The Church of the Divine Earth


Romuva ~ Religion

 

World Congress of Ethnic Religions

Romuva
Religion
(Text by Audrius Dundzila, Ph.D)

A poplar stood alongside a road.
Sounding kanklës - from below the roots, buzzing bees - in the middle, falcon's children - at the top.
And a group of brothers comes ridding on horseback.
Please stop, young brothers: listen to the sounding kanklës, listen to the buzzing bees, look at the falcon's children.
".

This daina or ancient hymn portrays the world tree. It unites the past, the present, and the future; the living and the dead; and the human and natural worlds. It then tells us to reflect on our situation in the world.

The Basics of Lithuanian Baltic Religion
While followers of Lithuanian Baltic Religion profess many diverse beliefs, there are several bedrock concepts on which virtually all concur:

Lithuanian Baltic Religion is the ancient indigenous native national ethnic religion of the Lithuanians. The ancient Lithuanians did not profess a religion per se, but rather their way-of-life, world-concept and world-view constituted what is now called "religion".

  • Lithuanian Baltic 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. This includes art, deities, folklore, holidays, music, and sacred places. Dainos play a special role in Lithuanian Baltic Religion: they are the ancient songs and hymns.
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  • People have spiritual or religious experiences. Everybody experiences them differently, in her or his own way. We cannot fully comprehend or describe them. They can happen any time and any place, even in mundane life, when not expecting them. When seeking them, they are often evasive. All who seek them eventually find them. Vydûnas called such events 'spiritual awakening.' Lithuanian Baltic Religion teaches Lithuanian methods of seeking such experiences.
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  • People seek inner-peace and harmony: with themselves, with their families, with their communities, with their ancestors, and with the universe. Lithuanian Baltic Religion teaches Lithuanian methods of seeking inner-peace and harmony.
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  • Lithuanian Baltic Religion regards everything as sacred. Life and nature are holy, and humans are part of nature. Deities are seen everywhere.
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  • All religions have similar goals. Lithuanian Baltic Religion tolerates foreign religions without proselytizing.
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  • Romuva practices Lithuanian Baltic Religion.

"Baltic Religion" identifies the way-of-life, world-concept and world-view that were common to all Baltic nations: Lithuanians, Latvians, Prussians, Yotvingians, Curonians, Þemgalians, Sëlians, Latgalians, etc. "Lithuanian Baltic Religion" or "Lithuanian Religion" is the Lithuanian version of Baltic Religion.

Holidays
The most important Lithuanian holidays celebrate human life. Krikðtas is the naming celebration of a new-born baby. The baby is showered with wishes for a healthy life and good fortune. Vestuvës is the three-day wedding festival. Through a series of beautiful ancient rituals, a girl and boy become adults, leave their families, and form a new family. The participants invoke the Gods upon them and wish them health, prosperity, and fortune. Ðermenys and laidotuvës are the funeral ceremonies. The living bid the deceased farewell, as they pour libations with the prayer "where you have gone, there we shall go."

Lithuanians also have many calendar and agrarian holidays. The year begins with the Winter Solstice, Kalëdos, now celebrated on December 25th. People visit neighbors and friends, share food, burn the Yule log, and make predictions for the New Year. At the end of January, pusiauþiemis commemorates mid-winter. Around March 1st, Uþgavënës escorts winter out. People dress in supernatural costumes and go into the fields to chase winter away with noise, dances, tricks and merriment.

Velykos celebrates the Spring Solstice. It celebrates new life by exchanging first blossoms and eggs decorated with mythological symbols. Jorë and Samboriai are two spring holidays which celebrate the first fruits and grain sow, respectively.


Rasa or Kupolinë is the Summer Solstice. People walk their fields and collect various herbs that are blessed that night. Young people keep all-night vigils. In the morning, dew is collected and saved for sacred and medicinal purposes. In late summer, the rye harvest concludes with Rugiø ðventë, while the winter rye planting finishes with Dagotuvës. Both give thanks for the gifts of the harvest and the protection of the Gods.

Vëlinës commemorates the dead and is still celebrated throughout the month of October, culminating on November 1st. The dead are remembered, are invited to dine with the living, and are offered an abode for the winter: the "sodas" mobile that hangs above dinning tables in Lithuania. The year ends with Kûèios, Winter Solstice eve. In preparation, everybody must reconcile with whomever they have strife, and debts must be forgiven. Families gather to commemorate the union between the dead and the living. The tears of the old year are eaten, lots are cast for the New Year, and predictions are made about one's fate. Everyone blesses everyone else, wishing them health, fortune, prosperity, and wisdom.

The Lithuanian holidays have an uninterrupted tradition since ancient times. Christianity and the Soviets both unsuccessfully tried to eradicate them. Although some holidays took on Christian identities in times of persecution, the non-Christian nature of all the holidays is always evident.

The Deities
Since time immemorial, the two main Goddesses have been Laima and Þemyna. Laima is the beloved Divine Mother who protects and guides human life. Laima is invoked to grant good luck (her name means luck). Þemyna is cherished Mother Earth who protects and guides animal and plant life. She is also womb and tomb, and Lithuanians greet her when they rise in the morning and go to sleep at night.

The Prussian Romuva temple established Dievas, Perkûnas and Velnias as the three main Gods. Dievas is the sky God who lives atop the heavenly mountain. He protects and guides agrarian work. He is invoked to help those in need. Christianity used the name "Dievas" to identify its own Godhead. Perkûnas is the weather and mountain God who embodies justice. Velnias is both the promiscuous trickster God as well as the God of the dead. Christianity applied the name "Velnias" to its own Satan.

Lithuanian Baltic Religion has many other deities as well. Since the Middle Ages, many followers of Baltic Religion have expressed a belief that there is really only one divinity, manifest as various Goddesses and Gods. People can easily relate to the various personified forms of the divine, and can chose to follow the images that are dear to them. This has happened both in Lithuania and Latvia. Furthermore, some followers of Lithuanian Baltic Religion have recently equated this abstract divinity with Life.

The Fire Ritual
Since recorded history, the fire ritual has been chronicled as one of the most significant Lithuanian Baltic rites.
The focal point of each Baltic temple was an aukuras, the "fire altar." The ritual is often held to commemorate special occasions, and is an essential component of many holidays. The aukuras is erected at a sacred site, usually outdoors. Participants wash their hands and faces as they gather. A group of people leads the congregants in singing dainas--ancient spiritual hymns--as the fire is lit and the ritual progresses. The leaders make offerings of food and drink and flowers to the fire, as the dainos continue. The participants may be invited to add their own verbal or silent contributions. The significance is that the offerings and prayers rise to the Gods with the fire, the smoke, and the sparks. At home, similar libations are daily poured into the hearth fire.

 

May God Dievas help!

May Goddess Laima bless!

Audrius Dundzila, Ph.D.