Culture

Slavic Pagan Shrines

Slavic Pagan Shrines

Despite the changes in the society, Slavs are very attached to their culture. This is one of the reasons that explain why many people today turn to their roots and develop an interest for ancient Slavic traditions. Some of them even go as far as to form communes that try to lead a lifestyle similar to that of their ancestors.

As religion played a very important part in the ancient Slav’s culture, it’s no wonder that neo-pagans follow the rituals of old. This is why they require their own specialized shrines. There are plenty of ancient Slavic temples called “kapischa” in Ukraine. Some of them are considered historical monuments, while others are forgotten and overlooked. Various groups of neo-pagans use the latter ones for their rituals.

However, the locations of these shrines are rarely conductive to holding a religious festival around them. This is why Slavic communes have to build their own temples. Luckily, this isn’t a very difficult task, because simplicity is the defining feature of an ancient Slavic shrine.

How to Build a Kapische

Every Slavic commune requires a kapische to be able to perform their religious rituals. This place is the “heart” of the settlement, so it must be built by all the members of the community. The work should be supervised by a priest, and if he is unavailable, the commune’s leader should take charge.

Building of a Slavic pagan shrine starts with choosing a spot. It must be “clean” in a spiritual sense. This means that it must be as removed from any signs of modern civilization as possible. It must also be easy to access in any weather. Another necessary requirement is proximity to one of the ancient Slavic sacred places (streams, groves, springs or rivers). A forest must be located behind the shrine and a clearing in front of it.

A pagan Slavic shrine consists of three parts:

  • Chur
    This is a three meter high log with a specific design cut into it. It should be aligned to krada (bonfire site) with its face turned to it. The design on chur must include a face at the very top, a kolovorot or a sign of the deity the kapische is dedicated to and the sign of the commune.
  • Opashka
    This is an egg-shaped part that “circles” the kapische. It must be made of natural materials collected in the area. This can be stones, logs, etc. The pointed part of the egg should be turned to the forest behind the chur.
  • Sacrificial stone
    As all pagans, Slavs made sacrifices to their gods. A huge flat stone will be required to make a kapische complete. It must be installed directly in front of chur.

Krada (bonfire site) should be located about 30-60 centimeters in front of the sacrificial stone. The site must be defined by stones.

As you can see, building a kapische is not very difficult, so many communes make their own shrines on their land. This way they can be sure that they won’t be disturbed during rituals. As Slavic festivals are comprised of three parts (religious rituals, games and a feast) the worshippers need some privacy and a place where they can freely celebrate whole night long, without disturbing anyone.

When you explore Ukraine today, you can find at least one kapische near every city that existed for a while. The country is very old, and the settlements there had stayed in the same place for hundreds of years.

There are also other types of Slavic pagan shrines. Kapischa were used mainly for celebrations and expressing gratitude to deities. There were also khrans. The vast majority of those were destroyed or rebuilt by Christians. Khran derives from the word “khranit” which means “keep”. The faces of deities were kept in these temples.

A Temple in a Flat

People who worship ancient deities but cannot move into a commune can create a miniature shrine called “red corner” directly in their apartment. This shrine must include a small copy of chur, a plant and a small altar. There also must be a special place dedicated for a candle and incense, as without bonfires, people have to resort to other means to please the gods.

The red corner must be sanctified by a priest. The owner of the apartment can do this as well if he or she knows the cleansing ritual that must be performed.

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