreams of building a temple at the top of Mount Khustup and another one in Yerevan.

RITUAL PRACTICES Arordiner consider group rituals not only as the way to recall traditions or to meet each other, but as the source of cosmic energy that can bring Neopagans closer to the lost divinity. The priests have special ceremonial clothes and act in a solemn style, while there is no elaborate way of conduct or dress code prescribed for ordinary participants. Nevertheless, some of them wear self-made costumes in an ethnic style adorned with “pagan” symbols. Some individuals look as if they were praying (with hands stretched and eyes turned toward the sky, sometimes kneeling), others repeat after the priests the ritual exclamation Parrk! (“Glory!”). A three-tiered vertical structure can be noticed in the Garni rituals: upstairs are the acolytes, downstairs is the flock consisting of Neopagans, onlookers, tourists, locals, and so on, and the space in-between is given to “mediators” (journalists, researchers, and photographers), as well as to playing children. Celebrations of the feasts of the annual cycle have been elaborated in accordance with Ukhtagirk and current folk versions of traditional holidays that at the same time make a part of the Christian calendar. The most important of them are Terendez (Armenian Candlemas on 14 February), Zatik (Easter), Hambardzum (Ascension), and Vardavar (Transfiguration). This list is completed by feasts of the Birth of Vahagn (21 March) and the Birth of Mihr (22 December) and Navasard, preChristian New Year celebrated in August and currently reinterpreted as the commemoration day of a fight between Hayk (progenitor of Armenians) and Bel.40 In fact, Neopagans have invented their ritual calendar anew based on “Armenian tradition” rather than made a historical reconstruction with the help of ethnographic and archeological data. Thus, Terendez, a feast they devote to Earth’s fertility, is observed in a manner similar to its Armenian Christian equivalent by setting bonfires and jumping over them. Vardavar, presented by Arordiner as devoted to Astghik, the goddess of beauty and love, is commonly celebrated by pouring water on each other. In the same way, the Arordiner incorporate other traditional ritual activities into their ceremonies and flesh them out with details invented or adopted from different sources.

Usually, every celebration includes “liturgy,” that is, lighting the ritual torch, recitation of sacred texts, blessing the wine, a sermon, as well as animal sacrifice (mostly sheep that are slaughtered after they have been blessed) and worshiping next to the memorial of Kakosyan. Optionally, there may also be a ritual round dance of priests, the blessing and distribution of bread, roses, or apricots, the planting of sacred trees, a spectacle by a national dancing group, or ritual sport contests. The celebration cannot be canceled nor can the day of it be shifted, even in case the holiday falls on working days, because many feasts coincide with equinoxes and solstices—days considered as special in terms of giving access to the cosmic energy. For example, vernal equinox is the celebration of the birth of Vahagn, and autumnal equinox is the ancestors’ commemoration day. However, this does not mean that the structure of rituals is unchangeable. It is open to innovations, if they seem justified, and every year rituals are slightly changed, improved, enriched with details, or adopt some new interpretations. Armenian Neopagan rites of passage, such as baptisms, weddings, and funerals, borrow many elements from Armenian Christianity. However, this is explained as taking back what Christians had previously borrowed from pagans. A central part of the rite of baptism is anointing with consecrated flower oil (tsaghkayugh) in the name of the father-god Ara and the mothergoddess Anahit as a sign of asking for their patronage over the neophyte. Another component is swearing an oath of loyalty to the Ukht,(Order), Nation, and the god Vahagn (as a son of Ara and Anahit, and patron of Aryans). The neophyte receives an “arevkhach” (sun-cross—a rounded, eight-armed swastika), an analogue of the Christian cross, from his godfather. There are no strict regulations in terms of place and time for conducting the baptism, although most frequently it takes place during the celebration of cyclic feasts, and not as a separate event. Differently than in Christian ritual, the neophyte is not given a new name; instead his belonging to a particular clan (tohm) is stressed.41 The clan component is also emphasized in the wedding ceremony, when all participating family members are involved in the ritual process. Structurally weddings resemble their Christian equivalent. They are conducted in the temple

(Garni), the bride and groom are blessed and anointed by the priest, given the consecrated wine to drink, swear an oath to the father-god Ara and exchange gold rings. The union of two people is considered an agreement between two tohms and the responsibility for keeping this union firm and happy is laid on two clans equally. In contrast, Neopagan funerals significantly differ from Armenian Christian ritual, as they require an act of cremation. The ashes should be rendered to the four elements of nature. Fire is symbolized by the act of cremation itself; therefore the ashes are divided onto three parts. One of them is buried in the earth (at a regular state-run cemetery), another is scattered in the air over the Garni gorge, and the third part is poured into the river Garni. The first cremated Neopagan was Kakosyan himself. Cremation was illegal in Armenia at that time, and it took a lot of effort to find a proper place with corresponding facilities to carry out the procedure. Later Neopagans applied to the National Assembly with a request to legalize cremations, which is now allowed if the deceased has left a proper indication in his or her will. Yet another problem that Neopagans face is the lack of acceptance of the idea of cremation, often expressed by non-Arordiner relatives and friends of the deceased. Therefore, in order to avoid controversies the funeral ritual (farewell to the deceased, funeral procession, and repast) is brought closer to the traditional Christian one. Cremation is done at night, and the next day an urn with part of the ashes is taken to the cemetery and buried there. Afterwards, the Neopagan ritual of memorializing the deceased continues with the collective lighting of a ritual torch. The last important part of Neopagans’ ritual practices are pilgrimages to archeological monuments of pre-Christian times and to natural places such as mounts Aragats and Khustup. Pilgrimages are not mass events; usually only a few people take part in them.42 If in a group of pilgrims a priest is present, then a Neopagan rite (recitation of holy texts around a sacred fire) is usually conducted at the spot. Beside group ritual activity, individual spiritual practices are not very elaborated among Arordiners, and they do not have strict prescriptions for everyday religiosity. Similarly, most of the day-to-day inter-communal activities (informal meetings, discussions around administrative or

ideological issues) are secular in nature. However, there are some exceptions from this norm. For example, some Neopagans who live in the village of Garni go periodically to the Garni temple to light a fire or candles and pray. Their practices are reminiscent of those found at folk shrines in Armenian unofficial Christianity.43 Some Arordiner climb the holy mountains on their own, hoping that this endeavor will provoke visions of Vahagn. One of the Neopagan adherents told us also how he climbed Khustup and and searched its slopes several times in order to find a rock which can be seen on the background of the only preserved photography of Nzhdeh from the time of his “exile” there. Yet another example of personalized religiosity is the experience claimed by a poet Aren Haykyan, the author of numerous odes devoted to pagan deities as well as to Nzhdeh and Kakosyan. As he confessed, most of these poems are the results of visions of the Vahagn. In a somewhat similar manner, a few other Arordiners told stories of miraculous occurrences (healing, pregnancy, etc.) that they have experienced as a result of mystic contact with Neopagan gods.

CONCLUSION As this chapter shows, Arordiners combine the intellectual background of their often highly educated adherents with religious mysticism. They combine a modern nationalistic ideology with a pan-national myth of the Aryan race and present a spirituality that draws on pre-Christian, Christian, and New Age elements. The affiliation of the Arordineri Ukht with Soviet dissident nationalism and its political offspring in independent Armenia has changed during the last twenty years. Step by step, the reconstructed mythology and ritual system that originally emerged as the product of the intellectual exercises of a nationalist-oriented intelligentsia has adapted to the increasing religious needs and interests of its adherents. Also, the structure of the Neopagan community has developed to include not only urban, loosely connected intellectuals, but also people from other social strata and living in village communities. On the one hand, all these transformations demonstrate the dynamic, multi-dimensional character of the Armenian Neopagan movement, allowing us to interpret it as being something more than just a local version of a post-Soviet “form of politicized ideology.” 44 On the other hand, the instable nature of given phenomenon, which is well illustrated by recent splits and turbulences, calls for further research and keeps us from making any predictions regarding the future prospects and character of the Neopagan movement in Armenia.

NOTES 1. For articles in Russian and in Armenian, see Yulia Antonyan, “Vossozdanie Religii: Neoyazychestvo v Armenii,” Laboratorium 1 (2010); Yulia Antonyan, “Inchpes e heroes darnum Astvatz. Garegin Nzhdehe ev hay nor hetanosnere,” in Hay azgagrutian ev hnagitutian khndirnere 3, P. Avetisyan, L. Abrahamyan, T. Dalalyan, & A. Bobokhyan (eds) (Yerevan: HH GA Hnagitutian ev Azgagrutian Institut, 2007). 2. Victor Shnirelman, “‘Christians! Go Home!’: A Revival of Neopaganism between the Baltic Sea and Transcaucasia (An Overview),” Journal of Contemporary Religion 17(2) (2002); Konrad Siekierski, “Nation and Faith, Past and Present: The Contemporary Discourse of the Armenian Apostolic Church in Armenia,” Journal of the Society for Armenian Studies 18(2) (2009). 3. The Armenian word for pagan is hetanos, and Armenian followers of Neopaganism usually refer to themselves using this term, or a term which is a part of their organization name—Arordi (sing.), Arordiner (pl.)—meaning Child/Children of Ara. They avoid the prefix “neo” before the word “pagan,” although they usually do not actively oppose its use. 4. Slak is the name taken by Kakosyan, presumably because he considered himself from the family of Slkuni, who were pagan priests in ancient Armenia. 5. By analogy with Dextera Domini (the hand of God). 6. Abrahamian offers slightly different translation of Tseghakron as “religion of a tribe/kindred group”; Levon Abrahamian, Armenian Identity in a Changing World (Costa Mesa, CA: Mazda Publishers, 2006), 128. Some other interpreters translate the word tsegh as “race,” which can be accompanied by the claim that Nzhdeh’s teachings should be perceived as more general Aryan ideology. Sometimes the word kron is translated not as “religion,” but as “to bear/to carry in oneself.” Thus Tseghakron can be also translated as “carrying the nation/race.” These discussions indicate a feature of Nzhdeh’s writings— metaphor and ambiguity that allow different interpretations of his thoughts to different contexts and goals. 7. For details, see Antonyan, “Inchpes e herose.” 8. Yuri Khachatryan & Aram Alexanyan (eds), Haykakanutiun-ariakanutiun (Yerevan: Printinfo, 2001). 9. Tamaz Gamkrelidze & Yacheslav Ivanov, Indoyevropeyski iyazyk i indoyevropeitsy: Rekonstruktsiiya istoriko-tipologicheskii analiz prayazyika i prakuľtury (Tbilisi: Izdateľstvo Tbilisskogo Universiteta, 1984).

10. See Yulia Antonyan, “Ariakan Araspelev hay nor hetanosnere,” in Inqnutiune ev popokhvogh ashkharhe, mijazgayin gitazhoghovi nyuteri zhoghovatzu, M. Zolyan (ed.) (Yerevan: Lingva, 2008), 23–30. 11. Stephen Hunt, Religion and Everyday Life (London: Routledge, 2005), 150. 12. Cf. Brian Morris, Religion and Anthropology: A Critical Introduction (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006), 273–4. 13. The title of the supreme priest should have passed to one of his sons, but none of them has been willing to bear it. Currently, the priests are waiting for Kakosyan’s grandson to come of age to take the title. Meanwhile, the responsibilities of the supreme priest lie with the head of the priests’ council. 14. According to the official historiography of the AAC, Armenia became the first country to adopt Christianity as the state religion at the beginning of the fourth century. Later, the fact of belonging to the Christianity represented by the AAC became almost tantamount to being Armenian. This interconnection is reflected both by a traditional selfdescribing term used by Armenians— Hay–Khristonia (Armenian–Christian)—and by today’s constitutional status of the AAC as the national Church. Nowadays an official count of followers of the AAC includes 90 percent of Armenian society. The AAC is an autocephalous church and it belongs to the Oriental Orthodox family of Christianity, rejecting the decisions of the Council of Chalcedon (451) and all subsequent councils. Abrahamian, Armenian Identity in a Changing World, 111–34; Razmik Panossian, “The Past as a Nation: Three Dimensions of Armenian Identity,” Geopolitics 7(2) (2002), 125–30; Razmik Panossian, The Armenians: From Kings and Priests to Merchants and Commissars (New York: Columbia University Press, 2006), 42–6; Siekierski, “Nation and Faith.” 15. Karine Ter–Saakian, “Armenia: Pagan Games,” 18 August 2004, 16. Ibid. 17. In 1915 and the following years, up to 1.5 million Armenians lost their lives, and several hundred thousand more were expelled from Turkey. The rich Armenian heritage was almost completely destroyed, and the word “genocide” became the marker of a new Armenian identity—victims and survivors—that dominated the understanding of what it meant to be Armenian in the twentieth century; Panossian, The Armenians, 228–42. By analogy, other tragic events or threatening processes are designated today by Armenians as “cultural genocide” (for example, the destruction by Azerbaijanis of the Armenian cemetery in Julfa) or “white genocide” (the process of assimilation of Armenian diasporas). Thus, on the one hand, the idea of labeling the adoption of Christianity as “the first genocide” follows a well-established tradition. On the other hand, however, it is quite striking,

18. 19.

20. 21. 22. 23. 24.

25. 26. 27. 28. 29. 30. 31.

taking into consideration the fact that Garegin Nzhdeh’s philosophy was aimed at overcoming the trauma of 1915, and many Neopagans claim that Armenians must free themselves from the syndrome of being victims. At the time when he worked as a teacher and journalist in Romania. These claims are analogous to the ones referring to Armenianness and Christianity. Siekierski, “Nation and Faith,” 106–7; Konrad Siekierski, “Religious and National Identities in Post-Soviet Armenia,” in Religions and Identities in Transition, Irena Borowik & Malgorzata Zawila (eds) (Krakow: Nomos, 2010), 155–7. Onik Kirkoryan, “Armenian Festival Combines Paganism and Nationalism,” Panossian, “The Past as a Nation,” 134; Abrahamian, Armenian Identity in a Changing World, 10–12. The RPA was founded at the beginning of 1990s as a small nationalistic party; however during the past decade it has evolved into a dominant political force in the country. See the official site of the RPA: “Kazmogh” was the common name for Armenian stone-carvers, making “khachkars” (cross-stones—Armenian–Christian monuments). This term indicates that they did not create an ornament, but just compiled it from the elements conceived and inspired by the Creator; Abrahamian, Armenian Identity in a Changing World, 269. During their first registration in 1992, Arordiner declared Avesta (the holy book of Zoroastrianism) and the Rigveda (an ancient Hindu scripture) as their scriptural base. Astvatsashoonch is the Armenian name for the Bible, which translated as “inspired by God,” but Neopagans argue that it means “language exhaled by the God, divine language.” Vishap (Dragon) is a frequent hero of Armenian mythology, but it has never been worshiped or even mentioned as a deity. Avetaran is also the Armenian word for the Christian Gospel, but the Neopagan Avetaran has nothing in common with it in terms of content and meaning. Kakosyan’s myth of Nzhdeh intuitively follows the general structure of heroic myth, as traced by Campbell. Joseph Campbell, Tysyachelikii Geroi (Moscow: Vakler, Refl-buk, Ast, 1997). Antonyan, “Inchpes e herose.” There was a movement of “literary paganism” in the history of the modern Armenian literature; see Antonyan, “Vossozdanie Religii.”

32. Zabelle Boyajian, “Armenian Legends and Poems,” The series of e-books ‘Forgotten Books.’. hp. 33. In this respect, Ukhtagirk is a relevant example of Malinowski’s theory of myths and their relationship to rituals. Bronislav Malinowski, Magic, Science and Religion and Other Essays (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1954), 100– 119. 34. For example, one of the priests, who usually stammers, seems to be bereft of this impediment during the recitation of ritual texts. 35. “Chari” is a quiddity. In Armenian, “char” means evil. At the same time “ch” is a negative particle, so “chari” also could mean “non-ari.” 36. The anti-Semitism of Armenian Neopagans is not derived from Nazism. They consider the Holocaust another Chari–Jewish ruse aimed at discrediting Aryans. Similarly, Arordiner always explain that the swastika is a primeval symbol of eternity that was deliberately discredited by Nazis. In general, there is no common anti-Semitism in Armenia, though some anti-Semitic ideas are circulating there, mostly in connection with the Armenian genocide of 1915–23. The leaders of the party of Young Turks, responsible for the Genocide, included “Dönme” (Jewish converts). See Marc D. Baer, The Dönme: Jewish Converts, Muslim Revolutionaries, and Secular Turks (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2010), 90–101. This fact, as well as the long-lasting Israeli–Turkish political alliance and reluctance of Israel to recognize the Armenian genocide, are often incorporated into the theories of the Jewish plot. 37. On the meaning of sacred sites in Neopaganism, see Kathryn Rountree, “Performing the Divine: Neopagan Practices and Embodiment at Sacred Sites,” Body and Society12(4) (2006), 95. 38. Neopagans claim that the history of Yerevan goes back some 20,000 years. The Armenian–Christian historiography more modestly dates the erection of Yerevan to when Noah came down from Ararat after the biblical Deluge. Official academic Armenian chronologies place it at 782 BCE when the above-mentioned fortress of Erebuni was built. 39. The sacred fruit of Arordiner is apricot, playing a significant role in the Ukhtagirk mythology. 40. The dates of the feasts (including such movable feasts as Easter and Vardavar) that coincide with those of the AAC are calculated in accordance with the Armenian Church calendar, which is claimed to actually preserve elements of pre-Christian calendar, and thus seen as valid for Arordiner too. For solstices and equinoxes Neopagans use conventional dates of 22


42. 43.


