Culture

Slavic Neo-Paganism – Rodnovery Today

Rodnovery

During the time of their rise as a nation, Slavs were pagans called rodnovery. This word is a compound of “rodnoy”, which means “native”, and “vera”, which means “faith”.

This was a polytheist religion that prevailed among the majority of Slavic tribes. It was later replaced by orthodox Christianity. However, some of the religious festivals and traditions were so deeply engraved in people’s minds that even the Church allowed some concessions. This resulted in modifying some traditional Christian festivals and replacing the deities in some legends with Christian saints. This is why today Christians in Slavic countries celebrate some holidays that have pagan roots.

Are There Any Rodnovery Left?

neo-paganism
Slavs serving their gods, 19th century woodcut.

Although, this religion hasn’t been popular for many hundreds of years, traditions of rodnovery have not been forgotten. It also seems that some people today are ready to drag them back into the light.

The Christian Church holds much sway over people’s minds. Constant technological progress increased the number of skeptics and atheists. This is why not many people today are ready to convert in the religion of their ancestors. However, Slavs are extremely strong willed people that can overcome any obstacles. The result of their spiritual power is resurrection of ancient rituals and popularization of the religion that was an extremely important part of their ancestors’ lives.

Today, there are many groups of youths in Ukraine that form various clubs specialized in Slavic culture. Religion was a very important part of that culture, so these young people study it closely and bring back some of the archaic rituals.

There are also people from the older generation that are quite taken with this idea. Some of them even form settlements where they strive to imitate the lifestyle of their ancestors. They worship the same deities, celebrate the same festivals and live in harmony with nature.

Is Returning of an Ancient Religion a Good Thing?

This is the question that people should be asking themselves when they see that the popularity of rodnovery is growing. Religion, after all, can be a very dangerous weapon that some people won’t hesitate to use.

Rodnovery today are neo-pagans that worship ancient Slavic deities. They follow the lunar calendar and celebrate the same festivals as their ancestors. There can be no doubt that these people honor the old traditions and do a very good deed by trying to preserve them from being forgotten and lost forever.

The problem with this situation is that some of the people that take active part in the resurrection of Ancient Slavic culture cannot live up to their great ancestry. It is shameful that such a noble ambition is dimmed by the fact that several individuals try to use it for personal gains turning some of the rodnovery communities into sects.

There is also another group of people. They are quite dedicated to the ideas of rodnovery and truly take this religion to heart. However, they are shrewd enough to spot an opportunity for business that the recent popularization of neo-paganism represents.

As the number of people interested in these traditions starts to grow, they require various tools that can bring them closer to their ancestors. These are amulets, statues of deities, traditional clothes and musical instruments, etc. Selling these things at various online shops and ethnic festivals allows these religious businessmen build up a fortune while promoting the traditions they chose to follow.

However, the Slavs are honest people by nature, and they are ruthless with those who try to cheat and use them. This is why the number of cons in this area is reduced constantly. The moment the liars are spotted, they are shunned and condemned by the community.

Basically, Ukrainian rodnovery today can be separated into two categories. There are those who are genuinely interested in history and restoration of ancient customs and traditions. They pour over various texts and documents trying to recover any details that can make the picture of the ancient Slavic society complete.

The other group mainly focuses on spiritual practices. They believe in magic used by their ancestors through various religious rituals. It’s this group that is more prone to problems, but close relations of different neo-pagan communities help to remove any conmen from their midst.

There can be no arguing the fact that the attempt to restore ancient Slavic traditions is a truly commendable initiative that should be supported by the Department of Culture. This is why many people believe that it’s the cause worth fighting for.

Ukrainian Neo-Paganism

There are several neo-pagan organizations in Ukraine today. The most prominent of them are The Council of Native Ukrainian Faith, Native Orthodox Faith and the Union of Ukrainian Rodnovery. There are also dozens of neo-pagan communities that are not registered. Today you can also find independent rodnovery who have their own set of concepts and beliefs.

This versatility can be explained by the fact that religious traditions of the Slavs weren’t celebrated for many years. Their rituals and deities weren’t forgotten completely, but there weren’t any priests that took over the experience of their predecessors. This is why rodnovery today have to rely on studying various historical documents in order to reconstruct the traditions of their ancestors.

The ascent of Ukrainian neo-paganism that one can witness today is a proof that the magnificent culture of Slavs is still alive. The tribes that were known under this name over a thousand years ago were known for their resilience and spiritual power. It seems that even time couldn’t defeat them.

Ukrainian Neo-Paganism

Today there are neo-pagan communities in many countries. They were established by emigrants from Ukraine. The most well-known of them is RUN Vera. It was registered in Chicago in 1966. The leader of the cult, Lev Silenko, established it after the WWII in order to preserve the traditions of ancient Slavs in the US Ukrainian diaspora. Today there are many RUN Vera communities registered in Ukraine.

The members of these religious communities worship only one Slavic deity, Dazhbog. They believe polytheism to be the lowest form of religion. The differences in Slavic deities worshipped by different tribes they explain by the difference in perception. This means that they believe that Slavs only believed in one god, they just singled out various aspects of its divine nature.

Some of the people that argue this theory wonder why there can be no other gods if Dazhbog exists. Runoveri (people that follow the teachings of RUN Vera cult) explain this by some very mysterious kind of divine evolution. They claim that there had indeed been many deities at some point in the past, but spiritual growth of people made those deities evolve and merge into Dazhbog.

Rodnovery Communities and Settlements

Religion of ancient Slavs demands unity of the worshippers. Rituals that have to be performed require the presence of every member of the community. This is why people that support these ideas today strive to live with those who share their views.

The Slavs have always been a very community oriented nation. Their hospitality is well-known even today, and almost every legend describes the bonds of friendship that are stronger than blood. A Slavic community is like a family, even if the people within it are not related by blood. This spirit of unity is impossible to describe unless you’ve been lucky enough to witness the strength of these bonds.

The idea of close-knitted communities is so deeply engraved in the minds of Slavs that it’s no wonder that the rebirth of paganism prompted them to form new communities. This led to the establishment of several settlements for people who decided to live their lives following the laws and rules of their ancestors.

Today you can find several settlements like this in Ukraine and other countries that were populated by Slavs hundreds of years ago. These communities are little oases where life seems completely different from what we are used to. Although, these people cannot go without the benefits of civilization completely, they do everything within their power to lead the lifestyle that is as close to their ancestors’ as possible.

Visiting a community like this can be a truly eye-opening experience, and not because it’s unusual to see a place where people live without computers. It’s the spirit of the community that makes it truly special. Using traditional tools in their daily lives, and following the ways of the ancient Slavs, makes people interact all the time. This allows them to form bonds that go way beyond any common relationships with neighbors and colleagues. The closeness of the people living in these communities is almost unbelievable.

Considering how introverted many people are today, it’s really no wonder that neo-paganism gains new followers every day. This cultural and religious phenomena allows anyone to become a part of something great and find new friends and family that will support them no matter what.

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