to Lithuanian Paganism
A poplar stood alongside a road. Sounding kankles – from
below the roots, buzzing bees – in the middle,
falcon’s children – at the top. And a group of
brothers comes riding on horseback. Please stop, young
brothers: listen to the sounding kankles, listen to the
buzzing bees, look at the falcon’s children.
Basic Outline of Lecture:
of the Palubenskaites Sisters
/ Basic mythology & deities & lesser creatures
basics of the faith
do we incorporate Baltic Faith into an urban, modern lifestyle?
traditions and celebrations
of the World's Religions
start our talk on Lithuanian Pre-Christian Faith, I would
like to share a particular prayer. Please keep this prayer
in mind throughout the entire talk, as many of the themes
will be expanded upon.
1. A Lithuanian Prayer
In 1938, Pranas Antalkis recorded the following prayer,
recited by Elzbieta and Marija Palubenskaite. The
informants had smuggled Lithuanian books into Lithuania
during the Czarist prohibition of Lithuanian language
press in the latter half of the 19th century. The prayers
stem from those times. Jonas Trinkunas, Seniunas of the
Vilnius Romuva in Lithuania, edited the text.
That I may love and respect my mother, father and old
people; that I may protect their graves from rending and
destruction; that I may plant oaks, junipers, wormwoods
and silverweed for their rest in cemeteries. Those who do
not love and respect their bearers will await hardship in
their old age or will not grow old at all.
That my hands may never become bloody from human blood.
That the blood of animals, fish or birds may not soil my
hands, if I might kill them satiated and not hungry. Those
who today kill animals with delight will tomorrow drink
human blood. The more hunters live in Lithuania, the
further fortune and a happy life escapes us.
That I may not fell a single tree without holy need; that
I may not step on a blooming field; that I may always
That I may love and respect Bread. If a crumb should
accidentally fall, I will lift it, kiss it and apologize.
If we all respect bread, there will be no starvation or
That I may never hurt anyone; that I may always give the
correct change; that I may not mistakenly steal even the
smallest coin. The Gods punish for offences.
That I may not denigrate foreign beliefs and may not poke
fun at my own faith. The Gods look with grace upon those
who plant trees along roads, in homesteads, at holy
places, at crossroads, and by houses. If you wed, plant a
wedding tree. If a child is born, plant a tree. If someone
beloved dies, plant a tree for the Vele.
At all holidays, during all important events, visit trees.
Prayers will attain holiness through trees of thanks.
2. Introduction / Basic Mythology & deities
& lesser Creatures
The Lithuanian Indigenous Religion formed from the Baltic
convergence of the Old European Chthonic and the
Indo-European heavenly religions. This union occurred on
the shores of the Baltic Sea, and is uniquely Baltic.
The Balts are exceptional among Indo-European groups in
that they have maintained their language, folklore, Pagan beliefs and customs in a remarkably pure state for so
long. A deliberate effort to convert the native population
to Christianity was begun only after Grand Prince Jogaila
accepted baptism in 1386, together with the royal crown of
Poland. But for a long time the new religions retained
only a superficial hold on the population, which remained
"stubbornly Pagan" in some regions even to this
century. To put it simply – we were the last Pagans of
Romuva is the Lithuanian Expression of Baltic Faith. The
name is a tribute to the fallen Prussians, who were also
Balts – but their language and culture was assimilated
by the early 1700s. Romuva is the name of the most
important sanctuary of the Prussians, which was destroyed
by crusaders in the 13th century. The symbol of Romuva is
a stylised sacred oak tree with three pairs of branches,
topped by a sacred flame. Underneath, the word romove (a
cognate of Romuva, meaning a group of people who would
worship at the ancient Baltic sanctuary Romuva) is written
in runic letters.
Turning to the basics of the faith, the richest sources we
have are the Liaudes Dainos – ancient folksongs.
As you may recall, I have stated that Lithuania was the
last Pagan Empire (at one point stretching from the Baltic
to the Black Sea, and encompassing much of what is present
day Russia, Ukraine, Belarus and so forth). Much of the
mythology, folk beliefs and practices have continued to
this day. Lithuanians are an unusual amalgam of Pagan beliefs and catholic faith. As an example, while visiting
my mother’s family in Punsk Poland I had the good
fortune to experience Zolines (Day of Žemyna) – which
was led by the Parish Priest. The priest, along with the
rest of the parish circled around the town, starting in
the cemetery. The celebration continued next to a lake,
where a huge town festival occurred – to celebrate the
fertility of the land.
Lithuanian mythological beliefs can be divided into four
categories, gods, spirits and demons (low mythology),
worship of nature, and the worship of the dead. The lists
are quite extensive, and instead of going through each
possible deity, mythological creature, spirits and demons
I would like to highlight some of the more prevalent
throughout the region. Lithuanian faith was never a
uniform system throughout the vast lands which Lithuania
held influence over. Within the borders of present day
Lithuania there were regional variations – where some
particular deities were revered more than others.
