Spiritual life of ancient Slavs

Spiritual life of the ancient Slavs

It is not true that Slavs before the advent of Christianity prayed only in sacred groves. We know, for example., that they erected earthly "houses" for the gods, and that their faith intersected with many spheres of life. Ethnologist and archaeologist Dr. Pawel Szczepanik tells PAP about what and how the ancient Slavs might have believed in.

Since the early Slavs were an illiterate people, we do not have a compact description of their historyow or beliefs. Nor were they a homogeneous group: at the time of their greatest expansion, the Slavs inhabited an area extending to the east almost to the subno¿a gor the Urals, to the Elbe in the west, and to the Mediterranean Seaosouth.

They toiled at the head of theownie agriculture. – Therefore, in their pantheon, the dominant role – regardless of where they lived – was occupied by boThe state associated with fertility and cyclicality. Interestingly, these were very often at the same time boof fate patronizing warfare,” says the scientist in supportohe Institute of Archaeology at the Nicolaus Copernicus University (UMK) in Toruń – Dr. Pawel Szczepanik. Such a god was, for example, Swietowit, depicted in the form of a statue with four heads.

Although Slavic temples are still an enigma, scholars have roThey lived in several of their typesow.

– It is not true that the Slavs prayed only in sacred groves, although it seems that the celebration of prayersoin nature was one of the most common forms of worshipping the godsow – mowi Szczepanik.

Given that no statues were probably erected in the grovesoIn addition, since the Slavs were an illiterate people, we do not have a compact description of their history or buildings, archaeologists are unable to locate such sites today.

However, they have ideas on how to look for cluesow. – Sacred groves were fenced off or separated by a ditch – its function was not so much practical, but primarily symbolic, the researcher notes. And he adds that inside the area so demarcated there were no buildings. – MoWe refer to such a phenomenon as a "sacral void" – adds.

Whether and where in the territory of Poland there could have been such places? Perhaps, for example, on the goSleza river, where researchers have come across enigmatic walls surrounding the top of the.

The ethnologist adds that representatives of Slavic elites met in large buildings made of wood – clearly larger than typical residential buildings. However, these were not places thatorych their only purpose was to pray – there they held key deliberations and meetings concerning the fate of theoin the group.

– It should be noted that the sphere of the sacred was not separated from everyday life, as wspoLate. Faith was not about going to the temple once a week and reciting formulas, but permeated many spheres of life – roThe archaeologists are not able to locate such sites today, as they are not connected with other aspects of government or the judiciary,” he noted.

Slavs erected another type of temple – earthly homes for the godsow. There were buildings hiding "their" statues, but also beds, saddles, treasuries and other attributes, and entrance to the interior was strictly forbidden. Even the priests, whooers occasionally cleaned the interior of such temples, they were obliged to behave according to certain rules. For example, in the interior of such "home of the god" They could not breathe, so all work was done on the inhale.

In this context, a puzzle for scholarsow represents a presumed site of pre-Christian worship located in Gniezno, partly beneath the church of St. Peter and St. Paul. George. Archaeologists discovered a stone mound there, in ktorego neighborhood lay burnt bones, coals, destroyed ceramic vessels.

– In all likelihood, this is a sacrificial site. Similar mounds are known row also of the descriptionoin early medieval Szczecin and Bohemian Prague,” notes the scientist.

That there was an important place of worship in Gniezno before the advent of Christianity is guessed primarily from reports recorded by the 15th-century chronicler Jan Długosz. Nyja was supposed to be worshipped there – it bostness identified with Pluto, the sovereign of the world of the dead, and at the same time bocreature of wealth.

The strength of the influence of ancient beliefs is also evidenced, among other things, by the account found in the decree of Pope Innocent III of January 8, 1207, describing the already Christian prayers in the cathedral of Gniezno – mowi Szczepanik. Priests wore masks and performed rituals in honor of the dead. The text includes roThe information that oThe early clergy did not observe celibacy. As the researcher notes, in this peculiar form ludi theatrales took part zaroBoth the clergy and the local population, whoora roalso had masks on.

Whether the pre-Christian population on Polish territory professed religion in the sense in which we understand it today: as a separate and basically autonomous sphere of life? In the opinion of Dr. Szczepanik was a different.

– oearly people lived "submerged" in their beliefs, and all spheres of everyday life intermingled with religion – interpreters. As an example, the scientist cites wyrob clay potsow. Word "vessel" comes from the Proto-Slavic word činiti – "do, make, witchcraft", Which makes it possible for scientists to conclude that originally the na-na – "is something made, enchanted". Fragments of ceramic vessels are among the most common relicsoarchaeological sites found in Poland.

– Thus, even simple activities, such as manufacturing an objectoin everyday use, was in a certain wayob ritual inscribed in life,” the researcher states.

Also myths were common in life. They were not treated as mythology in the modern sense, i.e. fantastic stories. Myths were accessible, tangible, and the characters appearing in them – achievable almost at their fingertips, living in the immediate vicinity of the human world, notes Dr. Szczepanik.

How do we know all this? The researcher stresses that the information on the beliefs of the Slavs before the advent of Christianity on Polish territory literally fades into the darkness of historyow. Proto reconstruct them is made possible, among other things, by reading textoabout the areaoin the neighbouring areas, although they usually concern poof modern timesow. According to the scientist, it may be helpful to roanalysis of monumentsoin the excavations discovered.

Prior to the advent of Christianity, the Slavs did not use any forms of writing, which makes it even more difficult to gain insight into their beliefs. To make matters worse, many poMore recent reports on the subject were written down by Christians, whooers reached pagan areas. – By their very nature, these accounts are often very subjective – or even negative,” adds Szczepanik.

Sometimes from the written textow, however, pierces admiration – draws attention to the conversationoPAP. This was the case with a temple in Szczecin, ktorej walls, according to accounts, were to be covered with bas-reliefs and paintings, which theore they would look "as living". – Keep in mind that the accounts were written down by people usually from a Western cultural background, so they were unfamiliar with advanced monumental sacred architecture. Therefore, the admiration of pagan constructions is significant,” believes Szczepanik.

And he adds that scholars are unable to describe the form of beliefs and confidently list the pantheon boThe temple in Szczecin, which is located in Greater Poland, the area where Polish statehood was formed. This is because people writing about oearly Slavs do not refer directly to the tribes living exactly in this area, but only to the mainownie to the areaoIn Pomerania or Polabia, that is, the area of theoin areas adjacent to the emerging Piast stateow. Scribes, however, extremely rarely wrote about their beliefs.

Dr. Pawel Szczepanik researched the beliefs of the Slavs PoNorth-Western in the framework of the doctoral thesis being prepared. It received funding for this purpose from the National Science Center’s competition – Etude 3

Sourceobackground: PAP – Science in Poland, photo. A view of eacholn the sides of the Sviatovid statue from Zbrucz. Wikipedia / illustration from the book "Nations in Slavic lands before the establishment of Poland" Joachim Lelewel