A poplar stood alongside a road. Sounding kankles – from below
the roots, buzzing bees – in the middle, falcon’s children
– at the top. And a group of brothers comes riding on horseback.
Please stop, young brothers: listen to the sounding kankles, listen to
the buzzing bees, look at the falcon’s children. (Traditional
5. How do we incorporate Baltic Faith into an urban, modern lifestyle?
6. The calendar year / Liaudes Kalendorius
Before we start our talk on Lithuanian Pre-Christian Faith, I would
like to share a particular prayer. Please keep this prayer in mind
throughout the entire talk, as many of the themes will be expanded upon.
1. A Lithuanian Prayer
In 1938, Pranas Antalkis recorded the following prayer, recited by
Elzbieta and Marija Palubenskaite. The informants had smuggled
Lithuanian books into Lithuania during the Czarist prohibition of
Lithuanian language press in the latter half of the 19th century. The
prayers stems from those times. Jonas Trinkunas, Seniunas of the
Vilnius Romuva in Lithuania, edited the text.
That I may love and respect my mother, father and old people; that I
may protect their graves from rending and destruction; that I may plant
oaks, junipers, wormwoods and silverweed for their rest in cemeteries.
Those who do not love and respect their bearers will await hardship in
their old age or will not grow old at all.
That my hands may never become bloody from human blood. That the blood
of animals, fish or birds may not soil my hands, if I might kill them
satiated and not hungry. Those who today kill animals with delight will
tomorrow drink human blood. The more hunters live in Lithuania, the
further fortune and a happy life escapes us.
That I may not fell a single tree without holy need; that I may not step on a blooming field; that I may always plant trees.
That I may love and respect Bread. If a crumb should accidentally fall,
I will lift it, kiss it and apologize. If we all respect bread, there
will be no starvation or hardship.
That I may never hurt anyone; that I may always give the correct
change; that I may not mistakenly steal even the smallest coin. The
Gods punish for offences.
That I may not denigrate foreign beliefs and may not poke fun at my own
faith. The Gods look with grace upon those who plant trees along roads,
in homesteads, at holy places, at crossroads, and by houses. If you
wed, plant a wedding tree. If a child is born, plant a tree. If someone
beloved dies, plant a tree for the Vele.
At all holidays, during all important events, visit trees. Prayers will attain holiness through trees of thanks.
The Lithuanian Indigenous Religion formed from the Baltic convergence
of the Old European Chthonic and the Indo-European heavenly religions.
This union occurred on the shores of the Baltic Sea, and is uniquely
The Balts are exceptional among Indo-European groups in that they have
maintained their language, folklore, pagan beliefs and customs in a
remarkably pure state for so long. A deliberate effort to convert the
native population to Christianity was begun only after Grand Prince
Jogaila accepted baptism in 1386, together with the royal crown of
Poland. But for a long time the new religions retained only a
superficial hold on the population, which remained "stubbornly pagan"
in some regions even to this century. To put it simply – we were
the last pagans of Europe.
Romuva is the Lithuanian Expression of Baltic Faith. The name is a
tribute to the fallen Prussians, who were also Balts – but their
language and culture was assimilated by the early 1700s. Romuva is the
name of the most important sanctuary of the Prussians, which was
destroyed by crusaders in the 13th century. The symbol of Romuva is a
stylised sacred oak tree with three pairs of branches, topped by a
sacred flame. Underneath, the word romove (a cognate of Romuva, meaning
a group of people who would worship at the ancient Baltic sanctuary
Romuva) is written in runic letters.
Turning to the basics of the faith, the richest sources we have are the Liaudes Dainos – ancient folksongs.
As you may recall, I have stated that Lithuania was the last Pagan
Empire (at one point stretching from the Baltic to the Black Sea, and
encompassing much of what is present day Russia, Ukraine, Belarus and
so forth). Much of the mythology, folk beliefs and practices have
continued to this day. Lithuanians are an unusual amalgam of pagan
beliefs and catholic faith. As an example, while visiting my
mother’s family in Punsk Poland I had the good fortune to
experience Zolines (Day of Žemyna) – which was led by the Parish
Priest. The priest, along with the rest of the parish circled around
the town, starting in the cemetery. The celebration continued next to a
lake, where a huge town festival occurred – to celebrate the
fertility of the land.
Lithuanian mythological beliefs can be divided into four categories,
gods, spirits and demons (low mythology), worship of nature, and the
worship of the dead. The lists are quite extensive, and instead of
going through each possible deity, mythological creature, spirits and
demons I would like to highlight some of the more prevalent throughout
the region. Lithuanian faith was never a uniform system throughout the
vast lands which Lithuania held influence over. Within the borders of
present day Lithuania there were regional variations – where some
particular deities were revered more than others. Therefore, I would
like to look at those who are more “universal” to
Lithuanian faith – for lack of a better term.