Therefore, I would like to look at those who are more
“universal” to Lithuanian faith – for lack of a
The supreme god was called "Dievas", which quite
literally means god. The variations for the Balts are:
Prussian Deywis, Deiws, and Latvian Dievs. The name is
derived from the Indo-European name of god Deivos. You can
see the connections with the Hindi Devi, Greek Zeus, Latin
Deus and so forth. Dievas appears as an old man – grey
crooked, and clumsy. Though appearing nearly grotesque,
Dievas is very powerful – he enjoys enormous creative
power. This power is used as an explanation for the
creation of certain “items” – for example, when
Dievas washes himself, falling water droplets nourishes
the ground, and man is born. Dievas is also very much
involved in norms and ethics – and can be quite severe.
His rigour closely resembles Varuna from the Rigveda
period in India, also the highest and relentless god who
portions punishments in compliance with the strictest code
Another area of responsibility was as determiner of Fate
– coming into contact with the human world through
births, weddings and deaths. This parallels the influence
of Laima, the triple goddess of Fate, who powers and
functions were expropriated by Dievas. In certain dainos
Dievas appears as the Father of Laima. The confrontation
of Dievas and Laima results in limited, recurring
folkloric strife between the two. Laima wins the argument
in an overwhelming number of such clashes.
In later times the title "Dievas" was used to
denote the Christian god, while the other Lithuanian
deities were relegated to becoming lesser gods and
goddesses. Sometimes the deities became demons -as in the
case of Gabija, goddess of the hearth fire. The most
important god, after Dievas, was Perkūnas (or Perkons
in Latvian). He was master of the atmosphere and the
waters of the sky, as well as the fecundity of flora,
human morality and justice.
The etymology of Perkūnas’s name is not completely
clear. He is associated with the Latin “quercus” (oak
tree), and also from “perti”, to strike. In Ipatij
manuscripts Perkūnas is named also called Divirkis
– the bishop of gods. Though Dievas is the most
important in the pantheon, it is Perkūnas who is of
greatest importance to a heavily agrarian society –
which Lithuania was, well into the 20th century.
Perkūnas has five functions within the mythos cycle.
He is first a fertility god. His name means, literally,
Thunder. In addition, he is associated with rain,
lightening and thunder. In 1610, a catholic cleric (D.
Fabricius) wrote: "During a drought, when there
hasn’t been rain, they worship Perkons in thick forests
on hills and sacrifice to him a black calf, a black goat,
and a black cock". When killed, the people would come
together from all the surrounding countryside, to eat and
drink. They would pay homage to their thunder god by first
pouring him beer, which is then brought around the fire,
and then poured it into this fire, asking Perkons for
His second function was in the realm of morality. There
was an ancient custom, which sought to preserve water,
keep it unpolluted. This was associated with the belief
that various deities lived in water: mermaids, spirits,
and souls, especially those of the drowned. Juratė
was the Queen of the Baltic Sea, but Perkūnas killed
her for loving Kastytis, a son of earth.
Another set of myths surrounding Perkūnas’s
responsibilities, vis-à-vis morality, was in his ongoing
struggle with the devil. The word “devil” conjures up
many images, but the Lithuanian devil is very different
from what one would expect. When most people think of the
Devil, the first image to pop into their minds is that of
a cloven footed creature, a fallen angel excluded from
God’s grace. The Devil is Yahweh’s polar opposite,
equal in the continuing struggle between good and evil. On
the other hand, the ancient Lithuanians’ conception of a
devil was that of a mischievous, rather stupid and easily
Perkūnas is also a participant in the Heavenly
Wedding, a Latvian tale of the Sun’s daughter’s
wedding. Sometimes Perkūnas is a guest of the Sun or
a guest of the Moon. In the story, the Moon kidnaps the
Sun’s daughter’s bridegroom, Aukseklis’ (morning
star). To my mind, this is the Latvian explanation for why
the Sun and Moon refuse to see each other; there is
another, which is Lithuanian. But as to Perkūnas,
while on his way to the wedding he strikes a golden oak.
Some theorise that this may mean that by striking the oak
Perkūnas was performing an exorcism to repel evil
spirits (Velnias frequently hides under the roots of an
oak). In Latvian wedding songs, when a bride comes to her
new home, the husband’s relatives cut a cross in the
doorpost with the same intention.
His fourth function is that of the Heavenly Smith. There
are two views on this topic: one, that the Heavenly Smith
is an independent god, and a servant of Perkūnas; and
two, that Perkūnas is the Heavenly Smith. It was the
Smith who created the Sun and Moon, hammering them into
existence (their eventual division).
Perkūnas’ fifth function is highly debated between
academics, whether he is a war god. Though Perkūnas
is well armed, he is not involved in war affairs. There is
no true consensus on the issue, but there is agreement
over his using his weaponry in creating thunder and
lightening in his persecution of the devil.
Saulė ir Menulis
Since I have already mentioned the two main celestial
bodies, it would seem to be apropos to discuss them.
Within each culture, these two celestial bodies are
portrayed in varying ways. In Lithuanian mythology, the
Sun is feminine and the Moon is masculine.
The Heavenly Wedding is but one example of how the Sun and
Moon came to a disagreement. The Sun accused the Moon of
kidnapping her daughter’s bridegroom, according to
Latvian myths. In Lithuania the Sun and Moon were not
rivals, but husband and wife -and, their daughter was Žemyna,
the Earth. The two were divorced, over the Moon’s
inability to stay faithful to his wife.
In the "Liaudies Dainos" there is a folk-song,
which tells of this:
Menuo Sauluže vede
Sauluže anksti keles
Menuo viens vaikštinejo
Perkūns, didžiai supykes,
Jį kardu perdalijo
-Ko Saulužes atsiskyrei?
