Slavs apparently developed as a people NE of the Carpathian Mountains several cents. BC. Ancient Slavs shared religious concepts of other peoples and developed them variously under influence of neighbors (Nordic, Indo-Iranian, Gk., Roman, Christian [the latter esp. among Slavs who remained pagan longest]). There was no Slavic mythology and cosmogony. Demonology was more important than theol. Chief aims of worship and magic rituals: to insure fertility and gain divine favor for military victory. Religion (basically animism influenced by fetishism and perhaps by totemism [see Primitive Religion]) lacked ethical content, came to include ancestor* worship. Death was gen. followed by cremation, but not as a denial of continuing life.
Early gods included Perun (god of stormy heavens), Svarog (god of sun, fire, and light), Veles (or Volos; god of flocks and herds, and perhaps agriculture). Stribog (wind god; sometimes war god) and Mokosh (or Mkosh; female god personifying mother earth; also god of trade) were worshiped esp. by E Slavs. Statues of gods were in stele form and many-faced, housed in temples (esp. among Baltic Slavs); priests offered sacrifices (sometimes human), served as oracles, and carne to form a powerful caste; magicians, who claimed power over demons, exerted even more influence. Echoes of primitive beliefs continued far into the Christian era. RR tr. MSF)
L. Niederle, Slovanské Starozitnosti. Oddíl 2, kulturní, díl 1 (chaps. 15), Zivot starych slovanu, 2 vols. (Prague, 1911, 1913) and Manuel de l'antiquité slave, II (Paris, 1926); B. O. Unbegaun, La Religion des anciens Slaves,; in A. Grenier, Les Religions étrusque et romaine (Paris, 1948), pp. 389445, and Slawische Religion, Die Religion in Geschichte und Gegenwart, 3d ed. H. v. Campenhausen et al., VI (Tübingen, 1962), cols. 105107; The Mythology of All Races, ed. L. H. Gray, III: J. Machal, Slavic Mythology (Boston, 1918).
Edited by: Erwin L. Lueker, Luther Poellot, Paul Jackson
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