The supreme god was called "Dievas", which quite literally means god.
The variations for the Balts are: Prussian Deywis, Deiws, and Latvian
Dievs. The name is derived from the Indo-European name of god Deivos.
You can see the connections with the Hindi Devi, Greek Zeus, Latin Deus
and so forth. Dievas appears as an old man – grey crooked, and
clumsy. Though appearing nearly grotesque, Dievas is very powerful
– he enjoys enormous creative power. This power is used as an
explanation for the creation of certain “items” – for
example, when Dievas washes himself, falling water droplets nourishes
the ground, and man is born. Dievas is also very much involved in norms
and ethics – and can be quite severe. His rigour closely
resembles Varuna from the Rigveda period in India, also the highest and
relentless god who portions punishments in compliance with the
strictest code of law.
Another area of responsibility was as determiner of Fate – coming
into contact with the human world through births, weddings and deaths.
This parallels the influence of Laima, the triple goddess of Fate, who
powers and functions were expropriated by Dievas. In certain dainos
Dievas appears as the Father of Laima. The confrontation of Dievas and
Laima results in limited, recurring folkloric strife between the two.
Laima wins the argument in an overwhelming number of such clashes.
In later times the title "Dievas" was used to denote the Christian god,
while the other Lithuanian deities were relegated to becoming lesser
gods and goddesses. Sometimes the deities became demons -as in the case
of Gabija, goddess of the hearth fire. The most important god, after
Dievas, was Perkūnas (or Perkons in Latvian). He was master of the
atmosphere and the waters of the sky, as well as the fecundity of
flora, human morality and justice.
The etymology of Perkūnas’s name is not completely clear. He is
associated with the Latin “quercus” (oak tree), and also
from “perti”, to strike. In Ipatij manuscripts Perkūnas is
named also called Divirkis – the bishop of gods. Though Dievas is
the most important in the pantheon, it is Perkūnas who is of greatest
importance to a heavily agrarian society – which Lithuania was,
well into the 20th century.
Perkūnas has five functions within the mythos cycle. He is first a
fertility god. His name means, literally, Thunder. In addition, he is
associated with rain, lightening and thunder. In 1610, a catholic
cleric (D. Fabricius) wrote: "During a drought, when there hasn’t
been rain, they worship Perkons in thick forests on hills and sacrifice
to him a black calf, a black goat, and a black cock". When killed, the
people would come together from all the surrounding countryside, to eat
and drink. They would pay homage to their thunder god by first pouring
him beer, which is then brought around the fire, and then poured it
into this fire, asking Perkons for rain.
His second function was in the realm of morality. There was an ancient
custom, which sought to preserve water, keep it unpolluted. This was
associated with the belief that various deities lived in water:
mermaids, spirits, and souls, especially those of the drowned. Juratė
was the Queen of the Baltic Sea, but Perkūnas killed her for loving
Kastytis, a son of earth.
Another set of myths surrounding Perkūnas’s responsibilities,
vis-à-vis morality, was in his ongoing struggle with the devil.
The word “devil” conjures up many images, but the
Lithuanian devil is very different from what one would expect. When
most people think of the Devil, the first image to pop into their minds
is that of a cloven footed creature, a fallen angel excluded from
God’s grace. The Devil is Yahweh’s polar opposite, equal in
the continuing struggle between good and evil. On the other hand, the
ancient Lithuanians’ conception of a devil was that of a
mischievous, rather stupid and easily tricked creature.
Perkūnas is also a participant in the Heavenly Wedding, a Latvian tale
of the Sun’s daughter’s wedding. Sometimes Perkūnas is a
guest of the Sun or a guest of the Moon. In the story, the Moon kidnaps
the Sun’s daughter’s bridegroom, Aukseklis’ (morning
star). To my mind, this is the Latvian explanation for why the Sun and
Moon refuse to see each other; there is another, which is Lithuanian.
But as to Perkūnas, while on his way to the wedding he strikes a golden
oak. Some theorise that this may mean that by striking the oak Perkūnas
was performing an exorcism to repel evil spirits (Velnias frequently
hides under the roots of an oak). In Latvian wedding songs, when a
bride comes to her new home, the husband’s relatives cut a cross
in the doorpost with the same intention.
