Monthly Archives: November 2015

Polish Gods Part III

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We have previously written extensively about Polish Gods in Part I and Part II of this series (as well as other smaller articles).  We thought Part III may be in order.  This part describes the literature of the 16th century.  At this time the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth was at its strongest, Poland repurposed towards the East and, in consequence, stretching between the Baltic and the Black Sea and encompassing various non-Polish (and even non-Slavic) peoples (Lithuanians being only the most obvious ones).  In accordance with its new stature, the country was hungry for great literature or rather literature describing the country’s greatness.  Thus, whereas previously only a few chronicles had been written in Poland, in the 15th century Jan Dlugosz offered the first major revamp of that genre for Poland and in the next century a whole bunch of similar works came out.

In addition to deriving proud genealogies of the “Sarmatian” nation (that was the understanding back then), the chroniclers felt they had to mention a Polish mythology as well.  Much of their work was derivative of the earlier works we already discussed and, with time, the numbers of Polish Gods began to grow quite disproportionately to what the chroniclers could possibly have known of such deities.  Nevertheless, at the risk of boring the reader with some repetitiveness of description we include all such mentions/works from Poland’s “Golden Century”.  Further, because the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth occupied so many lands at the time, the authors felt it appropriate to include among the “Polish” Gods also Lithuanian, Latvian and Russian deities and customs – all Slavs and Balts under one roof.  In order to give a flavor of this we generally did not cut those traditions out and have maintained them here under the rubric “Polish Gods”.  Obviously, today we would view these slightly differently.

Finally, we note that the various topical and popular books published around this time occasionally also mentioned some Polish (and other) deities.  We already discussed one of these here.  We discuss another one below.

Here is a list of the various works containing descriptions of the divine that we present (here in chronological order of their original penning (not necessarily publication)):

  • Chronica Polonorum by Maciej of Miechow (1519)
  • Kronika wszystkiego swiata by Marcin Bielski (1551)
  • De origine et rebus gestis Polonorum libri XXX by Marcin Kromer (1555)
  • Postepek prawa czartowskiego by an anonymous author (1570)
  • Postylla by Jakub Wujek (1573)
  • Goniec cnoty do prawych szlachciców by Maciej Stryjkowski (1574)
  •  O początkach… sławnego narodu litewskiego, żemojdzkiego i ruskiego by Maciej Stryjkowski (manuscript from 1577)
  • Sarmatiae Europeae descriptio by Alessandro Guagnini (1578)
  • Kronika Polska, Litewska, Żmudzka i wszystkiej Rusi by Maciej Stryjkowski (1582)
  • Kronika polska Marcina Bielskiego nowo wydana by Joachim Bielski (1597)

To maintain some semblance of chronology but also of narrative we list these works by their author in the following order:

  • Maciej of Miechow
  • Marcin Bielski
  • Marcin Kromer
  • Anonymous Postepek author
  • Maciej Stryjkowski
  • Jakub Wujek
  • Alessandro Guagnini
  • Joachim Bielski

Maciej of Miechow (Miechowita)

(Chronica Polonorum, 1519)

Maciej of Miechow (1457 – 1523) was born in a peasant family but managed to attend a local parish school, to earn a degree and to become a professor and then rector (for a record of eight times) of Jagiellonian University.  He was also a royal physician to Sigismund the Old and many other things.  His “Polish Chronicle” first came out in 1519 but was quickly censored due to unfavourable characterizations of certain members of the reigning Jagiellonian dynasty and after a “clean up” was reprinted in 1521 (pictures are from this latter version).  Maciej of Miechow was a proponent of the “Sarmatian” origin of Poles – rooting the “Sarmatian” era in Poland’s historiography.  This is what he had to say about the various Polish deities (note that although Maciej of Miechow did not shy away from critiquing Jan Dlugosz, he largely accepted Dlugosz’s description of Polish Gods throwing in a personal detail as well):


“Jove they named according to their language Jessa; Mars they called Leda Pluto was called Nya; Venera they named Dzidzililya; the name for Diana was Dzeviana; Cerera was called Marzana.  They worshipped Pogoda; they venerated the light, gentle breeze that rustled in the ears [of grain] and in leaves and then turning into a whistle.  They named it Pogwizd.  They venerated Leda, mother of Castor and Pollux, and the twins born of one egg [the dioscuri], which one can hear till this day listening to those who sing the oldest songs: ‘Lada, Lada, Ileli, Ileli, Poleli’, clapping and hitting their hands.  They call Leda – and not Mars [note the inconsistency] – by the name of Lada (if I dare say so myself, based on the witness given by live reports of the same) and Castor they call Leli whereas Pollux [they call] Poleli.  I myself have, in my youth, witnessed three of such idols lying, partly broken, in the neighborhood of the Holy Trinity Church in Cracow – they have since been taken away.”


(Iouem uulgari sermone Iessam nuncupabant; Martem apellarunt Ledam; Plutonem uocauerunt Nya; Venerem dixerunt Dzidzililya; Dianam nuncupabant Dzeuiana; Cererem uocarunt Marzana.  Adorabant Pogoda, quod sonat temperies.  Adorabant spiraculum, siue flatum tenuis aurae, per spicas frugum, et folia arborum silibantem, atque cum sibilo transientem. Vocantes numen eius Pogwisd.  Adorabant Ledam matrem Castoris et Pollucis, Geminos que ab uno ouo natos Castorem et Pollucem, quod auditur in hodiernam diem, a cantatibus uetustissima carmina: ‘Lada Lada, Ileli, Ileli, Poleli’ cum plausu et crepitu manuum. Ladam (ut ausim ex uiuae uocis oraculo dicere) Ledam uocantes, non Martem, Castorem Leli, Pollucem Poleli.  Ego in puericia mea uidi tria idola de praedictis in parte contracta, circa ambitum monasterii sanctae Trinitatis iacentia Graccouiae. Iamdudum sublata.)

Marcin Bielski

(Kronika wszystkiego swiata, 1551)

Marcin Bielski (1495 – 1575) was (likely a self-taught) soldier, chronicler and poet.  His 1551 “Chronicle of All the World” Bielski with its patriotic depiction of the Poles became an instant hit with further printings in 1554 and 1564.  Although he never left the Roman-Catholic Church, Bielski was sympathetic towards the Protestant Reformation.  In later [only?] printings, he disputed Marcin Kromer’s assertions that Vandals were not the ancestors of Poles.


Bielski first offers a description of the religions practices of the Slavs in the context of their pre-history:

“And at this time the Slavs continued still to praise the devils’ idols.  The only thing that was always good in this evil with them was that they did not see any hope for salvation in mortal man which others at this time did but only in God they held hope especially the one that governed thunders and rains and to this one they offered their goods.  They understood about fortune and not to have faith in men.  They lived in the fields in roomy tents.  They went to war on foot.  They had longbows to shoot with.  Both wives and husbands were of tall stature.  They did not know pleasures.  All their goods were for consumption only [to eat] as I’ve already written above.  The old Greeks called them Sporos that is spread out because they came into possession of many kingdoms [of others].”

Two interesting points here:

  • This is almost verbatim from Procopius’ description of the Slavs, and
  • the word used for the “thunder” god of Procopius is – in the instrumental – spelled “Bodze” suggesting Bodz as a nominative – whether a connection could be drawn to Boda is doubtful but intriguing.

He then goes on to describe the Baptism of Poland:

“[Mi[e]szko] ordered all [the people] – the rich just as the poor that they should be baptized on the seventh day of March throwing into the fire the wooden idols and breaking the stone ones [and tossing them] into the water.  And so from that there derives the custom in Poland and in Silesia that on the seventh day of March they they dress up Marzana as a woman, walk out of the village  and drown her singing: ‘Death writhes about the fence, looking for trouble etc.’  Because before that they venerated Planets, weathers [pogoda], pogwizdz, heli, lada, Dziewana that is Diana or Marzanna and many similar ones.”


Bielski picks up the Slav narrative of Procopius when describing the ancestors of the Poles (a more specific section after he first dealt with Slavs more generally).  Again much of this is found elsewhere:


“They venerated one God especially the one that governed thunder because thunder they feared.  And Mars too they took to be Holy and made offerings to him.  And also Pan, the god of the shepherds – and from this they called their superiors ‘pang’ [just as] we do today.  Mars they called Marz and thereafter our [Polish] people Marzana and they drowned it in water having dressed it up as a person – first  in Gniezno and then in villages throughout.”

Marcin Kromer 

(De origine et rebus gestis Polonorum libri XXX, 1555)

Marcin Kromer (1512-1589) was born to a mixed burgher-gentry German-Polish family.  He became secretary to King Sigismund August – the last Jagiellonian monarch of Poland-Lithuania and later the Bishop of Warmia.  He was an author of a number of books – the one most relevant for us here is the chronicle named “On the origin and deeds of the Poles in 30 Books”.  Kromer continued the Sarmatian trend as to the origins of the Poles.  He pointed too towards the people known as the Veneti.  Importantly, he was one of the first Polish writers officially to reject the “Vandalic” theory of Poles’ origin.  (He also rejected the “Illyrian” theory).


Here is Kromer on Polish Gods:

“Among the Slavs and other northern nations the old sore of idolatry held sway the Iongest since I understand that due to their being far away and their being fierce it was not easy for good meaning men to reach these peoples and too armed men of faith did not journey so far [North].  The Poles and other Slavic nations thus honored as gods in their own way: Mars, Pluto, Cerera, Wenera, Diana naming them [as follows]: Jessa, Lada or Ladon, Nya, Marzana, Zezylia, Ziewonia. It is for these that the people understood to bless altars, columns, holy groves and priests.  It is to these that they gave offerings and butchered cattle.  In their praise, did the people celebrate annual holidays, meetings, feasts, dances, clap hands, sang and undertook other celebrations.  Even Dlugosz recalls (some few years after the introduction of Christian faith)  that he himself had experienced these idolatrous rites, saying that it was common for men and women, old and young to gather together for games and dances, exactly during our Pentecostal holidays and that they called these groups ‘stado’ as if these gatherings were flocks or herds.”


“For this reason, allegedly, Russia and Lithuania [to this day] preserve such a rite whereby they conduct dances, clap hands and [the words] Lado repeat.  Dlugosz mentions that there stood in Gniezno a church dedicated to Nya or Pluto.  The Poles had even more gods as, for example, Zywie, which one reads as the ‘virile’ [or ‘living]’ (or ‘air’); Pogoda, Pochwist, whom Maciej of Miechow calls the very air/wind, I explain as bad weather/air;  it is thus that the Mazurians call the strong early winds ‘Pochwistel‘.  There are those [Maciej of Miechow] who place Lel and Polel amongst them [Dlugosz’ gods], of whom we hear that even to this day on a drunken evening [people] recall and understand that they are Castor and Pollux.  And too Piorun, Striba [i.e., Stribog], Chors, Mokosh were venerated by the Rus as is shown by their annals [presumably Marcin Kromer means here the PVL].”


