In Latvia festival Abjumidas - began the autumn season. Abjumidas was celebrated to honor the god Jumis. He was pagan god of harvest and fertility and he was celebrated during autumn equinox between 22-24th of September. If you wish to find out more about Latvian deities you can find the full list here.
andOctober first Mikeli or the day of St.Michael was named after both a Catholic saint and the archangel Michael. It is very likely that originally Mikeli was a nature spirit. In Latvian folk belief St.Michael was the receiver of souls. Before the arrival of Christianity in Latvia that was the job of the god Jumis.
In both Finland and in Latvia Mikeli was the "gate to winter" and all the farm work had to be finished by Mikeli.
In Latvia people believed into the dividing time, a period in autumn when all the spirits of the dead wandered on the earth. Velu Laiks means time of the dead and it was followed by Ledus likes the time of the ice. After Ledus likes it was safe to walk on ice.
Maritini also known as Martindiena was celebrated on November 10th. In Finland day is known as Martinpäivä and in Estonia as Mardipäev. Martini was named after the Catholic St.Martin of Tours or Martin Luther, the founder of Lutheranism. Day of St.Martin is celebrated all over Europe but the holiday itself is way older and the name of it is based on the French word morti and Latin mori meaning death. In pre-Christian times in Latvia Martini was celebrated to honor the horse god Martinš. He was a dual god. In the spring time he would turn into god Usinš.
During the night of Martini young ladies threw their skirts to the floor before going to bed and in the dream their future spouse would pick it up.
There must have been many kinds of rituals to celebrate this special day. One that I found was a protection ritual for the horses where a rooster was sacrificed. On the eve of Martini horse´s mouth was touched with the rooster and then it was lifted towards the sun. Blood of the rooster was dropped to the horse oats. Latvians worshiped the sun goddess saule so lifting the rooster towards the sun was a sacrificial gift for the goddess. On the next day the left back food of the horse was painted with blood. Dead rooster was smugded in the stable and was put inside a bread and carried around the building to drive away evil spirit. Rooster was a surrogate victim.
Fortunately this custom is not practiced in modern Latvia.
Festivities included masquarade parades, sleigh riding, dances and preparing lots of food. There was also martiparades going on around Martini. Big martis were grown ups and small martis were children. Marti´s were people who painted their faces and dressed up as spirits of the dead. These parades were common in othe countries as well like Austria, Germany, Finland, Holland, Sweden and in Estonia.
In the myths of Latvians and Lithuanins Dievs/Dievas is the god of the skies. I hope you enjoy the video. If you prefer to read about the Baltic deities you can find my article on them here.
Austeja is the goddess of the bees in Baltic mythology. Stories about her are intriguing and interesting )O( Enjoy.
Chatting about Vélines. The Lithuanian day of the dead which has very interesting origins. Enjoy )O(
Talking about fairies in the Baltic mythology. I also have an article written on the subject, if you prefer to read. You can find it here.
Dievas, God of the Sky
Ancient Baltic tribes worshiped a sky god called Dievas (Lithuania) or Dievs(Latvia). There is not much revealed about the physical characteristics of Dievas. He was told to be a young man who dressed in silver, felt and silken clothing and he carried a shining silver (sometimes) green sword reflecting the outlook of Baltic dukes of the past. He was told to wear a white shirt and a gray coat. Sometimes he veiled himself so people would not consider him as a ruler. Dievas had ability to turn himself into an old man and in that form he visited people from house to house and from village to village giving gifts and helping them.
Home of Dievas
Dievas was seen as the creator god. Not as the creator of all things but as the creator of cultural values of humans. He was the god who legislated law and order in the world. People believed that Dievas lived in a farmstead of his own which was located at the top of high, silver mountain. His farm was rich earthly farm which included fields, gardens, houses and a pirtis (Baltic sauna). Dievas had a golden or a silver wagon or sleigh which was pulled by two dappled steeds called Dievo žirgai. Sometimes these steeds appeared as black dogs or as black ravens. Dievas also rode with his steeds. He rode down from his heavenly mountain to increase the fecundity of the fields. His slow ride down from the mountain was used to explain the approaching of spring and summer. His appearance accompanied the cycles of the sun and he was closely connected to the sun goddess Saulė. Sometimes depicted as her husband, her brother or her close servant. Both Dievas and Saulė were celebrated during Rasa the Summer Solstice festival.