His fourth function is that of the Heavenly Smith. There are two views
on this topic: one, that the Heavenly Smith is an independent god, and
a servant of Perkūnas; and two, that Perkūnas is the Heavenly Smith. It
was the Smith who created the Sun and Moon, hammering them into
existence (their eventual division).
Perkūnas’ fifth function is highly debated between academics,
whether he is a war god. Though Perkūnas is well armed, he is not
involved in war affairs. There is no true consensus on the issue, but
there is agreement over his using his weaponry in creating thunder and
lightening in his persecution of the devil.
Saulė ir Menulis
Since I have already mentioned the two main celestial bodies, it would
seem to be apropos to discuss them. Within each culture, these two
celestial bodies are portrayed in varying ways. In Lithuanian
mythology, the Sun is feminine and the Moon is masculine.
The Heavenly Wedding is but one example of how the Sun and Moon came to
a disagreement. The Sun accused the Moon of kidnapping her
daughter’s bridegroom, according to Latvian myths. In Lithuania
the Sun and Moon were not rivals, but husband and wife -and, their
daughter was Žemyna, the Earth. The two were divorced, over the
Moon’s inability to stay faithful to his wife.
In the "Liaudies Dainos" there is a folk-song, which tells of this:
Menuo Sauluže vede
Sauluže anksti keles
Menuo viens vaikštinejo
Perkūns, didžiai supykes,
Jį kardu perdalijo
-Ko Saulužes atsiskyrei?
Viens nakti vaikštinejai?
In the first blush of Spring Menulis and Saulė married.
Saulė rose early, leaving Menulis’s side.
Menulis went out on his own.
Menulis made love to Ausrine.
Perkūnas, with great anger,
Struck Menulis with his sword.
“Why did you leave Saulė?
Why did you make love to Ausrine?
Why did you wander about in the dark?”
This is why the Sun shines during the day and the Moon at night. Though divorced, both want to see their daughter.
The Sun is Saulė, and is one of the most powerful of the goddesses. She
it is who provides the warmth of nature, and fertility. As well, Saulė
is patroness of all misfortunates, especially orphans, since she is the
only substitute of a mother’s warmth. The word for
“world” is “pasaulis” and it is translated as
“under the sun”. She is the universal mother.
The Moon, called Menulis, her ex husband, receives prayers for healing.
He is known alternatively as Young God or Prince. When the new moon is
seen, there a few prayers which can be said, such as: "Moon, moon, dear
moon, bright little god of the Heaven, you must become round and I
remain healthy. Give him the fullness and me the realm of Perkūnas."
Alternatively "I bless you, bright dear moon I wish brightness to you
and beauty for myself; I wish you the qualities of a god, and give me
the qualities of a man." The former used against all diseases and the
latter for gaining beauty.
A child of Saulė and Menulis, Žemyna, the Earth, is the most important
deity, next to Perkūnas. Since all life springs from her, she was
honoured at the birth of every child. Her image was kissed reverently
in the morning and in the evening. Food offerings were laid in front of
stones, tied to tree branches, or flung into a flowing river to give
her thanks for the new life.
Her name means "Earth" and the poetry exalts her productiveness by
calling her "Bloomer", "Bud Raiser", and "Flower Giver". As her name
implies, her main responsibility was plant life -not only agrarian, but
weeds, trees, algae, and arctic lichen. Connected to Žemyna were trees
with three leaves or nine branches, and the oak, linden and spruce were
her favourites. It was believed that women were represented or
personified by lindens and spruce; men by oaks, maples, and birches.
Young virgins by lilies, and village ancestors would reside in fruit
August 15th is the most important day, a day of triumph for Žemyna and
all other "Earth Goddesses". It is the feast of herbs, flowers, a corn
richly celebrated to this day throughout Europe. In Lithuania, bouquets
of flowers and ears of corn are brought to church for the goddess to
bless (or Mary).
The Earth is the holiest of holies for Lithuanians, and one cannot joke
with her or give offerings at irregular intervals. In 1582, it was
reported that a family member or farm animal in eastern Lithuania could
become paralysed or a huge snake could obstruct the entrance to a
household if one was lax in his offerings to the Earth.
Laima ir Giltinė
Laima is the Goddess of Destiny, Luck both good and bad. She is closely
associated with Marša – luck for cows, and Dalia –
giver and taker of goods.
She is a weaver, much like the Greek Fates. She weaves out the life for
all creatures, and controls the most important events of a
person’s life, such as birth, death and marriage. She is also the
patron of pregnant women and a good pregnancy is assured so long as she
is in the house.
