Dazhdbog in Russian mythology
"Tell, Gamayun, prophetic bird, tell about the birth of Dazhdbog the
Kind, the son of Mighty Perun and beautiful mermaid Ros. And about the
combat with father of him, as they fought and fraternized, tell about
"Of what that know, hide nothing I will..."
In the ancient Russian mythology Dazhdbog appears as a son of the Almighty Perun and a mermaid named Ros. Perun is a son of Svarog (Vedic Isvara) who is a top God in Russian pagan beliefs, a kind of an analogue of Cronos of the Greeks, although he did not actually create the World, he only created the living Universe but... this is the different story of cosmological beliefs of Russians. Perun symbolizes a victory (not the war as he is not Mars, and ancient Russians did not have this kind of god) over enemies, lightnings and things of that sort (looks like Zeus of Greeks but not exactly as he shares some other functions). Basically, Perun is a male God, God of warriers, those who protect the Land. His day is July, 20th, if I remember this right. So, you see that Dazhdbog is a grandson of Svarog, and we all, Russians, are his grandchildren. This kind of relationship makes Dazhdbog similar to Vedic Indra if you will, although I can not give a 100% for such a correspondence. I should also make a note that mermaids in Russian mythology are not the ones with a fish tail, as in many other European pagan religions, though. These are just beautiful girls that dance on celebrations, before harvesting, etc. Ros is also a name of the river which is still alive and doing well. It is in Ukraine, and it is one of the many branches of the river Dnepr. Look for the town called Belaya Tserkov (White Church) on the map and you will immediately see the river. One brunch of Slavs that lived near Ros called themselves rosichi or later rusichi that finally gave a name to the state of Rus, its Peter the Great’s modification Rossiya (Russia) and to all Russkie (Russians). This explanation seems to be close to the truth because it has a very strong religious and mythological underlay—a thing of the extreme, if not the first, importance when one is trying to analyze an ancient civilization. This explanation also seem to be connected with another name, Ruskolan, an ancient name for the state. It is a conjunction of two words: Rus and Kol. In this context Kol does not mean a stick (there is such a meaning of this word in Russian language) but a solar turn-around, equinox. Russian mythology teaches that on this very day the fight between the God of Light, Belobog, and the God of Darkness, Chernobog, turns around. After the winter equinox day becomes longer—Belobog wins, and after the summer equinox it shortens—Chernobog wins. Each equinox has a celebration associated with it: the winter equinox is celebrated on Koliada’s Day, and the summer on Kupala’s Day. You see, this sequence of events represents a seasonal change, and it was of the great importance for ancient Russians who were mostly farmers.
Unfortunately, many Western scholars still make the largest mistake on this matter: they get the word Rus from some Scandinavian or German roots. God blesses them, though, for everybody wants to belong to a nation that originated everything—pride is one of those seven deadly sins of mankind! These issues are fully covered and very extensively discussed in the literature .
But... where does the word Dazhdbog come from, anyway? All right, here is one version of Yuri Miroliubov that I personally support. The word is a complex conglomerate of the two. Listen: Dazhdbog --> Dazhdbo --> Dai Bo --> Dai Bog. The final two are in English Give me, God. However, let’s go back to Dazhdbog’s story.
Once Perun went by a bank of the Dnepr river and, on the other side, he saw several girls dancing and singing. He felt in love with one of them, Ros, and tried to get to that other bank but Dnepr did not allow him to swim across. Then Perun took his golden arrow and made a shot towards the bank where Ros was standing. The arrow flew as lightning and struck into a big stone that started to shine when the arrow hit it. A fire image of a man appeared on that stone, and Perun screamed to Ros: "Call out for Svarog, and He will help you".
Ros called out for Svarog, he came and helped her out to create a man from the stone. That man was Dazhdbog. He happened to be really mighty (anyway, he was a son of Perun) but he never saw his father. When he grew up he studied books, ancient wisdom, and an art of a battle. The glory about him was spreading over the Land. At that time his father Perun was walking over that all the sky and lands recognized who was going. Ros also recognized him and told him:
"Grettings, Mighty Perun, Svarog’s son".
"So, you know my father as well"!
"Do not be angry, mighty Perun, but walk to the clean field and see your son, Dazhdbog, but be graceful as Dazhdbog is still young".
So, he did. Perun went to the field and saw his son playing with a cudgel. Then Perun told Dazhdbog:
"Stop boasting, and show how mighty you really are".
And the two, father and son, started to fight. They fought for three days and three nights, fought that lands, woods and sea screamed, and finally Perun weakened and fell down. Dazhdbog asked him then:
"Tell me your name and name of your father, oh warrier"!
"I am Perun, son of Svarog and came from the shining Iriy".
