Lietuviškai
Introduction to Lithuanian Paganism v

  
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 Daina)


Basic Outline of Lecture:

1.    Prayer of the Palubenskaites Sisters

2.    Introduction / Basic mythology & deities & lesser creatures

3.    What is Romuva

4.    The basics of the faith

5.    How do we incorporate Baltic Faith into an urban, modern lifestyle?

6.    The calendar year / Liaudes Kalendorius

7.    Songs



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.


2.   Introduction / Basic Mythology & deities & lesser Creatures

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 Baltic.

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.

Dievas

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.

Perkūnas

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

Pirma pavasareli

Sauluže anksti keles

Menužis atsiskyre.

Menuo viens vaikštinejo

Aušrine pamylejo

Perkūns, didžiai supykes,

Jį kardu perdalijo

-Ko Saulužes atsiskyrei?

Aušrine  pamylejai?

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.

Žemyna

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 trees.

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 Tribes.

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 bone.

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

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 constant watch.

(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.

Žaltys

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 Karaliene.

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.

Other

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 eucalyptus.

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?
  • Plant trees
  • Visit cemeteries
Home altars?

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 modern setting.

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.


Krikštas

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 Antanas’s”.

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 community.

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.


Vestuves

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 evil.


Laidotuves

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.


Šermenys

Funeral Feast


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; fortune-telling.

Velykos                    Spring Equinox

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.

Jorė                           Spring Festival

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 season.

Rasa                          Summer Solstice

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.

Žolines                       August 15

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

Velines                      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

---. "Pre-Indo-European Goddesses in Baltic Mythology." Mankind Quarterly 26.1-2 (Fall/Winter 1985): 20-26.

---. The Balts. Ancient Peoples and Places 33

---. "The Lithuanian God Velnias." Myth and Law Among the Indo-Europeans: Studies in Indo-European

Comparative Mythology.

---. The Prehistory of Eastern Europe: Mesolithic, Neolithic, and Copper Age Cultures in Russia and the Baltic


Area. Part 1. Bulletin 20

Greimas, A.J. Of Gods and Men: Studies in Lithuanian Mythology

Trinkunas, Jonas. Of Gods and Holidays.

Velius, Norbertas. Lithuanian Mythological Tales.


Websites

http://www.romuva.lt/                                Main Romuva website

http://www.geocities.com/~zemyna         Iron Crosses – History, Folktales, links

http://www.geocities.com/Athens/Oracle/2810    Sacred Serpent – Romuva Canada

http://www.pagan.drak.net/wwcrew                     Ancient Latvian Paganism

http://neris.mii.lt/heritage/lfcc/lfcc.html           Lithuanian Folk Culture Centre

http://ausis.gf.vu.lt/eka                             Anthology of Lithuanian Ethnoculture

http://www1.omnitel.net/sakmes             Lietuviu sakmes/Lithuanian tales

http://www.okana.org/       Okana's Web - Polish Paganism and Cultural Traditions

http://www.pantheon.org/        Encyclopaedia Mythica

http://www.mythinglinks.org/  Mythology: MYTHING LINKS – World Mythology

http://www.muzikoszona.com/                  Lithuanian Music

http://www.balticshop.com/ Baltic Shop – Online Shopping for Goods from the Baltics

http://www.kalupe.com/     Kalupe – Latvian Jewellery Store in Toronto Canada


Mailing Lists

Through Yahoogroups.com:     Romuva – in English

                                             RomuvaChgo – Romuva in Chicago

                                             Krivule – in Lithuanian

                                             Leszi – Slavic Paganism

7. Songs:

Šaly kelio jovaras stovejo /A Poplar Stood by the Road Side

Šaly kelio jovaras stovejo,

Slaunasai zolyne rugeli (chorus)

Is pašaknu skamantys kankleliai

Slaunasai...(chorus)

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/The Dreamer

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.


Čiutyta

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

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



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