December, 21 March, and 23 September. The dates have been fixed in the time of Kakosyan and have not changed since. Tohm or azg is a socially significant and influential unit of the Armenian kinship system that has survived from the ancient times to nowadays. Its modern urbanized analogue is sometimes reduced to the large family, but in villages tohms still keep their traditional forms of lineages having a common ancestor. Neopagans regard the tohm as a sacred basis of the nation. It requires good physical condition to climb to their peaks (4,090 and 3,200 meters above sea level, respectively). The territory of the Garni temple had long been a place for Christian shrineworship due to the remnants of the Christian church located alongside the pagan temple. Local people used to light candles on church stones until the temple and surrounding territories were declared a museum and practices that might cause any detriment to ancient constructions were prohibited. Nevertheless, the previous tradition is not dead yet. At the day of celebration of one of the Neopagan holidays, we observed how Christian pilgrims lighted candles and prayed there without paying attention to the Arordiner ritual. The priests turned out to be rather positively inclined toward such behavior. According to them, it supported their thesis of the ubiquity of pagan consciousness among Armenians. Shnirelman, “‘Christians! Go Home!’,” 208.


In the twenty-first century, the almost legendary figure of Jan Stachniuk (1905–63) continues to tower over the landscape of the Polish Neopagan movement. There are Neopagan groups which strive to present their activities as a direct continuation of his mortal efforts, and there are groups which consciously attempt to disassociate and distance themselves from his name and image, but it is difficult to remain entirely aloof from his legacy. Stachniuk’s unique ideology and its specialized jargon have been interpreted, misinterpreted, and reinterpreted in a rich variety of ways. He called himself a nationalist. The press called him a Neopagan. But in important ways, Stachniuk’s thought was too original to fit easily into anyone else’s categories. In the 1930s in Poland, Roman Catholicism was the dominant ideology. It might even be said—although this is a simplification—that the majority of all political groups considered Roman Catholicism to be a fundamental and permanent value. Most agreed that the socio-political system of Poland should be based in Catholic ethics. The major opposition party in the Second Republic of Poland,1 the National Democrats, went so far as to postulate the conception of the Catholic State of the Polish Nation. The rare exceptions were a small number of parties with Jewish religious affiliation and a handful of expressly atheist communists and socialists, and even these were numerically small. The ideological environment of the Zadruga movement, concentrated around its founder Jan Stachniuk,2 looks exceptional when seen against this background. Stachniuk decided to break off with the dominant ideological trend in Poland: with the Catholic viewpoint on anthropological, constitutional questions, and those concerning philosophy

of history. His main interests were the problems of culture and civilization and the factors impacting their development and decline. The founder of Zadruga decidedly opposed personalism,3 mostly present in Catholic thought. He was interested in Man seen as a creative individual and a member in a greater group. His interest in the social changes in the Soviet Union in the 1920s and 1930s was not accidental. One of his first published articles was dedicated to pyatiletka, the so-called five-year plan, with which the Soviet government aimed at significant growth of industrialization of the country. Stachniuk explored the psychological side of the changes in the communist state. He described the birth of a new man: Behind the veil of phrases pronounced by boring materialists, there is an accomplishment of great importance accomplished during pyatiletka, an attainment of an unmistakably incorporeal nature. It lies in the fact that a new man was created, a man able to act under the stimulus of motives other than just his own. A significant portion of the working masses … are driven to production by the new incentive of “social good.” It has been experimentally proven that it is possible to control productive groups through the mood of society and that efficient planned production can be based upon it.4 And although he did not approve of Marxist ideology and its conception of class struggle, he had great respect for the formation of the new man and new society. He perceived, or wanted to perceive, Soviet Russia as the launchpad of a giant civilizational leap. A country with a largely agricultural economy was experiencing rapid industrialization. Stachniuk assessed this change positively. The founder of Zadruga considered culture, work, and creation as the mainspring of their new viewpoint. He also based his conception of humanity and the value of the individual human being on these ideas. Man is special among other beings thanks to his ability to create. Every person is a potential creator but not everyone wants to actualize this potential. For Stachniuk, “the centre of human history on earth is not struggle of spirit and matter, egoism and altruism, God and Satan, it is not class or race war, what it is, is the battle between

‘culture’ and ‘contraculture’ (wspakultura) for reign over the human being.”5 According to Stachniuk, everything that contributes to the growth of culture is positive; everything that opposes this process is negative. He used the neologism “wspakultura” (his own invention) to describe elements which are the antithesis of culture. The creation of this new word, one of many new words (and new meanings for old words) which Stachniuk created, reveals much about the urgency and ambition of his thought. Stachniuk wanted his readers to realize that his new conceptions require a whole new language.6 The old notions were inadequate. A new, holistic system of beliefs has to include new notions which suit it best. Wspakultura consists of various elements. “Kultura” is the essence of human nature. If kultura consists of working and creating things of lasting importance, then a man who yields to his ephemeral impulses has fallen into wspakultura. The human being who rejects the call to create can be said to have voluntarily discarded the essence of human nature. The key concept of wspakultura ran throughout Stachniuk articles and books.7 Radoslaw Siedlinski has identified two categories of causes of contracultural processes in Stachniuk’s writings. The first type is ‘external causes’ which refers to the biological limitations of any given human being or of humankind.8 They are difficult to overcome, but generally unavoidable. The second type is “internal causes,” avoidable vectors of wspakulturawhich come about through a lack of consciousness about the mission and duties of mankind in this world (that is, a lack of selfawareness). Stachniuk perceived the universalistic religions as containing a range of contracultural tendencies. Their major flaw lies in their false understanding of human nature and the purpose of human life. These religions locate human purpose somewhere outside of this world and thus prevent people from achieving real personal fulfillment in worldly existence. Stachniuk himself isolated six components of wspakultura: ◆ ◆ ◆ ◆

personalism universal love nihilism hedonism

◆ moralism ◆ spiritual–magical thought. When all of the above factors are present, this is called “total wspakultura” (and Stachniuk felt that all universalistic religions fell in this category). The constituent components of wspakultura are also interpreted in specific ways in Stachniuk’s philosophy, often taking a seemingly positive concept and exposing its negative aspects. Here is how Stachniuk defined the first on the list: Personalism is the tendency to lead such a life that an individual, free from service in the name of cultural heritage, seeks the tranquility of pure being, taking as its ideal a complete lack of disturbance of lyrical rumination on the inside and idyllic repose on the outside. … Thus, personalism is the will to pure biophysiological being.9 It is clear that Stachniuk gives personalism a new meaning—it is no longer concentration on a human being as a value. A personalist is a man who does not create. The essence of the personalistic viewpoint is being, not doing. It is withdrawing from the world—deep passivity engulfing all activity. The next component of wspakultura is “universal love” (wszechmiłość),10 meaning acceptance of all human creatures as they are. The Christian commandment “to love one’s neighbor” does not specify any criteria, and does not take into account the value of a man based on his creative powers. In addition, universal love does not even distinguish between humanity and nature, nor does it recognize humanity’s exceptional position. It creates a vision of a harmonious world of all beings where human creativity is unimportant. Stachniuk wrote: “From this point of view there is no difference between a hero and a pick-pocket, a traitor who brings his nation to ruin and the defender of the nation, enemy and friend … a religious prude and a genius inventor."11 In other words it can be said that universal love, the unqualified love of one’s

neighbor, is not creative and does not contribute to cultural development. They accept the status quo. Another component of wspakultura is “nihilism,”12 characterized an attempt at denying life itself, which is seen as the abode of sin and pain. In his book Wspakultura the author unambiguously described nihilism as a belief that everything that ties a man to the world of culture is evil. Nihilism denies the value of life and creation. It attempts to annihilate life through asceticism and “spiritual improvement” practices. It finds value in despising the value of the real world. Stachniuk saw a specific link between the elements of nihilism and “hedonism,” and described it in these words: Nihilism fights against cultural production … Hedonism, in turn, bases itself on the discovery that products of culture can be exploited for secondary, inconsequential consumption. Nihilism is bent on destruction of the foundations of culture, while hedonism attempts to serve a carefree feast on the ruins.13 Hedonism treats the output of culture solely as objects to be used. Humanity becomes a consumer, not a creator. Moralism, the next element of wspakultura, severs the human being into two parts: spirit and body. Through small acts of apparent moral value on the level of spirit, the human being seeks to compensate for real failure to create culture in the world. Moralism, therefore, is related to spiritualism which claims that the absolute values and rewards are somewhere outside of this world. The spiritual world is ideal and, as Bogumil Grott wrote, “it compensates for all the imperfections of the earthly world.”14 Stachniuk perceived the presence of the components of wspakultura described above in nearly all religions across the globe. He mentions Brahmanism, Jainism, Buddhism, Confucianism, Christianity, and Islam as among those that have negative impact. Together, this epidemic of “total contracultures” rules 90 percent of humanity. Each of them emphasizes one of the components of wspakultura: for instance, nihilism plays the most important role in Buddhism. Stachniuk admitted that some of the ancient religions had been right for their times—Vedic Hinduism, Zoroastrianism, the ancient Greek religion (before Socrates)—but overall

he noted that their philosophies were not strong enough to withstand the plague of wspakultura. As he analyzed the impact of religion on the history of the world and humankind, Stachniuk devoted the largest portion of his attention to his critique of Christianity.15 More so than other “total wspakultura” systems, Christianity has had a global reach, and in particular, in the form of Roman Catholicism, it has had an unusually deep effect on Poland. An important goal for Stachniuk, therefore, was to expose the negative impact that Catholicism (especially its post-Tridentine forms)16 had made on the national character of Poles. According to Stachniuk, escapist spiritualism is the element of wspakultura which is most central and most dominant in Christianity: “The foundation of Christianity is the domination of spiritualism. All other elements concentrate around it. Belief in ‘there’ dominates everything else.”17 Of course one can also find other components of wspakultura in Christianity. This religion refuses to accept the value of creation and it does not accept competition. It praises the commandment to love one’s neighbor (and this commandment is detrimental to civilization). It does not lead the world to development, a Christian does not want to conquer the world, and he desires perfection of his soul instead. Stachniuk exceptionally criticizes the form into which Catholicism evolved after the Council of Trent (1545–63). This council in response to the Reformation actuated the Catholic Church. Stachniuk criticizes the Society of Jesus (also known as the Jesuits), the order established at that time. He claims that the Jesuit order is responsible for the growth of the people’s attachment to the Catholic Church. The essence of Poland and Catholicism are perceived as identical and a new catchword is created—a “Catholic– Pole.”18 The Church gained significant influence on Polish political elites. By that Catholicism became “the group ideology”: In the course of one or two generations, triumphant Catholicism changed the spiritual type among Poles. The crew of the ship called Poland was entirely altered. Seemingly, everyone kept their positions: the nobility, magnates, serfs, but at the same

time they became completely different human beings … with a new inner driving force.19 When describing how Stachniuk wrote about Christianity the topic of Protestantism cannot be skipped. The founder of Zadruga thought that Protestantism is so distant from the Christian ideas that it should not be linked to it and it does not contain elements of wspakultura except for some traces of the universal, love and spiritualism. The main difference between Christianity and Protestantism lies in their attitude toward the possibility of enriching. Catholicism is suspicious of wealth: Bourgeoisie, inspired by the Protestantism, … adhered to the opposite rule; blessed be the rich; wealth, prosperity, success in business were evidence of one’s covenant with God. … The protestant world definitely rejected the cult of poverty and refused to consider destitution a sign of moral superiority.20 Stachniuk appreciated the impact Protestantism had on the growth of economic activities of mankind. He was undoubtedly influenced by the thought of German sociologist Max Weber who in his work The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism proclaimed his thesis about the meaning of Protestantism in the rise of capitalism.21 Looking from this perspective, Stachniuk thought that the weakness of the Polish Reformation and strength of the Counter-Reformation Catholicism contributed to the civilizational retrogression of Poland. He agreed with Weber’s belief that religions impact economics and looked at religion mostly through its civilizational function. This is where the idea of return to the pre-Christian tradition of Poland and the Slavic people came from. The name that Stachniuk selected for his group, Zadruga, referred to the old South Slavic clan community that lived and worked together. This was related to the Polish concept of gminowładztwo (“community authority”) that many Romantics like Zorian Dołęga-Chodakowski and Joachim Lelewel had ascribed to the pre-Christian Slavs. Whereas the more familiar Polish term had already been appropriated by the left wing as a kind of proto-Socialism, the less-familiar South Slavic term zadruga was still “available” for new uses in Poland. The titular “Zadruga,” however,

was not the one in the past, but the social system that lay waiting yet to be built in future. Stachniuk wrote about religion largely in terms of its effect, positive or negative, on the nation. He revealed very little about his personal beliefs and religious experiences, if he had any. Stachniuk was considered a “Neopagan” in the 1930s because of his belief that the Slavic people were vital and active prior to Christianization, and declined thereafter. Stachniuk wanted to substitute pagan values for Christian values, because according to him the pagan outlook praised life and creative activity. At the same time Stachniuk did not seem to be personally interested in the reconstruction of pre-Christian Slavic religious practice per se (that is, rites, prayers, temples, etc.), but he was very interested in returning to the pre-Christian ethos. He wrote: “Of course, it is ridiculous to renew the symbols, Swantewit, Swarozyc, and so on. Let’s leave idols to the idiots. What we care about is an intense bond of the same attitude toward life, and it is the same.”22 Stachniuk intended that streamlined religion to support the ideology of Zadruga. The most important feature of the pantheistic Slavic religion for Stachniuk was its utilitarian commendation of life and creativity. Nonetheless, in spite of his own indifference toward pagan cult practices, Stachniuk attracted some followers who formed a “Slavophile” wing within Zadruga, and these followers found ways of integrating such things as pagan hymns to old gods like Perun within the framework of Stachniuk’s doctrine. We will return to those at the end of this chapter. So, then, how did Stachniuk plan to implement his ideas in Polish society? He was of the opinion that society is in need of a “myth”—the myth of Zadruga. This is not a myth in the usual sense of a reference to a distant primordial past (although it does also include references to the past). It is the driving force that makes people do certain things, move in the right direction. Georges Sorel (1847–1922), the ideologist of syndicalism, was the first author to use this notion fully in this sense. A myth is a task that society is to accomplish.23 Furthermore, a myth demands to be actualized. Once one myth is accomplished, another myth is born. This way Man is constantly forced to be active. In the society of Zadruga in order to accomplish tasks, the individual has to be subordinate

to the community. In the Zadruga ideology generality is more important than individuality. An individual is important only when he is useful for the community. The nation was seen as the highest value and the group formed around Stachniuk unequivocally called themselves nationalists. The following words were published in their periodical Zadruga: We are nationalists because we see our ultimate goal in the nation. … We are nationalist Poles who in the current reality— called Polish—are suffocating. We are nationalists who will seek warnings and indications in our past, so treacherously distorted, about what was and can be an impediment to the Greatness of the Nation.24 They stressed that anyone who recognizes a value greater than the nation cannot be called a nationalist. This was an explicit polemic with the Catholicnational camp which reserved the first place in their value hierarchy for God. Stachniuk compared a nation to a tree where leaves represented individual human beings. In Droga rewolucji kulturowej (“The Road to Cultural Revolution”) he wrote: “An individual … in a nation feels like a transient leaf on an everlasting tree. It feels subconsciously that its aspirations, ideals, tasks are inherent in a higher existence which is a historical community.”25 As the thought of Stachniuk evolved, he stepped away from the conception of nation in favor of supernation. It was a peculiar universalistic conception projected as means to break off with national particularism which often leads to wars. Nations united as a “supernation” would act as a “national creative community” instead of being in the state of war. The work on development of the civilization would replace armaments and fighting. An individual would remain subordinate to the “supernation.” Achieving complex goals is not possible in a pluralistic community; elites are necessary to lead the masses in a desired direction. That is why individual life should be controlled by state. Stachniuk never elaborated on how he understood a “state” but based on his writings it can be deduced that a Zadruga state would be totalitarian as only such a state can fully monitor individuals and precisely control economic development.