Then Dazhdbog said:
"Sorry, father! I did not know that this is you because I never saw you before! Rise, my dear father"!
After this fight they both got together and Dazhdbog asked his mother to allow him to go with his father to the shining Iriy (the World where the Gods live). Ros allowed him to go and Dazhdbog joined other Gods.
"Tell, Gamayun, prophetic bird, as Dazhdbog, son of Perun married young
"Of what that know, hide nothing I will..."
Once at a time, Dazhdbog was going through a big and wide field. He saw a warrior-girl riding a horse. The blood boiled up in his heart and the God has decided to try her. He took his sword and hit the girl but she didn’t show any sign of weakness. He did it once more and one more time but only got injured.
"Who are you?", asked Dazhdbog.
And the girl answered:
"Hmmm... I thought these were flies stinging me but you look like a warrior".
So, she grabbed him, put into a crystal casket and locked this casket with a silver key. Then the girl got her horse and went away. She was riding the whole day and the whole night, three days in a raw but her brave horse got tired and started to implore:
"Oh, you brave and mighty Zlatogorka, daughter of Vij, you excuse me, please, my dear, but I can’t carry two great warriors anymore!"
Zlatogorka recalled that she carries a warrior and released him:
"Oh, the brave young warrior! I want you to marry me, and if you won’t I’ll slay you"!
"Release me, Zlatogorka, I agree to be your husband".
They got together and went to mountains where they met Svarog and mother Lada who blessed them to become husband and wife. So, that was the deal. There was a wonderful bride on Heavens and everybody was happy.
This happiness did not last for a long time, and here is why. Once Dazhdbog and Zlatogorka were riding horses in deep mountains of Armenia and found a strange tomb. There were the following words on it: "The one who lays in here will stay there by a will of the Fate". Zlatogorka asked Dazhdbog to give it a try (oh, these women were always the same!!). He tried, and the tomb was too small. Then his wife tried and the tomb was just of the right size. She asked Dazhdbog:
"My amiable husband, you put the cover on, for I want to lay here for a while and look around".
He put the cover on as his wife asked him to do and... yes it happened exactly as you expected: it was a deadly move, the cover could not be removed anymore. Dazhdbog tried to hit it with his cudgel and his sword but... Then Zlatogorka said:
"You, my husband, go to my father Vij, give him my last bow and ask him to forgive me as I must stay here in this tomb forever".
Dazhdbog went to Vij and told him about what happened:
"She asked to give you her last bow and asked for the forgiveness. Probably Rod himself wishes this to happen".
Vij got really angry. He thought that Dazhdbog killed his daughter, so he tried to through him away from his Kingdom. Vij asked to give him a hand but Dazhdbog made his cudgel red-hot and gave it to the King. As Vij cried out that Dazhdbog brings light to his world, so he gave his daughter the forgiveness. Dazhdbog went back to the tomb and told Zlatogorka her father’s forgiveness, so she rested forever. He then wrote on that tomb: "Zlatogorka Vievna rests here by the wish of mother Mokosh and the will of the Divine Rod".
The only thing left for me is to explain a couple of new names. Zlatogorka can be translated into English as Golden Hill, and Lada is Svarog’s wife. The name is still in use in Russia and basically means love: when a married couple lives in love people say that they live ladno (it is an adverb). The expression is a little bit old fashioned but it is OK. You see that Svarog, the forces and laws of the Universe, is married with love, and this union gave the birth to everything. Vij is a representative of the Underground Kingdom (what a nice abbreviation—UK), a story of which is a totally different one. If you read Gogol’s "Night before Christmas" you should remember Vij from there. Mokosh is actually the Fate. The very important and special character is Divine Rod. This is the heart of all pagan religion of ancient Russians. He created everything, he is the only one who really rules the World, he created Lada and with her help broke the Darkness. By the way, the word divine, I believe, comes from Sanskrit, as Deva means the God in this language. The spelling in Sanskri is not entirely correct but this is a problem of my typesetting system: I still can’t quite teach it the conventions. Sorry!
"Tell, Gamayun, prophetic bird, as Dazhdbog married Marena"
"Of what that know, hide nothing I will..."
As we can see Dazhdbog lived alone not for a long. He had found Marena. This name is in use even now and even in English. As far as I remember, one of the supermodels has this name but I bet she doesn’t even realize what her name means. There are very good reasons for the name to be spread that far, and they are connected with Celtic culture. I’m not going to discuss this here because, you won’t believe me, only this name is a topic for the whole PhD thesis. I will limit myself only to the meaning of it. Marena (Celtic Mara) is a synonym of either winter or death in Russian folklore, depending on a situation it is used in.