(Sedenim a Slavis, caeterisque Septentrionalis plagae populis diutius, que ab alijs getibus, inveterata illa de multis dijs opinio & superstitio retenta est, cum propter barbariem & seritatem, et equidem existimo, difficilis ad eos externis hominibus esset aditus: nec vero multu homines militiae & bellis dediti, de religione disquirerent. Colebant itaq pro dijs Poloni, & caeterae Slavici nominis gentes, praeciupe Iovem, Martem, Plutonem, Cererem, Venerem, Dianam: quos Iessam, Ladum sive Ladonem, Niam, Marzanam, Zizililiam, Zievanam sive Zevoniam, vocabant.  De hiseadem quae caeteri homines sere sentiebant: his delubra Iucosque dedicabant: jos simulachra et sacerdotes cosecrabant: his libabant, his imolabat: his sestos dies epulis, choreis, plausibus, catibus iusibusque varijs indulgentes, agebant. quem ritum sestorum dieru Dlugossus usque ad suam tempestate, aliquot post susceptam religione Christianam seculis perdurasse memorat.  Solitos em viros & mulieres, senes & iuvenes, ad iusus & choreas pariter convenire ijs diebus, quos nos Pentesosten vocamus: eumque coetum, Stado, quasi gregem vel armentum, appellatu esse.  Nec scio an hoc sit, quod Russi & Lituani, prefertim in pagis, adhuc retinent, dum Ladonem choreas ducentes, & manibus complodentes, ingeminant.  Fuisse vero Gnesnae sanctissimum Niae sive Plutonis templum, idem Dlugossus refert.  Ahaec autem Zivie, quasi tu dicas vitalis (aura nimirum) Pogoda, hoc est, serenu, sive temperies: Pochvist, quam Miechoviensis aura, nos intemperiem interpretamur, (indecque Pochviscela Masovijs adhic coeli intemperies dicitur) Polonis sij fuere.  Sunt qui hic addunt Lelum & Polelum, quos in conuiurijs & compotationibus appelari adhuc audimus, eosque Castorem & Pollucem esse autumant.  Piorunum autem, hoc est, fulme, & Stribum, & Chorsum, & Mocoslum Russi peculiariter colvere, ut proditum est eorum annalibus.  In hoc igitur errore & vana superstitioe hec natio diu perstitit.)

Maciej Błażewski (died about 1628) who translated Kromer’s book from Latin in 1611  (O sprawach, dziejach i wszystkich innych potocznościach koronnych polskich ksiąg XXX), also tries his hand trying to show the etymology of Pochwist/Pogwizd and further supplements the above with a little more information about the Russian version of Ladon (having interviewed Mikołaj Giedziński who had served as a soldier in Moscow (for the tsars)) and Perkunos.  We did not incorporate those here but you can easily find these online.

Anonymous Author

(Postepek prawa czartowskiego, 1570)

This popular book about the takeover of human lands by hordes of various devils came out in 1570 in Brest Litovsk.  The only known copy of the book itself resided in the Czartoryski Museum but we were not able to find a copy of the original printing.  Hence, here we include a copy from the 1892 edition by Artur Bemis.  This is, again, more of a popular morality story and the various “gods” mentioned below (described as “devils”) are clearly not gods at all and some, even if of a “godly” nature are not even Polish (e.g., Orkus).  Nevertheless, we present this curiosity here for the readers’ amusement.


“To our Poland too did Lucifer send a second horde or moth [?] of devils to hunt.  And also many sisters [she-devils], and too to Russia, to Lithuania, to Moscovy and everywhere in the North [did he send] the Bachus’ horde, amongst which these are the leading companions:  Farel, Diabelus, Orkiusz, Opses, Loheli, Latawiec, Szatan, Chejdasz, Koffel, Rozwod, Smolka, Harab the Hunter, Ileli, Kozyra, Gaja, Ruszaj, Pozar, Strojnat, Biez, Dymek, Rozboj, Bierka, Wicher, Sczebiot, Odmieniec, Wilkolek [werewolf], Wesad, Dyngus* or Kiczka, Fugas.  ‘Our sisters too will go with you who as saints [gods] will be among the peoples’ [he said], that is: Dziewanna, Marzanna, Wenda, Jedza, Ossorya, Chorzyca, Merkana.”

* while Dyngus (or smigus-dyngus) is not normally considered a God in the Polish pantheon – rather a celebration associated with pre-Christian spring rites, there was a god named Mars Thingsus (Thincsus) as per a Northumberland (!) inscription.

(Do naszej tez Polski poslal druga horde albo cme czartow Lucyper na low, takze wiele siostr, takze i do Rusi, do Litwy, do Moskwy i wszedzie na polnocy wszytke Bachusowe horde, z ktorej sa przedniejszy ci towarzysze: Farel, Diabelus, Orkiusz, Opses, Loheli, Latawiec, Szatan, Chejdasz, Koffel, Rozwod, Smolka, Harab mysliewiec, Ileli, Kozyra, Gaja, Ruszaj, Pozar, Strojnat, Biez, Dymek, Rozboj, Bierka, Wicher, Sczebiot, Odmieniec, Wilkolek, Wesad, Dyngus albo Kiczka, Fugas.  Siostry tez nasze pojda z wami, ktore za jedne swiete beda u ludzi, to jest: Dziewanna, Marzanna, Wenda, Jedza, Ossorya, Chorzyca, Merkana.)


And in the next chapter we have the following [Koffel’s name refers to a kufel, i.e., a beer stein):

“Koffel, the devil.  Coming from Bachus’ horde, that devil’s company over which Koffel was captain was great i numbers. He [Koffel] is the one who throws all the drunken revelries and leads all revelers into all kinds of evil, so that each of them, having drank some, would show their true colours, egging each on to be different in the morning and different [after drinking] in the evening.  Drunk, he calls other devils to his side who sing: ‘Hejdaz, Hala, Ilelu, Polelu’.  And should he get into a fight, even if he’s beaten, he screams that the fault was not with him but he’s won anyway.”


(Koffel, czart.  Tez jest rota czartowska wielka zhordy Bachusowej, nad ktora rotmistrzem Koffel. Ten sprawuje pijanice wszystki i przywodzi je ku wszemu zlemu, tak aby kazdy swe kotki okazal, podpiwszy sobie, podusczajac, aby byl inszy po ranu, a inszy pod wieczor.  Upiwszy sie, wola drugich czartow do siebie, ktore zowia: ‘Hejdaz, Hala, Ilelu, Polelu’; a jesli sie powadzi, chocia go ubija, rzecze, iz on wygral i niewinien.)

Maciej Stryjkowski

(Goniec cnoty do prawych szlachciców, 1574)

Maciej Stryjkowski (1547- circa 1593) was born in Mazovia.  He was a traveler, a soldier (he served under Guagnini – see below), a protege of the Bishop of Samogitia, a notorious rhymer (his books and chronicles are thickly interspersed with simple rhyming passages) and ultimately a Catholic priest.  He wrote several books (being a priest helped him find the time) mostly having to do with Lithuania where he spent most of his time.  In his books Stryjkowski mentions various Polish, Lithuanian and Ruthenian or Russian gods numerous times.

One of these books is the “Messenger of virtue [sent] to the Righteous Nobles”.  Therein, in the chapter “About Polish kings and the origin od the famous Sarmatian nation” (O krolach polskich i wywodzie slawnego narodu sarmackiego) Stryjkowski includes the following passage:


“Christ, you have the blind-born Mieszko
Brought to light, brought Poland to Holy Baptism,
It is you Grom, Ladon, Marzanna,
Pogwizd, Ziewanna gave way to”


(Kryste tys Mieszka sleporodzonego
Oswiecil, Polskes przywiodl do krztu swego,
Tobie ustapil Grom, Ladon, Marzanna,
Pogwizd, Ziewanna)

Maciej Stryjkowski

(O początkach, wywodach, dzielnościach, sprawach rycerskich i domowych sławnego narodu litewskiego, żemojdzkiego i ruskiego, przedtym nigdy od żadnego ani kuszone, ani opisane, z natchnienia Bożego a uprzejmie pilnego doświadczenia, 1577)

Although Polish, Stryjkowski became a bit of a Lithuanian patriot and another chronicle is a testament to that feeling.   That book of Stryjkowski’s – one that was not published until the 20th century (Julia Radziszewska’s edition of 1978) – is his mouthful of a story “On the beginnings, origins, deeds, knightly matters and matters of hearth of the famous Lithuanian, Samogitian and Ruthenian nation, till now never obtained from anyone, nor written down, now with God’s inspiration and great experience [set down].”


In this manuscript, we first hear of “Lado” when the Lithuanian duke Gediminas greeted when entering some town (Kaniv?) in Russia by the commoners:

“Where the [commoners greeted him], according to custom, singing ‘a Lado Lado'”

(Jak byl zwyczaj ‘a Lado Lado’ przyspiewalo)


Stryjkowski offers a more robust tale of ancient customs and beliefs just a few pages later when describing the establishment of the city of Vilnius by the Lithuanian Grand Duke Gediminas:

“And Gediminas marks with plough this town of his,
Indicating walls and where [to set] the two gates,
He measures squares for marketplaces and merchants,
And sets down the laws [rules] regarding the keeping of the peace and brotherhood.
Then a dark forest did he consecrate to the home/hearth gods
In the place, where today a workshop stands, to Vulcan’s thunders [groms],
For there were many snakes there, which [snakes] they venerated,
And each of them at home they fed with milk
To this end, he set an eternal fire/flame consecrated to these gods
And attached priests, so it [the fire] would always burn.
He too got tithes from all things”


“And so the famous Vilnius did the famous Gediminas build
In this town, where there now stands the Church of Saint Stanislaw
built for that Saint bishop from the castle,
There stood an idol of Pioruns [plural] which [idol] they venerated,
And since his domain included fire, so with fire did they honour him,
And the second one after him, Ziemiennik the Earth god,
The giver of grain, to him they dedicated the dark woods.
Givoitis, the third idol, stood in the shape of a snake
And they believed he was the giver of a healthy [or bountiful] year.
Fire they called Znicz, which burned eternally
And whoever walked past it, had to feed it with wood.
They worshipped trees too as high gods,
And the sun and the moon they burned offerings to.
And when the sky turned cloudy so that the Sun was not to be seen,
Then no end there was to prayers and offerings.
And when the moon did not shine,
They said that the god of light is angry with us.
Snakes, lizards, vipers they took for house gods,
And they gave them all good things
Believing.  They kept these in the house and
offered them milk, honey and bread
And whosoever should cause them [these house gods] harm
So was he condemned to be judged buy the devil [czart].
And too, who should not have them in the house,
there he lost on health and possessions.”