Viens nakti vaikštinejai?
first blush of Spring Menulis and Saulė married.
Saulė rose early, leaving Menulis’s side.
Menulis went out on his own.
Menulis made love to Ausrine.
Perkūnas, with great anger,
Struck Menulis with his sword.
“Why did you leave Saulė?
Why did you make love to Ausrine?
Why did you wander about in the dark?”
This is why the Sun shines during the day and the Moon at
night. Though divorced, both want to see their daughter.
The Sun is Saulė, and is one of the most powerful of
the goddesses. She it is who provides the warmth of
nature, and fertility. As well, Saulė is patroness of
all misfortunates, especially orphans, since she is the
only substitute of a mother’s warmth. The word for
“world” is “pasaulis” and it is translated as
“under the sun”. She is the universal mother.
The Moon, called Menulis, her ex husband, receives prayers
for healing. He is known alternatively as Young God or
Prince. When the new moon is seen, there a few prayers
which can be said, such as: "Moon, moon, dear moon,
bright little god of the Heaven, you must become round and
I remain healthy. Give him the fullness and me the realm
of Perkūnas." Alternatively "I bless you,
bright dear moon I wish brightness to you and beauty for
myself; I wish you the qualities of a god, and give me the
qualities of a man." The former used against all
diseases and the latter for gaining beauty.
A child of Saulė and Menulis, Žemyna, the Earth, is
the most important deity, next to Perkūnas. Since all
life springs from her, she was honoured at the birth of
every child. Her image was kissed reverently in the
morning and in the evening. Food offerings were laid in
front of stones, tied to tree branches, or flung into a
flowing river to give her thanks for the new life.
Her name means "Earth" and the poetry exalts her
productiveness by calling her "Bloomer",
"Bud Raiser", and "Flower Giver". As
her name implies, her main responsibility was plant life
-not only agrarian, but weeds, trees, algae, and arctic
lichen. Connected to Žemyna were trees with three leaves
or nine branches, and the oak, linden and spruce were her
favourites. It was believed that women were represented or
personified by lindens and spruce; men by oaks, maples,
and birches. Young virgins by lilies, and village
ancestors would reside in fruit trees.
August 15th is the most important day, a day of triumph
for Žemyna and all other "Earth Goddesses". It
is the feast of herbs, flowers, a corn richly celebrated
to this day throughout Europe. In Lithuania, bouquets of
flowers and ears of corn are brought to church for the
goddess to bless (or Mary).
The Earth is the holiest of holies for Lithuanians, and
one cannot joke with her or give offerings at irregular
intervals. In 1582, it was reported that a family member
or farm animal in eastern Lithuania could become paralysed
or a huge snake could obstruct the entrance to a household
if one was lax in his offerings to the Earth.
Laima ir Giltinė
Laima is the Goddess of Destiny, Luck both good and bad.
She is closely associated with Marša – luck for cows,
and Dalia – giver and taker of goods.
She is a weaver, much like the Greek Fates. She weaves out
the life for all creatures, and controls the most
important events of a person’s life, such as birth,
death and marriage. She is also the patron of pregnant
women and a good pregnancy is assured so long as she is in
Laima was already known during Žemyna’s era as either
Žemyna’s sister or daughter of the pre-Baltic Mother Žemyna
of the Marshes. It is likely that she was known to the
pre-Balts as one of many divine manifestations of the
Mother Goddess. In this early period Laima was a divine
power, governing the metamorphosis of things in Mother
Nature, especially of plants and animals – by arranging
their births, life and death. Laima acquired the status of
Goddess of Destiny. Eventually she rose even above the
Gods, obtaining the aura of divinity. In this sense she
can be viewed as the Baltic Counterpart to the Greek
Moira. During Perkūnas’ era she played a
significant and ever increasing role. Perkūnas was
not able to turn aside the destinies placed by Laima upon
the warrior and leaders of the Baltic Tribes.
According to Latvian myths Laima supervised mothers giving
birth. Not only was individual happiness destined by Laima,
but so too that of the farmstead, community and even the
Other than Dievas only Laima has functions of creativity.
The counterpart to Laima is Giltinė, goddess of
death. When the time of death comes, she is there at the
dying person’s head. Barriers of any kind cannot stop
her. Appearance wise, she is visualised as being tall and
slim, and with an insatiable appetite. Much like Kali, she
has a poisonous tongue, which lolls about. Dressed in a
white sheet, she collects poison from the bodies of the
dead in graveyards. If she licks a person’s face, he or
she will instantly die. "Giltinė" is
derived from a root, which has a double meaning, that of
stinging and the colour yellow. Yellow is the colour death
since it is the colour of bone.
Returning to Laima, according to Marija Gimbutas, in her
The Language of the Goddess, up until the second half of
the nineteenth century, there was a birthing ritual
practised in the sauna. It was presided over by the family
matriarch, and only women were permitted to the ritual.
"After the birth, a hen was sacrificed to.. Laima.
The grandmother killed it with a wooden ladle. Kneeling
down, the participants then ate the chicken." Gifts
to Laima were linen towels, woven belts, and spindle
whorls -quite similar to what a bride would receive on her
Gabija is the Hearth Fire Goddess – and all rituals
start with offerings made to Gabija. She is tended by
women only, given offerings by women only and banked at
night by women only. She is one of several deities in
which a large collection of women-only rituals exist. Just
as Žemyna, Gabija must be carefully tended, since she
provides the heat for cooking and the warmth for the
house. Fire was one of the most sacred of elements to
Lithuanians (the Greeks called us Fire-Worshippers).