Laima was already known during Žemyna’s era as either
Žemyna’s sister or daughter of the pre-Baltic Mother Žemyna of
the Marshes. It is likely that she was known to the pre-Balts as one of
many divine manifestations of the Mother Goddess. In this early period
Laima was a divine power, governing the metamorphosis of things in
Mother Nature, especially of plants and animals – by arranging
their births, life and death. Laima acquired the status of Goddess of
Destiny. Eventually she rose even above the Gods, obtaining the aura of
divinity. In this sense she can be viewed as the Baltic Counterpart to
the Greek Moira. During Perkūnas’ era she played a significant
and ever increasing role. Perkūnas was not able to turn aside the
destinies placed by Laima upon the warrior and leaders of the Baltic
According to Latvian myths Laima supervised mothers giving birth. Not
only was individual happiness destined by Laima, but so too that of the
farmstead, community and even the tribe.
Other than Dievas only Laima has functions of creativity.
The counterpart to Laima is Giltinė, goddess of death. When the time of
death comes, she is there at the dying person’s head. Barriers of
any kind cannot stop her. Appearance wise, she is visualised as being
tall and slim, and with an insatiable appetite. Much like Kali, she has
a poisonous tongue, which lolls about. Dressed in a white sheet, she
collects poison from the bodies of the dead in graveyards. If she licks
a person’s face, he or she will instantly die. "Giltinė" is
derived from a root, which has a double meaning, that of stinging and
the colour yellow. Yellow is the colour death since it is the colour of
Returning to Laima, according to Marija Gimbutas, in her The Language
of the Goddess, up until the second half of the nineteenth century,
there was a birthing ritual practised in the sauna. It was presided
over by the family matriarch, and only women were permitted to the
ritual. "After the birth, a hen was sacrificed to.. Laima. The
grandmother killed it with a wooden ladle. Kneeling down, the
participants then ate the chicken." Gifts to Laima were linen towels,
woven belts, and spindle whorls -quite similar to what a bride would
receive on her wedding day.
Gabija is the Hearth Fire Goddess – and all rituals start with
offerings made to Gabija. She is tended by women only, given offerings
by women only and banked at night by women only. She is one of several
deities in which a large collection of women-only rituals exist. Just
as Žemyna, Gabija must be carefully tended, since she provides the heat
for cooking and the warmth for the house. Fire was one of the most
sacred of elements to Lithuanians (the Greeks called us
Fire-Worshippers). Gabija is always to be banked with pure water. It is
believed that any impurities would get into Gabija’s eyes,
therefore the water has to be as pure as possible, to keep from hurting
her. If hurt Gabija would retaliate, by burning down the house.
A fire can never go out in the hearth, just quietly banked for the
night. Only once a year could the fire be put out, during the time of
Rasa or Jonines. During the Summer Solstice the sacred fire must be
gotten from the spiritual centre of Lithuania. Long human chains
existed, carrying the fire around the Lithuanian countryside.
The sacred cult of Gabija with its prehistoric roots has survived to
this present. She has evolved through ornithomorphic, zoomorphic (cat)
and anthropomorphic portrayals (red clothed woman, sometimes winged).
The name Gabija is derived from the verb “apgaubti”, to
cover up. This refers to the process of putting Gabija to bed by
carefully banking the coals and ashes for the night and uttering
prayers that ask her to “stay put” and not wander. This was
an important duty of the Lady of the House to perform.
Traditionally she is fed with salt and food. If a bit of salt or food
falls into the fire while the woman is cooking she will say
“Gabija buk pasotinta” – Gabija be satiated.
The Hearth Fire is the focus of all family rituals and rites of
passage. Each ritual begins with invoking her presence without which
rites would be possible. She accepts the sacrifices and acts as a
mediator and messenger to the Other Deities. Gabija is not the
reserved, passive maiden aunt archetype of Vesta or Hestia. Gabija is
the vital centre of each temple, grove and home. She is the flaming
symbol of all that which is truly alive, and deity and power to be
treated with the utmost respect.
As the population grew a class of priestesses arose – Vaidelutės.
They tended the sacred flame that burned for the “tauta”.
Relieved of family duties and working in pairs, they tended the fire,
as well as fed and cared for the Sacred Serpents (Zalciai).
Velnias ir Velona
And for those of you who are interested in more chthonic deities, the
two most prevalent are Velnias and Velona. Both of them are deities of
the dead and are associated with Veles, shades of the ancestors.
Velnias eventually became the devil, and in constant struggle with
Perkūnas. This struggle between the sky god Perkūnas, who represents
the Indo-Europeans and Velnias who represents old Europe, is the
symbolic struggle between the Old Europeans and the
Proto-Indo-Europeans. In the folktales Velnias is portrayed as being
rather stupid and easy to trick. However, Perkūnas has to be on
(tell story of how the first witch came to be – Ragana)
There are a whole slew of other deities, such as Medeine, whose name
means Lady of the Trees, goddess of the woods and hares; and her twin,
Meiden, god of animals and of the forest -rather similar to Herne. This
brings to mind the Vanir twins in Norse myths, Freya and Freyr.