In his 1941 book Mit słowiański (“The Slavic Myth”) he shed some light on his vision of state. It would be an efficient system of administration which would direct citizens’ activities. As has been mentioned, the elite would exercise power. The “leader principle” (Führerprinzip as it was known from the Nazi Third Reich) was conspicuously absent from Zadruga ideology. Even the elite were expected to maintain collective principles. Stachniuk called his elite the “Zadruga embryo” as this group would be the heart of Zadruga. The elite would aim at conducting revolution in order to come to power. The rest of the society would obey their commands. During the process of education the citizens would be infected with pro-social attitude. Individualistic impulses would not be approved. The state would not have a class structure as the only class would be workers. One of Stachniuk’s opponents, Jan Mosdorf, who represented the stream of national Christians, entitled his review of Stachniuk’s book Heroiczna wspólnota narodu (“The Heroic Collective of the Nation”) as Romantyzm kopca termitów (“Romanticism in a Termite’s Nest”).26 This critical and ironic evaluation of the Zadruga conception was not unfounded. The lack of individualism, freedom of choice, and subordination to the community indeed made the Zadruga state look very much like an entomological display. Public education was necessary in order to instill the ideology of Zadruga into citizens’ minds. Besides that, Stachniuk had very far-reaching plans to reconstruct the Polish national consciousness. He intended to revise the Polish national tradition and create a new one corresponding to the present time. The previous national character of Poles was founded on Roman Catholicism. Stachniuk wanted to establish an Institute for Reconstruction of Culture which would be responsible for developing a new cultural model, or—using Stachniuk’s words—a new “ideo-matrix.” The goals of the institute are listed below: 1. Analysis of the traditional sector for diagnosis of disease. a. Analysis of the range of wspakultura elements in Polish culture. b. The mechanics of emotional wounds of Polish generations. 2. Revaluation of the substance of Polish culture. a. Revision of cultural attainments and historical heritage. b. Segregation of constructive and disintegrative elements. 3. Plan of reconstruction of ideo-matrix Renewal.

a. Expansion of the concept of the “national creative community.” b. Plan to complete deficiencies of the new ideo-matrix.27 Stachniuk’s vision is replete with medical metaphors. The institute’s role can be compared with that of a doctor who prepares a course of therapy for a sick patient—first examination and diagnosis, then excision of diseased tissues, and the elimination of post-operative trauma through basic rehabilitation and recovery. There are four rules underlying the new culture model (the “national creative community”): 1. 2. 3. 4.

Obligation to act. Dynamic, socialized individual. Active love of one’s neighbor. Ethics of creation.28

These rules are very typical for Stachniuk’s culturalism, which stressed the meaning of work. “Activity” is always their major characteristic. The first rule indicates the human imperative to work, create, and achieve. The individual makes their own importance only as part of greater whole and that value depends entirely on one’s input in society. There is no space for contemplation in a Zadruga community. Only work has measurable value. Work is related to the question of organization of Zadruga economics. Its two major mottos are collectivism and efficiency. However, his idea of the system of collective economics was very different from the solutions seen in the contemporary world. As a trained economist, Stachniuk criticized capitalism—or at least that version which was known to him from experience. He appreciated the contribution capitalism had made in the process of historical growth, and he appreciated it as a factor which had led to many civilizational achievements. According to Stachniuk, the capitalism of his times was no longer as powerful because it had entered a stage of stabilization. Capitalism arose and evolved in a specific time and in social conditions which could not be recreated. This meant that civilizational development of Poland could not be achieved by capitalistic methods.29

Stachniuk did not criticize socialism as thoroughly as capitalism. He accepted a few of its ideas, such as the syndicalism of Sorel. Yet the socialistic system had many severe defects. As Stachniuk put it: “Socialism is a shadow of industrial capitalism”30 because it depends too much on capitalism and thus shares with it similar weaknesses. The Zadruga ideologist asserted that it was crucial that a new and more efficient system of economics be invented. Economic success can be achieved only by collective effort, so that the nation “has to resemble assault troops, members of which—single soldiers—still feel consumptive needs, but these are not existences or wants of the troop itself.”31 Stachniuk said that society should be imbued with the spirit of “heroic enthusiasm.” All industry would be planned centrally. Agriculture would undergo collectivization as a result of which huge farms would be established. Intensification, electrification, and mechanization would be the mottos of the process. Economic plans and means of their actualization unequivocally resembled the Soviet Union’s prescription for civilizational development. Of course, environmental protection does not appear in any of Stachniuk’s works. We can assume that in his understanding smoking factory chimneys were symbols of construction, creation, and development, while untamed wildernesses were entirely outside of his interests. The meeting of Zadruga ideology with Green politics would have to wait until a new generation took up these themes in the 1990s. Another key element of the Zadruga ideological system was historiosophy. Siedlinski noted a variety of motifs in Stachniuk’s conception of history, including Gnostic, Pan-Slavic, and nationalistic.32 Undoubtedly, his vision of religion influenced how he perceived the history of various civilizations. Each culture had its matching religious representations which strongly determined its fate. Of course, Polish history was his favorite subject, although he also made forays into other areas of European history. The struggle of wspakultura and culture is an integral part of human history. The above-mentioned quotation33 from the book Człowieczeństwo i kultura shows that this struggle concerns both the individual’s life and the life of the nation.

Stachniuk calls the first era of human history “naturalism.” The main belief of that time was that the world is one organism, of which humans are just one part. “Naturalistic” civilizations arose in China, India, Iran, and Europe in the period between 1500BCE and 500BCE. Monotheistic religions, which divide the world into two parts—earthly and supernatural —were not yet present then. In that time period, men felt their creative power but at the same time they were not able to make full use of it. Only in one place—in Ancient Greece—civilization evolved to a higher stage. The factor that allowed the Greeks to move forward was individualism, or more precisely, the “individualistic myth.” This myth says that the individual has the creative power to achieve its intended goals. It becomes autonomous and is responsible for its actions. For Stachniuk, the individualistic myth is “the inner skeleton of Western civilization.” Individualism derived from the model of the Greek hero who originally was of divine descent, and later became “democratized” and as such served as an exemplar for young Greeks. Unfortunately, this type was eventually replaced by the model of the sage, which Stachniuk called a “hero of decline.” According to him the change was caused by inner transformation in Greece (the rise of slavery did not correspond with evolvement of individualism). From then on, a person could only realize his aspirations in politics. The patrons of the new philosophy were Socrates and Plato who introduced the first elements of wspakultura. The invention of a world of ideas which opposed the worldly life was exceptionally dangerous. The Romans continued to develop Greek culture but these developments also yielded anti-evolutionary trends. On the whole, Stachniuk had a high opinion of the ancient world as it was a time when Humanity could accomplish its mission in the world— creative work. The greatest catastrophe for this world was the birth of the Christian religion which concentrated on the spiritual world and ignored the earthly life. Christianity destroyed the Roman Empire from the inside. The Church revised and censored the classical tradition and maintained only the elements of wspakultura. In Stachniuk’s view, the Middle Ages were indeed the Dark Ages.34 The Teutonic tribes gained advantage over all other nations and they were employed by the Church in order to conquer lands and souls. The main features of the German nations were

activity and the drive for expansion, both needed by the Church. According to Stachniuk, the Germans themselves did not realize the threat which resulted from their adoption of Christianity. These two powers, the Germans and the “Judeo-Christian anti-myth,” put the Slavs in grave danger. He thought that the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation was especially dangerous as it aimed at Christianization. He noticed an analogical conception advocated by National Catholic ideologues in Poland, which was the “Catholic State of the Polish Nation.” The next historical era, the Renaissance, received more positive reviews from Stachniuk as it was essentially a return to the values of the ancient times. It was the period when culture and science expanded rapidly. The birth of Protestantism was of great importance—as Stachniuk wrote: “The splendor and glamor of the Western civilization are results of Protestantism.”35 Its positive impact was especially vivid from the mideighteenth century until the late nineteenth century. Protestantism created a break in the Christian standpoint (Stachniuk ranked Protestantism separately from the unreformed forms of Christianity). Stachniuk did not approve later historical ages either; they were menacing because of the ideological mixture they brought. Formally, the mixture was no longer linked to Christian religions, yet it continued to share the weaknesses inherited from the Church. The effect was a rise of the “lay wspakultura.” Here is how he defined it: “And here it rises more often—a partial mind both Christian and skeptic, lacking the grace of faith. It wanders between Gospel and Darwin’s theory of evolution, between the Church and pragmatism, the cult of the ‘savior’ and methodical economics.”36 In his writings Stachniuk pays special attention to Poland and criticizes the influence Catholicism had on Polish national temperament and worldview. He only sees destructive power. Jan Stachniuk had two main goals: reconstruction of Polish national temperament based on Zadruga ideals and improvement of the civilizational standard of Poland. Both goals were strictly connected. Stachniuk’s interest in technology resulted in the vocabulary he used—on the one hand it is full of his own neologisms to express his new point of view, and on the other hand his language is rich in the jargon of science and technology. He was especially fond of words denoting motion, activity,

lifting, and so on. The inventive language he used expressed his philosophy, his imperative: that all things must progress, evolve, and move forward. The breadth of his vision also encompassed the ancient past. The imagined pre-Christian ethos of the Slavic culture would become the foundation of the new worldview. But if his ideas had the characteristics of a utopia, it was not a map of a lost Slavic Arcadia, but a blueprint for construction of the Slavic ecumenopolis. Just as new buildings often reference the great architectural traditions of the past, so Zadruga included references to the ancient Slavs. Members of Stachniuk’s group used the old Slavic greeting “Slava!” (“Glory!”), which can be found in the Tale of Igor’s Campaign, and which later became the greeting of the Romantic Slavophiles. Some took on noms de guerre drawn from lists of pre-Christian Slavic names and Stachniuk himself chose Stojgniew. The offices of the Zadruga magazine held a figure of Swiatowid and an “old Slavic urn,” although these were probably symbolic decoration, rather than objects of religious worship. Stachniuk seems to have tolerated a degree of constructive diversity in his Zadruga, which at times led to conflicts. As the only non-Catholic force of any importance among the Polish Nationalists, Stachniuk would have seemed attractive to many who did not share the whole of his ambitious plan. The mainstream daily newspaper Kurier Polski noted (with unmistakable glee) the conflict in May 1939 between three subgroups: the “Doctrinaire” or “Intellectual” group, which cleaved most closely to Stachniuk’s own writings; the “Racist” group, which insisted on introducing notions of racial origin to Stachniuk’s largely culture-based Nationalism;37 and a “Slavophile” group, who inherited the Romantic passion for folklore and at least some of whose members seem to have practiced something recognizably like a religious return to paganism. This last, of course, was seized upon by the press as the distinguishing feature of the whole movement. The Polish popular press was the first to brand Stachniuk with the label neopoganin (neopagan), using a word that had already become popular for groups in Nazi Germany, such as Ludendorff’s and Hauer’s . The neighboring Czech press coverage was even more explicit in making the

connection (in spite of Stachniuk’s outspoken distrust of both Germany and its current regime). Although it was probably intended to cast aspersions on his ideology, Stachniuk never denied the term and seems to have come around to using the word “Neopagan” for his ideas himself in his last, unpublished manuscript in 1948. It is worth noticing that the post-communist Neopagan groups which refer to Stachniuk and Zadruga have usually reinterpreted his ideas, often selecting only a few aspects of his rich and original ideology. At times, it seems like little more than the plunder of few words and symbols. Thus, a modern researcher into one of the groups that call themselves “Zadruga” can seriously ask “What is left of Stachniuk?” They do not postulate that the social-economic system be based on collectivism. The Polish experience (and that of many countries in Central and Eastern Europe) has showed that such systems are inefficient. The contemporary Neopagans concentrate on creating a new worldview and inventive activities. They see that only by firm results of their creativity can they brand themselves into the national consciousness. The ideology of Zadruga is often described as culturalism, as its main thought is to control the material world. Stachniuk’s ideology had a unilateral conception of culture seen mostly as material creations— rejection of the current reality and the will to create a new one.

NOTES 1. That is, the period in Polish history from de facto independence in 1918 to the international recognition of the de facto communist government in 1945. The First Republic is usually counted from the Union of Lublin in 1569 to the loss of statehood under the partitions in 1795. 2. In 1937 Jan Stachniuk founded the Zadruga movement and was its main ideologist. During the Second World War he was linked to the underground Stronnictwo Zrywu Narodowego (National Surge Faction) and fought in the Warsaw Uprising against the Nazi occupation. In 1949, after a brief period of cooperation, Stachniuk was arrested by the communist government of Poland. He was released from prison in 1955 (the initial sentence had been capital punishment). In addition to shorter articles, Stachniuk produced an impressive corpus of longer works that expressed the details of his evolving ideology: Jan Stachniuk, Kolektywizm a naród [Collectivism and the Nation] (Poznań: Nakład Związek Polskiej Młodzieży Demokratycznej, 1933); Jan Stachniuk, Heroiczna wspólnota narodu—kapitalizm epoki imperializmu a Polska [The Heroic Community of the Nation—Capitalism in the Epoch of Imperialism and Poland] (Poznań: Skład Główny, Dom Książki Polskiej, 1935); Jan Stachniuk, Dzieje bez dziejów—teoria rozwoju wewnętrznego Polski [History Without Acts—A Theory of the Internal Development of Poland] (Warsaw: Zadruga, 1939); Jan Stachniuk, Państwo a gospodarka. Geneza etatyzmu w Polsce [The State and Commerce. The Genesis of Statism in Poland] (Warsaw: Nakład F. Hoesick, 1939); Jan Stachniuk, Mit słowiański [The Slavic Myth] (Wrocław: Wydawnictwo Toporzeł, 2006), written in 1941, but not published until 2006; Jan Stachniuk, Zagadnienie totalizmu [The Question of Totalism] (Warsaw Stronnictwo Zrywu Narodowego, 1943); Jan Stachniuk, Człowieczeństwo i kultura [Human Nature and Culture] (Poznań: Spółdzielnia Wydawnicza Zryw, 1946); Jan Stachniuk, Walka o zasady—drugi front III Rzeczypospolitej [The Struggle for Principle—the Second Front of the Third Republic] (Warsaw: 1947); Jan Stachniuk, Wspakultura [Contra-Culture] (Warsaw: Trzaska, Evert i Michalski, 1948); Jan Stachniuk, Droga rewolucji kulturowej w Polsce [The Path of Cultural Revolution in Poland] (Wrocław: Wydawnictwo Toporzeł, 2006), written in 1948, but not published until 2006; Jan Stachniuk, Chrześcijaństwo a ludzkość [Christianity and Humanity] (Wrocław: “Toporzeł,” 1997), written in 1949, but not published until 1997. 3. Personalism in Roman Catholic thought would be the emphasis on, or valuing of, the individual and their dignity over utilitarian concerns. See further discussion of Stachniuk’s counter-interpretation, below.

Jan Stachniuk, “Uwagi o piatiletce,” Życie Uniwersyteckie, 7 (1932), quoted 4. in Bogumił Grott, Religia. Cywilizacja. Rozwój. Wokół idei Jana Stachniuka, (Krakow: Zakład Wydawniczy NOMOS, 2003). 5. Stachniuk, Człowieczeństwo i kultura, 117. 6. Skoczyński was able to dedicate an entire chapter of his book about Polish Neopaganism to the analysis of Stachniuk’s use of language in his writings. Jan Skoczyński, Neognoza polski (Krakow: Wydawnictwo Uniwersytetu Jagiellońskiego, 2004), 45–59. 7. Longer passages dealing with definitions and explanations of wspakultura can be found in Stachniuk’s Wspakultura, Dzieje bez dziejow, and Człowieczeństwo i kultura. 8. Radosław Siedliński, Człowiek—mit—kultura. Filozofia społeczna Jana Stachniuka (Toruń: Adam Marszałek, 2008), 168. 9. Stachniuk, Wspakultura, 32. 10. Literally, “all-love” or “omnilove” on the model of words like omniscience (wszechwiedza) or omnipotence (wszechmoc). It roughly corresponds to the Christian virtue “caritas.” It is not a neologism invented by Stachniuk, but it is a relatively rare word, which he has reinterpreted. 11. Stachniuk, Człowieczeństwo i kultura, 102. 12. A well-known term coined by Turgenev, meaning “nothing-ism,” which included disbelief in the Christian afterlife. Stachniuk turns Turgenev’s idea 180 degrees to mean Christian disbelief in the importance of earthly life. 13. Tenze, Wspakultura, 63. 14. Grott, Religia, 121. 15. An entire book devoted to this question, Chrześcijaństwo a ludzkość, was written by Stachniuk in 1949 but was not published during his lifetime, waiting until 1997 to be printed by a publisher associated with the postcommunist Neopagan movement. 16. That is, after the Council of Trent and the start of the Counter-Reformation. See further discussion, below. 17. Stachniuk, Chrześcijaństwo a ludzkość, 107. 18. Stachniuk creates a new word which is a cluster of these two: polakatolik. Of course, for Stachniuk this word has become a pejorative term for an undesirable identity. 19. Stachniuk, Dzieje bez dziejów, 234. 20. Stachniuk, Chrześcijaństwo, 190. 21. Max Weber, The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism (Boston, MA: Unwin Hyman, [1905] 1930). 22. Stachniuk, Droga rewolucji kulturowej, quoted in Grott, Religia, 177. 23. Edelstein quotes Sorel: “Men who are participating in great social movements always picture their coming action in the form of images of battle

24. 25. 26. 27. 28. 29. 30. 31. 32. 33. 34. 35. 36. 37.

in which their cause is certain to triumph.” And he goes on to emphasize the reversal of the usual temporal aspect of myths placed in the distant past: “It is in order to accomplish future events, not to draw authority from the past, that we require myths.” Dan Edelstein, “The Modernization of Myth: From Balzac to Sorel,” Yale French Studies 111 (2007), 33. “Kim jesteśmy? ‘Zadruga—pismo nacjonalistów polskich’,” Zadruga 1 (1937), 1. Stachniuk, Droga, quoted in Grott, Religia, 162. Andrzej Witowski (Jan Mosdorf), “Romantyzm kopca termitów,” Prosto z mostu 39 (1935), quoted in Grott, Religia, 30. Stachniuk, Walka o zasady. Ibid. Siedliński, Człowiek, 38–9. Stachniuk, Kolektywizm, 6. Stachniuk, Heroiczna, 192. Siedliński, Człowiek, 219. Stachniuk, Człowieczeństwo i kultura, 117 This in stark contrast with the fashion for Neo-Thomism and a ‘return to the Middle Ages’ (when the Church and society were in greater harmony) that was popular among Roman Catholic conservatives in Poland in the 1930s. Stachniuk, Chrześcijaństwo a ludzkość, 192. Ibid., 204. Tomasiewicz argues that Stachniuk’s rejection of “race” as a major concern to “culturalism” became more articulate over time in the face of German Nazism and its final, inglorious fall. Jarosław Tomasiewicz, “Religia, naród i państwo w neopogańskiej filozofii Jana Stachniuka,” NOMOS 24/25 (1998– 9), 71.


