Eastern European Goddesses

Anapel, Little Grandmother Aspelenie, Hearth Snake Ausrine and Saule, Ladies Bright
Baba Yaga, Lady Circle The Bereginy, Wood Maids Bozaloshtsh, Lady Who Cries
Dziewanna, Lady of Spring Haltia, Lady of the Home Koliada, Lady of Time
Lada, Spring Maiden Mokosh, Lady of Waters The Rusalka, Watery Ones
Slatababa, Golden Goddess Suksendal, Night Spirit The Zorya, Guardians of the Sun

Eastern Europe is generally defined as the region between Germany in the west and Russia in the east. I have chosen, however, to include in my definition everything east and south of modern-day Germany, including Russia, the Baltic States, and Siberia; that is, the entirety of the former Soviet Union.

Eastern Europe has long been the "poor neighbor" of the continent, the wrong side of the tracks. In Western history books it is often portrayed as a land of poor farmers and despotic nobles, generations behind the rest of Europe in technological and political development. To an extent this is true: it is difficult to develop new technologies or maintain liberal political institutions amid harsh climate and/or constant invasion from the west and the east. Poland is the most well-known of the Eastern European nations to be torn apart by these constant invasions; for a time, it ceased to exist entirely, having been partitioned by Russia, Germany and the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

Farther to the east, Siberia stood as a land apart. It was rarely entered by Europeans, primarily because of the region's inhospitable climate: winter's are freezing and long and dark; spring brings only a mild warmth and melting of surface ice. Permafrost is a fact of life. The peoples of this region are closely related to the Chinese and other Asians, and the Natives of the Americas. Among the peoples of the interior, life has little changed over the centuries. Only along the coast, where strategic naval bases were built, has life changed to any degree. The interior may yet experience change, though: technologies are now being developed to exploit the vast mineral wealth of Siberia.

Eastern Europe is a mixture of peoples and languages and cultures. Serbs, Croats, Montenegrans, Albanians, Bulgarians, Romanians, Poles, Hungarians, Czechs, Italians, Lithuanians, Latvians, Estonians, Finns and a variety of other Slavic and non-Slavic peoples make their home there. Ethnicities frequently cross over political boundaries and intermingle; hence, the numerous genocidal wars over the centuries, as ethnic groups battled for power. Languages vary from Latin-influenced Romanian, to German, Slavic and distinct Finno-Ugric. Religions, too, vary from Catholicism, to Eastern Orthodox and Russian Orthodox, and Islam. Small pockets of Judaism are also present.

This is a land which is home to stubborn Gods and Goddesses. It took generations of missionaries and Crusaders to convert the people to Christianity and Islam; only Northern Europe took longer to bring into the fold. Christian priests reported with horror and despondency that Slavic women in the late nineteenth century were still making offerings and devotions to Mati Syra Zemlya, Moist Mother Earth. Partly because of the lateness of the conversion, many stories of Pagan Gods and Goddesses have survived. The Siberian interior has yet to feel the full power of the Crucifix or the Crescent.

The Iron Curtain has rusted away. Eastern Europe is now entering an era of uncertainty. It is unclear which nations will prosper, which decline, which elect democratic governments, which return to totalitarianism. War has devastated the lands which formerly made Yugoslavia; economic and labor strife tears at the heart of Russia; Hungary is prospering. Let us hope all turns out well.

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Anapel, Little Grandmother

Known as "Little Grandmother," this Goddess of the Koryak people of Siberia is Matron of reincarnation.

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Aspelenie, Hearth Snake

Among pre-Christian Lithuanians, Aspelenie was honored as Goddess of Home and Hearth. She took the form of a friendly serpent. The serpent was also considered a servant of the Sun Goddess Saule, and to harm a serpent was a blasphemous offense. While predominantly Christian, there is an active and vocal Pagan resergence in Lithuania.

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Ausrine and Saule, Ladies Bright

Saule is the Sun Goddess of ancient Lithuania. Ausrine is Her Daughter, the "Lady of the Morning Star." Saule's husband, Ausrine's father, is Meness the God of the Moon.

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Baba Yaga, Lady Circle

Generally known in fairy tales as the prototypical Witch in the Woods (see Hansel and Gretel), Baba Yaga is in fact an ancient Triple Goddess. She manifests the traditional three phases of a woman's life: Maiden, Mother and Crone. Many Russian fairy tales recount Her confrontations with the Czar or Czar's son, perhaps obscured recollections of the long-ago overthrow of the native Goddess. Many fairy tales also center on Her maiden aspect, Vasilisa--who usually ends the story in marriage to the Czar or Czar's son.

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The Bereginy, Wood Maids

The Bereginy, like the Nymphae of Greece and Rome, were spirits of nature. They were honored by women throughout the Slavic regions of Europe even through the Middle Ages. See the Nymphae (Greaco-Roman Goddesses), the Yakshi (Hindu Goddesses) and the Duc Ba (South-East Asian Goddesses).

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Bozaloshtsh, Lady Who Cries

Crying spirits whose scream announces immenent death are common in European mythology: the Banshee of the Irish is the most well-known. Among the ancient Wend of Germany, Bozaloshtsh was just such a spirit.

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Dziewanna, Lady of Spring

This Polish Goddess was Matron of Spring and Agriculture. She was especially honored by farmers.

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Haltia, Lady of the Home

This Goddess of the Home was honored by Baltic Finns. The Estonians called her Holdja. Her tale contains a cautionary note for those considering a move to a new home....See also Vesta (Graeco-Roman Goddesses).

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Koliada, Lady of Time

Also known as Koljada, this Russian Goddess is the personification of Time and the Winter Solstice. A special festival was held in Her honor at the Solstice.

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Lada, Spring Maiden

Lada, Goddess of Spring and Love, was worshipped throughout Lithuania, Poland and Russia. Spring and love are often placed under the auspices of the same Deity, whether male or female, for obvious reasons: spring is the season of reproduction and new life, often outcomes of love.

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Mokosh, Lady of Waters

This Goddess of Moisture was honored throughout Slavic Europe under a variety of related names. Christian writers as late as the 16th century CE complained that women still honored Mokosh.

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The Rusalka, Watery Ones

The Rusalka were water spirits honored in Russia. Fertility is their special domain. The Rusalka would make excellent champions of Russia's struggling Green Movement.

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Slatababa, Golden Goddess

This tale is told by the Ugric of Russia. It may or may not be based on historical fact.

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Suksendal, Night Spirit

This evil spirit of the night is feared by the Tartar people of Siberia. Perhaps She is abstract fears of darkness and death given concrete, human form.

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The Zorya, Guardians of the Sun

The Zorya are ancient Slavic sky and light Goddesses, honored particularly in Russia.Sometimes only two in number, They are usually portrayed as three, a not uncommon number in world mythology.

THE ZORYA from ART AND WORDS

©Kris Waldherr

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