The grass snake, Žaltys, was also a symbol of good fortune, and it was
bad luck to kill a snake -and they were the beloved creatures of Saulė.
This explains what happens to the children in the story, Eglė Žalciu
The symbolic awakening of the snakes was on January 25th, The Day of
Serpents in Lithuania, Kirmeline, when the serpents come out of the
forests and return to the houses. On that day, the people would shake
the apple trees in the orchard so that they would more fruitful and
knock on beehives, waking the bees from the winter slumber.
The ancient Lithuanians also practised a form of Ancestor Worship.
Formerly, the Lithuanians did not fear the dead. The living and the
dead were parts of a society within the frame of a big family. The dead
were thought of as living in the grave with many of the same needs as
the living. The dead were feasted at burial, one year later and at big
feasts. The Lithuanians’ belief in reincarnation is similar to
that of the rest of the ancient world. The dead could be reborn into
any form, be it human or vegetable matter or animal. The dead must
climb a high mountain and thus it was of great value to have long
fingernails. There is no underworld in Lithuanian mythology. Purgatory
or Hell was where a spirit would be trapped, be it a rock or a flower.
Today, we plant trees on the graves of our recently dead. My
sister’s grave, because she was a child when she died, has a
small rose bush on it. My grandmother’s grave in Australia has a
Now that we have explored some of the mythology behind Baltic Faith,
let us now turn to a more detailed study as to what is Baltic Faith.
3. What is Romuva?
“Baltic Religion” identifies the way of life, world concept
and world view that were common to all Baltic nations/tribes:
Lithuanians, Latvians, Prussians, Yotvingians, Curonians, Zemgalians,
Selians, Latgalian etc. Modern Romuva is the Lithuanian expression of
the Baltic Faith. The word itself means serenity, peace, harmony,
tenderness and beauty. These are the most cherished of values. Romuva
is a religion of life and harmony.
Historically, the Prussian temple of Romuva was one of the last
important European Pagan sanctuaries. Apart from this Romuva, there
were countless local sanctuaries, which thrived in the wide Baltic
region. It is just the same today - the idea of Romuva remains in the
consciousness of the various Baltic cultures.
The name of Romuva again arose about a century ago, inspired by a more
enlightened understanding of the old faith. Lithuanians began to call
their renewed faith "Romuva," while the Latvians called theirs
"Dievturiba" (meaning "The keeping of the god Dievs"). This revival was
connected with the national revivals of the Baltic peoples. However,
the essence of the Baltic faith is not nationality. This faith is of
man and nature. By referring to it as a Baltic faith, we underscore its
origins and its continuing tradition.
Please take a look at the first page of the handout. Notice the
“herbas”. This is the emblem that Lithuanian Romuva uses,
in honour of the Old Prussian Sanctuary. The emblem depicts a holy oak
with an eternal flame. Such an oak tree is typical of Baltic Lithuanian
folk art. The three levels symbolise the three spheres of existence -
the world of the dead (the past), the world of the living (the present)
and the divine heights (the future) - all three in unity. They thrive
in universal darna, which is harmony. The runic inscription shows that
Romuva is part of the Baltic region and its cultural traditions. As
well, notice the little stanza from an ancient Lithuanian daina/song
– Saly Kelio Jovaras Stovejo.
4. The Basics of the Faith:
1. That the Lithuanian Baltic Religion is the ancient indigenous native national religion of the Lithuanians.
2. That the Religion is firmly and deeply rooted in
the personal experience of the Lithuanian way of life, world concept
and world view as manifest in Lithuanian ethnic culture. Dainos play a
special part in the religion: they are the ancient songs and hymns.
3. People have spiritual or religious experiences.
One of the early 20thC proponents of Baltic Faith, Vydunas, called
these experiences “spiritual awakening”.
4. People seek inner peace and harmony (darna): with
themselves, with their families, with their communities, with their
ancestors, and with the universe.
