So what did Brückner think about the “misunderstood” names were?
Regarding Jesza his judgment was that it was an old expression meaning, roughly, “let it be” or “please let it happen.” He stated that it existed in Old Church Slavonic.
The first issue with this is that Brückner, as is symptomatic of his writing more generally, offers no proof showing how we came to this conclusion. He makes his assertion without any citations or references. Thus, the erudite exercises his prerogative no.1 – take me at your word as I know more than you do.
The second issue here is that, assuming arguendo, that Brückner were right as to the existence of such a word in OCS, we have to ask what difference does that make for the occurrence of the word in Polish? The relevance, we suppose, would be present if Polish were somehow derived from OCS. However, whether OCS is the “oldest” (whatever that may mean) Slavic language is debatable. Old Slovenian also shows signs of antiquity and an entire separate debate could be had about that topic. As it stands, the word Jassa, appears in a whole host of sources across most of the ancient world where Slavs or Veneti touched foot and in some places where, to our knowledge, they did not:
- It was the word for “law” under Genghis Khan;
- It appears to mean “flowing” as in the Polish jazda or jechac and is found as the name or as part of the name of numerous “Old” European rivers;
- It was, arguably, the name of the hero Jason and the Greek (Dardanic) demi-god Jasion;
- It may be related to the word jazyk, as in tongue (but perhaps that too is by reason of flowing (saliva? words):
- we mentioned many other appearances of similar names all over the world and know of many others (including in India);
There is thus not much reason to assume that the OCS version – from whatever time (Brückner, of course, does not say) should be relevant for the Polish usage. Or, put differently, the fact that the word had a particular meaning somewhere in Russia does not mean that it had the very same meaning in other Slavic countries. In fact, one might ask whether the older appearance is not the one from Poland? Of course, we can’t even begin to discuss which was earlier because Brückner gives no cites for the OCS usage or for the time of the alleged usage (are we repeating ourselves here?). It is also notable that the Czechs mention the same God as Chasson which sounds much as Jasion. However, the Czech writers identify the same with the Sun, i.e., Chasson = Sol.
Third, even if in fact such usage did exist somewhere and sometime in OCS lands and even if we were to assume that the usage was similar to the version promoted by Brückner, one has to ask, so what? In other words, we do know of mentions of an East Slavic God – Dadzbog – whose name means as much as “God give” or, in more prosaic words, “let it be” or “let it happen”. If we’re going to dip into Eastern Slavic folklore for Jesza then it’s only fair that we should be able to dip into it for Dadzbog too, it seems.
“Lado” Brückner states is a vocative of Lada. But then notes that the word also appears in masculine form as lado. Thus, it could be either it seems. No problem there but what of it?
Brückner explains lada as a favored female, “my love,” “my dearest”, etc. For this proposition he cites two appearances (though there may have been others) of the word in the Tale of Igor’s Campaign (only manuscript from the 16th century)*. One has to assume that that work is genuine, of course, but let’s assume that. Separately, he notes the appearance of the word in the Life of Saint Catherine and notes that in Dalimil’s Chronicle the same means a pretty girl (presumably lado would then be the masculine equivalent). He even notes a use of the word in 1562 in Poland (but does not provide a specific citation).
Then Brückner claims that Długosz was inconsistent in that, a few years earlier, he stated that Lada was a local Mazovian Goddess rather than a God of War, Mars (as he claimed later). The two, however, need not be inconsistent and the fact that Herodotus and others spoke of women who catheterized their cut off breasts and served as warriors, i.e., the Amazons, leaves a tempting solution to this conundrum.
In any event, what Brückner really claims is that the later Polish usage should be determinative of the earlier Polish usage. Alternatively, he seems to suggest that the non-Polish usage should be determinative of Polish usage. There is, however, no reason to prefer either such interpretation. In any event, Lada as a goddess also appears outside of Poland (more on that later).
Brückner says nothing regarding Nia other than to note that Jakub Parkoszowic did not show where the Nia he mentioned (in 1440 so before Długosz) was supposed to have come from. The fact that Parkoszowic chose not to delve into the origin of Nia may suggest that the Deity was well-known at the time, or it may suggest that Parkoszowic did not feel the need to explain himself since he was writing a treatise on orthography, not theology.