“And in the month of October, when they finished the harvest,
A feast they had, for which they brewed beer,
They sacrificed offerings of all things to their gods,
And for a week with their wives they lived off of these offerings.
And of each dish they put away a piece into every corner of the house,
Walgi, o musu Dziewos Ziemiennik‘ [our God Ziemiennik] they called out.
[compare with: ‘Musu kunigos dzidzis Vicienos’]
And also they did not cut grain [with a sickle] by the boundary [between different fields]
Leaving that [grain] for the Earth gods to eat.
Lelus and Polelus and Ladon they had as gods
And too they had those to saw fear when defending themselves at war.
And ‘Lelu, Lelu, my Lado, Lelu, Lado!
Sang a maidens’ flock [stado] while clapping their hands,
This dance we see even today they preserve,
From May all the way to July they dance with this ‘Lado’,
Lado, Lado‘ singing, on holy evenings
In Rus there are examples of the old faith’s idols,
The bodies of the dead with their most dear possessions they burned,
As I have mentioned above, and they washed them with honey [!].
And since they went from hardship to bliss did these [souls] travel, they played the bagpipes,
And beating the drums, around their burning ashes, did they jump in a dance.
And this [custom] Latvia still preserves in the Courland country,
That when a friend dies, they play for him singing,
(What I have myself seen) with these words: ‘Go already from here, you poor soul [nieboze],
to a [land] where the bad German cannot hurt and enslave you.
Whereas, the Ruthenians [Ukrainians] for the dead made graves,
In forests, in fields, and set stones on them.
Just as today in Kiev, Vitebsk, Kaniv,
In Bulgaria, in Thracia and at Moscow’s head
I saw great mounds of these famous Slavic princes,
and Perun they honored many years ago.
And these gods in Lithuania so they thought
that they are honouring true gods.
In Samogitia and Ruthenia these superstitions
Partly continue, the bows serve the unbelievers,
In Lawaryszki [Lavoriskes], there others worship snakes,
And they burn magics at dinnertime in November.
[this is a reference to Dziady, the days of the dead – which fell around All Saints Day]
But I went on a tangent, counting these idols,
Though it does not hurt to know old ancestors’ customs,
That Gediminas himself with [at] Vilnius at one time sponsored,
And two castles and a town on the [river] Vilnius he built.”


(Zas Gedymin obwodzi radlem miasto swoje,
Znaczac mury i gdzie bram zakladac podwoje,
Día targów i kupiectwa rynki tez rozmierza,
I prawa ustawuje pokoju, przemierza.
Las potym ciemny bogom poswiecil domowym
W tym miejscu, gdzie dzis warsztat, gromom wulkanowym,
Bo wezow wielkosc byla tam, ktore chwalili,
A kazdy w domu swoim mlekiem ich karmili
K’temuż zaś ogień wieczny tym bogom poświęcił
I kapłany przystawił, by się zawżdy niecił.
Dziesięciny od wszystkich rzeczy też fundował.
Tak Wilno slawne slawny Gedymin zgruntowal
W tym miescie, gdzie dzis kosciol Stanislawowi
Zbudowany, swietemu z zamku biskupowi,
Tam stal balwan Piorunow, ktorego chwalili,
A iz mial ogien w mocy, ogniem go tez czcili,
A drugi wedle niego Ziemiennik, bog ziemny,
Zboza dawca, temuz las poswiecili ciemny.
Giwojtys, trzeci balwan, stal na ksztalt wezowy,
Ktory mu przywlaszczali, iz dawal rok zdrowy.
Ogien Znicz nazywali, ktory gorzal zawzdy,
Kto mimo szedl, musial nan drew przykladac kazdy.
Drzewa takze za bogi wysokie chwalili,
A sloncowi z miesiacem ofiary palili.
A gdy sie zachmurylo, iz nie widac slonca,
To juz modlom, ofiarom nie bylo konca.
Mowili iz sie na nas bog gniewa swiatlosci
Takze, gdy miesiac nocny nie dawal jasnosci.
Weze, jaszczorki, zmije za bogi domowe.
Mieli, iz im dawali rzeczy wszystkie zdrowe
Wierzac.  Tych kazdy w domu swym gospodarz chowal
Mleko, miod i pszeniczny im chleb ofiarowal,
A jesli zeby ktory krzywde im wyrzadzil,
Taki zaraz skaran byl, bo go czart osadzil.
Takze, kto by ich w domu nie mial, tam juz wszystki.
Rzeczy schodziły w zdrowiu, na ludziach dobytki.

A miesiąca oktobra, gdy skończyli żniwa,
Święto mieli, na które gotowali piwa,
Ofiary z wszelkich rzeczy bogom swoim bili,
A przez tydzien z zonami z onych ofiar zyli,
Kazdej potrawy w katy wszystki wprzod miotali,

‘Walgi, o musu Dziewos, Ziemiennik’ wolalali.
Takze na polu zboze nie zeli przy miedzy
Zostawiajac to bogom swym ziemnym dla jedzy
Lelusa z Polelusem i Ladona bogi
Tez mieli od wojennej obroncami trwogi.)

(I ‘Lelu, Lelu, Lado moja, Lelu, Lado!’
Tak spiewaly, z kleskanim reku niewiast stado.
Ten taniec jeszcze i dzis widzim zachowuja,
Od maja az do lipca z tym “Lado” tancuja,
‘Lado, Lado’ spiewajac, swiete tez wieczory
Na Rusi sa balwanow chwaly starej wzory,
Ciala zmarlych z najmilszym ich sprzetem palili,
Jakom wyszej namienil, a miodem ich myli.
A iz z nedze na rozkosz ida, w dudy grali,
A bebny bijac, kolo ich zglisk tancem skakali.
To jeszcze Lotwa w ziemi kurlandzkiej chowaja,
Iz gdy przyjaciel umrze, grajac mu spiewaja,
com sam widzial, w te slowa: ‘Juz idz stad, nieboze,
Gdzie cie krzywdzic, niewolic zly Niemiec nie moze.
Rusacy zas umarlym mogily sypali
W lesiech, w polach, a na nich kamienie stawiali.
Jak dziś koło Kijowa, Witebska, Kaniowa,
W Bułgaryjej, w Tracyjej i gdzie Moskwy głowa
Widziałem kopce wielkie onych książąt sławnych,
Słowieńskich, a Peruna chwalili z lat dawnych.
I te bogi, co Litwa tak on czas szaleli,
A iz bogom prawdziwym cześć czynią, mniemieli.
Tak w Zmodzi i na Rusi tych to zabobonów,
Po części jest, niewiernym służących pokłonów,
W Lawaryszkach tam jeszcze drudzy węże chwalą,
I czary przy obiadach na listopad palą.
Alem od rzeczy odszedl, liczac te balwany,
Jednak wiedziec nie wadzi starych przodkow stany,
Ktore Gedymin z Wilnem zaraz sam fundowal,
A dwa zamki i miasto nad Wilna zbudowal.)

Maciej Stryjkowski

(Kronika Polska, Litewska, Żmudzka i wszystkiej Rusi Która przedtym nigdy światła nie widziała, 1582)

“The Polish, Lithuanian, Samogitian and all Russian chronicle which till now has not seen the light of day” is perhaps Stryjkowski’s most important work.  It is a complication of the earlier works by Jan Dlugosz, Maciej Miechowita and others.  However, consistent with his Lithuanian and generally Eastern European patriotism Stryjkowski also includes passages clearly derived from Ruthenian or Russian chronicles too (most obviously the descriptions of Ruthenian/Russian Gods from the Primary Chronicle).


Interestingly, while in Vitebsk, Stryjkowski served under Alessandro Guagnini (see below) whom he later sued for allegedly having plagiarized Stryjkowski’s great chronicle in Guagnini’s “Description of European Sarmatia”.  Guagnini’s book was published in 1578.  In 1580 he lost the case brought by Stryjkowski (it went all the way to the Polish King).  Nevertheless, the Guagnini “Description” came out in 1581 again and continued to be published under his name.

Maciej Stryjkowski’s chronicle was finally published in 1582.   It contains passages regarding Polish (and other) divinities in the appropriately named chapter: “On ancient ceremonies or rather insanities of the Ruthenian/Russian, Polish, Samogitian, Lithuanian, Livlandian and Prussian idol worshipping citizens and [on] the varieties of the false gods.”  (O Starodawnych ceremoniach albo raczej szalenstwach ruskich, polskich, zmodzkich, litewskich, liflandskich i pruskich obywatelow balwochwalcow i roznosci bogow falszywych)

This is what Stryjkowski writes – note that we do not include the original publication language here since the readers can easily scan the pictures:


“But our Sarmatians, Poles, Ruthenians, Lithuania, Prussians mimicked these insanities, for these northern lands persisted longer in these errors.  By reason of their fierceness and animal cruelty, it was difficult for the Apostles and their messengers to come there with the teachings of the of the Gospel.  And too also our ancestors, being in those times the bravest nation in knightly [military] matters which took up all of their time, did not discuss [matters of] religion.  Thus, in the beginning Poles, Pomeranians, Mazurians these most important gods did have: Jove whom they called Jessa – this one they venerated as the all powerful and the giver of all goods; Pluto too, a hellish god whom they called Nia, they praised in the evening, asking for an earlier and better place in Hell and for rains or for calming of the weather; to this one there was a Church dedicated in Gniezno as Dlugosz testifies.  To Cerera the Earth goddess, the inventor of all grains, whom they called Marzana, to her too in Gniezno (as Vincent Kadlubek, Cracow bishop and the first Polish chronicler writes) there was a church built in Gniezno at great cost; where they offered in praise of her all kinds of tithes of grain after the harvest, asking that the next year’s harvest [also] be fruitful.  Venera they called the goddess of love Zizilia, to whom they prayed for fertility and all sorts of bodily pleasures they demanded from her.  Diana the goddess of the hunt in they tongue they called Ziewonia or Dziewanna.  Castor and Pollux too – the Roman deities – they venerated, who they called Lelus and Palelus – what even to this day amongst the Mazurians and Poles during feasts (when they’ve drunk some) we hear in the open when they Lelum po Lelum shout.  They venerated too the mother of Lel and Polel – Leda who, according to Greek faery tales, Jove – unable to get to her otherwise – turning himself into a swan did finally impregnate; [and] so she laid an egg from which Helen (for whom Troy perished) and Castor with molux (sic) – the twins – were born or hatched who afterwards were counted among the Gods.  And men and women, old and young, used to come together in one place for the Holy Days of these Gods of theirs so as to dance – which meeting they called ‘kupala’ especially on the 25th of the month of May and the 25th of June – [a custom] that to these times in Ruthenia/Russia and Lithuania they preserve.  From the Second Sunday [Sunday after Easter] until the Day of Saint John the Baptist women and maidens  come together for dances and holding hands they sing ‘Lado, Lado‘ and ‘My Lado‘, they repeat.  Singing to commemorate Leda or Ladona, the mother of Castor and Pollux, though the simple people do not know from whence this custom arose.  Also these strange lullabies about Saint Peter and holy evenings after the [day of the] birth of the Lord, all this comes from ancient pagan superstitions for I have seen the same myself with my own eyes in Turkey – in the year 1575, on December 20 when in our country the middle of Lent falls. [!?]”