In Poland, the first bloom of autochthonic Neopaganism occurred in the mid-twentieth century. These Polish Neopagans generally delved into the Slavic tradition.1 However, since the 1990s, in addition to the whole range of autochthonic Slavic Neopagan groups or individuals referred to in Poland as Rodzimowierstwo, we can observe a numerically smaller but significant increase in interest in a wide variety of Neopaganisms that are not based in Polish culture. The concept of “imported Paganism” refers here to those which achieved their first popularity somewhere else in the world and only later acquired supporters in Poland. The leading forms of these imported Neopaganisms include four types: Wicca, Asatru, NeoShamanism, and Druidry. There are also some less commonly encountered imports to Poland, such as interest in the religions of the ancient peoples of the Mediterranean (especially Greece and Rome) or the Middle East (Egypt and Mesopotamia).2 We should also note that eclecticism and bricolage, which combine elements from different religious traditions into one system, potentially blurring the line between “native” and “imported” religion, are also frequently encountered in twenty-first-century Poland.

GENESIS OF THE PHENOMENON Why do some Poles prefer to refer to the beliefs of cultures other than the more obviously “native” Slavic tribes of the Polish territories? The following examples are from active participants in the Polish forum of the Pagan Federation International.3 The individual known as “Szerszeń” (“Hornet”) declares: The Germanic tradition, which I prefer, appeared natively in the Polish lands before the Slavs arrived in them at all. It appeals to me more than the Slavic tradition, because of a greater number of available source materials. And furthermore, looking at my own life history, runes and research into them led me to it. Currently, these are my beliefs and my Gods of (mutual) choice. “Orchidea Phobos” argues: Sure, the Germanic tradition appeared on Polish soil during the migrations of the Goths and Gepids, except that their coverage did not extend across the whole of the Polish territory. In the south there was a Celtic enclave. As for me, my choice of Ásatrú was intuitive. That is what I call it. It also began with the runes, and then Odin “called” me so I went to the voice. “Poszukiwacz” (“Seeker”) claimed: The cult of the Great Mother and the Truth speak to me the most, and both of these things I find in Neo-Druidism. And I value the native Gods above the Celtic Gods, in spite of the Celtic roots of “my” tradition. It is not important what rite, it is important what the intention is. “Sheila” justified her choice as follows: For me this is not a question of liking or disliking, because the native tradition is of interest to me, I find it fascinating, and I

would like to explore it more. For me it is a question of a certain calling, a following of the voice of the Gods of this and not another tradition. I compared it once to love and I will stand by this comparison—they are ties so emotional, even intimate, that they cannot be explained logically. In addition to the above, some individuals point to their own genealogical roots in other countries, a sense of relationship with the gods of other cultures, or even the lack of satisfactory sources describing the preChristian Slavic religions of Poland.4 International pop culture has helped to familiarize Polish citizens with a variety of Neopagan ideas, including those that are not yet highly visible in Poland itself. Communist-era television broadcast the Pagan-friendly Robin of Sherwood (1984–6) at a time when other Western shows were very rarely shown. Themes from Nordic Vikings or ancient Celtic tribes can be found in songs by “Viking metal” and “black metal” bands, and Nordic runes, Celtic symbols and other pagan talismans have also found their way into the broader iconography of popular music.

NEOPAGAN INTEGRATION IN CYBERSPACE AND AT FESTIVALS The main locus of integration for many Polish Neopagans is online forums and social networking sites. They can be classified into four types. The first is made up of groups on social networking sites.5 The second type consists of separate social networking sites for Neopagans and occultists.6 The third type are forums devoted exclusively to Neopaganism.7 The fourth type includes forums that function as part of private websites that are dedicated to Neopaganism.8 Online, as well as in real life, the Pagan Federation International (PFI)9 plays a large role in the integration of Neopagans around the world, and especially in Europe. The goal of the members of the Federation is to further integrate groups both internationally between countries, and interreligiously between different paths. The PFI has been active in Poland since 2007. Rather than only promoting the “foreign” forms and models of Neopaganism, PFI Poland explicitly aims to include native, unique forms of Slavic and Polish nature and heritage. They propose an active cultural exchange, presenting other Pagan cultures to Poles, and representing Polish Paganism to both foreigners and natives.10 The Polish branch of the PFI organizes local meetings as well as an annual conference with invited guests from many countries. Other meetings organized by Pagans (who may also be members of PFI Poland) include Zlot na Górze Niedźwiedzia (“The Bear Mountain Rally”), organized by the Shaman “Asus” (October 2009), and more recently organized under the title Dni wiedzy pogańskiej (“Days of Pagan Knowledge,” summer 2010) or Wakacje z duchami (“Holidays with Ghosts,” summer 2011). The Druid “Czeski” organized the Zloty Neopogan (“Neopagan Rallies”) in the Bory Tucholskie, a pine forest known for its Gothic stone circles (2004, 2005). Another example near Krakow is the Ars Paganum—Festiwal sztuki pogańskiej (“Ars Paganum —the Pagan Art Festival”) organized by the Krakow Druidess “Drakonaria” (September 2009, March 2010). The Wicca Study Group meetings (2008, 2011, 2012) were organized by Gardnerian Wiccans:

“Agni” and “Mike”. Słomenhenge (“Straw-henge”) was organized twice by “Rawimir” and “Enenna” (2010, 2011).

WICCA AND MODERN WITCHCRAFT Wicca is one of the most influential Neopagan movements in Englishspeaking regions, and it has an increasing number of followers in continental Europe, including Poland.11 The word “Wicca” is derived from Anglo-Saxon (originally meaning “wizard”),12 and this name is retained even when the religion moves into regions where Anglo-Saxon was never spoken. Wiccans are frequently duotheists, focused on the cult of the Horned God and the Triple Goddess,13 and the many gods and goddesses around the world are often identified as aspects of those two, implying a degree of universalism. The characteristic elements of Wicca include the practice of magic, belief in reincarnation, observance of the ethics of the Wiccan Rede (“An it harm none, do what ye will”), and celebration of the lunar and solar holidays (the twelfth and thirteenth full moons of the year, and eight solar holidays). Wicca may be practiced entirely individually (the so-called “solitary” path) or as part of a group (usually referred to by the English word “coven”) or family. Within Wicca there are three dominant streams: Traditional Wicca, Traditional Witchcraft, and Eclectic Witchcraft.14 “Traditional Wicca” is an initiatory mystery religion which was systematized and popularized by Gerald Gardner (1884–1964) in the 1950s, as well as a variant presented by Alexander Sanders (1926–88). These are referred to as the Gardnerian and Alexandrian traditions respectively. To become a Wiccan in either of these lineages, a candidate must be initiated into a coven.15 Therefore, movement of this type of Wicca to new geographic territories such as Poland is usually slow, being dependent on individuals training in a location where a coven already exists. Initiates of “Traditional Wicca” generally agree that it cannot legitimately be spread by the Internet, correspondence courses, or short training seminars. The second stream in Wicca is “Traditional Witchcraft.” Together, these groups represent older or parallel lines of similar doctrines, worship and organization. They include the Clan of Tubal Cain (and traditions emerging from this group such as the 1734 Tradition, Roebuck, and The

Regency), the Coven of Atho, An Ros Bucca Coven, Cultus Sabbati or Y Plant Bran. These groups share many features and their founders were in contact with each other. The third stream is “Eclectic Wicca,” frequently known in Poland simply as Czarowstwo (“Witchcraft”).16 It is a variation which is based on individual interpretation of written sources. Without emphasis on initiation, lineages, or dogma, this development of Wiccan practice has spawned many new forms and factions in a relatively short period of time. This form of the Craft is the easiest and quickest to disseminate worldwide, requiring little more than a book or website to perform a selfinitiation. In Poland, British “Traditional Witchcraft” has not yet met with significant interest, but “Traditional Wicca” and “Eclectic Wicca” have enjoyed fairly successful receptions. As noted by Renata Furman, Wicca did not reach Poland properly until the mid-1990s.17 The origins of “Eclectic Wicca” in Poland date to the second half of the 1990s with widespread access to the Internet and Wiccan books. “Traditional Wicca” arrived roughly a decade later, mainly 2004–7, when the first Polish Wiccans declared themselves to have been initiated into covens in the UK. Therefore, for a long time the term “Wicca” only functioned in Poland as a name for “Eclectic Witchcraft.” Onlyafter greater contact with Traditional forms, did some Polish Neopagans reject the use of the term “Wicca” for a general type of religious belief, and restrict it to a particular religion. The debate on whether the term “Wicca” should properly refer to only the traditional Gardnerian and Alexandrian lineages continues to this day among Polish Neopagans. The first translations of American Eclectic Wicca books into Polish appear in the second half of the 1990s. The 1999 translation of Cunningham’s Wicca: A Guide for the Solitary Practitioner was the first book to keep “Wicca” in its Polish title. These translations were followed by new resources written in Polish such as Celestyna Puziewicz’s Wicca: Biała Magia (“Wicca: White Magic”) which, in spite of their local provenance, remained largely derivative of their American sources. On her website, Enenna described the early Wiccan scene in Poland:

No-one was able to give exact information, but there are rumors which circulate about witches’ circles active in the early 90s. One of them was supposedly created in Warsaw by expatriates, while the second was said to exist in Legionowo near Warsaw. It is possible that they were one and the same coven. Up to now I have not been able to find any information confirming that Traditional Wiccans created anything in Poland, so we are probably discussing a fairly spontaneous group of Eclectic Wiccans.18 “Madiel,” the founder of the forum “Wicca—witches, magic and belief” on the Nasza Klasa portal, described the lifecycle of her own eclectic coven near Warsaw: “My” coven—if you can call a very small group of people that— ran from 2000 to about 2002/2003 … The name was Udjat—the name of the Egyptian Eye of Horus. There were about 5–6 permanent members and a few people who were sympathizers who showed up from time to time. We had a magic circle in a garden in Gocław—that’s where we would meet, hold rituals, organizational meetings, lectures—if it was warm. If it was cold —it was in homes. As for our “system”—it was characterized by a rather chaotic eclecticism—a mix of witchcraft, Wicca, ceremonial magick, with influences from Shamanism, New Age, etc. At the beginning, we had no leaders—the circle was democratic, but then we nominated a “dictator” for the common good, so that there was some order, there were regular meetings with something to prepare for everyone—mostly lectures, a discussion about an esoteric publication, but not only. This was also an intellectual group. We had an ambition to increase our knowledge, and enhance the intellectual development of all members. We held Sabbat rituals, full Moons, but also for special occasions—for example, our internal agreement was that if someone in our group had any problem in life or something they wanted to achieve—we all helped them magically, and emotionally—it focused on a common energy. It even brought

results—for example, one person found a good job, another is happily in love, etc. … Overall I’m not very positively inclined to such groups, but I wanted to give it a try. I contributed to it— both magically and organizationally—so that people could meet and form a circle. After 2–3 years, it slowly began to disintegrate. The reason was very mundane, some of us no longer had time for regular meetings, nor for the shared rituals— our work or studies took us away from that. Some changed their interests, and some even changed their place of residence and moved out of Warsaw. But all in all, we still keep in contact, we did not break up in some quarrel, but in peace, we are still friends—despite differences in interests, lack of time and the distance between us … It was a beautiful time—that’s the way I remember it—but there were also tragic moments—our circle, our place in a garden in Gocław—has been destroyed, because of the widened roadway, and interestingly, a church now stands there … Everything worked according to the old principle—that a church always appears in the old places of worship.19 In Warsaw, after 2000, there were meetings of people interested in witchcraft organized by Enenna and, later, “Endymion.” There were also Sabbat celebrations, which were organized by “Morven.”20 At these meetings, there were usually people interested in both the wider Neopagan scene and in the various forms of modern Witchcraft. Although their membership is not large, Eclectic witchcraft has already become one of the most visible trends on the Polish Neopagan scene. This is attested by the large number of Eclectic Witchcraft publications on sale in Polish.21 The questions of who was the first Polish Gardnerian or Alexandrian, and how many followers Traditional Wicca currently has in Poland, are impossible to answer with certainty. Representatives of these lineages may hide their views, even from other followers of Wicca.22 Maxine Sanders claimed to have initiated a number of Poles in the 1970s, but does not know whether they continued working with Wicca.23 The years 2004–7 can be considered the identifiable start of Traditional Wicca in Poland. The first publically known Polish Wiccans were at that

time initiated into Alexandrian covens in the UK, rising through the initiations in British covens: Enenna and “Jelonek.”24 In 2007, a pair of Gardnerians, “Boan” and “Dagda,” conducted the first Traditional Wiccan courses in Poland itself.There are now two known Alexandrian Wicca covens in Warsaw, the first founded by Enenna and Rawimir, the second founded by Jelonek. Poles are also members of foreign covens in other parts of Western Europe.

ÁSATRÚ, ODINISM AND THE GERMANIC TRADITION IN POLAND Within Neopaganism in Poland which draws on the traditions of the Germanic tribes, we can distinguish three main streams: (1) the religion of Ásatrú, (2) groups based on pre-Christian Scandinavian culture (including religion among other aspects of culture) such as youth music subcultures and historical re-enactors, and (3) “Scandinavian esoterica,” especially divination and mysticism associated with the runes. The first, openly religious, stream is Ásatrú. It is also known as Odinism (after the god Odin), the Northern Tradition, or under a number of less well-known terms: heiðni, heitini (heathens), or forn siðr (the Old Customs). Overall, this trend can be defined as the old Scandinavian paganism revived and adapted to the contemporary reality. Ásatrú is found mostly in countries with a Germanic cultural inheritance, but it can be found in other areas too. The name arose in the nineteenth century, and is a composite of two Icelandic words. The first refers to a group of gods, the Aesir, and the second is a word used to mean “religion” or “superstition.”25 The name Ásatrú thus means the “cult of the Aesir.” Most modern Odinists worship some members of both divine families (Aesir and Vanir), but one can find groups who specialize in the worship of specific families of gods (and even the Jotnar, or “giants”).26 Ásatrú is not only a religion, but a system of ethics and a way of living which is based in tradition. It does not have a monolithic doctrine. Every Ásatrú member is responsible for his or her own beliefs. The most important thing is to take responsibility for one’s own deeds, act according to law, honor, freedom, and bravery. The “Hávamál” (“The Sayings of the High One,” an Old Norse poem, pre-dating the thirteenth century) is a key text for this philosophy. Ásatrú rituals strengthen the bonds between people, but in the opinion of believers they also strengthen the bonds between people and gods. These rituals are simple when compared with the rituals of some other Neopagans, and they may be performed by any member, not just specially initiated priests. In Poland, as elsewhere, many members of Ásatrú celebrate eighteen holidays in the year. Many overlap with the holidays

celebrated by other Neopagans (such as Equinoxes and Solstices), but others are celebrated only by modern Germanic groups, such as Thorrablot (“Thor’s Holiday,” 14 January), Friggblot (“Frigg’s Holiday,” 11 May), or the modern creation of the holiday of Einherjer, in honor of Fallen Warriors (falling on Armistice/Memorial Day, 11 November).27 An important year in the creation of modern Ásatrú is 1973, when Sveinbjörn Beinteinsson registered his Ásatrúarfélagið organization in Iceland. From there, his movement spread across the Scandinavian countries, Western Europe, and North America. In the UK, the Odinic Rite has been particularly influential, especially through their periodical Odinism Today. In the 1990s, the group opened branches in Germany, France, and North America.28 The British-based Aryan organization Baelder—Pan-European Fraternity of Knowledge, or Order of Jarls of Baelder, was particularly interesting for their attempts at active proselytism in Poland in the late 1990s and early 2000s via their “Sventovit Cell Lublin.”29 In spite of their Germanic name and interest in runes, however, their activities were rather idiosyncratic relative to the mainline Ásatrú movement. One expression of Polish interest in Ásatrú is the Internet portal “Asatru —czyli nordyccy bogowie i my” (“Asatru—Norse Gods and Us,” created by “Ulf Hedin,” “Vrede Wyrd,” and “Isleen Ruadh.” A similar group, “Ásatrú Polska,” can be found on the social networking site Facebook (asatru. The manifesto on the front page of reads: “Members of Ásatrú [Asatryjczycy] give worship only to their gods—but they recognize that there are other gods, and they approach them with respect.” Ásatrú is a natural religion, which does not mean that it is a religion of nature in the strict sense, but only that it is not a revealed religion. It is also, as is true for almost all modern (Neo)Pagan religions, a religion of choice, and not inherited from the “ancestors” and as such is open to all who accept its values as their own. Blood ties, so important in ancient tribal structures, are in this case often treated symbolically as bonds between believers who accept the same path of dignity in life, the same Gods, the same code of ethics. Therefore, it includes not only kin or