Gabija is always to be banked with pure water. It is
believed that any impurities would get into Gabija’s
eyes, therefore the water has to be as pure as possible,
to keep from hurting her. If hurt Gabija would retaliate,
by burning down the house.
A fire can never go out in the hearth, just quietly banked
for the night. Only once a year could the fire be put out,
during the time of Rasa or Jonines. During the Summer
Solstice the sacred fire must be gotten from the spiritual
centre of Lithuania. Long human chains existed, carrying
the fire around the Lithuanian countryside.
The sacred cult of Gabija with its prehistoric roots has
survived to this present. She has evolved through
ornithomorphic, zoomorphic (cat) and anthropomorphic
portrayals (red clothed woman, sometimes winged).
The name Gabija is derived from the verb “apgaubti”,
to cover up. This refers to the process of putting Gabija
to bed by carefully banking the coals and ashes for the
night and uttering prayers that ask her to “stay put”
and not wander. This was an important duty of the Lady of
the House to perform.
Traditionally she is fed with salt and food. If a bit of
salt or food falls into the fire while the woman is
cooking she will say “Gabija buk pasotinta” – Gabija
The Hearth Fire is the focus of all family rituals and
rites of passage. Each ritual begins with invoking her
presence without which rites would be possible. She
accepts the sacrifices and acts as a mediator and
messenger to the Other Deities. Gabija is not the
reserved, passive maiden aunt archetype of Vesta or Hestia.
Gabija is the vital centre of each temple, grove and home.
She is the flaming symbol of all that which is truly
alive, and deity and power to be treated with the utmost
As the population grew a class of priestesses arose –
Vaidelutės. They tended the sacred flame that burned
for the “tauta”. Relieved of family duties and working
in pairs, they tended the fire, as well as fed and cared
for the Sacred Serpents (Zalciai).
Velnias ir Velona
And for those of you who are interested in more chthonic
deities, the two most prevalent are Velnias and Velona.
Both of them are deities of the dead and are associated
with Veles, shades of the ancestors. Velnias eventually
became the devil, and in constant struggle with Perkūnas.
This struggle between the sky god Perkūnas, who
represents the Indo-Europeans and Velnias who represents
old Europe, is the symbolic struggle between the Old
Europeans and the Proto-Indo-Europeans. In the folktales
Velnias is portrayed as being rather stupid and easy to
trick. However, Perkūnas has to be on constant watch.
(tell story of how the first witch came to be – Ragana)
There are a whole slew of other deities, such as Medeine,
whose name means Lady of the Trees, goddess of the woods
and hares; and her twin, Meiden, god of animals and of the
forest -rather similar to Herne. This brings to mind the
Vanir twins in Norse myths, Freya and Freyr.
The grass snake, Žaltys, was also a symbol of good
fortune, and it was bad luck to kill a snake -and they
were the beloved creatures of Saulė. This explains
what happens to the children in the story, Eglė Žalciu
The symbolic awakening of the snakes was on January 25th,
The Day of Serpents in Lithuania, Kirmeline, when the
serpents come out of the forests and return to the houses.
On that day, the people would shake the apple trees in the
orchard so that they would more fruitful and knock on
beehives, waking the bees from the winter slumber.
The ancient Lithuanians also practised a form of Ancestor
Worship. Formerly, the Lithuanians did not fear the dead.
The living and the dead were parts of a society within the
frame of a big family. The dead were thought of as living
in the grave with many of the same needs as the living.
The dead were feasted at burial, one year later and at big
feasts. The Lithuanians’ belief in reincarnation is
similar to that of the rest of the ancient world. The dead
could be reborn into any form, be it human or vegetable
matter or animal. The dead must climb a high mountain and
thus it was of great value to have long fingernails. There
is no underworld in Lithuanian mythology. Purgatory or
Hell was where a spirit would be trapped, be it a rock or
a flower. Today, we plant trees on the graves of our
recently dead. My sister’s grave, because she was a
child when she died, has a small rose bush on it. My
grandmother’s grave in Australia has a eucalyptus.
Now that we have explored some of the mythology behind
Baltic Faith, let us now turn to a more detailed study as
to what is Baltic Faith.
3. What is Romuva?
“Baltic Religion” identifies the way of life, world
concept and world view that were common to all Baltic
nations/tribes: Lithuanians, Latvians, Prussians,
Yotvingians, Curonians, Zemgalians, Selians, Latgalian
etc. Modern Romuva is the Lithuanian expression of the
Baltic Faith. The word itself means serenity, peace,
harmony, tenderness and beauty. These are the most
cherished of values. Romuva is a religion of life and
Historically, the Prussian temple of Romuva was one of the
last important European Pagan sanctuaries. Apart from this
Romuva, there were countless local sanctuaries, which
thrived in the wide Baltic region. It is just the same
today - the idea of Romuva remains in the consciousness of
the various Baltic cultures.