“And the Poles also honored as a God the whistling wind which they called zywie; and also Pogoda, the God of clear, happy days; as Miechovius [Maciej of Miechow – see above] heard from his ancestors.”

“They also worshipped a second wind Pochwist which, as Miechovius writes (though Cromer [Marcin Kromer – see above] explains Pochwist as bad weather), the Mazurians even today call Pochwiscel – thus when such a wind should arise they fell and kneeled.”

“They honored too Ruthenian/Russian Gods, that is, Piorun, Strib, Mokosh, Chors and others whom Vladimir the king of all Rus (son of Svantoslav with a concubine) built many churches in Kiev (for his brothers slain in offering) and placed many idols/statues on the nearby mountains [hills].  And especially an idol for Piorun God of thunders, clouds and lightnings (who they worshipped the most) most exquisite he set up.  The body itself was elaborately made out of wood, his head from Silver, mustache from Gold and in his hand he held a stone in the shape of a striking thunder; and to honor him specially dedicated priests burned an oak fire which was called eternal and were it ever – by reason of the negligence of its guardians [i.e., the priests] – to go out, so would they be punished with a slit throat.  This [custom] the Lithuania, Samogitia and Old Prussians preserved.”


“In this shape an image of this Piorun stood [also] in Great Novogrod.  And it was with great diligence as a God venerated in the place where now stands a Christian monastery called ‘Perunian’.  Later when all the Ruthenians/Russians accepted the Christian faith (in Greek custom) in the days of Vladimir Svantoslavovic [i.e., son of Svantoslav] in the year from the creation of the world (according to Ruthenian/Russian count) 6497 and from [the birth of] Christ 980 – as we have described the same earlier – they threw this idol from a bridge into the River Volkhov, as the Ruthenian/Russian Chronicles and Herebersteinus* following them (Folio 74), in  ‘Rerum Moscoviticarum Commentarii‘, attest.”

*Baron Sigismund von Herberstein, author of the above mentioned “commentaries” (1549)

“And Czechs and Bulgarians, Slavs our brothers honored these [unclear if pagan gods generally or the above gods] Gods but, singularly, they had Merot and Radamas [Radegost?].”

Later Stryjkowski describes (mostly copying Dlugosz) the “Baptism of Poland: as follows:


“The duke Mieclaw [Mieszko] ordered to let it be known [by town criers] in all towns and villages that each person, the nobility as also their subject and people of all stations under the threat of] having their throats slit and losing their possessions, on the seventh day of March they should baptize themselves.”


“And so all of them through the Holy Baptism accepted the Christian faith and they broke all the idols.  And, as a remembrance of these idols, Dlugosz and Miechovius write what was done every year when this day came – [a tradition] that they maintain even today in Great Poland and in Silesia.  For when mid-Lent Sunday comes, children having made an idol in the shape of the woman Ziewona or Marzanna that is Diana, the Goddess of the Hunt (which idol they used to venerate), they place it on a stick and carry it around singing sadly and one and the other [idol] praising or carrying it in a wagon.  Then, in a puddle or into a river from a bridge they throw it and run away to their houses as if from the idols towards the true glory of Lord Christ.”

On Jan Dlugosz’s decryption of Poland’s baptism, see here.

Jakub Wujek

(Postylla, 1573)

Jakub Wujek (1541-1597) was a Roman-Catholic Jesuit priest and a leading translator of the post-Council of Trent (i.e., “Counterreformational” Bible).  He also wrote  Postylla catholica  which contained many sermons.  In its Part 3: Sermon on the Day of Saint Adalbert our martyr, patron and apostle (Kazanie na dzien Wojciecha swietego, meczennika, patrona i apostola naszego) Wujek makes the following claims about Poland’s pagan past:


1575 printing

“Our Poland was once in darkness covered when it venerated, instead of the lawful, live God, all kinds of devilries [such as] Jesses, Ladas, Nyas, Marzannas, Ziewannas, Zyzylas, Zywies, Pogodas, Pochwists, Lelipolelis, Pioruns, Gwiazdas [stars] and snakes.”


(Byla kiedys Polska nasza ciemnosciami kiedy miasto prawego zywego Boga lada Dyabelstwa Iesz Lady Nije Marzany Ziewany Zyzylie Zywie Pogody Pochwisty Lelipoleli Pioruny Gwiazdy i Weze chwalila.)

Alessandro Guagnini

(Sarmatiae Europeae descriptio, 1578)

Alessandro Guagnini (1538-1614) was a Veronese soldier and chronicler in the service of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth.  He became a naturalized citizen of the Commonwealth under the name “Gwagnin”.  As already mentioned, he was accused by his former subordinate Maciej Stryjkowski of having plagiarized Stryjkowski’s chronicle.  Be that as it may we include Guagnini’s description here as well.


After mentioning the destruction of the idols on the 7th of March, Guagnini goes on to describe their early worship (you can zoom in for the Latin version)c:

“Because before they worshipped  all kinds of created [physical] objects as Gods – the Sun, the Moon, the Air which they called Pogwisd.  Especially Jove who they called Jessa, Pluto who they called Lado[n], Cerere who they called Nia and whose church/temple stood in Gniezno, Venera who they called Marzana and Diana who they called Ziwonia, in the pagan tongue.  Also Lel and Polel that is the Roman Castor and Pollux were venerated as Gods.  And when they drink together so do they cry out their names ‘Lelum Polelum.'”


Guagnini then mentions the games that men and women play between the 25th of May and 25th of June, i.e., stado which is, he says, still observed in Ruthenia/Russia and in Lithuania. He goes on to describes that after Easter till the feast of Saint John the Baptist women and maidens hold hands dancing in circles praising the name of Ladon (‘Lado, Lado‘).  Finally, he notes that in Silesia and on the border with Poland on the 17th of March villagers go around with an idol before throwing the same into a river (i.e., the Marzana rites).  

Joachim Bielski

(Kronika polska Marcina Bielskiego nowo wydana 1597)

Joachim Bielski (circa 1540 – 1599) was the son of Marcin Bielski, as well as a parliamentarian, poet and the man who updated his father’s chronicle into the “Polish Chronicle of Marcin Bielski – newly issued by his son Joachim Bielski.  In addition to adding Polish histories up to the reign of Sigismund Vasa, Joachim toned down the various pro-Protestant passages in his father’s work.  (Joachim was not raised Catholic by his father but did later convert to Catholicism – whether this was partly caused by the growing Counter-Reformation, the fact that Joachim was working for the new King Sigismund Vasa (who was a staunch Catholic) or by personal beliefs is unknown.

“The Poles having accepted the Christian faith destroyed the idol images in which they [previously] venerated devils as Gods.  Others they burned everywhere in towns and villages.  All the pagan prayers they and lost [destroyed] via edict or the duke’s command: setting a certain date for this, namely March 7th,  These idols, Miechowita [Maciej of Miechow] writes that he saw three of the same, broken and lying at the Church of the Holy Trinity in Cracow where they lay on the ground for a while.”


“In the reign of this Mieszko in Cracow on the Vistula – where today the convent of Saint Agnes stands – there was a pagan church from which Mieszko ordered all the devils’ idols to be tossed out and to [replace them with] carvings of the passion of the Lord Christ.”

“In my memory too, there was this custom in villages that on the White Sunday [Second Sunday – Sunday after Easter] they drowned an idol after [first] having put human clothes on a hemp or hay bundle.  And the whole village led this idol [away] to a nearby lake or puddle and there, having taken the clothes off, they tossed it into the water singing mournfully: ‘Death writhes about the fence, looking for trouble etc.’ Thereafter, they ran away from this place as fast as they could back home, whosoever should, however, fall so they got an augury that this one should die this year.  They called this idol Marzana as if it were the God Mars.  Just as Ziewanna was Diana; and Dzidzilia was the Goddess Venus; and Jessa was the God Iovis [Jove]; and Nia, the hellish God Pluto – these they venerated in accordance with pagan custom as Gods and they built them churches/temples, consecrated woods, established certain Holy Days, gave offerings and to honour them they gave feasts and dances.”

ioachim2“As Dlugosz writes, that even in his time about the time of the Green Holidays [Green Week/Pentecost/polish Zielone Świątki, german Pfingsten] people used to congregate in villages – men just as women and to engage in strange dances [in their honour] which they called in the common tongue Stado.  So too writes this Dlugosz that in Gniezno there stood for a long time a church of the Holy/Saint Nia.  They also had other live Gods that is Lel and Polel which some understand to be Castor and Pollux.  They venerated as a God too Zywot, Pogoda, Niepogoda (which they named Pochwist) and today they still call pochwiscil in Mazovia [note: Mazuria became Mazovia here].  They venerated too Piorun, especially Ruthenia/Russia [did] just as also Strib, Chorz, Mokosh.  And Pomeranians [venerated] Radogost and Swatewit and Prowe.  There too were many other pagan tomfooleries.”

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November 29, 2015

On the Nation of the Suavs

Published Post author

The discussion about the origin of the Slavs or Suavs is often conducted between the “academics” and “commoners”.  This has led to a lot of confusion – primarily by reason of the former who purposefully mislead the latter as to what is the subject of the discussion.  We’ve made this point before but think it is worth reiterating it.


Not the Customs

Some of it goes back to the question what is an “ethnicity”.  The latter is defined by the academics (e.g., Anthony Smith)* as follows.

