Presentation sponsored by the Infinity Foundation
ancient Balts, ancestors of the Lithuanians, Letts, Prussians
and many other related peoples, settled between the eastern
shores of Baltic Sea and the upper Volga in the second
millennium B.C. The name "Balts" deriving from Baltic
Sea. New horizons for the explanation of Baltic origins opened
with the discovery of Sanskrit in the 18th century. Sanskrit and
Baltic are the two linguistic poles between which the languages
of the Indo-European homeland are "found".
The Balts are Lithuanians
(3,5 mln) and Latvians(2,5 mln) - today oldest Indo-European peoples in Europe.
When one thousand years ago Slavic
neighbors (Russians, Poles and others) accepted Christianity,
the Balts retained their Pagan religion for another four
centuries. During that period they established a powerful state
which incorporated extensive old Baltic lands. The archaic
Indo-European religion and mythology on which the Greek
civilization was founded was still surviving on the
South-Eastern coast of the Baltic sea. The eternal fire was
still burning in the Pagan temple in Vilnius, and people still
worshipped the mighty god Perkunas (Parjanya, Indra) and the
even more archaic goddesses of Earth and Nature. The Balts were
great venerators of fire. Fire was sacred and eternal. Tribes
had official sanctuaries on high hills and on riverbanks where a
fire was maintained, guarded by priests, and in each house was
the sacred hearth in which fire was never extinguished.
In the 14th Century, Gediminas - the
penultimate Pagan ruler of Lithuania - decreed that Lithuania
must be a land of tolerance because Lithuanian religion
fundamentally professes this virtue. This principal is
encapsulated in his famous proclamation "Let everyone
worship their own Gods in Lithuania".
However, the tolerance did not rescue
the Balts from the Christian military aggression. The Popes of
the Roma had involved joint forces of Catholic States against
the Balts in XIII-XIVc. Order of the Knights of the Cross and
other Orders had been involved. The resistance of Balts against
cruel Christian aggression was overall, but it can't resist the
power, which was based on all-European military forces and
money. The consequences of aggression were thousands people
killed, the imposing culture and religion of Western Balts
(Prussians, Sudovians) destroyed. Lithuania was the only state
in Europe who resisted the aggression but was constrained to
accept Christianity in 1387 politically for surviving.
During the protracted two hundred years
war between the Christian Teutonic Order and Lithuanians, the
chroniclers expressed shock at seeing how readily the
Lithuanians took their own lives. The Lithuanians don't want to
be Christianized. The Teutonic Order carried the Christian cross
to Prussia and to Livonia, and though they did succeed in
conquering these people politically, they could not subdue them
spiritually. The Prussian villagers remained Pagan until their
extermination in the seventeenth century, even though officially
they accepted baptism in the thirteenth century and all Pagan rites and customs were strictly forbidden.
It was only in 1387 that the sacred
fire was extinguished in Eastern --1413 in Western-- Lithuania.
At first these changes affected principally the nobility; the
conservative Lithuanian population maintained the traditions of
their ancestors and secretly worshiped their gods for several
In 17th, 18th and 19th century,
Protestant and Catholic chronicles and church documents complain
of wide spread Lithuanian heathenism practice and disinterest in
Christianity. In 19th most Lithuanian were nominally Christian,
i.e., they had been baptized as infants. They did not readily
practice their new religion, preferred to celebrate the old
holidays and traditions. The church for centuries has actively
advocated the destruction and removal of Lithuanian Pagan
The Balts were the very last
Many Middle Age chroniclers describe
the features of the Baltic Pagan religion: cremation rites; the
belief in reincarnation; the veneration of holy groves, trees,
fields, waters and fire; the belief in the existence of many
gods and spirits; sacrificial offerings and soothsayings.
The customs, beliefs, mythological
songs and folk art symbolism of the Lithuanians and Latvians are
amazingly replete with antiquity. The Christian stratum is
recent and can be easily detached. For studies of comparative
religion, the value of the Lithuanian and Latvian folklore and
folk art is of the same importance as that of the Baltic
languages for the reconstruction of the "mother
tongue" of the Indo-Europeans. The pre-Christian stratum is
so ancient that it undoubtedly reaches back to prehistoric times
- at least to the Iron Age or in the case of some elements, even
several millennia further.
Baltic Religion has many sources. Once
the region became agrarian, the settlers practiced their version
of Old European religion, later practiced their form of
Indo-European religion. Each religious transformation
incorporated elements from its predecessors.
Romuva movement started its activities
in 1967, was suppressed by the Soviets in 1971 and is tolerated since 1988,
although attempts to restore Baltic Romuva's religion started in XIX century.