The name of Romuva again arose about a century ago,
inspired by a more enlightened understanding of the old
faith. Lithuanians began to call their renewed faith
"Romuva," while the Latvians called theirs
"Dievturiba" (meaning "The keeping of the
god Dievs"). This revival was connected with the
national revivals of the Baltic peoples. However, the
essence of the Baltic faith is not nationality. This faith
is of man and nature. By referring to it as a Baltic
faith, we underscore its origins and its continuing
Please take a look at the first page of the handout.
Notice the “herbas”. This is the emblem that
Lithuanian Romuva uses, in honour of the Old Prussian
Sanctuary. The emblem depicts a holy oak with an eternal
flame. Such an oak tree is typical of Baltic Lithuanian
folk art. The three levels symbolise the three spheres of
existence - the world of the dead (the past), the world of
the living (the present) and the divine heights (the
future) - all three in unity. They thrive in universal
darna, which is harmony. The runic inscription shows that
Romuva is part of the Baltic region and its cultural
traditions. As well, notice the little stanza from an
ancient Lithuanian daina/song – Saly Kelio Jovaras
4. The Basics of the Faith:
1. That the Lithuanian Baltic Religion is the ancient
indigenous native national religion of the Lithuanians.
2. That the Religion is firmly and deeply rooted in the
personal experience of the Lithuanian way of life, world
concept and world view as manifest in Lithuanian ethnic
culture. Dainos play a special part in the religion: they
are the ancient songs and hymns.
3. People have spiritual or religious experiences. One of
the early 20thC proponents of Baltic Faith, Vydunas,
called these experiences “spiritual awakening”.
4. People seek inner peace and harmony (darna): with
themselves, with their families, with their communities,
with their ancestors, and with the universe.
5. Everything is sacred. This is an expression of the
basic morality, dora, which permeates Baltic Faith.
6. All religions have similar goals. Baltic Faith
tolerates foreign religions without proselytising.
7. Romuva practices Baltic Faith.
Basic: reverence for trees, reverence for fire (Gabija)
5. How is Romuva celebrated in the “mundane”
and mechanised world?
Everyone can make a personal or family sanctuary - or
alkas in his own home or apartment. How is this to be
done? There is an abundance of information in historical
and ethnographic sources. There is a section dedicated to
such sanctuaries in the book "Baltu tikejimas"
(2000), and an English translation of that section
appeared a few years ago in the "Sacred
Serpent." Let us try and put this information to use
in our modern setting.
Things attributed to the Lithuanian home alkas:
Honoured Gods and souls of ancestors
Sacred locations: house corner, family hearth, and family
Depictions of Gods are kept by the alkas
Things commemorating ancestors are kept by the alkas, such
as pictures, etc.
The hearth: fire altar, candles, for example - a
Grauduline (candle of Perkūnas)
Bread, salt for the fire and rituals
Incense - thyme, dried leaves of oak, verbos (read about
Spring holidays), juniper, etc.
Head wreaths (from Rasa holiday), the symbolic
"poplar" of rye, etc.
A wedding "sodas" (straw decoration)
Towel holder with towels, woven sashes
A ritual cup and jug
Symbols of Baltic faith: three-branched tree, sun, fire
symbol and others
In olden times the alkas was set up in the corner of the
house - where the rural folk would hang sacred pictures,
symbols. The corner was significant because therein the
ancestors' souls and home deities would reside. In modern
homes or rooms such appropriate corners might not exist.
Therefore, for this purpose, once can set up a table or
shelf, which can be used for rituals, for lighting the
fire, and for other kinds of prayer.
6. Family traditions and celebrations
The main family celebrations are krikštas, vestuvės,
Before the child is born there are certain beliefs which
are quite important in understanding, if we are able to
gain a much broader understanding of Baltic Faith. In
Lithuania it was believed that various evil spirits, as
well as improper behaviour, could harm expectant mothers.
One never directly referred to someone as being pregnant,
or even giving birth. It was up to the entire community to
safeguard the mother and the child. When birth happened
euphemisms would be used, such as “the oven fell apart
at Petras’s” or “it’s joyful at Antanas’s”.
Once the birth has occurred the child is feted into the
family and into the community. The newborn's birthday,
community visitation and name-giving (christening) are
ancient rituals (predating Christianity), which assert the
new-born child's ties with this world, his family and
The rituals are performed either at home or in nature at
the time of a new or full moon. The room is decorated with
plants and greenery. Birds made of straw are hung from the
ceiling. In the middle of the room - the home hearth - a
small fire altar, which is lit at the time of the ritual.
Other materials are readied - a bowl of water, a clean
cloth, scissors. The room is well-lit with candles and
The participants are the mother, the child, the father,
the name-givers, relatives, other children and the
priestess of the ceremony - Pribuveja (midwife).
Pribuvėja guides the event and cares for the new-born
The child is dressed in a festive linen shirt. A sash
woven with folk decorations is used as a waist-band.
The feast - the name-givers bring a cake. The food upon
the table traditionally includes eggs, scrambled eggs,
bread, cheese, beer, etc..
Gifts are brought to the new-born and the mother.
A wedding is more than just the concern of the young
couple – the entire community has a vested interest in
the upcoming marriage, and join the families in
celebration. Weddings were of such importance to the
community, and to the ancient ancestors, that there are
over 100,000 dainos (songs) for Lithuanian weddings.
There’s even an extended set of dances which present a
stylised wedding – starting with the match maker
introducing the young couple to each other, the parents
agreeing, the young bride weaving her trousseau, and then
the wedding ceremony.