  • First, the academics claim that an ethnicity is “not inherent” but “created;
  • Second, they list factors that contribute to “ethnicity” as so defined;  for example, Anthony Smith lists the following as defining an ethnicity:
    • collective name
    • common myth of descent
    • shared history
    • distinctive shared culture
    • an association with a specific territory
    • a sense of solidarity

(Although, oddly, Smith leaves it out here, others see language as the primary “ethnic” criterion.)

* Who is Anthony Smith?  Just a guy with an opinion.  His opinion is not half bad.  For example, in his book Ethnic Origins of Nations he argues against the theses that nationalism is a modern phenomenon – an argument that is a bit like trying to ram an open door, but ok, we’ll take what we can.  Nevertheless, Smith presumably had to be careful.  He operated in a post-WWII world in a coterie of privileged, elitist intellectuals.

[The only activity such snobs find more pleasing than putting down the unwashed masses is being snarky to one another.  One of Smith’s teachers, Ernest Gellner, managed to do both in one breath (discussing prior department head, Morris Ginsberg): “Ginsberg… was totally unoriginal and lacked any sharpness. He simply reproduced the kind of evolutionary rationalistic vision which had already been formulated by Hobhouse and which incidentally was a kind of extrapolation of his [Ginsberg’s] own personal life: starting in Poland [Lithuania, actually, but, hey, all Eastern Europe looks the same] and ending up as a fairly influential professor at LSE. He evolved, he had an idea of a great chain of being where the lowest form of life was the drunk, Polish, anti-Semitic peasant and the next stage was the Polish gentry, a bit better, or the Staedtl, better still. And then he came to England, first to University College under Dawes Hicks, who was quite rational  (not all that rational—he still had some anti-Semitic prejudices, it seems) and finally ended up at LSE with Hobhouse, who was so rational that rationality came out of his ears. And so Ginsberg extrapolated this, and on his view the whole of humanity moved to ever greater rationality, from drunk Polish peasant to T.L. Hobhouse and a Hampstead garden.”  To what extent he was influenced by Gellner and the likes is unclear. (alas Gellner ultimately ended up working for Soros’ Central European University).]

All of these above “factors”, however, are not what the “commoners” mean when they ask the question of “from where came the Suavs”.  The “commoners” in seeking the “origin of the Suavs” understand something much simpler.  They understand themselves to be the Suavs of today and are merely seeking their ancestors or the primary groups comprising those.

Thus, while their view of the ethnic may include the above factors (and language), these are merely attachments to the true ethnic determinant – blood relationships.  With the latter, the factors listed above (and language) are attachments and expressions of shared family connection – reinforcers of sameness or the “familial glue”, if you will.

Nor the Language

As regards language, suffice it to say that anyone can learn as many languages as one wants to – doing so makes him or her a polyglot but it does not make him a member of any specific nation.  Neither are mute people condemned to the limbo of no nation.  Surely, the ancestors of many Spanish-only-speaking Mexicans were not Spaniards but local Mayans, Aztecs, Toltecs and the like.  Likewise, the ancestors of Caribbean Britons (in a geographic sense) were not from London (or the Caribbean for that matter) even if they only speak English.  Of course, language can be a glue of sorts (along with other such glues) but it is merely an overlay.

Since we’re talking about ancestry when we talk about ethnicity here and since ancestry reduces to “blood”, the notion that ethnicity is “created” rather than “inherited” must be declared deeply and irretrievably wrong.

Nor the State

For the “commoners” ethnicity – or what they seek – is better defined by “nationhood”.  But even here academia intrudes.  Academics are not favorably disposed towards “nation-states” in the classic sense of the word “nation” (and as the term is understood by commoners).  Thus, not content with defining “ethnicity” their own way, the academics have attempted to define the “nation” too.  They pull this trick by conflating the nation with the state or, if you will, conflating nationality with citizenship.  Thus, in their “view”, any “citizen” of a state is part of a “nation” – all it takes is a piece of paper issued by someone in power.  If the criteria for obtaining that piece of paper can be set up so that most or even all of the above factors are not included among such criteria, then the only thing that makes a man a member of our nation is that piece of paper.

If that seems too radical, you – as the state – might ask some basic history questions or, at least, some basic language skills.  Yet even that has recently gone by the wayside as states begin to hand out residence – then citizenship certificates – to anyone who comes through so as to hide the fact that they have lost complete control of their borders.  This rather pathetic activity is as much an act of legitimizing the migrants as a feeble attempt to preserve some appearance of state control (“yeah, we let them in, yeah, but that is because we wanted to and t was by our grace that they are here, bla, bla.”).

Aside from the destructive effect of this state behaviour on the actual nation, the notion that it is the state that determines your “nationhood” is deeply dangerous.  It fosters an environment where the state decides who “your people” are.  This is eerily reminiscent of the Communist times where another basic societal unity – the family – was seen as a competitor and the enemy of the state (as surely it was in fact with respect to an all intrusive state such as any communist dictatorship) with wives and husbands and children spying on one another (in fact some married based on the orders of the state… (though their spouses were not always aware of that)).

In any event, once again when the commoner speaks of a nation he or she does not speak of a piece of paper granted by the whim of some corrupt or intoxicated bureaucrat operating on the orders of an ivory tower professor who legitimized legislation defining citizenship for the bureaucrat to enforce while operating in the false consciousness of Marxist pseudo-science and funded with the money of the ueberrich financiers, oligarchs and other crude and empty “titans”.

On the “Blood” Nation 

The meaning of the word Nation is quite simple – all you have to look up is its Latin origin – natio = birth.  Unsurprisingly, the same holds for Suavic words and thus Narod, i.e., a derivative of rodzic = to give birth.  A family becomes a tribe and a tribe becomes a nation.  (Duh)

This does not, of course, imply some need for a red herring “purity” (here it may be appropriate to quote Mussolini’s remark about the Germans) but it does require an exchange of fluids, you might say.  Why?  Because if two groups of people live right next to each other but do not engage in sexual relations (or at least do not procreate together) then the question must be put as to “why”.

Their geographic closeness may give them knowledge of one another.  They may engage in trade relations.  They may even have their neighbors over for coffee but if it is clear that the children of one group will not marry the children of the other then they can hardly be called one group.   The very fact that two groups of people can be so close and not merge is unnatural.

There may be a whole host of reasons for this state of affairs (we look down upon them, they look down upon us, they want to preserve their traditions, we want to preserve ours, all of the above, and so forth) but the point is that just because the two groups are not at war and occupy the same territory does not mean they are of the same nation (indeed, over time, this can also result in social classes becoming separate quasi-nations and sometimes they even start out that way). In fact, there are examples of this from Central Europe where researchers are finding some ancient villages that were populated by two different groups – seemingly, as crazy as it sounds, for generations.

In fact, this very point can be made about the word ethos, Slav/Suav and Suev and Sueb.  All these, according to Zbigniew Golab simply mean “one’s own” people but also “people apart” from others (suebha = according to Pokorny, “frei, zum eigenen Volke gehoerig”).  Thus, svoboda (freedom) translates into being apart, free from the others or if you will being able to do your own thing (and, yes, boda is cognate with “body” and “to be”).  Ultimately, the same direction of “exchange of fluids” occurs too to Golab who says that while the word denoted “affines”, this affinity is necessary for consanguinity.  While anyone who’s ever been to a pub can attest that ethnos is not an absolute prerequisite for consanguinity (in fact, in a bar situation, the “exotic” may be attractive), it is difficult to see the former without the latter.  Thus, the word “suovo” (“word”) may have come from the same root as the word “Suavs” but that may be the extent of the relationship (so to speak) between the two (i.e., rather than the ethnonym “Suavs” coming from “slovo”). Finally, as noted, Golab also connected the same svoi/Suav/suebha with the word “ethnos” and ethnicity.






Wrong Questions and The Nation of the Suavs

With the above in mind we have to observe that the problem of the “Origin of the Suavs” is not simply a problem of shared “traditions” or shared “language” or a shared “state”.  The Suavs existed without a state (e.g., Poles in the 19th century) and they may have to exists without a state platform in the future.  Suavic emigrants to North America, Australia, Brazil or, more recently, the UK and Ireland and their children are Suavs – whether or not they cultivate any “Suavic” traditions, speak the Suavic language or identify with the local (or other) culture.  For so long as they have Suavic blood in their veins.  Conversely, Suavic-speaking foreigners even if they like pyerogi are not Suavs (though their children are – if the other parent is a Suav).

A lot of historians, linguists and archeologists when discussing Suavs talk about one of two things:

  • material culture
  • language

They do so among themselves which is fine because they know what it is that they are talking about but they also do this when discussing the topic with lay people.  This, however, is duplicitous.  Why?  Because the same academics know full well  that their interlocutors do not use the term in the same way.  The commoner merely wants to know about his or her ancestors – but the academic answers about “culture” or “language” (e.g., “Suavs came from somewhere East” or “Suavic identity ‘formed’ on the outskirts of the Byzantine Empire”), i.e., the question he wants to answer with the answer he wants to give.  These kinds of answers are, again, duplicitous but, more simply, are simply inapposite and nonresponsive to the question being asked.  They are irrelevant.

We are thus fully prepared to accept a number of hypotheses about the origin of the Suavic language or the origin of the Suavic culture.  Either or both of these may (may!) have come from the East.  BUT that does not mean the ancestors of most Suavs had.  It may, for example, be that the Suavs really are a mix of the Suevi and the Sarmatians (more on that here though it is a topic that we will, of course, return to).

A lot of academics, for example, sneer at the suggestion of a full population replacement as naive.  Their “sophisticated” theorizing has them say “well, of course, some people stayed behind and were ‘assimilated’ by the Suavs.”  But they never say how many?

What percentage?  10%? 30%? 90%?  And what are these %s of?  I think most people would want to know the relative % of the autochtons and the newcomers – at the time of the arrival of the newcomers but also later (those relative %s can change, of course).  There is also the question of who the autochtons were: if the Germanics came from Scandinavia then what was their % of the “autochtonous” population at the time the Suavs “arrived”?  What if the other “autochtonous” population were also Suavs?  Just different ones (or, for that matter, Veneti, Balts, Aestii (same as Balts?), Illyrians, whatever you may want to call them).

The answer to these questions does seem to matter, no?

Certainly, once you admit that a full population exchange has not taken place, it behooves you to specify what actually did take place.  If you say that “some” people stay and the percentage you have in mind more than 50% then your sneering answer begins to look like merely covering one’s ignorance of the underlying question.

