chapter  6
11 Pages

The Resurrection of Perun

The Slavenes ‘believe that one of the gods, creator of the lightning, is the one ruler over everything, and sacri ce to him cattle and other sacri cial animals. They do not accept predestination, but . . . when they are threatened by death-in illness or war-swear, if they are spared, to sacri ce to the god in return for their lives. . . . They worship rivers, nymphs, and all kinds of gods, and to all of these they make sacri ces, and at the same time as they sacri ce they predict the future. (Procopius of Caesarea, Wars 14: 22-30)

As compared to the pagan mythologies of classical Greece and Rome, we know little about ancient Slavic mythology. Of course, in Russia more is known than in the West, but even in Russia more is known of Greek and Roman mythology than of Slavic. This is due ‘chie y to the way writing was introduced to the Slavic world. . . . Writing was, from the start, a tool of Christian enlightenment among the Slavs’ (Yoffe and Krafczik 2003: 1). However, in Russia there has of late been great interest in Slavic mythology.

In ‘The Resurrection of Perun: Reconstructing East Slavic Religion’ (2004) Klejn surveys the historical background to research into Slavic mythology. Scholarly interest in the subject began in the Renaissance, when two Polish scholars of the fteenth-sixteenth centuries, Dlugosch and Srtryjkovski ‘relayed (in a somewhat confused and tangled way) certain data from the Russian chronicles, as well as mentioning what they themselves had heard in the East’.1 In the seventeenth century other European travellers collected further evidence about pagan beliefs in Russia, but in Russia itself scholarly interest in Slavic paganism dates only to the time of Peter the Great in the eighteenth century. ‘Initially, the confused notions of Western scholarship of the time were borrowed wholesale2-and still in the early nineteenth century Russian scholars based their approach on purely speculative