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A connection of Thunder God in Europe.

Deities, Concepts, Archetypes

A connection of Thunder God in Europe.

Postby JBRaven » Thu Oct 06, 2011 10:15 am

Perkunas/Perun: Thunder God of the Balts and Slavs
A Summary of Marija Gimbutas' Article by Hildiwulf

In this article, written for "The Journal of Indo-European Studies," Marija Gimbutas discuses the close similarities of the depiction of and beliefs concerning the Thunder God between the Baltic and Slavic peoples. Gimbutas discusses the etymology of the names of this God (Lith 'Perkûnas', Russ. 'Perun') and shows cognates in other Indo-European languages.

"The root of names in many Indo-European languages for a Thunder-god as well as for an oak, an oak forest, or a mountain top is per-/perk (or perg) signifying 'to strike.' A Lithuanian verb perti, and the Slavic prati have the same meaning. The root occurs in the Baltic and Slavic languages, in Indic, Hittite, Armenian, Albanian, Greek, Latin, Celtic, and in the Germanic languages."

She also lists place names in Baltic and Slavic areas, specifically Lithuania, Poland, Serbia, Rumania, Croatia, Macedonia, Bosnia, and Bulgaria, indicating the once wide-spread belief in the God.

Gimbutas then goes on to describe "folk beliefs" concerning Perkunas/Perun, such as what animals he rides, how he appears, where he can be found, what he does for mankind, how one can elicit his aid, and the names by which he goes.

"According to popular belief he is a vigorous man holding an axe or a hammer. He traverses the sky with great noise in a fiery two-wheeled chariot drawn by a he-goat. He has a castle on a stone hill. When thunder is heard, a proverb says, 'God is coming- the wheels are striking fire.' He flashes or throws his axe or hammer at evil men or devils. The Slavic Perun merged with the image of St. Elias, who, in the Old Testament, rules over fire and water and rides throughout the sky in a fiery chariot."

In Baltic and Slavic area, Perkunas/Perun i intimately related to oaks and oak forests. oak groves considered sacred to him were fenced off or surrounded by a rampart and a ditch. He was worshiped at tall oak trees, and when they were cut down by missionaries, the people expressed that "they no longer knew where to go and pray, or where to find their god." A fire was kept burning for him and if it went out, it had to be rekindled from oak wood struck with grey field stones. The penalty set upon the priests for allowing the fire to go out was death.

Also associated with him is, of course, lightning. Objects or people struck by lightning were considered sacred, and the holy fire was thought to remain in that object or person. He would hurl his hammer or axe as lightning to strike the wicked, and at the same time those struck by lightning (who lived) were regarded as holy men, chosen by the God. Gimbutas tells a story to relate this:

"In 1652 three people, a visitor from Poland, Mikele Uzupys and an old Zemaitis, were traveling in western Lithuania when a bad thunderstorm arose. The old man expressed regret that he had not been struck when everything around him was smitten. Perceiving a smashed saddle, burn to ashes, he seized the ashes and ate some. To him, this meant lifelong protection against illness, the gift of oracular powers, and the power to conjure fire." (from Praetorius, Preussische Schaubuehne)

Certain animals and birds were also associated with him, particularly the bull, he-goat, dove, and cuckoo. It's recorded that in the 14th century peace treaties were ratified in Lithuania by smearing the face and hands with the blood of bulls. In 17th century Lithuania, a goat's skin lifted on a pole was considered a way to bring rain. Until the 19th century, the spring plowing in southern Lithuania was initiated by two holy black bulls, and in Latvia, Lithuania, and East Prussia as late as the 20th century, the skulls of he- goats or bulls, horns intact, were set on poles as roof ornaments to ward away illness, the evil eye, hailstorms, and other such dangers. Grey doves were thought to carry acorns and were divine birds not to be killed or eaten.

Axes and hammers were particularly associated with him, and to find certain stones, particularly meteoric iron or belemnites, prehistoric stone axes, was considered lucky as only the God's own people were permitted to find them. Farmers carried these around, and they were rubbed on cow's udders and placed in the cradles of newborn babies. Southern Slavs would put the stone axes under their roofs to ward against lightning. Ukrainian herdsmen would strike the walls of their huts with an axe in the springtime; if it stuck, the herd would not wander into the woods. In Lithuania, and axe was placed under the bed of a woman in labor and on the sill to be crossed by a newly-wed couple, while in the Ukraine, a woman in labor sat on an axe during the purification rites, and stone axes would be ground up and drunk with water to help eased the pains of childbirth. Axes were thrown into the field during sowing, and through the herd and into a bonfire before the fumigation of cattle in Voronezh. Lithuanians dropped stone hammers into the kneading trough so that the bread would bake well, and in Kerensk, upon the burial of the deceased, an old woman would strike the bed where the body had lain, "so as to chop off the death with an axe."
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