5. Everything is sacred. This is an expression of the basic morality, dora, which permeates Baltic Faith.
6. All religions have similar goals. Baltic Faith tolerates foreign religions without proselytising.
7. Romuva practices Baltic Faith.
Basic: reverence for trees, reverence for fire (Gabija)
5. How is Romuva celebrated in the “mundane” and mechanised world?
Everyone can make a personal or family sanctuary - or alkas in his own
home or apartment. How is this to be done? There is an abundance of
information in historical and ethnographic sources. There is a section
dedicated to such sanctuaries in the book "Baltu tikejimas" (2000), and
an English translation of that section appeared a few years ago in the
"Sacred Serpent." Let us try and put this information to use in our
Things attributed to the Lithuanian home alkas:
Honoured Gods and souls of ancestors
Sacred locations: house corner, family hearth, and family table
Depictions of Gods are kept by the alkas
Things commemorating ancestors are kept by the alkas, such as pictures, etc.
The hearth: fire altar, candles, for example - a Grauduline (candle of Perkūnas)
Bread, salt for the fire and rituals
Incense - thyme, dried leaves of oak, verbos (read about Spring holidays), juniper, etc.
Head wreaths (from Rasa holiday), the symbolic "poplar" of rye, etc.
A wedding "sodas" (straw decoration)
Towel holder with towels, woven sashes
A ritual cup and jug
Symbols of Baltic faith: three-branched tree, sun, fire symbol and others
In olden times the alkas was set up in the corner of the house - where
the rural folk would hang sacred pictures, symbols. The corner was
significant because therein the ancestors' souls and home deities would
reside. In modern homes or rooms such appropriate corners might not
exist. Therefore, for this purpose, once can set up a table or shelf,
which can be used for rituals, for lighting the fire, and for other
kinds of prayer.
Family traditions and celebrations:
The main family celebrations are krikstas, vestuves, laidotuves, sermenys.
Before the child is born there are certain beliefs which are quite
important in understanding, if we are able to gain a much broader
understanding of Baltic Faith. In Lithuania it was believed that
various evil spirits, as well as improper behaviour, could harm
expectant mothers. One never directly referred to someone as being
pregnant, or even giving birth. It was up to the entire community to
safeguard the mother and the child. When birth happened euphemisms
would be used, such as “the oven fell apart at
Petras’s” or “it’s joyful at
Once the birth has occurred the child is feted into the family and into
the community. The newborn's birthday, community visitation and
name-giving (christening) are ancient rituals (predating Christianity),
which assert the new-born child's ties with this world, his family and
The rituals are performed either at home or in nature at the time of a
new or full moon. The room is decorated with plants and greenery. Birds
made of straw are hung from the ceiling. In the middle of the room -
the home hearth - a small fire altar, which is lit at the time of the
ritual. Other materials are readied - a bowl of water, a clean cloth,
scissors. The room is well-lit with candles and other lights.
The participants are the mother, the child, the father, the
name-givers, relatives, other children and the priestess of the
ceremony - Pribuveja (midwife).
Pribuvėja guides the event and cares for the new-born child.
The child is dressed in a festive linen shirt. A sash woven with folk decorations is used as a waist-band.
The feast - the name-givers bring a cake. The food upon the table
traditionally includes eggs, scrambled eggs, bread, cheese, beer, etc..
Gifts are brought to the new-born and the mother.
A wedding is more than just the concern of the young couple – the
entire community has a vested interest in the upcoming marriage, and
join the families in celebration. Weddings were of such importance to
the community, and to the ancient ancestors, that there are over
100,000 dainos (songs) for Lithuanian weddings. There’s even an
extended set of dances which present a stylised wedding –
starting with the match maker introducing the young couple to each
other, the parents agreeing, the young bride weaving her trousseau, and
then the wedding ceremony.
There’s a myth of Perkūnas and the Heavenly Wedding: On his way
to the wedding Perkūnas strikes a gold oak – an exorcism to repel
evil spirits (Velnias frequently hides under the roots of an oak). When
a young bridal couple come to their new home, before they enter it, the
lintel is struck, leaving a “cross” – to ward off
Funeral/Burial – the traditions surrounding funerals are fairly
standard the world over. It is a time of mourning, and of friends
gathering in support of the grieving family. But, there are some
differences. In villages the coffin would lie in “state”
for approximately 6 days, and in cities about 2 days. Every evening
there would be the singing of laments, and prayers for the dead members
of the family for three generations – each one mentioned by name.
Every evening after the prayers a funeral meal is served, prepared by
the best cook in the community. If the family has a pig, it is
slaughtered for the occasion.
In villages the dead are usually buried in the morning, with final kisses being bestowed upon the loved one.
6. Calendar Feasts:
Pusiaužiemis January 25th
Mid-Winter Festival. In certain parts of Lithuania,
Kirmeline (Day of Serpents) is celebrated instead. Kirmeline is the
symbolic awakening of the snakes. Food and milk is put out for the
snakes – if they eat and drink, a good year is foretold.