In other words, one would think that you can’t say “Suavs came from the East and the autochtonic theories are wrong, nationalistic and discredited” then be asked about all the evidence suggesting the ancestors of Suavs lived precisely where current Suavs live and then respond to that by saying “duh, of course, there was never a full population exchange” when by “there was never a full population exchange” you mean that 90% of the population actually predates the arrival of the Suavs.  That would be completely misleading and disingenuous.  

But maybe you justify this flip-flopping to yourself with, “I am talking about the linguistic or cultural ancestors of the people we call today Suavs.”  However, since you know that your interlocutor is talking about his or her physical ancestors and not any hypothetical linguistic or cultural “ancestors” then your answer is more than Clintonian.

And I am not suggesting that the Suavs’ language or culture came from the East at all.  We’re merely pointing out that assuming they did that still does not answer the question that is actually being asked. 

The question about the Suavs is and has always been a question about “blood” or, if you will, genes.  We explore Suavic beliefs and culture as ways of finding more about our ancestors – this “familial glue” is a clues on the road to the ultimate goal – but it is not a goal in and of itself.

On the one hand, as we have said before, such a question cannot be crudely asked to identify the Suavs with, e.g., a particular gene.  For example, it is not clear whether the so-called “Suavic” gene – R1a – was associated with the Suavs or was, e.g., one of only a number of genes associated with historic Suavs.  Or it may turn out that the original speakers of Suavic were the ones who were not carriers of R1a.  (Other (male) haplogroups associated with the Suavs include R1b, I1 and I2.)  What then? That is why one has to be careful at this early time with placing too much emphasis on genetic information. This, quite aside from the fact that there are apparently different clades of the same Y DNA and just because some ancient person was R1a does not mean that his clade was the same as the R1a of most of today’s inhabitants of the same area (not to mention autosomal differences).

On the other hand, anyone who is not completely blind can see that the physical differences between at least the Northern Suavs (and some Southern Suavs) are staggeringly few – they are some of the most physically monolithic peoples in the world (on par with the Japanese and Koreans).  Such differences seem few even when compared with much of the Eastern “Germans”, the Balts, the Finns and many, many of the Scandinavians.

Maybe the Suavs will change over time though, for now, the description of the Suavs/Slavs from Procopius continues to remain generally applicable:

For they are all exceptionally tall and stalwart men, while their bodies and hair are neither very fair or blonde, nor indeed do they incline entirely to the dark type, but they are all slightly ruddy in color.”

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November 22, 2015

On Caesarius of Natianz and His (?) Dialogues

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Caesarius of Nazianzus (circa 330 – circa 369) was a physician, a politician and, later in life a quaestor under Emperor Valens (the one killed by the Goths at Adrianople in 378).  He is considered a saint in both the Catholic and the Eastern Orthodox church.  His relevance for us is that he may have composed a set of “Dialogues” – a series of didactic questions and answers on various topics.


We say “may have” because his authorship of the same has been questioned.   The original claim for Caesarius’ authorship of the Dialogues comes from Photius, an eight century Patriarch of Constantinople who said that, according to tradition, these were written by a brother of Saint Gregory of Naziansus (Codex 210 of Photius’ Bibliotheca).  That brother would have been Caesarius.  However, this claim has been disputed since Gregory, who outlived Caesarius, does not mention in his panegyric the Dialogues as a book that his brother had written and, more importantly, since – apparently – certain statements in the book suggest it may have been written later as in the 5th or 6th century.  For that reason the author is also referred to occasionally as Pseudo-Caesarius. (was it Caesarius of Arles? (circa 470-542)).


What is interesting is that the Dialogues mention the Slavs and the Lombards.  If Caesarius of Naziansus was the author he would be the first one mentioning the Slavs (but see here) – even ahead of Procopius and Jordanes.  But, even if he was not, and the Dialogues were written later they would still be one of the earliest sources on the Slavs.

In the passage the author questions the validity of the so-called theory of climes (i.e., that various peoples’ disposition depended on where they lived – that is, in what climate).  Caesarius compares the outrageous Slavs with the gentle Physonites (think Morlocks & Eloi).

The passage in question is in the 110th Q&A – shown here from Jacques Paul Migne’s Patrologia Graeca (Patrologiae Cursus Completus, Series Graeca) volume 38 (Dialogues II, 985/986):


“Why is it that those who live at the end of the world, Slavs and Physonites* who are also called Danubians; [why] some of these people eat the breasts of women (since they are full of milk) and smash unweaned babes on rocks like rats while the others refuse to eat even the clean meat which the law allows?  And some of these are daring, independent and won’t be led by any government; frequently, they kill their leaders at mealtime or during an expedition; and they eating foxes and wild cats and pigs; and they signal to one another by howling like wolves; whereas the others abstain from gluttony/piggishness and give themselves up/subject themselves to any leader?”


The Slavs are Coming!

“Aut quomodo in sectione alia ejusdem tractus Sclaveni et Physonitae qui et Danubiani appellantur, alii quidem ubera mulierum libenter comedunt, quod plena lacte fuerint, instar murium infantes saxis allidentes; alii vero etiam a legitimo et irreprehensibili carnium esu abstinent? Qui eorum alii praefracti sunt, suo jure viventes absque cujusquam imperio, ac nonnunquam comedentem secum vel iter facientem principem sujum interficientes, vulpes et silvestres feles porcosque comedentes, et luporum utulatu se provocantes; alii vero a voracitate abstinent, et cuivis principi se subjicientes obediunt?”


* Physonites because the Danube was seen by the writer as the Biblical Physon of the Garden of Eden in this comparison.

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November 19, 2015

Making Things Simpler

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This excerpt is from a 1987 article in “Slovene Studies” by Jakov Bačić of Astoria, Queens, New York City – all of which you can peruse here. Bačić seems to have developed this idea while writing his PhD dissertation at Columbia University (see Jakov Bacic “The emergence of the Sklabenoi (Slavs), their arrival on the Balkan Peninsula, and the role of the Avars in these events: Revised concepts in a new perspective”).


However, oddly, he seems not to have been aware of the fact that his additional step of converting a Solava > Sava would be unnecessary if one were to look for an actual, uncorrupted Solava.  Or, as we think, Souava.

And where more perfect to look but where the ancient River Suevus used to flow… Of course, all of this could just be one frothy coincidence.

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November 19, 2015

King Burisleif & His Daughters in Jomsvikinga Saga

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One of the more interesting references to the Slavic Wends appears in the early 13th century Icelandic work “The Saga of the Jomsvikings” (Jomsvikinga Saga).  There we find out about the close relations between the Wends and the Viking pirates of Jomsborg.  Jomsborg is – probably – Wolin; also known as Vineta (Wineta) for its Wends.  We shall have more to say about Vineta later.  However, for now let us show what the writers of this saga had to say about the Wendish King Burisleif and his daughters.  They are not the main characters (as the title suggests that honor falls to the Viking pirates) but the fact that the mythical (?) founder of Jomsborg – Palnatoki – chose to establish that fortress on the coast of Wendland means that the Wends come up in the story.


We come in peace

Note that the name Burisleif is unusual.  Most likely, it is a “Scandinavization” of Boleslav but this is not certain.  “Sleif” probably does refer to “Slav” but, as we discussed, “bury” is a Slavic word (as well as the prefix of Burebista – the leader of the uprising against Romans who rebelled in the East at the same time as Ariovistus did in the West) and, indeed, also the name of the Lugii Buri.  On the other hand the names of the daughters of King Burisleif: Astrid, Gunnhild and, possibly, Geira are Norse “Scandinavizations”.  That said, the three daughters of Burisleif are certainly reminiscent of the three daughters of the Czech founder Krok (Libuse, Tetka, Kazi).

The question of whether Burisleif really was a Wendish King remains unresolved.  Some believe he was a Polabian King, others suggest a purely mythical figure, yet others think him to be a composite of the Polish rulers Mieszko and Boleslaw.  It is interesting that one of the Jomsvikings’ leaders – Sigvaldi – comes from Zealand (Seeland or Sjaland) in Denmark which is the most likely candidate for the quasi-mythical province of Selentia the reference to which – as being conquered by Boleslaw the Brave – is found in the Gallus Anonymous Chronicle.


As regards the storyline, the Wends first appear after Palnatoki, the fearsome marauder, leaves the North Sea and decides to build a new fortress in Wendland.  So let us begin that story (in this we follow the Lee Hollander translation from the Icelandic – the Norse version is from the 1824 Carl Christian Rafn edition).

 Book 12

The Founding of Jomsborg

“Then they all return to their ships and felt to rowing, and got away; nor did they stop till they were back home in Wales. But king Svein and his men continued with the funeral feast, and he was galled with the turn events had taken.”

“The summer after, Alof, Palnatoki’s wife, felt ill and died. And then he was content no longer to stay in Wales, and he set Bjorn the Welchman to rule the land for him.  He himself left with thirty ships and took to harrying in Scotland and Ireland [i.e., to piracy on the sea and robbery on land].  And this course he pursued for three years, acquiring great wealth and fame [or notoriety].  The fourth summer, Palnatoki sailed east to Wendland with forty ships.”


“A king ruled there at that time whose name was Burisleif.  He learned of Palnatoki’s approach and was ill pleased to have him harry there because he was well-nigh always victorious and add more fame then any other man.  So the king sent messengers inviting him to the court and offering him friendship.  And to his invitation he added the offer of a district in is land called Jom, if Palnatoki would rule and settle there and defend the King’s land.”

“Palnatoki accepted this offer and settled there with his all his men.  And soon he had a great and strong fortification made.  A part of it jetted out to see, and in that part that was the harbor, begin off to accommodate 300 warships, so that the ships could be locked within the fortification. With a great skill a gate was designed with the stone arch above it and before it on iron particles which could be locked from inside the harbor.  And on top of the stone arch that was a great stronghold, and within the stronghold were catapults. The whole fort was cold Jomsborg.”

Then Palnatoki established laws for Jomsborg, with the assistance of wise men, to the need that the renown of the men of Jomsborg should spread most widely and their power should wax greatly.  The first of their laws…”

[We hear that Palnatoki lays down the rather spartan laws for the Jomsvikings.  Book 13 then introduces Sigvaldi, the son of Harold, the earl of Zealand (Seeland).  It tells how Sigvaldi (with his brother Thorkel) set out to join the Jomsvikings and, after robbing the lands of Veseti, the ruler of Bornholm, did in fact manage to do so (though half the brothers’ crew was rejected).  In the meantime, Veseti raided Harold and Harold raided Veseti.]