friends, but an appeal to a shared vision of the world and life—this is what binds all members of Ásatrú.30 Sołtysiak and Szymkiewicz note that we can find three clusters within the broadly understood Ásatrú movement: the liberal, such as the Ring of Troth; the middle-of-the-road, like the Ásatrú Folk Assembly; and the conservative–racist, including groups like Varg Vikernes’s “Norsk Hednisk Front.”31Most members of Ásatrú in Poland promote the liberal stream, but they draw inspiration from a broad range of groups abroad. For example, we can find specific practices and texts like Dziewięć Szlachetnych Cnót Ásatrú (“the Nine Noble Virtues of Ásatrú”) in a Polish translation from the English-language text developed by the British Odinic Rite.32 Another direction of interest in Poland is the reconstruction and reenactment of medieval Scandinavian culture and history. Since 1993, the island of Wolin in the northwest of Poland has held a “Festival of Slavs and Vikings,” which draws nearly 2,000 re-enactors and tens of thousands of tourists to a reconstruction of a Viking village.33 A similar but smaller event is the “Festival of Vikings and Veneti” in Rynia near Warsaw.34 There are many “brotherhoods of warriors,” such as Bractwo Wikingów (“The Brotherhood of Vikings”), Miecze Nordlandu (“The Swords of the Northland”) and Drużyna Słowian i Wikingów Ulf Ragnarsson Hird (“The Band of Slavs and Vikings, Hoard of Ulf Ragnarsson”) and others. While their demonstrations of armed combat are loud and exciting crowdpleasers, they often also portray reconstructions of pagan weddings, funerals, and other religious events, as well as bardic storytelling, “folk” theater, and dance showing stories from the sagas and mythology. Another important phenomenon is the youth subculture which focused on musicians and bands from Scandinavia or Germany which refer to ancient mythology and Germanic Pagan religion (from Sweden, Amon Amarth and Thyrfing; from Germany, Falkenbach; from Norway, Enslaved, Darkthrone, Satyricon, and Borknagar). Some Polish music in this genre also refers to the culture and religion of Scandinavia, including Polish bands like Norden, Iuvenes, or Abused Majesty. Themes related to Germanic Paganism can also sometimes be found in the group Graveland, or bands playing rightwing RAC (Rock Against Communism): White

Devils, Honor, or Konkwista 88. Likewise, these groups and their fans often wear runes or Thor’s hammer Mjollnir. These may be signs of a consistently held religion, or they may be merely imitations of the clothing and postures or lyrics of black metal or Viking metal musicians. The final category of Scandinavian influence is interest in runes and other forms of Germanic esoterica. Scandinavian talismans or rings with runic inscriptions, sets of pre-carved runes in stone or wood for divination, books about runic mysteries and magic, and even runic Tarot cards are all popular items for sale in New Age and occult bookstores in Poland. Signs of interest in Germanic Pagan esoterica in post-war Poland can be found as early as Marian Adamus’s 1970 Tajemnice sag i run (“Mysteries of the Sagas and Runes”), Lech Emfazy Stefański’s 1989 Magia run (“Magic of the Runes”) and Maria Piasecka’s 1991 Sztuka wróżenia z run (“The Art of Divining from Runes”). 35 These clearly predate the appearance of significant numbers of religious members of Ásatrú in Poland, and they clearly represent a much wider audience. There are also Polish-language webpages and blogs which deal with esoteric interpretations of the runes,36 as well as Polish-language social networks dedicated to runes on Facebook and Nasza Klasa.

NEO-DRUIDS, DRUIDRY AND CELTIC RECONSTRUCTIONISM In addition to Wicca and Ásatrú, a third popular trend in worldwide Neopaganism is Neo-Druidism; that is, people who describe themselves as followers and continuators of the ancient ways of the Celtic Druids. Modern Druidism can date its beginnings back to the seventeenth, eighteenth, andnineteenth centuries, with a burst of interest in its earliest recreated forms in the Romantic period. Druidry refers primarily to the beliefs of ancient Celtic tribes, although there are groups which emphasize the broader Indo-European roots of the Druids. In contrast to many modern Wiccans and Witches who call their practice a “Craft,” Druids frequently see their religion as a kind of philosophy.37 In some cases, Druidry appears as a type of Celtic reconstructionism, with close adherence to ancient written sources and archeological evidence. Like Ásatrú, Druidry has taken many forms, from the nationalist to radical liberalist. Druidry does not generally emphasize any religious dogma, nor does it usually have a centralized leadership. Its greatest emphasis is on the worship of nature. As the Polish Druid “Fizban” writes in his PFI forum post: For me the world is a multi-layered and multi-dimensional circle of events in which life and death, light and darkness, intermingle with each other in a balance. Conscious beings like ourselves can influence this balance, therefore we are burdened with a responsibility for its upkeep. I am a polytheist and believe in many beings more evolved than us whom we call Gods; I agree, however, with the postulate of many Druids that I have no monopoly on the truth and therefore I accept all the Gods’ equal right to exist. I worship, however, the Celtic Gods, here reaching into my roots. Since I am not able to reproduce the exact rituals, in spite of their anachronism, I rely on poetry and the experience of other Druids and on my own feelings. I call unto the rite the gods of the pantheons of Western Europe, mostly the gods of Brittany and the British Isles. However, seeing the power of life

on our planet, I also accept at the same time the Gaia Theory and I believe in the life and consciousness of the planet itself as a separate entity.38 As “Tin” explains: I also represent a path which is not associated with native Polish culture. However, the claim that Druidry is imported and is based on a fascination with foreign cultures would be a misunderstanding of its character. Druidry as a religion, and as a broader worldview, makes use of tools and a system which were formed by Celtic culture, nonetheless its perhaps most important, most characteristic feature is the cult of the Earth (every land, in which you happen to live) closely bound to the cult of Knowledge (all knowledge, including that of local history and nature). These two spiritual goals (increasing one’s awareness of the earth—awareness of the Land—and a striving for universal, true Knowledge which grows out from an honest, diligent cultivation of its particular fields) are the central axis of Druidism, and this attracts a lot of open minds who set high spiritual and intellectual demands on themselves. Personally, that was what inspired me the most in Druidism; and my quest for identity also led me to that point, which in a cosmopolitan world—especially for such an international hybrid like me—was and is very important.39 Druids believe in gods, the magical (or divine) origins of art, and intuition; they worship the forces of nature, practice magic, and criticize the modern world as lacking in balance.40 This fairly common observation comes from a time when Druidry, like Wicca, was still not very much able to distinguish itself from the general category of the “New Age” in which this idea is universal.41 Druidry is still new in Poland, but it is gaining popularity. There is no lack of sites devoted to the topic on the Internet.42 Most of today’s Druid organizations can trace their roots back to eighteenth-century British developments in one way or another, although many have now moved

onwards in ways which obscure the connection.43 There are also semiindependent developments in continental Europe, including the interwar Druid movements in France (such as Buriez Spered Adnevezi, founded in 1936), which were closely associated with Breton nationalism and independence.44 Non-Breton Gaulish forms of Druidry also began to appear elsewhere in France publicly in the 1970s and soon in other continental European countries as well.45 However, the geographically nearer forms of continental Druidry seem to have had less impact in Poland than the British insular forms.46

NEO-SHAMANISM AND SHAMANISM Another global trend in Neopaganism is Neo-Shamanism, or just Shamanism. Shamanism is a visionary tradition, using altered states of consciousness to communicate with the Sacred (gods and spirits, nature, the ancestors). The Shaman is a healer and a priest.47 Neo-Shamanistic movements treat Shamanism to a lesser extent as a religion, but rather as a way of perceiving the world and an effective method of problem-solving.48 Shamanism is not viewed as an institutionalized and dogmatic form of spirituality, but one that leaves space for individual creativity.49 Most Shamanistic teaching is conducted in groups during special workshops and courses, using relevant literature or recordings.50 Polish Neo-Shamans describe their practices in the following manner: In the simplest terms we can call Neo-shamanism the use by people of “Western” culture of Shamanic techniques. These practices were brought to the Euro-American civilization both by anthropologists, ethnobotanists and travelers and in a few cases, by members of the communities in which Shamans function.51 A precursor of this movement was the “core shamanism” developed by the anthropologist Michael Harner (born 1929), who taught at Berkeley, Columbia, Yale, and the New School of Social Research in New York before dropping out of traditional academia to teach “how to” Shamanism.52 His first Shamanic experiences took place in 1956 and 1957 among the Jívaro Indians of the Andes. In addition to the Jívaro, his search for Shamanic practices took him to the Wintu, Pomo, Coast Salish, and Lakota Sioux peoples.53 His key work summing up this knowledge was The Way of the Shaman: A Guide to Power and Healing. A second important figure for Polish Neo-Shamanism is Carlos Castaneda (1925–98).54 Castanada wrote many works, the most famous of which is The Teachings of Don Juan (first published in English in 1968 and translated into Polish in 1991), where he described the (alleged) wisdom imparted to him by Don Juan Matus, a sorcerer of the Yaqui tribe,

who was knowledgeable in the use of peyote.55 Others whose Shamanistic work have some influence in Poland include the American author Lynn Andrews (with Polish translations of her works as early as 1984 and 1985 in the communist era). 56 An interesting aspect of these “imported” forms is that many of their terms and ideas originate from Central and Eastern Europe (especially from Siberia, and the Ural-Altaic and Finno-Ugric peoples) and therefore a different direction than the largely British roots of Wicca and Druidry or the Germanic-Scandinavian roots of Ásatrú. Nonetheless, they still tend to arrive in Poland via Western theorists and interpreters of Shamanism. The Polish astrologer, Tarot reader, and author Wojciech Jozwiak teaches courses in Shamanism. His many books include Wiedza nie całkiem tajemna (“Knowledge Not Entirely Secret,” 2004), Nowy szamanizm, o tym co magiczne, słowiańskie i archaiczne we współczesnym świecie (“The New Shamanism, About What is Magic, Slavic and Archaic in the Modern World,” 2008), and Warsztaty szamańskie (“Shamanic Workshops,” 2009). Since 1997, the website has been devoted to Shamanism and Slavic traditions. As it states on its front page: On Taraka, we write about Shamanism. We are interested in both traditional Shamanism, the ancient, mainly Siberian sort, and similar phenomena known from other primordial cultures. But we are also interested in new attempts to use Shamanic methods in the world of modern urban civilization. These attempts are usually called Neo-Shamanism.57 In Poland, Shamanic workshops enjoy great popularity. Frequently they are fee-charging courses, but they also sometimes take place within Polish Neopagan integration meetings, such as the one during the annual meeting of the Polish branch of PFI in May 2009. These courses are led by both foreigners and Poles. Among these we can find a workshop run by the visiting Tuvan Shaman Ludmila Kara—ool Oyun, where participants learnt the rituals of Shamans, the science of spirits, and tales about Shamans. Other interesting cases include a kurs runiczny (“rune course”) in Warsaw in March 2009, which included Shamanic elements; Wieczory

Szamańskie (“Shaman Nights”) in the vegetarian restaurant Amar in Szczecin (starting in June 2009); and the previously mentioned Zlot Na Górze Niedźwiedzia (“Gathering on Bear Mountain”) Shamanic workshop.58 There are popular forums like “Szamanizm, odmienne stany …” (“Shamanism, Altered States …”) on the portal or the forum “Szamanizm” (“Shamanism”) on Nasza Klasa. There are also popular books on Shamanism, including translations of classic works by Michael Harner and Neville Drury.

ECLECTICISM AND BRICOLAGE Eclecticism is very popular among Polish Neopagans. It is particularly prominent and accepted among the representatives of Eclectic Wicca. There are many different forms of syncretism which combine different traditions together (gods borrowed from more than one pantheon, shared festivals, as well as talismans or amulets with symbols and uses from more than one tradition). Some eclectics will direct their rituals to those gods, regardless of provenance, with the most applicable patronage over the situation at hand—for example, in dealing with problems in education they call upon Athena or Thoth. Some of these individuals develop their skill set and knowledge from various sources, including Shamanism, various systems of magic, historical records and anthropological reports to create their own personal systems. Sometimes this bricolage is referred to as własnowierstwo(“own-faith-ism”). An example of a conscious embracing of eclecticism in Poland may be found on the portal Paganrod, where Amtea and Arion state: The virtual mental space called Paganord presents our thoughts and experiences (sometimes very private) and our knowledge (sometimes very official) devoted to anthropology, mythology, antiquity and prehistory, religion, astrology, magic, shamans and other not so practical affairs which lie at the foundation of our civilization and culture and of what we are today.59 The portal contains articles about different paths of Paganism, music, links to contemporary groups, or social networking sites on Neopagan subjects.

CONCLUSIONS In addition to finding the autochthonic Slavic Neopagan movement, or in rarer cases Baltic or proto-Indo-European Neopagan groups, we can now also find in Poland followers of Asatru, Druidry, Wicca, Shamanism, and many other systems that refer to ancient pagan beliefs of “foreign” peoples. Devotees justify their choice of beliefs in many ways—the lack of sources of native mythology, foreign family roots, or simply that the worldview presented by that culture fits them best of all. Representatives of “imported” Neopaganisms in Poland are not numerous when compared with their coreligionists in other countries in Europe; they tend to be solitaries living in different parts of Poland and integrate most often through online forums and cyclical, regional, or national meetings, in which organizations like the Polish branch of the Pagan Federation International play a key role. The followers of these trends are often connected with the more liberal worldview of Neopaganism as it is found in Western countries, and often strongly disassociate themselves from National Socialism or slogans of “blood” and “race.” Their activities are often broadcast on blogs and websites dedicated to their author’s religion.

NOTES 1. Some exceptions to this would be the groups in the north of Poland who turn to the beliefs of the Balts, or the members of Klan Ausran, who turn to Proto-Indo-European roots. 2. Forms of Hinduism from India are arguably a case closely related to the other imported Paganisms, although they are more frequently treated in both scholarly literature and Polish popular imagination as belonging with imports of other “world religions” (such as Islam or Buddhism). 3. Participants in the forum of the Pagan Federation International are all adults. The majority of my informants did not indicate their profession or place of residence. 4. Themes found in interviews conducted by the author. 5. For example, the popular Polish social networking site Nasza Klasa (initially the most popular social networking site with Polish users) includes groups such as “Wicca—magia i wiara czarownic” (“Wicca—Magic and Faith of the Witches”) and “Szamanizm” (“Shamanism”). Facebook has a “Wicca Polska” group; and so on. 6. Popular portals include “Wiccan Together,” “The Online Community for Wiccans & Pagans,” and On international portals such as “The Meeting Place for the Occult Community” we can find groups like the “Polish Pagan & Occult Group” ( Local Polish equivalents include “Wiccanie & nie tylko” (“Wiccans & Not Only”) and “Poganie” (“Pagans”). 7. These include the Polish-language Pagan Federation International forum. Other, similar forums for Pagans and Witches include Atra Via, “For those who are looking … from those who found it,” and “Forum Neopogańskie” (“Neopagan Forum”). A recent addition is “Wiccanie” (“Wiccans”). 8. “Ailinon’s” website Rozstaje contains a public forum, as do similar sites Czarostwo Belladony by “Belladona” and Portal Mroczlandia by “Mroczek 262.” 9. The Pagan Federation International was founded in The Hague in 1971. It grew out of the “Pagan Federation,” focusing on Pagans in the UK. 10. Email communications from “Tin,” former coordinator for PFI Polska. 11. Renata Furman, Wicca i wiccanie: Od tradycji do wirtualnej wspólnoty (Krakow: Zakład Wydawniczy “Nomos,” 2006), 58. 12. The term has been directly borrowed into Polish as it is written, and generally pronounced somewhat like it is in English and left grammatically undeclined, as is typical of unassimilated words quoted from a foreign

13. 14. 15. 16. 17. 18. 19. 20. 21.