During 60-70 th of XX century emerged
interest in the indigenous culture, especially Pagan tradition. Many folklore song groups were formed.
The name "Romuva" were chosen
in honor of the famous Baltic Prussian sanctuary Romuva which
was destroyed by Christians. "Romuva" means
"temple" or "Sanctuary" as well as
"abode of inner peace". Sources from the 14th century
state that in the center of Baltic lands (today Kaliningrad
region), there existed Romuva sanctuary, which was revered by
all Baltic nations, the eternal fire burning there spread her
light and peace throughout the entire Baltic coast and even
Romuva's philosophy's central idea is
the sacredness of Nature, which is based on Baltic beliefs and
ethnic folkloric tradition. Christianity was half accepted only
in 18th-19th century. For this reason Lithuanian folklore,
beliefs and customs retained the pre-Christian features to high
degree, even to this day. Lithuanian Baltic folklore, especially
the mythological dainas, legends and the traditional
way-of-life, is the basis of Lithuanian Baltic religion, Such
traditional our attitudes correspond very well with the
contemporal ecological and spiritual ideas. Eternity of Life,
holiness of Earth and Nature, aspiration for Darna (harmony) -
some of our ideas.
Converted to Christianity, people were
forced to ignore the Zemyna - Goddess of the holy earth and were
made to honor the virgin Mary. In Christian teachings Mary was
not a deity, but just an instrument of God. Looking into folk
traditions and art - we can see the true essence of the Goddess.
The return of the ancient Goddess is unavoidable, it is demanded
by nature and peoples' conscious disposition. We begin to
understand that we are the children of one Mother --people,
animals, trees, plants-- and that the Mother lives here, near
us. Let us remember the words of M. Gimbutiene, Lithuanian
scientist of archaeology and the beginner of archeomythology,
"All that is alive - is a sign of the earth's kindness.
Every earth born object is full to the brim with life's
strength, granted by mother earth. Tree, flower, stone and man -
all from the earth. They are all full of earth's power, although
in each, the power is of various shape and form."
After Lithuania restored its
independence in 1990, the majority of previously suppressed
organizations were re-established. Romuva began to organize
conferences, summer camps and care of historical monuments and
nature objects. These activities gained approval by Lithuanian
public. The government limited itself only by formally
recognizing our organization, without supporting it. There are
discussions in Lithuanian Parliament about including Romuva to
the category of traditional religions. Lithuania Romuva embraces
10 communities and has several thousands members. Romuva is lead
by Jonas Trinkunas. He was declared in 2002.10.19 as Krivis -
highest priest of the Romuva.
1991-1992 Romuva congregations were established and incorporated
in Vilnius, Kaunas, Chicago, Boston and Toronto.
People are joining Romuva community
because they recognize the natural essence of its religious
world-view. The Romuva communities can help people rediscover
forgotten or suppressed traditions. Within these communities it
is possible to combine the worship of nature with rituals of
christenings, weddings, burials and calendar feasts. In Romuva
summer camp Pagans from other countries are also present.
Baltic Religion - Romuva
"Baltic Religion" or
"Romuva Religion" now identifies the ancient religion
that is common to all Baltic nations (Lithuanians, Latvians,
Prussians, etc.). "Lithuanian Baltic Religion" is the
Lithuanian version of Baltic Religion.
Romuva embodies the oldest religion in
the Baltic region, which has no beginning, predates recorded
history, and extends its spirit indefinitely in the Baltic
culture. This religion has no human founder, no major
scriptures. It is based on folk beliefs, myths and folk songs (dainos).
worships one supreme reality, which encompasses the worlds of
the living and of the dead, the family and tribe, including all
ancestors, all of nature and the universe. It proclaims no
eternal hell, no damnation, nor eternal salvation -- only the
continuity of life in the presence of divinity. It accepts all
genuine spiritual paths. Each soul is free to find its own way,
whither by devotion, meditation or service to society. Festivals,
pilgrimage, chanting of holy hymns (dainas) and home worship are
most valued dynamic practices.
kindness, inspiration, embracement of the human manifestation,
positive action, and conduct in accordance to the universal law
of Darna define the path of Romuva. Romuva teaches great
reverence for all forms of life. It is a religion of human
nature and human life with nature.
The primary goal of Romuva is to create
a true nobility of spirit through proper education of tradition
and experience in meditation and action in family, society and
nature. Old tales are studied and songs are sung to discover the
ancient virtues. Such experience creates unity with one's
Through chanting of the Dainos the soul
is cleansed and the wandering mind is stilled. Spiritual
fulfillment is also achieved by meditation in nature. It is
believed that man is put on the earth to affirm and approve the
world, not to deny it, not to escape from it, thus spirituality
is sought and found in active life and spiritual participation
therein. Romuva value an ethical life most highly.
central feature of the faith is the sacred fire that is
constantly kept burning in every home. Fire is considered the
only worshipful symbol, the great purifier and sustainer, of the
nature of the sun itself.