Dievas was closely connected to horses and was widely considered as a horse god. Ancient Balts believed that horses were sacred gifts from Dievas. He was a god who helped horsemen and gave advices on raising and taking care of the horses. Dievas was also connected to the triple-aspect goddess of faith Laima. In some stories Dievas even appears as the father of Laima. Since Dievas was the god of cultural values and law and order he had direct contact to the human world at births, weddings and deaths. He was summoned into ceremonies to witness oaths and promises. Both Laima and Dievas were seen as deities of faith. There are many folk tales describing arguments and conflicts between Dievas and Laima. She won the arguments most of the time. When Baltic lands were converted into Christianity in the late Middle Ages name of Dievas was chosen to represent the Christian god. This was because among the pagan Balts Dievas was very much liked and respected god and he was considered as one of the leader god-figures in the Baltic pantheon.
Perkūnas god of thunder
In many cultures sky god and thunder god are considered as one and the same but in Baltic mythology Dievas and Perkūnas are two independent, separate figures. Name of Perkūnas comes from the word Perk which is proto-Baltic word meaning oak. In Latvian his name is Pērkons and Perkuns in Prussian. In Finland one of the old names for the thunder god Ukko was Perkele. Pērkons was the god of fire, thunder, order and chaos. All over Lithuania Perkūnas had sacred lands called Alkos. There were sacred fires kept burning to Perkūnas in these forests and ladies protecting the fire were called vestals. Hills and oaks that were ”touched” by (hit by Perkūnas a lightning) were considered holy. Tree or a rock strucked by Perkūnas protected from evil and diseases.
God of Nature
Perkūnas brought the rain with him so for the farmers he was the god nature controlling the lightnings and the weather. He sent rain and revived the fertility of the earth. Thunder was seen as a holy phenomenon. Each spring people waited for the first thunder and it was forbidden to till the soil before that. For Perkūnas awoke the earth and everything began to grow. If the first thunder became before Easter it was bad but if it became after Easter it was good.
Memorial candles called grauduliné were burned to symbolize Perkūnas in different rituals. Sacred day of Perkūnas was Thursday. Connection between Perkūnas and Thursday probably was inspired by Germanic myths. Image of thunder god shares similar features across the world. In his human form Perkūnas was described to be an angry man with copper beard, carrying an ax or a bolt of lightning. Perkūnas had a dual role. He was the god of order and at the same time he was god that ruled chaos. He had the ability to create harmony and to shatter it. Two headed ax was the symbol of that. It depicted his creative abilities and his destructive powers. In folktales Perkūnas is described as a god who fights against evil powers. There are many stories where he pursues Velnias the god of the dead. Perkūnas had many holidays throughout the year. Perkūnas Day Perkūnas grauduliné (Candle-mass) on the second of February, Pelenija (Mardi Grass), Joré the first bloom (Easter), June 24ththe fire of Perkūnas and 29th of June Perkūnas Day.
Velnias God of the Underworld
Name of Velnias comes from the word vélé meaning a spirit of the departed. In Baltic myths stories about Velnias are some of the most popular ones. He was the god of the underworld but he was also associated with trade, hunting and agriculture. He worked closely with the sky god Dievas either as an assistant or as an antagonist. He shares similar features with Prussian god Patula, Scandinavian Odin and Hindu gods Varuna and Vritra. Being one of the most popular characters in Lithuanian folklore Velnias is often mentioned in superstitions, beliefs, poems and songs. After the introduction to Christianity his character was transformed to portray the Christian devil.
God of Controversy
Velnias had ability to appear in different shapes and forms and in general in Baltic folk tales shape sifting is one of the most common elements. Velnias appeared in the shape of different animals, birds and reptiles. He could take form of people of different ages and professions. Velnias relationship with humans was rather complicated. At times he seek their friendship, love, acceptance or help. He helped people to till their land, build bridges, houses and churches. Helped those who needed assistance such as black smiths and hunters. He could also harm people in various ways. Tempted them to commit sin, entered into their soul and seduced them, mocked them and made fun of them.
Bringer of life and death
Velnias was the guardian of the dead. He was patron god of animals through shape sifting and re-carnation. He was also patron of the shepherds and herdsmen. In folk tales Velnias was described as a physically attractive man who seek love of women and sometimes even married them. Stories about Velnias and his relationship to women were very much disproved by Christians which later on increased his questionable reputation. In many countries and cultures in the creation myth the creator(s) has an assistant who helps them to materialize their ideas. Very often the assistant is unwilling or trickster who causes conflicts. Velnias was the assistant of the gods but his legend contains more than that. In the earliest layer of Baltic mythology Velnias was seen as one of the cosmological creator beings as one of the creators of the material world. His connection to death and re carnation dates back to prehistoric times and Baltic ancestral worship.