22. 23. 24. 25. 26. 27. 28. 29. 30.

language. For discussion of the history of this word, see Bill Liddel, The Pickingill Papers: George Pickingill and the Origins of Modern Wicca (Chieveley: Capall Bann Publishing, 1994), 85; Ronald Hutton, The Triumph of the Moon. A History of Modern Pagan Witchcraft (Oxford: Oxford University Press), 241; and Leo Ruickbie, Witchcraft Out of the Shadows (London: Robert Hale, 2004), 10. Some branches of modern witchcraft emphasize the unity of the two figures who together make up “The Godhead.” Maciej Witulski, “Próba zdefiniowania i usystematyzowania wicca,” Państwo i społeczeństwo: Neopogaństwo w Polsce II(4) (2009), 5–22. The candidate usually must be prepared for initiation. In some cases, the first initiation occurs immediately after being accepted into the coven. Witulski, “Próba zdefiniowania i usystematyzowania wicca,” 9–13. Renata Furman, “Wicca w Polsce,” in Ezoteryzm, okultyzm, satanizm w Polsce, Zbigniew Pasek (ed.) (Krakow: Libron, 2005), 143. Enenna, “Wicca w Polsce,” Email correspondence with “Madiel,” an Eclectic Wiccan. Roebuck, “Wicca w Polsce,” Publications include translations of Raymond Buckland, Scott Cunningham, Gerina Dunwich, Ellen Dugan Francesca De Grandis, Raven Grimassi, Silver Ravenwolf, and Marion Weinstein. There have also been new works by Alan Abyss and Celestyna Puziewicz. Private communication from “Rawimir,” who belongs to the Alexandrian Tradition. Private communications from “Jelonek,” who belongs to the Alexandrian Tradition. Jimahl di Fiosa, All the King’s Children: The Human Legacy of Alex Sanders (Logios, 2010), 155–6. In Old Norse, there was no word with exactly this meaning, and trú (or tro) meant more “truth,” “trust,” or “troth” (fidelity). Jarosław Tomasiewicz, “Stare religie nowej ery” Nomos—Kwartalnik religioznawczy 5/6 (1994), 94. Personal communication from “Vrede Wyrd,” a representative of Ásatrú in Poland. Richard Rudgley, Pagan Resurrection: A Force for Evil or the Future of Western Spirituality (London: Arrow Books, 2007), 240–41. Tomasiewicz, “Stare religie nowej ery,” 96. They are also briefly discussed in Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke, Black Sun: Aryan Cults, Esoteric Nazism, and the Politics of Identity. (New York: New York University Press, 2003), 224–6. See

31. Arkadiusz Sołtysiak & Maciej Szymkiewicz, “Od Wotana do człowieka z Kennewick. Koncepcje rasy i społeczeństwa w Ásatrú,” Nomos—Kwartalnik religioznawczy 51/52 (2005), 78–86. 32. See, for example, 33. See 34. See 35. Later examples include a 2001 edition of Stefański’s book, and new works by Leszek Matela, Igor Walczak and many others. 36. E.g.,, In the context of other Germanic religious practices they can also be found on www. and 37. There are differences between witchcraft/Wiccan and Druidic uses of Celtic heritage. Both systems are based on similar beliefs, celebrate some of the same holidays, and in some details the differences in their use of Ancient Celtic are very small. Philip Carr-Gomm, the head of the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids, suggested that the most important difference is the solar emphasis of Druidry, and the lack of emphasis on the key Wiccan concept of the “bipolarity” of the cosmos. Jarosław Tomasiewicz, “Stare religie nowej ery,” Nomos—Kwartalnik religioznawczy 5/6 (1994), 93. Wicca is both a religion and a magickal practice, whereas Druidry is often portrayed as both a religion and a philosophy. 38. See 39. Correspondence with “Tin.” 40. See option=com_content&view=article&id=48:wspocze sny-druidyzm1&catid=52:wspolczesnosc&Itemid=89. 41. Druids see the “bigger picture” issues; they say “The world will survive us all. That does not relieve us of responsibility for our actions.” 42. E.g., 43. Generally speaking, the groups, religious orders, and associations which were called “Druidic” in the eighteenth century were interested in the idea of Druidism as an embodiment of the universal values of the enlightenment and reason (which continue to be important in Druidry). Those that belonged to the nineteenth-century wave of Romanticism deepened their conception of Druidism into spiritual and magical realms, but they still avoided outright polytheism—until the twentieth century brought Pagan Druidry and Celtic Reconstructionism. The situation has changed much since the days of Ross Nichols and disintegration of the Ancient Druid Order in 1964. 44. Michel Raoult, “The Druid Revival in Brittany, France and Europe,” in The Druid Renaissance Philip Carr-Gomm (ed.) (London: Thorsons, 1996), 115.

45. In France we can also find groups like “Fraternité des Druides, Bardes et Ovates de Bretagne,” “Kengerzhouriezh Drouizel an Dreist-Hanternoz (Compagnonnage Druidique d’Hyperborée),” “Kevanvod Tud Donn,” “Le Cercle de ľAmbre,” and “Le Groupe Druidique des Gaules.” In Belgium there is the “New Order of Druids,” “GwenArdwenna,” “Drusedul Glastoratin,” and the “Albidatla Druidion Arduina (Assemblée Universelle des Druides d’Arduina).” In Switzerland we can find “La Taverne du Sidh.” 46. North American Druidry has not yet had much visible presence in Poland. The “Reformed Druids of North America” were founded in 1963 by students of Carleton College. From that group, Isaac Bonewits’s “Ár nDraíocht Féin: A Druid Fellowship” developed, and this organization has been seen to be active in neighboring Central European countries like the Czech Republic. 47. Nevill Drury, Szamanizm (Poznań: Rebis, 1994), 14. 48. Piers Vitebsky, Shamanism. (Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press, 2001), 151. 49. Ibid., 150 50. Ibid., 151 51. See 52. Drury, Szamanizm, 142. 53. Ibid. 54. Ibid., 125. The doubts and controversies around the authenticity of portions of Castaneda’s work is, of course, also known in Poland. 55. Carlos Castaneda, Nauki don Juana: wiedza Indian z plemienia Yaqui (Krakow: Wydawnictwo Literackie, 1991). 56. Lynn Andrews, Lot siódmego księżyca: nauka o tarczach, [Flight of the Seventh Moon: the Teaching of the Shields] (Poznań: Zysk i S-ka, 1984); and Lynn Andrews, KobietaJaguar i mądrość Drzewa Motyli [Jaguar Woman and the Wisdom of the Butterfly Tree] (Poznań: Zysk i S-ka, 1985). 57. See 58. Organized by “Asus,” a member of the PFI, the event was dedicated to animism and shamanism, including elements of Slavic spirituality. It took place at the “Hala” holiday resort below Mount Ślęża (2–4 October 2009) where an ancient (probably Celtic) sculpture of a four-legged animal (usually considered a bear) stands. 59. See


INTRODUCTION In the late 1980s and early 1990s with the end of the totalitarian system and the emergence of freedom of speech in Russia, people (especially young people) got the opportunity to communicate freely with each other for the first time. Technology often enabled this communication, such as the Efir (“Ether”) or Leningrad Telephone Air chat rooms of the 1980s (when callers dialed a certain secret telephone number, they could interact collectively).1 There, various issues were discussed, including Paganrelated topics like the historical re-enactment and role-playing movement (originally, largely inspired by the books of J. R. R. Tolkien in the USSR). FidoNet (a BBS system for PCs with modems) became widely available after 1990 and carried similar topics. Nevertheless, as some participants later explained “Nothing there was serious.” By the mid-1990s, the “Runet” (that is, the Russian-language segment of the Internet) had spread to cover an increasing number of people in the former USSR. In 1996, the first Pagan-dedicated website on Runet appeared. It involved Vadim Kazakov, who at that time left the Moscow Slavic Pagan community and organized the SSO (Union of Slavic Communities).2 Today, Rodnover Runet resources include not only followers from Russia, but also the Russian-speaking population of the former USSR and other countries. The civilian Runet did not get started until 1990, but by November 2011 the Russian Federation ranked first in the number of Internet users in Europe. Because of its numerous opportunities at minimal costs, the Internet is a tool through which many new religious movements (NRMs) try to reach the public. In the West, Pagan Internet communities and the ways in which Pagans use the Internet have been analyzed in a number of academic studies.3 However, in Russia no academic publications in English are available on this subject.4 One of the challenges in studying the topic concerns terminology: the religious and cultural movement of contemporary Paganism in Russia is referred to by a variety of names5 and each one of these reflects different connotations and points of reference. It is important to note here that the Internet has played a large part in the development, debate, and popularization of certain terms, as well as the

denigration of other terms. To separate the related terms, we define them as follows: Neopaganism is the broadest term covering contemporary global Paganism and the Occult. Slavic (Russian) Neopaganism is a narrower term but includes all quasi-religious, political, ideological, and philosophical systems which are based on the reconstruction and construction of pre-Christian Slavic traditions, including those which embrace eclectic elements drawn from Eastern and Abrahamic religions, New Age, and so on. The term “Rodnoverie” is more narrowly understood to be a religious and ritual system which adheres relatively exclusively to specific Slavic traditions (Russian, Ukrainian, Belarusian).6 It does not include every manifestation of Slavic Neopaganism, such as Inglings or Anastasiitsy. In addition, there are Russian representatives of other specifically named Neopagan traditions, such as Russian Wiccans who, although they are relatively few, do have some visible activity on the Internet. Another challenge in the study of Slavic Neopaganism is the nonstructured form of the movement. There are many more Rodnovers in Russia than those who regularly attend festivals, a common feature of postmodern, secularized society. A similar situation is noticed among Russian Orthodox Christians, the majority of whom do not attend church regularly. In consequence, the population of all Rodnovers cannot be identified with the well-known communities, because many Rodnovers celebrate rituals individually or may take part in the events of numerous different organizations.

INFORMATION ABOUT RODNOVERIE ON “RUNET” Many Russian Rodnovers complain about the difficulties in finding adequate information about their tradition. Internet searches conducted with the help of search engines are often the first step. On Runet, the most popular search engine is Yandex (59.3 percent of Runet searches) with Google in a distant second place (at 25.3 percent).7 In 1998, a general search of all Runet pages by Yandex found only around thirty hits for the word “neoyazychestvo” (Neopaganism) and those were of low informative value about the still-emerging movement. Today, the situation has changed dramatically both in quantitative and in qualitative terms. In February 2012, we find: the simple “yazychestvo” (Paganism) achieved 2 million search term hits, “rodnoverie” 160,000, “neoyazychestvo” (Neopaganism) 121,000, “novoe yazychestvo” (New Paganism) 5,812, and “sovremennoe yazychestvo” (contemporary Paganism) 3,949. If we run a search on individual Slavic Neopagan communities using the Yandex engine, we get the largest number of results (85,000) for “Ingling”(the Church of Inglings),8 and 45,000 for “SSO SRV” (the abbreviation of the Soyuz Slavyanskikh Obshchin Slavyanskoi Rodnoi Veri, “the Union of Slavic Community of Slavic Native Faith”), while searches for some of the smaller communities result in less than a hundred hits.9 A search for “Velesova kniga” (the Book of Veles) brings 253,000 results, while “Slavyanogoritskaya bor’ba” (Slavic mound wrestling),10 a martial art popular among Rodnovers, brings only 69,000. With search engines one can also examine the Internet presence of individual leaders or writers. One of the most popular of them seems to be Veleslav (Ilya Cherkasov), the head of the community Rodolyubie.11 The “popularity” of a given community or leader cannot be directly deduced from those figures, because the search engines give references to various dictionaries, news items, and sites and blogs of both Rodnovers and their observers or opponents. Therefore, groups that have found publicity or have become in some way controversial attain additional pages that mention them on the Internet.

NEWS SITES One type of website people search for information about Rodnoverie is represented by news and information portals focusing on religious issues.12 However, articles about contemporary Paganism are seldom found on such sites in Russia. Most of the Rodnoverie events are not considered worth broadcasting in the media. Articles about Rodnoverie can be found on the website of the NGO “SOVA Center for Information and Analysis,” but in the context of the analysis of extremism (and the misuse of “anti-extremism”), violations of rights, and interreligious conflicts. There are also some local media which report on local Rodnoverie in their region. In Saint Petersburg, for example, a local Internet journal,, has published several articles about Golyakov and his group Skhoron ezh Sloven, albeit mostly in the context of nationalism.13 Though such news portals may not give much information about Rodnoverie, many of them provide room for comments from their readers and in those, Rodnovers often present their own point of view, even when the article may not directly address Rodnoverie. Sometimes the moderators of such websites are compelled to interfere in them in order to terminate online “religious wars.”

RODNOVERIE WEBPAGES In 1996, a Rodnover, Yaroslav Dobrolyubov (YaD; his initials may be read to mean “Poison”), and a Satanist, Warrax (Andrey Boitsov), gained visibility on the Internet. For seven years they jointly published Internet articles on Christianity and Paganism, and gave detailed commentary on the works of other authors.14 In 1997, volkhv Lyubomir (Dionis Georgis) owned a resource which contained (among others) Velimir Khlebnikov’s works.15Lyubomir also maintained a page for the “Kolyada Vyatichei” community, with texts and photos telling about their beliefs and ceremonies. The organizers of the Krug Bera (“Circle of the Bear”), Ogneyar (Konstantin Begtin), and Iggeld (Dmitrii Gavrilov), were also active participants in the debate there.16 Iggeld has claimed17 that there were five leading Rodnover websites in 1997–9: 1. Svarozhii Krug (“Svarog’s Circle”), which included a collection of resources called the Kurgan (“the Mound”) and a Ukrainian section. 2. Svetlitsa (“the Front Room”), created in 1998 by Yastreb (“Hawk”). 3. Voinovo Pole (“Warrior’s battlefield”) by Svyatich (Sergey Pivovarov). 4. Slavyanskoe yazychestvo (“Slavic Paganism”) by Jaroslav Dobroľubov. 5. Korchma (“The Tavern”), a website owned by the writer Yurii Nikitin,18 the author of a series of fantasy novels, Troe iz lesa (“The Three From the Woods”), which included some Pagan elements. Nikitin’s site appeared in 1997, and provided a forum for the discussion of many issues related to his books. According to Iggeld, “The assemblage at Nikitin’s—re-enactors, Tolkienists, folklorists— it was such a Babylon. Nikitin became bored and he left to another resource, and everybody went away.” The main loci of discussion on Indo-European cultural traditions then moved to Voinovo Pole. In 1999, YaD created the largest Rodnover resource, Slavyanskoe Yazychestvo (“Slavic Paganism”). From 2003 to 2008 it was run by Irina

Volkova from SSO SRV, and since 2008 by Veschii Oleg (“Oleg the Wise”) from the all-Russian union Russkaya Narodnaya Vera (“Russian Folk Faith”). In 2010, the site began to work as a Rodnoverie encyclopedia on the Wiki open source engine. Among other features, there are special sections devoted to Rodnoverie: “Rodnoverie Personalities,” “Organizations,” “Rites,” “Russian Gods,” and so on.19 Among the many sites which were online in 1999, Velesovy Stranitsy (“Veles’s Pages”), seemed especially active. It was created in 1999 by Velimir (Alexsander Zhilko), a volkhv of the Moscow community of Veles.20 The site contained a Calendar of Events, materials of liturgical and theological nature, descriptions of shrines, and excerpts from the works of modern Pagan poetry and prose. The organizers of the site maintained a mailing list Velesov List (“Veles’s List”), designed to discuss issues related to the traditional beliefs and culture of the Slavs, the history and practices of the Pagan cults, magical arts; to search for and exchange information of interest; to publish and discuss reports, announcements, and interesting facts. Any subscriber could send a message, which was moderated by Velimir and automatically e-mailed to all other subscribers through the mail server. The homepage of The Moscow Union of Pagan Communities represents several member groups including the “Peruna,” “Kolyada,” and “Ruevit” religious communities, and two re-enactor groups, “Arkona” and “Lyutichi.” Peresvet Igorevich created the site Perunovo Nasledie (“Perun’s Heritage,” 1998–2000). And in 2001, on the basis of forum discussions Ogneyar organized the portal Dom Svaroga (“Home of Svarog”). Then appeared the PR Center of Krug, which provides a mailing list similar to “Velesov List.” During the last ten years the amount of sites has grown so much that it would be impossible to enumerate them. A significant number of them one can find on the websites of main Rodnoverie associations like Dom Yasenya (“Home of Ash”), Slavyanskii Mir (“The Slavic World”), or Kapiscshe (“The Shrine”). Among the websites which are active today, many represent local territorial communities and cater to local interests. Examples include: The Bryansk Slavic Community of SSO SRV’s website Svet Svaroga (“The

Light of Svarog”), the First Ekaterinburg Community of Old Believers’ website Svarozhich, the Samara Union of Rodnovers’s webpage Sva Slava, or the Rodnovers’ of the Land of Nizhny Novgorod forum. Runet also contains the websites of Russian-speaking Rodnovers from other ex-Soviet countries, such as the Rodnovers of Lithuania. A particularly noteworthy personal site is Pavel Tulaev’s homepage devoted to his scientific work and his website for the magazine Athenaeum. His sites cover events in twelve countries and several languages. They include paintings by artists like Vladimir Pingachov and Vsevolod Ivanov, a calendar with important dates of Russian glory, and news from the Slavic nations. Websites are often a convenient place to post important doctrinal documents, such as the Manifesto of the Pagan Tradition, (which is the basis of the operations of the Circle of Pagan Tradition),21 the Manifesto of the the Community of Ecological Awareness “Krina,”22 or “Izvednik of Russian Paganism,” which collects the answers of twenty-four leaders from all over Russia to questions about Rodnoverie compiled in 2003.23 The biggest Russian online archive devoted to Slavic Paganism is the Slavic Library. The site was created in 2007 in order to have a place where Rodnovers could post texts about Paganism, including both new works by Rodnovers and reprints of scholarly studies on pre-Christian religion. Later, the portal expanded its scope, and users started to post music and video recordings of recent rituals and lectures given by Rodnover volkhvs and other materials of that kind. A relatively wide variety of material connected to Rodnoverie can be found in bit torrent trackers, such as the popular RuTracker, in the section of “Heritage of the Ancestors—Rodnoverie—audio/video catalogue.”24 There one can find links to books, documentary films and movies, public appearances of Rodnoverie leaders, transcripts of Russian traditional songs, paintings, and so on. However, unlike the Slavic Library, the less controlled environment of bit torrent trackers link to fewer academic texts and it often allows access to material created by the Ingling Church, in spite of the fact that their literature has been declared “extremist” under Russian Federal law, and is therefore illegal to disseminate.

