Reports of the Slavs from Muslim Lands Part V – Testimony of Masudi on Slavic Gods and Temples

The below is is taken from the same Masudi report (in “The Meadows of Gold”) as discussed previously here.  Now, however, we focus on religion in more depth.  (BTW the locations of the various temples, as shown in the pictures, are purely speculative – we lay no claim on knowing whether these correspond to any of the temples mentioned by Masudi).

There are two translation sources here.  Most of the passages come from the Paul Lunde edition (including a portion that mentions a town administrator – Ahmad ibn Kuyah – one has to ask the question whether Ahmad’s father (or some other relative) wasn’t in fact Kuy as in the legendary founder Kiyev).  That section is supplemented by a separate translation of another paragraph.

The other section on the temples comes from Chapter 66 of the Prairies d’or (French translation with an Arabic edition) aka Muruj al-dhahab by Barbier de Meynard and Pavet de Courteille published in 1861-1877.


Lunde translation – chapter 11 (The Khazars)

“The king, his court and all those of the Khazar race practice Judaism, to which the king of the Khazars was converted during the reign of Harun al-Rashid.  Many Jews from Muslim and Byzantine cities came to settle among the Khazars, particularly since Romanus I, the king of the Byzantines in our own time, 332/943, forced the Jews in his kingdom to convert to Christianity.  Further on in this volume we shall give the history of the rulers of Byzantium, which we shall set out in order, and shall speak of this king as well as the two other rulers who shared power with him.  A great number of Jews therefore fled from the land of the Byzantines and sought refuge with the Khazars.  This is not the place to speak of the conversion of the Khazar ruler to Judaism, as we have already discussed this subject in our previous works.” 

“The pagans who live in this country belong to many different races, among which are the Slavs and the Rus, who live in one of the two parts of the city.  They burn their dead on pyres along with the deceased’s horses, arms and equipment.  When a mans dies, his wife is burned alive with him, but if the wife dies before he husband, the man does not suffer the same fate.  If a man dies before marriage, he is given a posthumous wife.  The omen passionately want to be burned because they believe they will enter paradise.  This is a custom, as we have already mentioned, that is current in India but with this difference: there, the woman is not burned unless she give her consent.”  

“As regards the pagans in this land (Khazar Khaganate), there are different peoples/races that are pagan – amongst them the Slavs (Saqaliba) and the Rus (Rus).  They live in the same part of this city (the capital).  They burn their dead together with their beasts of burden/animals, their weapons and armor and their jewelry.  When a man dies his woman is also burnt with him alive; but when the wife dies her man is not burnt with her.  And when an unmarried [man] dies, he is married after his death.  The women want to be burnt [of their own volition] to be able to enter paradise with their spouse…” [this is the same passage as paragraph above – just different translation]

“The Muslims are dominant in the land of the Khazars because they make up the king’s army.  They are known by the name Arsiya.  They originally came from the region around Khwarizm, and settled in the Khazar kingdom a long time ago, shortly after the appearance of Islam, when they fled the double ravages of famine and plague that devastated their homeland.  These are strong, courageous men, in whom the king of the Khazars places his confidence in the wars which he wages.  When they established themselves in his kingdom they stipulated, among other things, that they be allowed the free exercise of their religion, that they might have mosques and publicly give the call to prayer, and that the king’s chief minister should be chose tom among their number.  In our days the one who occupies this post is a Muslim named Ahmad ibn Kuyah.  He has made an agreement with the king where by he and his army will not fight against Muslims, but will march into battle against the infidel.  Today, around 7000 of them serve as the king’s mounted archers.  They carry a shield and wear helmets and chain mail.  They also have lancers equipped and armed like other Muslim soldiers.”

“They also have their own qadis.  It is a rigid custom in the Khazar capital that there should be seven judges: two for the Muslims; two for the Khazars, who make their decisions in accordance with the Torah; two for the Christians, whom make theirs according to the Gospels; and one for the Slavs, Rus and other pagans.  This latter judge follows the pagan law, which is the product of natural reason.  When a serious case comes up that the judges cannot decide, the parties involved consult the Muslim qadis and obey the decision made in accordance with Islamic law.  The king of the Khazars is the only ruler of these eastern countries to have a paid army.  All the Muslims who live the  country are known as Arsirya.”

“The Rus and the Slavs, who are pagans as we have said, sever as mercenaries and slaves of the king.  Besides the Arsirya there are a certain number of Muslim merchants and artisans who have emigrated to the is country because of the justice and security with which the king rules.  In addition to the congregational mosque, whose minaret towers over the king’s palace, there are many other mosques to which are attached schools where the Qur’an is taught to children.  if the Muslims and the Christians united, the king would have no power over them.”


Meynard/Courteille edition – chapter 66

“The Slavs have many temples.  One of these buildings lies on a mountain, of which the Philosophers/wisemen say that it is one of the tallest mountains in the world.  This building is famous on account of its architecture, on account of the different types of and different colors of [precious] stones and on account of the elaborate [games/rites or mechanisms] [that take place or are] on its top, and also too because the rising Sun appears in those elaborate mechanisms [reflects?], likewise because of the jewels and works of art that are brought there and through which the future is shown [oracular devices], and likewise, because of these jewels accidents can be prevented upfront, and finally because of the voices that one hears from the top [of the building] and the effect that these [voices/sounds] have.”


Who knew?

“Another building was built further by one of their kings on a black mountain.  It is surrounded by wonderful waters of different colours and uses and [which waters] have many uses.  They have there a great God statue there in the shape of a man who has taken on the look of an old man.  In his hand he has a staff with which he raises the bones of the dead [skeletons?] from the crypts.  Under his right foot there are figures of different types of ants [?] and under the other, there are black birds [garabib/garabin], also figures of ravens [crows/kruki?] and others, so too different and strange figures Abyssinians and blacks [Zanzibarians?].”

[oh yes, a bent staff of a priest or judge is called a krakula as one of our readers correctly notes]


Cracow’s Krak or Krakus mound – from its top you can see the sun rise over the Wanda mound on May 2nd and August 10 – about a quarter of a year apart – looking the other way from Wanda we get November 4 and February 6 and therefore… something  – similarly situated mounds are in the Przemysl area

“A further building they have on a mountain surrounded by sea.  It is built out of red coral and emeralds.  In the middle is a huge dome, under which there is a statute of a God with limbs made out of four different precious stones, green chrysolite, red ruby, yellow carnelian and white crystal and the head is made out of red gold.  Opposite from him there stands another God statue with the shape of a young woman who os shown offering him [the first God] gifts and fragrances. One used to ascribe this building to a ruler they [Slavs] had had in the distant past.  We have reported about him, about his rule in the lands of the Slavs, his machinations and wiles, [which he employed] in order to win their hearts, so as to rule them and bewitch them – and that despite the evil of the character of the Slavs and their contrarian predisposition, how we have shown above in our book.”


Arkona – surrounded by the sea – on the peninsula of Wittow – the mountain may be (stretching here) “Gora” or today’s Bergen auf Rügen


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February 4, 2015

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