Jack of Many Trades

What Is This "Eastern" Europe You Speak Of?

Originally posted: 2012-01-06

The further I follow my own personal practice down the rabbit hole, the farther east I go. No, I don't mean China - though Kuan Yin is forever awesome. I mean eastern Europe. I mean Finland, and Latvia, and on into Russia.

Russia is huge and yet I bet you most American pagans couldn't name a single figure out of Russian myth or folklore. Finland is close enough to Scandinavia that it's often lumped in with it, and there was enough trading that Finns have their own stereotypes in Scandinavian folklore, but I almost never see discussion of Finnish gods in Heathen circles.

If you're not into eastern European myth and folklore, you guys are missing out, by the way. The most nemorable scenes in Fantasia feature the Slavic Chernobog. I don't work with Chernobog myself, but I do have a couple of pins from Disneyland with him on them. Who's going to pass up that opportunity, right?

I think those Heathens in particular who work with the jotnar are missing out by overlooking the stories that come from slightly east of where they normally hang out. Some of these myths seem to fill in subjects overlooked in the Norse myths. For example, there's Veles.

Veles is an old Slavic deity of the waters, the earth and the underworld. He's most often depicted in a serpentine form, and he opposes Peron, the thunder god. So looked at that way, he starts sounding an awful lot like Jormungand... except this snake god has a festival I've seen described as being half Halloween and half carnival. I am so there.

I assume the problem is simply that there's very little available in English scholarship on eastern European mythology, and there's even less in non-academic sources. Rather than feel limited by that, though, I feel like it's a challenge. Can I track down these sources? What can I learn via the gods themselves? Most of the framework other European-derived pagans have is missing here, though there are some practicing Finnish pagans who share online and I've run into a few Slavic pagans as well.

I guess I'm doing it the hard way, but honestly, it feels more like I'm doing it the fun way. I don't precisely need an excuse to spend time on JSTOR doing research, but I'm not going to turn one down, either.