The Internet also allows Rodnovers to run special interest media like TV program Vyatich, the streaming radio station Radio FM Slavic, Radio Rusich in the form of podcasts, and Radio Svarog.25

PORTALS AND WEB-RINGS (COMMONWEALTHS) Sometimes close associations of pre-existing websites come about thanks to the federation of their individual or group owners. The Circle of Pagan Traditions (Krug) united a large number of RL communities. Krug’s main portal is Triglav (“Three-Heads”), the site of their member community Krug Bera. The galleries and online library of Krug are currently located on Dom Svaroga (originally founded by Ogneyar in 1997 as his personal page and still under his control). They also have a shared forum which publishes the official documents and statements of Krug. Similarly, the website of the Union of Slavic Communities of Slavic Native Faith (SSO SRV) lists two dozen member associations and is international enough to have an English version. The structure of the site is typical: it includes documents, priestly teachings, a calendar and descriptions of Slavic festivals, descriptions of the Slavic gods, prayers and hymns, instructions on how to build a Slavic communal shrine, photographs, an online video channel Vyatich, and an online store. SSO SRV and Krug have also recently created a joint forum Veche Vyatichei (“the Folkmoot of Vyatichi”). Web-rings or portals known on Runet as “sodruzhestva” (literally meaning “fellowships” or “commonwealths”) combine several communities online with a variety of resources and links. At many sites, to keep out intruders, registration was introduced for those who want to download text or leave a comment (which also reduces the total virtuality of participants). Among the major active portals, we note Velesov Krug (“The Circle of Veles”), which includes an online shop, links to personal pages of community leaders in LiveJournal, information resources, and news sites. For the development of Slavic national movements and the revival of Russia, the editor of Slavic search engine Slavic Commonwealth Sites, Malyshev, proposes to unite all the Slavs in the unified information force around the ideas common to all Slavs, regardless of their political affiliation.26 Another “commonwealth” that combines projects on religion and society is the Sodruzhestvo Russkoi Seti (“the Russian Commonwealth Network”). It includes the Russian informational and

educational resource “Ruskolan” the Rune of Rod, Rusograd (a digital library of books), and the Velesova Sloboda (“The Veles settlement”) website.27 There are links to sites as diverse as the “Volshba” cosmetics company and a “Slavic Kremlin” site being built by Vitalii Sundakov (near Podolsk).28 It also has links to an interview with the “rasologist” Vladimir Avdeev.29 Larger sites usually have forums for discussion. Despite the emergence of blogs and social networks, these Rodnoverie forums have not lost their relevance. Among the most influential and vibrant can be mentioned the following: CCO Forum NRW–the Union of Slavic Communities of Slavic Native Faith, the Assembly of the Land of the Vyatichi, the Gamayun forum, the Valley of Nav forum, the Forum of Volga Pagans, The Slavic Fist of the Spiritual and Martial Art Culture of Pre-Christian Rus forum, among others.

WIKIPEDIA The most popular site among Russians who are seeking information about Rodnoverie is Wikipedia. On 1 March 2012, Wikipedia contained over 800,000 articles written in Russian. In January 2012, Russian Wikipedia contributors declared themselves to be affiliated with 32 different religious faiths;30 47 of them called themselves “Rodnover,” 19 “Heathen,” and 9 “Yarila” (the name of a god of spring).31 Those are relatively few compared to the number of followers of other denominations.32 Religious issues often tempt Wikipedia contributors to so-called “edit wars,” and sometimes “vandalism” (defacing articles with insults, nonsensical commentary, or deliberately incorrect information) that cause an article to be locked. Large-scale religious editorial conflicts between permanent members should be unlikely. However, the history of updates of the article “Rodnoverie” tells us the opposite. The Wikipedia article “Yazychestvo” (“Paganism”) appeared in May 2003, and the articles on “Renaissance of paganism,” “Asatru,” “Neoyazychestvo” (“Neopaganism”) and “Rodnoverie” were created by Iggeld on February 2005.33 During those three days he made fifty edits in Wikipedia,34 including fifteen new concepts and thirteen articles on the Slavic gods.35 According to Iggeld there ensued a struggle with other correctors in Wikipedia. Initially, there was a wave of Pagan contributors, and then another wave against them. Iggeld added a synonym for “Rodovedanie” (“Genus-knowledge”) in 2005. Later, the article underwent numerous revisions, which still continue. Among the synonyms “Rodoverie,” “Rodolyubie,” “Rodobozhie,” “Dobroslavie,” “Slavyanstvo,” “Rodnaya Pravoslavnaya Vera,” “Rodyanstvo” were cited. Opponents of Paganism added biblical quotations against Paganism, and claimed that Rodnoverie is a sect.36 Some editors claimed an “absence of a common religion in pre-Christian Rus,” the impossibility of its revival, and they also pointed out that “the paucity of informational material pushes Rodnovers to questionable sources” such as the Book of Veles, Mater Verborum, Slavic-Aryans’ Vedas, Slavic runes, and so on.

The text of the article was also repeatedly subjected to malicious vandalism. Opponents used profanity, added abusive names such as “Govnoverie,” “Sobakoverie,” “Govnolyubie,” “Polenopoklonstvo,” “Dolboslavie” (which were then deleted by other editors), pointed unflatteringly to their worship of male reproductive organs (Kheropoklonniki), and alluded to orgies and homosexual rituals. Several times the article “Rodnoverie” was suggested to be removed from Wikipedia (and some sections of it were suggested to be moved to the article on “Paganism,” and some to the article on “Role-PlayingGames”).37 Despite this, the article grew out of three paragraphs to become several pages. Although Rodnovers made earnest attempts to write adequate articles on related concepts on Wikipedia, they have later abandoned those projects because those articles were under constant revision attacks. In Dionis’s opinion “It is difficult to put your own thoughts to Wikipedia, because they must satisfy its format and rules.” As Iggeld claims, when the blogosphere became more accessible with LiveJournal and, then interest in Wikipedia dwindled. Blogs enable them to express their thoughts without fear of changes. Many opponents and contributors to the Wikipedia articles about Rodnoverie who were active in 2005–8 have now left the project, so the texts have became more “stabilized.” Wikipedia also contains separate articles on certain Rodnoverie communities, on individual leaders, on selected key concepts, on important texts (especially Velesova Kniga, the Book of Veles), and on commonly used symbols. However, Wikipedia does not contain accurate and up-to-date articles about all prominent Rodnoverie groups or leaders. For example, one of the best-known Pagan leaders of Saint Petersburg, Vladimir Golyakov, also known as “Vladimir38 Bohumil II,” does not have his own article as of March 2012. The article about another notable Russian community, Soyuz Venedov, still repeats in 2012 outdated information from 1998 that the Soyoz’s activities “do not extend beyond Saint Petersburg and its surrounding areas.”39 These subtopics and many others like them may be almost as hotly contested as the main, general entries on Rodnoverie. In summary, at any given time Wikipedia does not

always fully reflect the realities of today’s Rodnoverie in “Real Life” or even their activities elsewhere on the Internet.

BLOGS AND LIVEJOURNAL In its service “search in blogs and forums,” the search engine Yandex allows us to take a snapshot of the Russian blogosphere that captures the changes in the frequency of posts on a given topic and to make comparisons.40 The term “blogosphere” in this particular case refers to those sites indexed as blogs by Yandex’s search engine (including LiveJournal and Twitter) but excluding social networks (like Facebook and vKontakte). Mentions of Rodnoverie or yazychestvo (paganism) are not very common; it is found only in 0.01–0.03 percent of blogs and forum posts. The Internet blogging service LiveJournal is very popular in Russia, and it is used widely to disseminate a variety of alternative or oppositional points of views. Although many Rodnovers have recently moved their primary locus of activity to vKontakte, LiveJournal has features that continue to make it particularly attractive for certain kinds of communication. Every posting to LiveJournal is often favored for publishing writings about theology or history written by Rodnoverie leaders. Veleslav, for example, writes on LiveJournal and often posts chapters from his forthcoming books, information about the festivals of the community Rodolyubie and about their seminars.41 Another popular Rodnover historian, Lev Prozorov (Ozar Voron), also publishes his studies on LiveJournal.42 Nevertheless, LiveJournal is not just a place to transmit information to an audience: users may interactively debate with each other in the comment sections. There are journals dedicated to Pagan literature, Pagan philosophy, and groups for such Pagan communities as Rodolyubie. In addition, there are overlapping communities such as those which focus on the history of the ancient Rus or “Slavic Antiquity.” There are also LiveJournal communities that are focused on the criticism of Rodnoverie from within, one of which has the revealing name “the Pagan Inquisition.”43

SOCIAL NETWORKS AND VKONTAKTE.RU Social networks, which became popular in Russia in 2006–7, provide an opportunity for people with common interests or activities to form communities. It is therefore not surprising that Rodnoverie can also be found in such networks as Odnoklassniki (“Classmates”), vKontakte (“In Touch”), Facebook, and others.44 At the moment, the most popular social network in Russia is, which was launched in 2007 and has became Runet’s leading online social communication network, working very much like Facebook. Every day it is visited by 25.5 million people, of which 25 percent are from Moscow and 12 percent from Saint Petersburg.45 Users of vKontakte are mostly youth: 18 percent of the users are under 19, 28 percent are 19– 25 years old and 11 percent are from 25 to 35.46 The vKontakte company tries to challenge similar Western services and by the end of 2010, functioned in 89 countries, in 51 languages and had 60 million registered users.47 It has become so popular that Russian psychologists have become concerned over the new forms of Internet addiction caused by socializing in social networks. Rodnovers have also found vKontakte to be an attractive venue for their religious ideas and activities, for several reasons: ◆ ◆ ◆ ◆

one does not have to create one’s own site and to pay for it one gains access to a massive audience the administration claims relative safety from virus attacks one has the ability to have several, interchangeable nicks or usernames (users are required to report their personal data and can have only one IP-address, but in reality, many users reported several clones, in addition, in the early years it was possible to change one’s name).

One of the advantages of vKontakte over blogs is that groups can be created on the basis of a shared interest and post news, information, and discussions to the group.

Groups in vKontakte are thematic pages that combine forums and collections of audio, video, and visual materials. This capacity enables the members not only to discuss various themes, but to watch lectures given by the leaders of the movement, films, recordings of TV programs about Rodnoverie, listen to recordings of Rodnover-themed music, or view photographs of Rodnoverie rituals. This gives Rodnover groups unparalleled opportunities for the presentation of their ideas in an engaging multimedia format which is useful for attracting new members. Moreover, vKontakte provides a convenient means for far-flung communities and individuals to communicate with the best-known leaders of the movement, some of whom are registered in vKontakte. The number of communities (groups) on Rodnoverie and Paganism on the site vKontakte is not large—about 500 groups.48 The largest among them is an open group “Paganism, Religion, Sorcery, Wizardry” (11,121 participants), which rejects the concept of “Rodnoverie.” In January 2012, the largest groups in vKontakte using the name Rodnoverie were “Russian Tradition” (9,358 members, founded in Moscow) and “Rodnoverie” (7,747 members, founded in Saint Petersburg). Rodnovers use social networks to discuss a wide range of topics. A relatively large amount of discussion is focused on the history of the preChristian and Medieval Rus. Topics that tend to raise quarrels and kholivar (a Russification of the English phrase “holy war”) include themes connected to relations with Christianity. Discussions about different conspiracy theories and alternative theories of history (such as the “theory of the Hyperborea” and Fomenko’s “new chronology”) are conducted regularly. A popular theme on vKontakte communities is what kind of life a contemporary Pagan should lead. For example, people use the Internet to discuss the problems of organizing eco-villages in the countryside, attitudes toward tobacco and alcohol, eating meat, and so on. The name of the religion itself is an especially acute topic of online discussion. There are also vKontakte communities that may be called “critical observers,” because the bulk of their activity is examining Rodnoverie “from a skeptical perspective,” which includes discussion on the historical and philosophical issues in Rodnoverie and frequently criticizing the

movement itself and its central leaders (such groups include “Glory to the living mushrooms” and “Slavic Paganism: Facts and falsifications.”). We can also find expressly anti-Pagan groups, the members of which predominantly represent various forms of mainline Christianity (groups like “No to Neo-Paganism” or “NO to Paganism in Holy Rus!!!”). A crucial difference can be shown between these categories: many of the members of the “critical observer” groups are themselves contemporary Pagans, who, for various reasons, do not appreciate certain features in mainstream Rodnoverie (even though these groups may also include some atheists, agnostics or Christians), whereas the anti-Pagans are exclusively outsiders to the movement. Of the Saint Petersburgian Rodnover users of vKontakte, the most visited is the group “Rodnoverie,” which was founded in January 2007. In its first couple of years, most of the members were students aged 17 to 24. The group “forbid[s] especially blusterous anti-Christianity, Hitlerism, xenophobia, propaganda of Nazism and Fascism.”49 This group contains thematic subsections: a “Library of the group” where one can find a thematic selection of links to studies, publications, audio and video material, including classic scholarly studies of Slavic Paganism, ethnography and mythology; “Articles and mass media” provides links to third-party news about Rodnoverie, and in the “News” section members can add information about various Rodnoverie communities and events. Some less politically and nationalistically disposed Rodnovers of Saint Petersburg participate in the vKontakte group of the community Krina, which had 374 members in March 2012. The vKontakte page of the group contains information about its events, festivals, rituals, and lectures as well as photographs and videos of their rituals. The vKontakte group “Rodnovers of Saint Petersburg” (1063 members) was created in March 2009 because of the perceived “lack of a single Rodnoverie center in our city in the context of wide interest in this theme in the masses and the wish to find like-minded people” for the goal of “mutual help.”50 Radical Rodnovers of Saint Petersburg also have their own vKontakte groups, and some have relatively large numbers of members. One of them, an “invitation-only” group “Rodnoverie—against the Slave-Religions” has 1,588 members. Another group, devoted to “the real gods we betrayed,” is

called “On the Path of the Ancestors! On the Trail of Paganism!” and has 1,267 members. The group declares; “We are not Rodnovers, not RODnovers nor fall even close. We are Pagans!”51 The online Pagan community has often witnessed conflicts between communities or individual volkhvs and they may range across all of the types of Internet activity mentioned above. After Veleslav published his concept of Shchuinii put’ (which Veleslav explains to be a form of LeftHand Path traditions52) on LiveJournal at the end of 2009, a heated disagreement between him and Nikolai Speranskii (volkhv Velimir) broke out in various forums on the Internet.53 Velimir objected incorporating elements from Tantrism into Slavic Paganism and then carried the discussion over into vKontakte. In addition to the Slavic Rodnoverie movement, there are some smaller groups visible on vKontakte which represent other branches in contemporary Paganism. One of the largest of these is the “Culture Historical Center ‘Ragnar’,” which is oriented toward Asatru, Northern Tradition and Paganism and has 755 members. There are also vKontakte groups for Wicca—“Wicca and Wiccan Magic” with 2,016 members, and some other groups with around two hundred members. Celtic Druidry can also be found on vKontakte in the form of groups like “Druids, Filids, and Bards” with 228 members, and “Druids” with 43 members. In conclusion, we can note that the social network vKontakte has become one of the most important Rodnoverie resources on the Internet.