Perkūnas Day February 2
Gabija Day February 5
Užgavenes March 1st
Escort of Winter essentially waits for Spring and helps prepare for the
new season. The holiday consists of processions, costumes, tomfoolery,
games, and plays. The main parts are: receiving guests with treats;
rides and races; processing the More statue and then destroying her by
fire; plays with people costumed as animals, strangers and mythological
beings; performing the war of Winter with Spring symbolized by the
Lasininis (the bacon-being) with the Kanapinis (the hemp-being);
portraying weddings or funerals; spraying people with water;
Christianity incorporated Lithuanian Equinox traditions into Easter,
and replaced the ancient Lithuanian name for the Equinox with the
Slavic word 'Velykos', i.e. Easter. 'Pavasario lyge', meaning Spring
Equinox, remains the only non-Christian name for the holiday. The week
before Equinox, called the Velykos of Veles (souls), concludes the
annual cycle of commemorations of the dead. As during Kucios (Winter
Solstice Eve), families remember their dead and leave their dinners on
the tables overnight for the veles to eat.
Samborai Spring Festival
Sambariai, which names the ritual meal at the conclusion of sowing, or
Paruges, which means the day by the rye. Households gathered on their
fields with food and drink, where an open-air ritual meal was held.
Households held the ritual separately; it was not a community rite. The
ritual included ancient sacred songs called dainos and ancient ritual
rounds or sutartines that blessed the grains. Families would prepare
for Sambariai by stocking up on food, especially meats, and by brewing
a special beer (traditional ritual drink and libation beverage). If the
ritual were held at home, the house would be decorated with fresh-cut
birch branches. Occurs at the end of May, after the planting of rye and
other grains is finished and the seed has grown. This tradition
survived undisturbed until the beginning of the 20th century in parts
of Lithuania. Sambariai also once marked the start of the swimming
Order of celebration: (1) dancing around the gates, (2) dancing around
the kupolas, (3) misc., games, predictions, circle dance, (4) vaises
(ritual meal), (5) greeting the setting sun, (6) lighting the bonfires
and offerings, (7) visiting and blessing the fields and trees, (8)
principal bonfire, burning of the More (straw doll symbolizing the
old), circle dances around the bonfire, (9) swimming and bathing, a
boat with a bonfire sails to shore, symbolizing the nocturnal trip of
the sun, (10) casting the wreaths (11) greeting the moon and the stars,
(12) worship of the rising sun and bathing in the morning dew.
In honour of Žemyna, Earth Goddess. Associated with Rugiu Svente.
Rugių Svente Rye Harvest
Beginning with the end of July and throughout August -- depending on
the growing conditions each year -- the Lithuanian countryside starts
to harvest the rye, the single most important grain cultivated in
Lithuania. Rye is a divine grain; its fields are sacred. The harvest
begins with the ritual Festival of the Rye, which expresses
thanksgiving for the harvest. Women and men wear their finest white
linen for the ritual, and harvest the rye in these clothes.
Dagotuves Winter Rye Planting Finished
All of October
Velines is in honour of the Veles, the shade of the ancestors –
either of the family or the village. Because families would live in the
same house/village for centuries, Lithuanians came to believe that the
veles acted as guardians for the family and for the village. This is
when the veles would enter the family home for the rest of the winter
– leave at Velykos to go into the fields, to encourage the
fertility of the land.
Kučios/Kaledos Winter Solstice Eve – Beginning of the Year
Marks the end of the year, when the world returns to darkness and
non-existence. However, as death begets birth, the two holidays also
herald the rebirth of nature and the return of the sun. The Lithuanians
distinguish the two subsequent days, now celebrated on the 24th and
25th of December, with a variety of ritual customs.
Suggested Bibliography of Baltic Lithuanian Religion
Baltrušaitis, Jurgis. Lithuanian Folk Art. Lithuania Country and Nation 3.
Balys, Jonas. Lithuanian Narrative Folksongs. A Treasury of Lithuanian Folklore 4.