In the rituals practiced by Romuva
dainos - folk songs play an important role and like other
traditional customs and symbols become imbued by special power
Respect of ancestors is an essential
part of Baltic religion. It is expressed in a multitude of ways.
The idea of Darna (harmony) lies in
origins of Baltic culture. The rule of darna harmony will lead
to change and growth. Morality is the most important ideal of
nature and man and is attained and maintained through persistent
effort. Darna - the rule of harmony has always been of
significance in the ancient faith. Man lives and the world
exists due to harmonious interactions rudimentary to life and
through man's own correct and moral behavior. Such differing
pairs like light - darkness, fire - water, man - woman and
others, do not necessarily imply a good - evil relationship.
These opposite pairs are not static. They not only interact but
also change and grow. From the human standpoint, there are
neither absolutely good nor absolutely evil gods or goddesses.
Goodness is born from interaction of differing but not of
hostile forces, with man's interactive participation. Blogis -
Evil is harmony's downfall, the absence or inability to restore
harmony. This is most evident in nature's devastation, man's
activity against nature and her order. The communities of man
and nature and of family and community bear the fruit or create
dora (morality) and darna (harmony). Darna is the most important
nature's and man's ideals, attained and maintained with constant
work and toil. Darna is not a steady and unchanging happiness,
good fortune. It depends heavily on the efforts and concerns of
man and his Gods. Baltic Darna - harmony is very close to the
Hindu Dharma - the principle moral order of the world.
The Romuva movement is an integral part
of the revival and recovery of Europe's ancient religions. This
revival was partially connected with the national revival by
people of Baltic culture, thus it sought to strengthen the
national identity. This renaissance is proceeding naturally
because its time has arrived.
The Creation of The World Congress
of Ethnic Religions - WCER
During the Rasa festival (summer
solstice) of 1998, representatives of pre-Christian or Pagan faiths from Europe, United States and India gathered in Vilnius.
The groups of indigenous religion exist in almost all countries
of Europe, as well as in other continents. This event signs the
situation of cultural isolation is coming to an end for
believers in the traditional faiths.
Romuva cooperates actively with it's
closest neighbors Latvia's "Dievturi", Polish "Rodzima
wiara". Later we come in contact with Wicca of England,
with Asatru from Island, heathen communities both of Germany and
What was the background for this
international meeting in Vilnius? The history of the city of
Vilnius and Lithuania contributed to the choice of location.
The cultural heritage of the Balts can
be classified as a cultural bridge between East and West.
Lithuanian Pagan king Gediminas was honored during the opening
ceremonies of the June 1998 International Conference of Ethnic
The conference had several goals -
"To become acquaintant with each other, to come to an
agreement concerning further cooperation and to found an
organization". By majority decision the name chosen was the
"World Congress of Ethnic Religions" - WCER. The
conference closed by drafting the included Declaration.
The First Declaration of the WCER
"We, the delegates of the World
Congress of Ethnic Religions, held in Vilnius, Lithuania, from
20 to 24 June 1998, have gathered to express our solidarity for
the ethnic, indigenous, native and/or traditional religions of
Europe and the other regions of the world.
All cultures as well as native
religions and faiths should be equally valued and respected each
region and each people have their distinctive local traditions
(native faith, world outlook, mythology, folklore etc.) which
articulate their love of their land and history, and cultivate a
regard for the sacredness of all life and the divinity of
Nature. Just as Nature survives through a wide variety of
species, so can hurnanity be allowed to develop freely and
without interference along a wide variety of cultural
According to our ancient traditional
ethics, the Earth and all creation must be valued and protected.
We as human beings must find our place within the web of all
life, not outside or separate from the whole of creation.
We share a common understanding of our
position in the world, based upon our common historical
experience of oppression and intolerance. Ethnic and/or
"Pagan" religions have suffered great injury and
destruction in the past from religions claiming they possess the
only truth. It is our sincere wish to live in peace and harmony,
and to strive for cooperation with the followers of all other
religions, faiths and beliefs.
We believe that the dawn of a new era
of individual and intellectual freedom and global exchange of
views and information gives us an opportunity to start again to
return to our own native spiritual roots in order to reclaim our
religious heritage. We are worshippers of Nature just as most of
mankind has been for the greater part of human history.
