Rod (Slavic religion)
Rod (Polish, Slovenian, Croatian: Rod, Belarusian, Bulgarian, Russian, Serbian Cyrillic: Род, Ukrainian Cyrillic: Рід) is a conception of supreme God of the universe and of all its gods in Slavic Native Faith (Rodnovery). The same concept is also known as Sud (Суд, "Judge") and Prabog ("Pre-God", "First God") among South Slavs.
As attested by Helmold (c. 1120–1177) in his Chronica Slavorum, the Slavs believed in a single God begetting all the lesser spirits governing nature, and worshipped it by their means. According to Helmold, "obeying the duties assigned to them, [the deities] have sprung from his [the supreme God's] blood and enjoy distinction in proportion to their nearness to the god of the gods". In the earliest Slavic religion the supreme God of Heaven was called Deivos, but this name was soon abandoned to be replaced by the concept of Rod.
In some old writings the name appears as Hrodo, Chrodo, Krodo, or the Latinised form Crodone. The 15th-century Saxon Chronicle attests that "Krodo" was worshipped also by Saxon tribes, who inhabited modern-day northern and eastern Germany together with West Slavic tribes.
Etymology: Rod and Deivos
The name "Rod" is attested in Old Church Slavonic and Old East Slavic sources (as Rodu) about pre-Christian religion, where it refers to divinity, ancestrality and procreativity. Michel Mathieu-Colas (2017) defines it as the "primordial God", but the term also literally means the generative power of the family and "kin", "birth", "origin" and "fate" as well. The negative form, that is urod, means anything wretched, deformed, degenerated, monstrous.
At an early stage of Slavic history "Rod" replaced "Deivos" as the conception of the supreme God. Deivos, "Heaven", was the name of the God of Heaven in the earliest Slavic religion, cognate with the Proto-Indo-European *Dyeus (cf. Sanskrit Deva, Latin Deus, Old High German Ziu and Lithuanian Dievas). The name "Deivos" was abandoned when the Slavs, in line with the parallel developments in Proto-Indo-Iranian religion, shifted the meaning of the Indo-European descriptor of heavenly deities (Avestan daeva, Old Church Slavonic div, both going back to Proto-Indo-European *deiwos, "celestial") to the designation of evil entities, and began to describe gods by the term for both "wealth" and its "givers" (Avestan baga, Old Church Slavonic bog). At first the term "Deivos" was replaced with the term for "clouds", cf. Slavic Nebo.
In modern Slavic Native Faith, Rod is largely aniconic. Traditional iconography shows Rod governing the four elements: ① He stands on a fish, symbol of water; ② with one hand he heightens a wheel, symbol of the sun and of the cycles of the universe; ③ with the other hand he holds a bucket of flowers, symbol of the blooming earth; and ④ around his waist he has a fluttering linen belt, symbol of air.
Scholars have defined Rod as a concept of absolute, "general power of birth and reproduction". The scholar Boris Rybakov was among the first who identified Rod as the primordial God of the whole universe. Some scholars criticised Rybakov's position, including Leo Klejn (who identified Rod as fate or destiny) and Nikolay Zubov.
Rybakov also identifies wheel and whirl symbols, which also include patterns like the "six-petaled rose inside a circle" (e.g. ) and the "thunder mark" (gromovoi znak), as representing Rod and its various forms (whether Svarog, Perun, Svetovid, or other gods). Such symbols were still carved in folk traditions of north Russia up to the nineteenth century. According to Soviet-era Russian folklorist E. G. Kagarov, the Domovoi (the "Household God" associated with ancestor worship) is a conceptualisation of the supreme Rod itself as the specific family lineage and its possessions.
Rod has been compared to the Latin time god, Saturn. In its symbolisation of the generative process, Rod has also been compared to the Celtic Toutatis (cf. *teutā, "stock", "tribe"), and to the Latin Quirinus, the god of community and procreation (cf. *coviria, cūria). According to Émile Benveniste's definition of the Italic god of generation, it is the "god of the growth of the nation".
The Russian volkhvs Veleslav (Ilya Cherkasov) and Dobroslav (Aleksei Dobrovolsky) explain Rod as a life force that comes in nature and is "all-pervasive" or "omnipresent". Cosmologically speaking, Rod is conceived as the spring of universal emanation, which articulates in a cosmic hierarchy of gods. This emanation proceeds according to an order or harmony, Prav (the "Right"). The supreme God acts in primordial undeterminacy (chaos), giving rise to the circular pattern of Svarog ("Heaven"), which constantly multiplies generating new worlds (world-eggs). Prav works by means of a dual dynamism, conceptualised as Belobog ("White God") and Chernobog ("Black God"); they are two aspects of the same, appearing in reality as the forces of waxing and waning, giving rise to polarities like up and down, light and dark, male and female, singular and plural. Man and woman are further symbolised by father Svarog (Heaven) itself and mother Lada ("Beauty").
By emphasising the underpinning monism of their theology, Rodnovers may define themselves as rodnianin, "believers in God" (or "in nativity", "in genuinity"). Already the pioneering Ukrainian leader Shaian argued that God manifests as a variety of different deities. This theological explanation is called "manifestationism" by some contemporary Rodnovers, and implies the idea of a spirit–matter continuum; the different gods, who proceed from the supreme God, generate differing categories of things not as their external creations (as objects), but embodying themselves as these entities. In their view, beings are the progeny of gods; even phenomena such as the thunder are conceived in this way as embodiments of these gods (in this case, Perun). In the wake of this theology, it is common among Slavic Native Faith practitioners to say that "we are not God's slaves, but God's sons".