[The Danish King Svein was initially frustrated by the feuding parties but, to avoid an all out war, he eventually interceded at the Iseyrar assembly (Thing on Seeland – but what of the name of this “thing”?; remember ysaya lado ylely ya ya?) in Book 14.  We note that the sons of Veseti were Bui and Sigurd Cape.  Whether Palnatoki, Veseti and Bui are Norse names we leave to the reader to ponder.]




[By Book 15, Bui and Sigurd also join the Jomsvikings (with two thirds of their crews) as does Veseti’s grandson Vagn (who was twelve at the time – though by nine he had already killed three men) whose men overcame Sigvaldi’s men in proving their prowess.]

Book 16

Of Palnatoki’s death and Sigvaldi’s Ambition

“This continued for three years, until Vagn was fifteen years old.  Then Palnatki took sick.  He sent messengers to King Burisleif to come to him.  And when the king arrived Palnatki said: ‘I am thinking, Sir King, that this will be my last sickness.’  The king said: ‘In that case it is my advice that you choose some one in your stead to look after matter as you have done and that he be chieftain in the fort and that the company stay here as before.’  Palnatoki said that all in all Sigvaldi was the man best fitted to take command, ‘yet it seems to me that all of them fall somewhat short of what I have been.’  The king said: ‘Often your counsels have benefitted us, and now I shall follow your last one.  Let all laws stand as before in the fort.'”

“Sigvaldi was by no means loath, and in fact mightily pleased, to assume command.”

“Then Palnatoki gave his kinsman Vagn half of his earldom in Wales to govern under the guardianship of Bjorn the Welshman, and commended him to the special care of the company.  And shortly thereafter Palnatoki died, and that was felt by all to be a great loss.”

 “Sigvalid had administered the laws but a short while when breaches in the discipline began to occur.  Women stayed at Jomsborg two or three nights at a time; and men remained away longer from the fort than when Palnatoki lived.  Also there were mailings once in a while and even some killings.”

“King Burisleif had three daughters.  The oldest was called Astrid and she was both exceedingly beautiful and exceedingly wise.  Another was called Gunnhild, and the third was Geira – she who later married King Olaf Tryggvason.  Sigvaldi came to King Burisleif and presented this proposition: he would remain no longer in the fort, unless he was given the king’s daughterAstrid in marriage.”


“‘It is my intention,’ said the king, ‘to marry her to someone of more princely rank than yours; yet I need you in the fort.  We shall take it all under advisement.'”

“He sought his daughter Astrid and asked her whether it suited her wishes to be married to Sigvaldi.  Astrid replied: ‘To say the truth, it would never be my choice to marry Sigvaldi.  Therefore, if he is to win my hand, he must relieve us of all the tribute this land has been paying the Danish king before he may enter the marriage bed with me.  There is a second condition too: he must lure King Svein here so that you will have him in your power.'”

“Then Burisleif made this clear to Sigvaldi, who was nevertheless bent on marrying Astrid.  The upshot was that he accepted the conditions, and they made a binding agreement about it.  He was to fulfill the conditions before the first days of Yule or the agreement would be null and void.”

Book 17

Sigvaldi Captures King Svein

[The book first tells how Sigvaldi, pretending to be sick, kidnaps King Svein of Denmark and brings him to Jomsborg where, nevertheless, the vikings throw a feast for the king]

“Afterwards, Sigvaldi told King Svein that he had asked, on his behalf for the hand of that daughter of King Burisleif whose name was Gunnhild and who was the most beautiful: ‘and to me he has betrothed her sister, Astrid.  Now I shall journey to him to carry through this business for you.'”

“The king asked him to do so.  Thereupon Sigvaldi set out with one hundred and twenty of his men and had a conference with King Burisleif.  Sigvaldi pointed out that now he had fulfilled the conditions for marrying Astrid.  And the king and he laid their plans together, whereupon Sigvaldi returned to Jomsborg.”

“King Svein asked how his suit was progressing.  Sigvaldi said that it depended altogether on King Svein himself: ‘whether you, Sir King, will remit all of King Burisleif‘s tribute to you – then he will give you the hand of his daughter.  Besides, it would be more fitting to your honor and his if the king whose daughter you marry does not have to pay you tribute.'”

“And so persuasive was Sigvaldi in his representations that the king was willing to accept this condition.  The day for the marriage feast was agreed ohm and both weddings were to be  in the same day.  King Sveinthen proceeded to the feast, followed by all the Jomsvikings, and it was so splendid that no one remembered a more glorious one ever celebrated in Wendland.”

“The first evening, both brides wore their head coverings low over their faces; but the morning after, both brides were gay and had their faces uncovered.  And now King Svein examined their countenances, for he had seen neither one before.  Sigvaldi had said that Gunnhild was the more beautiful; but it did not seem so to the king,a nd he realized that Sigvaldi had not told him the truth.  And now he grasped Sigvaldi’s designs.  However, he made the best of a bad bargain.  And when the feast came to an need the king sailed home with his bride, and had with him thirty ships and a great host of men and many valuable gifts.  Sigvaldi journeyed to Jomsborg with his bride, and the Jomsvikings with him.”


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November 15, 2015

On Burkana, the Fabaria

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Let’s go back to Pliny the Elder for a moment.  Pliny wrote the following in his “Natural History:” (4.27) as follows (from the John Bostock translation):

“We must now leave the Euxine to describe the outer portions of Europe.  After passing the Riphæan mountains we have now to follow the shores of the Northern Ocean on the left, until we arrive at Gades.  In this direction a great number of islands are said to exist that have no name; among which there is one which lies opposite to Scythia, mentioned under the name of Raunonia, and said to be at a distance of the day’s sail from the mainland; and upon which, according to Timæus, amber is thrown up by the waves in the spring season.  As to the remaining parts of these shores, they are only known from reports of doubtful authority.  With reference to the Septentrional or Northern Ocean; Hecatæus calls it, after we have passed the mouth of the river Parapanisus, where it washes the Scythian shores, the Amalchian sea, the word ‘Amalchian’ signifying in the language of these races, frozen.  Philemon again says that it is called Morimarusa or the “Dead Sea” by the Cimbri, as far as the Promontory of Rubeas, beyond which it has the name of the Cronian Sea.  Xenophon of Lampsacus tells us that at a distance of three days’ sail from the shores of Scythia, there is an island of immense size called Baltia, which by Pytheas is called Basilia.  Some islands called Oönæ are said to be here, the inhabitants of which live on the eggs of birds and oats; and others again upon which human beings are produced with the feet of horses, thence called Hippopodes. Some other islands are also mentioned as those of the Panotii, the people of which have ears of such extraordinary size as to cover the rest of the body, which is otherwise left naked.”


The source of the confusion

“Leaving these however, we come to the nation of the Ingævones, the first in Germany; at which we begin to have some information upon which more implicit reliance can be placed. In their country is an immense mountain called Sevo, not less than those of the Riphæan range, and which forms an immense gulf along the shore as far as the Promontory of the Cimbri.  This gulf, which has the name of the ‘Codanian,’ is filled with islands; the most famous among which is Scandinavia, of a magnitude as yet unascertained: the only portion of it at all known is inhabited by the nation of the Hilleviones, who dwell in 500 villages, and call it a second world: it is generally supposed that the island of Eningia is of not less magnitude.  Some writers state that these regions, as far as the river Vistula, are inhabited by the Sarmati, the Venedi, the Sciri, and the Hirri, and that there is a gulf there known by the name of Cylipenus, at the mouth of which is the island of Latris, after which comes another gulf, that of Lagnus, which borders on the Cimbri.  The Cimbrian Promontory, running out into the sea for a great distance, forms a peninsula which bears the name of Cartris.  Passing this coast, there are three and twenty islands which have been made known by the Roman arms: the most famous of which is Burcana, called by our people Fabaria, from the resemblance borne by a fruit which grows there spontaneously.  There are those also called Glæsaria by our soldiers, from their amber; but by the barbarians they are known as Austeravia and Actania.”


A number of things are interesting about this passage.  But before we can say anything of relevance let us start by noting what Pliny is talking about.  He says that he wants to “follow the Northern Ocean on the left” until he comes to Gades – which most think means the Spanish port of Cadiz.   And indeed the first above paragraph appears to take the view of a traveller on the “left” side of the ocean, i.e., where the coast is on the left and the ocean/water on the right as you move forward.  For that reason, it may be thought that the Amalchian Sea (Morimarusa) – consistent with Tacitus’ stagnant northern sea – is the northern Baltic. Perhaps the Gulf of Bothnia or of Finland or of Riga or some combination of these.  Continuing with this line of thinking we have the Cronian Sea as, perhaps, the Curonian Lagoon.  Whether the Amalchian Sea and the island of Baltia have anything to do with the Gothic ruling houses of the Amali and Balti, we leave up to the reader.  As also the question of whether the island of Raunonia could somehow refer to the Rani tribe.  We will note, however, that, after the above description Pliny deviates into the land of myth where some people have horse hooves and others have huge ears.


But what happens then?

Pliny says that “[l]eaving these however, we come to the nation of the Ingævones, the first in Germany; at which we begin to have some information upon which more implicit reliance can be placed.”  This is odd in that the “first” nation in Germany should have been the Istævones – at least if one were coming from the East, i.e., from Scythia.  The Ingævones dwelt on the fringes of the Northern Ocean, yes, but probably roughly around Belgium and Holland/Frisia.  At least that is where Tacitus places them.

So what is going here?

Of course, we can’t be sure for certain but it appears that Pliny has jumped to the coast of the North Sea – to, perhaps, somewhere near to the coast of Holland – and is now moving eastwards.

Let’s keep reading.

If we leave Mount Sevo (Suevus?) for another time and proceed on we hear about Pliny telling us about the Codanian Gulf – a gulf that is “filled with islands the biggest of which is Scandinavia.”  Here the “Co-danian” Gulf could be interpreted to mean, roughly, the Danish Gulf.   And indeed the Danish coast is full of islands that today constitute Denmark and it is also the coast closest to Scandinavia.

Here Pliny meanders describing Scandinavia and its Hilleviones before noting that some writers state “that these regions, as far as the river Vistula, are inhabited by the Sarmati, the Venedi, the Sciri, and the Hirri.”

Point 1: If indeed we are moving West to East then the words of regions “as far as the river Vistula” suggest that some form of Sarmati, the Veneti and the Sciri plus Hirri would have lived – likely moving from the southwest towards the northeast – up to the river Vistula.  If Vistula is the river we call today the Vistula* then we have the Veneti west of the Vistula.