There’s a myth of Perkūnas and the Heavenly
Wedding: On his way to the wedding Perkūnas strikes a
gold oak – an exorcism to repel evil spirits (Velnias
frequently hides under the roots of an oak). When a young
bridal couple come to their new home, before they enter
it, the lintel is struck, leaving a “cross” – to
ward off evil.
Funeral/Burial – the traditions surrounding funerals are
fairly standard the world over. It is a time of mourning,
and of friends gathering in support of the grieving
family. But, there are some differences. In villages the
coffin would lie in “state” for approximately 6 days,
and in cities about 2 days. Every evening there would be
the singing of laments, and prayers for the dead members
of the family for three generations – each one mentioned
by name. Every evening after the prayers a funeral meal is
served, prepared by the best cook in the community. If the
family has a pig, it is slaughtered for the occasion.
In villages the dead are usually buried in the morning,
with final kisses being bestowed upon the loved one.
7. The calendar year
Pusiaužiemis January 25th
Mid-Winter Festival. In certain parts of Lithuania,
Kirmeline (Day of Serpents) is celebrated instead.
Kirmeline is the symbolic awakening of the snakes. Food
and milk is put out for the snakes – if they eat and
drink, a good year is foretold.
Perkūnas Day February 2
Gabija Day February 5
Užgavenes March 1st
Escort of Winter essentially waits for Spring and helps
prepare for the new season. The holiday consists of
processions, costumes, tomfoolery, games, and plays. The
main parts are: receiving guests with treats; rides and
races; processing the More statue and then destroying her
by fire; plays with people costumed as animals, strangers
and mythological beings; performing the war of Winter with
Spring symbolized by the Lasininis (the bacon-being) with
the Kanapinis (the hemp-being); portraying weddings or
funerals; spraying people with water; fortune-telling.
Velykos Spring Equinox
Christianity incorporated Lithuanian Equinox traditions
into Easter, and replaced the ancient Lithuanian name for
the Equinox with the Slavic word 'Velykos', i.e. Easter. 'Pavasario
lyge', meaning Spring Equinox, remains the only
non-Christian name for the holiday. The week before
Equinox, called the Velykos of Veles (souls), concludes
the annual cycle of commemorations of the dead. As during
Kucios (Winter Solstice Eve), families remember their dead
and leave their dinners on the tables overnight for the
veles to eat.
Jorė Spring Festival
Samborai Spring Festival
Sambariai, which names the ritual meal at the conclusion
of sowing, or Paruges, which means the day by the rye.
Households gathered on their fields with food and drink,
where an open-air ritual meal was held. Households held
the ritual separately; it was not a community rite. The
ritual included ancient sacred songs called dainos and
ancient ritual rounds or sutartines that blessed the
grains. Families would prepare for Sambariai by stocking
up on food, especially meats, and by brewing a special
beer (traditional ritual drink and libation beverage). If
the ritual were held at home, the house would be decorated
with fresh-cut birch branches. Occurs at the end of May,
after the planting of rye and other grains is finished and
the seed has grown. This tradition survived undisturbed
until the beginning of the 20th century in parts of
Lithuania. Sambariai also once marked the start of the
Rasa Summer Solstice
Order of celebration: (1) dancing around the gates, (2)
dancing around the kupolas, (3) misc., games, predictions,
circle dance, (4) vaises (ritual meal), (5) greeting the
setting sun, (6) lighting the bonfires and offerings, (7)
visiting and blessing the fields and trees, (8) principal
bonfire, burning of the More (straw doll symbolizing the
old), circle dances around the bonfire, (9) swimming and
bathing, a boat with a bonfire sails to shore, symbolizing
the nocturnal trip of the sun, (10) casting the wreaths
(11) greeting the moon and the stars, (12) worship of the
rising sun and bathing in the morning dew.
Žolines August 15
In honour of Žemyna, Earth Goddess. Associated with Rugiu
Rugių Svente Rye Harvest
Beginning with the end of July and throughout August --
depending on the growing conditions each year -- the
Lithuanian countryside starts to harvest the rye, the
single most important grain cultivated in Lithuania. Rye
is a divine grain; its fields are sacred. The harvest
begins with the ritual Festival of the Rye, which
expresses thanksgiving for the harvest. Women and men wear
their finest white linen for the ritual, and harvest the
rye in these clothes.
Dagotuves Winter Rye Planting Finished
Velines All of October
Velines is in honour of the Veles, the shade of the
ancestors – either of the family or the village. Because
families would live in the same house/village for
centuries, Lithuanians came to believe that the veles
acted as guardians for the family and for the village.
This is when the veles would enter the family home for the
rest of the winter – leave at Velykos to go into the
fields, to encourage the fertility of the land.
Kučios/Kaledos Winter Solstice Eve –
Beginning of the Year
Marks the end of the year, when the world returns to
darkness and non-existence. However, as death begets
birth, the two holidays also herald the rebirth of nature
and the return of the sun. The Lithuanians distinguish the
two subsequent days, now celebrated on the 24th and 25th
of December, with a variety of ritual customs.
Suggested Bibliography of Baltic Lithuanian Religion
Baltrušaitis, Jurgis. Lithuanian Folk Art. Lithuania
Country and Nation 3.