Stories about the Aitvarai. Nature spirits, dragons and other mystical beings in Baltic folklore. Enjoy )O(
In the Lithuanian mythology Ragana is the primal goddess of magic, witchcraft and shamanism )O( Enjoy
Baltic countries are three countries next to the Baltic sea; Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia. In this article I focus on stories about fairies told in Latvia and Lithuania.
Fairies of the Baltic lands
Baltic fairy is known as lauma (singular) (plural laumes). Worship of these creatures in Baltic lands dates back to Mesolithic times and belief for them is even older than Baltic pantheon with different gods and goddesses. Laumes were servants of Laimathe Baltic goddess of faith. Laumes were also closely connected to Baltic earth goddess Zemyna. Worship of the mother earth is ancient and dates back over 30 000 years within Europe. Both Zemyna and Laima were some of the most worshiped and respected goddesses in Latvia and Lithuania during Pre-Christian times.
Half Women Half Animals
Laumes were nature spirits connected to different elements. First image of laumes was not very pleasant. Laumes were described to be metamorphic. They were hybrids between human women and animals. They had upper body of a woman, birds claws and middle torso of a horse, bear, goat or a dog. Many times they had only one eye in the middle of the forehead. Some of the laumes were similar to centaurs in Greek mythology. Laumes were believed to be seducers who were extremely dangerous especially to men. Laumes had a dual role in the society. They were protectors of women, children and orphans. Laima the goddess of the faith was highly worshiped especially among pregnant women because she was the one who was in charge of the child´s faith.These early stories about the laumes come all the way from Mesolithic times. Dating all the way back to the time after the ice age when groups of people moved to new living areas. Maybe these early stories of Laumes were inspired by the totemic beliefs of these early people.
Protectors of Nature
During thousands of years the image of lauma changed and became more closer to the idea how we in modern world see fairies. They were no longer hybrid creatures but instead they looked like ordinary women. They were slim ladies dressed in silk. Laumes were not described to have wings but it was possible that some of them did have wings. According to some legends Laumes were spirits of passed away orphans. Laumes were guardians of nature and connected to different elements. Air, fire, water and earth. They lived in forests, lakes, abandoned bath houses, swamps and meadows. These fairies loved to sing and dance. After the dance, when they walked away, their footprints would turn into mushroom rings and flowers. Laumes had the power to invite the rain and create thunder storms. This is probably influence from Slavic mythology where Rusalki the water spirits had similar powers.
Laima Goddess of Faith
Laumes were connected to weaving and spinning. Spinning wheel was the symbol of Laima the goddess of faith and destiny. Thread that she was spinning was the symbol of human life. Laima was in charge of everything that happened in the lives of humans but also what happened in nature. She was told to be a talented weaver who weaved all human lives together. Laima was highly worshiped among humans because she was the one who was in charge of everyone´s final destiny.
Vaiva And The Story Of The Rainbow
There is a beautiful story from Lithuania about a fairy called Vaiva. Perkunas the thunder god was in love with Vaiva but she was in love with a mortal man. A musician called Straublus. Perkunas took Vaiva into the skies and forced her to live there with him. Vaiva had a colorful belt that she threw from the skies to earth to Straublus. This belt was the rainbow. There are other versions of the story and according to one Vaiva was getting married with Perkunas but the moon goddess Menulis was in love with her.
In Lithuania laumes were connected to the woodlands and to the fertility of the land but in Latvia they were connected to motherhood and magic of birth. In Latvia it was believed that if the mother died during childbirth lauma would become the fairy god-mother and the protector of the child. It was lauma´s duty to protect the child during their entire life. In Middle Ages Europe was constant battle field between different countries, cultures and religions. Goddesses like Laima the goddess of faith was demonized and she was turned into an old hag. This was also the time when Baltic society became more patriarchal and warmongering. Ancient pagan belief system in Baltic lands had been matriarchal and goddess-oriented without bashing male deities. All fairies were demonized together with the goddesses. When before Lauma was someone who guarded the child and was the protector of orphans, Now Lauma became evil character who killed the child or purposely killed the mother so that they could keep the child to them-self. Faith that Laima faced was a faith she shared with several other goddesses around the world.
Legacy of laumes still lives in Baltic lands where you can find several ancient pagan shrines. They are under protection and part of the cultural heritage.
Artist and Illustrator. Mythology and Folklore enthusiastic. Keen traveler. Comes from Finland. Likes cats, tea, and such.
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