But what about the report of the Sarmati?  Don’t they live in Sarmatia?  And don’t we know that Sarmatia is east of the Vistula?  Well, Sarmatia may be east of the Vistula but the people of Sarmatia do not become non-Sarmatians should they be found elsewhere (see the complaints of the writers of late antiquity about the invading Sarmatians (e.g., Alans) in Gaul, Italy, Spain, etc).  Indeed, the “Sarmatian” Iazyges did not live in Sarmatia but rather south of Pannonia – which also points to us beginning with the Sarmatians in the south and working our way up – past the Veneti – north to the Sciri and Hirri.

Incidentally, the Hirri are not known elsewhere, whereas we find the Sciri in the most ancient times – apparently in the west first and then rather eastwards and then somewhere around Pannonia – one can only say that they were all over the map (e.g., the Verona list from the early 4th century mentions them alongside the following peoples: “… Vandali Sarmatae Sciri Carpi Scythae Gothi Indii (!) …”).  Whether the Sciri were also related to the Finnic peoples is another mystery (Scrithifinni? – whether these have anything to do with the Polish word “skryty” as in “hidden” is yet another one).

* Although even if the Vistula were really the Oder, the above supposition could still prove correct (though it certainly would get tight in there!).

Moving on.

Then Pliny describes the “Cimbrian Promontory, running out into the sea for a great distance, [which] forms a peninsula which bears the name of Cartris.”  Now, the Cimbrian Promontory is commonly understood to be the Jutland Peninsula – forming the greater part of Denmark.  When Pliny then says that “passing” this coast, there are 23 islands known by the Roman arms could he possibly be talking precisely about the islands on the East side of Jutland?  If so, then his “most famous” isle of Burcana (aka Fabaria) could not be the island of Borkum.

But, you say, “Borkum” fits – it kind of sounds like Burcana.

It does.

Point 2: But so does Arkona.

If in the past Arkona were the name of the entire island of Ruegen – and not just the name of the Cape on Ruegen.

Which raises a question.  What does “from the resemblance borne by a fruit which grows there spontaneously” mean?  Does it mean that the island looks like a fruit?   Or does it mean simply that the island is known by the “fruit” that is grown there?  It would be strange if an island were both a hotspot for “fruit” production and also were to look like that fruit  – but hey stranger things have happened.

And what is that “fruit”?  That “fruit” is supposedly the bean but this is not certain.

Did beans grow on Borkum?  Did they on Ruegen?  Not recently but 2,000 years ago!

And if we go with the second version of this interpretation – the visual one – what looks more like the “fruit” after which Burcana was also named Fabaria – Borkum or Arkona?  Well, is this a reference to a bean or to something else?

This is how they look – today (!); the challenger:


the current champion:bean2

and the real thing (if that is the thing!):

On the “looks” Borkum probably takes the prize but let’s not be so shallow…

In fact, it is also here – on the Baltic – that we would find the island Austeravia/Actania aka Glæsaria – so named for its amber.  That Austeravia should be on the Baltic can be argued either based on its Germanic etymology – pointing towards the “East” – or its Slavic one – pointing towards “ostrow”, i.e., “island” (supposedly only a “river” island but why that limitation?).  Furthermore, the same follows from the mention of amber.  (Although – as a matter of fact – amber may be found on the North Sea (and indeed in Sweden, the Netherlands and England), its primary “washing” grounds in antiquity were thought to be in the Baltic).

Pliny continues by noting in the next chapter: “The whole of the shores of this sea as far as the Scaldis, a river of Germany, is inhabited by nations, the dimensions of whose respective territories it is quite impossible to state, so immensely do the authors differ who have touched upon this subject.”  Thus, it seems impossible to use what follows to help us gauge the veracity of our musings.

PS we refuse to so much as even touch Pliny’s “Cylipenus”.  And, for more on Pliny and the Veneti see here.

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November 9, 2015

Armorican Mistifications

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We’ve already discussed the strange place names in Bretagne.  In fact, more than once.  But things get stranger yet.

That Breton is not a Slavic language is not something that is up for discussion.  And yet, we do have these strange signs:


That div means two as against the Slavic dva should not be surprising given the Indo-European nature of both types of languages.  But yezh means language as compared with, e.g., the Polish język is strange.  As per the infallible Wikipedians, the latter is derived from the Proto-Indoeuropean *dn̥ǵʰwéh₂s whereas the former comes from the Proto-Celtic *yaxtī.  Presumably the Proto-Celtic should be derived from the Proto-Indoeuropean.  Yet, the Celtic descendants of  *dn̥ǵʰwéh₂s are more on the “tongue” side, e.g., Old Irish tengae or, in fact, the Breton teod.  So where did the yezh come from?  

Incidentally, the -ek is an adjectival suffix – meaning it turns a noun into an adjective – in this case the noun yezh (language) into an adjective yezhek (lingual).  The addition of div (two) as a prefix turns this into divyezhek, meaning, of course, “bilingual”.  What is bilingual?  Well, in the above example the classes (Klasou).  The Slavic equivalent would be -owy/-owa/-owo.  And yet, even given all that, it is strange to see

  • klasou divyezhek
  • klasy dwujęzyczne or klasy dwujęzykowe

Compare that with bilingues.  Which of these look more related with one another?

Nor are these the only examples.  Take for example the phrase “what will you have to eat?”  In Breton it seems that “petra az po da zebriñ?” means “what would you like to eat?”  That is, to eat  in this case is zebriñ.  Now, in every Western Slavic language this word is reminiscent of “panhandle” or, to “beg for alms”, e.g., the Czech žebrat.  Of course, one can also beg for food.  (Brueckner derives all these from the German seffr meaning “wanderer” but is he right?  A “sufferer”?)  Another connection may be to “collect” or “take”, e.g., Polish zbierać.

Or take this genitive case example:


And what of this:


as compared with this:


Hardly a perfect match and yet, there is something to be said for this.  For the full map see here.

There are many such examples that are difficult to explain either geographically (the Germanic languages and the Latin French separate Slavic languages from Breton) or by reference to common Indo-European roots (see above).  Were the Veneti cloven asunder and all that remains in the West are these few words/phrases?  Or are the “true” Veneti the ones in Bretagne and what we are seeing in the East are merely the remnants?


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November 8, 2015

Wends in Denmark?

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That the Polabian Slavs raided the Danes and the Danes raided the Polabian and Pomeranian Slavs is not exactly news.  However, the Danes – unlike the Germans – never settled Slavic territories and Slavs, certainly, never settled Danish territories.

Or did they?

Mit einer banier rôtgevar,
daß was mit wîße durch gesniten
hûte nâch wendischen siten



Well, we did write already about potential Veleti Slav presence in Holland here and here and, most recently, here.  So why not Denmark?

We have previously briefly mentioned the German place names with the suffix -levo or -lebo in our discussion of the North Suavi.  That such suffixes are not only Slavic but also Germanic may perhaps be inferred from that discussion.  Further proof for this seems to be shown by a presence of similar suffixes also in Denmark.  Specifically, the suffix – slev or -lev is present all over Denmark as in, e.g., Haslev or Brandelev. See this map.


On the other hand, we note that such forms of suffixes, apparently once common in parts of Germany and currently present in Denmark do not appear anywhere in Sweden (except the very, very south) or Norway.  Does that mean anything?

And then there are the -ovs.  If one were to find an -ov or -off or -ow ending in eastern Germany, the presumption would be that it is Slavic.  But in Denmark?  See, for example, Nakskov or Klodskov or Bøgeskov.  But we know that skov means forest in Danish…  Thus, Askov may mean ash forest?  So what does this mean then?

That Bøgeskov is a purely Danish name?

Does that then mean that Pskov in Russia is a purely Danish name too?

But, one might say, the Slavic endings -skov are few in number – instead, they are mostly of the form –ov, -ow, -off.  Thus, we have the German Pankow.  Ok, but what about  Mørkøv or Måløv? That is with an ø.  Ok, but what about Taulov?

Here are the -ovs (mostly -skovs):


But they are not alone.  Thus we have:

  • Kramnitze (typical Slavic -itz ending) or
  • Gorke, or
  • a number of “Wend” names like Vindeby

Here is Kramnitze:


But one can say, that is just one place and it is directly across from the Wendland territories in today’s eastern Germany.  One place name does not prove anything major – perhaps it was a lone settlement.

True, that is possible.  Or maybe it was one of the few left where the name survived?

Here are the names that have a rather “Wendish” sound (e.g., Vindesby):


On top you can see Vendsyssel – Wendish syssel (ancient Scandinavian administrative subdivision – whether it has anything to do with the Slavic tribe of Susli/Susili is another matter).  That name suggests a Wendish source but it could be Vandalic too as its name varied throughout history:

  • Wendila (Adam of Bremen)
  • Wendel (Ailnoth of Canterbury)
  • Vendill (Icelandinc sagas)
  • Wændlesysæl, Wendelsysel, Wændil (King Valdemar’s census book)

Another possibility, of course, is that the Vandals were “Scandinavianized” Wends… After all Gallus Anonymous claims that Boleslaw Chrobry aspired to “Selentia” which can, perhaps, be equated with the island of Seeland which, in turn, was likely the home of the Silingaeans (who may have become Vandals at some point).  Now, Seeland is not Vendsyssel, of course.  But who knows what secrets Denmark holds – after all, it was the main route of Scandinavians into “continental” Europe.

For more information on this fascinating topic see the following:

  • Stednavne af slavisk oprindelse på Lolland, Falster og Møn” (i.e., “Slavic city names on the islands of Lolland, Faster and Mon”) by Friederike W. Housted (1994) which you can order from here;
  • “Venderne på Lolland-Falster” (“Wends on Lolland-Falster”) also by Friederike W. Housted (2002) in Jensen, A.-E. (editor) “Venner og fjender. Dansk-vendiske forbindelser i vikingetid og tidlig middelalder” (“Friends and Enemies – the Danish-Wendish connections during the Viking Age and in the early Middle Ages”), 28-32. Naestved;
  • “Historie, arkaeologi og vendere – hvad kilderne ikke siger om Svantevits tempel i Arkona og om venderne i Danmark” (“History, archaeology and the Wends – what sources do not say about the Svantevit temple on Arkona and the Wends in Denmark”) by Poul Grinder-Hansen (2002) in Jensen, A.-E. (editor) “Venner og fjender. Dansk-vendiske forbindelser i vikingetid og tidlig middelalder”, 5-16. Naestved.

A more comprehensive list of sources can be found in Jens Ulriksen’s short report “The Late Iron Age and Early Medieval Period in the Western Baltic

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November 1, 2015