Balys, Jonas. Lithuanian Narrative Folksongs. A Treasury
of Lithuanian Folklore 4.
Gimbutas [Gimbutienė], Marija. Ancient Symbolism in
Lithuanian Folk Art
---. Baltic and Slavic Folklore and Mythology. 2 Vols
---. "Pre-Indo-European Goddesses in Baltic
Mythology." Mankind Quarterly 26.1-2 (Fall/Winter
---. The Balts. Ancient Peoples and Places 33
---. "The Lithuanian God Velnias." Myth and Law
Among the Indo-Europeans: Studies in Indo-European
---. The Prehistory of Eastern Europe: Mesolithic,
Neolithic, and Copper Age Cultures in Russia and the
Area. Part 1. Bulletin 20
Greimas, A.J. Of Gods and Men: Studies in Lithuanian
Trinkunas, Jonas. Of Gods and Holidays.
Velius, Norbertas. Lithuanian Mythological Tales.
http://www.romuva.lt/ Main Romuva website
http://www.geocities.com/~zemyna Iron Crosses – History,
http://www.geocities.com/Athens/Oracle/2810 Sacred Serpent
– Romuva Canada
http://www.pagan.drak.net/wwcrew Ancient Latvian Paganism
Folk Culture Centre
http://ausis.gf.vu.lt/eka Anthology of Lithuanian
http://www1.omnitel.net/sakmes Lietuviu sakmes/Lithuanian
http://www.okana.org/ Okana's Web - Polish Paganism and
http://www.pantheon.org/ Encyclopaedia Mythica
http://www.mythinglinks.org/ Mythology: MYTHING LINKS –
http://www.muzikoszona.com/ Lithuanian Music
http://www.balticshop.com/ Baltic Shop – Online Shopping
for Goods from the Baltics
http://www.kalupe.com/ Kalupe – Latvian Jewellery Store
in Toronto Canada
Through Yahoogroups.com: Romuva – in English
RomuvaChgo – Romuva in Chicago
Krivule – in Lithuanian
Leszi – Slavic Paganism
Šaly kelio jovaras stovejo /A Poplar Stood by the
Slaunasai zolyne rugeli (chorus)
Is pašaknu skamantys kankleliai
Per viduri duzgaiančcios biteles
Viršunelej sakalo vaikeliai
Ir atjoja broleliu pulkelis
Prašom sustot, jaunieji broleliai
Pažiurekit sakalo vaikeliu
Paklausykit duzgiančiu biteliu
Paklausykit skambančiu kankleliu
Del močiutes duzgiančios biteles
Del brolelio sakalo vaikeliai A poplar stood by the Road
plant of rye (chorus)
The sound of the kankles from below the roots,
Oh glorious... (chorus)
The bees were buzzing in the middle
The falcon’s children at the summit
A group of brothers rides on by
Please stop, young brothers
Behold the falcon’s children
Listen to the buzzing bees
Listen to the ringing kankles
The kankles ring for our dear father
The bees, they buzz for our dear mother
The falcon’s children grieve for our brother
Main daina of Romuva, about the mythical world tree and it
three parts, which symbolise the three aspects of the
universe. The ringing of the kankles from under the roots
is the image of the world of the old, the wise and the
dead. The buzzing bees in the middle symbolise the world
of the working and toiling people. The falcon’s children
at the top represent the heavens, the world of warriors
and heroes. The pivotal meaning of the daina is the
universal importance and harmony of these three parts.
snaudžia tuta tuta
Nei verpia nei audžia tuta tuta
Verpstė an suolo tuta tuta
Verpstas po suolu tuta tuta
Ir atvažiuoja tuta tuta
Snaudales tevas tuta tuta
Kiauli paskinkis tuta tuta
insedis tuta tuta The dreamer slumbers, tuta tuta
Neither spins nor weaves, tuta tuta
The distaff is on the bench, tuta tuta
The spindle is under the bench, tuta tuta
And here comes riding, tuta tuta
The dreamer’s father, tuta tuta
Pulled by a pig, tuta tuta
Sitting in a trough, tuta tuta
This daina is danced to, in honour of the ancestors. The
distaff and the act of spinning mentioned in the song
symbolise fate and the goddess of fate, Laima. Dreaming is
the state of consciousness, which transcends the worlds of
the living and the dead. This dance is performed to invite
the souls of the ancestors to the ritual.
Čiūtyta Rūtyta, kas darželi tvara?
Čiūtyta Rūtyta, mas, sasutalas (chorus)
Čiūtyta Rūtyta, braliukai užtvara
Čiūtyta Rūtyta, kas rūteli seja?
Čiūtyta Rūtyta, saulala paseja
Čiūtyta Rūtyta, kas rūteli laista?
Čiūtyta Rūtyta, lietulis palaista
Čiūtyta Rūtyta, kas rūteli skyne?
Čiūtyta Rūtyta, sesutes nuskyne
Čiūtyta Rūtyta, vainikeli pyne
Čiūtyta Rūtyta, an galveles deja
Čiūtyta Rūtyta, jaunimelin eja Čiūtyta
Rūtyta, who fenced the garden?
Čiūtyta Rūtyta, we, the sisters (chorus)
Čiūtyta Rūtyta, the brothers fenced it
Čiūtyta Rūtyta, who sowed the wheat?
