Perun  

Posted by Stella Clark

Perun Cover
Perun is the highest god of the pantheon and the god of thunder and lightning. His other attributes were the fire, mountains, the oak, iris, eagle, firmament (in Indo-European languages this was joined with the notion of the sky of stone), horses and carts, weapons and war. He was first associated with weapons made of stone and later with those of metal. Like Germanic Thor, Perun is described as a rugged man with a copper beard. He rides in a chariot pulled by a goat buck and carries a mighty axe, or sometimes a hammer. The axe is hurled at evil people and spirits and will always return to his hand.

Perun is a son of Svarog. The thunder-god of the ancient Slavs, a fructifier, purifier, and overseer of right and order. He is described as a rugged man with a copper beard. He rides in a chariot pulled by a he-goat and carries a mighty axe, or arrows, sometimes a hammer. This axe is hurled at evil people and spirits and will always return to his hand. His lighting bolts were believed to pass through the earth to a certain depth and return gradually to the surface in a specific period of time – usually 7 yr. 40 days. In Slavic mythology, the world was represented by a sacred… tree, usually an oak, whose branches and trunk represented the living world of heavens and mortals, whilst its roots represented the underworld, i.e. the realm of dead. Perun was a ruler of the living world, sky and earth, and was often symbolised by an eagle sitting on the top of the tallest branch of the tree, from which he kept watch over the entire world. Deep down in the roots of the tree was the place of his enemy, symbolised by a serpent or a dragon: this was Veles, watery god of the underworld, who continually provoked Perun by stealing his cattle, children or wife.

Perun pursued Veles around the earth, attacking him with his lightning bolts from the sky. Veles fled from him by transforming himself into various animals, or hiding behind trees, houses or people; wherever a lightning bolt struck, it was believed, this was because Veles hid from Perun under or behind that particular place. In the end, Perun managed to kill Veles, or to chase him back down into his watery underworld.The supreme god thus reestablished the order in the world which had been disrupted by his chaotic enemy. He then returned to the top of the World tree and proudly inform his opponent down in the roots! (”Well, there is your place, stay there!”). This line came from a Belarusian folk tale of great antiquity.

To the Slavs, the mythological symbolism of a supreme heavenly god who battles with his under worldly enemy through storms and thunder was extremely significant, and from Perun and Veles, this idea of cosmic battle was passed onto God and the Devil following Christianization. People, rocks and trees struck by lightening are considered to be sacred for the heavenly fire remains inside them. All big trees were sacred to Perun, but he especially loved the oak. There are records of oaks being fenced in as sacred to him. Sacrifices to him usually consisted of a rooster, but on special occasions, bear, bull or he-goat might be killed. The sacrificed animal was then communally eaten as they were seen to be imbued with the power of their patron God. Eating the god’s animal to absorb the god’s essence is similar to and predates the ritual of Holy Communion.

Perun’s arch enemy was the zaltys, a great serpent curled at the base of the world tree. Somehow, this also put him on Volos’ blacklist and worship of these two gods had to be kept separate. Temples to Perun tended to be octagonal and on high ground. An idol of him set outside the castle of Vladmir was said to have a silver head and gold moustache – in some accounts, gold mouth. When Vladmir tore down the idol, it was tied to a horse’s tail and dragged to the Dnieper. Amid much weeping it was then tossed in as men with poles made sure that he was not washed ashore or pulled out. It eventually floated down river and was blown onto a sandbank still known as Perun’s bank. Perun’s holy day is Thursday, his feast day is the 20th of July. His actions are perceived by the senses: seen in the thunderbolt, heard in the rattle of stones or the bellow of the bull or the bleat of the he-goat (thunder), and felt in the touch of an ax blade.

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This entry was posted on 12 December 2007 at Wednesday, December 12, 2007 . You can follow any responses to this entry through the .

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