Gimbutas [Gimbutienė], Marija. Ancient Symbolism in Lithuanian Folk Art
---. Baltic and Slavic Folklore and Mythology. 2 Vols
Šaly kelio jovaras stovejo /A Poplar Stood by the Road Side
Šaly kelio jovaras stovejo,
Slaunasai zolyne rugeli (chorus)
Is pašaknu skamantys kankleliai
Per viduri duzgaiančcios biteles
Viršunelej sakalo vaikeliai
Ir atjoja broleliu pulkelis
Prašom sustot, jaunieji broleliai
Pažiurekit sakalo vaikeliu
Paklausykit duzgiančiu biteliu
Paklausykit skambančiu kankleliu
Del tevelio skambantys kankleliai
Del močiutes duzgiančios biteles
Del brolelio sakalo vaikeliai
A poplar stood by the Road Side
Oh glorious plant of rye (chorus)
The sound of the kankles from below the roots,
Oh glorious... (chorus)
The bees were buzzing in the middle
The falcon’s children at the summit
A group of brothers rides on by
Please stop, young brothers
Behold the falcon’s children
Listen to the buzzing bees
Listen to the ringing kankles
The kankles ring for our dear father
The bees, they buzz for our dear mother
The falcon’s children grieve for our brother
Main daina of Romuva, about the mythical world tree and it three parts,
which symbolise the three aspects of the universe. The ringing of the
kankles from under the roots is the image of the world of the old, the
wise and the dead. The buzzing bees in the middle symbolise the world
of the working and toiling people. The falcon’s children at the
top represent the heavens, the world of warriors and heroes. The
pivotal meaning of the daina is the universal importance and harmony of
these three parts.
Snaudala snaudžia tuta tuta
Nei verpia nei audžia tuta tuta
Verpstė an suolo tuta tuta
Verpstas po suolu tuta tuta
Ir atvažiuoja tuta tuta
Snaudales tevas tuta tuta
Kiauli paskinkis tuta tuta
Geldon insedis tuta tuta
The dreamer slumbers, tuta tuta
Neither spins nor weaves, tuta tuta
The distaff is on the bench, tuta tuta
The spindle is under the bench, tuta tuta
And here comes riding, tuta tuta
The dreamer’s father, tuta tuta
Pulled by a pig, tuta tuta
Sitting in a trough, tuta tuta
This daina is danced to, in honour of the ancestors. The distaff and
the act of spinning mentioned in the song symbolise fate and the
goddess of fate, Laima. Dreaming is the state of consciousness, which
transcends the worlds of the living and the dead. This dance is
performed to invite the souls of the ancestors to the ritual.
Čiūtyta Rūtyta, kas darželi tvara?
Čiūtyta Rūtyta, mas, sasutalas (chorus)
Čiūtyta Rūtyta, braliukai užtvara
Čiūtyta Rūtyta, kas rūteli seja?
Čiūtyta Rūtyta, saulala paseja
Čiūtyta Rūtyta, kas rūteli laista?
Čiūtyta Rūtyta, lietulis palaista
Čiūtyta Rūtyta, kas rūteli skyne?
Čiūtyta Rūtyta, sesutes nuskyne
Čiūtyta Rūtyta, vainikeli pyne
Čiūtyta Rūtyta, an galveles deja
Čiūtyta Rūtyta, jaunimelin eja
Čiūtyta Rūtyta, who fenced the garden?
Čiūtyta Rūtyta, we, the sisters (chorus)
Čiūtyta Rūtyta, the brothers fenced it
Čiūtyta Rūtyta, who sowed the wheat?
Čiūtyta Rūtyta, the sun sowed it
Čiūtyta Rūtyta, who watered the wheat?
Čiūtyta Rūtyta, the rain watered it
Čiūtyta Rūtyta, who plucked the rue?
Čiūtyta Rūtyta, the sisters plucked it
Čiūtyta Rūtyta, they twined a wreath
Čiūtyta Rūtyta, they placed on the head
Čiūtyta Rūtyta, and she entered youth
This is a daina to Žemyna, the Earth Goddess. The Head Priestess
(Vaidelute) of the ritual leads the song. As she is strengthened by the
song, she prepares to light the fire.
Didysie Mūsų Dievaitė Mūsų
Didysie Mūsų Perkūnė Mūsų
Savo Stiprybe savo galybe
Sujūnki mūmis stiprinki mūmis
Didysie Mūsų Dievaitė Mūsų
Didysie Mūsų Perkūnė Mūsų
Ąžuolo jegom Ąžuolo galiom
Sujūnki mūmis stiprinki mūmis
Didysie Mūsų Dievaitė Mūsų
Didysie Mūsų Perkūnė Mūsų
Ugnės šviesybe Ugnės galybe
Sujūnki mūmis stiprinki mūmis
Our greatest, our God
Our greatest, our Thunderer
With your power, with your might
Unite us, strengthen us
Our greatest, our God
Our greatest, our Thunderer
The power of the Oak, the might of the Oak
Unite us, strengthen us
Our greatest, our God
Our greatest, our Thunderer
The brightness of fire, the power of fire
Unite us, strengthen us
Song to Perkūnas, celebrating our relationship with the Thunderer