Once at a time, a big feast happened in Irij. All the Gods came there and Svarog and Lada met them all. Dazhdbog had been there also, and on the middle of the joy he had decided to take a walk in Irij. Walking along he discovered a nice palace, music was playing there as golden strings. He wondered : "What might that be?" and found the answer: this was a palace of Marena Svarogovna. So, Dazhdbog entered the palace and got to Marena’s halls. She was sitting there on a high throne, she invited him to eat with her and all her guests but Dazhdbog refused this invitation thinking that Marena was quite known sorcerers and could poison him. When the dinner was finished she tried to get him into her rooms but young man refused and got out of the palace quite fast. That made Marena really mad, and she started to conjure on Dazhdbog...
Marena’s guests were coming back home and on their way they met Perun who asked what they were up to. The guests told God that they had a nice dinner in Marena’s palace and that they saw Dazhdbog there as well. This was quite striking for Perun, so he decided to get in a hurry and teach his son not to visit such suspicious places as Marena’s palace:
"You, my son, should think where you are going. I advise you to break with Marena and forget this whole story."
Dazhdbog got really offended and asked his mother Ros:
"Mom, why is dad so angry? I have been in this palace only once and spent there just an hour."
"Your father was really worried about what happened because Marena is a terrible sorcerers. You should keep your feet far from her palace. Do not look that she is beautiful."
As any child Dazhdbog got mad towards his mother because he thought she started to teach him how to live. His blood boiled up, and, as you expected, he went to Marena’s palace. As Dazhdbog entered the palace, he made a shot with his golden arrow. Marena’s guests asked him why he did that. Dazhdbog was really angry and said that he will make pieces out of the guests if they won’t shut up. Then Marena suggested to turn Dazhdbog into an ox. Everybody agreed and so was it. They threw him away from the palace. Next day shepherds found this ox and recognized Dazhdbog in him. They grabbed the ox and delivered to Ros. The mother called for Perun and asked him to get Marena and force her to turn Dazhdbog back to a man. Perun found Marena and said a couple of "nice" words to her. She found the ox and promised that she will turn Dazhdbog back to a man if he agrees to marry her. There was nothing anybody could do, and the wedding happened.
"Tell, Gamayun, prophetic bird, as Kashchej stole Marena from Dazhdbog,
and as Dazhdbog was looking for her, and as Zhiva saved Dazhdbog..."
"Of what that know, hide nothing I will..."
The news about Dazhdbog’s bride was so great that Kashchej himself got jealous and decided to abduct Marena. He called for a great amount of evil spirits that flooded the Land. Unfortunately, only Dazhdbog alone was there, no other Gods, so he himself fought all these spirits. He fought them for three days and three nights, and finally finished them all. Then he got back home and felt asleep. Kashchej entered Dazhdbog’s home and started to persuade Marena to come with him because Dazhdbog, as he told her, was only a natural son of Perun, so was only a half-god. This trick worked, Marena turned into a bird and disappeared together with Kashchej. When Dazhdbog woke up he, obviously, did not find his wife, so he asked his father to go with him and look for her but Mighty Perun said that this is his son’s duty, so Dazhdbog left alone.
Let’s now clarify some things. First of all Kashchej is a representative of the Underground World, son of Vij. However, another thing seems to be of the great importance here—a general subject of the ancient song. All Russian fairy tales follow this line: Kashchej abducts a beautiful wife, so a husband gets sad and goes to look for the Kashchej’s death and for his wife. Further development of this line leads a reader to cosmological beliefs of pagan Russians, about creation of the World by Rod. This subject is a bit complicated, so I will not discuss it here, this is not a proper place for it. I will only mention that these cosmological descriptions are very similar to the Vedic ones. A little picture at the end of this essay represents just what I said: a search for the death of Kashchej.
...So, Dazhdbog was heading towards Kashchej and Marena and shortly he recognized them. However, Marena poured a goblet of wine and said:
"Oh, my husband, Kashchej took me with the force. Drink this wine for a great grief!"
Dazhdbog finished it all and fell down. "What a great power the Hop has!", said Marena and asked Kashchej to kill her husband but the former refused to do this because Dazhdbog once saved his life and Kashchej promised to forgive him three times. "This will be the first time", said Kashchej and they threw Dazhdbog to a deep well that led to the Underground World...
After a while Dazhdbog woke up and found himself in a deep cave. God whistled calling for his horse. The horse came and dropped his tail to the cave that Dazhdbog used to climb up. They continued their journey and found Marena and Kashchej two more times. Two more times Dazhdbog drank the wine and two more times Marena was trying to force Kashchej to kill her husband but he refused. Finally, Marena nailed Dazhdbog to the rocks in Caucasus mountains in the hope that nobody will find him there.
I think now you recall Greek mythological story about Prometeos. See the parallels? That will be a food for your brain for the rest of the day. If you are really interested in ancient civilizations you will think about it for long enough time. I promise!
