Jarilo was the god of war and protector of the weak and helpless. In Slavic religion Jarilo appears under many different names as Gerovit, Jarevid, Rudjevid.
Jarilo was imagined as a knight with warrior equipment. He had seven heads, and was presented with seven separated statues or one statue with seven heads. There are several theories what this presenting of God should symbolize. Some researchers believe that this deity actually incorporates seven gods of the Kiev pantheon. On the other hand, there is a theory that it represented seven months of year which was under Jarilo’s jurisdiction.
Jarilo was not the bloodthirsty warrior. He was protector of individuals and whole Slavic people from the enemy attacks. He demanded peace and harmony among people and this feature was symbolized by the olive branch he held in one hand. In the other hand he held a sword. The sword was used only in cases when difficulties could not be solved in other ways.
On Jarilo’s statues six swords were carved around his waist (the seventh was in his hand). It is assumed that they were used by different group of warrior deities whose names have not been known. Probably they were Jarillo’s assistants. The bust of Jarilo was covered with iron armor. His swords stood beneath a carved gilded shield. During celebrations, priests carried out the shield from the temple and placed it in front of the people. Then they would fall on the knees and touched the ground with heads. During the war, the shield was carried in front of soldiers because Slavs believed that Jarilo will help them to win.
Celebration of Jarilo’s Days
Jarilo’s Days were celebrated in the spring and this actually was celebration of sun resurrection after the winter period. People used flowers, branches, leaves to adorn houses and barns. The wreaths were also made and thrown into the river or stream. Slavs sacrificed cattle to Jarilo, usually a ram or a goat. The priests sometimes sacrificed deer whose head was placed in front of the statue of God. When there existed threat of drought, rituals devoted to Jarilo included entire nation, so whole community prayed to God for rain.
Jarillo cult places, besides temples, were forests, rivers and cemeteries.
Jarilo was also considered as the God of the sun and vegetation. As the sun deity he enabled the crops to grow, and as the god – defender, he protected the crops from natural disasters.
Jarilo and Mars
Researchers who study the Slavic astrology and calendar associate Jarilo with the Aries constellation and planet Mars. Slavic month “beloyar”, which contains Jarilo’s name, began on 21st March, when the sun enters the sign of Aries. A ram was often sacrificed to Jarilo, as a connection with this astronomical event. It was believed that followers of Jarilo after death go on planet Mars.
Jarilo and Lada
Jarillo was in relationship with the goddess of beauty, fertility and summer, Lada. They were presented as a divine pair. This relationship can be understood as the interweaving of love and hate.
Jarilo and St. George
St. George took over Jarilo’s role in Christianity. St. George is the warrior saint who fights against the Dragon as a symbol of darkness. It is believed that Dragon symbolized pagan deities that the church declared demons.
The name of God Jarilo in its base has word “jar” which in almost all Slavic language means anger, severity, fire, rage. Even today among the Slavs exist personal names with base “Jar” (e.g. Jaroslav, Jaromír, Jaroslava), as the memory on god Jarilo.