Differently from mainstream Slavic Native Faith, in the theology of Ynglism the supreme God is called Ramha (Рамха, also spelled Ramkha, Ramxa) and identified as the same as the ancient Egyptian concept of Ra. The order of the universe begotten by God is Yngly (Ингли, also called "Ynglia", Инглия), best represented by the swastika symbol (which Ynglists call the "image of Yngly" and identify as the first written symbol of humanity). Rod is rather identified as the archetype or early progenitor of humanity who was shapen by Yngly.
In the first millennium CE, modern-day northern and eastern German lands were inhabited by Saxon and Wendish—and generally West Slavic—tribes. It is unclear to what extent Saxons and Slavs were distinguished. In the Saxon Chronicle (Middle Saxon: Cronecken der Sassen)—an incunable dated 1492, written by the goldsmith Conrad Bothe (c. 1475–1501) from Brunswick and printed in the studio of Peter Schöffer in Mainz—, it is attested that the Saxons knew and worshipped "Krodo". Nineteenth-century German studies clearly identified Krodo as "the God of the Slavs, the great God".
Bothe's chronicle provides the description of Krodo's iconography, and says that Julius Caesar, during the conquests of Magna Germania, ordered the erection of several fortresses crowned by statues of deities. Local Saxons worshipped prominently Krodo, identified by the Romans as Saturn, whose statue stood on the site which later became Harzburg, in Bad Harzburg, modern-day Lower Saxony. When in 780, during the Saxon Wars, the Frankish king Charlemagne occupied the region, he destroyed the statue in the effort to Christianise and submit the Saxon people, and as a new spiritual centre he founded a Christian cathedral in modern-day Osterwieck, in Saxony-Anhalt.
Middle Saxon — ... konigh karl quam in dat lant vnd bekorde de ostsassen do sprack he · we is iuwe got · do rep dat meyne volck · krodo krodo is vnse got Do sprack konigh karl · het krodo iuwe got dat het de kroden duuel · van deme worde quam dat bose wort mangk den sassen · vnd do toch konigh karle to der hartesborch unde vorstorde krodo den affgot vnde leyde den dom to saligenstidde dat nu osterwick het in de ere sunte steffen.
English — ... King Charles came to the land and converted the East Saxons. Thus he spoke: Who is your God? Then the common folk cried: Krodo, Krodo is our God. Then King Charles said: Is Krodo your God? That is: The toad devil! ["toad" is kroden in Saxon, producing a word-play] Thereafter the word ["Krodo"] became a bad word among the Saxons. And then King Charles went to Harzburg and destroyed the idol Krodo, and laid down the cathedral in Saligenstidde, now Osterwieck, in honour of Saint Stephen.— Saxon Chronicle
Though his annals are obviously based on earlier chronicles like the Sächsische Weltchronik, Bothe provides no references to his sources. Nevertheless, the Goslar collegiate church, near Hazrburg, contained the so-called Krodo Altar, which probably dates back to the eleventh century and may have been transferred by Emperor Henry III from Harzburg to his Imperial Palace of Goslar about 1047. In German folklore, tales about Krodo (Götze Crodo) were passed down in the region of the villages of Götzenthal and Grotenleide near the Upper Saxon town of Meerane.
The great goddess Rodiva
Rod is frequently accompanied by a supreme mother goddess, Rozanica ("Generatrix" or "Genitrix", also spelled Rodzhanitsa and in other variants), frequently represented in her three aspects who interweave the fate of mankind, the Rozanicy, as attested in the expression Rod–Rodzanicy ("God and the Goddesses"). She is also known as Razivia or Rodiva, or simply Deva, "Goddess", of whom all lesser goddesses are manifestations. In two of her aspects she is also qualified as Baba, meaning the "Old Lady", "Crone", "Hag"; and Krasopani, meaning the "Beautiful Lady". She has been compared to the Greek Aphrodite and the Indic Lakshmi, and especially to the Roman Juno, female consort of the supreme God, whom collectively represented the Junones, the Norse Disir, the spirits of female lineages who determined fate.
Among South Slavs, where Rod is known as Sud ("Judge"), the three goddesses of fate are known as Sudenica or Sudica (plural Sudenicy), and by other variants of the name, which literally means "She who Judges". The Sudenicy are sometimes represented as good-natured old women, and other times as beautiful young women with sparkling eyes, clad in white garments, with their heads covered in white cloths, adorned with gold and silver jewels and precious stones, and holding burning candles in their hands. In other traditions they are planly atired, with only a wreath of flowers around their heads.
While Rod represents the forefathers from the male side, Rozanica represents the ancestresses from the female side. Through the history of the Slavs, the latter gradually became more prominent than the former, because of the importance of the mother to the newborn child. Viljo Johannes Mansikka noted that in Slavic countries, the Greek terms τύχη (týchi, "luck") and είμαρμένη (eímarméni, "destiny") are sometimes translated as rod and rozanica.
De Crodone Harzzburgico, dissertation by Johann Michael Heineccius, 1707.
"Chrodo" illustrated in L'Antiquité expliquée et représentée en figures, by Bernard de Montfaucon, 1722.
"Crodo" featured first among illustrations of Slavo-Saxon deities, in Saxonia Museum für saechsische Vaterlandskunde, 1834.
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