Brückner notes that Długosz simply defaulted here to Pluto but says nothing about the existence or nonexistence of the Deity by that name.
What of Dilela? Brückner argues that this is made up from the words leli, which Długosz misunderstood from the peasants’ songs of yleli (where the y just meant “and”). Note that Lel & Polel do not appear in Długosz’ pantheon. In this respect, there probably is a connection between Leli and “Dilela”. They were likely the same. But so what? Brückner does not say.
He rambles on without really explaining the origin of all these names. He talks of drinking songs and proverbs of “Lelum, Polelum” but does not answer the fundamental question of the source of these “sayings.” He notes that the name also appears in other places as the name of a Deity but then suggests that maybe the name Leli has something to do with an old Polish verb indicating swaying or wiggling. Because why precisely? Brückner does not say.
Where does this leave us?
Well, first, to be anal about this, the Długosz formulation is actually Dzidzilela (a note on one of the manuscripts also has Dzydzylyna).
Second, the prefix dzidzi (though dzi perhaps as well) suggests Persian daeva, deitas or deus. In fact, depending on the case it could be cognate with a number of these. As an alternative, it is also possible that the invokers really meant the children of Lela, i.e., Didi Leli. If so, this can explain the connection with Castor & Pollux. Further, as the mother of Dioskouri was Leda, this can establish a connection to Lada or Lyada.
In any event, all of this suggests a connection to divine names rather than, as Brückner would have it, a purely made up construct.
But there are other names in the Długosz pantheon.
Here Brückner claims that Długosz needed to fill the roles of Ceres and Diana. Why? Because Poland was the land of forests and meadows so sylvan or agricultural deities were absolutely necessary. For Ceres, Długosz allegedly found inspiration in the Marzanna being carried out by villagers and thrown into water at the end of winter. This, so Brückner implies, was a natural “fit” because Marzanna was also (Marynia) the name of a plant.
Note that Brückner himself does not question the village custom. He just calls Her a “goddess”. But surely, Marzanna’s divine status cannot be disproven – as against the word of Długosz – solely by putting the word “goddess”, as Brückner does, in quotation marks. In fact, later Długosz himself explains the custom of “drowning” Marzanna as a restaging of the even surrounding the Polish “baptism” when the local Divinities were broken or tossed in the waters (a practice also known from Russia if are allowed to draw parallels).
So for all of Brückner’s derision, all that he may have shown is that the Długosz did not explain the connection between Ceres and Marzanna. On that, Brückner is, of course, right but neither was that the goal of Długosz (see below).
Here Brückner notes that there was a plant by that name (or, rather, by a similar name) (which is true) and that using a plant name for a required (as per Brückner – see above) parallel for the Roman goddess of nature just made sense. Add to that, he says, that both the plant name and the the Roman goddess name ended in the same suffix –ana and the connection was perfected.
Well, the name of the plant was actually slightly different (Brückner can’t help himself but admit that – presumably to show off his botanical erudition). And we will give Brückner the benefit of the doubt and assume that he hadn’t heard of the Goddess Tāfanae (which, however, some (particularly German) writers insist on writing as Tanfana or Tamfana).
But more importantly, Brückner’s “critique” is nothing but speculation. He has, of course, no proof or knowledge as to how exactly Długosz came upon his names but neither does he have very strong reasons to doubt Długosz who did not say anything extraordinary regarding Dziewanna. The fact that a plant could be named after a Goddess is hardly shocking and that the memory of the latter may have faded while the name of the former endures is also unsurprising (more on the plant later).
We note too that one of the glosses to the Mater Verborum has Diana as Devanna. If Hanka forged that he forged either being aware of Długosz’s pantheon or independently coming up with the name for Diana.
Pogoda & Zywie
Brückner discusses Pogoda and Zywie and asserts that Długosz must have simply “Slavicized” the names Podaga and Siwa – known from the Helmold chronicle (though Brückner seems astounded that Helmold’s Chronicle somehow managed to find its way into the hands of Długosz). However, he says nothing about these Deities’ existence or nonexistence. And weren’t they supposed to have been Deities of Polabian Slavs (even if an Indian connection seems present at least with Siwa – remember Veneti =?= Vindi) so what’s their to Slavicize (perhaps Helmold got them wrong in the first place?).