THE WAYS IN WHICH RODNOVERIE COMMUNITIES USE THE INTERNET Rodnoverie organizations have varying attitudes toward the Internet. At one end of the range, there are “virtual communities” or groups that are more active online than in real life. At the other end of the range there are some communities which prefer not to make any kind of Internet selfpresentation. Saint Petersburg provides good examples of both those strategies.54 Of the larger organizations, Soyuz Venedov does not have its own webpage or use the Internet to spread information. This is due to the fact that the community is not made up of young participants, because management of a website takes time, and because their existing print communications are reliable. Even after the community split into two smaller groups, neither of the successors was inclined to make announcements or publish their materials (such as their newspapers Rodnye Prostory, Yar’ or Volkhv) on the Internet, though the texts of some of their lectures and some issues of Yar’55 have been privately uploaded to the Internet. In that, they differ from some other Saint Petersburgian Rodnover publishers, such as Roman Perin and Oleg Gusev, who use both print and online publication.56 Nevertheless, in 2001, Solntsevorot, a youth organization belonging to Soyuz Venedov, created a short-lived but high-profile webpage, full of yellow text on black backgrounds (referring to a yellow, white, and black nationalist flag). The changes in the strategies can be exemplified with a short description of the community Skhoron ezh Sloven, which is based in Saint Petersburg, but has branches in a wide area, reaching to Khabarovsk and Vladivostok in Russia, and even to other Slavic countries such as Ukraine and Belarus. Many of their local communities have their own webpages.57 For a long time, Vladimir Golyakov refused to take advantage of the opportunities that the Internet provides and in general was not interested in having his speeches published. The only exception from that policy was his family “tractate” Solntsevorot.58 According to Golyakov, he does not have to practice any missionary activity, because every Slav is already his follower.59 Members of his group began to upload selections from Skhoron

ezh Sloven’s newspaper Rodostroi (“Building of Genus,” nos 1–7, 2003–7) to the webpage “Designated Embassy [Vestovoe podvor’e] of the Highest Priest of All-Slavic Shrine of Perun Vladimir Bogumil II Golyakov.” The site featured such sections as “Priestly announcements,” “News,” “Rituals,” “Customs,” “Urochishche,” (“groves”), “Klad’” (“heritage”), “Luggage,” “Important sites” (photographs), and “Chat.”60 After their shrine to Perun in Kupchino was demolished by the city authorities in 2007,61 the website’s activities were reduced to notifications of planned activities. However, in spite of their relative lack of success with traditional websites, as the popularity of the social network service vKontakte grew, Golyakov decided to focus all of his informational activity there. Now there are thirty vKontakte groups associated with Skhoron ezh Sloven. The largest of them, Sdruga Skhoron ezh Sloven Rodobozhie, has 2,874 members, and there are also eight regional groups for Russia, a group for Belarus, and eight Ukrainian groups. In the middle of the first decade of the twenty-first century, the forum number of discussions grew dramatically. But in a couple of years most of the activities moved to LiveJournal, and a couple of years later it shifted to social networks. Rodnoverie is gradually moving into the electronic networks, shifting from rituals in the woods and hills. Iggeld had earlier warned his comrades in the faith, “we’re too deep into the Internet. If it went kaput—what means of communication we would seek?”

CONCLUSIONS The Internet, as a source of information and a place for dissemination of information, poses many challenges for Russian Rodnovers. First of all, the geographical origins of users are often blurred. A Rodnover may find it difficult to locate a group in their own city if the group does not actively advertise itself as such. In the light of the tensions between groups in different cities (such as between Moscow and Saint Petersburg), this may have an additional importance for the user even in the non-geographic online world. In a similar vein, because of the “virtual nature” of authors and discussants, one is often unable to conclude who has written a given text and what was their purpose in doing so. Because of that lack of accountability, discussion can easily slide into kholivar (quarrels) and personal attacks. Discussions that are especially inclined to slip to that uncivil level include attempts at dialogue between some Rodnovers and Inglings and other groups that are blamed for disseminating unsubstantiated history claims, such as the claim that Slavs came from another galaxy.62 Controversies have also arisen over the Vseyasvetnaya gramota, and such writers as Alexander Asov, Andrei Tyunyaev, Gleb Nosovskii, Anatolii Fomenko, Andrei Burovskii, Anatolii Chudinov, and Mikhail Zadornov. Forums can be plagued by hostile “trolling.” In many realms of the virtual world, one can create “clones” of other people and present oneself as someone else. A lot of online commentary says that vKontakte has a very high incidence of users with multiple alternate accounts. (Because of this, the number of member accounts of some groups may be much higher than the number of real humans in the group.) In consequence, so-called “clone wars” are occasionally conducted between Russian Rodnovers, as they are elsewhere on the Internet. At forums, moderators try to check the participants and every “nick” has an ongoing status and accumulates a history of participation in discussions, but in the social network vKontakte that kind of surveillance is not possible. Nets are still unregulated by the Russian authorities and facilitate such criminal acts as hacking into to forums or hijacking other peoples’

accounts after which one can forge messages and posts, or inflict other types of disruption or damage to the sites of one’s opponents. Rodnover activity (and the study of it) on the Internet is also challenged by the ephemeral nature of sites and the information they contain. The author or the host of a site can easily change its content. Some moderators may hand over the control of their site to someone else, in consequence of which the policy of the page may change completely. In general, sites can suddenly or gradually vanish; they can be closed because of failure to pay for hosting; they can be abandoned when they are not needed any more; addresses (domains) can be sold, or they can be forced to close. In 2007, after the anti-Putin “March of the Dissenters,” the Russian state authorities blocked sites and electronic addresses that contained certain codes used in Nazi terminology, such as “14” or “88,”63 and in March, on the request of the Moscow branch of the Yabloko party, the administration of vKontakte closed groups that provoked international hatred. In some cases, the groups that were closed were Pagan. Criminal prosecutions under article 282 of the Russian Criminal Code (agitation for cultural and religious discord) have also taken place based on online communication. Furthermore, after twenty years of existence, Runet has accumulated a large amount of “outdated” texts and opinions, published without any indication of date, but not deleted from memory, either. Some authors who used firebrand rhetoric in their youth have become adults now. Many have changed their opinion, and regret the reappearance of old opinions. The Russian legal system has changed and new social norms have been institutionalized. What was common in the 1990s may have become completely intolerable and possibly illegal. Overall, the Internet (especially in vKontakte) has a huge potential for the further development of the resources of Russian-speaking Rodnoverie. At the same time, the Internet may also create new problems that must be dealt with, such as a certain “virtualization” of Neopagans, who might be tempted to turn from living nature to electronic network. And within the Rodnoverie communities on Runet, who have been up to now somewhat linguistically and culturally isolated from contemporary Pagan activities elsewhere on the Internet, the interest in foreign sites has now increased,

and the availability of tools such as online translators promise to increase the information flow between these realms in ways that will be fascinating to follow.

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS This chapter is dedicated to my teacher, the leading light of Russian religious studies, Professor Nikolai Semenovich Gordienko (25 January 1929 to 10 November 2011).

NOTES 1. See 2. See (1997–2002). 3. See, for example, Douglas E. Cowan, Cyberhenge: Modern Pagans on the Internet (New York: Routledge, 2005). 4. See, for example, Alexey Gaidukov, “Molodezhnaya subkuľtura slavyanskogo neoyazycvestva v Peterburge,” in Molodezhnye dvizheniya i subkuľtury Sankt-Peterburga, V. V. Kostyushev (ed.) (Saint Petersburg: Institut sotsiologii RAN SPb, 1999); Alexey Gaidukov, “Inernet kak istochnik informatsii i sredstvo agitatsii sovremennogo yazychestva: na primere Rodnoverov (neoyazychnikov) Peterburga,” in Religioznaya situatsiya v Sankt-Peterburge i na severo-zapade Rossii, vol. VI, Programma Pravitel’s tva Sankt-Peterburga “Tolerantnost”, N. S. Gordienko, V. G. Ivanov, & A. M. Prilutskii (eds) (Saint Petersburg: Max Print, 2010); Alexey Gaidukov, “‘Neoyazychestvo’: problem traktovki i ispoľzovanija termina,” in Gertsenovskie chteniya 2009: Aktuaľnye problem sotsiaľnykh naukh, V. V. Barabanov & A. B. Nikolaev (eds) (Saint Petersburg: ElekSis, 2010–12); O. I. Kavykin, “Rodnoverie—novoe religioznoe techenie v sovremennoi Rossii,” Obshchestvennye nauki i sovremennost’ 3 (2004); R. V. Shizhenskii, “Slavyanskaya neoyazycheskaya diaspora na territorii sovremennoi Rossii (po dannym seti Internet),” in Dialog gosudarstva i religioznykh obyedinenii v prostranstve sovremennoi kuľtury: Sbornik statei Mezhdunarodnoi nauchno-prakticheskoi konferentsii, g. Volgograd, 20–23 oktyabrya 2009, O. V. Inashkov et al. (eds) (Volgograd: VolGU, 2009); A. Muravyov, “Les— moya rodnaya vera: Obzor russko-yazychnykh resursov Runeta,” Portal, part 1 (20 January 2005), act=netnav&id=83; part 2 (10 January 2008), Sometimes some Internet publications are copied into published print books, sometimes without attribution. 5. See, for example, K. Aitamurto, “Neoyazychestvo or Rodnoverie? Reflection, Ethics and the Ideal of Religious Tolerance in the Study of Religion,” in Obshchestvo kak so-bytie: “sistema” i “zhizhnennyi mir”, Yu. Yu. Pershin, I. A. Krebel, & B. R. Shesterkin (eds) (Omsk: SIBIT, 2007). 6. Slavyanskii Yazycheskii Portal: Spravochnik po miru slavyanskogo Rodnoveriya! [Slavic Pagan Portal: Handbook to the World of Slavic Rodnoverie],

See (data for the month of 7. February 2012). 8. Drevnerusskaya Ingliisticheskaya tserkov’ Pravoslavnyh StaroverovInglingov (“Old-Rus Ingliistic Church of Orthodox Old-Faith-Inglings”). 9. For example, Yandex finds 30,000 results for “Krug” (the abbreviation of the organization Krug Yazycheskoi Traditsii, the Circle of Pagan Tradition—in the future—Krug), 3,190 for Kolyada Vyatichei, 2,780 for Skhoron ezh Slaven, 1,786 for Soyuz Venedov, 496 for the Slaviya community. 10. A style which was developed and named by Aleksandr Belov. The name refers to funerary wrestling matches held near burial mounds. 11. In Yandex, the name Veleslav brings 72,000 results, while Velemudr, for example, gets 30,000, Iggeld gets 11,000, and Vladimir Bogumil gets 1,315. 12. Blagosvet-Info (, Interfaks religiya (, Mir religii (, NG-Religii (, Portal Kredo.Ru (, Religiya i SMI ( 13. See, for example,,, 14. These texts are on, “Warrax Black Fire Pandemonium” ( in 1999 and in 2003). An example of these comments was the criticism: “Veleslav, vlh. Nepravda d’yakona Kuraeva ili otvet Rodnoverov na ocherednuyu hristianskuyu lozh’. Otvet na knigu diakona Andreya Kuraeva i ieromonaha Vitaliya (Utkina) Trudno byt’ Russkim: Rossiya i Novoe Yazychestvo” [“Falsehood of deacon Kuraev or reply to another Christian lie about Rodnovers. The answer to the book, Deacon Andrei Kuraev and Hieromonk Vitaly (Utkin) Hard to be Russian: Russia and the New Paganism”] (Moscow: Vol. Orthodox Brotherhood of Saint John the Divine, 2001). The text is available at 15. See 16. Interview with Georgis, 4 August 2011. 17. Interview with Iggeld, 9 January 2012. 18. See Sergey Dorofeev, “Mifopoeticheskii obraz yazychnika i fenomen yazychestva v tsikle romanov pisatelya-fantasta Yuriya Nikitina ‘Troe iz Lesa’,” in Vestnik tradtsionnoi kuľtury 2. (2004). 19. Seeл?ж?бн?я:Categories. 20. The page existed in 2008. About him, see page_id=6&name=Web_Links&l_op=viewlinkinfo&lid=9867. 21. See; published version see: N. N. Speranskii, M. S. Vasiľev, D. Zh. Georgios, & G. I. Toporkov, Russkii yazycheskii manifest (Moscow: Vyatichi, 1997).

22. See 23. See 24., previously, 25. See,,, 26. See 27. See,, 28. See;; a list of resources by Buyan (“Brawler”) at;; 29. See 30. SeeВикипедия:ШабΛоны/Участники/ РеΛигиозные_убеждения. 31. SeeСΛужебная;WhatLinksHere/Участник:Box/ Родновер,СΛужебнаяWhatLinksHere/ Участник:Box/Язычник, СΛужебнаяWhatLinksHere/Участник:Box/ЯриΛа. 32. Followers of other religions were as follows: atheist, 490; Christian, 187; Agnostic, 130; Muslim, 86; Buddhist, 36; Roman Catholic, 34; Jewish, 32; Taoist, 11; Satanist, 5; Krishnan, 4; Zoroastrian, 3; the adherent Ossetian traditional religion, 2. 33. According to title=Язычество&diff=prev&oldid=6180,Асатру&oldid=110927 34. SeeСΛужебнаяContributions/Д.А._ГавриΛов. 35. At the same time, he referred to his book: D. A. Gavrilov & A.E. Nagovitsyn, Bogi slavyan: Yazychestvo: Traditsiya (Moscow: Refl-Buk, 2002). See title=Неоязычество&direction=next&oldid=110777. 36. For example, thirteen anti-theses, 20 January 2008:Родноверие&oldid=7072940. 37. Other articles were removed, such as the “Circle of Pagan Tradition,” which was removed by a vote on 20 March 2007, and then resumed 24 September 2008. 38. Vladimir (“Rules the World”) uses an unusual pronunciation of his otherwise common name in order to emphasize its meaning. 39. SeeСоюз_Венедов, a link to an article by the Leader of the SSO SRV, Vadim Kazakov, “Slavyanskoe mirovozzrenie Rossii v 90-kh godakh XX veka” [“Slavic world in Russia in 90 years XX

40. 41. 42. 43. 44.

45. 46. 47.

48. 49. 50. 51. 52. 53. 54.

century”], (a paper presented at a global Pagan conference, published in Vyatich: Vestnik Soyuza Slavyanskikh Obshchin, 6(8) (1998), “Pul’s blogosphere” [“The Pulse of Blogosphere”],; about the service: See See “Yazycheskaya inkvizitsiya” [“Pagan inquisition”], See also Alexey Gaidukov & Dmitrii Maslyakov, “Rodnoverie v setyah Kontakta,” in Gertsenovskie chteniya 2011: Aktuaľnye problemy sotsiaľnykh naukh V.V. Barabanov, & A.B. Nikolaev (eds) (Saint Petersburg: ElekSis, 2012). See Ibid. For more information, see “Sotsiaľnaya set’ ‘Vkontakte’ stanet vsemirnoi,” in,; Alexa Internet Traffic details for—servis Internet-statistiki. “Groups” with only one or no members at all were excluded. According to the material in and an interview with the administrators of the group in Saint Petersburg, 14 February 2008. See Nowadays many radical groups reject the word “Rodnoverie” as an invented concept, but also because it represents to them “soft paganism” that does not dare to identify itself as Paganism. Vlkh. Veleslav, Chernaya Kinga Mary (Moscow: Institut Obshchegumanitarnykh Issledovanii, 2008). See The communities presented here are selected as examples of different Internet strategies. An extensive analysis of “Real Life” Rodnoverie in Saint Petersburg is beyond the scope of this chapter. For more detailed discussion, see Alexey Gaidukov, “Molodezhnaya subkuľtura slavyanskogo neoyazycvestva v Peterburge,” in Molodezhnye dvizheniya i subkuľtury Sankt-Peterburga, V. V. Kostyushev (ed.) (Saint Petersburg: Institut sotsiologii RAN SPb, 1999); Alexey Gaidukov, “Sovremennoe slavyanskoe (russkoe) yazychestvo v Peterburge: Konfessionaľnaya dinamika za desyatileie,” in Religioznaya situatsiya na severo-zapade Rossii i v stranakh Baltii, A. Yu. Grigorenko, & A. M. Prilutskii (eds) (Saint Petersburg: Svetoch, 2005). In addition to the ones mentioned in the text, there are also

55. 56.


58. 59. 60. 61.

62. 63.

other sites, such as “Followers of the ancient Slavic Tradition ‘Nit’ Pokona’,”,,; publishing company Tropa Troyanova (“Troyan’s Path”) (, which focuses on the tradition of Russian “skomorokh” (“wandering minstrel-clown”) who were keepers of the pre-Christian magical tradition, according to A. Andreev. Newspaper Yar’, 1–3 (2008), see “Pechatnye materialy Soyuza Venedov” in Rodnovery Sosnogo Bora, These publishers have also online versions of publications like Za russkoe delo [For the Russian Deed] and Potaennoe [Sanctuary] in their official site, which also features their organizations Slavyanskaya obshchina [Slavic community], a volunteer charity organization, and Slavyanskoe Bratstvo Vzaimopomoshchi [Slavic Mutual Assistance Brotherhood]; See the Ukrainian site Slavyanskii Mir [Slavic World], which also contains an album of photographs; and Koľchuga vosstavshikh svyatilishch [The Chainmail Uprising Sanctuary], V. Yu. Golyakov, Solntsevorot: Rodovoi traktat (Saint Petersburg: Volkhv, 1992). “Skhoron ezh sloven,” in Religioznye obshchiny i organizatsii SanktPeterburga: Vypusk 2, E. Isakova (ed.) (Saint Petersburg: Apostolľskii gorod —Nevskaya perspektiva, 1998), 365. See The name of the webpage, as well as its contents, use a specific form of “old Russian” language that Golyakov favors. The sanctuary, which is composed of a huge statue of Perun, several smaller idols, four gates, and fireplaces, was erected without official permission in a city park. However, Golyakov apparently earlier had the unspoken approval of regional officials, and only after the sanctuary was featured as a gathering place for extremists in the massmedia and the building of a church next to the shrine had begun did the authorities decide to demolish this Rodnover gathering place in 2007. See Saint Petersburg, a LiveJournal personality, “Dobrii chelovek” [“Good Person”], See, for example, rules of the community in Fourteen-word slogan: “We must secure the existence of our people and a future for White Children.” Both slogans were coined by David Lane, a member of the white separatist organization The Order. The first slogan was inspired by a statement, 88 words in length, from volume 1, chapter 8 of Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf. See


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