Let’s get back to our story... At that time Zhiva (means Life in many Slavic languages), a daughter of Svarog asked her father to go for a walk outside the Gardens. He allowed, she turned into a dove and flew away from Irij. During this airing she discovered Dazhdbog nailed in the mountains and felt in love with him. She asked him to turn away from Marena as the former was actually death and wouldn’t give anything to him. He agreed, and the Dove took Dazhdbog away from the mountains to Irij and healed.
"Tell, Gamayun, prophetic bird, tell us about the death of Kashchej
Immortal, tell about the Great Flood..."
"Of what that know, hide nothing I will..."
When Dazhdbog recovered he decided to find Kashchej and kill him. Zhiva told Dazhdbog that there is no way to kill Kashchej because he is Immortal God and Marena’s friend. They are both deaths.
"It can’t be that", answered Dazhdbog, "It is not possible that Rod made the World this way. His death must be hidden somewhere!".
So, our God went to Makosh the Fate and asked her. She told Dazhdbog that the death he is looking for is hidden in the Egg, the Egg is in the Duck, the Duck is in the Rabbit, the Rabbit is in the Chest, the Chest is under the Oak on the Island. So, Dazhdbog left to look for Kashchej’s death. On his way he met the Eagle, Wolf who promised to help Dazhdbog if he will need them. When the God came to the coast the great Snake helped him to get to the Island. Then Perun helped to get a Chest, Wolf grabbed the Rabbit, and Eagle-Rarog caught the Duck. So, Dazhdbog found this Egg.
When ancient tales and stories describe the creation on the World by Rod this Egg has a very big meaning as a source of the Fire that created everything, and Rarog is a small part of this Fire.
Our hero took the Egg and went to Kashchej’s palace. Marena was trying to give him wine using her old trick but Zhiva appeared again as a dove and spilled the wine. Nothing could stop Dazhdbog anymore, and he broke the Egg. As he did it, the Voice from Rod came and said that a Celestial Fire will appear from the broken Egg, and the Fire will kill everything as the end of the World will occur. So, that was it! All the Gods got together in Irij in order to protect it from the Fire because Irij represents Good, and the Fire is a wild and powerful Nature that only wants to destroy everything.
At this point the manuscript is sort of fuzzy. It looks like either a person who copied it from the ancient source got a real mess in his head or we have a very interesting theory here. The thing is that further events are described in a mixed pagan-plus-old-testament way. The text describes the Great Flood and Gods who survived it. Anyway, let’s get to the end of our story.
"Tell, Gamayun, prophetic bird, about the birth of the Kin of Russians,
about Laws given by Svarog..."
"Of what that know, hide nothing I will..."
So, after the first era finished, Dazhdbog and Zhiva started to create the new world. They planted woods, released fish into the sea. Dazhdbog had set Prav, separated Nav and Yav. These are the parts of the natural life flow, as Russians believed in. Dazhdbog and Zhiva accepted golden wreaths from Svarog and got married. So, that’s how Russians appeared, and that’s why they are called his grandchildren. Just because we really are...
I should admit, I did not expect this essay to be that long but it finally happened to be that way. I omitted a lot of details and beautiful descriptions of places and battles, did not describe the creation of the World by Rod, appearance of Svarog, other Gods, and I kept a complete silence about other important figures: Veles and Yaro. The first one is sometimes shown as a God of farmers, the second one represents spring, love and looks like Apollo. There are a lot of men in Russia who wear the name Yaroslav, a true Russian name with a great history and honor.
To be honest, the essay seems to me a bit dry since, I believe, I failed to give you a real taste of the events. However, this can really be justified: it is incredibly hard to translate tales into another language, especially if the languages are so different, English and Russian. Moreover, this ancient style of the manuscripts seems to be a little bit weird even for the modern Russian language, so I ask you to forgive me a kind of sharp translations. I smoothed it as much as I could trying to bring a bit of humor into the text. You may be a little bit confused about this name Gamayun. Well, this, you guessed right, is a prophetic bird in Russian mythology. The bird knows everything, she saw all the events. In the books the one is painted as a bird with girl’s head and very big wings. She is usually sitting on trees in woods and tells stories.
If you are really interested in thing of the kind I told here, well, you’d better run to a library and pile yourself with books, pictures and ancient manuscripts. Do not forget to learn at least one ancient language. I can also provide you with a little list of references about Russian pagan religion . Did I scare you? No... don’t be afraid! This journey will lead you to the great World of the Past that is extremely important, though, important for us who lives now...
As old Russian fairy tales say, " And I had been there, was drinking mead and beer but no drop got to my mouth." It means that I spent all my time talking, which is how it is supposed to be when a person tells fairy tales.