Boda was not part of Długosz’ pantheon but Brückner mentions Her (?) when discussing the passage regarding “Lada, Boda, Leli“. All he says is “I don’t know where this came from.”
Why Does Brückner Think He is Right?
The why is quite simple. Brückner states that there could not have been any pagan rituals left in the 15th century because by then Poland was throughly Christianized. In other words, all of the past customs that had not been incorporated into Church practice were forgotten. Five hundred years after the “baptism” of the country, the entire pagan culture must have been lost.
A number of observations are in order.
First, despite the words that Brückner uses to describe Marzanna (“some sort of Marzanna”) surely he must have known exactly what the ritual was about. After all, the ritual has survived to this day in many places in Poland and a scholar like Brückner would have been intimately familiar with it in the 19th century. So why so dismissive? It’s difficult not to suspect that Brückner does not wish to discuss Marzanna because, if that ritual survived from the 15th to the 19th century, it sure as hell could have survived from the 10th to the 15th. In other words, to this day we have all kinds of rituals that date years in the past and while the maintenance of such rituals in a preliterate society would no doubt have been harder (and more variations would likely have accrued), it, by no means would have been impossible.
Second, notwithstanding the baptism of the court of Mieszko, the reality was a bit more complicated. We know that a number of partly-pagan rebellions took place in Poland in the first half of the 11th century. We know that paganism survived as official state religion in several Slavic dukedoms into the 12th century. We know that the nearby Prussians remained pagan as late as the 15th century. We know that church penetration was fairly weak initially – one parish per 100 miles or so (this is partly because evangelists – then as now – claim success when they have converted the rulers; they know that, over time, the rulers, using state power, will convert the commoners). We know that Church attendance and mindless repetition of a few prayers was all that was required of the lay villagers back then (back then?). We know that Poland suffered from a Mongol invasion as well as invasions by various other pagans (Prussians, Pomeranians, Jatvingians, Lithuanians, etc). We know that the country was split apart in 1138 and did not recover (and then only in parts) till 1320 or so. Thus, in effect, the state preoccupied with other matters, was unable, except locally, to conduct a Christianization campaign for almost 200 years. The Polish state did not emerge in a more or less stable state until the 14th century. That in 1405 the dean of Cracow university should remember pagan rituals (as he claimed) and that, perhaps, a Cracow priest like Długosz could later in the same century have some notion of the same is certainly not beyond the realm of decent possibility. Brückner is right to raise doubts but he is wrong to be wholly dismissive.
Third, Brückner assumes that the only kind of Polish paganism that may have survived till the 15th century was the “original” pre-966 paganism. Given that assumption it is easier for him to then argue how hard (or impossible as he would have it) it would be for pagan beliefs to survive 500 years of Christianization. To be fair to Brückner, this is partly driven by the fact that Długosz placed his information about paganism right at the beginning, i.e., prior to discussing Poland’s Christianization. However, it is also entirely possible that the Polish Gods of Długosz have nothing or little to do with 10th century Polish divinities (whatever they may have been). And yet Długosz’ Gods may well have been worshipped in the 14th or 15th centuries.
Although Długosz may have been reluctant to admit that pagan practices were still going on in his time in a work of the type that he was writing (Annals of the Kingdom, etc), as we noted before, there is plenty of evidence (for example, from the various internal Church documents) that pagan rituals were, in fact, continuing into the 15th century. That said, religious practices change over time and the ones of the 15th century may have been very different from the ones of the 10th. Poles may have worshipped Jessa in the 15th but not necessarily in the 10th century.
And if that is true then we do not need any pagan practices to have “survived” five centuries of Christianization. Such pagan practices may have evolved over time or, perhaps, they may have been stopped by the Church and then restarted anew in an entirely different way.