Čiūtyta Rūtyta, the sun sowed it
Čiūtyta Rūtyta, who watered the wheat?
Čiūtyta Rūtyta, the rain watered it
Čiūtyta Rūtyta, who plucked the rue?
Čiūtyta Rūtyta, the sisters plucked it
Čiūtyta Rūtyta, they twined a wreath
Čiūtyta Rūtyta, they placed on the head
Čiūtyta Rūtyta, and she entered youth
This is a daina to Žemyna, the Earth Goddess. The Head
Priestess (Vaidelute) of the ritual leads the song. As she
is strengthened by the song, she prepares to light the
Didysie Mūsų Dievaitė Mūsų
Didysie Mūsų Perkūnė Mūsų
Savo Stiprybe savo galybe
Sujūnki mūmis stiprinki mūmis
Didysie Mūsų Dievaitė Mūsų
Didysie Mūsų Perkūnė Mūsų
Ąžuolo jegom Ąžuolo galiom
Sujūnki mūmis stiprinki mūmis
Didysie Mūsų Dievaitė Mūsų
Didysie Mūsų Perkūnė Mūsų
Ugnės šviesybe Ugnės galybe
Sujūnki mūmis stiprinki mūmis Our greatest,
Our greatest, our Thunderer
With your power, with your might
Unite us, strengthen us
Our greatest, our God
Our greatest, our Thunderer
The power of the Oak, the might of the Oak
Unite us, strengthen us
Our greatest, our God
Our greatest, our Thunderer
The brightness of fire, the power of fire
Unite us, strengthen us
Song to Perkūnas, celebrating our relationship with
9. Parliament of the World's Religions in Melbourne 2009
On December 3-9, the Parliament of the World's Religions
gathered in Melbourne -- the biggest gathering of
representatives of the world's religions.
The Parliament of the World's Religions was called
together for the first time in 1893 in Chicago. In 1993,
it was decided to commemorate the first parliament's 100th
year anniversary in Chicago. After that, the Parliament
was called every five years: in 1999 in Capetown, 2004 --
Barcelona, this year in Melbourne. The number of
participants and represented countries kept increasing and
has now reached 10 000 people.
One of the most important goals of this year's Parliament
of World's Religions in Melbourne was to envelop as many
cultures and traditions as possible, to open up to their
diversity. In the Parliament there participated
various trends of Christianity, Buddhism, Islam, Hinduism,
Sikhism, Zoroastrianism and representatives and spiritual
leaders of many other religious traditions, decked out in
colorful ritual dress and symbols.
For us, Lithuanians, it was important that two
representatives from Lithuania were invited to the
Parliament: the Krivis of Romuva, Jonas Trinkūnas,
and a teacher of ethnoculture from Kaunas, Artūras
Sinkevičius. Why were these Lithuanians invited from
Europe? The spiritual legacy of Lithuania in a European
context is important. Lithuanians managed to preserve one
of the oldest European cultures, and even the religion.
Lithuania is probably the only country in Europe that has
a law on the protection of ethnic culture, instituted in
1999. And in 1998 the congress of European ethnic (Pagan)
religions was called in Vilnius. This movement, initiated
by Lithuania's Romuva, enveloped nearly all of Europe, and
reaching even India. Lithuania's experience in continuing
the ancient spiritual traditions became an example to many
Europeans aiming to bring back the lost spiritual legacy
of their ancestors.
The Parliament of the World’s Religions brought
attention to Lithuania's old-believers' (Romuva)
initiative and took care of inviting Lithuanians to
Melbourne. This time the Parliament paid more attention to
youth and their attempts to protect their ancestor's
traditions. Artūras Sinkevičius, a teacher of
ethnoculture, gave a presentation about how in his school
the ethnic traditions are conveyed, how willingly children
learn folk songs, dances, and traditions, take part in
summer camps. Americans who attended this presentation
said that this sort of Lithuanian experience should be
adapted for schools of all nations. It seems like a wider
involvement of youth in the Parliament will help to solve
more effectively the problems of religions working
Krivis Jonas Trikūnas told about the Lithuanian
fights for freedom and their attempts to protect the
ancient beliefs, about how today in Lithuania the old
religion has successfully been reborn. For many listeners
this was big news. They were surprised at the persistence
of the Lithuanians and their determination to protect
their spiritual traditions. The film that was shown (a
shortened version) about this year's Lithuanian song
festival simply amazed the audience. The Australians
commented: "You Lithuanians have such values that we
are even jealous."
The Parliament leaders, introduced to Lithuanian Romuva's
work, decided to include Lithuania in the Parliament's
Ethnic Religions group (Indigenous Religions). This was a
new group created by the Parliament. The movements
ascribed to Ethnic Religions are those that are closely
related to local history and religious traditions. Neo-Pagan organizations are not considered as such, most
of which are in America, and they did not receive as much
attention at the Parliament as the ethnic movements. We
should think that the sort of attention paid to
Lithuania's ethnic religion is a sign that other
Europeans, who by Lithuania's example also increase work
to raise again their spiritual traditions, will receive
recognition as well.
The Parliament took place for a whole week in the enormous
Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre, up to 10 000
people attended the plenary sessions. In this state of the
art facility, hundreds of work groups operated.
The Dalai Lama came to greet and address the Parliament.
The Parliament's work shows that humanity is uniting,
aiming to overcome strained relations and disagreements.
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