In Search of Ancient Traditions
This book narrates the principal Slavic myths: the mythic cycle that conveys the cultural underpinnings of the Slavic world. These stories, in the form presented in this book, are the result of historical and literary analyses of source material over a long period of time. They represent a reconstruction of myth as a living tradition. In the centuries between the beginnings of Slavic culture and the rise of literary awareness, events shaped and changed Slavic life so that the older traditions were lost. With the rise of Slavic national awareness, there began a quest to rediscover primitive Slavic consciousness. Ancient chronicles, bits and pieces of folklore here and there, and archaeological remains, have provided sufficient materials to recount this basic myth cycle. Presented here in a simple yet elegant English, the text reveals the primitive religious concepts of the emerging Slavic soul.
These myths are part of the larger complex of Indo-European mythologies, including the familiar Classical cycles along with the Celtic, Germanic, Iranian, Hindu, and various ancient Anatolian cycles. As in all of these collections, the stories appear haphazard and disconnected, but underneath the surface there is a core of primal understanding. The details are often incidental but the myths that bring them together give purpose and meaning to the whole, elusive as such understandings may be. The primitive foundation of early Slavic religion is revealed in their myths: among lush open savannas, with large groves of ancient trees, a farming population of extended families worshipped fearsome divinities at enclosures within the groves. Large rough-hewn wood statues, held to be the incarnate deity, dominated the enclosure, receiving blood sacrifices and offerings of many kinds. The gods themselves, reflected in their crudely molded images, evoked fear and awe, commanding both the minds of their worshippers and the living land of their dominion. They were big, fierce, cruel, and often polycephalous, but they protected those who submitted to their rule and who gave to them rich offerings and