Overall, one can’t help but note that Brückner’s article is set up in a rather strange way. Normally, one would expect to see a thesis and then a careful analysis of the pros and cons. Instead, Brückner strives very hard to show that there was nothing to the Polish Olympus and only then, when he thinks he is done, in a manner of a magician that reveals the secrets of some trick to gullible children, he tells us why this has to be so. Although writing formats of the 19th century may have differed from today’s so some slack may be cut, the overall inescapable conclusion seems to be that Brückner already knew his “conclusion” before he wrote most of his paper and that the paper’s body is merely designed to “prove” that a priori conclusion.
So Where Are We?
Brückner’s theorizing leads him to conclude that:
1) although Długosz did not make anything up out of thin air, nevertheless his Gods are not worth much, and that
2) Długosz simply made up connections to Roman gods.
As regards 1), we have shown that there does not seem to be a reason to question Długosz on a number of the above names or their variants (Jesza, Lada, Didi-lela). Others yet, Brückner himself does not really address other than, perhaps to say that they are Polabian Slav Deities (Pogoda, Zywie) but, again, what of it? Others he says nothing about (Nia) or admits that they existed, whether as divinities or not, at least as part of village ritual (Marzanna). As to the non-Długoszian Boda, he says nothing other than to acknowledge its mention in one source.
When all is said and done, the only Divinity that suffers – perhaps – from all of the Brücknerian sneering seems to be Dziewanna. And even there, we have shown it is really Brückner’s word against Długosz’.
Again, scholars are free to criticize but they have to establish their case. While one can express doubt about some of Długosz’ claims (he, like Brückner, does not cite anything but Długosz can, perhaps, be excused as he wasn’t writing a scholarly article!), he does state his case and there is nothing in what Długosz wrote that strikes us as improbable or outright crazy.
Thus, in the end, Brückner asks us to accept his word over Długosz’ as to what the situation with Polish paganism was in the 15th century. Or, to put it differently, he asks us to accept that he, Brückner, knows the customs of the 15th century Polish villagers better than a 15th century Polish high church official. Of course, stranger things have happened but Brückner fails to convince us that this is one of them.
Further, Brückner seems affected by two trends of 19th century Germany. One was the already mentioned 19th century perception of Catholic priests as backwards and one of the cause of the collapse of the Polish state (as compared with Prussian protestantism). The second was the resuscitation of Germanic paganism as something pure and original (along with Germania, etc). This led to the resuscitation of various Slavic antiquities as almost a response. Underlying all of this was the notion that original paganism was good because it was national in character. Brückner seems to transfer the motives of 19th century folk chroniclers onto the 15th century Długosz. How valid is that? Why does Brückner think it would have been important for Długosz to have shown Poland’s pagan roots at the level of detail that he did? Długosz may have been a patriot but he was a churchman of the 15th century and any notion that he was trying to bolster national pride by listing Roman-like deities seems a projection back in time of Brückner’s perceptions of Brückner’s own present. Długosz may have taken secret pride in “rich” pagan beliefs but if so he gives no hint of this in his matter-of-fact writing on the subject.
And what of 2)?
Here Brückner does have a point. Długosz does not say why the various Polish Gods must correspond to their respective alleged Roman counterparts. But, that said, Brückner’s point is a bit of a “so what?”
In other words, we have to ask why did Długosz strive for his interpretatio romana. The answer is likely to be simple. Długosz was writing – in Latin – to explain (very briefly) Polish paganism to an audience which may or may not have been familiar with it but would certainly have been familiar with Roman paganism. Hence the usefulness of parallels, even if imperfect, from Roman mythology. And that’s it. If it turns out that Jesza did not have the exact attributes of the Roman Jupiter, so what? Maybe it’s enough that He was the head of the pantheon as the “Main God” – a portfolio similar to Jupiter’s. Even if Devanna was not Diana, so what? From Długosz we still learn that She may have been a “forest lady” type. If Nia was not Pluto but was, nevertheless, a God (Goddess?) of the underworld, would that make much of a difference? And Lada may have been both a guardian of Jesza – in the form of a war god – as also an Amazon-like female. If, as we are told, women can do anything men can do, then certainly Goddesses should be able to do anything Gods can.
So what’s up with Brückner? We’ll have more to say about that later.
P.S. In a similar vein Brückner criticized the Baltic Pantheon – criticizing shows how smart (and entirely not gullible) you are.
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