True indigenous religions should give
us love and respect for all that we see and feel around, to
accept all forms of worship which emphasize sincere hearts, pure
thoughts and noble conduct at every moment of our life, towards
all that exists.
Let us be proud of our reborn ethnic
religions. Our new Universalism induces people not to remain
closed within walls of hatred and jealousy against those who are
not inside our walls. Let us break these walls and expand the
horizon and vision of the whole humanity.
We established the "World Congress
of Ethnic Religions" (WCER) to help all ethnic religion
groups survive and cooperate with each other. Our motto is
"Unity in Diversity." (Signed by 23 representatives in
Vilnius, Lithuania, 23rd June l998 )
The WCER is primarily concerned with
the protection and development of ethnic Cultures and
Identities. We understand the term "Ethnic" as
referring to religions and cultures that are related to a
particular people's cosmology as it is expressed in cultural and
social terms as well as ancestral. We recognize that many
factors make up people's identity.
Historically those of other ethnic
backgrounds have been adopted into new ones if they took on the
beliefs and mores that are a larger part of the identity of that
people. Although we are convinced that every human being has the
best possibilities within his/her own culture to reestablish the
harmony with the divine aspect, it does not, however, exclude
anyone from participation in their activities.
The WCER is therefore categorically
opposed to discrimination, suppression or persecution based on
race, color, social class, religion or national origin.
Soon after the creation of the WCER, it
was decided that the WCER should be represented on the
world-wide web. A website was created under the URL: http://www.wcer.org/
- outlining the principles of the organization, the
declarations, providing information on conferences, events, as
well as contact information. Please visit the website for the
latest news on the WCER.
For the second WCER conference in 1999,
a provisional pre-congress booklet was printed under the name of
"WCER News". It was well received and it was decided
to release a larger publication under the popularly chosen name
"the Oaks," which would inform about the nature and
the condition of ethnic religions around the world, as well as
about the progress and agenda of the WCER. All members of the
WCER are entitled to receiving this publication. Those
interested in the WCER may also receive copies upon request.
At the 2001 conference it has been
decided to organize more common regional events in the name of
the WCER. This includes regional conferences such as the Antwerp
conference in Belgium, which can be co-organized with the WCER,
or the regional WCER conference planned in France in the autumn
of 2001. There is also the possibility to organize international
cultural events, concerts of traditional music, seminars on
traditions and ecology, etc.
The WCER Agenda for the new millennium
outlines a few main goals. One of the first, most important
goals is to attaint Non-Governmental Organization status in the
United Nations. The WCER plans to expand beyond Eurasia, and
draw in members from African, Native American and Native
Australian groups. This long-term goal coincides with the plan
to build up infrastructure by drawing in more individual members
able to devote time and effort to work for the WCER, searching
out contacts and carrying out diplomatic missions on its behalf.
As the WCER expands and develops its diplomatic potential, it
plans to open up forums on how ethnic religions can practically
solve regional problems by using common experience.
At the 1999 conference, the 5-person
administrational council was elected from among the
representatives. This council will remain in session until the
next election in 2003. The council members are: Jormundur Ingi -
Iceland, Denis Dornoy - France, Koenraad Logghe - Belgium, Jonas
Trinkunas - Lithuania, Kostas Kehagias - Greece.
Goals of the WCER
To spread educational knowledge about
ethnic cultures and their religions, while propagating mutual
trust and tolerance for the peoples of Europe and the entire
Through education, propagation and the
organization of support for the appropriate projects, to
preserve ethnic cultures and religions, safeguard them from
extinction and propagate such ideas.
To unify people and organizations
engaged in ethno-cultural and ethno-religious activities.
To fight against religious
To carry out other activities
supporting ethnic cultures and ethnic religions.
The aims of the Institution's
activities are first and foremost the ethnic cultures and ethnic
religions, especially those which are in danger of extinction
or loss of cultural identity. The WCER consists of ethnical
and/or traditional and/or native religious groups. Ethnic
cultures are the complex of many peoples and distinctive and
natural cultural traditions. The current conditions of
civilization place these cultures in danger of extinction.
National ethnic religions face the same danger of extinction. We
define "Ethnic religions" as surviving ancient
religions, such as Hinduism, or animism of various other
cultures, as well as religions in the process of restoration,
such as the Icelandic "Asatru", Latvian "Dievturi",
Lithuanian "Romuva" and others. It has been accepted
that the rights of such ethnic and religious groups are a part
of human rights as expressed in the declaration pertaining to
national, ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities, adopted
by the UN General Assembly in 1992.
We believe the principal of ethnicity
and respect to different traditions and religions is a way to a harmonious and peaceful World.