PERUN – the Slavic god

Perun Ukrajina

Statue of Slavic god Perun erected by Ukrainian ridnoviry (Slavic pagans) in 2009, city of Kyiv. Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Perun.JPG

Among the Slavs this god was very well known, probably the most popular and widespread by the Eastern Slavs and in old Slavic Russia he was possibly worshiped as the supreme god. There are many variations of his name – eg. Param, Parom, Parchunus, Pernu, Piorun, Pyron, etc. (in Cyrillic Перун); but also “Hrom” or “Grom” (meaning “thunder”), suggesting his rule over thunders and lightnings. Indeed, Perun’s name is derived from Indo-European root word “per-” (to hit, to beat) and so we can say that Perun sends (“pere”) thunders and lightnings to the Earth… ending “-un” is intensifying, thus, Perun is the “one who beats hard”. However, if you begin to study Indo-European languages, interpretation of origin of Perun’s name gets complicated due to a number of other words with similar roots. “The Thunderer” was god of peace and war, weather, agriculture and harvest, perhaps of souls of the dead and god with ability to protect and punish. His (in the past) frequently used symbols are different variants of cross (probably coming from watching crossing of lightnings in the sky); and frequent amulet is an axe (“lightning as a fire axe in the sky”), which remained part of many folk costumes (but not exclusively Slavic).

Perunovy sekerky

Drawings of Slavic axe amulets based on archaeological findings dating between the 11th and 12th century. Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Axe_Perun.jpg

Perun was associated with spring time (respectively with an event significant at many places until the 19th century – the first thunder in the year, after which the nature awakened). A symbol of this event was a whip – a representation of lightning; sound of the whip resembles crack of a thunder. Place or things struck by lightning were considered sacred. In the literature, there is also documented habit of swearing to Perun when contracting treaties (Perun guaranteed Byzantine-Russian treaties). Perun’s sacred tree was an oak, mentioned in countless sources and even today in maps (like local name “Peruna Dubrava” in Dalmatia). Perun was worshiped at sacrificial places; sacred places were also around oak trees and the mountains. From ancient Russia we have no evidence of Perun’s idols made of stone; they were made of wood and decorated with precious metals; stone was used by other ethnic groups or in later times.

PERUN-kniha (4)

Possible reconstruction of Perun’s sacred place at Peryn by Novgorod according to V. V. Sedov. Source: Perun – bůh hromovládce, Michal Téra, nakl. Pavel Mervart 2009, page 105

Perun’s day of the week is like in case of other thunder gods (Zeus, Taranis, Thor / Donar, Jupiter, Baltic Perkúnas …) Thursday. Moreover, it is possible that all these gods have common Indo-European roots; in case of Perun there is a theory of influence on origins of Perun’s cult by god Thor through the Varyags living in Kievan Rus, although some scientists reject this and suggest rather the opposite (eg. Michal Téra).

PERUN-kniha (2)

Eastern Slavs in early middle ages. Source: Perun – bůh hromovládce, Michal Téra, nakl. Pavel Mervart 2009, page 90

Literary evidence of invocation of Perun is numerous, but the most contemporary and reliable are exclusively from the ancient Rus; perhaps the oldest mention of his name is in Byzantine legend Life of St. Demetrius of Thessaloniki from the 7th century. Even older document mentions the main god of the Slavs – creator of lightning, but there is not yet a particular name of the god (Procopius of Caesarea, 6th century). Furthermore Perun is mentioned in the oldest Russian chronicles „Povesti vremennych let“ (by chronicler and monk Nestor who lived at the turn of the 11th and 12th centuries); according to this source there were human sacrifices to Perun. There is a mention of Prince Vladimir of Kiev, who build a statue of Perun in 980 with silver head and golden beard, although this particular Perun had to recede eight years later to Christianity (with similar case in Novgorod) – overthrow of Perun’s idol was performed as a funeral ritual. The retreat was official, but his cult remained alive and Christianity vainly struggled to eradicate it (eg. by an effort to replace the worship of Perun by St. Elias (or by Ilya from Russian “byliny”). Popularity of this god is documented by numerous local names, as well as by proof of use of given name Perun (in Bohemia, turn of 12th and 13th centuries – necrologium in Benedictine monastery in Podlažice). Perun’s traces can also be found in folk sayings, eg. in the Slovak swearing “Do Paroma!”, “Choď do paroma” (= go to hell ), etc.. “Perun” was also name of a currency, which was supposed to be introduced in Montenegro in 1851 (unfortunately it wasn’t in the end).

Perun_i_Veles

Depiction of Slavic god of thunder Perun and god Veles (in his theriomorphic form as a bear), Croatia, VIII century. Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Perun_i_Veles.JPG

Perun - sekyrka Wulflund

Hand-casted replica of a Perun’s axe (found in Poland). Source: http://wulflund.com/old-slavs/perun-axe-hand-casted-talisman.html/

One Response to PERUN – the Slavic god

  • My mother when we got her angry would say,” abi ta PAROM VEZNE” ….the devil take you. My last name is derived from MOZOL …A CALLUS. MOZOLAK is one who has calluses, a laborer, or a farmer.thanks for all these insights to my ethnic legacy.

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